The inspiration for this website came from a Scripture song I heard over 10 years ago at a ladies retreat:

Like Apples of Gold in pictures of silver
A word fitly spoken shall be,
Like Apples of Gold in pictures of silver
Let my life bring glory to thee.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.
Proverbs 25:11

Although some of the "stories" listed are made up, the Scriptural truths they illustrate are very real and can be of great benefit in a Christian's walk with the Lord and as illustrations for the lost.

It is my heart's desire that amongst the pages of this website, the Christian find words of encouragement and be spurred on to service for our Lord, and that seekers of the truth find Salvation in the timeless truths of God's Word for these troubled times.

- Angela

Posts Tagged ‘preachers’

C.H. Spurgeon

George Mueller

H.G. Spafford

Horatio G. Spafford

His Loved and Touching Hymn Immensely Inspires

© Tel Asiado

Brief biography of Christian lawyer Horatio G. Spafford and the history of the inspiring hymn he wrote, "It is Well with My Soul."

The hymn "It is Well with My Soul" becomes closest to heart for one undergoing grief. Written by a Presbyterian laywer Horatio G. Spafford (1828-1888) and composed by Philip P. Bliss (1838-1876), this deeply touching gospel song has long been loved.

The scripture reference is Psalm 46:1 "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."

Text Author and Hymn-Writer Horatio G. Spafford

Spafford was born on October 20, 1828 in North Troy, New York. He was a successful lawyer in Chicago who maintained a keen interest in Christian activities, deeply spiritual and devoted to the scriptures.

Chicago Fire and a Son’s LossSometime in 1871, a fire in Chicago heavily devastated the city, and months before that , Spafford had invested hugely in real estate by the shore of Lake Michigan. The disaster greatly wiped out his holdings. Before the fire, Spafford also experienced the loss of his son.

A Calm and Worst Life Storm

Two years after the fire, Horatio Spafford planned a trip to Europe for him and his family. He wanted a rest for his wife and four daughters, and also to assist Moody and Sankey in one of their evangelistic campaigns in Great Britain. He was not meant to travel with his family. The day in November they were due to depart, Spafford had a last minute business transaction and had to stay behind in Chicago. Nevertheless, he still sent his wife and four daughters to travel as scheduled on the S.S. Ville du Havre, expecting to follow in a few days. On November 22, the ship laden with his wife and daughters was struck by the Lockhearn, an English vessel, and sank in few minutes.

Wife "Saved Alone"

After the survivors were finally landed somewhere at Cardiff, Wales, Spafford’s wife cabled her husband with two simple words, "Saved alone." Shortly after, Spafford left by ship on his way where his beloved four daughters had drowned, and pen at hand, wrote this most poignant text so significantly descriptive of his own personal grief – "When sorrows like sea billows roll..." The hymn "It is Well with My Soul" was born.

It is Well with My Soul

It is noteworthy that Horatio Spafford did not dwell on the theme of life’s sorrows and trials, instead, focused in the third stanza on the redemptive work of Christ, and in the fourth verse, anticipates His glorious second coming. (Refer below for CyberHymnal’s link)

Composer Philip Bliss

Philip P. Bliss, the hymn composer, was a prolific writer of gospel songs. He was so impressed with the experience and expression of Spafford’s text that he shortly wrote the music for it, first published in one of the Sankey-Bliss Hymnals, Gospel Hymns No. 2. Shortly after writing ‘It is Well With My Soul,’ Bliss died in a tragic train accident.

On reflection, it is divinely amazing that one could experience such personal tragedies and sorrows as did Horatio Spafford, yet, able to say with such convincing clarity, "It is well with my soul." It is an enormous challenge to embrace the significance of this hymn.

"It Is Well With my Soul" H. G. Spafford

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul.


It is well, with my soul, It is well, with my soul, It is well, it is well, with my soul. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul.


My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!


For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live: If Jordan above me shall roll, No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.


But, Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait, The sky, not the grave, is our goal; Oh trump of the angel! Oh voice of the Lord! Blessèd hope, blessèd rest of my soul!


And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll; The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, Even so, it is well with my soul.


Other Hymns by Philip P. Bliss

  • Hold the Fort
  • I Gave My Life for Thee
  • Jesus Loves Even Me
  • Let the Lower Lights be Burning
  • Once for All

Related Best-Loved Hymns:

Lyrics and Music

CyberHymnal (click ‘MIDI’ from there)


101 Hymn Stories by Kenneth W. Osbeck, Kregel Publications, 1982


The copyright of the article History of It is Well with My Soul is owned by Tel Asiado. Permission to republish History of It is Well with My Soul in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.
Including the credits for the author does not indicate full endorsement of all their work. – Angela

John Newton

John Newton

Born in England, his mother died when he was seven. His father remarried and sent him away to school for a few years. At age eleven he left school and joined his father’s ship to start life as a seaman. His early years were one continuous round of rebellion and debauchery. Newton eventually became the captain of a slave ship, but was such a cruel and vicious man, that his own crew mutinied and threw him overboard. Extracted from the waters, the slave trader himself became a slave. In 1748, while returning to England from Africa during a particularly stormy voyage, when all appeared lost, he began reading Thomas A. Kemps’ book, Imitation of Christ. The message of Christ contained in this book and the frightening sea around him were used by the Holy Spirit to sow the seeds of his eventual conversion and personal acceptance of Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour.

