Among the divinely ordained instrumentalities for the conversion and sanctification of the soul that God has given, surely one of the greatest is the singing of “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” Pages might be filled with interesting facts in connection with the use of hymns in the public worship of the House of God. How often have vast audiences been melted and swayed by a simple hymn, when they have been unmoved by a powerful presentation of the Gospel from pulpit and platform.
Looking back over the years that are passed, since, in the language of Horatius Bonar’s charming hymn, the child of God could sing:
“I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary and worn and sad;
I found in Him a resting place,
And He has made me glad.”
—does not the memory recall many of the dear old hymns that sung themselves into the heart, and taught the truths of God, that otherwise we might not have learned, and led us to the sources of joy and delight that we might never have found. Even yet we can hear the echo of those voices that used to lead the singing in times of spiritual blessing. Some of them, it is true, were poor and cracked and discordant, and would have utterly spoiled and ruined any songs, other than those of the sanctuary, that were sung in those hours of the Spirit’s presence and power.
We remember the story of John Wesley and the old Cornish woman, who, at one of his services, annoyed the preacher by persistently singing out of tune. Wesley’s trained musical ear could not bear the discordant notes, and he cried out, “You are singing out of tune, my sister!” “But my heart is singing,” was the old woman’s quick reply. “Then, sing on, my sister,” returned John Wesley. And sing she did, for her heart was making melody to the Lord.
We remember, too, the truth of the terse words of Billy Bray, the converted collier, who, in order to encourage the less tuneful members of his congregation, reminded them that God made both the crow and the nightingale, and he delighted to hear the voice of each.
“I was in Barclay church in Edinburgh, the guest of the pastor, during a crowded Thursday evening prayer meeting,” once wrote the late Dr. Pentecost. “In deference to the time-honoured custom of the Scotch, a paraphrase of one of David’s psalms was announced. The congregation did bravely and well, considering the metre and the melody (?) But after the meeting was formally opened, the book of paraphrases was quietly tucked under the pulpit and one of our favourite hymns called for:
“I hear Thy gentle voice,
That calls me, Lord, to Thee;
For cleansing in the precious blood
That flowed on Calvary.”
In a twinkling, every one whipped out of pocket a little penny song book. Every face was radiant, and every voice vocal. The house seemed filled with the Spirit, and every heart seemed to be pouring out its faith and hope to God in the hymn that had probably led many of those present to Christ, and had quickened the faith and hope of all.”
The great preacher also relates his experience after leaving his hotel in Glasgow one Sunday evening, to go to Dr. Andrew Bonar’s church, some two miles distant. He was but a little way from the church when his ears were greeted with the familiar strains:
“Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe on His gentle breast,
There by his love o’ershaded,
Sweetly my soul shall rest.”
Looking ahead he saw a crowd from whence came the singing. Pressing forward, the doctor joined the throng of men, women and children, gathered about a faithful band of Christian workers, who were holding a service of song at the street corner. This little company could not preach, in the technical sense of the word, but they could sing the glad Gospel out on the evening air, and thus send forth the glorious invitation, “Come!” Dr. Pentecost was deeply impressed with their simple service, for they were evidently engaging in it as a matter that was to be done unto the Lord. As they passed from the singing of one hymn to another, sometimes slipping in a brief prayer between, he noted the effect on the crowd. Though composed mostly of the rougher element, such as is seen in our larger cities, it was hushed into quiet, and even eager attention to the singing. His attention was called to some faces grown serious and thoughtful as they hearkened to words of love and hope, and more than once he observed the tears stealing down the grim cheek of some sinner unused to weep. Thus was God at work in those neglected hearts, and doubtless His great love crept into many a soul through those hymns having been so effectually preached to that class of people.
It was the singing of the hymn:
“Lord, I hear of showers of blessing
Thou art scattering full and free.”
that reached the heart of a poor outcast when wandering in the paths of sin. This is what she afterwards wrote: “Thank you for singing that hymn, for it was the singing of it that saved me. I was a lost woman, a wicked mother; I have stolen, and lied, and been so bad to my dear innocent children. Friendless, I attended your enquiry meeting, but no one came to me because of the crowd. But on Saturday afternoon, when they all sang that hymn together, those beautiful words, “Blessing others, O bless me,” seemed to reach my very soul. I thought, Jesus can accept me— “Even me,”—and it brought me to His feet, and I feel the burden of sin removed. Can you wonder that I love those words, and I love to hear them sung?”
