Songwriter Fanny Jane Crosby was born of humble parents at Southeast, New York, on March 24, 1823. She was blinded at the age of six weeks by improper medical treatment. She was educated in the New York School for The Blind and was a member of St. John’s Methodist Episcopal Church in New York City. She taught in the school for the blind from 1847 to 1858, when she married a blind musician, Alexander Van Alstyne.
Fanny Crosby showed her talent for poetry early in life. When she was eight years old she wrote:
Oh, 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.
Most of Fanny Crosby’s early poems were of a secular type. One of her popular songs, “Rosalie The Prairie Flower,” brought her about $3,000 in royalties, which was quite a sum in those days. She began to write gospel song lyrics in her early forties, often taking her themes from preachers who asked for a song with a certain message, but sometimes writing lyrics from the inspiration of circumstances, and sometimes writing lyrics inspired by tunes musicians brought to her. Her song, “All The Way My Savior Leads Me” was inspired by an unexpected gift of $5.00 at a time when she desperately needed it and had prayed for help. When Phoebe Knapp shared a tune with Fanny Crosby and then asked the blind poet, “What does this tune say?” Crosby immediately replied, “Why, that says: ‘Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine.”
Other songs by Fanny Crosby that Christians still sing include, “Rescue The Perishing,” “To God Be The Glory,” Praise Him, Praise Him,” “Jesus Keep Me Near The Cross,” and many others. Before she died at the age of 95 she wrote lyrics for more than 8,000 gospel songs, and is probably the most sung author of Christian hymns in the English language.
A Crosby trademark in the vast majority of those hymns, if not every one, is some allusion to sight, such as “But purer and higher, and greater will be our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see” in “To God Be The Glory,” or “visions of rapture now burst on my sight” in “Blessed Assurance.”
At one time a well-meaning Scottish preacher remarked to Fanny, “I think it is a great pity that the Master, when He showered so many gifts upon you, did not give you sight.”
Fanny promptly replied, “Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition to my Creator, it would have been that I should be born blind?”
“Why?” asked the surprised preacher.
“Because, when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior.” She seemed to believe Paul’s statement that “we live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7)
Fanny Crosby’s songs have inspired and encouraged many, and knowing something of her circumstances and her attitude toward them as one who believed in Christ should inspire us as well. Paul wrote, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:12-13 NIV). Regarding challenges, difficulties, and dangers of all kinds he also wrote, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Rom 8:37 NIV) Whatever we are, whatever talent(s) or weaknesses we may have, Christ is the key to coping, and winning. Followers of Christ should have the bold confidence that says,
Savior more than life to me, I am clinging close to thee;
Let Thy precious blood applied keep me ever near Thy side.
Let my love Thee more and more, till this fleeting life is o’er;
Till my soul is lost in love, in a brighter world above.
Every day, every hour, let me feel Thy cleansing power,
May Thy tender love to me bind me closer Lord to Thee.