We are back again for another post in our Hymn History series! I love learning the stories of the old gospel hymns. One of my favorites is Calvary Covers It All. It wasn’t until just recently however that I learned the beautiful history behind it.
The story begins one providential night in 1934 at the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago, Illinois. During this time, the Mission was being directed by Walter and Ethel Taylor. They were a godly, older couple who’d been serving God for many years. They had come to be known affectionately as “Pa and Ma Taylor”.
This particular night, a man stumbled into the Mission service. Drunk and not fully cognizant, he sat through the service, then left when it was over. The next night he came back. Again, he left without responding to the salvation invitation. This continued for several nights. Each night he would leave without having made any response to the message.
By this time, the workers at the mission had begun to get to know more about him. He was an entertainer named Walter Macdonald, but he went by Mac. Growing up he had loved nothing better than to dance. Eventually he had hit it big in show business. The fame and glory of show business couldn’t fulfill the hole in his life though. In the times between bookings, he drank profusely. Ma Taylor had been in the entertainment business herself before she was saved, and her heart had been increasingly burdened for Mac. She knew the type of life those in the entertainment world lived. She knew of the many pitfalls and snares along the way. The burden for Mac pressed deeply on her heart. She prayed, “Dear Lord, please help us say and do the right things so that we may win Mac to Thee. Please touch his heart.”
The following night, Pa Taylor preached a gospel message. At the end of the service, Ma Taylor took her place at the piano to play the invitation. As she played, she looked over and noticed Mac had made his way to the altar. He seemed however to be very troubled. She slipped from her place at the piano, having motioned for another pianist to come take over, and knelt beside Mac. Kneeling beside him, she heard him speaking. “But you don’t understand, you don’t know how bad I am, Lord. Really I am the worst man in the world. You can’t save me, I’m too bad.”
Ma Taylor’s heart went out to him upon hearing this. Knelt there beside him, she began to tell him how much God loved him, that He was willing to die for him. Mac still appeared to be troubled, and couldn’t seem to understand that God would really save him. As she continued to speak to him, Ma Taylor was reminded of a sermon she had heard preached some weeks ago. The title of it had been, “Calvary Covers It All”. It was just the words she was looking for.
“Mac,” she said, “Calvary covers it all—all the sin of your past life!”
“Please, say that again, Mrs. Taylor.”
“Mac, Calvary covers it all.” Ma Taylor repeated the words to him.
There was silence at first, then Mac’s face lit up with rapture. “Calvary does cover it all! My whole past of sin and shame! Oh! Mrs. Taylor, I’m so glad it’s true and you told me.”
That night, Walter “Mac” Macdonald trusted Christ as his Savior, and became a new creature. In his own words, “Jesus found me and made me all over at the Pacific Garden Mission.” He gave his heart to Christ and surrendered to God’s calling for his life, being an evangelist.
Ma Taylor couldn’t get past the exchange that had taken place between them that night. Several days later, she sat at the piano in the Mission building and wrote the words and music to the beloved hymn, Calvary Covers It All.
I’m so glad that Calvary covers it all. There is no sin so great that Calvary’s blood cannot cover it. Knowing the story behind this amazing hymn only serves to make it mean so much more.
What are your thoughts on it? Let me know in the comments. I would love to hear from you!
A. M. Watson