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




SANKEY'S STORY OF HIS OWN LIFE - Part 6

Then, for six months, we conducted meetings in Boston. On an average, three meetings a day were held, in a large temporary building erected for the occasion by a committee of wealthy gentlemen. Here also we had the hearty co-operation of many prominent ministers and laymen, among whom Dr. A. J. Gordon, Dr. Joseph Cook, Phillips Brooks, and Henry M. Moore may be mentioned. Among those who professed conversion at these meetings was H. M. F. Marshall, who afterward removed to Northfield, and there, under Mr. Moody's direction, erected a number of the school buildings.

New Haven was our next field of labor. Many of the Yale University students were here converted, and afterward became useful ministers of the gospel throughout the country.

At Hartford, which we next visited, Mark Twain attended several of our meetings. On one occasion P. T. Barnum, the famous showman, attended and remained for an inquiry meeting, where it was my privilege to speak to him in regard to his spiritual condition. In our conversation he said: ”Mr. Sankey, you go on singing ' The Ninety and Nine,' and when you get that lost sheep in the fold we will all be saved. ”I afterward learned that he was a Universalist.

For the next six months we conducted meetings in the churches of St. Louis. Able assistance was, rendered by the Rev. J. H. Brookes and other eminent ministers. At one of the inquiry meetings I asked a fine-looking man as he was leaving the meeting, if he was a Christian. ”No,” he replied, ”I am a Missourian."

On our first visit to California, we stopped at Ogden, so as not to travel on Sunday, and went to Salt Lake City on Saturday afternoon. As soon as it became known that we were in the city, we were invited by the Presbyterian minister to hold services in his church, which we did. The interest at once became so great that we decided to change our plans and stay here for a couple of weeks. The church soon became too small for the great crowds, and we were invited to the Methodist Church, the largest in the city. Many Mormons attended the meetings, and one night two daughters of President Taylor went into the inquiry room and professed conversion. The solo singing was of great interest to the Mormons. A gentleman from England, who had become a Mormon, and who was collector of tithes, took a great fancy to Mr. Moody, of whom he had heard much from friends in England, and invited us to hold meetings in the Mormon Tabernacle. This, however, we declined. The Englishman said to Moody: ”You are all right, only you don't go far enough. ”When Moody asked what he meant he said: ”You do not have the revelation of Joseph Smith in your Bible. ”Moody answered that he was thankful for it; that he had no gospel of man, and that if Joseph Smith could have a revelation, D. L. Moody could have one also. This closed their discussion. A great crowd of people, among whom were many Mormons, came to the station to bid us good bye. Mr. Moody never visited Salt Lake City again.

Our work spread out in all directions, and hundreds of cities were visited, not only throughout the United States, but in Canada, and even in Mexico, much blessing attending all the services.

At a meeting in Norfolk, as Mr. Moody was about to begin his sermon, after I had sung a number of hymns, the minister of the church stepped up and said:” I want to make a little explanation to my people; many of my members believe that Moody and Sankey are one man, but brethren and sisters, this man is Mr. Moody, and that man at the organ is Mr. Sankey; they are not one person, as you supposed."

At Chattanooga the colored people boycotted our meetings, the colored ministers taking offense because they were not invited to take seats on the platform. We arranged a special meeting for the colored people, and were surprised to find the church nearly empty when we arrived. But Moody was not to be defeated in this way. He went out into the street and gave personal invitation to hundreds of colored people, and no further difficulty was experienced.

On one occasion, when I was leaving Chicago for New York on an evening train, a gentleman took his seat beside me. For some time nothing was said, but after a while we got into a general conversation. After discussing the weather and politics, we entered upon the subject of religion. This finally led to the discussion of Moody atid Sankey. The stranger said that he had never had the pleasure of hearing either of them. When I told him that I had often heard Moody preach and Sankey sing, he seemed much interested and asked:

"What kind of folks are they?"

“Oh, they are just common folks like you and me, ”I replied.

His daughter, he said, had a cabinet organ and they were all very fond of the ”Gospel Hymns,” and he was sorry that he had not had the opportunity to hear Sankey sing ' The Ninety and Nine' before he died. I told him I was much surprised, and asked him what proof he had of Sankey's death. He replied that he had seen it in the papers. “It must be true if you have seen it in the papers, ”I said.

By this time we were nearing the station where my friend was to get out. Hearing the whistle blow, he looked out of the window and remarked: ”I have enjoyed your company very much, but will soon have to leave you now."

“I hardly think it is fair that we should part without telling you that I am one of the men we have been talking about, ”I said.

“Why, who are you? ”he asked.

“I am what is left of Sankey."

At this he reached for his gripsack, and giving me a quizzical look he said: " You can't play that on me, old fellow; Sankey is dead." Then he rushed for the door, leaving me to continue my journey alone.

During the years which followed, we made several trips to Great Britain and held meetings in hundreds of places. In the campaign of i88i-'84 we held meetings in ninety-nine places in Scotland alone. Mr. Moody was once asked if he had kept any record of the number of converts at his meetings.

"Records ! " he exclaimed, " why, they are only kept in heaven."

In one of the recent revival meetings at Sheffield, conducted by Torrey and Alexander, a man gave the following testimony: " I found Christ in this hall in 1882, when Moody and Sankey were preaching the gospel; I was brought face to face with God, and in the after-meeting Mr. Sankey led me to Christ, and I am happy in him to-day."

