Wayne S. Walker

“That great city…having the glory of God…had a wall great and high” (Rev. 21:10-12)

     INTRO.:  A song which talks about that great city where the glory of God dwells is “There Is A Habitation” (#227 in Hymns for Worship Revised, and #445 in Sacred Selections for the Church).  The text was written by Love Humphreys Jameson, who was born in Jefferson County in what was then the Territory of Indiana on May 17, 1811, the son of Thomas Jameson.  Thomas had moved from Virginia to Kentucky around 1800 and later to the Indiana Territory in 1810 or early 1811.  Thomas’s parents were members of the Calvinistic Kirk of Scotland and his wife’s parents held the views of the Church of England, but the family became Christians in 1816 with Love’s father and mother being baptized by John McClung, a young associate of Barton Warren Stone.  Love, whose education was attended with all the difficulties associated with frontier life and was mostly under the tuition of his parents, was baptized in the fall of 1829 during a protracted meeting with Beverly Vawter and then preached his first sermon that same year on Dec. 25, following which he began preaching the gospel regularly. 

     From 1830 to 1834, Jameson taught school during the winters and made preaching trips in the summers.  One of his mentors was Walter Scott, with whom he frequently travelled and worked.  Moving to southern Ohio, in 1834, he, along with Scott, attended the famous debate of 1837 between Alexander Campbell and Bishop Purcell at Cincinnati, OH.  In addition, he wrote frequently for Campbell’s paper, The Millennial Harbinger, in which Campbell spoke of him as the brother “whose praise is in all the churches in Indiana.”  After preaching at various churches in Hamilton County, OH, Jameson worked with the church in Dayton from 1835 to 1837, when he married Elizabeth M. Clark.  Also, in the closing years of B. W. Stone’s life, Jameson often accompanied the elderly preacher on his journeys.  In 1840 he returned to Indiana and located at Madison, IN, the following year.  His wife died of an apoplectic stroke suddenly soon afterwards, and he married Elizabeth R. Robinson in 1842, moving to Indianapolis, IN, which became his headquarters for the rest of his life. 

     In 1845, Jameson was asked, along with John O’Kane, to evangelize in the southwestern part of the state.  Then after 1854, he made regular preaching trips into Ohio, Kentucky, Western Missouri, Illinois, New York, and even portions of New England.  No specific information is available on the background of this song.  It was penned about 1860, with both words and original music by Jameson, but it never achieved any degree of popularity because of its slow, ponderous, torpid melody.  However, a new tune (Rosecrans or Zion’s City) was composed by James Holmes Rosecrans (1843-1926).  No specific information is available on its composition either, though Rosecrans is sometimes mistakenly credited as being the author.  The song as we know it was first published under the title, “O Sion, Sion,” in the New Christian Hymn and Tune Book, Part II, compiled at Cincinnati, OH, in 1882 by James Henry Fillmore.  Jameson, who also provided the lyrics for “Night, With Ebon Pinion,” died ten years later, on May 1, 1892, in Indianapolis.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “There Is a Habitation” has appeared in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1959 Majestic Hymnal No. 2 and the 1978 Hymns of Praise both edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 edited by Tillit S. Teddlie; the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat; and the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church and the 2010 Songs for Worship and Praise both edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.

     This song poetically describes some of the glories of heaven.

I. According to stanza 1, heaven is a habitation that is built by the living God

There is a habitation,

Built by the living God,

For all of every nation

Who seek that grand abode.

 A. A “habitation” is simply a dwelling place; the church is God’s habitation or dwelling place on earth: Eph. 2:19-22

 B. But God has built an eternal habitation or dwelling place for us in heaven: Heb.11:8-10

 C. And this habitation will be an abode for people out of every nation: Rev. 5:8-10

II. According to stanza 2, heaven is a city with foundations where there will be no war

A city with foundations,

Firm as th’ eternal throne

Nor wars nor desolations

Shall ever move a stone.

 A. According to John’s figurative description, this city has twelve foundations: Rev. 21:14

 B. These foundations are as firm as the eternal throne of God which is there: Rev. 22:3

 C. There will be no wars nor desolations because everything that would cause them will be excluded: Rev. 21:27

III. According to stanza 3, heaven is a place with no night, sorrow, death, or decay

No night is there, no sorrow,

No death, and no decay,

No yesterday, no morrow–

But one eternal day.

 A. There will be no night there: Rev. 21:25

 B. Neither will there be any more sorrow, death, or decay: Rev. 21:3-4

 C. And there will be no yesterday or tomorrow because there we shall have eternal life: 1 Jn. 2:25

IV. According to stanza 4, heaven is a land where both angels and glorified immortals will sing

Within its pearly portals,

Angelic armies sing,

With glorified immortals,

The praises of its King.

 A. “Portals” are gates, and according to the figurative description, this city has twelve gates: Rev. 21:12-13

 B. Within these portals or gates, angelic armies sing: Rev. 5:11-12

 C. The angels will be joined by glorified immortals, the redeemed of all ages: Heb. 12:22-24

     CONCL.:  The chorus continues to sing the praises of this great city and expresses desire for it:

O Zion, Zion,

I long thy gates to see;

O Zion, Zion,

When shall I dwell in thee?

Life on earth can sometimes be tough, especially for the Christian.  But we can be strengthened by the thought that in heaven, “There Is a Habitation.”

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