One Sweetly Solemn Thought
Phoebe Cary, 17, was visiting a young friend of hers in 1842. They had attended service together, and Phoebe had been strangely stirred by the sermon of Christ’s second coming. When they reached the home of her friend, she quietly excused herself and went her bedroom on the third story, and began to write:
“One sweetly solemn thought
Comes to me o’er and o’er;
I’m nearer to my home today
Than e’er I’ve been before.”
Dr. Russell H. Cornwell of Philadelphia tells a touching story regarding the influence of this hymn.
In a gambling house of a Chinese city two Americans were playing cards one day. They gambled and drank, the older of the two using foul language. The younger man was losing heavily, and, as another game was started and fresh drinks brought in, he leaned back in his chair, watching as his companion shuffled the cards. The older man took a long time dealing the cards, and the younger man began to hum, and finally to sing in a low tone, the words of the hymn, “One sweetly solemn thought.”
On he sang, quite unconscious of the beautiful words falling from his lips. The older gambler suddenly stopped dealing the cards, and stared intently at his companion, saying, “Harry, where did you learn that tune?”
“Why, the one you have been singing.”
The young man shook his head. “I don’t know what I sang,” he said. His companion repeated the words, and the younger man said, “Oh, I learned that long ago in Sunday school.”
With tears in his eyes, the gambler threw the cards to the floor, and, handing back the money he had won, said, “Come, Harry; here’s what I have won from you; go and use it for some good purpose. As for me, as God sees me, I have played my last game and drunk my last drink. I have misled you, and I am sorry. Give me your hand, my boy, and say that for old America’s sake, if for no other, you will quit this wicked business also.
It was no idle vow that the gambler made that day, for he became a strong worker in the cause of Christ, while the younger man also turned from drink and like vices.
To sinner and to saint alike, this impressive hymn still brings its solemn warning and message of comfort. In these dark days of uncertainty, disaster, and sudden death, when fear and apprehension dominate the hearts of men, and on every side old beliefs are crumbling to ruins, how happy that man or woman who can sing in sincerity:
“Nearer my Father’s house,
Where many mansions be;
Nearer the throne where Jesus reigns,
Nearer the crystal sea.”
We have Christ’s own assurance that those mansions will someday be ours if we are faithful and obedient; for He said in those well-beloved verses in John, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. . . . I will come again and receive you unto Myself; that where I am there ye may be also.” —John 14:2, 3
—By Leonora Lacey Warriner, Sign of the Times, May 2, 1939.