Our church was undergoing repairs, and the cabinet organ was placed in my care. Thus afforded a pleasure not before enjoyed, I delighted myself in playing over some of our Sunday school hymns.
I determined to give tangible shape to a theme that had been running in my mind for some time, to write, if possible, an answer to Bradbury’s beautiful piece, Jesus Paid It All. I made it a matter of prayer and study and gave to the public the music now known as All to Christ I Owe.
It was pronounced very poor by my choir and friends, but my dear wife persistently declared that it was a good piece of music and would live. Time has proved the correctness of her judgment.
Soon after, the Rev. George W. Schreck called on me to select anything new that I had to offer. On hearing this piece he expressed his pleasure with it and stated that Mrs. Elvina M. Hall had written some words that would just suit the music. I gave him a copy of it and it was soon sung in several churches here in Baltimore [Maryland] and well received. At the suggestion of friends I sent a copy to Professor Theodore Perkins and it was published in Sabbath Carols. Under the providence of God it has been going ever since. I trust that it has not failed to accomplish some good to my fellow-men for the glory of God.
On New Year’s night, 1886, some missionaries were holding open-air services in order to attract passers-by to a near-by mission, where meetings were to be held later. All to Christ I owe was sung, and after a gentleman had given a short address he hastened away to the mission. He soon heard footsteps close behind him, and a young woman caught up with him and said:
I heard you addressing the open-air meeting just now; do you think, sir, that Jesus could save a sinner like me?
The gentleman replied that there was no doubt about that, if she was anxious to be saved. She told him that she was a servant girl, and had left her place that morning after a disagreement with her mistress.
As she had been wandering about the streets in the dark, wondering where she was to spend the night, the sweet melodies of this hymn had attracted her, and she drew near and listened attentively. As the different verses were being sung, she felt that the words surely had something to do with her.
Through the whole service she seemed to hear what met her oppressed soul’s need at that moment. God’s Spirit had showed her what a poor, sinful and wretched creature she was, and had led her to ask what she must do. On hearing her experience, the gentleman took her back to the mission and left her with the ladies in charge.
The young, wayward woman was brought to Christ that night. A situation was secured for her in a minister’s family. There she became ill and had to be taken to a hospital. She rapidly failed and it became evident that she would not be long on earth.
One day the gentleman whom she had met on New Year’s night was visiting her in the ward. After quoting a few suitable verses of Scripture, he repeated her favorite hymn, All to Christ I owe…and she seemed overwhelmed with the thought of coming to glory…Two hours afterward she passed away.
Sankey, pp. 110–11