Wendell Oliver Cooper (1885-1963), Lyricist
Some sources have W. Oliver Cooper, but one source has Oliver W. Cooper. His tombstone clearly reads “W. Oliver Cooper”. Wendell Oliver Cooper was born October 24, 1885 in Meriwether County, Georgia. He received his music education in schools of Oklahoma and Tennessee. He was known for singing in a quartet over the radio in Birmingham, AL. It is estimated he wrote some 1,500 hymns. This hymn, “Heaven Shall Surely Be Worth It All”, is far and away the most popular among churches of Christ; however, according to Hymnary.org his most published hymn was “Here Among the Shadows Living In A Lonely Land”. He was musical editor for Hartford Song Books. He worked on the faculty of the Hartford Music Institute. He was married to Cammella W. Cooper, but she passed away in 1929 at the age of 38. He lived in Cullman County, Alabama when he passed away in October 24, 1963, on his birthday, at the age of 78 years old. He is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery near the Mt. Hope Baptist Church in Crane Hill, Cullman County, Alabama. His tombstone reads “Death Is Only The Gateway To Glory”.
Minzo C. Jones (1888-1977), Composer
Biographical data for Minzo C. Jones is scarce. One source states Jones was born July 27, 1888 and died June 1977. There is a reference to Jones being a resident in Bessemer, AL, but as of this writing there is no more information available to this researcher. As a reminder, we sing songs that we believe to be in conformity with the Scriptures (with an often generous portion of what some call “poetic license” at times), not necessarily in conformity with the ones who created the hymns we sing.
Heaven Will Surely Be Worth It All
This beautiful hymn describes wonderfully the hope of every Christian—eternal life in Heaven. It is not an understatement to say that if there was no Heaven, then this life would not be worth it all. This is what the apostle Paul implied: “For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Corinthians 15:16-19, NKJV.) If there is no Heaven, then Moses’ decision is clearly perplexing: “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward” (Hebrews 11:24-26, NKJV.) What reward? Heaven!
John Keats (1795-1821) was an English poet. He wrote a series of letters to his brother and sister-in-law in 1819. Among his writings are various thoughts of various degrees, but among one of his letters is the expression “The Vale of Soul-Making”. Although one may not appreciate everything Keating wrote, notice this thought:
“The whole appears to resolve into this – that Man is originally ‘a poor forked creature’ subject to the same mischances as the beasts of the forest, destined to hard-ships and disquietude of some kind or other. If he improves by degrees his bodily accommodations and comforts – at each stage, at each accent there are waiting for him a fresh set of annoyances – he is mortal and there is still a heaven with its Stars above his head. The most interesting question that can come before us is, How far by the persevering endeavors of a seldom appearing Socrates Mankind may be made happy – I can imagine such happiness carried to an extreme – but what must it end in? – Death – and who could in such a case bear with death – the whole troubles of life which are now frittered away in a series of years, would then be accumulated for the last days of a being who instead of hailing its approach, would leave this world as Eve left Paradise – But in truth I do not at all believe in this sort of perfectibility – the nature of the world will not admit of it – the inhabitants of the world will correspond to itself – Let the fish philosophize the ice away from the Rivers in winter time and they shall be at continual play in the tepid delight of summer. Look at the Poles and at the sands of Africa, Whirlpools and volcanoes – Let men exterminate them and I will say that they may arrive at earthly Happiness –The point at which Man may arrive is as far as the parallel state in inanimate nature and no further – For instance suppose a rose to have sensation, it blooms on a beautiful morning it enjoys itself – but there comes a cold wind, a hot sun – it cannot escape it, it cannot destroy its annoyances – they are as native to the world as itself: no more can man be happy in spite, the worldly elements will prey upon his nature – The common cognomen of this world among the misguided and superstitious is ‘a vale of tears’ from which we are to be redeemed by a certain arbitrary interposition of God and taken to Heaven – What a little circumscribe straightened notion! Call the world if you please ‘”The Vale of Soul-making” Then you will find out the use of the world (I am speaking now in the highest terms for human nature admitting it to be immortal…”
Both expressions contain the truth about this world: this life is a “Vale of Tears” and a “Vale of Soul-making”. Sometimes we hear the truism—“There cannot be peaks without valleys.” We do not use the word “vale” much but we do use the word “valleys”. We have to pass through vales or valleys to get to the peaks. This life is full of peaks and valleys, but we do not know how many vales we may encounter.
Will Heaven be worth it all? The apostle Paul certainly believed so and wrote: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17, NJKV.)
Atheists claim that Christians are full of nonsense for believing in God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, Heaven, and Hell. That we should “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die”, and that once we die we are “like the dead dog Rover, dead all over”. If life here was all there was, then they would have a point; however, life here is only a temporal or temporary vale of soul-making. This life is a temporal life, our bodies are temporal bodies. Our eternal homes await us for our eternal souls, a place called Heaven where the one who created our physical bodies with an immortal soul dwells and waits for us to come to Him. We can have confidence in the words “Many the trials, toils and tears, many a heartache may here appall. But the dear Lord so truly says Heaven will surely be worth it all.”
Howard, V. E., and Broadus E. Smith, eds. Church Gospel Songs & Hymns. Texarkana, TX: Central Printers & Publishers, 1983.
Miller, Dave. Why People Suffer. Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press, Inc. 2015.
“Oliver W. Cooper.” No pages. Cited 27 August 2016. Online: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=pv&GRid=13607074&PIpi=2752504.
“Oliver W. Cooper.” No pages. Cited 27 August 2016. Online: http://www.gmahalloffame.org/speaker-lineup/oliver-w-cooper/
“Oliver W. Cooper.” No pages. Cited 27 August 2016. Online: http://www.hymnary.org/person/Cooper_WO4?sort=desc&order=Instances
Wiegand, John P., Editor. Praise for the Lord. Nashville, TN: Praise Press, 1997.