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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF
MR. IRA D. SANKEY.
MR. SANKEY was born in Edinburgh, Pa., in the year 1840. His father was English, and his mother Scotch-Irish. The early influences that surrounded his life were those of a Christian home. A Scotch neighbor named Frazer introduced him to the Sunday-school at an early age, and by this and other acts of Christian friendship greatly endeared himself to the future evangelist, who often makes grateful mention of his kindness, and his praying as the means of his conversion. At seventeen Mr. Sankey joined the Methodist Episcopal church, of which he is still a member.
When only twenty he was elected superintendent in the Sunday-school and while filling this
position began to sing sacred solos and to use sacred songs to express and impress the Gospel. A few years later he was appointed a classleader, and in that position urged upon his class the importance of using God's "testimonies" in their testimonies, quoting much from the Bible.
During the war he served his country as a soldier, and after it was over, became President of the Young Men's Christian Association at Newcastle, Pa., which was then his home. While filling this position Mr. Moody met him at aYoung Men's Christian Association Convention, and, being greatly impressed by his way of singing sacred songs, earnestly invited him to come to Chicago to "sing the Gospel" there as an evangelistic work. After prayerful consideration of the matter Mr. Sankey gave up his business and entered upon the evangelistic labors in which he has been so useful since that time.
Not long after Mr. Sankey began his work in Chicago, Mr. Moody's church with which he was laboring, was burned. The people, however, were held together by Mr. Sankey's earnest efforts joined with those of Mr. Moody.
It was at this time that Mr. Sankey received
his greatest incentive to his Christian work through the conversion of a child by the influence of the song,—
"Jesus loves even me."
at one of his singing meetings in the temporary tabernacle. The incident is given in another place among those connected with the song above mentioned.
Soon after the fire Mr. Sankey went with Mr. Moody to England for evangelistic work. The blessing which attended Mr. Sankey's singing is sufficiently noted in the introductory letter to this volume by Mr. Pentecost, who was himself amid the scenes he describes. The Daily Edinburgh Review gave the following editorial in regard to the power of sacred song as Mr. Sankey used it in Scotland:
"The power of music over the mind and soul has been described and illustrated with encyclopædic fullness. Fletcher, of Saltoun, put it in a forcible aphorism which will never be forgotten:
Let me make the songs of a country, and let who will make the laws.' Wharton boasted that he had overturned an ancient dynasty by a song -the famous Lillibulero. Whitefield protested
that it was not to be borne that the devil should have all the best tunes. Luther promoted the Reformation as much by his favorite psalms and hymns as by his preaching; and our own Scottish forefathers made a notable, if not altogether successful attempt to wean the population from the ribald ballads of the sixteenth century, by substituting 'gude and godly ballats,' to the same melodies, and, as far as might be, adopting the same words.
"Yet we have hardly wakened up in Scotland to a sense of the importance of sacred music, notwithstanding all the efforts made during the past twenty or thirty years. In a good many Presbyterian congregations the psalmody is still treated as a bit of convenient padding to be laid between the more important exercises of worship. The minister gives out four verses, sometimes only three, and sometimes only two; and by getting up to preach or to pray, or by looking up his text or his MSS during the singing, shows that he has not got his mind in that part of the proceedings. And should the sermon be of more than the average duration, an attempt is made to recover the lost time by shortening the sing
ing. Any prejudice there may be against singing the Gospel' will thaw and resolve itself into . a pleasant dew as soon as he opens his mouth. Why should there be any prejudice? For generations most of the Highland ministers, and some of the Lowland ministers, too, have sung the Gospel-sung their sermons, aye, and sung their prayers, too. The only difference is that they sing very badly, and Mr. Sankey very beautifully. He accompanied himself on the American Organ,' it is true, and some of us who belong to the old school can't swallow the 'kist of whustles' yet. It may help us over this stumbling-block if we consider that with the finest voice and ear in the world nobody could maintain the proper pitch of a melody, singing so long as Mr. Sankey does. And then the American Organ is only a little one.' When a deputation from the session waited on Ralph Erskine, to remonstrate with him on the enormity of fiddling, he gave them a beautiful tune on the violincello, and they were so charmed that they returned to their constituents with the report that it was all right it wasna' the wee sinfu' fiddle' that their minister operated upon, but a grand instru