Thursday, March 22, 2012

This Is Her Story

Take the world, but give me Jesus, All its joys are but a name;
But His love abideth ever, Through eternal years the same.

(Refrain) Oh, the height and depth of mercy! Oh, the length and breadth of love!
Oh, the fullness of redemption, Pledge of endless life above!

Take the world, but give me Jesus, Sweetest comfort of my soul;
With my Savior watching o’er me, I can sing though billows roll.

Take the world, but give me Jesus, Let me view His constant smile;
Then throughout my pilgrim journey Light will cheer me all the while.

Take the world, but give me Jesus. In His cross my trust shall be,
Till, with clearer, brighter vision, Face to face my Lord I see.

Although I've learned and read all about Fanny Crosby before, I was probably 11 or 12 at the time, and ten years is plenty of time enough for knowledge to decay (though not for Ms. Crosby, as we'll see later this week), so I reviewed just a bit for this week and even learned a few new things to share.

So, you already know that she was born on March 24, 1820, and that some time between 6 and 8 weeks of age, she contracted an illness, the remedy of which caused her blindness. A few months later her father died, so she was raised mainly by her grandmother, who was the primary instrument in training Fanny in and instilling a love for the Scriptures.

Here from the world we turn, Jesus to seek;
Here may His loving voice tenderly speak!
Jesus, our dearest Friend, while at Thy feet we bend,
O let Thy smile descend! ’Tis Thee we seek.

Come, holy Comforter, Presence divine,
Now in our longing hearts graciously shine;
O for Thy mighty power! O for a blessed shower,
Filling this hallowed hour with joy divine!

Savior, Thy work revive; here may we see
Those who are dead in sin quickened by Thee;
Come to our hearts tonight, make every burden light;
Cheer Thou our waiting sight; we long for Thee.

Fanny spent much of her young adult years as a student and later teacher at the New York Institute for the Blind, where her passion for poetry was ignited. By age 23 she was already a well known poetess, and was an acquaintance or friend with every U.S. President in office during her lifetime. But Fanny didn't let any of this go to her head, but remained a humble, simple lady, ever adoring the One who reigns in heaven, as is expressed in this hymn, appropriately sung to the tune "My Country 'Tis of Thee":

Anthems to God above,
Source of eternal love,
Now let us sing!
Praise our Creator’s Name,
Come as our fathers came,
Hail, and with loud acclaim,
Our God and King!

Thanks for our favored land,
By His almighty hand
Guarded from ill;
Thanks for the dew and rain,
Broad field and sunny plain,
Where stores of fruit and grain
Our garners fill.

Thanks for our banner bright,
Spangled with starry light,
Boast of the free;
Signal to those oppressed,
Honored, revered and blest,
Waving its noble crest,
O’er land and sea.

Lord, from Thy throne on high,
Bend Thine approving eye
O’er us, we pray.
This be our one desire:
Faith, love and zeal inspire,
Light with devotion’s fire
Our souls today.

One of the little known and more surprising facts about Fanny Crosby is that her name isn't exactly Fanny Crosby. Yes, she was born Frances Jane Crosby, and died "Aunt Fanny", but she also lived for a time as Fanny van Alstine. The reason for this is her marriage to Alexander van Alstine in 1858, who was 11 years her junior, and wrote many tunes for Fanny's hymns. She gave birth to their only child in 1859, but sadly it died soon after. She rarely spoke of this tragic event, and even then only in short, hesitant sentences which faded into silence.

Pray on, pray on, O trusting heart, Let not thy courage fail;
But take thy Savior at His word, And know thou shalt prevail.

(Refrain) Tho’ the cross is hard to bear, There is balm in secret prayer;
Go and tell thy sorrows there, And leave it all with Jesus.

What tho’ thy prayers thro’ many tears May reach His throne on high;
He knows the anguish of thy heart, And will not pass thee by.

Perhaps in some desponding hour, When hope has well nigh past,
The light will burst upon thy soul, And joy be thine at last.

Pray on, pray on, O weary not, Whate’er thy trial be;
But lean thy faith on Him Who said, “It shall be well with thee.”

