The hymns To God Be the Glory, Blessed Assurance, All the Way My Savior Leads Me, and He Hideth My Soul reminds us that it’s never too late to begin serving Christ. Some people start as children, others as teens or young adults. But Moses was 80 when God commissioned him, and Paul was middle-aged. So was Fanny Crosby, author of the above hymns.
Fanny was born in a cottage in South East, New York, in 1820. Six weeks later, she caught a cold in her eyes, and a visiting doctor prescribed mustard poultices, leaving her virtually blind for life. Growing into childhood, she determined to make the best of it, writing at age eight: O what a happy soul I am! / Although I cannot see, I am resolved that in this world contented I will be.
Fanny spent many years in New York’s Institution for the Blind, first as a student, then as a teacher and writer-in-residence. Her career flourished; her fame swelled. She recited her poems before Congress and became friends with the most powerful people in America, including presidents.
But not until 1851 did Fanny meet her greatest friend, the Lord Jesus. While attending a revival meeting at John Street Methodist Church in New York, she later recalled, a prayer was offered, and “they began to sing the grand old consecration hymn, ‘Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed?’ and when they reached the line, ‘Here, Lord, I give myself away,’ my very soul was flooded with celestial light.”
Fourteen years later she met the hymnist William Bradbury, who told her, “Fanny, I thank God we have met, for I think you can write hymns.” Bradbury suggested an idea for a song he needed, and on February 5, 1864, Fanny Crosby, seizing his idea, wrote: We are going, we are going / To a home beyond the skies / Where the fields are robed in beauty / And the sunlight never dies.
It was her first hymn, and she was 44. But by the time she reached her “home beyond the skies” 50 years later, she had written 8,000 more.
I will start playing my harps before the sun rises.
I will praise you, Lord, for everyone to hear;
I will sing hymns to you in every nation.
Your love reaches higher than the heavens,
And your loyalty extends beyond the clouds.
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day: 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Feb. 5.
ALSO ON THIS DAY
1812 – Rev. Jonathan Allen preaches a sermon in Haverhill, Massachusetts, “on the occasion of the young ladies about to embark as wives of Rev. Messieurs Judson and Newell, going Missionaries to India,” “ordaining” Harriet Atwood and Ann Hasseltine as assistant missionaries.
1835 – Twelve American Congregationalist missionaries first see Africa from the deck of a ship through a mist. Among them is Daniel Lindley who will win renown educating Africans and pleading with the Dutch-descended Boers to ease their inflexible racism.