It would have taken more than the loss of eyesight to render defeat to a courageous soul such as Fanny Crosby.
Crosby was a notable giant as a hymn writer. She penned more than 8,000 Christian songs during her lifetime, which spanned nearly a century. She died in her 95th year, and almost all of her life was spent in blindness.
She was born Frances Jane Crosby in Putnam County, New York, on March 24, 1820. A doctor, with a lack of proper medical knowledge, applied a mustard plaster poultice to her eyes when she was only 6 weeks old, robbing her of her sight. Even so, she was courageous and extremely industrious.
She often said, “I have a jewel — content.” When she was only 8 years of age, she wrote the following:
“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.”
During her 15th year, she entered the New York Institute for the Blind. She made such an impressive record that after graduation she was asked to teach at the Institute. And she did so for 11 years. She told S. Trevena Jackson her little “love story,” which he recorded in “Fanny Crosby’s Story of Ninety-Four Years,” published by Fleming H. Revell, in 1915.
“Some people seem to forget that blind girls have just as great a faculty for loving, and do love just as much and just as truly as those who have their sight. When I was about 20 a gifted young man by the name of Alexander Van Alstyne came to our Institute. He was also blind and a musician. We soon became very much concerned for each other… I placed my right hand on his left and called him “Van.” From that hour, two lives looked on a new universe, for love met love, and all the world was changed. On March the fifth in the year 1858, we were united in marriage.
“I became a mother and knew a mother’s love, but the angels came down and took our infant up to God and His throne.”
One day in 1873, Aunt Fanny, as she was affectionately called, was visiting with a friend, Mrs. Joseph Knapp, a musician of sorts. During their visit, Mrs. Knapp played a tune she had recently written on the piano. She then asked Fanny, “What does this tune say?”
After kneeling in prayer for a few moments, Fanny rose and declared, “It says, ‘Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!’” Aunt Fanny began to dictate verses to Mrs. Knapp who wrote them down, fitting them to the melody just as we hear it sung today.
“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God.
Born of his spirit, washed in his blood.
“This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my savior, all the day long,
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long.”
Fanny Crosby died Feb. 12, 1915.
“Every day will I bless thee; and I will praise thy name for ever and ever.” Psalm 145:2
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