Eventually freed, he returned to England, married, studied for the ministry, and, at age thirty-nine, entered the pastorate. He often used the story of his own life in his services and it was so effective he became known as the “Old Converted Sea Captain.” An “extremist” practice he used in his Church was that of singing Hymns that expressed simple, heartfelt faith rather than the monotonous, repetitious, and void of true worship, singing that was common place. When he couldn’t find enough hymns, he started writing his own. Over a period of years he and William Cowper produced the famous Olney Hymns Hymnal which contains 349 hymns, 282 written by himself. He pastored for a total of 45 years.

At age eighty-two this man went home to be with his Father. Until that time he never ceased to marvel at God’s mercy and grace that had so dramatically changed his life. In the last years of his life while preaching he proclaimed in a loud voice, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: “That I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Saviour!” In the Churchyard in Olney, England, you will find his name on a tombstone. On it also you will find the following inscription written by him before his going home. I think it says all required to know of the faith of this man, a man who transformed thousands of lives by his very presence.

John Newton, clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slavers in Africa, was by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy.

As wicked a man as John Newton was, the Bible says

“There is none righteous, no not one” Romans 3:10

It is hard for us to admit that ,in God’s eye, we are all no better than this man. We all deserve Hell, but, like Newton, we must all say “That I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savious!”

Author Unknown

Ira Sankey, as a Bible believing Christian, knew that his place in Heaven was secured by repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ and the blood He shed for our sins when He died on the cross of Calvary. Brother Smith is with the Lord Jesus Christ right now, but do you know, with 100% assurance, from God’s Word, that you will be with Jesus when you die?

If you do not have this assurance, please read:

God’s Simple Plan of Salvation

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God;
that ye may know that ye have eternal life,
and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

1John 5:13

Philip Paul Bliss

Philip Paul Bliss

BORN: July 9, 1838 Rome, Pennsylvania

DIED: December 29, 1876 Ashtabula, Ohio

LIFE SPAN: 38 years, 5 months, 20 days

Philip Paul Bliss is the second most famous Christian song writer in history. Had he lived as long as his peers, Fanny Crosby, Charles Wesley and Ira Sankey, he may have surpassed them all, as the greatest song writer of all time and the most widely used singer of all time, but a tragic accidental train wreck snuffed out his life in his 38th year.

Should anyone challenge this conclusion, let us check out his contributions. For twelve years, he wrote both words and music to such hymns as the following: Almost Persuaded, Dare to be a Daniel, Hallelujah 'Tis Done!, Hallelujah, What a Saviour, Hold the Fort, Jesus Loves Even Me, Let the Lower Lights be Burning, Once For All, The Light of the World is Jesus, Whosoever Will, and Wonderful Words of Life. He wrote only the words for My Redeemer and he wrote only the music for I Gave my Life for Thee, It is Well with my Soul, and Precious Promise. Howls that for a starter! There were and are hundreds more. Some of his songs widely used back when he wrote them, are not so well known today. They are: Are Your Windows Open Toward Jerusalem, Only an Armour-Bearer, More Holiness Give Me, Pull for the Shore, and Will you Meet me at the Fountain?. None of his songs were ever copyrighted.

Mr. Bliss was born with a melody in his heart, in a log cabin home in a mountain region. His father, Mr. Isaac Bliss, was a dedicated Christian man. The first spiritual recollections that Bliss had of his father were the daily family prayers. These prayers were ingrained upon his childhood memory, ever to follow him throughout life.

His father was a lover of music and it was through his father that he developed a passion for singing. They attended the Methodist Church.

When Philip was about six the family moved to Trumbull City, Ohio, but three years later returned to Pennsylvania, settling in Tioga City. During the first ten years of his life, the lad had little schooling, save his father's singing and his mother's teachings. The Holy Bible became an ever-growing influence in his life.

At the age of ten, he heard the piano for the first time and it deepened his burden to become a musician. The occasion is worthtelling. At times, he was allowed to go in to town to sell vegetables from door to door. This was a means of helping the family budget but it also put him in contact with others.

One Saturday, with his basket of vegetables, the barefooted, gawky, ten year old boy was to hear the sweetest music that he had ever listened to. The only things that he could play melodies on were reeds plucked from the marshes. Almost unconscious of what he was doing, he climbed the garden fence of a country estate and entered a home unobserved. Standing in the door of the parlor, he listened to a young lady playing the piano, the first he had ever seen. When she stopped, impulsively, he exclaimed, "0 lady, please play some more!" Somewhat startled, the woman wheeled and saw the awkward, barefooted boy standing before her and immediately exclaimed, "Get out of here with your big, bare feet!" The boy was unaware that he had trespassed, and he went back to the streets crestfallen.

When Philip was eleven years old, in 1849, he left home to make a living for himself. He was to spend the next five years working in logging and lumber camps and sawmills. Having a strong physique, he was able to do a man's work. The next several years took him to many places and tutored him in many trades.

At the age of twelve, in 1850, he made his first public confession of Christ and Joined the Baptist Church of Cherry Flats, Pennsylvania. He does not recall a time when he did not love Christ, but this was the official time of his conversion.

In 1851 he became assistant cook in a lumber camp at $9 per month. Two years later, he was promoted to a log cutter. The following year he became a sawmill worker. Between jobs, he attended school. Uncertain as to what vocation he wanted, he just planned to be prepared for any opportunity that might arise. He spent some of his money in musical education as well. Young Philip remained strong in the Lord amongst the rowdy, laboring men of the camp, although it was not easy, but the spiritual implants of the godly parents were now bearing fruit. He, also, began to participate in Methodist camp meetings and revival services.

