In 1894 Mr. Moody and I were holding meetings in England. It was decided between us that Mr. Moody should remain in England while I returned to America to assist Dr. A. J. Gordon, of Boston, in conducting the Summer Conference in Northfield. I was entertaining Fanny Crosby in my summer home there. One evening I asked the popular hymn-writer if she would make a short address to her many friends gathered at the convention. She at first declined, but on further persuasion she consented to speak for a few moments. I led her forward to the desk on which lay the Bible and, standing there, she spoke beautifully for a short time. Closing her remarks, she recited a hymn never before heard in public, entitled ”Saved by Grace."
I afterward learned that my friend, L. H. Biglow —after attending a prayer-meeting conducted by the late Dr. Howard Crosby, where the subject was ”Grace”—had asked Fanny Crosby to write a hymn on that subject. She immediately retired to an adjoining room, and in the course of an hour returned with the words, ”Some day the silver cord will break, and I no more as now shall sing. ”Mr. Biglow secured the words from her, and put them in the safe among other hymns which she had written; but the song was evidently forgotten until recited by its author at Northfield.
A reporter of a London paper who was present at Northfield took her address, and also the hymn, which he carried back to England and published in his paper, thus sending it around the world. Four or five weeks later I found it in a copy of his paper. Cutting it out, I handed it to George C. Stebbins, asking him to set it to music. During the following years the song became one of Mr. Moody's favorites, and is now sung by hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world.
A newspaper of Allegheny, Pennsylvania, recently gave this incident in startling headlines:
“The congregation of Christ Protestant Episcopal Church, Union Avenue, Allegheny, the Rev. Robert Meech, rector, was startled yesterday morning by a sensational supplement to the morning service. The church was well filled and devout worshipers responded to the service as read by the rector. The reading had been concluded, and the rector was about to make the usual announcements of future services when an incident occurred such as old Christ Church had never dreamed of. Out of the usual line in a church of this denomination, it was nevertheless marked in its effect, and will never be forgotten by those present.
“In the fourth pew from the front aisle of the church sat a neatly-dressed woman of intellectual face, apparently about thirty years of age. Her presence as a stranger had been noticed by many, and her deep, tearful interest in the service had been quietly commented on by those who occupied the adjoining pews. At the point mentioned she rose to her feet and, struggling with emotion, began to speak. The startled congregation was all attention, and she was allowed to proceed. Rapidly and eloquently she told of her going out from the church and of her return to it. In graphic words she painted the hideousness of sin and the joys of a pure life, and as she spoke men and women gave way to their emotions and listened breathlessly to the end of the narration.
“I was christened in this church, ”she said,” and attended Sunday-school in the basement when good old Dr. Paige was rector. My mother was a devout member here, and taught me the right way. At the age of fifteen I deserted my home and married an actor. For a number of years I followed the profession, leading such a life as naturally accompanies it. In dramatic circles, in variety business, and in the circus, I spent those godless years.
“About two years ago I was in the city of Chicago. One afternoon I was on my way to Ferris Wheel Park to spend the afternoon in revelry, when 1 happened on the open-air meeting which the Epworth League of Grace Methodist Episcopal Church was conducting on North Park Street. I stopped through curiosity, as I believed, to listen; but I know now that God arrested my footsteps there. They were singing ' Saved by Grace,' and the melody impressed me. Recollections of my childhood days came trooping into my soul, and I remembered that in all the years of my absence my mother, until her death nine years ago, had been praying for me.
“I was converted and, falling on my knees on the curbstone, I asked the Father's pardon. Then and there I received it, and I left the place with a peace which has never forsaken me. I gave up my business at once and have lived for his service ever since. I have been but a few days in this city. Last night I visited the Hope Mission, and the Lord told me I must come here and testify what he had done for me. I have not been in this building for many years, but it seems only yesterday that I left it. I have been sitting in the pew directly opposite the one once occupied by my mother and myself, and I feel her presence today. I could not resist the impulse to give this testimony. The Lord sent me here."
The congregation was profoundly impressed. The rector descended from the chancel and, approaching the speaker, with tears in his eyes, bade her Godspeed. The service went on. At its conclusion many members of the congregation shook hands with the stranger and told of their impressions. A stranger might have imagined himself in a Methodist Episcopal church, so intense was the feeling. The strange visitor departed with a sense of duty done. All she said was: ”I feel that the Lord Jesus and mother have been here."