At the age of sixteen Augustus Top-lady was taken by his widowed mother to Wexford, Ireland.
In the district a simple servant of God—James Morris—was preaching the Gospel in an old barn. This was an uncommon place for such a matter. The youthful Augustus was prompted by curiosity to attend one of the services. It proved to be a turning point in his life.
The preacher in deep earnestness spoke upon the text he had chosen: "But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ" (Eph. 2:13). The Word preached was mixed with faith. The youth heard and believed. Writing about the occurrence he said, "Under that sermon I was brought nigh by the Blood of Christ. Strange that I who had so long sat under the means of grace in England, should be brought nigh by the Blood of Christ in an obscure part of Ireland, amidst a handful of God's people met together in a barn in and under the ministry of one who could hardly spell his own name. I shall remember that day to all eternity."
Ten years later Augustus Toplady had become a preacher. He was out for a walk in the hills at Burrington Combe, Somerset, when he was overtaken by a thunder storm of unusual severity. Where should he hide? Looking about him he espied some huge overhanging rocks, which seemed to have been tossed about in some volcanic upheaval. These leaning one against another formed a secure shelter. To this he fled. From his refuge he watched the storm as it fell in severity upon the whole countryside.
His thoughts turned to the barren Irish barn. The rough and rugged preacher in his earnestness was once again in view: the peace-giving passage from the Word of God: the value of the precious Blood of Christ which had been shed that the sinner might have a place of refuge from the storm of judgment. All this came before him as he wended his way back to his home. When there he wrote the result of his meditation. It was the well-known hymn, perhaps the best known of all:
"Rock of ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the Blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power."—Gospel Herald.
"I've got a song that's going to live!" declared Charles Gabriel, a Gospel song writer, to a Chicago publisher. The two men were bicycle riding, during the summer of 1900. The song to which Gabriel referred was Oh That Will Be Glory, or as it is best known, The Glory Song.
He was right. It enjoyed a remarkable popularity, but the author received only ten dollars for all the publishing rights to his splendid song.
Perhaps the Glory Song would not have been nearly so well known had it not been for Charles M. Alexander, the Gospel singer, who traveled all over the English speaking world, singing it.
"I remember quite well the first time I saw this song in looking over a new songbook," said Alexander. "I just glanced at it, and then said to myself, `That man has wasted a page, for I do not believe that song will be sung much.' "
Alexander heard the song sung in a large Sunday School convention several months later by the audience, and it had the same effect on him it has on all who hear this remarkable hymn.
"It took such a hold of me that I could think of nothing else for days thereafter. I got my friends to sing it. Then I began to teach it to large audiences, and soon whole towns were ringing with the melody."
The singer went to Australia on a tour. Everywhere he sang the Glory Song, it took the audience by storm. He had leaflets with the Glory Song printed on them and an invitation to the meetings. These were scattered far and wide.
The story is told of a lady who, after returning home from the service, had a pair of shoes which needed mending. She sent them to the shoemaker, but before wrapping the paper around them, she slipped in a copy of the Glory Song.
When she returned for the shoes next day, the man was nailing a new sole on a shoe before him, and there were tears in his eyes.
"What is the matter?" the woman asked.
"That Glory Song you put into the bundle. Last night my family and I gathered around the old organ while we sang it. We saw the invitation to hear Torrey and Alexander at the Town Hall. and I went last night. I sent my wife and children this afternoon, and I am praying that God will save them."—E. H. Jordan, in Gospel Herald.
The fact that in the Song and Service Book for Ship and Field Fanny J. Crosby leads all other authors in the number of hymns contributed is sufficient reason for reviewing her life. She was born in Putnam County, N. Y., in 1820, and when six weeks old she was blinded by a careless physician. The brave and cheerful manner in which she accepted her misfortune is reflected in her explanation that "the merciful God has put His hand over my eyes."
At the age of fifteen she entered the New York School for the Blind. She had been scribbling verse since she was eight, and was soon recognized as the "poet laureate" of the school. When William Cullen Bryant, Horace Greeley and other notables paid visits she was selected to welcome them with garlands of verse. Twice when the students visited Washington, D. C., she recited poetic greetings to joint sessions of Congress. For her the muse sang as also it had for Homer and Milton in their blindness, and by 1858 she had published three volumes of verse.
"There's Music in the Air," "Proud World, Goodbye," and other of her offerings were set to music by George F. Root and became best sellers in the field of sheet music. In 1864 she dedicated her talent to hymn writing. The times were favorable with William B. Bradbury, Philip Phillips, H. R. Palmer, Hubert P. Main, W. H. Doane, Robert Lowry, George C. Stebbins and other composers in search of religious verse. Camp meetings, singing schools and hymn festivals were running at full capacity, and even in city churches worshipers had not yet muted their vocal chords and transferred praise to thc choir. Many preachers were songsters and thought it no indecorum in public worship to produce a tuning-fork and lead their congregations in making a "joyful noise unto the Lord." Those were the days when congregational singing was congregational singing, and everyone enjoyed the heart-warming and inspiring hymn-sings.
For such a receptive public Miss Crosby penned some 5,000 devotional pieces of which probably the best were not always selected by the composers, But the fact that such selections as "Praise Him; Praise Him," "Jesus Is Tenderly Calling," "I Am Thine, O Lord," "Blessed Assurance," "All the Way My Saviour Leads Me," "Nearer the Cross" and numerous others have retained their popularity through three generations, is proof enough of the enduring appeal of her songs.
Fanny Crosby was no religious recluse. She was a witty, spirited and accomplished woman who played pranks on General Winfield Scott and showed her spunk when she was reprimanded for allowing Grover Cleveland, a clerk in the school from a New Jersey manse, to copy her poems.
On February 12, 1915, she departed for "The Tuneful City" which was her name for heaven.—Jacob Simpson Payton, in The Chaplain.