Fanny J. Crosby

Frances Jane Van Alstyne, "Fanny Crosby", Hymnist
Born: March 24, 1820 in Southeast, New York
Died: February 12, 1915, buried in Bridgeport, Connecticut

Born to John and Mercy Crosby, as a baby Fanny lost her sight due to scarring; in 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 neighbourhood, and we never heard of him again."

John Crosby fell ill, and died just a few months later, and while Mercy worked as a maid, Fanny was raised by her grandmother, Eunice. She patiently taught Fanny the Bible, and the importance of prayer. When Fanny was discouraged that she wasn't like other children, she learned to pray and trust God to help her. At the age of only eight, she wrote this poem, displaying her healthy attitude toward her blindness:
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!
To weep or sigh because I'm blind, I cannot, and I won't.

Although "religious" from childhood, it was not until the age of thirty-one that she accepted Christ as her personal Saviour. One night she dreamed of a dying friend, who asked her "Will you meet me in heaven?" She began earnestly seeking for answers, and shortly thereafter, gives this account of November 20, 1850 :"I arose and went forward alone. After prayer the congregation began to sing the grand old consecration hymn of Dr. Isaac Watts: ("At the Cross/Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed?")...And when they reached the third line of the last verse: 'Here, Lord, I give myself away; 'Tis all that I can do.' I surrendered myself to the Saviour, and my very soul was flooded with celestial light."

On March 5, 1858, Fanny married Alexander van Alystyne, but wrote hymns using her maiden name and many other pen names. She wrote over 8,000 hymns by her own count, including such wonderful standards as "All the Way My Savior Leads Me", "Blessed Assurance", "Draw me Nearer", "He Hideth My Soul", "I Am Thine, O Lord", "Meet Me There", "My Savior First of All", "Near the Cross", "Pass Me Not, O Gentle Saviour", "Praise Him, Praise Him", "Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It", "Rescue the Perishing", "Safe in the Arms of Jesus", "Take the World, But Give Me Jesus", "Tell Me the Story of Jesus", and "To God Be the Glory".

William B. Bradbury, another famous hymnist, encouraged Fanny to write hymns. "I am surprised beyond measure," he said, "and as long as I have a publishing house, you will always have work." When he died, in 1868, his last words to her were, "Take up my life-work where I lay it down." At his funeral the frst hymn they worked on together was sung, "We Are Going":
We are going, we are going,
To a home beyond the skies,
Where the fields are robed in beauty,
And the sunlight never dies...

Many of Fanny's hymns were used by the evangelistic team of D.L. Moody and Ira D. Sankey. Mr. Sankey himself lost his sight towards the end of his life, and he often visited with Fanny. Fanny died at the age of 95, but always had a positive attitude towards her own blindness: "If I had a choice, I would still choose to remain blind...for when I die, the first face I will ever see will be the face of my blessed Saviour."
When my lifework is ended and I cross the swelling tide,
When the bright and glorious morning I shall see,

I shall know my Redeemer when I reach the other side,
And His smile will be the first to welcome me.

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