The verse referred to strikes an unmistakable note of tenderness:
“Pass me not; Thy lost one bringing,
Bind my heart, O Lord, to Thee;
While the streams of life are springing,
Blessing others, oh, bless me—Even me I”
Written by Mrs. Elizabeth Codner, the wife of a clergyman, this hymn was first printed in 1861 as a leaflet. The hymn was suggested to the writer in a remarkable way. A party of young friends over whom she was watching with anxious hope, attended a meeting in which details were given of the great spiritual revival in Ireland, in 1860-61. They came back greatly impressed, and Mrs. Codner pressed upon them the privilege and responsibility of getting a share in the outpoured blessing. On the Sunday following, not being well enough to attend her class, she had a time of quiet communion with the Lord. “Those young people were still on my heart,” says the author, when telling the story, “and I longed to press upon them an individual appeal. Without effort, words seemed to be given to me, and they took the form of a hymn. I had no thought of sending it beyond the limits of my own circle, but, passing it on to one and another, it became a word of power, and I then published it as a leaflet.” Since then Mrs. Codner’s hymn has had a wonderful history. It was largely used during the Moody and Sankey mission in this country, is specially popular at evangelistic services everywhere, and has been introduced into most of the modern hymnals for congregational use.
There is a magnetic power in the singing of sacred song in the open-air, as the following simple testimony of a Bluejacket I once met in Edinburgh will show. In the course of our short talk he told me a remarkable story illustrating the wonderful power of song, which wrought so great a change in his life. “Well, it happened this way,” said Jack, as he tightened the grip of his little Bible under his arm, and thrust his hands deeper into the wide pockets of his navy blue trousers. “About two years ago when we were stationed at Malta, I became greatly concerned and troubled about my soul’s eternal welfare. I knew that were I to die at that time I would be eternally lost, and I tried in vain to banish the thought from my mind; but the more I tried the more I was plunged into misery. This went on for some time, till I could endure it no longer; so one day I resolved to put an end to my soul trouble by getting drunk. With this object in view I sallied forth, but had not gone far when my attention was drawn to singing which proceeded from an open-air meeting that was being held on our garrison island, by a few Christians. I listened, and there came to me the words of the song they sang:
“Jesus is tenderly calling thee home—
Calling to-day, calling to-day!
Why from the sunshine of love wilt thou roam,
Farther and farther away? “
“For a few moments I seemed to falter, but swift as an arrow came the voice of Satan, ‘Right ahead! Quick march!’ I was about to march off to a neighbouring public house, but was arrested by the wonderful words of life which came floating through the clear air:
“Jesus is waiting, oh, come to Him now—
Waiting to-day, waiting to-day!
Come with thy sins, at His feet lowly bow;
Come, and no longer delay!”
“Going over to where the little band of singers were, I listened as I had never done before. Could it be true, I wondered within myself, that Jesus was waiting and ready to receive me with all my sins? I could hold myself back no longer, and that night, at the open-air meeting, amid the scoffs and jeers of my shipmates who were loitering around, I knelt down and accepted Christ as my Saviour.” His story told, the young bluejacket bid me a cheery “Good-night,” as he sped off to some secluded prayer meeting, unashamed to carry under his arm, his Bible and bright red Sankey hymn book.
How many stories circle round William Cowper’s famous hymn, “There is a fountain filled with blood.” This hymn was written about the year 1770, and was based on the text: “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness “(Zech. 13:1). Friendless, and without a penny in the world, a middle-aged man made his way down Water Street, New York. In his pocket was his sixth dismissal from the United States Navy on the charge of chronic alcoholism. So utterly hopeless and dejected was he, that he turned in the direction of the East River, determined on suicide. As he trudged along he observed a shaft of light streaming from a partly opened door on the other side of the street, and with that light came the strains of the familiar hymn:
“There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.”
He stopped and listened, and as the hymn proceeded he murmured to himself, “Why, that is the hymn my mother used to sing when I was a youngster. I will go over and see who sings it before I kill myself.” He slipped through the swinging doors, and immediately found himself in the midst of about a hundred wrecks of humanity like himself. Jerry McAuley, a popular figure, and the friend of the fallen, was standing before them with open Bible, talking in a loving, familiar way. “Now boys,” said he, “if you mean business you may be saved from your sins just where you are. Christ can save a river pirate, a drunkard and a thief, for He saved me.” At that moment there came flickering into the mind of the profligate a little ray of hope, and he cried out, “Why, if that’s true, I’ll try it.” At the invitation of Jerry he came forward and knelt down at a front seat. Jerry knelt by him and whispered into his ears wonderful words of life. Broken down in spirit, the poor drunkard then and there accepted Christ as his Saviour, and rose to his feet, the shackles of sin for ever broken, a free man.