At age seventeen, in 1855, he decided that he would take the final step in preparation for his life's work. He went to Bradford City, Pennsylvania and finished the last requirements for his teaching credentials. The next year Philip was the new schoolmaster at Hartsville, New York. When school was not in session, he hired out for summer work on a farm. In 1857 he met J. G. Towner who conducted a vocal school in Towanda, Pennsylvania. Recognizing that young Bliss had an unusually fine singing voice, he proceeded to give him his first formal voice training. Towner also made it possible for him to go to a musical convention in Rome, Pennsylvania, later that year. Here he met William B. Bradbury, a noted composer of sacred music. By the time the convention was over, Bradbury had talked Philip Bliss into surrendering himself to the service of the Lord. The strong influence of these men in his life helped him to decide to be a music teacher. While still in his teens, Philip discovered that he had ability to compose music. His first composition was sent to George F. Root with this strange request, "If you think this song is worth anything, I would appreciate having a flute in exchange for it." He received the flute.

In 1858 he was appointed a teacher in the Rome, Pennsylvania, Academy. Here he met a fine young lady named Lucy Young, who was to become his bride. She was a poet from a musical family and greatly encouraged him in developing his musical talents. She was an earnest member of a Presbyterian Church, which he then joined. In later years they were to sing beautiful duets in the service of Christ. Not quite 21, on June 1, 1859, he married Lucy who was, also, his sister's special friend. He had grown to love her deeply and to admire her for her wonderful Christian life. The young groom worked on his father-in-law's farm for $13 a month while he continued to study music. He took music pupils in the evening to supplement his income and at 22 had sufficient knowledge of music to become an itinerant music teacher. He went from community to community with a $20 melodeon and an ancient horse. It was the day of the old-fashioned singing school which was frequently conducted by a teacher traveling from place to place. Mr. Bliss delighted in these exercises and his musical ability began to attract the attention of his friends. As a teacher of one of these schools, he recognized his limitations and longed to study under some accomplished musician.

His wife's grandmother provided that opportunity in the summer of 1860, by giving him $30 so that he could attend the Normal Academy of Music of New York. This meant six weeks of hard study and inspiration. Upon completion, he took the occupation of professional music teacher in earnest. Within three years, having attended each summer session and studying the rest of the year at home, Mr. Bliss was now recognized as a music authority in his home area, while continuing to travel his circuit. His talent was turning to composition, and his first published number … Loral Vale … though not a sacred number, caused him to believe that he could write songs. This number was published in 1865, one year after it was written.

The Bliss's moved to Chicago in 1864 when Philip was 26. It was here that he began to conduct musical institutes and became widely known as a teacher and a singer. His poems and compositions flowed out with regularity. He collaborated with George F. Root in the writing and publishing of gospel songs. In the summer of 1865, he went on a two-week concert tour with Mr. Towner. He was paid $100. Amazed that so much money could be made in so short a time, he began to dream dreams. These dreams were short lived. The following week a summons appeared at his door stating that he was drafted for service in the Union Army. Since the war was almost over, the decision was cancelled after two weeks and he was released. He then went on another concert tour but this one was a failure. However, during the tour he was offered a position with a Chicago Music House, Root and Cady Musical Publishers, at a salary of $150 per month.

For the next eight years, between 1865 and 1873, often with his wife by his side, he held musical conventions, singing schools, and sacred concerts under the sponsorship of his employers. He was becoming more popular in concert work, not yet directing his full efforts into evangelical singing. He was, however, writing a number of hymns, and Sunday school melodies, and many of these were incorporated into the books, The Triumph and The Prize.

One summer night in 1869, while passing a revival meeting in a church where D. L. Moody was preaching, Mr. Bliss went inside to listen. That night Mr. Moody was without musical help for the singing and Mr. Bliss was aware of it. The singing was rather weak. From the audience, Philip attracted Mr. Moody's attention. At the door, Mr. Moody got the particulars about Mr. Bliss quite quickly and asked him to come to his Sunday evening meetings to help in the singing any time he could. He further urged him to give up his business and become a singing evangelist.

Another chance acquaintance came with Major Daniel W. Whittle, when Mr. Bliss was a substitute song leader in a gospel meeting. Impressed with his voice, Mr. Whittle recommended the young man for the position of choir director at the First Congregational Church in Chicago. This was in 1870. The Blisses moved into an apartment in the Whittle home, and while living there, he wrote two of his most popular hymns … Hold the Fort and Jesus Loves Even Me. Yearly, new songs were published with many of Bliss's songs included. His fame began spreading.

In the fall of 1870, Mr. Bliss assumed the additional task of Sunday school Superintendant at the Congregational Church, which work lasted for three years until his busy schedule made it impossible for him to continue. His first Sunday school book, The Charm, was issued in 1871.

Early in 1873 Moody asked Bliss to be his music director for some meetings in England. Bliss declined and Sankey was then asked to go. Little did Bliss realize the opportunity he had turned down, for it might have been "Moody and Bliss" instead of "Moody and Sankey," for that tour brought Moody into international prominence.

During the winter of 1873 Moody again urged him in a letter from Scotland to devote his entire time to evangelistic singing. Mr. Bliss was facing a time of decision. At a prayer meeting, Mr. Bliss placed himself at the disposal of the Lord, and he decided to lay out a fleece.

