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GOSPEL HYMNS FOR 80,000,000
by The Nation
The death of Ira D. Sankey has filled the newspapers with anecdotes about his life. We are told of the impression which his singing first made on Mr. Moody, of his improvising the tune for "The Ninety and Nine," of the huge crowds, sometimes 20,000 people, who came to the Moody and Sankey revival meetings, and of the enormous sales of the "Gospel Hymns." The number of copies printed is reported to be 50,000,000; and even if this figure be somewhat exaggerated, the great popularity of these hymns is one of the facts with which historians of American culture must reckon. Publishers complain that there is little or no demand for good poetry; but year in and year out the Moody and Sankey hymns keep the presses busy.
Such revival services as first gave them vogue we are not likely to see again, at least in the East. The efficacy of this method of appeal is now gravely distrusted even in denominations—like the Methodist and Baptist—which once relied on it. Mr. Moody himself, in his later years, is said to have doubted whether the effect of revivals was permanent. He found that, after the excitement had died out, the tears and groans from "conviction of sin" and the ecsta-cies of conversion left many men about where they were before, only a little more indifferent and callous. A community "burnt over" by a wild revival often proved a difficult field to cultivate by sober and steady means. Mr. Moody's interest thus became more and more engaged in forming the character of the young by the slow, calm, and laborious process of education. The results of that work were, he thought, lasting.
With the passing of the old-fashioned revival, which from Whitefield to Moody has thrown whole cities into agitation, the few hymns that are peculiarly fitted to provoke a religious frenzy may perhaps fall into disuse. But the bulk of the "Gospel Hymns" seem likely to hold their own
"Reprinted by permission from The Nation, Vol. 87, No. 2251, August 20, Copyright 1908."