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




SANKEY'S STORY OF HIS OWN LIFE - Part 7

In Jerusalem I started early one morning to visit the Tower of David, which was located only a few rods from the hotel. I was stopped by one of the Sultan's soldiers, who informed me by signs and gesticulations that I could not ascend the tower without a permit from the captain of the guard. I secured the desired permit by the use of a little baksheesh, and was escorted up the winding stairway by a savage looking soldier carrying a gun. From the top of the tower may be seen one of the grandest and most interesting scenes in the world. I determined to have at least one song in honor of King David before descending. Selecting one of the most beautiful psalms, ”I to the hills will lift mine eyes, ”I began to sing at the top of my voice, using the grand old tune, ”Belmont.” The soldier, not acquainted with that kind of performance, and perhaps never having heard a sacred song in his life, rushed up to where I stood, looking quite alarmed. I knew that he could not understand a word of what I was singing, so I kept right on to the end of the psalm. Coming to the conclusion by this time that I was not likely to do any special damage either to him or to myself, the guard smiled and tipped his cap as I finished. By tipping him I returned the salutation, and then we passed down into the Street of David.

A few hours later our party visited that portion of the city called Mount Zion, where we entered the fine school erected by an English bishop for the children of Jerusalem. We were greeted by the principal, who proved to have been a member of my choir at the meetings in London. I was invited to sing for the children, and consented to do so if they would sing for us first. I was much surprised to hear them sing some of my own songs, as well as their native songs in Arabic. I sang ”The Ninety and Nine” and other songs, much to the delight of the children.

Standing on the summit of the green hill far away, Outside the city wall, I sang the fine old gospel hymn: ”On Calvary's brow my Saviour died.” While at Constantinople I visited Robert College, where I sang several hymns and gave an address to the Turkish students; and also at the American and English missions in that city I rendered my service of song. In Rome I had the same pleasant experience, where I held a number of services, both speaking and singing in the English, American and Scotch churches.

On returning to America I visited the soldiers in camp at Tampa, Florida, where I held several services. I was here invited by Theodore Roosevelt, then Colonel of the Rough Riders, to conduct services at his camp, but a previous engagement prevented my accepting.

The following year I again visited Great Britain, where I held services of ”Sacred Song and Story” in thirty cities and towns. The result was that my health broke down. Later I lost my eyesight.

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. Many years later Mr. Moody was laying the corner-stone of the first building at Northfield. His friends had secured a silver trowel for him, but he refused to use it. He had been at his mother's home, and in the garret he had found one of his father's old trowels with which he had earned bread for the family.

“You may keep the silver trowel, ”Mr. Moody said;” this one is good enough for me."

Mr. Moody used to tell of how he earned his first money by driving the neighbors' cows to and from pasture at two cents a day. When he was eight years old a man who owned a mortgage on his mother's little farm came to the house one day and told the widow that she must pay the mortgage or get out of the house. The poor woman was sick at the time. She turned over in the bed and prayed that God would help her. Then she wrote to her brother, and he helped her by paying the interest on the mortgage for several years. At last, by economy and industry, the family was able to clear off the mortgage and retain the home. Many years afterward, by God's blessing, young Dwight was able to secure the farm belonging to the man who had once held the mortgage, and on that farm is now located the school of Mount Hermon, established for the education of young men.

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 Boston 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 business, and sold more shoes than any other clerk in the establishment. And whenever Mr. Henderson heard of the failure of any of his customers in the towns about Chicago, he would always send Moody to collect the debts, as he invariably arrived there ahead of all other creditors.

While he was thus engaged Mr. Moody did not lose zeal in religious matters. He was very active in the work of the Young Men's Christian Association, and was soon elected president of the branch located at Farwell Hall. He also became much interested in Sunday-school work, hiring a saloon for use on Sundays.

In his Sunday-school was a wicked and unruly young man, who constantly disturbed the exercises. Mr. Moody remonstrated with him a number of times, but to no avail. Finally, taking the young man into an adjoining room, fie gave him a severe chastising. When Moody returned, flushed with excitement, he said to his assistant superintendent:” I think I have saved that young man. ”And truly he had, for from that time the young disturber became an earnest Christian, and was one of Moody's warmest and best supporters for many years. 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.

