“Blessed Assurance” is the title of a hymn first published in 1873 which was composed by the multi-talented Fanny J. Crosby. It is still regularly sung in services across the denominational spectrum and has made it's way into numerous hymnals. She was one of the most prolific hymn composers in history, writing more than 8,000 hymns and gospel songs, despite being blind from shortly after birth. Aside from religious songs, she composed over 1000 folk songs, political anthems and a few Cantatas.
She was also known for her teaching and her rescue mission work, being associated with the Bowery Mission in New York for over thirty years. She was the first woman to speak in the United States Senate when she read a poem addressing the need for support for those who suffered from blindness. This was one of over a thousand poems she composed, many of which focused on nationalist or political themes.
On the first Sunday in November here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church we took as our theme “Thou art Worthy.” On Sunday 12 we welcome lay preacher Ledonia W. Kimball to our pulpit.
Sunday November 19 we'll be singing a Fanny J Crosby hymn, “Blessed Assurance,” as we conclude a series of sermons on Paul's first letter to the church in Thessalonica. Our focus that day will be 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, a passage that speaks a lot about the future blessings of those who trust in God and of a time when all things will be well.
It appears that teaching about the “Second Coming of Christ” had caused some in the church to give up trying to make things work out in the present. Because they were a church going through hard times, some took the attitude that they would just sit it out, waiting for Jesus to return and sort everything out.
Paul, while not denying that the “Day of the Lord” would arrive, reminds them that such an event would come unexpectedly and take everybody by complete surprise. He teaches them to make their priority encouraging each other in the faith and getting on with the task of a mission, not to hunker down and wait for God to declare “Game Over.”
The hymn, “Blessed Assurance” is firmly rooted in the vision of a future kingdom in which the reign of Christ is perfectly experienced. Crosby writes, “I in my Savior am happy and blest, Watching and waiting, looking above, Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.” If you examine the life that lay behind those words you will be well aware that this was no deceleration of escapism or a shield from life's troubles and challenges.
The chorus declares “This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long.” For Fanny Crosby that meant seeing every day as an opportunity for service and sharing the blessings of God's Kingdom with others. She lived to the grand old age of 94. Her family erected a very small tombstone at her request which carried the simple words: “Aunt Fanny: She hath done what she could.”
It truly is amazing what God can do through the lives of those who seek only to do God's will. May the lives of such faithful people inspire us to make God's love our own story and song!
As this recording from “Jeremy Riddle” demonstrates, the songs of Fanny Crosby such as “Blessed Assurance” are still being reinterpreted and sung today as songs of inspiration and blessing.
The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.