Independent Baptist Songs: When the Roll is Called Up Yonder by James Black

soul strirring songs and hymns

From time to time, I plan to post lyrics from the songs we sang in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches I grew up in and pastored. Unbelievers and non-Fundamentalists might find some of these lyrics quite interesting, and, at times, funny or disturbing. Enjoy!

Today’s Independent Baptist Song is When the Roll is Called Up Yonder by James Black. I was able to find a video of this song being sung by Bill Gaither and Friends.

Video Link

When the Roll is Called Up Yonder by James Black

When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound,
and time shall be no more,
and the morning breaks, eternal, bright and fair;
when the saved of earth shall gather
over on the other shore,
and the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.

Refrain:
When the roll is called up yonder,
when the roll is called up yonder,
when the roll is called up yonder,
when the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.

On that bright and cloudless morning
when the dead in Christ shall rise,
and the glory of his resurrection share;
when his chosen ones shall gather
to their home beyond the skies,
and the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there. [Refrain]

Let us labor for the Master
from the dawn till setting sun,
let us talk of all his wondrous love and care;
then when all of life is over,
and our work on earth is done,
and the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there. [Refrain]

The Story Behind the Song

He loved young people and tried to win them for Christ. One day, as he passed through an alley, he met a ragged fourteen-year-old girl. She was the daughter of an alcoholic. He invited her to his Sunday school and youth group and she began to attend.

However, one day when he took roll, the girl did not respond. Each child had to say a Scripture verse when his or her name was called. James saw a lesson in her silence. “I spoke of what a sad thing it would be when our names are called from the Lamb’s Book of Life, if one of us should be absent.”

He was not the kind of man to let the matter die with a moral lesson. After Sunday school, he went to his pupil’s home to find out why she had not showed up for class. He found her dangerously ill and sent for his own doctor–they still made house calls then. The doctor said that she had pneumonia. Since that was before the days of antibiotics, death was highly likely.

James returned home. He tried to find a song to fit the thought of a heavenly roll call but could not locate one. An inner voice seemed to say, “Why don’t you write one.”[Black then wrote When the Roll is Called Up Yonder]

I remember the Sunday School teachers of my youth “calling the roll.” Not that he needed to do so. How hard could it have been to look over the seven or so boys seated there and not know who was or wasn’t present. One church I attended in my teen years would have the Sunday School Superintendent go to each class and collect the attendance books and offerings. Baptists can’t do anything without passing the plate. The purpose of taking the roll was primarily an evangelistic tool. Teachers were expected to visit the homes of those absent from the Sunday School. Not that any teacher ever visited my home. No need. I was at church every time the doors were opened, and that included Sunday School.  I even got pins for “perfect attendance.” My, oh my, aint God proud of me!

About James Black:

James Milton Black was born on August 19, 1856 in South Hill, New York. He acquired an early musical education in singing and organ playing and knew such famous songsters of his day as Daniel Towner and John Howard. Around 1881, he moved to Williamsport, Pennsylvania where he carried on Christian work through the Methodist Episcopal church. Teaching music during the week, he was a song leader, Sunday school teacher and youth leader in his spare hours. In addition to all this work, he edited hymnals.

print

Subscribe to the Daily Post Digest!

Sign up now and receive an email every day containing the new posts for that day.

I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )

I will never give away, trade or sell your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Powered by Optin Forms
Series Navigation<< Independent Baptist Songs: I Know Who Holds Tomorrow by Ira Stanphill

4 Comments

  1. ObstacleChick

    Oh my goodness, I haven’t heard that song in years! My mom liked it, but as was her custom, she changed “saved” to “souls”. I never knew when she changed lyrics if it was because she forgot the correct lyrics or if she was making a statement of some sort (she died in 2014 and I never thought to ask her). I have found memories of singing in the car with my mom before she remarried when I was 11. My stepdad wouldn’t let us sing in the car – he would turn on the radio to drown us out. He couldn’t sing so I guess he felt left out.

    Reply
  2. Brian

    I always felt I was assuming a bit much by singing that song but the ol’ gang spirit would kick in by the second verse. Turns out that my intuition was correct. The last place I would want to be is there for roll call.

    Reply
  3. infmom

    This is my version of that hymn, written a couple years ago.

    When they worship God and Mammon and repeal the Golden Rule
    And they’re sure the only righteous way is theirs,
    When they hate the ones that Jesus blessed and follow human fools
    When the roll is called up yonder, they’re downstairs.

    Refrain:
    When the roll is called up yonder,
    When the roll is called up yonder,
    When the roll is called up yonder,
    When the roll is called up yonder, they’re downstairs.

    On the airwaves all across the land, collection plates are passed,
    And the preachers, not the Lord, get all the shares,
    And the sinners hate the sinners and a lot of stones are cast,
    When the roll is called up yonder, they’re downstairs.

    Refrain

    Let them call themselves believers and in lies put all their trust.
    Let them quote from scriptures sorted out with care,
    Then when all their lives are over and their hatred’s gone to dust
    When the roll is called up yonder, they’re downstairs.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Awesome lyrics.

      Reply

Leave a Comment

You have to agree to the comment policy.