Of Major Whittle’s popular Gospel song, “Come Believing,” there is a story told of a lawyer from the West, who had sunk so low as to become a beggar in the streets of New York. Homeless and penniless he stumbled by a mission hall, the windows of which were open, and he stopped a moment to listen to the singing
“Once again the Gospel message
From the Saviour you have heard;
Will you heed the invitation?
Will you turn and seek the Lord?’
He had been brought up in a Christian home, and as he listened to the singing, his past life rose before him. He decided to go in, and as he took his seat the audience was singing the second verse:
“Many summers you have wasted,
Ripened harvests you have seen;
Winter snows by spring have melted,
Yet you linger in your sin.”
The words of the hymn went straight home to his heart, and he realised that what they sang was indeed a true picture of his own wasted life. Then came the third verse which ended:
“While the Spirit now is striving
Yield and seek the Saviour’s side.”
Broken down, and unable to restrain his emotion, as he pictured his lost condition, the poor man jumped to his feet as the hymn closed, and cried out, “I will yield; I will seek the Saviour’s side! “That night the wanderer found rest and peace for his troubled soul, by believing and trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, and was happily restored to his wife and children.
It was the singing of Charles Wesley’s hymn:
“Depth of mercy! can it be
Mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God His wrath forbear?—
Me, the chief of sinners, spare?”
that brought about in a wonderful way the conversion of an actress, who was appearing at a theatre in a provincial town. Passing along a quiet street one evening, she heard singing which proceeded from a house, the door of which stood partly open. Attracted by the sweet song, she looked in and there saw a number of people sitting together singing this hymn. For a moment or two she lingered, and when the song finished there followed a simple but earnest prayer. So impressed was the young actress with the hymn, that she procured a book containing it. Seeking the quietude of her room, she read over and over again the words of the hymn she had heard at the cottage meeting. That night she gave her heart to God, and resolved to leave the stage. The manager of the theatre, hearing of her decision, pleaded with her to continue to take the leading part in the play she had made famous in other cities, and eventually she promised to appear on the following night. When the time came, the curtain rose, and the orchestra began to play the accompaniment to the song she was expected to sing. There she stood, facing the great audience, but her thoughts were far away. Supposing that she had become temporarily embarrassed, the band played the prelude over a second and third time. Then, with clasped hands, and eyes suffused with tears, she stepped forward, and sang with deep emotion:
“Depth of mercy! can it be
Mercy still reserved for me?”
And amid a silence, the solemnity of which had never before been experienced in that theatre, the curtain dropped and the performance was brought to a sudden close.
I heard a somewhat similar incident related by the gentleman himself, whose remarkable experience was the means of not only diverting his professional career into another channel, but in entirely transforming his life. While travelling in Australia, he was one evening passing along a quiet street in the town where he was staying, when his attention was suddenly arrested by singing. He was an eminent musician and composer, and accustomed to hearing only the best music the world could produce. What he heard at that moment when brought to a standstill, was not the performance of some classic piece of music, or the latest opera song, but the sweet strain of an old-fashioned hymn:
“My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine!
For Thee all the pleasures of sin I resign.”
Surely that melody had rung in his heart in days of long ago, and afresh his soul began to drink it in:
“My gracious Redeemer, my Saviour art Thou!
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now!”
Drawn to the spot from whence the singing proceeded, his curiosity was aroused and he entered the humble building. It was a Salvation Army barracks. There were but a handful of people, and as he entered they were pouring out their hearts to God in song. The musician remained during the simple service which followed; he realised for the first time that he was a sinner, and though high in the scale of this world’s popularity he must needs come down to the level of those zealous Salvationists. That night he trusted in Jesus, and to-day the name of that convert is known throughout the world. From that little Salvation Army meeting there went out to sing the songs of salvation in almost every country of the globe, the famous preacher musician, Mr. W. H. Jude.
This beautiful and tender little hymn was written in 1858, by a Canadian boy, William Ralph Featherston, when he was only about sixteen years of age. The hymn first appeared in the London Hymn Book, without the author’s name, and was for many years incorrectly attributed to Dr. A. J. Gordon, who composed the music to which it is sung. Mr. Featherston died in Montreal in 1870, aged twenty-eight. The original copy of the hymn in the author’s handwriting, is still a cherished treasure in the family.
