Hymns have had a profound effect upon people of all tongues and nations through the ages. They have the power to convict, to comfort, to exhort, to point to Christ. Of all the testimonies of a hymn's impact, perhaps none are as gripping as the story of the song that saved a missionary's life, by the grace of God.
From an old volume, we read:
"… E.P. Scott, while laboring as a missionary in India, saw on the street one of the strangest looking heathen his eyes had ever lit upon. On inquiry he found that he was a representative of one of the inland tribes that lived away in the mountain districts, and which came down once a year to trade.
Upon further investigation he found that the gospel had never been preached to them, and that it was very hazardous to venture among them because of their murderous propensities. He was stirred with earnest desires to break unto them the bread of life. He went to his lodging-place, fell on his knees, and plead for divine direction. Arising from his knees, he packed his valise, took his violin, with which he was accustomed to sing, and his pilgrim staff, and started in the direction of the Macedonian cry.
As he bade his fellow missionaries farewell, they said:
"We will never see you again. It is madness for you to go."
"But," said he, "I must carry Jesus to them."
For two days he travelled without scarcely meeting a human being, until at last he found himself in the mountains, and suddenly surrounded by a crowd of savages.
Every spear was instantly pointed at his heart. He expected that every moment would be his last. Not knowing of any other resource, he tried the power of singing the name of Jesus to them. Drawing forth his violin, he began with closed eyes to sing and play:—
Let angels prostrate fall;
Being afraid to open his eyes, he sang on till the third verse, and while singing the stanza,—
And crown Him Lord of all,"
He opened his eyes to see what they were going to do, when lo! The spears had dropped from their hands, and the big tears were falling from their eyes. They afterwards invited him to their homes. He spent two and a half years among them. His labours were so richly rewarded that when he was compelled to leave them because of impaired health and return to this country, (USA) they followed him between thirty and forty miles.
"Oh! Missionary," said they when parting, "come back to us again. There are tribes beyond us which never heard the glad tidings of salvation."
He could not resist their entreaties. After visiting America he went back again to continue his labors, till he sank into the grave among them.
This interesting story of the happy effects of singing this good old hymn was related to William Reynolds Esq. of Peoria, Illinois, by the missionary himself, while in this country trying to regain his health, and by Mr. Reynolds to the author of this volume."
The above passage is from the "Illustrated History of Hymns and Their Authors," published in 1875, pages 341-341.