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Fanny Jane Crosby

by E. H. Farrance

Fanny Crosby"Nothing of education, or culture, or breeding, can take the place of Christ in the home—of Jesus in the heart." These are the words of Fanny Jane Crosby, born in the year 1820, in the South-East Putnam County, New York. She came from a devout and hardy race—the Crosby's, descendants of William Brewster, one of the noble band of Pilgrim Fathers.

She was blind from six weeks old, and her mother, grandmother, and a dear old Quaker friend were among her first instructors. She was eager for an education, and although loving her home and mother, was ready and willing to go away in order to be educated.

When she was told she was going to enter the Institution for the Blind in New York City, she clapped her hands and said: "Thank God! He has answered my prayer." As pupil and teacher she remained in the Institution for twenty years.

Fanny Crosby was converted on November 20th, 1850, at a revival meeting held in the Thirteenth Street Methodist Church. She had been anxious for some time, and
that evening the congregation was singing the hymn:

"Alas I and did my Saviour bleed,
And did my Sovereign die?"

When they reached the line of the fourth stanza:

"Here Lord I give myself away"

she said: "My very soul was flooded with celestial light. I sprang to my feet, shouting 'Hallelujah I' and then, for the first time I realized that I had been trying to hold the world in one hand and the Lord in the other."

Fanny Crosby was taken to Congress in 1843, and she recited a number of her poems, which were well received. Then awoke a deep longing for literature and friendship. She was greatly interested inn all the U.S. Presidents, but Abraham Lincoln was her "Captain, her leader." It was with Grover Cleveland that she was brought into closer touch than with any of the other Presidents. He was Secretary to the Institution for the Blind, and she often went to him with her heartaches, and he always proved a sympathetic friend. He copied for her many of her poems, and he took an interest in her life and work. During the years at the Institution, Fanny Crosby heard the best music, and read the purest in poetry and prose.

From her eighth year she wrote little poetic pictures. She said: "When I gathered flowers, and caught their fragrance I wanted to say something poetic about them. When I heard the birds sing I was anxious to understand their notes.

As I wandered down by the brook with my grandmother listening to the rippling of the waters, I felt something in my soul that I wanted to say about the rivulet and river." She wrote poems for special occasions, and in 1844 she published her book: "The Blind Girl, and Other Poems." She met with many noted people when they visited the Blind Institution.

At thirty-eight, Fanny Crosby married Van Alstyne, a gifted blind student who came to the Institution. He was a firm trusting Christian, and they were happy together for over forty years.

Fanny Crosby had written a large number of secular and religious poems, a few cantatas and many songs; but her real writing of Christian hymns began when she left the Institution and became associated with some notable religious leaders. A friend one day played over a tune and she exclaimed: "That says, 'Safe in the Arms of Jesus,'" and went into her room and in about thirty minutes returned with the hymn: "Safe in the Arms of Jesus," and she was told that that hymn gave great comfort to mothers who had lost their children.

Altogether her hymns and poems total eight thousand. One of her hymns that won world-wide attention was : "Pass me not, O gentle Saviour," written in the year 1868. Mr. Sankey said: "No hymn in our collection was more popular than this one at the meetings in London in 1874. This hymn has been translated into many foreign languages. Also: "Rescue the Perishing,,, "Saved by Grace" and "Blessed Assurance;" and others, have been the means of wonderful blessing to many a one.

In conversation with a friend one day, Fanny Crosby said, as she took a little New Testament from her bag: "When I was a child, this Book had a practical place in the home and the nation. During these many years my love for the Holy Bible has not waned. Its truth was not only born with me, it was bred into my life. My mother and my grandmother took pains that I knew the Bible better than any other book. All that I am, and all that I ever expect to be in literature or life, is due to the Bible."

And at ninety years of age, she said: "My love for the Holy Bible and its sacred truth is stronger and more precious to me at ninety than at nineteen. This Book to me is 'God's Treasure-house,' and there is nothing I love better than to have my friends read to me from the sacred page."

Fanny Crosby was a loving, sympathetic woman, ever ready to minister to those in sorrow, and to give pleasure by her birthday poems to her friends. Joyousness was one of the characteristics of her life.

At the age of ninety-two, Fanny Crosby visited Harvard College, and for a brief space came under the influence of literary and educational power. She conversed with the Professors, and she told them that one of her ancestors, Simon Crosby, was one of its founders, and that his son graduated therefrom in 1653. She said it was a joy to associate with such men. She said: "In sunshine or shadow, in sickness, in health, through every step of the journey God has given grace and glory. There is nothing surprising in this. It is according to the promise. And no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly! It is the things I have had in full measure in which I rejoice daily."

At ninety years of age she said: "I am living in the sight of Eternity's sunrise ... I have made a careful study of human nature, I know a person by the touch of the hand, or the sound of the voice. Even the footstep is to me a token of the character of its owner. I have been careful of cultivating a sunny disposition, for I have found in my experience so many who, when they grow old, become difficult to get along with. My simple trust in God's goodness has never failed me during these many years. There is nothing in this wide world that gives me so much joy as telling the story of my Saviour's loving mercy."

In a verse of her beautiful hymn, "Saved by Grace," she wrote:

"Some day the silver cord will break,
And I no more, as now, shall sing.
But, oh the joy when I shall wake,
Within the palace of the King I
And I shall see Him face to face,
And tell the story-saved by grace."

The "silver cord broke" on February 12th, 1915, and this sweet hymn writer and singer "passed away to be with Christ." She was rich in faith, hope, and love, and her hymns will ever live.

From Twelve Wonderful Women: The Romance of Their Life and Work by E. H. Farrance. London: Pickering & Inglis, Ltd., [19--].

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