Many wonderful instances are on record where the singing of a hymn, wafted from an open-air service, has been the means of arresting more than one wanderer from the paths of sin. By me, as I write, there are two striking testimonies to the power of sacred song, which I received in connection with this subject. One is from a railway guard, who writes: “Standing at the corner of a street, listening to a band of Gospel workers who were singing the hymn:
‘God is calling the prodigal,’
“I yielded myself to God and was saved.”
Another railwayman testifies: “While standing at an open-air meeting, under the influence of drink, I heard a converted comedian sing that fine old hymn:
‘I was once far away from the Saviour,
As vile as a sinner could be,
And I wondered if Christ the Redeemer,
Could save a poor sinner like me.’
“Realising my sinfulness, and knowing that I was indeed far, far away from God, I decided that from that night I would serve the Lord. Since then I have been kept by the power of God—Hallelujah!”
Still another, sent by a London correspondent, from which I take the following: “On Sunday afternoon we were holding an open-air meeting and were singing the hymn, ‘Have you any room for Jesus?’ When we came to the second verse:
‘Room for pleasure, room for business;
But for Christ the crucified—
Not a place that He can enter
In the heart f6r which He died?’
—two men came along on their way to fly pigeons. ‘Jack,’ said one, as he came near, ‘that’s me; room for pleasure, room for business, but no room for Christ. You can fly the pigeons if you like, but I’m not going.’ Bill returned home—if such could be called home— with his pigeons, and coming back soon after, entered the Gospel meeting, at the door of which he had been attracted by the singing. His wife, at a loss to understand what was taking place, followed Bill along the street into the chapel, and sat down beside him. That night, husband and wife found peace by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ. The home to-day,” continues my friend, “is one of the brightest in the great city of London.”
Instances could be multiplied, vividly illustrating how the arrow of conviction from the quiver of the Almighty has gone home to the heart of many a wayfarer, by the singing of a hymn or chorus at an open-air service. On the occasion of Sankey’s last visit to this country I heard him relate a very impressive incident. When Moody and Sankey returned to America after their first visit to Great Britain, their first meeting was held on a Sunday, in front of the old Congregational church in the village of Northfield, Mr. Moody’s home, the building being too small to accommodate the great numbers who had come to hear the evangelists. It was on this occasion that Sankey sang his famous hymn, “The Ninety and Nine,” from the steps of the church, which was the means of the conversion of a man who heard him singing it across the Connecticut River, quite half a mile away. He had refused to attend the service, and was quite angry because his family and neighbours had all gone to the meeting. It was a calm summer evening when the song was sung, and Mr. Sankey, sitting at his small cabinet organ, with the church behind him acting as a sounding board to send his voice so great a distance, rang out that impressive story of the lost sheep so clearly and distinctly, that the man sitting on his doorstep on the opposite bank of the river, caught the message of the song, awakening him to the fact that he was one of the lost sheep, and that the Good Shepherd was seeking him. Two weeks later he was led to attend a meeting at a small school-house near his home, with the result that the lost one was found and brought into the fold. He removed to Northfield and became an active member of the church, from the steps of which the sweet song was sung that reached his heart. Some years afterwards at the laying of the corner stone of the new Congregational church, at Northfield, Mr. Moody requested Mr. Sankey to stand on the corner stone and sing once more “The Ninety and Nine,” as he hoped that the new church would be one whose mission it would be to seek the lost ones. “While I was singing,” said Mr. Sankey, “Mr. Caldwell, the man who had heard the song across the river, lay dying in his cottage, which stood not far from the new church. Calling his wife to his bedside, he asked her to open the south window, as he thought he heard singing. Together they listened to the same song which had been used to lead him into the way of life.” Surely a remarkable coincidence, and one that must have awakened in the mind and heart of the dying man, very precious memories.
How often have there been wonderful cases of conversion from the singing of some old-fashioned hymn, heard under peculiar circumstances and in unexpected places. One striking instance happened during the Crimean War. It was during a period when our soldiers were passing through days of bitter hardship. In the life of Duncan Matheson, the Scottish evangelist, who so faithfully ministered to the spiritual welfare of the men, we read that one night, weary and sad, returning from Sebastopol to the old stable at Balaclava, where he lodged, his strength gone, sickened with the sights he had seen, depressed by the thought that the siege seemed no nearer an end, so, trudging along in mud knee-deep, he looked up and noticed the stars shining calmly in the clear sky. Instinctively his weary heart mounted heavenward, thinking of “the rest that remaineth for the people of God,” and began to sing aloud:
“How bright those glorious spirits shine!
