My Life and the Story of the Gospel Hymns and of Sacred Songs and Solos


At one of the meetings here a young man anxious to gain admittance to the already over-crowded hall, cried out to Mr. Moody:” I have come twenty miles to hear you, can't you make room for me somewhere? ”Moody calmly replied: ”Well, if we push the walls out you know what the roof will do."

On another occasion, as we were holding meetings in the Free Assembly Hall, while I was singing a solo a woman's shrill voice was heard in the gallery, as she made her way toward the door, crying: ”Let me oot! Let me oot! What would John Knox think of the like of yon? ”At the conclusion of the solo I went across the street to sing at an overflow meeting in the famous Tolbooth Church. I had just begun to sing, when the same voice was again heard, ”Let me oot! Let me oot! What would John Knox think of the like of yon?"

Professor Blaikie said in the Edinburgh Daily Review at this time:” It is almost amusing to observe how entirely the latent distrust of Mr. Sankey's ”kist o' whistles” has disappeared. There are different ways of using the organ. There are organs in some churches for mere display, as some one has said,' with a devil in every pipe;' but a small harmonium, designed to keep the tune right, is a different matter, and is seen to be no hindrance to the devout and spiritual worship of God."

In 1874 my father visited Scotland, bringing with him my two children. He frequently said to his friends that he never enjoyed anything in his life as much as this visit to Scotland. In London, a little later, Gladstone, accompanied by Lord Kinnaird, visited one of the meetings we were holding at Agricultural Hall. At the conclusion of the address Mr. Moody was introduced to the Grand Old Man of England by Lord Kinnaird. ”You have a fine body for your profession,” remarked Mr. Gladstone. ”Yes, if I only had your head on it, ”Mr. Moody replied, and then hurried away to an inquiry meeting. The Princess of Wales and other members of the royal family attended a number of our meetings at Her Majesty's Theater, occupying their private box. I was told by the Duchess of Sutherland that the Princess was very fond of ”Sacred Songs and Solos,” a copy of which I had the pleasure of presenting to her. When the weather was not propitious and she remained at home from her church service, she would gather her children around the piano and sing by the hour.

We remained in Great Britain this time for two years, holding meetings in many of the leading cities of England, Scotland and Ireland.

We found but little opposition to the use of hymns and organs in Ireland, and our choirs contained many people of the higher walks of life. It was in the Exhibition Palace in Dublin that I first sang, ”What shall the harvest be? ”I was surprised when Moody requested me never to sing it again in the meetings, and for a while he took the precaution personally to announce the solos that he wished to have sung. I afterwards learned that his reason for not wanting this hymn sung at his meetings was that a prominent minister, after having heard the hymn the first time I sang it, had remarked to Moody that if I kept on singing such hymns I would soon have them all dancing. However, when Moody did not announce the solos he wished me to sing, -I would start up, ”Sowing the seed in the daylight fair, ”and after some time he began to give it out himself occasionally, and, hearing no further criticism, the hymn was from that time onward always sung in connection with Moody's address on ”Sowing and Reaping."

Another instance of Mr. Moody's being influenced against certain hymns, was in the case of the hymn ”Memories of Galilee. ”I first introduced this hymn at one of our meetings at Newcastle-on-Tyne, at which service a very prominent and distinguished lady was present. She expressed herself as not approving of this kind of hymns, and Mr. Moody at once requested me to leave it out of ”Sacred Songs and Solos, ”which I was just then preparing. I told him that I thought the song would certainly become popular, and that I very much needed some new solos, and that I had already sent it on to the publishers. A few months later this lady again heard me sing the song, and after the meeting she told Mr. Moody that she thought it was one of the most beautiful songs she had ever heard. The song from this time became a great favorite of us all.

Some of the comedians at the theaters tried to make hits by changing our hymns and using our names on the stage. This was always resented by the audiences.

In imitation of the popular song, ”He's a Fraud,” an actor one evening sang at the Royal Theater in Manchester some doggerel beginning, ”We know that Moody and Sankey are doing some good in their way.” It received both cheers and hisses from the audience at first, but on a repetition of the words the displeasure was so great that the comedian had to leave the stage. At a circus in Dublin, on one occasion, one clown said to another, ”I am rather Moody to-night; how do you feel?”The other responded, ”I feel rather Sankey-monious. ”This by-play was not only met with hisses, but the whole audience arose and joined with tremendous effect in singing one of our hymns, ”Hold the fort, for I am coming."

