I just love the hymns.
While I have nothing against a new worship song, there is something so rich and wonderful about a hymn. Oftentimes, the lyrics are straight from scripture and are filled with deep truth. I know some may find them “old-fashioned” but, as far as I’m concerned, the Bible will never be “old-fashioned” and neither will a hymn. To kick things off, I wanted to explore my most favorite hymn – Blessed Assurance.
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.Philippians 1:21 ESV
Blessed Assurance was written in 1873 by Fanny Crosby, a hymn writer, who happened to be blind. There is no deep and tragic story that accompanies this hymn, as some do have, but this was a moment when Fanny was visiting her friend Phoebe Knapp. Phoebe played a melody on her piano and asked Fanny what she heard.
“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.”
How beautiful are those words? So matter of fact, so simple and yet drenched in Biblical truth.
While I want to focus on what this hymn says, I thought it just as intriguing to learn more about Fanny. What I learned was a treasure trove of a woman who loved the Lord and for to live “is Christ, and to die is gain.” While she was still an infant, she was diagnosed as blind due to an illness that caused inflammation of her eyes. Doctors thought she may have already been born blind but nobody knows for sure. Her father passed away when she was just six months old and was raised by her mother and paternal grandmother. These two women would become integral in her spiritual growth and Christian faith. At the age of eight she wrote her first poem that described her sight condition.
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.”Fanny Crosby
Through out Fanny’s growing up, she was surrounded by women who continually pointed her toward Jesus. By the age of 10, with the encouragement of her grandmother, she had memorized all four gospels, the Pentateuch, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, and many of the Psalms. She learned to play the piano, organ, harp, and guitar, and became a good soprano singer.
After college, Fanny joined a group of lobbyists in Washington D.C. to advocate support for the blind. She was the first woman to speak in the U.S. Senate when she read a poem. While still advocating for the blind, she became an instructor at the New York Institute for the Blind. While there, she befriended future president Grover Cleveland who would dictate some of her poems.
Throughout her Christian faith she was very active in her church as a missionary, deaconess, lay preacher and she wrote hymns with her minister Robert Lowry. From May to November of 1849, Fanny helped care the sick during the cholera epidemic in New York City. One person noted that Fanny seemed to become worn and languid and even depressed. According to Bernard Ruffin: “In this atmosphere of death and gloom, Fanny became increasingly introspective over her soul’s welfare. She began to realize that something was lacking in her spiritual life. She knew she had gotten wrapped up in social, political, and educational reform, and did not have a true love for God in her heart.”
Wow! As I write this, we are still in a pandemic. While my faith is as strong as ever, I can so relate to getting wrapped up on societal and political issues and lose site of that foundational faith. It is so easy to do!
So, Fanny did what many of us do, she searched for a church. She actually attended several and was a fellow traveler of the Wesleyan holiness movement where she met Phoebe Knapp who is the composer of Blessed Assurance.
There is so much more to Fanny’s story that I could just write about her but, as the title of this post indicates, this is about her hymn Blessed Assurance. Knowing about her though definitely helps set up the background for this hymn. When I sing a hymn or worship song, a goal of mine is to pay attention the words. It’s not just a melody. The words we sing should be truth, reflect scripture and honor the Lord. In many ways, we are singing a prayer to the Lord and I don’t want to just be frivolous with my words. I’m just going to go the one reference that is unwavering and filled with truth – the Bible. With each portion of the song, I will share scripture to support.
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine; o what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God, born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
Hebrews 10:19-23 ESV
Perfect submission, perfect delight, visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending, bring from above echoes of mercy, whispers of love.
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
Revelation 7:9-12 ESV
Perfect submission, all is at rest, I in my Savior am happy and blest;
Watching and waiting, looking above, filled with His goodness, lost in His love.
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh,
My adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall.
Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.
One thing I ask of the LORD, that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in His temple.
For He is my shelter in the day of trouble;
He will conceal me under the cover of His tent;
He will lift me high upon a rock….
….I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!
Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!
Psalm 27:1-5 and 13-14 ESV
My Gift To You
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