He would join his friend Major Whittle, a good evangelist in Waukegan, Illinois, and see what would happen. That was March 24-26, 1874. At one of the services as Mr. Bliss sang, Almost Persuaded, the Holy Spirit seemed to fill the hall. As he sang, sinners presented themselves for prayer and many souls were won to Jesus Christ that night. The following afternoon, as they met for prayer, Mr. Bliss made a formal surrender of his life to Jesus Christ. He gave up everything; his musical conventions, his writing of secular songs, his business position, his work at the church, so that he would be free to devote full time to the singing of sacred music in evangelism, in particular to be Mr. Whittle's song evangelist and children's worker. At the same time, Mr. Whittle dedicated his life to full-time evangelism. A gospel team was born. Little did Mr. Bliss know that he only had two and one-half years to live.

Depending upon the Lord to take care of his wife and two children, he joined Whittle in a successful evangelistic career. Mr. Bliss compiled a revival song-book, for use in their campaigns, entitled Gospel Songs. It was a tremendous success, bringing royalties of $30,000, all of which he gave to Whittle for the development of their evangelistic efforts. Another source mentions $60,000 was made and given to charities. Later when Moody and Sankey returned from England, Sankey and Bliss combined their respective books, Sankey's Sacred Songs and Solos with Bliss's book. The new compilation was called Gospel Hymns and Sacred Songs by Bliss and Sankey. Mr. Bliss, of course, was elated at this further exposure of his ministries. Several editions were later published with George C. Stebbins collaborating also. Meanwhile, the Whittle-Bliss team held some twenty-five campaigns in Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. The 1875 Louisville, Kentucky, meeting was an especially good one. Mr. Bliss especially enjoyed working with young people and often conducted his own "praise meetings" where he would preach and sing.

On Friday, November 24, 1876, Mr. Bliss sang at a ministers' meeting conducted by D. L. Moody in Chicago's Farwell Hall. Over 1,000 preachers were present. A favorite song that was sung, was Are Your Windows Open Toward Jerusalem. Also, he introduced to the gathering a new song that he had just written the music for… It is Well With My Soul. He now had one month to live.

Next, he conducted a service for the 800 inmates of the Michigan State prison. In genuine repentance, many of them wept as he spoke of the love of God and sang, Hallelujah, What a Saviour! The last hymn that he ever sang in a public meeting was one of his own, called Eternity.

Mr. Bliss spent the Christmas holidays with his mother and sister at Towanda and Rome, Pennsylvania, and made plans to return to Chicago for work with Moody in January. A telegram, however, arrived asking him to return sooner, in order to take part in meetings advertised for the Sunday following Christmas. He wired a message, "Tickets for Chicago, via Buffalo and Lake Shore Railroad. Baggage checked through. Shall be in Chicago Friday night. God bless you all forever." He decided to leave his two little children with his mother, Philip Paul age I and George age 4.

Then, the day that was to stun the Christian world arrived, December 29, 1876. The train, the Pacific Express, was struggling along in a blinding snowstorm and was about three hours late on a Friday afternoon. Eleven coaches pulled by two engines were creeping through the huge drifts, approaching Ashtabula, Ohio. Passing over a trestle bridge that was spanning a river, the first engine reached solid ground on the other side but everything else plummeted 75 feet into the ravine below into the icy water. Later, it was determined that flood waters had weakened the bridge.

Five minutes after the train fell, fire broke out. Fanned by galelike winds, the wooden coaches were ablaze. Mr. Bliss succeeded in extricating himself and crawling to safety through a window. Finding his wife was pinned under the ironwork of the seats, he returned into the car, and bravely remained at her side, trying to extricate her as the flames took their toll. All that remained was a charred mass. No trace of their bodies was ever discovered. For days it was not known who were among the dead, as there had been no passenger list. It was tabulated that out of 160 passengers there were only 14 survivors. Later official sources said 92 died. In most cases, there was nothing to recover Mr. Bliss's trunk reached Chicago safely. When it was opened, it was found that the last song that he had written, before his death, began as follows: "I know not what awaits me. God kindly veils my eyes… " The trunk contained many hymn-poems which he had not yet written the music for. One such was My Redeemer, which became world famous, when music was added by James McGranahan. McGranahan, by the way, age 36 at the time of Bliss's death, was so moved by the tragedy that he decided to give up his miscellaneous works and succeed Bliss as Whittle's evangelistic singer. The funeral was held in Rome, Pennsylvania, where a monument was erected bearing the inscription, "P.P. Bliss, author of … Hold the Fort!" Memorial services were held throughout the nation for the beloved couple. No private citizen's death brought more grief to the nation. On December 31st, D. L. Moody spoke at a memorial gathering in Chicago. On January 5th, a song service was held to honor Mr. Bliss there and 8,000 filled the hall, and another 4,000 were on the outside.

Here are the stories of a few of his hymns.

Almost Persuaded … Outside of Just as I am, this has been the most successful gospel invitation song ever written. In the early 1870's, Mr. Bliss was listening to a sermon by Rev. Brundage, a friend of his, in a little church in the east. The preacher closed his appeal with, "He who is almost persuaded is almost saved. But, to be almost saved is to be eternally lost!" These words impressed Bliss so deeply that it led him to write this great hymn.

