Fanny Crosby: The blind saint who could see
The name of Fanny Crosby will always be remembered as the saint who encouraged untold multitudes of those who needed to be sheltered in the arms of Jesus.
Born Frances Jane Crosby on March 24, 1820 in the state of New York. At six weeks Fanny developed a cold that affected her eyes. The family doctor was not available so another one was called in who prescribed a hot mustard poultice to be applied to her eyes. The application destroyed her sight permanently. Later, it was found that the doctor was not qualified to practice medicine. He soon left town and was never heard from again. Fanny later said concerning him "I have not for a moment in more than eighty-five years felt a spark of resentment against him, because I have always believed...that the good Lord...by this means consecrated me to the work that I am still permitted to do."
By the time of her first birthday her father John had died. When Fanny was five years old her mother took her to one of the finest eye doctors in the country hoping that some way her sight might return. The results indicated that Fanny would remain blind, but the loss of her sight did not bother her. At the age of eight she wrote her first recorded poem:
O 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’m blind
I cannot and I won’t.
Later in life Fanny saw her blindness as a gift and thanked Him for it when she said, It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earth sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me.
When Fanny was nine their family moved to Connecticut near her grandmother who became an unforgettable influence in her life for she introduced the Scriptures to her. As a young child she could recite from memory the books of Moses, Ruth, most of the Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon and most of the New Testament. At the age of 15, she attended the Institution for the Blind in New York City. There she would spend 23 years as a student/teacher.
In the fall of 1843 when she was 23 years old she had already became famous. She was a guest of Congress and the first woman to speak before them. She was sent to plea for appropriations for the school. She recited her poems about God with such conviction that more than half of Congress was weeping before her.
Because of her meeting she would become friends with every president from John Quincy Adams to William McKinley as well as many other great political and religious leaders. Although she knew the scriptures very well something was missing in her life. In 1849 a cholera epidemic hit and more than half of the students at the school had died. This shook Fanny and made her realized she was not ready for death.
On November 20, 1850, at a local revival Fanny gave her heart to Jesus. Biographer Basil Miller tells her response: "For the first time I realized that I had been trying to hold the world in one hand and the Lord in the other”
Before this time Fanny’s poems were set to music which was played in Saloons, but now her poems would reflect a deep love for her Savior and would be sung in churches even unto the present.
Her first poem that would be used for a hymn was written in 1864. “Pass Me Not” was her first hymn to win worldwide attention. Fanny composed “Pass Me Not” in 1868 after a prison service. As she spoke to the prisoners one cried out, "O Lord, don't pass me by!" Fanny was so moved that she went home and wrote her famous plea. Ira Sankey said, "No hymn was more popular at the meetings in London in 1875 than this one." One hard-drinking Englishman heard the crowd singing it and whispered to himself, "Oh, I wish He would not pass me by." The next night the service began with the same hymn and he was saved. He began carrying a copy of the hymn with him every day and forty years later, as a successful businessman in America, he met Fanny and gave her twenty dollars.
One day, in 1868, Mr. Doane a composer, dropped by and said, "Miss Fanny, I have but a few minutes before my train leaves for Cincinnati, but first will you do me a favor before I board that train? I want a new hymn which I can introduce for the first time at a convention that will capture the hearts and imaginations of the young people and children. There is to be a great statewide Sunday School convention in Cincinnati next month and in addition to the large delegations of adults, many young people and children are expected to be present. We really need this new hymn." Having the tune already composed, he said, "Listen closely," and turning to the piano, he sat down and played his new tune in a rousing and stirring manner. Fanny said, "Your music says, “Safe in the Arms of Jesus”. Going to her desk she took out a piece of paper, found her pen, sat down, and began to write. As he played, she continued to write. She folded the paper, placed it in an envelope and handed it to her friend. Because his train was leaving in thirty-five minutes, she exclaimed, "Read it on the train and hurry, you don't want to be late!" On the train he read the words that Sankey later made famous and hearts have been singing them ever since. The stories connected with this hymn are breath-taking. Once, a hackman, learning that his passenger was Fanny Crosby, took off his hat and wept. He called a policeman and asked him to see her safely to the train, adding, "We sang Safe in the Arms of Jesus at my little girl's funeral last week."
A story is told in connection with World War I. A Finnish engineer tells of besieging a town and taking a number of Red prisoners. Seven of them were to be shot at dawn the following week. One of the men began to sing this lovely song, “Safe in the Arms of Jesus” that he had learned three weeks ago from the Salvation Army. One after another of the comrades fell to their knees and began to pray. The seven asked to be allowed to die with uncovered faces. With hands raised to Heaven, they sang this song as they were ushered into eternity. The Finnish engineer, Nordenberg, a former Army Officer, who tells the story, met Christ Himself that very hour as a result of this witness.
She would produce more than 8,500 poems that were set for music. She used as many as 200 different pen names so people would not know that she wrote so many of them. She would write as many as seven hymn poems in one day. On many occasions, upon hearing an unfamiliar hymn sung, she would inquire about the author and find it to be one of her own.
Near the end of her life Fanny would continue to write and speak concerning music. One time she spoke about how she was concerned with the music that was being played in the church and how she felt that the music was slowly becoming more like the world. She went on to continue that she wondered how it would be one hundred years from now.
Fanny Crosby, the blind saint died just before her 95th birthday in 1910. How sad that a woman who was gifted to write poems that talked about a wonderful Savior and the great things He hath done, to find churches across the nation no longer feel her music matters anymore.
Today we are now promoting an “any music will do” program to this generation saying “God likes all music”. This is a lie from the pit of hell itself. The great hymns from the past are rich songs full of deep meaning as well as doctrinal truth that transforms people’s lives. May God raise up others like Fanny Crosby that will allow Him to again have godly music fill the sanctuaries of the churches today.
You may be reading this and have never made a decision concerning where you will spend eternity. Please consider the following …
How does anyone get to heaven?
First realize that they cannot get to heaven on their own merits. The Bible says that “For all have sinned and come short (that means everybody can’t get to Heaven on their own) of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)
Jesus Christ (who is the Son of the living God) came to earth and was born of a virgin woman (therefore he was not born of the curse of mankind) he lived a sinless life and died on a cross for all the sins in the world. Three days later, God the Father raised Him from the dead. He was seen of 500 witnesses and returned to heaven. God’s word says that if we believe these things and call upon the Lord, we will be saved. Romans 10:9 - 13