98. I’m Bound For The Promised Land
Written by Samuel Stennett, 1787
Printed in A Selection of Hymns from the Best Authors, Intended to Be an Appendix to Dr. Watts’ Psalms and Hymns,1787, edited by John Rippon.


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

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

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

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

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


Born in Exeter, Samuel Stennett grew up in London where his father was a pastor in a Baptist church in Little Wild Street. Stennett took his father’s post and remained there for the rest of his life.

I’m Bound For the Promised Land was one of 39 hymns written by Stennett, five of which were published in 1787 in fellow Baptist John Rippon’s A Selection of Hymns from the Best Authors, Intended to Be an Appendix to Dr. Watts’ Psalms and Hymns.[1]

Like Watts, Stennett came from a family with a tradition of religious dissent. His grandfather also wrote hymns, and these reflected his Puritan inspired vision of Christianity. I’m Bound For the Promised Land proved immensely popular in 19th century America. [2] It also became part of the repertoire of hymns favoured by the black Baptist and Methodist churches, which began to emerge during the great awakening of the mid 18th century.

We’ll return to the great awakening in a while, but right now we’re wondering what the dissenting Reverend made of the Gordon riots. These took place just two years after he wrote I’m Bound For the Promised Land, and were centred around the response of Protestants, led by one Lord George Gordon, to the Papist Act of 1778, whose aim was to relieve ‘His Majesty’s subjects, of the Catholic Religion, from certain penalties and disabilities imposed upon them during the reign of William III.’ The intended effect of the Act was to allow Catholics to abstain from taking the religious oath so they could join an understaffed and overstretched British army, made so by Britain’s recent war with its American colony and its conflicts with Spain and France.

Up until then, Catholics were prohibited from owning land. Lord Gordon was of the opinion that the Act would empower the Catholics to overtake the army, and with their fellow European Catholics, invade Britain. Gordon formed a Protestant Association in 1780 and quickly built up a following sufficient to march on the House of Commons demanding the repeal of the Roman Catholic Relief Act. On June 2 1780 a crowd of forty to sixty thousand people followed Gordon to the Houses of Parliament, where he presented a petition. When Gordon returned to join the crowd, a riot started.

Over the course of five days the Bank of England, Newgate prison, Fleet prison, several Catholic churches, and the house of the Lord Chief Justice William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, suffered enormous destruction. On June 7 the Honourable Artillery Company and the Queen’s Royal Regiment intervened. [3] Two hundred and eighty five people were killed, hundreds were injured, and thirty were executed. Gordon was arrested and charged with high treason, but was not found guilty. The Roman Catholic Relief Act was repealed.

We didn’t find anything by the Reverend on these disturbances, but here’s an eyewitness account from a black Londoner, Ignatius Sancho, man of letters and shop keeper, whose store was a short walk from Parliament:


Charles Street, June 6, 1780.


In the midst of the most cruel and ridiculous confusion, I am now set down to give you a very imperfect sketch of the maddest people that the maddest times were ever plagued with. – The public prints have informed you (without doubt) of last Friday’s transactions; – the insanity of L[or]d G[eorge] G[ordon] and the worse than Negro barbarity of the populace; – the burnings and devastations of each night you will also see in the prints: – This day, by consent, was set apart for the farther consideration of the wished – for repeal; – the people (who had their proper cue from his lordship) assembled by ten o’clock in the morning.

- Lord N[orth], who had been up in council at home till four in the morning, got to the house before eleven, just a quarter of an hour before the associators reached Palace-yard: – but, I should tell you, in council there was a deputation from all parties; – the S[helburne] party were for prosecuting L[or]d G[eorge], and leaving him at large; – the At[torne]y G[enera]l laughed at the idea, and declared it was doing just nothing; – the M[inistr]y were for his expulsion, and so dropping him gently into insignificancy; – that was thought wrong, as he would still be industrious in mischief; – the R[ockingha]m party, I should suppose, you will think counselled best, which is, this day to expel him from the house – commit him to the Tower – and then prosecute him at leisure – by which means he will lose the opportunity of getting a seat in the next parliament – and have decent leisure to repent him of the heavy evils he has occasioned.

- There is at this present moment at least a hundred thousand poor, miserable, ragged rabble, from twelve to sixty years of age, with blue cockades in their hats – besides half as many women and children – all parading the streets – the bridge – the park – ready for any and every mischief. – Gracious God! What’s the matter now? I was obliged to leave off – the shouts of the mob – the horrid clashing of swords – and the clutter of a multitude in swiftest motion – drew me to the door – when every one in the street was employed in shutting up shop. – It is now just five o’clock – the ballad – singers are exhausting their musical talents – with the downfall of Popery, S[andwic]h, and N[ort]h. – Lord S[andwic]h narrowly escaped with life about an hour since; – the mob seized his chariot going to the house, broke his glasses, and, in struggling to get his lordship out, they somehow have cut his face; – the guards flew to his assistance – the light-horse scowered the road, got his chariot, escorted him from the coffee-house, where he had fled for protection, to his carriage, and guarded him bleeding very fast home. This – this – is liberty! Genuine British liberty!

- This instant about two thousand liberty boys are swearing and swaggering by with large sticks – thus armed in hopes of meeting with the Irish chairmen and labourers – all the guards are out – and all the horses; – the poor fellows are just worn out for want of rest – having been on duty ever since Friday. – Thank heaven, it rains.

I cannot but felicitate you, my good friend, upon the happy distance you are placed from our scene of confusion.

I am, dear Sir, Yours ever by inclination, IGN. SANCHO

Postscript: The Sardinian ambassador offered 500 guineas to the rabble, to save a painting of our Saviour from the flames, and 1000 guineas not to destroy an exceeding fine organ: the gentry told him, they would burn him if they could get at him, and destroyed the picture and organ directly.’ [4]


[1] http://www.selahpub.com/Choral/ChoralTitles/425-817-PromisedLand.html
[2] http://www.selahpub.com/Choral/ChoralTitles/425-817-PromisedLand.html
[3] George Rudé, ‘The Gordon Riots: A Study of the Rioters and their Victims’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th series, no. 6 (1956), 93-114, via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Riots
[4] http://www.brycchancarey.com/sancho/letter2.htm



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