Whence all their white array?
How come they to the blissful seats
Of everlasting day?
Lo! these are they from sufferings great,
Who came to realms of light,
And in the blood of Christ have washed,
Those robes which shine so bright.”
Next day, though wet and stormy, he went out and came upon a soldier in rags, standing under an old verandah for shelter; his naked toes were showing through worn-out boots. Matheson, speaking words of encouragement, gave him half a sovereign to purchase shoes. The soldier thanked him and said: “I am not what I was yesterday. Last night as I was thinking of our miserable condition, I grew tired of life, and said to myself… I can bear this no longer, and may as well put an end to it. So I took my musket and went down yonder in a desperate state, about eleven o’clock; but as I got round the point, I heard some person singing, ‘How bright those glorious spirits shine;’ and I remembered the old tune and the Sabbath school where we used to sing it. I felt ashamed of being so cowardly, and said: Here is somebody as badly off as myself, and yet he is not giving in. I felt, too, he had something to make him happy which I had not, but I began to hope I might too, get the same happiness. I returned to my tent, and to-day I am resolved to seek the one thing.” “Do you know who the singer was?” asked the evangelist. “No,” was the reply. “Well,” said the other, “it was I.” Tears rushed into the soldier’s eyes, and handing back the half sovereign, he said: “Never, sir, can I take it from you after what you have been the means of doing for me.”
Charles Wesley’s immortal hymn, “Jesus, Lover of my soul,” has almost since its birth, two hundred years ago, been the centre of countless stories, but few are more impressive than that told by a lady who formed one of a party of tourists on board an excursion steamer, which sailed down the Potomac River in America, one lovely summer evening in the early eighties. There was on board a gentleman who delighted the passengers gathered on deck by the happy rendering of some of the old hymns so much beloved the world over. He had just finished singing “Jesus, Lover of my soul,” having given the first two verses with much feeling and a peculiar emphasis upon the concluding lines, which thrilled the hearts of every one present, when, for a few seconds a profound hush fell upon all on deck, as the vessel moved slowly through the waters. Presently, from the outskirts of the crowd, a gentleman pressed forward to the side of the singer:
“Beg your pardon, stranger,” he said, “were you actively engaged in the late war?”
“Yes, sir,” the man of song courteously replied, “I fought under General Grant.”
“Well,” said the first speaker, “I did my fighting on the other side, and I think—indeed, am quite sure—I was very near you one bright night eighteen years ago this very month. It was a night such as this. If I am not mistaken, you were on guard duty. We, of the South, had sharp business on hand, and you were one of the enemy. I crept near your post of duty, my murderous weapon in my hand; the shadows hid me. As you paced back and forth you were humming the tune of the hymn you have just sung. I raised my gun and aimed at your heart; but at that moment there rang the words:
‘Cover my defenceless head
With the shadow of Thy wing.’
“Your prayer was answered. I couldn’t fire after that, and there was no attack made upon your camp that night. I felt sure, when I heard you sing this evening, that you were the man whose life I was spared from taking.”
As the Southerner finished, the singer, visibly touched, grasped the outstretched hand of the other, and said with much emotion: “I remember that night very well, and also the feeling of depression and loneliness with which I went forth to duty. I knew my post was one of great danger, and I was more dejected than I remember to have been at any other time during my military service. I paced my lonely beat, thinking of home and friends, and all that life holds dear. Then the thought of God’s care for all that He had created came to me with peculiar force. If He could so care for the sparrow, how much more for man created in His own image! With this comforting thought, I sang the prayer of my heart and ceased to feel lonely. How that prayer was answered I never knew until this evening.”
Few stories demonstrating the wonderful power of sacred song are more remarkable and inspiring than what has been recorded of the famous hymn:
“All hail the power of Jesus’ name! “
A missionary stationed in India, met one day in the village street, a strange-looking native, who proved to belong to an interior tribe, living in barbarism, entirely ignorant of the Gospel. On hearing that no one had yet carried the “Good News “to this isolated tribe, a desire filled his soul to obey the Lord’s command: “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.” Though his friends tried to persuade him not to go alone, he was determined to go and tell these savages of “Jesus and His love.” Soon after reaching the habitation of the tribe, the savages immediately surrounded him, armed with spears, in a threatening attitude. The missionary could not speak their language, but felt that Christ was with him, and, closing his eyes in silent prayer for protection, he raised his violin—which he invariably carried with him—and began to sing and play:
“All hail the power of Jesus’ name,
Let angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown Him Lord of All!”
