I composed the music to this hymn in the home of my dear friend, Dr. Thomas Barnardo, whose death is announced through the public press just at the time I am writing this note. The author of the hymn, Elizabeth Clephane, also wrote the widely known hymn, ”The Ninety and Nine,” and these two were her only hymns.
The first time this hymn was sung is still fresh in my memory. The morning after I had composed the music the Rev. W. H. Aitkin was to speak at our mission in the great Bow Road Hall, in London, Mr. Moody having made an arrangement to speak at Her Majesty's Theater. It was a lovely morning, and a great gathering had assembled at the meeting, which was held at eight o'clock. Before the sermon I sang ”Beneath the cross of Jesus” as a solo; and as in the case of ”The Ninety and Nine,” much blessing came from its use for the first time. With eyes filled with tears, and deeply moved, the preacher said to the audience :”Dear friends, I had intended to speak to you this morning upon work for the Master, but this new hymn has made such an impression on my heart, and evidently upon your own, that I will defer my proposed address and speak to you on ' The Cross of Jesus. '“The sermon was one of the most powerful I have ever heard, and many souls that morning accepted the message of grace and love. Some years later Mr. Aitkin held many successful meetings in New York and other cities in this country, and he often used this hymn as a solo.
An odd incident occurred in connection with Mr. Aitkin's use of this hymn in St. Paul's Church, at Broadway and Wall street, the money center of America. A gentleman, having heard this piece sung frequently by great congregations of business men and Wall street brokers in St. Paul's Church, called upon the publishers of the small book of words which had been distributed in the church, and said that he ”wished to secure that beautiful English tune which Mr. Aitkin used so much in his meetings. ”When he was told that he could find it in any copy of ”Gospel Hymns” he became quite indignant, and insisted that it was a fine classic which the great preacher had brought with him from England—nothing like the Moody and Sankey trash I Having secured a copy of Mr. Aitkin's hymn-book containing the ”fine English tune” to the beautiful words of ”Beneath the cross of Jesus,” he went away happy, but only to find that it was written by the author of the music to ”The Ninety and Nine."