America’s Hymn Writer
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 Crosby wrote those words when she was only eight years old. She lost her sight as a baby when a doctor treated her incorrectly. Even though Fanny would never see again, she chose to live a joyful life. She accepted that blindness was part of God’s plan for her. She grew up riding horses, climbing trees, and getting into mischief. Her senses of hearing and touch helped her to develop a wonder-filled impression of the world around her.
Fanny’s father died when she was a baby. When she was nine years old, she and her mother moved to Connecticut. Mrs. Crosby worked hard to provide for both of them. So Fanny spent long hours with her grandmother, who educated Fanny the best she could and introduced her to the Bible. Fanny began memorizing scripture. She could quote entire books of the Bible! This knowledge of scripture prepared her for her amazing future.
More than anything, Fanny wanted to go to school. For years, her mother could not afford special schooling for her daughter. But when Fanny was 15, she finally was able to go to the New York Institute for the Blind. She was a brilliant student. While at school, she continued writing poetry. A famous poet, William Cullen Bryant, visited the school and read some of Fanny’s works. He said that she was gifted. As others gave even more encouragement, Fanny knew that poetry would be her life’s work.
As a student, she had the opportunity to recite several poems to the United States Congress. John Quincy Adams and Jefferson Davis were two of the men present that day. Many of the men were moved to tears by Fanny’s poetry. This visit led to Fanny’s friendships with important men, including several presidents. Grover Cleveland, who had once worked at the Institute, was Fanny’s friend for over 50 years.
When Fanny was 24 and still in school, she published her first book, The Blind Girl and Other Poems. Some of her early poems were put to music. Fanny also helped to write what was probably the first cantata published in America.
After Fanny finished her education, she decided to stay at the institute as a teacher. She had become interested in Alexander VanAlstyne, another blind student who became a teacher. He was also a gifted musician. They taught together at the institute for many years as their friendship grew.
Although Fanny knew hundreds of scripture verses about Jesus, she did not become a true believer until she was 31 years old. When she heard the words of the song, Alas and Did My Savior Bleed, she fully realized Christ’s sacrifice and her need to have a personal relationship with him.
Alexander VanAlstyne asked Fanny to marry him when she was 37 years old. Their only child died as a baby. It may have been Fanny’s grief over the loss of her baby that led her to write the song Safe in the Arms of Jesus. The song has comforted thousands of grieving parents through the years.
Fanny Crosby is credited with writing over 8000 hymns and gospel songs. Publishers were hesitant to fill their hymnals with so many songs by the same person. Some of the songs were published under pen names—names Fanny used instead of her own name. She even composed the music to several of her hymns. Some of her most well-known titles are Blessed Assurance, To God Be the Glory, and I Am Thine, O Lord. Her hymns have been translated into more languages than any other hymn-writer’s work.
Fanny Crosby died at the age of 94. In her song, I Shall Know Him, Fanny wrote, “I want to see my Savior first of all.” When Fanny died and entered heaven, that desire became a reality.
This amazing woman never allowed her blindness to handicap her. She once said, “How in the world could I have lived such a helpful life as I have, were it not that I am blind? I am very well satisfied.”
— by Cheryl Reid
Bible 2 Life
Ephesians 5:19 says, “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.” Fanny Crosby devoted her life to the fulfillment of this verse and her words have been used to speak truth to the hearts of many. Are you stuck on what to pray? Open the Psalms in the Old Testament and pray through them a chapter at a time. Many hymns make good prayers as well.
In that Day
1822—The Graham cracker is developed in Bound Brook, New Jersey, by Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham; 1835—Hans Christian Andersen publishes his first book of fairy tales; 1845—The Naval School (later renamed the United States Naval Academy) opens; 1887—The first Groundhog Day is observed in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania; 1904—St. Louis hosts the World’s Fair.
In a day when many churches are letting go of hymns in favor of songs in the “praise and worship” genre, one college campus minister decided it was time to go back—by moving forward.
Kevin Twit is a campus minister with Reformed University Fellowship at Belmont University. He is also the founder of Indelible Grace Music. Indelible Grace is a movement of setting old hymn texts to new music. Over the past ten years, Indelible Grace has made six CDs, encouraging people to not lose the old hymn texts. Rather, the idea is to recover them and sing them, even in our own musical language today.
Mr. Twit recorded a rearrangement of Fanny Crosby’s “O Heart Bereaved and Lonely” on his CD, “Wake Thy Slumbering Children.” The song was set to new music by songwriter Chris Miner.
When asked what he thought younger kids should know about hymn singing, he says, “I would encourage them to think about the words of the songs they sing and be willing to ask someone what they mean if they are confusing. It is important for all of us to be reminded about the gospel in our songs, and not just tell God what we feel when we sing.”
1___ Fanny Crosby lost her sight when she was _________.
a) a baby, b) 8 years old, c) 24 years old
2___ When Fanny Crosby was 15 years old, she attended _________.
a) New Brunswick School for the Blind, b) New York Institute for the Blind, c) New York School for the Deaf and Blind
3___ Fanny Crosby is credited with writing over 8000 ___________.
a) poems and short stories, b) newspaper articles, c) hymns and songs
4 . . . . What led Fanny Crosby to write the song, Safe in the Arms of Jesus? Why is it still such a meaningful song for so many?