"Beulah Land” and the Promise of Homecoming and Renewal
If you have not heard about "Beulah Land," it is not a coincidence. This hymn was popular gospel music, but it seems it was fallen off favor from hymnals.
Edgar Page Stites (1836–1921) is the man behind the text of this hymn. He wrote the hymn around 1875 or 1876. John R. Sweeney (1837–1899) made the music. The tune was written in 1876. Its title is either I've Reached the Land of Corn and Wine (original), or I've Reached the Land of Joy Devine. Stites based this hymn on a Scripture passage of Isaiah 62:4. In that passage, Beulah as the land was mentioned as a land of new beginnings. The hymn and the passage chronicle the return of Hebrews from exile and return to their land. With their arrival, they shed the identity as Forsaken and are rebirthed as Hephzibah. As the people renamed themselves, the land was also renamed from Jerusalem to Beulah (meaning married). The exile, return, and renaming of the people and the land symbolizes the returning faith of the people to the True God.
Stites was born in Philadelphia on March 22, 1836. He was a Methodist lay pastor and worked as a home missionary. He founded Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, a camp that promotes Christian holiness, hymns, and music. The camp was attended by other hymn writers like Ira Sankey, William H. Doane, Fanny Crosby, William Kirkpatrick, and Eliza Hewitt.
Stites admits that he created his hymn in slow intervals due to the immense emotional feeling he feels when writing. He also noted that the hymn was first sung at a regular Monday meeting of the Methodists. His other work was Simply Trusting Every Day. He died on January 7, 1921.
The hymn has four stanzas and one refrain. Each stanza has four lines while the refrain has six lines.