Since Moses and the children of Israel, on the shore of the Red Sea, sang of their deliverance from the hand of Pharaoh, 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 magnificent hymn, ”Ein' Feste Burg,” in which Melanchthon and 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 Whittle and Bliss were doing a remarkable work in the United States, Bliss becoming one of the greatest song-evangelists of that age. For the last two or three years we have had the splendid campaign of Torrey and Alexander in Australia, Great Britain and America. In their work the prominent feature has been the use of praise, their most popular hymn being ”The Glory Song, ”which perhaps is the most generally used Gospel song of the day.
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 connection 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. Kellogg. 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, as far as I was able.
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 secretary, 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.
IRA D. SANKEY.
BROOKLYN, NEW YORK,