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Updated 06/04/2013


On Jordan's Stormy Banks I Stand

Samuel Stennett

Samuel Stennett (1727-1795) was a Baptist minister and hymnwriter.  He was born in Exeter, but at the age of 10 his family moved to London, where his father pastored the Baptist church in Little Wild Street. Samuel succeeded his father as pastor in 1758, a position which he held until his death. Samuel Stennett received a Doc­torate of Di­vin­i­ty from King's College, Aberdeen in 1763.

Although friend and supporter to the reigning monarch, George III, Stennett refused political opportunities to devote himself to ministry. He attained prominence amongst the Dissenting ministry and used his influence with political figures in behalf of Dissenters suffering disabilities under the Clarendon Code.

Stennett authored some 39 hymns, five of which appeared in Rippon's Selection, which was published in 1787. His grandfather, Joseph Stennett, had also been a prominent Dissenting hymn writer. Samuel continued this tradition, although with less passionate language than had marked his grandfather's Puritan-influenced notions of Christian experience.

William Walker

More than any other of Samuel Stennett's hymns, "On Jordan's Stormy Banks", which was published in Rippon's Selection under the title "Promised Land," found enormous popularity especially amongst 19th-century American Methodists. It was sung in camp meetings and brush arbors, and also found its way into the 1835 Southern Harmony and is part of the American shape note tradition. Several of Stennett's hymns are preserved in the Sacred Harp.

The music was written by Miss M. Dur­ham, and published in The South­ern Har­mo­ny and Mu­sic­al Com­pan­ion, by Wil­liam Walk­er William Walker (May 6, 1809 September 24, 1875) was a Baptist song leader, shape note "singing master", and compiler of four shape note tunebooks.  He was born in Martin's Mills (near Cross Keys), South Carolina, and grew up near Spartanburg.  Musically gift­ed, by age 18 Walk­er was lead­ing con­gre­ga­tion­al sing­ing at the First Bap­tist Church in Spar­tan­burg. He col­lect­ed and ar­ranged folk tunes, and with his brother-in-law, Ben­jamin Frank­lin White, par­ti­ci­pated in sing­ing schools and com­pil­ing mel­o­dies from south­ern Ap­pa­la­chia and camp meet­ings. Af­ter mov­ing to Hart­ford, Con­nec­ti­cut, Walk­er pub­lished The South­ern Har­mo­ny and Mu­sic­al Com­pan­ion in 1835 This collection was revised in 1840, 1847 and 1854. In 1846 he issued The Southern and Western Pocket Harmonist. Intended as an appendix to the Southern Harmony, the Pocket Harmonist contains a large number of camp-meeting songs with refrains. In 1867 (preface signed October 1866), Walker published a tunebook entitled Christian Harmony, in which he adopted a seven shape notation. He incorporated over half of the contents of The Southern Harmony in the Christian Harmony, and he added alto parts to those pieces which had lacked them before. For the additional three shapes, Walker devised his own system - an inverted key-stone for "do", a quarter-moon for "re", and an isosceles triangle for "si" (or "ti"). Walker issued an expanded edition of Christian Harmony in 1873. In the same year, he brought out a collection of Sunday school songs entitled Fruits and Flowers.

William Walker died in Spartanburg in 1875.

Two of Walker's tunebooks remain in print. Facsimiles of his Southern Harmony (1854 edition) continue in use at an annual singing in Benton, Kentucky. His Christian Harmony remains current in two editions: a facsimile reprint of the 1873 edition, and a revision by O.A. Parris and John Deason first published in 1958, employing the more familiar note-shapes of Jesse B. Aiken.

Walker's compositions and arrangements are widely sung today by Sacred Harp singers as well as others. His work is represented by 13 songs in the current 1991 "Denson" edition of The Sacred Harp, and by 12 in the "Cooper" edition. According to the collated minutes kept by the Sacred Harp Musical Heritage Association, his song "Hallelujah" is sung at Sacred Harp conventions more than any other. The Walker songs are generally sung in four-part versions, with alto parts added by early 20th century composers.

Lyrics by Samuel Stennett


On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand,
And cast a wishful eye
To Canaan’s fair and happy land,
Where my possessions lie.

I am bound for the promised land,
I am bound for the promised land;
Oh who will come and go with me?
I am bound for the promised land.

O the transporting, rapturous scene,
That rises to my sight!
Sweet fields arrayed in living green,
And rivers of delight!


There generous fruits that never fail,
On trees immortal grow;
There rocks and hills, and brooks and vales,
With milk and honey flow.


O’er all those wide extended plains
Shines one eternal day;
There God the Son forever reigns,
And scatters night away.


No chilling winds or poisonous breath
Can reach that healthful shore;
Sickness and sorrow, pain and death,
Are felt and feared no more.


When I shall reach that happy place,
I’ll be forever blest,
For I shall see my Father’s face,
And in His bosom rest.


Filled with delight my raptured soul
Would here no longer stay;
Though Jordan’s waves around me roll,
Fearless I’d launch away.