Pärleporten Revival

by J. Irving Erickson

"He the Pearly Gates Will Open"

Love divine, so great and wondrous,
Deep and mighty, pure, sublime!
Coming from the heart of Jesus —
Just the same thru tests of time.

Like a dove when hunted, frightened,
As a wounded fawn was I;
Broken-hearted, yet he healed me —
He will heed the sinner's cry.

Love divine, so great and wondrous!
All my sins he then forgave!
I will sing his praise forever,
For his blood, his pow'r to save.

In life's eventide, at twilight,
At his door I'll knock and wait;
By the precious love of Jesus
I shall enter heaven's gate.

Chorus:
He the pearly gates will open,
So that I may enterin;
For he purchased my redemption
And forgave me all my sin.

Although the song has been sung in many quarters in the last seven decades, it has been given new life by inclusion in the new hymnal of Sweden and the Covenant's The Song Goes On. The text was written by Fredrik Arvid Blom (b. May 21, 1867, near Enköping, Sweden; d. May 24, 1927, Uddevalla, Sweden) who came to America in the 1890s and became an officer in the Salvation Army. He studied at North Park College and Seminary (1901-1904) and pastored a Mission Covenant Church. He resigned the ministry in 1915 and later explained: "I drifted from God... and became embittered with myself, the world, and not. the least with ministers who looked upon me with suspicion because I was a member of the Socialist party." In his depression, he drank alcohol to excess. Blom was renewed in his faith at a Salvation Army meeting and soon called to pastor the Swedish Congregational Church in Titusville, Pennsylvania. He returned to Sweden and served Swedish Covenant and Baptist churches.

An article by Brigadier Oscar Blomgren in Sweden's Stridsropet (War Cry), No 52, 1960 tells how "Pärleporten" came to be written. A free translation by this writer:

In the winter of 1916, when we were stationed at Chicago's 7th Corps, Fred Blom made a surprise visit. (They had not seen him for about 14 years.) He was no longer a pastor but worked in the office of a travel agency. This was just before Christmas. Soon after New Year's he visited us again one afternoon. I had a severe cold and was confined to my bed. We noticed that Blom was not himself. He appeared sad and gloomy.... My wife did her best to encourage our friend, cooked coffee, and set a festive table.

During the Christmas season we had sung a carol that had become popular. It was a poem to which Alfred Dulin, a young musician from Norway who.. . had stayed with us, wrote a simple but beautiful melody. The poem had been taken from the Christmas edition of From All Lands, 1906. My wife introduced the song to Blom and sang it several times for him. After a while, Blom picked up a guitar, played a few chords and sang:

Wonderful, festive, clear
Star filled Christmas night!
Your wonders, every hour,
Make the sorrowing heart glad.
(Tr. from the Swedish)

Suddenly Fred Blom took out his pen, asked for a sheet of paper, and after an hour's silence, had written five stanzas and a chorus for the song, "The Pearly Gates." As a title he wrote, "Because of the Blood." Elsie Ahlwén, a singing evangelist from Örebro, who visited America and held evangelistic meetings there in 1929-30, made use of the song and thereby popularized iL She called it "Pärleporten" and altered somewhat the words of the chorus. Blom had written "And surely will let me in," but Ahlwén used "So that I may enter in."

Fred Blom wrote the song in my wife's songbook, signed it and added the date, 1917, and she has always kept that book in safekeeping. . . .

It was translated into English by Nathaniel Carlson (18791957), an Evangelical Free Church pastor and editor of Chicagobladet for several years. Carlson wrote many original hymns, both texts and tunes, and translated many songs from Swedish into English. He compiled three editions of a collection called Songs of Trust and Triumph (1929-32).

All publications, except the Swedish and Norwegian Hymnals and The Song Goes On, give credit to Elsie Ahlwén for writing the music. In correspondence with the late Dr. Oscar Lövgren (perhaps Sweden's greatest hymnologist) this writer was assured that Alfred Olsen-Dulin is indeed the composer.

See all articles by J. Irving Erickson