With eyes still closed he continued to lift his heart and voice in song, and on reaching the verse:
“Let every kindred, every tribe,
On this terrestrial ball,
To Him all majesty ascribe,
And crown Him Lord of all!”
He opened his eyes, and found the scene completely changed. Every spear was lowered, the warriors made signs, took the stranger to their huts, and gave him food and shelter. The singing of the hymn, though the savages could understand not a word, touched the hearts of those uncivilised tribesmen in a wonderful way, and was the means in God’s hands, of opening the door for the preaching of the Gospel in that dark region.
“All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” was written by Edward Perronet, about the year 1780, and first appeared in the Gospel Magazine. The tune, by W. Shrubsole, is as famous as the hymn itself, and was written about the same time as the words, receiving its name “Miles Lane “from the chapel in Miles Lane, London, where Shrubsole was for many years organist.
But the words of Perronet’s hymn have inspired many a composer since Shrubsole’s setting first appeared. “Diadem “is an old tune that is still sung with great heartiness and fervour. It had its origin in a typical Lancashire village named Droylsden, about three miles east of Manchester. Nearly a century ago the majority of the inhabitants divided their time between hand-loom weaving and hat-making in the daytime, and singing and practicing their instruments in the evening in preparation for the next Sunday’s services at the Wesleyan chapel. In 1837 the leader of the choir was a young musical enthusiast named James Ellor, then in his eighteenth year. Under his fostering care the services acquired more than a local reputation, and when anything special was advertised to take place, people came from far and near to attend the performance of Ellor’s famous village choir. The young choir-leader was always on the look-out for something fresh, and one day in 1838, he went into a neighbour’s workshop and, flourishing a piece of music paper in his hand, called out, “Look here, lads! What d’ye think o’ this?” “This “was a piece of new music! The men wiped their hands and the old ones put on their glasses and, crowding round Ellor, promptly “solfa’d” the new tune over two or three times. “That’s good, lad,” said one, “an’ where d’ye get it from?” “It’s aht o’ my own yed, an’ it goes to ‘Crown Him Lord of All,’ and we’ll have it next anniversary,” said James, all in a breath.
Such was the birth of this popular tune, and as the anniversary drew near, Ellor made copies of the various parts for the players. These took their copies away with them, and thus the tune got spread about, until within a very short time “Diadem “became the leading feature at all anniversaries for miles round. Ellor subsequently gave up hat-making, and got employment on the new railway then being constructed between Manchester and Godley Junction. In 1843 he conducted his last anniversary, and shortly afterwards emigrated to America. Little is known of him during his later years, except that he worked for some time at his old occupation of hat-making. For many years before his death he was nearly blind. James Ellor died in 1899, in his eightieth year.
Described by James Montgomery as one of the finest hymns in our language, “Jerusalem, my happy home,” has been a favourite almost since its birth in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. The version by David Dickson, a native of Edinburgh, is perhaps the most beloved; snatches of which might often be heard in days gone by, not only among the hills and glens of Scotland, but in lands beyond the seas. A young Scotsman lay dying in America, and a Presbyterian minister of Scottish parentage, who happened to be in the vicinity, was called to his bedside. On his arrival, the good man observing that the end was not far distant, and learning that the poor fellow was not prepared to die, tenderly laid his hand on the brow of the sufferer, and sought to point him to the Saviour. But the more he endeavoured to accomplish his object, the more determined appeared the dying man to thwart all the good man’s efforts to reach his heart. After many attempts, the minister, almost in despair, left the bedside, walked toward the window, and half unconsciously began to sing:
“Jerusalem, my happy home,
Name ever dear to me:
When shall my labours have an end
In joy, and peace, and Thee?”
This effectually attracted the attention of the dying Scotsman. A tender chord had been touched, and with a quivering voice he cried out, “My dear mither used tae sing that hymn.” His softened spirit was now upon his Redeemer, and bursting into tears he acknowledged his sinfulness and enquired the way of salvation—which it was hoped he indeed found. Many years had passed away since he had heard that hymn sung in far away Scotland; but its words recalled all the scenes and feelings of home, and produced results which, it is probable, that mother had never thought of.