Sadly, this was not her only painful time as a van Alstine. For whatever reason, Alexander and Fanny slowly began to drift apart, engaging in very different social circles, and eventually set up separate homes, though still remaining in contact as good friends. I find this fact very sad and puzzling. From what I read, it was not clear the why or how behind this circumstance, just that it happened. I also do not know if she went back to being called by her maiden name, or if it came about because of the popularity of her earlier hymns.

When Fanny was not writing hymns, she was fulfilling her second life calling, that of caring and ministering to "her boys": trainmen, drunks, drug addicts, and outcasts, giving lectures and telling them of the love and pardon that awaited those who would believe.

Come to the fountain of mercy and live, Come, and a pardon receive;
Drink of the water that Jesus will give, Freely to those that believe;
Weary and burdened with sorrow, Sweet is the message to thee,
Learn of the meek and the lowly, Come, heavy laden to Me.

(Refrain) Come to the clear flowing river, Drink of its waters forever,
Hungry and thirsty, O! never, Blessed are they that believe!

The last 15 of her nearly 95 years were spent in Connecticut with her half-sisters who encouraged her to move closer after falling ill with bronchial pneumonia. But even there in her 80s, she continued to actively serve and teach in the community.

On the evening of February 11,1915, her niece recorded her last words:

"In the morn of Zion's glory, when the clouds have rolled away,
And my hope has dropped its anchor in the vale of perfect day,
When with all the pure and holy I shall strike my harp anew,
With a power no arm can sever, love will hold me fast and true."

Early the next morning she awoke "safe in the arms of Jesus". Her tombstone reads "Aunt Fanny" and "Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine. Oh what a foretaste of glory divine."

She wrote so many hymns on heaven that I wanted to close with that it was hard to choose from, so I'm including verses from several different ones instead.

When our eyes behold the city, with its many mansions bright,
And its river, calm and restful, flowing free;
When the friends that death hath parted shall in bliss again unite,
What a gath’ring and a greeting there will be!
("What A Gathering")

Safe in the arms of Jesus, safe on His gentle breast,
There by His love o’ershaded, sweetly my soul shall rest.
Hark! ’tis the voice of angels, borne in a song to me.
Over the fields of glory, over the jasper sea.
("Safe in the Arms of Jesus")

’Tis a blessed hope, and it cheers my soul, I shall rest by and by over Jordan;
When my work is done and my crown is won, I shall rest, sweetly rest over Jordan.

(Refrain) Over Jordan, over Jordan, I shall rest Sweetly rest by and by;
’Tis a precious hope, ’tis a blessed hope, I shall rest, sweetly rest over Jordan.

’Tis a blessed hope which my Savior gives, I shall rest by and by over Jordan;
I shall see Him there in His mansion fair, When I rest, sweetly rest over Jordan.
("Rest Over Jordan")

Over the river my loved ones have passed, Over the beautiful river;
Safe in the mansions of glory at last, Now they are watching for me.

(Refrain) Watching today, Watching today;
Loved ones are waiting, Are waiting my coming today.
("Over the Beautiful River")

I have climbed the rugged mountain, On its summit now I stand;
Hallelujah! hallelujah! I have entered Beulah land.
("I Have Entered Beulah Land")

Oh, the soul thrilling rapture when I view His blessed face,
And the luster of His kindly beaming eye;
How my full heart will praise Him for the mercy, love and grace,
That prepare for me a mansion in the sky.

Our youth is transient like a flower, That blooms, and fades, and dies;
Our life is but a summer cloud, And like a shadow flies;
Then let us heed the warning voice—Today its call we hear,
It speaks in deep and solemn tones, That come from yonder bier.

The angel messenger of death, Has gently borne away,
A dear companion from our side, To realms of endless day;
Her voice no more will join with ours The song of praise below,
It wakes a purer, sweeter strain, Where only pleasures flow.

When gathered on the Sabbath morn, Her vacant place we view,
We’ll think how bright the world she treads, And in her steps pursue;
Be still, let every heart be still, And all our sorrow quell,
We’ll bow submissive to His will, Who doeth all things well.
("No Tears In Heaven")

I shall know Him, I shall know Him, And redeemed by His side I shall stand,
I shall know Him, I shall know Him, By the print of the nails in His hand.
("My Savior First of All")

No comments:

Post a Comment