The Story Behind: Jesus Paid It All

Jesus Paid It All
CLICK TO LISTEN: Jesus Paid It All

By Taylor Brantley

One of the most challenging aspects of public speaking is keeping the audience’s attention. Pastors, of course, face this challenge weekly. But no matter how masterful a sermon they may deliver, there will inevitably be a few wandering minds sat in those pews. Perhaps pastors can take solace in the fact that God can use those wandering minds just as easily as He can use the attentive. The prime example of this lies within the story of “Jesus Paid It All.”

It happened on a warm summer day in Baltimore, 1865. Initially, there was nothing special about that day for Elvina Hall. It was just another Sunday for her to sing in the choir at Monument Methodist Episcopal Church. The pastor, Reverend Schrick, was preaching a lengthy sermon, and Hall’s mind began wandering. Though, to Hall’s credit, it did wander to good things. She began thinking of the cross, and the sacrifice Jesus made for the world. As Reverend Schrick went into a rather wordy prayer, Hall began writing a poem. She had no paper, so she wrote on the flyleaf of her hymnbook.

Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe…

At last, Reverend Schrick’s sermon came to a close. Hall perhaps could not have given a thorough synopsis of the sermon, but she did have a poem she was quite proud of. She went to show her work to Reverend Schrick after the sermon, and as it turned out, the reverend was quite proud of Hall’s poem too. Hall only wanted to share her work then be on her way, but the reverend had something else in mind.

As it turned out, another church member had presented a creative work of their own to the reverend earlier that week. The other member was named John Grape, and he was the church’s organist. Grape had written a tune for a hymn, yet had no lyrics for it. Reverend Schrick took Hall’s lyrics to see if they could go along with Grape’s tune. He expected changes would be needed for the two to actually fit, but to his great surprise and joy, he found the tune and lyrics fit flawlessly.

Hall and Grape worked together in the following days to perfect their hymn. At last, they brought their final work to Reverend Schrick. It was beyond anything the reverend initially hoped for, and by his prodding, Hall and Grape submitted “Jesus Paid It All” to Professor Theodore Perkins, a publisher of Sabbath Carols. Perkins eagerly published the hymn, and soon the world was introduced to the timeless classic that is still being sung today.

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