Ira D.Sankey: My Life and Sacred Songs: With an Introduction by Theodore L.Culyer, D.D.
London: Hodder and Stoughton / Morgan and Scott / 1906
[ from a British Library copy (Inter-Library Loan Service). This copy is inscribed by hand on the title page -
[ pp. v.- vii. ]
Since Moses and the children of Israel, on the shore of the Red Sea, sang of their deliverance from the hand of Pharoah, saying: "I will sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea," there has never been any great religious movement without the use of sacred song. Luther set all Germany ablaze with religious enthusiasm as he sang his magnificant hymn, "Ein' Feste Burg," in which Melancthon and the multitudes of Christian soldiers joined. In later years the Church of God was thrilled by the sermons of John Wesley and the songs of his brother Charles, whose hymns are more extensively used throughout Christendom than any others. After the Wesleys came Charles G.Finney, who, although he did not use the service of song as much as others, yet as a preacher was one of the mightiest men of his day. Later came E.P.Hammond, the children's evangelist, who gave the praise service an especially important place in his work.
Then, in 1873, God was pleased to send Mr.Moody and myself to Great Britain, where a work of grace was begun that has continued until the present day. About the same time Major Whittle and P.P.Bliss were doing a remarkable work in the United States, Bliss becoming one of the greatest song-evangelists of that age. In more recent years we have had the splendid campaigns of Dr.Torrey and Mr.C.M.Alexander in Australia and Great Britain. In their work the prominent feature has been the use of praise, their most popular hymn being "The Glory Song."
We all agree with what Dr.Pentecost has said regarding the power of sacred song: "I am profoundly sure that among the divinely ordained instrumentalities for the conversion and sanctification of the soul, God has not given a greater, besides the preaching of the Gospel, than the singing of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. I have known a hymn to do God's work in a soul when every other instrumentality has failed. I could not enumerate the times God has rescued and saved my soul from darkness, discouragement and weariness by the singing of a hymn, generally by bringing one to my own heart and causing me to sing it to myself. It would be easy to fill many pages with interesting facts in connexion with the use of hymns in the public worship of the house of God. I have seen vast audiences melted and swayed by a simple hymn when they have been unmoved by a powerful presentation of the Gospel from the pulpit."
For many years past I have been collecting and writing up the history of hymns, and incidents connected with their composition and their use by Mr.Moody and myself, as well as by others; but in 1901, when the manuscript of these stories was almost completed, it was unfortunately destroyed in the fire that devastated the great Sanitarium at Battle Creek, Michigan, where I was at that time a guest of my friend Dr.J.H.Kellog. In view of the regret which was expressed by my friends over this loss, and the interest taken by the people who sing our hymns, I decided to rewrite the story from memory. The present series is the result.
I am indebted to the Rev.John Julian, the Rev.S.W.Duffield and the Rev. E.S.Lorenz, from whose works I have collected some dates and incidents; also to my faithful nurse, Mr.Charles G.Rosewall, for aid in compiling and writing this book. In the preparation of the old original manuscript I was especially indebted to my friend, Mr.Oliver H.Shiras, for his able assistance.
Brooklyn, New York.
[ pp.3-45 : Sankey's Story of his own Life. ]
I was born in the village of Edinburgh, on the Mahoning River in Western Pennslvania, August 28, 1840. My father, the Hon. David Sankey, and my mother, Mary, resided in Edinburgh until I was six years of age, when they removed to what was then known as Western Reserve Harbour, where my father engaged in the forwarding and commission business near the head waters of the Shenango River. From there my father removed to a farm near by, where I grew up, assisting in the farm work. Here my father was elected to the State Legislature, in which he continued for a period of thirteen years. I received the usual school privileges which fell to the lot of boys and girls of those days.
The very first recollection I have of anything pertaining to a holy life was in connexion with a Mr.Frazer. I recall how he took me by the hand and led me with his own children to the Sunday-school held in the old school-house. I shall remember this to my dying day. He had a warm heart and the children all loved him. It was not until some years after that I was converted, at the age of sixteen, while attending Revival meetings at a church known as The King's Chapel, about three miles from my home; but my first impressions were received from the kindly action of that dear servant of God.
In 1857 our family removed to Newcastle, where my father assumed the presidency of the Bank. Here I attended the High School, where every opportunity was given to study such of the higher branches as the student might have a taste for, and later I took a position in the Bank. On arriving at Newcastle I joined the Methodist Episcopal Church. Soon I was elected superintendent of the Sunday-school and leader of the choir.
It was here that my voice began to attract attention, and before long the Sunday-school overflowed with people who came to hear the singing. In this way, though unconsciously, I was making preparation for the work in which I was to spend my life.
In the spring of 1860, on the call of President Lincoln for men to sustain the Government, I was among the first in Newcastle to have my name enrolled as a soldier. My company was sent to Maryland. Religious services were held in the camp, and I was often called upon to lead the singing. I soon found several other young men who had the same gift. In a short time the people around us also learned that there were some good singers in the Union camp, and we were frequently invited out by families who had heard of the singing of "the boys in blue." At the expiration of my term as a soldier I did not re-enter the army, but returned to Newcastle to assist my father, who had been appointed by Abraham Lincoln as a collector of Internal Revenue.
