Saturday, February 3, 2018

There Is a Habitation -- Love Humphreys Jameson

He was a preacher, traveling broadly in mid-19th Century America to spread the ‘good news’, so writing hymns was a natural extension of this ministry, another way of getting the message out. “There Is a Habitation” was Love Humphreys Jameson’s storytelling about heaven to listeners in 1860, perhaps another one of his evangelistic tools that he was using in his various travels. Did he draw mental pictures of heaven’s pearly gates (shown here in this masterpiece by Hans Memling in the late 15th Century) for his hearers as he described this habitation? He would shortly become a respected figure to soldiers engaged in a bitter war, probably as he told them about eternity and coaxed their faith amid the horrors on the battlefields. Could it be that his words about a certain place and its character resonated with those of his generation who dreaded what was approaching just over the horizon terrestrially? Check out the words about this ‘habitation’ he visualized, and see what you think.      

Love Jameson put lots of miles on his body in his travels by 1860, as he busied himself with the evangelism that Barton W. Stone and Alexander Campbell had used to help ignite his own faith, which had been manifested in the numerous speaking engagements over the previous 30 years. He’d listened to Campbell in the 1830s, several years after committing himself to spreading the Word in Indiana, and then was with the elder Stone on some of his trips during the latter years of his life – all while Love was still a relatively young man in his 20s. Concurrently, he was speaking himself regularly at several churches in Ohio, as well as in Indiana, and through the 1840s and early 1850s he further found himself in Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, New York, and the New England area. Love hailed from the Hoosier state, but must have felt at home in many places, given the wide spaces to which he journeyed. He became a chaplain to an Indiana regiment when the Civil War commenced, and was reportedly regarded as a mentor-father figure by the troops of his home state. Could “There Is a Habitation” have been on his mind as he considered the gathering war storm in 1860? ‘Nor wars, nor desolations…’ (v. 2) and ‘angelic armies sing’ (v. 4), Love said with his pen. Being a Union man, and a man of God, what were Jameson’s views of the war and its ultimate aims? Did he consider it a holy venture, an endeavor to bring freedom for all the nation’s people, when he wrote the words ‘There is a habitation…for all of every nation…’ (v.1)? Sure, he was thinking of the heavenly habitation, but could he have ignored the earthly dwelling he and his countrymen inhabited as he witnessed the passionate debate of the opposing sides splitting his home asunder here on earth? He longed for heaven’s harmony, perhaps as he considered the intractable racist division in his country. Was there another circumstance that could have captured his attention, as he traveled the Midwest and Northeast in the 1850s?        

Love Jameson’s life might be succinctly summed up in some 150 hymns that he reportedly wrote over his lifetime, but his gifts as an evangelist might make that measuring stick far too short. He reached out pretty wide with his speaking engagements during 50-plus years of ministry. If one could calculate how many songs must have been sung during his various trips, 150 songs would surely have been eclipsed after just a few months. He must have used many times that number to influence the thousands, if not more, people that were within earshot of his voice. Nevertheless, that’s a horizontal reckoning – between him and other people. Love thought vertically, too, with this song, and wanted others to do the same. I like my house and its many comforts. But, how’s it really compare to what awaits? It doesn’t, does it?

The following site has information on composer:
See further information on the composer here:
This site has the song’s four verses:

No comments: