Every time I sing the old hymn “Blessed Assurance,” I feel as though Fanny Crosby is right there singing it along with me from the heavenly choir, mentoring me in the Spirit through her words, inspired by her love for Jesus. For those of you who might not know, Frances (Fanny) Crosby was a 19th century blind poet, hymnwriter, and mission worker who wrote thousands of hymns, and even penned poems for several presidents.
Although Fanny certainly had her faults, a difficult marriage, and the tragic loss of an infant daughter, she was a woman who enjoyed intimate fellowship with Jesus as God, Savior and Friend. This song and others she wrote, such as “Draw Me Nearer” and “To God Be the Glory” are filled with the depths and heights of worship. She spent time in the throne room, even while here on earth, basking in the Presence of Jesus, the King of Kings.
Fanny was friends with famous 19th century Methodist evangelists Dr. Walter and Phoebe Palmer, and their daughter Phoebe Palmer Knapp, who was a composer. She had written a tune in 1873 that she played for Fanny. Fanny had already composed these words of “Blessed Assurance” and they fit perfectly together. I invite you to sing and meditate on these words:
“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine;
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!”
Fanny not only had received Jesus Christ as her Savior, but she had received the blessed assurance of her salvation that the old time Methodists (and Puritans) talked about—the witness of the Spirit—like John Wesley experienced when his “heart was strangely warmed,” and he knew in his heart of hearts that he trusted Christ. Later Methodists like John Fletcher and Phoebe Palmer called it the baptism in the Spirit.
As Fanny meditated on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, she was inspired to write of that assurance which was revealed to her as a “foretaste of glory divine”:
“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).
Fanny then put to poetry the rich theology of Paul’s letter, summing up the great truths of being born again by the Holy Spirit, redeemed and cleansed by blood of Jesus, and now heirs of a royal inheritance through Christ:
“Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.”
But no, there’s more: “Perfect submission, perfect delight,. . .”
Fanny had experienced the wonderful truth of perfect submission to God bursting forth into perfect delight. Her next words is utterly amazing when you realize that Fanny is blind:
“Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.“
As Fanny’s biographer, Edith Blumhoffer, put it, “She sees with her heart.” Jesus, when He healed the blind man, spoke of the Pharisees, who though they could see were really blind. Here is a woman who is blind, but who really sees. Fanny may have missed out on physical joys of sight, but how many of us have had visions of rapture burst on our sight? How many of us have seen angels descending?
Even though blind, Fanny had dreams and visions, mystical experiences from God. I wondered how a blind person could experience dreams and visions until I pastored Arise Christian Fellowship, where one of our members was blind. She told me about dreams and visions in her mind. I dedicate this blog to her—Debbie Morgan.
“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.”
These old saints of the faith like Fanny talked about “the rest of faith,” not struggling to believe, but having such trust in God and submission to His care, that they could rest without fear or anxiety. Charles Spurgeon explains, “Faith is the giving up of self-reliance and independence and the resting of the soul upon Him. . . . He that believes shall be quiet, calm, collected, assured, confident.”
Fanny writes, “I IN my Savior am happy and blest.” This is also one of the repeated themes in Ephesians, being “IN Christ.” As long as we are abiding in Christ, we are at rest and are happy and blest. But Fanny also knew from experience that when we step out of our position in Christ, or forget our position in Christ, fear and anxiety and turmoil overwhelm us.
But as long as we keep watching, fixing our eyes on Jesus and are patiently waiting on Him, we are filled with His goodness and are lost in His love. What rich, deep, yet practical, theology set to poetic verse, coming from Fanny’s heart out of her intimate fellowship with Jesus, even through the tough times of life.
I pray that you may experience that assurance, that rest, that peace and love and joy in Jesus.