We have, in our Christian faith, those who have gone before us, those who have set forth example after example for we who make up the body of Christ in this current age. They are witnesses, who, by the testimony of their lives, have afforded to us footprints that we do well to follow in. The Church should never allow that their names are forgotten. They are “so great a cloud of witnesses.”
- “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance that race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1 – NKJV)
Francis Jane Crosby, better known to the Christian world as, Fanny Crosby, was born in Brewster, New York, on March 24th, 1820. There is so much to write about Fanny Crosby and this testimony is sure to fall far short of doing a proper justice to this great Christian lady.
Fanny was known as the “Queen of Gospel Song Writers.” It has been said that “She was one of the most prolific hymnists in history.” She was reported to have written more than 9,000 hymns, many of which are still sung in churches today. She was known during her lifetime as “an American mission worker, poet, lyricist, and composer.” She was also well known for her teaching and rescue mission work. It has also been said that, by the end of the 19th century, Fanny Crosby was a household name.
What makes all of this so very remarkable is that Fanny’s accomplishments all took place while being blind.
Blind, Almost from Birth
It happened within two months of her birth when Fanny was treated for an illness by a man “pretending to be a certified doctor.” He treated her by applying a solution to her eyes, which left her blind. She would never be able to see from that point on.
In a poem, Fanny wrote,
- “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 won’t!”
Her father passed away shortly after she was born, and her mother left to work as a maid to support them, Fanny raised by her Christian grandmother.
Fanny diligently worked at memorizing the Bible. As a child, she could recite the Pentateuch, the Gospels, Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, and psalms chapter and verse.
At the age of 15, her mother was able to send her to the New York Institute for the Blind. There Fanny lived for some 23 years, 12 as a student and 11 as a teacher.
Fanny “wrote her first poem” at age eight. She would write many, many more along the way along with a plethora of songs, including some 9,000 hymns. Her love for Christ was a deep and personal relationship type of love, one that spurred her constantly on in her service to the church.
She would remark,
- “It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me.”
Found in a recently published hymnal, still used in churches today, are sixteen of her hymns. Many of these hymns, at least to older church attendees, are known very well: Blessed Assurance, To God Be The Glory, Tell Me The Story Of Jesus, Rescue The Perishing (a hymn that became repeatedly used in the mission work of Dwight L. Moody), All The Way My Savior Leads Me, Near The Cross . . . and more. They are hymns with substance as Fanny Crosby intended them to be, hymns that I fear we are in danger of relegating to obscurity in churches today.
Fanny Crosby passed on to be with Jesus on February 12th, 1915. Her legacy is a giant one among the “great cloud of witnesses.” One that we in the church should never forget.
A well-meaning preacher once said of Fanny, “I think it is a great pity that the Master did not give you sight when he showered so many other gifts upon you.”
To this well-meaning preacher, Fanny replied, “Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I was born blind? Because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior.”
This writing only scratches the surface of Fanny Crosby’s 94 years on this earth. There is so much more. I encourage you to learn the “more” of this great Christian lady who has gone before us.
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