One of my last lectures on ”Sacred Song and Story” was delivered before a large audience in the Church of the Covenant, in Washington, D. C., at which the late Secretary of State, John Hay, members of Congress, and Judges of the Supreme Court were present. The favorite hymn, ”Nearer, my God, to Thee, ”was sung very heartily by the congregation. I requested the pastor, the Rev. Dr. Hamlin, to make an appointment for an interview with President McKinley. Two days later we visited the White House. The President greeted me warmly, saying he was very glad to meet me, as he had often heard me sing in Ohio. ”I understand that you are quite a fine singer yourself, ”I replied. He smiled and said: ”I don't know as to that, but I try to sing with the spirit and with the understanding. ”He seemed very bright and happy, and he gave me his autograph. The next day the President went to New York and attended service at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, during which ”Nearer, my God, to Thee ”was sung. The President's voice was heard, as he joined heartily in his favorite hymn. A reporter took a photograph of the President as he was singing, which appeared the next day in one of the New York papers. In 1902, in Buffalo, as he lay dying by the hand of an assassin, the martyred President was heard singing faintly,
Nearer to Thee;
E'en though it be a cross
That raiseth met
Still all my song shall be—
Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee I”
Bishop Marvin, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, was traveling during the Civil War in the wilds of Arkansas. He was feeling much depressed, for the Union troops had driven him from his home. As he approached a dilapidated old log cabin he heard some one singing, ”Nearer, my God, to Thee. ”He alighted and entered the house. There he found a poor woman, widowed and old, who was singing in the midst of such poverty as he had never seen before. His despondency vanished and he went on his way happy and trustful, because of the faith which he had seen and the hymn which he had heard.
little drummer boy was found, after the battle of Fort Donelson, by one who visited the field. The poor lad had lost an arm, which had been carried away by a cannon ball, but even as he lay there dying he was singing, ”Nearer, my God, to Thee."