October 20

Hank Williams Gospel Songs: “When God Comes and Gathers His Jewels”

When God Comes and Gathers His Jewels – one of the four songs for Hank Williams’ first recording in December, 1946. It speaks of sorrow and death, but with an accompanying comfort that someday, you will reunite with your loved ones again in heaven. The dying part was what Hank ascribed to as “God gathering his jewels” and their departed souls were “His treasures of diamonds and gold.”

Despite the disinterest in joining any organized religious group in his adult years, his theology in the song was an echo of his childhood attendance at Mt. Olives Baptist church in Georgina, Alabama. Growing up a Baptist, Hank followed the standard themes of sin, repentance, turning to God, and the unquestioning belief in God’s goodness in spite of tragedies as seen in When God Comes and Gathers His Jewels

As expected from his Baptist spiritual rearing, his choices of words were polished and concise; less of self and more of God. In the description of grief, there was that sense of control and devoid of gut-wrenching details. To overdo them for the sake of adding drama will be equated as bordering triviality.

He stood all alone with his head bowed down
As though his heart would break

He zeroed in instead the song’s moral by repeating it twice after the second verse. (And I have already written in a previous post the significance of this lyrical style.) The moral is always a portrayal of God as benevolent, all-knowing, and one who provides relief in every sorrow.

When God comes and gathers His jewels
All His treasures of diamonds and gold
You’ll meet her up there, up in Heaven so fair
When God comes and gathers His jewels

As for his composition’s impact, it is fair to say that he was able to balance faith in a good God without dismissing the reality of grief that a person feels when a friend or a family member passes away.


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