Sunday Hymn Stories: Fanny Crosby

On the day we celebrate mothers, I have decided to look at the woman who has been called the mother of congregational singing in America. She has written books, poetry, spoken before Congress and was the friend to Presidents. From a very young age hymns comforted her and she wondered herself; “who made those hymns and if I myself could ever make one that people would sing.” Fanny Crosby ended up writing over 8000 hymns. Some of the hymns she has penned are Blessed Assurance, Safe in the Arms of Jesus, To God Be the Glory, and Praise Him Praise Him.

When Fanny Crosby was a baby she had an eye infection and the family doctor was out of town. A man claiming to be a doctor performed a procedure on her that severely damaged her corneas and led to her blindness. Looking back on her life Fanny shared these words in her autobiography;

One is, that I know, although it may have been a blunder on the physician’s part, it was no mistake of God’s. I verily believe it was His intention that I should live my days in physical darkness, so as to be better pre pared to sing His praises and incite others so to do. I could not have written thousands of hymns — many of which, if you will pardon me for repeating it, are sung all over the world — if I had been hindered by the distractions of seeing all the interesting and beautiful objects that would have been presented to my notice.

Fanny thanked God for her blindness and didn’t allow it to become a stumbling block in her life. One of the first poems she penned when she was young and repeated to herself was;

“Oh what a happy soul I am,
   Although I cannot see;
I am resolved that in this world
   Contented I will be.

How many blessings I enjoy,
   That other people don’t;
To weep and sigh because I’m blind,
   I cannot, and I won’t.”

Fanny’s hymn writing was not only a result of her blindness but her devotion to the Lord and her knowledge of Scripture. Fanny was taught the Bible when she was a child, reflecting on this time in her life Fanny said;

The greatest piece of good fortune that attended me when a little girl, was that I was taught the Bible — line upon line, and precept upon precept.

Fanny was not only taught the Bible,  she memorized it and hid it in her heart. She could recite without mistake the Pentateuch, the Gospels, Proverbs, Songs of Solomon and many of the Psalms.

Fanny could have lived in a nice neighborhood and probably lived in a nice house. But she chose to live in the slums of New York to be an urban missionary to the poor and down trodden. She served and supported many rescue missions with her time and money. She kept what she needed to survive and the rest she gave with an open hand. Many of her hymns were birthed out of this mission work like Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior and Rescue the Perishing. 

The hymn that has impacted me this week from studying the life of Fanny Crosby is one that speaks of Christ descending to earth, living the perfect life for us, dying for us, raising from the dead for us and now interceding for us.

Tell Me The Story of Jesus.

Tell me the story of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word;
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard.
Tell how the angels in chorus,
Sang as they welcomed His birth,
“Glory to God in the highest!
Peace and good tidings to earth.”

Tell me the story of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word;
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard.

Fasting alone in the desert,
Tell of the days that are past,
How for our sins He was tempted,
Yet was triumphant at last.
Tell of the years of His labor,
Tell of the sorrow He bore;
He was despised and afflicted,
Homeless, rejected and poor.

Tell of the cross where they nailed Him,
Writhing in anguish and pain;
Tell of the grave where they laid Him,
Tell how He liveth again.
Love in that story so tender,
Clearer than ever I see;
Stay, let me weep while you whisper,
“Love paid the ransom for me.”

Tell how He’s gone back to heaven,
Up to the right hand of God:
How He is there interceding
While on this earth we must trod.
Tell of the sweet Holy Spirit
He has poured out from above;
Tell how He’s coming in glory
For all the saints of His love.


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