In 1863, on September 9, I married a member of my choir - Miss Fanny V.Edwards, a daughter of the Hon. John Edwards. She has been a blessing and a helpmate to me throughout my life and in all my work.
My services as a singer became much in demand in Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio for Sunday-school conventions and political gatherings. In 1867, when I was twenty-seven years old, a branch of the Young Men's Christian Association was organized at Newcastle, of which I was at that time elected secretary, and afterwards president. The first meetings were held in a small hired room. From that modest beginning, by the help of God, I was in later years enabled to erect for the city a Young Men's Christian Association building, including gymnasium, library and bath-rooms, in all costing more than $40,000, by means of money realized from the sale of "Gospel Hymns." Not far from this building, on Jefferson Street, I bought a beautiful site for my old church, on which to erect a new structure; and later still I assisted Bishop Vincent to raise the necessary funds, so that the new church was dedicated without any debt. My father and mother were members of this church until they passed away.
In 1870, with two or three others, I was appointed a delegate to the International Convention of the Association, to be held at Indianapolis that year. It was announced that Mr.Moody would lead a morning prayer- meeting at 7 o'clock. I was rather late, and therefore sat down near the door with a Presbyterian minister, the Rev.Robert McMillan, a delegate from my own county, who said to me, "Mr.Sankey, the singing here has been abominable; I wish you would start up something when that man stops praying, if he ever does." I promised him to do so; and when opportunity offered I sang the familiar hymn, "There is a Fountain filled with Blood." The congregation joined heartily, and a brighter aspect seemed to be given to the meeting.
At the conclusion of the meeting Mr McMillan said to me: "Let me introduce you to Mr.Moody." We joined the little procession of persons who were going up to shake hands with him; and thus I met for the first time the man with whom, in the providence of God, I was to be associated for the remainder of his life, nearly thirty years.
Moody's first words to me, after my introduction, were, "Where are you from? Are you married? What is your business?" Upon telling him that I lived in Pennsylvania, was married, had two children and was in Government employ, he said in his characteristic manner, "You will have to give that up."
I stood amazed, at a loss to understand why the man should tell me that I would have to give up what I considered to be a good position. "What for?" I exclaimed.
"To come to Chicago and help me in my work," was the answer.
When I told him that I could not leave my business, he retorted, "You must; I have been looking for you for the last eight years."
I answered that I would think the matter over; but as yet I had no thought of giving up my position. Mr.Moody then asked me if I would go with him and pray over the matter, and to this I consented -- out of politeness. After the prayer we parted, and I returned to my room, much impressed by Mr.Moody's prayer, but still undecided.
The next day I received a card from Mr.Moody asking me to meet him on a certain street corner that evening at six o'clock. At that hour I was at the place named, with some of my friends. In a few minutes Mr.Moody came along.
Without stopping to speak, he passed on into a store near by, and asked permission to use a large store-box. The permission was granted; he rolled the box into the street, and calling me aside, asked me to get up on the box and sing something.
"Am I a Soldier of the Cross?" soon gathered a considerable crowd. After the song, Mr.Moody climbed up on the box and began to talk. The workmen were just going home from the mills and the factories, and in a short time a very large crowd had gathered. The people stood spell-bound as the words fell from Moody's lips with wonderful force and rapidity. When he had spoken for some twenty-five minutes, he announced that the meeting would be continued at the Opera House, and invited the people to accompany us there. He asked me to lead the way, and with my friends sing some familiar hymn. This we did, singing as we marched down the street, "Shall we gather at the river?" The men with their dinner-pails followed closely on our heels instead of going home, so completely were they carried away by the sermon from the store-box.
The Opera House was packed to the doors, and Moody first saw that all the workmen were seated before he ascended to the platform to speak. His second address was as captivating as the one delivered on the street corner, and it was not until the delegates had arrived for the evening session of the Convevtion that Mr.Moody closed the meeting saying, "Now we must close, as the brethren of the Convention wish to come in to discuss the question, `How to reach the masses.'" It occurred to me that here was a man who could successfully reach the masses while others were talking about it!
When Mr.Moody again brought up the subject of our going into the work together, I was still undecided. After a delay of over six months, and much urging on Mr.Moody's part, I consented to spend a week with him; and before that week was over I had sent my resignation to Mr.Hugh McCullough, at that time Secretary of the Treasury, and the position which I had held was, at my request, given to a "bucktail" soldier who had escaped from Libby Prison.
We thus commenced work together in Chicago in the early part of 1871, visiting poor and needy ones of Mr.Moody's little flock, singing and praying with the sick, speaking and singing at the daily noon prayer-meetings, and other work, until Mr.Moody's church was destroyed in the Chicago fire.
[ The next 8 pages describe the Great Fire in Chicago, 8th October 1871. Moody's church was destroyed in the fire, with much of the rest of the city; but a temporary "Tabernacle" was erected, and 12 months later Sankey moved with his family to Chicago while Moody made a (second) visit to England. In June 1873 Moody and Sankey left for England together, where they remained until August 1875.