While holding meetings at Burdett road, London, in 1874, Mr. Moody and I one Saturday took a drive out to Epping Forest. There we visited a gypsy camp. While stopping to speak to two brothers who had been converted and were doing good missionary work, a few young gypsy lads came up to our carriage. I put my hand on the head of one of them and said: ”May the Lord make a preacher of you, my boy !"

Fifteen years later, when Gypsy Smith made his first visit to America, I had the pleasure of taking him for a drive in Brooklyn. While passing through Prospect Park he asked me:

“Do you remember driving out from London one day to a gypsy camp at Epping Forest? ”I replied that I did. ”Do you remember a little gypsy boy standing by your carriage,” he asked again,” and you put your hand on his head, saying that you hoped he would be a preacher?"

“Yes, I remember it well."

“I am that boy,” said Gypsy Smith.

My surprise can better be imagined than described. Little had I thought that the successful evangelist and fine gospel singer of whom I had heard so much, and whom I had so much admired, was the little boy I had met in the gypsy camp. Truly God has granted my wish of fifteen years before, and has made a mighty preacher of the gypsy boy.

During our meetings in Her Majesty's Theater at Pall Mall a Mr. Studd, who had a great many fast horses and fox-hounds, gave them all up and became a follower of Christ. Mr. Studd's son was attending Eton College, at Windsor, near the Queen's castle. He and Mr. Graham, of Glasgow, a member of Parliament, invited us to go to Windsor and hold meetings for the young Lords in the college. When it was rumored that we would accept the invitation, the subject was taken up and discussed in Parliament.

Although we were accustomed to devote Saturdays to rest, we decided to give one Saturday to Eton College. When we arrived at Windsor Station we were met by Mr. Studd and Mr. Graham, and taken to the home of a merchant. As there was so much excitement in the town because of our coming, it was decided that it would be best to hold the meetings in this gentleman's garden. Mr. Graham gathered about fifty of the students under a large apple tree in the garden. There Mr. Moody gave a short address on John 3: 16, and I sang a number of solos, including ”Pass me not, O gentle Saviour.”We also distributed copies of ”Sacred Songs and Solos ”among the students, who took an enthusiastic part in the singing. Mr. Studd's son, who afterward became known as one of the chief cricketers of England, was converted at this meeting.

On one of our subsequent visits to Great Britain this young man got up a large petition, inviting us to Cambridge. The invitation to Cambridge we gladly accepted, and arrived there on Guy Fawkes night. When we entered the Corn Exchange, which was the largest meeting room in town, we found it filled with students. It was the largest religious meeting that had ever been held in Cambridge. On reaching the platform we found Mr. George E. Morgan, of ”The Christian,” London, who was then a Cambridge student, conducting the singing. Mr. Moody asked one of the Dons to lead in prayer, after which he called upon me to sing ”The Ninety and Nine. ”The students listened to the first verse in perfect silence, but at its conclusion they vigorously beat the floor with canes and umbrellas, and cried, ”Hear, heart” This demonstration followed each verse to the end. Mr. Moody's address for half an hour held the undivided attention of his congregation. At the conclusion some of the students attempted to stampede the meeting, but a large majority remained and gathered around us, saying: ”These men must have fair play while they are in Cambridge. ”Thus began a great revival in that town. Hundreds of young men dated their conversion from that time.

The news of the religious work at Cambridge naturally spread to Oxford, and we were invited to hold meetings there. We had hoped that the success of our meetings at Cambridge would make the way easier at Oxford. But a similar process had to be gone through there. We stopped at the Bull's Head Hotel, and held meetings for two weeks in a large hall connected with that building, and eventually a large number of students took their stand on the Lord's side.

One day as I was making some purchases in a bookstore in London, a sailor came rushing in, saying: ”Give me a dozen little Sankey's, quick! ”The hymn book” Sacred Songs and Solos ”was usually called ”Sankey's."

