Ira Sankey relates the story told him of an American missionary regarding one of Robert Lowry’s hymns.
I hesitated a moment, and looked around. The gleam on the yellow water of the Nile, as the western rays slanted down, caught my eye and suggested the river the streams of which shall make glad the city of God. I began to sing in a low voice the gospel hymn, ‘Shall we gather at the river?’
Shall We Gather?
An American lady writing from Cairo, who was allowed to visit the military hospital soon after some wounded men had been brought in from a skirmish, says:
THE three hours we could stay were full of work for heart and hand. One young soldier from a Highland regiment especially excited my interest. He had lost a limb, and the doctor said he could not live through the night. I stopped at his side to see whether there was anything that I could do for him. He lay with closed eyes; and as his lips moved I caught the words, ‘Mother, mother.’ I dipped my handkerchief in a basin of iced water, and bathed his forehead where the fever flushes burned.
‘Oh, that is good!’ he said, opening his eyes. Seeing me bending over him, he caught my hand and kissed it. ‘Thank you, lady,’ he said; ‘it ‘minds me o’ mother.’
I asked him if I could write to his mother. No, he said; the surgeon had promised to write ; but could I, would I, sing to him? I hesitated a moment, and looked around. The gleam on the yellow water of the Nile, as the western rays slanted down, caught my eye and suggested the river the streams of which shall make glad the city of God. I began to sing in a low voice the gospel hymn, ‘Shall we gather at the river?’ Eager heads were raised around us to listen more intently, while bass and tenor voices, weak and tremulous, came in on the chorus,—
‘Yes, we’ll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God.’
When the song was ended, I looked into the face of the boy—for he was not over twenty—and asked, ‘Shall you be there?’
‘Yes, I’ll be there, through what the Lord Jesus has done for me?’ he answered, with his blue eyes shining, while a ‘light that never was on sea or land’ irradiated his face. The tears gathered in my eyes as I thought of the mother, in her far-off Scottish home, watching and waiting for tidings of her soldier boy, who was breathing away his life in an Egyptian hospital.
‘Come again, lady, come again,’ I heard on all sides as we left the barracks. I shall go; but I shall not find my Scottish laddie, for by to-morrow’s reveille he will have crossed the river.
—Ira David Sankey, Sankey’s Story of the Gospel Hymns (1906).
Shall We Gather At The River, Isom Lee Trio.