Hold the Fort … In 1864, General Hood, during the Civil War, was successful in harassing Colonel Sherman's Army from the rear, thereby delaying its advance to the objective. As the situation looked hopeless they saw a white flag waving on a distant mountain twenty miles away signaling this message, "Hold the Fort! I am coming. Sherman." Three hours later the enemy had to retreat as the reinforcements came. In May, 1870, at a special Sunday School meeting in Rockford, Illinois, Whittle's telling of this story greatly moved Bliss. The next day in a Chicago YMCA meeting, Mr. Bliss wrote a chorus on a blackboard and sang for them extemporaneously. The audience joined in and the effect was electric.

Jesus Loves Even Me … One night, Mr. Bliss, weary after many days of labor in downtown Chicago, was resting at the Whittle home at 43 South Street. His heart was overflowing with joy and he sat meditating upon Romans 5:5. As he meditated and prayed, with tears in his eyes, he took pencil and paper and wrote, "I am so glad that our Father in heaven, Tells of His love in the Book He has given … "

The following indented addition if provided by

Several of these songs will be commented on elsewhere, but consider for a moment Jesus Loves Even Me. In a way, it was created as a kind of “protest song.” Frederick Whitfield’s gospel song O How I Love Jesus had been published a few years before. And Bliss attended a meeting in which the song leader had them sing the chorus, “O how I love Jesus, O how I love Jesus,” over and over again. After this was done a number of times, the thought came to Philip Bliss, “Have I not been singing enough about my poor love for Jesus, and shall I not rather sing of His great love for me?”

It was this concern that led to the writing of Jesus Loves Even Me, a beautifully simple yet profound expression of an important Bible truth. That “The Son of God…loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). It has sometimes been classed as a children’s hymn, but this is unfortunate. It should be sung, and sung often, by all believers.

I am so glad that our Father in heav’n
Tells of His love in the Book He has giv’n;
Wonderful things in the Bible I see,
This is the dearest, that Jesus loves me.

I am so glad that Jesus loves me,
Jesus loves me, Jesus loves me;
I am so glad that Jesus loves me,
Jesus loves even me.

Oh, if there’s only one song I can sing,
When in His beauty I see the great King,
This shall my song in eternity be,
“Oh, what a wonder that Jesus loves me!”

Let the Lower Lights be Burning … On occasion, Mr. Bliss would travel with Moody and be a participant at his meetings. One time Mr. Moody was telling the story of a shipwreck in one of his messages. On a dark stormy night, a large passenger boat cautiously edged toward the Cleveland harbor. The pilot knew that he could only find the harbor channel by keeping two lower shore lights in line with the main beacon. "Are you sure this is Cleveland?," asked the captain. "Quite sure, Sir," replied the pilot. "Where are the lower lights?," he asked. "Gone out, sir!," was the reply. The pilot turned the wheel, but in the darkness, he missed the channel. The boat crashed on the rocks and many lives were lost that night. Mr. Moody's closing words were, "Brethren, the Master will take care of the great lighthouse; let us keep the lower lights burning." At the next meeting with Mr. Moody, Mr. Bliss sang this song … Let the Lower Lights be Burning. It was published in 1874. It is said that this was the favorite hymn of Billy Sunday.

We end this sketch noting It is Well With My Soul whose words were written by Horatio G. Spafford. On November 22, 1873, this preacher and good friend of Mr. Bliss lost his four children in the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, as a result of a collision. Mr. Spafford had sent his wife and children ahead, promising to meet them in France, shortly. He wrote the verses in mid-Atlantic on his way over to join his bereaved wife. He asked Mr. Bliss to write the music for his verses. It was introduced publicly for the first time at the previously mentioned ministers' meeting in Chicago in November, 1876. One month later, it was well with Mr. Bliss's soul, as he was reunited with the Spafford children.

– Ed Reeves, Fundamental Publications

Philip Paul Bliss, as a Bible believing Christian, knew that his place in Heaven was secured by repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ and the blood He shed for our sins when He died on the cross of Calvary. Brother Smith is with the Lord Jesus Christ right now, but do you know, with 100% assurance, from God's Word, that you will be with Jesus when you die?

If you do not have this assurance, please read:

God's Simple Plan of Salvation

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

1John 5:13

Ira Sankey

Ira David Sankey

BORN: August 28, 1840
Edinburg, Pennsylvania
DIED: August 13, 1908
Brooklyn, New York
LIFE SPAN: 67 years, 11 months, 16 days

Sankey was the pioneer music director of the masses in American Evangelism. The Sweet Singer of Methodism brought to the Moody revivals zest and inspiration that prepared hearts for the messages of the famed evangelist. He set the pattern for those who later followed in his footsteps . . . Charles Alexander, Homer Rodeheaver, and Cliff Barrows. More than any other man, he was the one who ushered in the gospel song era. Sankey was a great song leader of congregations and choirs. He was a soloist of great ability, singing special music wherever he went. He also helped in the inquiry room.

Sankey seldom wrote poetry as did Fanny Crosby and P P Bliss. However, he did compose music and provide the tunes for some of the great hymns written during those days. Sankey can be credited with providing the melody for the-following: A Shelter In The Time of Storm, Faith Is The Victory, Grace Tis A Charming Sound, Hiding In Thee, I Am Praying For You, The Ninety And Nine, There’ll Be No Dark Valley, Trusting Jesus, Under His Wings, and When The Mists Have Rolled Away.