While holding meetings at Campbeltown, on a subsequent visit to Scotland, a drunken man staggered into the meeting one evening, while Mr. Moody was preaching. He had not been seated long before he arose and said: ”Mr. Moody, will you please stop a bit, I want to hear Mr. Sankey sing ' The Ninety and Nine.' Moody, with his marvelous tact, said: ”All right; sit down, my friend, I will ask Mr. Sankey to sing for you. ”Those sitting near him said he was visibly affected by the song. Later on when the invitation was given to retire to the inquiry room the man sitting next to this drunkard brought him in. I sat down beside him and talked and prayed with him. He said he was the black, as well as the lost sheep of his family, and that he wanted to sign a pledge to stop drinking. We did not use the pledge in those days, but to please this man we hunted up a copy, under which he signed his name, John McNeil. He declared his intention to give up drink forever. For many evenings he came to our services, and always went into the inquiry meetings. He told me that to get away from temptation he used to take his mother's Bible and his lunch, and for many days go into the hills in the country. I corresponded with him for over a year. He was said to have been one of the most wicked men of his town, and had given the police more trouble than any other man there, but he became a humble follower of Christ.

On the 3d of August, 1875, a great farewell meeting was held for us in Liverpool. Several addresses were made, one of some length by Mr. Moody. As >we took our departure on the ”Spain” we left with the most enthusiastic applause and evidences of good will, the great crowd on the shore singing several of our hymns as the vessel moved out of sight.

After our return to America, the first meeting held was at Northfield, on the gth of September, 1875. There, among many others, Mr. Moody's mother, who was a Unitarian, stood up for prayer. At this meeting I first sang” The Ninety and Nine” in this country.

One day while crossing the Connecticut River on a ferry, which was pulled across by a line stretched over the river, Mr. Bliss and I were singing, ”Pull for the shore, sailor, pull for the shore,” when we noticed that the boat pulled unusually heavy, and on investigating, found that Mr. Moody, who was sitting in the rear, was pulling back on the line with all his might, so as to delay the trip, and give him * chance to listen to the singing. This illustrates Mr. Moody's fondness for singing. Although himself not a singer, he used the service of praise more extensively and successfully than any other man in the nineteenth century.

Brooklyn was our next place to visit. Although the first meeting, held in Clermont Avenue Rink, October 24, was at half past eight in the morning, the hall, which had chairs for five thousand persons, was packed full, and thousands were turned away for want of room. I was assisted in the singing here by a choir of two hundred and fifty voices. My first solo was, ”Rejoice and be glad! the Redeemer has come! ”At the second meeting, in the afternoon, fifteen thousand persons had to be turned away for lack of accommodation. From two to three hundred requests for prayer would often be announced at these meetings.

At one of them a fine-looking young man came into the inquiry room along with a number of others. I asked him if he was willing to accept Christ as his only Saviour. He bowed his head in his hands as he sat by my side. With great earnestness, while his whole frame shook with deepest feeling, he replied:

“Jesus will not accept me."

"Why not?"

“Because I have been an infidel for many years, a follower of Charles Bradlaugh, and for the last eight years have not ceased to speak in private and public against Christ. I have traveled over nearly all the world, and have spoken everywhere against him and all those who professed to be Christians; now I fear he will not forgive me for what I have done."

“Do you want him to forgive you?” I asked.

“Well, sir, ”he said,” I do not know what is the matter with me or why I am here to-night. Some power that I do not understand has been working upon me for the last two days, and I am in a despondent state of mind." I lifted my heart in prayer that I might make no mistake in dealing with this man. I waited for a moment, and then said,”My dear friend, what you need to-night is Christ; he will dispel your gloom and sorrow."

“But,” he exclaimed, arousing himself from what seemed to be a deep reverie, “I have fought against him all my life, and I thought I was right, too."

“Did you have peace in your heart when you were preaching against Christ?"

He looked up at me. “No, I was a coward, ”he confessed.” I remember, while coming home from a long journey on the sea, we were one night driven by the storm near the rocks off a certain cape, and when I thought we were sure to go to the bottom of the sea, I got down on my knees and prayed to God to save us. The storm died, and with it went my prayers. For as soon as I thought we were safe, like a coward I went back to my old ways, and denied that there was a God."

“Well,”I said,” let that go. What brought you here to-night?"

