I have heard, “Next to the Bible, the most important book to own is the Hymn Book.”
Fannie Crosby was a hymn writer who authored more than 8000 hymns. She wrote so many hymns that she used pen names, so her name would not fill the entire hymn book above other names.
Fannie Crosby was not born blind. These are her words: “When I was six weeks old, a slight cold caused inflammation of the eyes. Our usual doctor was away from home, so a stranger was called in. He recommended the use of hot poultices, which practically destroyed my sight. When this sad calamity became known, the unfortunate man thought it best to leave the neighborhood, and we never heard of him again.”
A few months after Fanny became blind, her dad died of an illness. Mercy Crosby, widowed at 21, hired herself out as a maid while Grandmother Eunice Crosby took care of little Fanny. Grandmother became an unforgettable, incredible influence on Fanny’s life.
Fanny’s grandmother took on the education of Fanny herself and became her eyes, vividly describing the physical world to Fanny. Grandmother’s careful teaching helped develop Fanny’s descriptive abilities. Grandmother read the Bible to Fanny, explaining it to her, emphasizing the importance of prayer. When Fanny became depressed because she couldn’t learn as other children did, Grandmother taught her to pray to God for knowledge and wisdom.
At eight years of age, Fannie composed this little verse:
Oh, what a happy child 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!
So weep or sigh because I’m blind, I cannot – nor I won’t.
A landlady of the Crosby’s also had an important role in Fanny’s development. Mrs. Hawley helped Fanny memorize the Bible, and often the young girl memorized five chapters a week. She knew the Pentateuch, the Gospels, Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, and many of the Psalms by heart. She developed a memory which amazed others.
In 1834, Fanny learned of the New York Institute for the Blind and knew this was the answer to her prayer for an education. She entered the school when she was twelve and went on to teach there for twenty-three years.
Romance came into the life of Fanny Crosby and she fell in love with another blind student named, Alexander VanAlstyne, who became a professor. On March 5, 1858, they were married. He was a musician and considered one of the finest organists in the New York area. Fanny was an excellent harpist, played the piano, and had a lovely soprano voice. They had one child, who went to be with the Lord as a baby.
Fanny started devoting her time to writing hymns. She would sometimes write 7 hymns a day. Whenever Fanny wrote a hymn, she prayed God would use it to lead many souls to Him. “It may seem a little old-fashioned, always to begin one’s work with prayer, but I never undertake a hymn without first asking the good Lord to be my inspiration.”
In her own day, the evangelistic team of D. L. Moody and Ira Sankey effectively brought Fanny Crosby’s hymns to the people. Today, many of her hymns continue to draw souls to her Saviour for both salvation and comfort: “Blessed Assurance,” “To God Be the Glory,” “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior,” “Safe in the Arms of Jesus,” “Rescue the Perishing,” “Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross,” “I Am Thine, O Lord,” “All the Way My Savior Leads Me,” and many more.
At 90, Fanny Crosby declared, “My love for the Holy Bible and its sacred truth is stronger and more precious to me at ninety than at nineteen.”
Asked about her long years, she said, “My secret to longevity is that I guard my taste, my temper and my tongue.”
“Don’t waste any sympathy on me. I am the happiest person living. How in the world could I have lived such a helpful life as I have lived if I had not been blind? I verily believe that God intended that I should live my days in physical darkness so that I might be better prepared to sing His praise and lead others from spiritual darkness into eternal light. With sight, I would have been too distracted to have written thousands of hymns.” (March 24, 1820 – February 12, 1915)
Have we taught our children about Fanny Crosby? Fanny is a heroine of faith, an inspiration to us all and a person we should know! Don’t you agree?