Ira David Sankey was born into the home of pious Methodists, David and Mary Sankey. One of the chief pleasures of his boyhood was to join the family circle around the great log fireplace. Long winter evenings were spent singing the old hymns of the church. He learned to read music this way and by the age of eight, he could sing many famous hymn tunes correctly. Spiritual interests were kindled by a Mr. Fraser who loved children. Along with his own sons, he took Sankey to a Sunday School held in an old schoolhouse. Sankey had educational opportunities that many were denied. He became a Christian in 1856 at the age of 16, while attending revival meetings at a church known as the King’s Chapel, located about three miles from his home. A year later the family moved to Newcastle where he became a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. His talents were soon recognized and he was elected superintendent of the Sunday School, director of the choir, and class leader. His father was the president of the bank which also provided young Sankey with a job.

He became active in the fight to bring musical instruments into church services and he was responsible for the first organ to be installed in his own church. Here he gained invaluable experience and his voice began to attain that rich, resonant quality which was to make him world famous later on.

When President Lincoln called for men to help the government in 1860, Sankey was one of the first young men to enroll as a soldier. His company was sent to Maryland. In the army, his love of singing endeared him to his companions and he often led the singing for religious services held in the camp. He organized a male chorus in the company and assisted the chaplain with services. President Lincoln appointed his father as a Collector of Internal Revenue and after his term of service and the Civil War was over, Sankey returned to Newcastle to assist his father and enter governmental service. He remained with the Internal Revenue Department for several years.

At the age of 23, on September’ 9, 1863, he married Fanny Edwards, who was a member of his choir and a teacher in his Sunday School. The Sankeys had three sons, one of whom was born in Scotland.

In 1867, a branch of the Y.M.C.A. was organized at Newcastle and he became its secretary and later, president. Many years later, he had the pleasure of presenting a Y.M.C.A. building to his city. The building, including a gymnasium and library, cost more than $40,000. The funds were realized from the sale of his gospel hymns.

Sankey’s fame as a singer spread throughout western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. He received invitation after invitation to sing for conventions, conferences, and political gatherings.

He attended many musical conventions, and spent so much of his time in religious work, that his father once said, “I’m afraid Ira will never amount to anything. All he does is run around the country with a hymn-book under his arm!” . . . to which his mother replied, “Well, I’d rather see him with a hymn-book under his arm, than with a whiskey bottle in his pocket!” Sankey had no desire to make music a profession. It was never his custom to receive any remuneration for his services. In his work with the Y.M.C.A., he found an ever widening field of usefulness. In June of 1870, he was appointed a delegate to the International Convention in Indianapolis. For several years he had

read in the religious press of the work of Dwight L. Moody. In connection with the convention, it was announced that Moody was to speak at an early morning prayer meeting in a Baptist Church on a Sunday morning. Sankey was most anxious to hear and meet the man. Having arrived a little late at. the meeting, he sat near the door with a Presbyterian minister who urged Sankey to start a song. At the right moment, as Moody requested a song, Sankey started to sing … There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood, and the congregation joined in heartily as the meeting took on a new impetus. At the close of the service, he was introduced to Moody who abruptly asked him terse questions. When asked about his business, Sankey replied that he was employed by the government. Moody remarked, “You will have to give it up!” Nonplussed, Sankey listened to the evangelist who said, “I have been looking for you for eight years.”

Sankey was interested but not ready to render a decision. Moody asked him to meet him at a certain street corner the next day. Moody brought a big box and asked Sankey to mount it and then requested that he sing something. Sankey complied and sang … Am I A Soldier of The Cross. Moody then began to speak to a large crowd of working men, who had left the mills to hear him. At the end of the service, he announced that he would continue the meeting at the Opera House. Sankey led that large packed Opera House gathering in singing . . . Shall We Gather At The River.

It took Sankey six months to consent to spend a week with Moody in Chicago. This visit concluded with a great mass meeting at Farwell Hall where Sankey sang … Come Home, Prodigal Child, at the last service. Soon, his resignation was sent to the Secretary of the Treasury, and a life of faith began.

At the age of 30, Sankey began his work with Moody early in 1871 and labored with him daily until the great Chicago Fire erupted, on October 8, 1871, which destroyed everything. Moody had just finished speaking to a crowded Farwell Hall audience. As Sankey was singing and in the middle of a song, his voice was drowned by the clanging of fire engines. Confusion arose from the streets and Moody dismissed the congregation. The two men parted, not to meet again for two months. Sankey spent many hectic hours in the confusion that followed. At first, he tried to aid in preventing the spread of the flames, but a large wind all but doomed the city. The fire was moving toward the business section and Farwell Hall. The flames followed so closely, he was compelled to shake falling embers from his coat. When he arrived at his room, he grabbed his most valued possessions and left the building. He could find no means of transportation so headed toward Lake Michigan.

After many harrowing experiences, he reached the lake shore in safety, exhausted, and very thirsty. He found a small rowboat, and putting his possessions on board, rowed out far enough to find fresh water. Tying his boat in position, he watched the destruction of the city. A whole day passed and now on the evening of the 9th, Sankey determined to return to shore, even though the city was still engulfed in flames. To his dismay, he discovered that the line which fastened his boat had broken. He was swept out on the rolling lake and for a time his life was endangered but God overruled and brought him to shore safely.

