Scripture Verse

Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped. Psalm 124:7


Daniel B. Towner

Words: Hez­e­ki­ah But­ter­worth, in White Rib­bon Vi­bra­tions, by Flo­ra H. Cas­sel, fifth ed­i­tion (Hast­ings, Ne­bras­ka: 1890). Fourth verse by Pe­ter P. Bil­horn, in Songs of Re­demp­tion and Praise, ed­it­ed by John A. Da­vis & John R. Cle­ments (Chi­ca­go, Il­li­nois: Bil­horn Bro­thers, 1906), page 77.

Music: Dan­i­el B. Tow­ner, 1919 (🔊 pdf nwc).

Hezekiah Butterworth

Origin of the Hymn

Some years ago, in The Youths Com­pan­ion, ap­peared the first three verses of this song…They were af­ter­wards found in the vest pock­et of a man who died while in pri­son.

During a meet­ing held in one of a West­ern state’s pri­sons, af­ter the ser­mon, the chap­lain, Rev. Gun, D. D., gave an in­vi­ta­tion for any who so de­sired to speak. Sev­er­al spoke. I sang the three vers­es this song then con­tained.

For a mo­ment there was a death-like silence, when a man wear­ing pri­son clothes trem­bling­ly arose, sup­port­ing him­self on the bench in front of him, and with a qui­ver­ing voice said: Gen­tle­men, ac­cord­ing to the sen­ti­ment of that song, al­though I serve my time, and re­solve to do bet­ter, I can ne­ver rise to the po­si­tion I once oc­cu­pied.

He sank back, co­vered his face with his hands and be­gan to sob. Ma­ny were touched by his emo­tion, and wept with him. I bowed my head in shame as I con­sid­ered the sad truth of his state­ment.

That night, on bend­ed knees, I said: O God! I can­not sing those vers­es again; they do not con­tain the grace of Thy love and pow­er to save and lift men up.

While thus pray­ing, the fourth as it now ap­pears in the song, came to me. I could scarce­ly wait for the next Sun­day, that I might go and sing the ad­di­tion­al verse.

The hour came, and in a few words I thanked the man who had re­proved me, sat down to my li­ttle or­gan, and sang the song again. There seemed to be lit­tle in­ter­est dur­ing the sing­ing of the first three vers­es, but there was a marked change when the new verse rang out.

The bless­ing of God and the Ho­ly Ghost fell up­on the meet­ing. The man who ut­tered the re­proof the pre­vi­ous Sun­day was the first to bow his head and weep. Many fol­lowed.

The chap­lain asked those would accept the mer­cy and love of God of­fered in the fourth verse, to lift their right hand. Many re­spond­ed, and thank God! the hand of my re­prov­er was among them.

A few years af­ter, at the close of a meet­ing held in the Y.M.C.A. Au­di­tor­i­um of Chi­ca­go, I was about to leave, when a well dressed gen­tle­man stopped me, took hold of my hand and said: God bless you, Bro­ther Bil­horn. I’d ra­ther see you than the Pre­si­dent of the Unit­ed States.

I said, You have the bet­ter of me. Who are you, please?

He seemed great­ly sur­prised that I did not re­cog­nize him. He then said, Don’t you re­mem­ber the fourth verse of The Bird with a Brok­en Wing? Grasp­ing his hand again, I said, How goes it with you? Goes it? Why haven’t you heard? I was par­doned a year af­ter you were there. In­stead of serv­ing the sen­tence of eight years, I served a lit­tle more than three.

I found good em­ploy­ment at once and have since paid my in­debt­ed­ness with in­ter­est and com­pound in­terest, my fa­mi­ly are with me again.

I a trust­ee and a dea­con in a church and I am as hap­py as it pos­si­ble for me to be. I could not re­frain from shout­ing Glo­ry to God!

In the win­ter of 1902, in a west­ern ci­ty, at the close of the Sun­day ev­en­ing ser­vice where I had re­lat­ed this in­ci­dent and sung the song, as the peo­ple were leav­ing the church, a fine ap­pear­ing gen­tle­man ap­proached me, hand­ed me his bus­i­ness card and re­quest­ed me to call up­on him the next day.

I com­plied with his re­quest and found him in one of the fin­est bus­i­ness plac­es in the ci­ty in which he had be­come a part­ner.

He told me how in that Sun­day pri­son meet­ing he had sat be­side the man who had re­proved me, and on the fol­low­ing Sun­day had lis­tened to the fourth verse of the song, been blessed by it and re­solved to live a Chris­tian life.

By the grace of God he is to­day a re­spect­ed ci­ti­zen in the so­cial and church life of his ci­ty and help­ful to those about him.

Peter Bilhorn


I walked in the woodland meadows,
Where sweet the thrushes sing,
And found on a bed of mosses,
A bird with a broken wing;
I healed its wing, and each morning
It sang its old sweet strain,
But the bird with the broken pinion,
Never soared as high again,
Never soared as high again.

I found a young life broken
By sin’s seductive art,
And, touched with a Christlike pity,
I took him to my heart;
He lived with a nobler purpose,
And struggled not in vain,
But the life that sin had stricken,
Never soared as high again,
Never soared as high again.

But the bird with the broken pinion
Kept another from the snare,
The life that sin had stricken,
Raised another from despair;
Each loss has its own compensation,
There’s healing for each pain,
But the bird with the broken pinion
Never soared as high again,
Never soared as high again.

But the soul that comes to Jesus
Is saved from every sin,
And the heart that fully trusts Him
Shall a crown of glory win;
Then come to the dear Redeemer,
He’ll cleanse you from every stain.
By His wonderful love and mercy,
You shall surely rise again.