"Well, now, that is refreshing," commented Mr. Alexander. "When anybody asks you if revival converts stand, you can speak of that one; he looks as if he is going to stay, too. As we have gone around the world we have found that the best workers, as a general rule, are either workers or converts of the Moody and Sankey meetings. We have found them in India, in Tasmania, and everywhere we have gone."

Lord Shaftesbury, speaking at a meeting in Exeter Hall, London, in the interest of evangelical work in Ireland, said: "Therefore go on circulating the Scriptures. I should have been glad to have had also the circulation of some well-known hymns, because I have seen the effect produced by those of Moody and Sankey. If they would only return to this country they would be astonished at seeing the influence exerted by those hymns which they sung. A week ago, when in Paris, I went to Belleville, the very nest of the communists, and even in this quarter I heard their hymns being sung. If we could get something like that in Ireland a mighty influence would be exerted."

"These American laymen," said another prominent man, "have wrought a work in Great Britain which the Church of England itself feels in its inmost heart. They are not, it is true, graduates of any university; they are men of the people, speaking the language and using the methods not of the refined, but of the generality. Yet they have probably left a deeper impress of their individuality upon the men and women of Great Britain than any other persons that could be named."

On our last visit to Scotland, Mr. Moody and I visited the town of Thursough, where we held a number of meetings. One of the ministers of the town said he could not join in the service, because he did not believe in using any other songs of praise than those of David.

We were invited from here to the town of Granton, still farther north, to hold a single service in the established church of that place, the Presbyterians being opposed to our methods. When arriving we found the town had been well placarded with notices of our meetings, and the women and children lined the streets to watch us as we passed by in a carriage. Some one had gone through the town and written underneath the posters: " Human Himes." When arriving at the church we found it well filled, but very cold, and there was no stove or furnace. Before beginning the service Mr. Moody asked one of the elders how they heated the church, to which he replied: " Ah, mon, our minister heats it from the pulpit." On our return to Thursough, while driving along the road, we overtook a strange-looking little man, wearing an old silk hat, a blue coat and checked trousers, walking along with his wife. He called out: " Stop, Johnny, we want to get in." As the driver only smiled and drove on, I told him to stop. The old couple climbed in and took seats. I asked the old man if he had attended the Moody and Sankey meeting that day, to which he replied: " No, our minister does not believe in the sudden conversion that they preach. I said: " That is Mr. Moody, beside whom you are sitting, ”and Moody said: ”And that is Mr. Sankey, beside whom your wife is sitting. ”The little man said: ”Oh, gentlemen, I have made a mistake; I thought this was a public conveyance, ”and he arose to get out, after offering to pay for their fare. We told him to sit still, as there was plenty of room, and that the ride was as free as the gospel we preached. At the end of the journey he thanked us profoundly, saying we were different people than he had thought we were, and went on his way to Wick, where he was to attend a funeral.

One of the most delightful experiences of my life was a trip to the Holy Land in 1898. I was accompanied by my wife, one of my sons, my brother, and a few friends. One of the most genial members of the company was the late Roswell P. Flower, with whom we had the pleasure of traveling for more than three months. We sailed from New York in January, made a short stop at Gibraltar, and dropped anchor at Alexandria. Cairo we reached by rail. We saw the pyramids, the Gizeh Museum, and the Howling Dervishes; made an excursion to Heliopolis, and took the trip up the Nile to the First Cataract, visiting the usual places, such as Luxor and Karnak. At the latter place we met the old Arab who discovered the mummy of Rameses II. We asked him if he would allow us to take a snapshot of him. This he at first refused, but the glint of the bright Egyptian sun on the proffered piece of silver secured his consent.

After spending about forty days in Egypt we started for Palestine in March—by a provokingly slow train from Cairo to Port Said, and thence by one of the regular mail steamers to Jaffa. In the Holy Land we followed much the usual round—exploring Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho, Bethany and other historic spots, and sharing the profound emotions that forever stir the hearts of Christian tourists in Palestine. On our way home we visited Constantinople, returning via Athens, Naples and Rome—and, of course, taking in Mt. Vesuvius.

All through this trip—here so briefly outlined—I had occasion to sing the ”Gospel Hymns” many times. The first evening in Cairo I visited the American Mission. I found the building well filled with Americans, Egyptians and English. A man on the platform was giving an address on temperance. The room was divided by a partition about two feet high, separating the natives from the foreigners. I made my way to a seat among the Americans, and had not been there long when a missionary beside me leaned over and said:” Are you not Mr. Sankey?”When I replied that I was he said he hoped that I would sing for them. I told him that, although I had come for rest, I would gladly sing if they had a small organ or piano on which I might accompany myself. Therebeing no instrument in the church, the matter was dropped. A few minutes later a lady pressed her way into the pew behind me and, leaning over toward me, said: ”I am delighted to see you here to-night, and I hope you will sing for us."

She proved to be a woman from my own county in Pennsylvania. Being told that there was no instrument in the church, she declared that she would soon get one. She beckoned to four Egyptian soldiers to follow her. In a few minutes they returned with a small cabinet organ, which they placed on the platform. At the conclusion of the address I gave a service of song, lasting for a half hour, after which I said good-night. But they refused to be satisfied, and demanded more songs. Again a number of piece? were rendered, and the service was finally closed.

While returning down the Nile I was often prevailed upon by missionaries along the way where the steamer stopped to give services of song. At several of these services I found that the natives already knew a number of our hymns.