An early visit (c. August 1873) was to Sunderland. Sankey's story reports: - ]
... while there I wrote to London, offering to give my selection of songs to the publishers of Philip Phillips' hymn-book, "Hallowed Songs," free of charge, if they would print them. This they respectfully declined. About this time Mr.R.C.Morgan, one of the publishers and proprietors of The Christian, came to Sunderland to record the work, and on hearing of the declination of the other publishers to take the hymns, offered to take them and publish them in small pamphlet form. So I cut from my scrap-book twenty-three pieces, rolled them up, and wrote on them the words, "Sacred Songs and Solos, sung by Ira D.Sankey at the meetings of Mr.Moody of Chicago." This book, together with the edition of words only, has now grown into a volume of twelve hundred pieces, and up to the present time has had possibly the largest sale of any book except the Bible.
[ The remainder of the autobiography contains anecdotes about the various campaigns of Moody and Sankey in England and Scotland, both before and after their return to America; about a visit (by Sankey) to Egypt and Palestine in 1898; and about various activities with and without Moody in the USA. Brief biographical details about Moody are included, among them the following - ]
My friend, Dwight Lyman Moody, was born February 5, 1837, at Northfield, Massachusetts. His father, who was a stone-mason, died when the lad was about four years old. ...
At the age of nineteen young Moody left the farm and went to Boston, where he entered a shoe store owned by his uncle. In that city he was converted through the preaching of Dr Kirk, at the Mount Vernon Church. After remaining in Boston for some time, Moody went to Chicago, where he found employment in a shoe store owned by a Mr.Henderson. He made a good record in the business, and sold more shoes than any other salesman in the establishment. ...
He became much interested in Sunday-school work, hiring a saloon for use on Sundays. ... Mr Moody's Sunday-school work grew until he had one of the largest schools in Chicago, in what was known as the Illinois Street Church. There I joined him in 1871, acting as his chorister until we went to England in 1873, after which we continued to work together for about a quarter of a century. Mr Moody was not a singer, and could not have raised a tune had his life depended upon it, although he was very fond of singing and used the service of praise more extensively and successfully than any other man in the nineteenth century. ...
After forty-four years of faithful and consecrated labour for his Master, Mr.Moody passed on to his reward December 22, 1899.
[ pp.279-80 ]
Words by Joseph Scriven Music by Charles C.Converse
- What a Friend we have in Jesus,
- All our sins and griefs to bear.
Thousands have been cheered in time of trouble, and so led nearer to Christ, by this sweet and simple hymn; for very few hymns have been more widely published or more frequently sung. The author was born in Dublin in 1820, and went to Canada when he was twenty-five. There he lived a useful life until his death in 1886. The young lady to whom he was to be married was accidentally drowned on the eve of their wedding day. This led him to consecrate his life and fortune to the service of Christ. Though a graduate of Trinity College and a man of refinement, he chose humble duties. One afternoon he was seen walking down the streets of Port Hope where he lived, dressed as a plain working-man and carrying a saw-horse and a saw on his mission of help. A citizen, noticing that a friend recognized him, said: "Do you know that man? What is his name? I want some one to cut wood, and I find it difficult to get a sober man to do the work faithfully."
"But you can't get that man," was the reply. "That is Mr.Scriven. He won't cut wood for you."
"Why not?" queried the gentleman.
"Because you are able to pay for it. He only saws wood for poor widows and sick people."
Until a short time before his death it was not known that he had a poetic gift. A neighbour, sitting up with him in his illness, happened upon a manuscript copy of "What a Friend we have in Jesus." Reading it with great delight and questioning Mr.Scriven about it, he said that he had composed it for his mother, to comfort her in a time of special sorrow, not intending that any one else should see it. Some time later, when another Port Hope neighbour asked him if it was true that he composed the hymn, his reply was: "The Lord and I did it between us."
Returning from England in 1875, I soon became associated with P.P.Bliss in the publication of what later became known as "Gospel Hymns No.1." After we had given the completed publication to our publishers I chanced to pick up a small paper-covered pamphlet of Sunday-school hymns, published at Richmond, Virginia. I discovered this and sang it through, and determined to have it appear in "Gospel Hymns." As the composer of the music was my friend C.C.Converse, I withdrew from the collection one of his compositions and substituted for it, "What a Friend we have in Jesus." Thus the last hymn that went into the book became one of the first in favour.
As published in the small Richmond hymnal, the authorship of the words was erroneously attributed to the great Scottish preacher and hymn-writer, Dr.Horatius Bonar. We were in error, also, in assigning the words to him. Some years afterwards Dr,Bonar informed us that he was not the author, and that he did not know who wrote it. It was not until six or eight years after the hymn first appeared in our collection that we learned who the author really was.
[ Return to Notes on Sankey: Sacred Hymns & Solos ]
(The Rejoice & Sing Enchiridion:edited by David Goodall; last amended 1/11/00)