In his book, Worship Seeking Understanding, John Witvliet cites a worship leaders who spoke of weekly congregational singing as “rehearsing the congregation for a future funeral.” Witvliet comments: “What if we planned our music with this as a primary goal? ‘Musician, why did you choose that piece of music?’ ‘Well, it fit the texts of the day, it was well crafted, it challenged us musically—but mostly I picked it because you’ll need to know that piece when your family is preparing to bury a loved one.”

This made me want to ask a few godly leaders I trust and respect for one song that they would like to have played at their funeral.

Below is an entry from theologian Scott Swain, president of Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando.

[See the other entries: Joni Eareckson TadaRussell MooreMichael Reeves, John Piper]

I have instructed my wife and children on several occasions that Anne Cousin’s hymn, “The Sands of Time Are Sinking,” is to be sung at my funeral. Though they don’t appreciate me bringing up the morbid topic of my death, they know why I want this song sung.

Cousin’s hymn, written in 1854, is based on the letters of seventeenth-century Presbyterian minister and theologian, Samuel Rutherford.

The song is replete with allusions to Isaiah 33, Genesis 49, Revelation 14, Song of Songs, along with many other biblical texts and images, which makes it a fitting instrument for allowing “the word of Christ” to “dwell richly” in those who sing it (Col 3:16).

The subject of the hymn is the glory of Jesus Christ, Scripture’s handsome King (Ps 45:2) and our happy hope (Titus 2:13). Verse after verse, the song celebrates Jesus Christ as the one in whom our Christian pilgrimage will reach its final resting place and realize its fullest joy.

Each verse concludes with some version of the refrain: “Glory, glory dwelleth in Emmanuel’s land.”

I can hardly sing Cousin’s hymn without tears. Because “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine,” Jesus brings me, “a poor vile sinner,” “into his house of wine” (cf. Gen. 49:11–12). Wonder of wonders! What better to celebrate at the hour of death, and for all eternity?

The sands of time are sinking,
The dawn of Heaven breaks;
The summer morn I’ve sighed for,
The fair, sweet morn awakes;
Dark, dark hath been the midnight,
But dayspring is at hand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Immanuel’s land.

The King there in His beauty,
Without a veil is seen;
It were a well spent journey,
Though sev’n deaths lay between;
The Lamb with His fair army
Doth on Mount Zion stand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Immanuel’s land.

O Christ, He is the fountain,
The deep, deep well of love;
The streams on earth I’ve tasted,
More deep I’ll drink above;
There to an ocean fullness
His mercy doth expand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Immanuel’s land.

With mercy and with judgment
My web of time He wove;
And always dews of sorrow
Were lustered with His love;
I’ll bless the hand that guided,
I’ll bless the heart that planned,
When throned where glory dwelleth
In Immanuel’s land.

Oh! I am my Beloved’s
And my Beloved’s mine!
He brings a poor, vile sinner
Into His “house of wine;”
I stand upon His merit,
I know no other stand,
Not e’en where glory dwelleth
In Immanuel’s land.

The bride eyes not her garments,
But her dear Bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory
But on my King of grace;
Not at the crown He giveth,
But on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Immanuel’s land.