When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder- James M. Black

Mr. Black served as a teacher of singing schools and editor of many gospel songbooks. One of the titles, Songs of the Soul, 1894, sold more than four hundred thousand copies wherein these lines were first published and became widely accepted. Black records the origin of the lines as follows: “While a teacher in the Sunday school… I one day met a girl, fourteen years old, poorly clad and a child of a drunkard. She accepted my invitation to attend the Sunday school and join the young people’s society. One evening, when members answered the roll call by repeating scripture texts, she failed to respond. 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….

 I longed for something suitable to sing just then, but I could find nothing in the books….. When I reached my home, my wife saw that I was deeply troubled and questioned me; but I made no reply. Then the words in the first stanza came to me in full. In fifteen minutes more, I had composed the other two verses. Going to the piano, I played the music just as it is found today in the hymnbooks, note for note….”


When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound,

And time shall be no more,

When the morning breaks, eternal bright and fair;

When the saved of earth shall gather to their home beyond the skies,
And 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.


Let us labour 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.


This historical account is taken from the Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs hymnal, copyright 2018, all rights reserved.

 Melody Publications’ focus is to reawaken the melody of truth in believers' hearts and minds at home and abroad. Our prayer is that our work would aid churches and families as they sing "Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs" in praise and worship to our God.



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I love when the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there. I play it often at church on my guitar. People almost lift the roof in song.


Thank you for sharing. It is good to know of the heart of the song .

Rudy Shepard

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