Memoirs of P.P. Bliss: Chapter 27

The village of Rome, Pennsylvania, contains a population of about three hundred, and is located in the Wysocken Valley, surrounded by the high hills, and is about ten miles from Towanda, Pennsylvania. The funeral services in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Bliss were held on Sunday, January 7, in the Presbyterian Church, of which both of them had been members during their residence in Rome. Before the hour of service (11 o'clock), sleighs, from all directions, coming over the hills loaded with the families of friends and relatives from a distance, were arriving at the church. By eleven o'clock it was crowded in every part. The following relatives of the deceased were present: Lydia Bliss, his mother; Mrs. M.E. Wilson and husband, and Mrs. Phebe Jennings and husband, sisters and brothers, Wm. H Jennings of Chicago, nephew of Mr. Bliss; Mrs. Andrus, sister of Lydia Bliss, with her son and daughter, the latter residing in Elmira, NY; the wife of Mr. McEwen, who was present; Mrs. Betsy Allen, grandmother of Mrs. Bliss; O.F. Young and wife, father and mother of Mrs. Bliss; A.P. Young and wife, O.W. Young and wife, George R. Young, Mrs. C.C. Barnes and husband, Mrs. J.L. Ellsworth, and Melita Young, brothers and sisters of Mrs. Bliss; Nathan and Thomas Young, Mrs. Daniel Pitcher, and Mrs. Dunham, uncles and aunts of Mrs. Bliss, with their families; also several cousins and more distant relatives were present. A remarkable fact in connection with this large circle is that they are all Christians.

The services were opened by the reading of the hymn: "God is the refuge of His Saints," by Rev. Mr. Keatley, pastor of the Methodist church. Mr. and Mrs. McGranahan, life-long friends of Mr. and Mrs. Bliss, and well known in musical circles, led the singing of the congregation.

The following scriptures were read by the pastor of the Baptist Church: John xvii, 18-24: Acts i, 7-11: Acts vii, 55-60: 1 Cor. xv, 12-23 and 50-58: 1 Thess. iv, 13-18.

Prayer was then offered by Rev. G.W. Chandler, pastor of the Methodist Church of Towanda.

The hymn, "Rock Of Ages" (set to music composed by Mrs. Bliss), was sung by the choir.

A report of a meeting held in Chicago, on the Sunday after the news of the disaster, was then read by Major Whittle, who made the following remarks, explaining the circumstances of Mr. and Mrs. Bliss from home and of his being on the ill-fated train:

A favorite hymn of Mr. Bliss, "I Know Not the Hour When My Lord Will Come," was then very beautifully sung by the choir. Mr. McGranahan, the composer of the music of this hymn, the words of which were written by Mr. Bliss, was so overcome as to be unable to conclude the singing.

An address was then given by the pastor of the First Congregational Church in Chicago, of which Mr. and Mrs. Bliss were members at the time of their death, Rev. E.P. Goodwin, D.D. For nearly three years, Mr. Bliss had been chorister and Sunday School Superintendent of the church of which Mr. Goodwin is pastor. The following is Dr. Goodwin's address:

I know not the hour when my Lord will come
To take me away to His own dear home;
But I know that His presence will lighten the gloom;
And that will be glory for me."

Or take that other prophetic song, "There's A Light In The Valley:"

Death, no matter what its form, had for Philip Bliss no terrors. He believed with all his soul, that Jesus Christ came to "abolish death," to destroy him that had the power of death - that is, the devil - and deliver them who through fear of death were all their life-time subject to bondage. Hence, though leading his life in the daily expectation that the end might come, he was not only undismayed, but overflowing with gladness. I doubt not that if, after that terrific plunge, there was a moment of consciousness, his soul was full of peace, and was borne up in its chariot of fire with a shout of victory. And that serenity in facing death by whatever form it may come, and that triumph over it, is the privilege of all God's children to have.

This was his spirit always. Mr. Moody says God cannot use a discouraged Christian. If that be so, it is easy to see one prime factor of Brother Bliss' success in his work. He never lost heart, and so never compelled God to set him aside and use some one else.

Would that the thousands of Christian people whose hearts are saddened by this providence, might, through it, come to know a spirit of like coveting of souls.

There is Gospel enough in almost any one of them to lead a troubled soul to Christ. And in no hymns with which I am acquainted, not even Charles Wesley's, is the doctrine of salvation by the blood of Christ as the sacrifice for sin, so clearly stated, so fully emphasized; and no wonder - these songs were born in the closet and at the foot of the cross.

and what is the reason of the place they hold? Obviously this, that they embody truths which go to the heart of the Gospel, truths that have to do with the most vital experiences of the soul in seeking and working out salvation. So of these songs of Philip Bliss. And this is why the Chinese and the Zulus sing them. They do not sing "Hail Columbia," or the "Star Spangled Banner." They do not care for the story of our native land; they have no interest in either its past or its future. But the story of Jesus Christ, of the Lamb slain that sinners might have pardon, that story finds a response in their hearts. They know they are in darkness. They know they are in trouble. They know the curse of sin binds its yoke upon their souls, keeps its cry of woe upon their lips. And when they hear these songs, they recognize the offer of help, the opening up of a way of deliverance. In a word, the conscious want of men the world over is Christ, and these songs preach Him. They press him so fully, that if a ship were wrecked among the South Sea Islands, where no missionary has ever yet set foot, and the survivors should have no Bliss, [ typist's note: the original indeed says "Bliss" here, but I wonder if the intended word was "Bibles..." ] nothing but a copy of the "Gospel Songs," I should expect in five years to find churches and Sunday Schools and revivals and missions among the heathen round about.

At the close of Mr. Goodwin's address, Major Whittle announced as a closing song a hymn that had just been found among Mr. Bliss' papers - probably his latest work - entitled "He Knows." He remarked that had Mr. Bliss desired to leave a special message of comfort to his bereaved friends appropriate to their present calamity, he could not have left anything more beautiful or more comforting.

So I go on in the dark, not knowing,
I would not if I might;
I would rather walk with God in the dark
Than walk alone in the light;
I would rather walk with Him by faith
Than walk alone by sight.

Before the singing of the hymn, Major Whittle briefly addressed the people as follows:

The Elmira (New York) Advertiser, from which we have largely drawn for the materials for this chapter, says:

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