“HERE WE ARE BUT STRAYING PILGRIMS”
Wayne S. Walker
TEXT: Heb. 11.12-13
INTRO.: A song in which we make a confession that we are strangers and
pilgrims on this earth is “Here We Are But Straying Pilgrims” (#213 in
Hymns for Worship Revised and #401 in Sacred Selections for the Church).
The text was written by Isaac Newton Carman, who was born sometime around
1830. Very little information is available regarding him. It is known
that he studied at Bethany College in Bethany, VA (now WV) under
Alexander Campbell. For a time he was a minister among Christian
Churches and Churches of Christ, but he apparently left the church in the
Nothing definite known about the circumstances surrounding the
origin of this hymn. The song is believed to have been produced around
1854, but the first record of its being published was in the 1863
songbook The Polyphonic edited by A. D. and C. L. Fillmore, printed at
Cincinnati, OH, by R. W. Carroll and Co. Two years later, it was
included in the Christian Hymn Book, edited by a committee appointed by
the American Christian Missionary Society, and continued to be used in
succeeding editions down to the last Society book, The Christian Hymnal
Revised, in 1882, where it was called “Here and Yonder.”
The tune (Perkins or Straying Pilgrims) was composed by William
Oscar Perkins (1831-1902). He is perhaps best known for the melody that
accompanies the song, “Did You Think To Pray?” Carman died in 1911.
“Here We Are But Straying Pilgrims” has been fairly popular among
churches of Christ since being reintroduced in the 1937 Great Songs of
the Church No. 2, edited by Elmer Leon Jorgenson (1886-1968).
Originally, the stanzas were to be sung in unison, but an arrangement of
them for full four-part harmony was made in 1959 for Sacred Selections by
the editor, Ellis J. Crum.
The song reminds us that we are pilgrims and our home is over
I. Stanza 1 points out that we must remember that we are but straying
“Here we are but straying pilgrims; Here our path is often dim.
But to cheer us on our journey, Still we sing this wayside hymn.”
A. It will help us to keep ourselves unspotted from the world to
remember that we are pilgrims: 1 Pet. 2.11-12
B. Our path here is often dim because man cannot determine his own way
and because the world in which we live is characterized by darkness: Jer.
10.23, 1 Jn. 5.19
C. However, God has provided a hope of victory in Christ by which we can
receive cheer on our journey: Jn. 16.33
II. Stanza 2 points out that as pilgrims our feet are often weary
“Here our feet are often weary On the hills that throng our way;
Here the tempest darkly gathers, But our hearts within us say:”
A. We are warned against the danger of becoming weary and discouraged in
our souls: Heb. 12.3
B. The hills that throng our way and serve to make us weary and
discouraged may well represent the trials and tribulations of life: Jas.
C. However, it will help us not to grow weary in well doing if we
remember that someday we shall reap if we do not lose heart: Gal. 6.9
III. Stanza 3 points out that as pilgrims our souls are often fearful of
“Here our souls are often fearful Of the pilgrim’s lurking foe;
But the Lord is our Defender, And He tells us we may know:”
A. Just as we have hills to make us weary, we also have a foe to make us
fearful, which is why Paul encourage us not to have a spirit of fear: 2
B. Our foe is the devil who seeks to devour us: 1 Pet. 5.8-11
C. However, the Lord is our defender, and if we keep our sights set upon
the heavenly goal, we can resist the devil with God’s help: Jas. 4.7-10
IV. Stanza 4, usually omitted, points out that as pilgrims our homes here
“Here, our shadowed homes are transient, And we meet the stranger’s
But we’ll sing with joy while going E’en to death’s dark billow down.”
A. We must always keep our eyes upon the things which are not seen,
because the things which are seen are transient and temporary: 2 Cor.
B. Something that highlights the transient nature of this life is the
fact that as we serve Christ we often meet the stranger’s frown: Jn.
C. Yet, even as we continue on toward death, we can sing with joy
because we know that we have a better and an enduring possession in
heaven: Heb. 10.34
CONCL.: The chorus emphasizes the fact that while we are pilgrims
here, we do have a home prepared for us:
“Yonder over the rolling river, Where the shining mansions rise,
Soon will be our home forever, And the smile of the blessed giver
Gladdens all our longing eyes.
As we journey through life toward heaven, may we never forget that “Here
We Are But Straying Pilgrims.”
Phil. 3.20-21. Each individual has to decide whether he wants to be
a citizen of this world or a citizen of heaven. Anyone can choose to be
a citizen of heaven, but to do so, he must obey the gospel to be saved
from sin by God’s grace through Christ’s blood and become a disciple or
follower of Jesus. If you need to do this: Matt. 28.19-20.
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