A Look Behind the Hymns, Part III

Among my favorite non-SDA hymn writers is Frances (Fanny) Jane Crosby. Fanny was born in Putnam Country, New York, on March 24, 1820. At the age of only six weeks, she lost her eyesight because of a costly mistake by a country doctor. It is recorded that the doctor applied a mustard poultice to her eyes, and the result was tragic loss of sight. Nevertheless, at the age of about 8 she wrote, “Oh, what a happy soul am I, 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 am blind I cannot, and I won’t!” And therefore, Fanny wrote many hymns such as #152, “Tell Me the Story of Jesus,” #249, “Praise Him! Praise Him!” #306, “Draw Me Nearer,” #312, “Near the Cross,” #329, “Take the World, But Give Me Jesus,” #337, #338, “Redeemed!” #341, “To God Be the Glory,” #367, “Rescue the Perishing,” #388, “Don’t Forget the Sabbath,” #462, “Blessed Assurance Jesus Is Mine,” #501, “Tis’ the Blessed Hour Of Prayer,” #516, “All the Way,” #520, “He Hideth My Soul,” #569,” Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior,” #610, “Stand Like the Brave.”

Blessed Assurance

The lyrics are normally written for a song, and then the music would follow. However, in the case of Blessed Assurance, just the opposite took place. Mrs. Joseph Fairchild Knapp composed a hymn tune in 1873 visiting Fanny Crosby; she played the tune for her. Finding that it pleased Fanny very much indeed, Mrs. Knapp asked her to write some words for it. She played it over the second time and noticed that Fanny Crosby was kneeling in prayer. After the third playing, Fanny began dictating rapidly the words of the hymn that we now have. The hymn is based on first John 3:2, “Beloved, Now Are We the Sons of God.”

‘Tis the Blessed Hour of Prayer

“’Tis’ The Blessed Hour of Prayer,” #501, reflects Fanny Crosby’s own devotion, spirit, and experience. You cannot help but notice the progression of the thought concerning ‘our care’ in stanza two, we cast ‘our care’, in the next stanza ‘Christ removes the care’ and finally, ‘we lose all of our care’. It should be noted that William Howard Doane composed the music for this hymn.

All the Way

This hymn, which was also written by Fanny Crosby, with music by Robert Lowry, reflects an interesting experience. While meditating on the leading of providence, Fanny Crosby was unexpectedly given $5 by a friend who called at the door. It is said that Fanny was short of money at the time and needed this amount before she was able to draw money from her publishers. This experience awakened a train of thought that calumniated in the writing of this hymn. Consider some of the lyrics; All the way my Savior leads me; what have I to ask beside? Can I doubt his tender mercy, who through life has been my guide? Heavenly peace, divinest comfort here by faith in Him to dwell, for I know what ere befall me Jesus doeth all things well; for I know what ere befall me Jesus doest all things well.”

One must conclude that Fanny, though blind, saw what many of us failed to see with a vision of 20/20. It underscores that notwithstanding what we may refer to as apparent setbacks, lacks and deficiencies, God enables us to have such a remarkable hope and to do the unthinkable; and this hymn, #516, certainly reminds us of that.

Let Us Break Bread Together

Finally, I include #403, “Let Us Break Bread Together.” This song, especially the chorus, poses a challenge to some persons, as it conveys the idea of Sun worship. However, that was never the intention of Miles Mark Fisher who wrote the words. In the days of slavery in the United States, this song was used as a signal for Blacks to convene a secret meeting. However, following the Civil War, the first two stanzas were added making it a Communion hymn.

The concept of sun used as a symbol for God is found in Ps. 84:11: “For the Lord God is a sun and shield.” Also, Mal. 4:2 says, “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings.” Hopefully, this background information will allow all persons to sing these lyrics with confidence knowing that they refer to God. Enjoy and have a great Sabbath.