The Story Behind…“I Will Sing The Wondrous Story”

The Story Behind…
“I Will Sing The Wondrous Story”

Selected

I will sing the wondrous story
Of the Christ who died for me,
How he left His home in glory
For the cross of Calvary.

I was lost but Jesus found me,
Found the sheep that went astray,
Threw His loving arms around me,
Drew me back into His way…

Chorus

Yes, I’ll sing the wondrous story
Of the Christ who died for me,
Sing it with the saints in glory,
Gathered by the crystal sea.

The words of this frequently sung hymn were written by F. H. Rowley and the music by Peter B. Bilhorn. “I was minister of the First Baptist Church of North Adams, Massachusetts, in 1886,” wrote Rowley. “The church and community were experiencing a period of unusual interest in religious matters, and I was assisted by a remarkable young singer by the name of Peter Bilhorn. One night after the close of the service he said, ‘Why don’t you write a hymn for me to set to music?’ During the night these verses came to me. The original poem began, ‘Can’t you sing the wondrous story?’ but when the song was first published by Sankey in 1887 the phrase was changed to “I will sing …”

Bilhorn was born in Illinois in 1861, shortly after his father was killed in the Civil War. He was converted at twenty under D. L. Moody’s preaching, acquiring musical training, and launched a career in evangelism which was to make him world famous. “Sweet Peace, the Gift of God’s Love” is another of his many compositions. He died in Los Angeles on December 13, 1936.

Feeling the need of a portable organ for use in street meetings, jail services, and similar gospel endeavours, Bilhorn designed a small folding organ, weighing sixteen pounds, and started its manufacture in 1887. His Bilhorn Brothers Organ Company grew and is still thriving, carried on by two nephews. Bilhorn organs have won gold medals at six World Expositions, and are currently in use on battleships, in army camps, in rescue missions and hospitals, and on far-flung mission fields.