"Oh, what a happy soul I am, although I cannot see! I am resolved that in this world contented I will be. --Fanny Crosby
If asked to name the "King of Rock and Roll", many would say Elvis Presley; or, if asked to name the "Sultan of Swat", Babe Ruth might come to mind. As they and others are well-known with special recognition, so is Fanny Crosby--she is known as the "Queen of Gospel Song Writers".
Once a well-meaning preacher said to Fanny Crosby, "I think it is a great pity that the Master did not give you sight when he showered so many other gifts upon you." She responded, "...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."
Frances (Fanny) Jane Crosby (1820-1915) wrote more than 8,000 hymns and gospel songs, some of which are among the most popular hymns that have been and are still sung today in every Christian denomination. It has been said that she wrote so many hymns she was forced to use up to 200 pen names, as publishers were hesitant to have so many hymns by one person in their hymnals. That most remarkable thing about her was that she accomplished this in spite of her blindness!
Born in New York, Fanny was only about eight weeks old when she came down with a serious eye inflammation. The family doctor was away, and another doctor treated her by prescribing hot mustard poultices to be applied to her eyes. Eventually the infection was cured, but baby Fanny was found to be blind. Though the resulting blindness could have been caused by the poultice treatments, it is also possible little Fanny had a congenital condition from birth.
A few months later Fanny's father died, and her mother was forced to find work as a maid to support the family. As a result, Fanny was mostly raised by her Christian grandmother.
Fanny's love of poetry began early; her first verses were written at age eight. She had a prodigious ability to memorize. Sometimes she would memorize five chapters of the Bible each week. Even as a young child she could recite the verses of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament), the Gospels, Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, and many of the Psalms.
Shortly before her fifteenth birthday Fanny Crosby was sent to the newly founded New York Institute of the Blind. By age 23, she was addressing Congress and making friendships with Presidents. In fact, she knew all of the Chief Executives in her lifetime, especially Grover Cleveland. He had served as secretary for the Institute for the Blind before his election.
Crosby herself put music to only a few of her poems, though she played the harp, piano, guitar, and other instruments. Musicians often came to her for lyrics. One day a musician dropped by her home and begged her to put some words to a tune he had recently written. He was to perform the piece at the upcoming Sunday School convention. The only problem was that his train to the convention was leaving in the next 35 minutes! He sat down at the piano and played the tun for Fanny.
Fanny scribbled out words for the hymn. Then she told the musician, "Read it on the train and hurry. You don't want to be late!" The hymn became one of Crosby's most famous--Safe in the Arms of Jesus.
In addition to her poems and music Fanny Crosby was often asked to give speeches. She could have been a wealthy woman, but she gave her money to the poor almost as fast as she earned it. In later life she worked in rescue missions and lived among the poor.
In one of GOD'S OTHER WAYS He has enriched many lives through the unique gift given to Fanny Crosby. He continues to do so as we sing the lyrics, even today, of our favorites from the thousands of hymns that Fanny wrote, like Blessed Assurance. Other lyrics you may recognize are in these hymns: JESUS IS CALLING TO GOD BE THE GLORY PRAISE HIM, PRAISE HIM! ALL THE WAY, MY SAVIOR
Once I was blind but now I see. John 9:25