He took a train to his Pennsylvania home and stayed there until a brief telegram arrived from Moody asking him if he would please return to Chicago and assist in the new ministry at the crude temporary tabernacle that had been recently constructed. Returning, they often slept together in a corner of the tabernacle with only a single lounge for a bed. During these busy months Moody was soliciting funds for the reconstruction of the church. Soon, a new edifice was dedicated. Sankey moved his family to Chicago in October of 1872.

While Moody was in England during this year, Sankey, with good assistance, kept the great work in Chicago going. Upon Moody’s return, they seemed to work together better than ever. An evangelistic campaign in Springfield, Illinois, saw unusual power and blessing.

About this time, Sankey’s esteemed friend, P P Bliss, returned from Europe with impressive engagements lined up. He made Sankey an enticing offer to accompany him and assist in the services of song but Sankey declined. The partnership with Moody continued as they worked well together. Moody would arouse and startle his hearers with his preaching and at the conclusion of his appeal, Sankey would rise and sing. His melodious voice was soothing and comforting, with deep conviction, and he believed that souls could be saved with each note he sang. Moody decided that Sankey would be his associate on the next trip abroad and agreed to pay him $100 per month.

The memorable 1873-75 revival throughout the British Isles began in June of 1873. Mrs. Sankey and Moody’s family accompanied the team. Enroute to Liverpool, where they landed, they had been notified that the men who had invited them to come to England were dead and no meetings were scheduled. Remembering the Y.M.C.A. at York had invited him to speak there, should he ever return to England, Moody obtained the use of the Independent Chapel and evangelistic services were announced. The first service was attended by fewer than fifty persons and Sankey found the people unaccustomed to his methods and to his type of songs.

F B. Meyer, a leading Baptist minister of the city helped turn the tide by his enthusiastic endorsement of the team. Invitations began to come from various towns. At Sunderland, Sankey sang several favorite songs, unaware of the opposition by the pastor to solos, organ music, and choirs. However, the Reverend Rees was impressed and posted notices announcing that Mr. Sankey, from Chicago, would sing the gospel. This phrase came to be widely used thereafter. One night as Sankey sang. .. Come Home, 0 Prodigal, Come Home, a cry pierced the silence and a young man rushed forward and fell in the arms of his father, begging forgiveness. The entire congregation was impressed and hundreds pressed to an adjoining room seeking prayer and pardon. Next came Newcastle, where he first began to use the songs … Sweet By and By and Christ Arose. Here, the first choir was organized and revival fires burned for two months.

The Edinburgh, Scotland, Crusade began on November 23, 1873. Apart from the Psalms, music was not used to any degree. Man-made hymns had much prejudice against them. Moody caught a cold and could not speak the first night and J. H. Wilson was to take his place. Tactfully, Sankey asked the congregation to join in singing a portion of the 100th Psalm. Scripture and prayer followed. Sankey then sang his first solo … Jesus Of Nazareth Passeth By. The intense silence bore testimony that this novel method of presenting the gospel was being accepted. After the message, he selected … Hold The Fort and asked the congregation to join in the chorus. Scotland was now ready for the ministry of Moody and Sankey. Gospel singing and the organ were now being accepted. The rest of the amazing ministries of those days is told .in the Moody Biography (3 in this series). The 1875 climax was the great London Crusade.

Arriving back home in America, on August 14, 1875, their first services were in Northfield, Massachusetts. Moody’s mother professed conversion there and Sankey sang The Ninety And Nine for the first time in America.

The team’s first large campaign in the states began on October 31, 1875, in Brooklyn. Sankey’s choir numbered 250 voices, aided by a large organ. However, when he sang, he accompanied his solos on a small organ; a practice which he always preferred, not wanting the music to detract from the message. The next crusade began in Philadelphia on November 21st where, despite torrential rains, 9,000 showed up for the opening service. Here, his choir numbered, 500 voices. The New York crusade began on February 7, 1876 at the Great Roman Hippodrome on Madison Avenue. A choir of 600 voices was led by Sankey, and Moody had his largest audience to date.

Sankey’s health was somewhat impaired so he returned to his home in Newcastle. He busied himself preparing his new song book . . . Gospel Hymns Two with his good friend, P P Bliss, assisting him. Bliss was to die a tragic death later, in 1876, while on his way to visit the Chicago Crusade. The Boston Crusade began on January 28, 1877 in a temporary structure and the staid, old city enjoyed his renditions as much as any.

Cities across the nation, in Canada and Mexico, were to enjoy the team in the years that followed. Back in the British Isles, 1881-84, they found many converts of former years.

Sankey’s publishing ventures grew to tremendous proportions. His first hymn-book, published in England, in 1873, was called Sacred Songs and Solos. It included 23 selections. Then his Gospel Hymn series followed, with numbers one to six being published between 1875 and 1891. These contained hundreds of hymns still widely used. Several editions of these enjoyed sales that totaled millions of copies in many languages. Royalties from his song books would have given him a modest fortune. However, much of it was used to help Moody’s educational ventures, especially the erection of his first school . . . Northfield School for Girls. Sinker was active in the Northfield Conferences which Moody conducted and lived there in the summer. Fanny Crosby spent several summers with the Sinkers there.

Sinker, his family, and a few friends sailed from New York, in January of 1898, for a visit to the Holy Land. This was one of his great delights. In 1899, Sinker returned to Great Britain. There, he held special services in sacred song and story in some 30 cities and towns. It was this extended engagement that impaired his health to the extent that he eventually lost his eyesight.