“I don't know, ”he replied.” I have not been in church for eight years; I have not spoken to a Christian in that time, as I have lived entirely among infidels and skeptics. But about a year ago I received a letter from my poor old mother, away over in Dundee, Scotland. She asked me to make her one promise, that when Mr. Moody and Mr. Sankey came back to America I would go to hear them, if they came to the place where I was. I answered her that I would. When you came here I thought I would have to keep my word to my mother, so I went to the Rink two nights in succession. Since that time I have had no rest. Yesterday and to-day I have had to close up my office. I am a civil engineer. I have been walking the streets all day, thinking, thinking. Not being acquainted with any Christians to whom I could speak, I thought I would go once more to the Rink. And now here I am, talking to you."

“My dear friend, ”I said,” it is an answer to your mother's prayer. She may be praying for her wandering boy this very night. Now, do not delay any longer. Yield to Christ and he will receive you."

He bowed his head, while his trembling form told how deeply his heart was moved. After a hard struggle he took my hand and said: ”By the grace of God I take Jesus Christ as my Saviour now I" After a word of prayer I asked him if he would not write to Scotland at once and tell his mother all about it, and he promised that he would. A few evenings later I met him at the door of the Rink. As he came up to shake hands and bid me good bye I asked him if he had written to his mother.

“Oh, yes, ”said he,” but not until I had sent her a cable dispatch first."

“What did you say in the dispatch?”I asked.

“Well, I just said, ' I've found Jesus,' and signed my name to it."

“Thank the Lord,” said I.

“Yes,” he exclaimed,” that is just what my dear old mother cabled back to me, ' Thank the Lord, O my soul.'"

Our first meeting in Philadelphia was held on November 24, in the old Pennsylvania Railroad Depot, which John Wanamaker fitted up for our use. It had a seating capacity of more than ten thousand persons. Here, as in Brooklyn, the leading ministers gave their hearty support to the work and in every way expressed their approval of the effort. On one occasion the meetings were attended by President U. S. Grant, several Senators, and members of the Supreme Court. During my stay in Philadelphia I often visited the home of Henry Clay Trumbull, then the editor of”The Sunday School Times,”who gave us his heartiest support in every way. Among the laymen who were very efficient helpers at our meetings were John Wanamaker and George H. Stuart. Mr. Wanamaker's special meetings for young men were largely attended. Under Moody's powerful preaching many conversions took place in Philadelphia.

A number of Princeton students attended the meetings, and an invitation was extended to us to go to Princeton to hold meetings there for the college men, which we were glad to accept. In the Princeton meetings we had the warm sympathy and co-operation of President McCosh. Among the converts at Princeton was Wilton Merle Smith, now one of the leading ministers of New York City.

The old Hippodrome in New York, located where Madison Square Garden is now, was the scene of our next meetings, in February, March, and April of 1876. It was the largest place of assembly in the city, though a very unattractive structure. The building had never been used for religious meetings before, but was a place for sport and gaiety. The hall which we used, the largest in the building, seated eight thousand. A monster stage was built, large enough to hold the choir of six hundred voices, and still to leave room for at least four hundred visiting clergymen and guests. Here for the first time I sang” Waiting and Watching,” which afterward became a great favorite. Thurlow Weed, who frequently attended the meetings and occupied a seat at the reporters' desk, would often have written requests laid on my organ asking me to sing this hymn. The New York meetings were very successful. One day, near the close of the ten weeks' campaign, an audience assembled which numbered more than four thousand persons, all of whom confessed that they had been converted at these meetings.

Our next large meetings were held in Chicago during the fall of 1876, in a large Tabernacle erected for the occasion by John V. Farwell. It was capable of seating more than eight thousand. At one of these meetings Mr. Moody's attention was attracted by an usher with a wand in his hand, seating the people as they came in. Mr. Moody did not like the man's appearance. He asked the chairman of the committee, Mr. Harvey, who the usher was. Mr. Harvey replied that he did not know, but would go and see. Taking the man out into the inquiry room, Mr. Harvey learned that his name was Guiteau—the man who afterward shot President Garfield. So great was Mr. Moody's power in reading character.

At the close of the three months' mission in Chicago, a farewell service was held for those alone who professed to have been brought to Christ during the meetings, and it was attended by six thousand persons.