Mr. Cornelius was brought up on a farm in my own county in Pennsylvania. He left farming when he came of age, and learned the trade of a brick-mason. Later he became a contractor in Pittsburg. In erecting a house in that city his leg was broken. The physicians decided that it would have to be amputated, and they gave him a week in which to get ready for the ordeal. My own physician was sent for to assist at the operation. When the day arrived the young man said that he was ready, but asked for his violin, that he might play one more tune—perhaps the last one he would ever play. Whatever the tune was, the melody was so sweet that it caused even the physicians to weep. He stood the operation well and came out safely, but was maimed for life. He now decided to go to college and get an education. After passing through college with honor he concluded to become a minister of the gospel. His first charge was at Air toona, Pennsylvania, but on account of his wife's health he soon removed to California, locating at Pasadena, where he built the largest Presbyterian church in that place. Many who had subscribed to help to pay for the building failed in business, and he was left to meet the obligations as best he could. But in a few years he had the church cleared from all debt. Shortly afterward his wife died. He preached the funeral sermon himself. At the conclusion he quoted the words of this hymn, which he had composed shortly before. Both the words of the hymn and the sermon were printed in a Western newspaper, where Major Whittle found them. Impressed by their beauty, he cut them out and carried them in his Bible for three months before he wrote the chorus:
Fear not! for He doth hold thy hand;
Though dark thy way, still sing and praise;
Sometime, sometime we'll understand.”
While Mr. Moody and I were holding meetings in the great Convention Hall in Washington, in 1894, one evening he requested me to go to an overflow meeting in the Second Presbyterian Church. I sang ”Sometime We'll Understand ”as a solo, and I told how Major Whittle had found it. At the conclusion of the meeting a lady came forward to the platform, and said ”That hymn was written by my pastor; ”and for the first time I learned who had written the beautiful words of the hymn I loved so much. A year or two later I sang this hymn in the Church of the Covenant in Washington. The late Secretary of State, John Hay, was present. He was much moved by the song, and at the conclusion of the service came forward and thanked me. While we were talking a young lady with her husband came up to me and said that she was the daughter of Dr. Cornelius, the author of the hymn, and hoped that God would continually bless my singing of the song.
At one of our crowded meetings in the Free Assembly Hall in Edinburgh, Scotland, Mr. Moody called to the platform Lord Overtoun, who changed the meeting into a memorial service for the Prince of Wales' eldest son, the Duke of Clarence, who had recently died in England. After a number of addresses had been made by ministers and others, Lord Overtoun asked a member of my choir, Miss Jane Darling, if she had any song suitable to the occasion. I had gone to Dunfirmline to commence meetings there. Miss Darling took her seat at my little organ and sung in the most touching and pathetic manner the hymn, ”Sometime We'll Understand. ”At the conclusion of the meeting Lord Overtoun sent a dispatch to the Princess .of Wales, including in the message three of the verses of the hymn. The same evening he received a dispatch from the Princess, thanking him for the verses. A few days later Miss Darling had the hymn beautifully engrossed upon parchment and forwarded it to the Princess.