The team of Moody and Sankey was to be together for the last time, at a Brooklyn Church pastored by a Dr. Storr. The two spent a Sunday together in New York and then parted for the last time. Moody’s last letter was dated November 6, 1899 and he died soon after. Sinker continued conducting services of Sacred Song and Story for some time.

As blindness overtook him in 1903, he lived out his days at his Brooklyn, New York home on South Oxford Street. During his last five years, he had extreme weakness and much pain as glaucoma had destroyed the optic nerve. Sinker maintained a sweet spirit of patience and his mind remained clear to the end. Of all his earthly friends, who cheered him during his lonely hours, none proved a greater benediction than his beloved friend, Fanny Crosby. They would sing, pray, and fellowship in their blindness and discomfort. How they rejoiced in knowing that they would soon be together in glory with the Saviour they adored and reunited with D. L. Moody and other loved ones

His publication, My Life and the Story of Gospel Hymns, came out in 1906. It was from memory, as the original manuscript was lost in a fire in 1901 at Battle Creek, Michigan just prior to publication.

Sankey passed on in his sleep without a struggle. Funeral services were held at the LaFayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, where Sankey was a member during his latter years. Several of his own hymns were sung at the funeral by an aged cousin, C. C. Sinker, including: The Ninety And Nine, There’ll Be No Dark Valley, Faith is the Victory, and Hiding in Thee. The sermon was delivered by the pastor, Charles E. Locke. Buried in the local Greenwood Cemetery, his grave stone has a bar of music with `Good Night’ and `God Is Love’ above and below it.

Stories of his hymn compositions seem a fitting way to conclude this biography. His first and most famous composition was … The Ninety And Nine. Sinker and Moody were enroute from Glasgow to Edinburgh, Scotland, in May, 1874 as they were to hold a three-day campaign there. This was at the urgent request of the Ministerial Association. Prior to boarding the train, Sinker bought a weekly newspaper for a penny. He found nothing of interest but a sermon by Henry W Beecher and some advertisments. Then, he found a little piece of poetry in a corner of one column that he liked and he read it to Moody but only received a polite reply. Sankey clipped the poem and tucked it in his pocket. At the noonday service of the second day of the special series, Moody preached on The Good Shepherd. Horatious Bonar added a few thrilling words and then Moody asked Mr. Sinker if he had a final song. An inner voice prompted him to sing the hymn that he found on the train. With conflict of spirit, he thought … this is impossible! The inner voice continued to prod him, even though there was no music to the poem, but he acquiesced. As calmly as if he had sung it a thousand times, he placed the little piece of newspaper on the organ in front of him. Lifting up his heart in a brief prayer to Almighty God, he then laid his hands on the keyboard, striking a chord in A flat. Half-speaking and half-singing, he completed the first stanza, which was followed by four more. Moody walked over with tears in his eyes and said, “Where did you get that hymn?” The Ninety And Nine became his most famous tune and his most famous sale from that time on. The words were written by Elizabeth Clephane in 1868 who died in 1869, little realizing her contribution to the Christian world.

Trusting Jesus was written by Edgar Page Stites in 1876. The poem first appeared in a newspaper and was handed to D. L. Moody. He, in turn, gave it to his partner, Ira Sinker, and asked him to set it to music. Mr. Sinker agreed to do so, on one condition, that Moody would vouch for the doctrine taught in the verses, which he did. It became the favorite hymn of W B. Riley.

A Shelter In The Time Of Storm was written by V J. Charlesworth. Sinker found it in a little paper published in London, called the Postman. This song became a favorite of fishermen in the northern part of England. Sinker composed a practical melody for church use in preference to a former weird, minor sound it first had.

I Am Praying For You was written by Samuel O’Malley Cluff. Sankey found the poem on a leaflet, in 1874, when he was with Moody in Ireland. The song was first used in the Moody-Sankey campaign, in London, in 1875. This was his second musical setting with only the famous, The Ninety And Nine, preceding this.

When The Mists Have Rolled Away was written in 1883 by Annie Herbert Barker. Mr. Sankey added the musical touch and another hymn was born.

Other Sankey songs, not mentioned in the beginning, were: Why Not Tonight?, Yet There Is Room, Welcome, Wonderer, Welcome; Take Me As I Am; It Is Finished; Jesus, I Will Trust Thee; Now Now, My Child; Tell It Out; The Smitten Rock, and one of the tunes of the famed Beneath The Cross Of Jesus.

Who knows, perhaps it was Moody, rather than Sankey, who benefited most at that fateful meeting in Indianapolis in 1870, where God brought their ministries together.

There were ninety and nine that safely lay
In the shelter of the fold:
But one was out on the hills away,
Far off from the gates of gold.
Away on the mountains wild and bare,
Away from the tender Shepherd’s care.

But all through the mountains thunder-riven
And up from the rocky steep,
There arose a glad cry to the gates of heaven,
“Rejoice, I have found My sheep. ”
And the angels echoed around the throne,
Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own.

– Ed Reeves, Fundamental Publishers

Ira Sankey, as a Bible believing Christian, knew that his place in Heaven was secured by repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ and the blood He shed for our sins when He died on the cross of Calvary. Brother Smith is with the Lord Jesus Christ right now, but do you know, with 100% assurance, from God’s Word, that you will be with Jesus when you die?

If you do not have this assurance, please read:

God’s Simple Plan of Salvation

These things have I written unto you
that believe on the name of the Son of God;
that ye may know that ye have eternal life,
and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

1John 5:13

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