Dwight L. Moody was the greatest and noblest man I have ever known. His strongest characteristic was common sense. The poor heard him gladly, as they did his Master of old; the rich and learned were charmed by his simple, earnest words. He will not only be remembered for his extended evangelistic work, but also for the two noble schools which he founded.

Those schools at Northfield and Mount Hermon, Massachusetts, originated in this way: One day, in the early seventies, Mr. Moody drove up into the mountains near his mother's home. Stopping at a much dilapidated farmhouse, he hitched his horse to the fence and went in. The man of the family was sick in bed; the mother and two daughters were making straw hats, by which to support the family. Moody said to them:

"What are you going to do? This old farm is unable to maintain your family."

The girls answered that if they could obtain an education in some way they might afterward be able to earn sufficient money for the support of their parents.

“Well, let us pray about it, ”said Moody. After the prayer he gave them a little money, got into his carriage, and started back down the mountain to the village. I met him on his return, and he said to me: ”I have made up my mind to start a school for poor girls in New England. ”Later it was proposed to utilize the royalty received from our hymn-books for the erection of buildings.

To this I heartily agreed, and this was the beginning of the now famous Northfield schools. The first students in the school were the poor girls who were making the straw hats. The story of these two girls, and of Mr. Moody's visit to them, I told some years afterward to a number of summer guests at Lake Mohonk. The proprietor of the hotel, Mr. Smiley, being much impressed, took his hat and collected among the guests $1,500 for the school. On receiving the offering next day, Moody said to me that it was the most providential thing, as they were just that amount short in making up the annual accounts of the school.

Some time after the establishment of the girls' school a wealthy gentleman from New Haven was visiting Northfield. He sought Mr. Moody's advice concerning the making of his will, and Mr. Moody said: ”Be your own executor and have the joy of giving your own money.” He then asked Mr. Moody to suggest a worthy object, and Mr. Moody outlined his plan for a boys' school.

“I will give $25,000 to commence with,” said the old, white-haired man.

The offer was gladly accepted. It was this money which Mr. Moody used for buying the farm of the man who had ordered his widowed mother from her home. On this farm, situated four and a half miles from the girls' school, across the Connecticut River, are now located a number of buildings, in which young men from all over the world are educated. About a thousand students attend the schools every year. One hundred dollars a year is charged for each student, but pupils are expected to do whatever work they can to help along.

After forty-four years of faithful and consecrated labor for his Master, Mr. Moody passed on to his reward December 22, 1899.

The last meeting Mr. Moody and I held together was in Dr. Storrs' church, in Brooklyn. His subject at this time was ”Mary and Martha. ”I had often listened to him speaking on these two friends of Jesus before, but never with greater pleasure than on this occasion. His heart seemed very tender, as he talked in a quiet and sympathetic way about Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus, and the love and sympathy that existed between them and Jesus. The hearts of all present seemed deeply moved, and many strong men, unused to tears, were unable to hide their emotion. Hundreds tarried after the meeting to shake hands, many recalling memories of blessings received in the meetings in this city twenty-five years before. Mr. Moody seemed to have just as much power and unction upon him in this meeting as I had ever witnessed during all the long years of our united labors. Little did I think that this was to be our last service together. A few weeks later I spent a Sunday with him in New York, walking with him to Dr. Hall's church and back to the hotel, where we parted for the last time.

On my way from Canada I stopped over one night in Rochester to hold a service of ”Sacred Song and Story,” and there I received the last letter from him. It was dated at Northfield, November 6, 1899, containing nine pages, in which he spoke of his work in Northfield and Chicago. He also told me he was due in New York at 3.30 on Wednesday, and asked if I could meet him at the Murray Hill Hotel. I at once telegraphed that I would come down on the night express and see him the next morning. When I arrived he had gone. I learned later that he went to Philadelphia on Wednesday evening, spending an hour with friends there, and took the night train for Kansas City, where he fell in the front of the battle, as brave a soldier of the cross as ever won a victor's crown.

Before sending forth this book on its mission I wish to express my thankfulness to Almighty God for having permitted me to live, move and have my being; for the promise which he hath given of eternal life through his name ; and for the confidence that I shall be with him by and by in the land where there is no more pain, sorrow or death, and where he shall wipe all tears from our eyes.

My three latest favorite songs, ”Hiding in Thee,” "There'll be no Dark Valley,” and ”Saved by Grace,” besides the old familiar ”Ninety and Nine,” are herewith reproduced, as an appropriate closing for this autobiographical sketch.