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The Ministry Of Song

( Originally Published 1902 )

LITTLE steamboat crept down the Mississippi River in the time of the Civil War, bearing supplies which the Chicago Board of Trade had furnished to the Sanitary Commission. The boat stopped along the route wherever there were any hospitals, and the medicines and delicacies were dispensed in a ministry of love. An improvised orchestra was formed to serenade the suffering soldiers. While visiting one of these hospitals, a soldier from Iowa said to the leading lady singer, "Can't you sing a song for a dying boy? " She took a camp stool, and drawing it up to his cot, sat upon it, and holding the boy's hand in her's, she began, " Nearer, My God, to Thee!" His large eyes flashed with divine lustre, as she finished :

" Or if, on joyful wing,
Cleaving the sky,
Sun, moon and stars forgot,
Upward I fly,
Still all my song shall be,
Nearer, my God, to thee,
Nearer to thee !"

The soldiers throughout the ward were crying at the conclusion of the song. The boy said, " Won't you please sing for me ` The Sweet By and By.' " And the singer began :

" There's a land that is fairer than day,
And by faith we can see it afar,
For the Father waits over the way,
To prepare us a dwelling place there."

This was more than the boy could stand, and he began to weep. Then the lady sang, " Sweet Home." By this time about everybody was in tears, some covering their faces with their hands, others burying their faces in their pillows, and sobbing bitterly. The whole hospital resounded with one loud cry, and a lively piece had to be sung to keep the mingled feelings of sorrow and joy from injuring the patients.

What a power there is in music, in Christian song. How natural and how beautiful it is for a Christian soul, as death approaches, to desire to be near to God, and to look out with expectation and joy to the " land that is fairer than day."

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