The Power of Song

 •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 5
Ira D. Sankey, singer-evangelist and companion of Dwight L. Moody, told this story of a strange happening on a Christmas Eve. It was some years after the War between the States and Sankey was still a soldier boy. This incident occurred on a steamboat making its way up the Delaware River.
This Christmas Eve was beautifully calm. The stars were shining, and most of the passengers were on deck. Someone who knew Sankey asked if he would sing for them. He was standing, leaning against one of the great funnels of the boat, and raised his eyes to the heavens in silent prayer. At first he thought he would sing a Christmas song; but somehow he seemed—almost against his will—forced to sing the "Shepherd Song." There was profound silence. Then the words and melody rose upon the still night air, and every heart seemed touched with the spirit of the song.
As the last sweet note sounded, a man with a rough weather-beaten face came up to Mr. Sankey. "Did you ever serve in the Union Army?" he asked.
"Yes," was Mr. Sankey's reply, "from beginning to end of the Civil War."
"Can you remember if you were doing picket duty on a bright moonlight night in 1862?"
"Yes, I do remember, because of a great sense of loneliness I once experienced." Mr. Sankey seemed very much surprised at the question and added: "Why do you ask?"
"Well, I too was on picket duty one night," said the man, "but I was serving with the Confederates. We had bivouacked opposite your lines, and when I saw you at your post I said to myself: 'that fellow will never get away from here alive.'
"I raised my musket, took aim, and was standing in the shadow completely concealed, while the full light of the moon was falling upon you. At that instant, just as a few minutes ago, you raised your eyes to heaven, and began to sing.
"Music, especially singing, has always had a wonderful effect upon me. I took my finger off the trigger. `Let him sing his song to the end,' I said to myself. 'I can shoot him afterward. He's my target, and my bullet can't miss him.'
"The song you sang then, was the song you sang just now. I heard the words perfectly!
`Cover my denseless head,
With the shadow of Thy wing.'
"Those words stirred up many memories: I began to think of my childhood and my God-fearing mother. She had many, many times sung that song to me. But she died too soon; otherwise much in my life would no doubt have been different.
"When you had finished your song, it was impossible for me to take aim at you again. I thought, 'The Lord who is able to save that man from certain death, must surely be great and mighty!' My arm of its own accord dropped limp at my side.
"Since the war I have wandered far and wide, but when I saw you just now standing there praying as you did on that other occasion, I recognized you. Then, my heart was again pierced by your song. Now I ask you: help me find a cure for my poor sick soul."
Deeply moved, Mr. Sankey threw his arms around the man who in the years of the conflict had been his enemy. That night God gave Mr. Sankey the joy of leading him to Christ.
Friend, is Ira D. Sankey's Savior yours? Listen to these tender words: "Him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out." John 6:37.