The last time that Henry Ward Beecher was in his pulpit—6th March, 1887—he remained for some time at the close of the evening service listening to the choir practising, and was evidently moved by their rendering of this hymn. While sitting and listening he noticed two street Arabs coming into the church to enjoy the music also. He came down, and speaking to them tenderly he drew them to his heart and kissed them. Whether this touch of humanity was due to the hymn or simply the response of his deeply emotional nature in seeing two unfortunates before him, with all their undeveloped possibilities, we cannot say, but of this we are sure, that the last grand utterance that he heard in his church was this hymn:I Heard the Voice,etc., for, a few hours afterwards the shadows of the long night fell upon his ethereal spirit; the silver cord that bound him with the outer world was loosed, and though the soul still lingered over the mortal frame which she had filled with abundant life for seventy-four years, as if loath to depart, the eyes, the senses were all but sealed, and the lips on which listening thousands had hung for half a century were silent. It was fitting that he who took such an active part in the emancipation of the slave should close his life under the inspiration of this tender hymn, and take those two street Arabs to his heart as representing the humanity he loved so well!
Morrison, pp. 221–22