Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”  – Hebrews 10:22

We are thrilled to share a series of brief accounts of how some of the great hymns of our faith were written. Each synopsis has been compiled through the research of Jerry Vargo and is shared by permission. It is our hope that these stories will be a help and encouragement to your Christian walk. This week we read the story of an amazing hymn writer and the mighty hymn, “Blessed Assurance.”

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People who hold life insurance policies from the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company of New York probably do not know about the founder of the company, Joseph Knapp. However, many Christians know the name of his wife, Phoebe Knapp, who composed music for over 500 hymns.

Phoebe Knapp was the daughter of the Evangelist Dr. Walter Palmer and was raised in a Christian home. She displayed a talent for music early in her life. When she married Joseph Knapp, he had a pipe organ installed in their mansion – the largest pipe organ ever installed in a private residence at that time.

The Knapps worshiped at the John Street Methodist Church, in lower Manhattan; this is where Fanny Crosby also worshiped — and so a friendship was born. Phoebe, the wealthy matron, often invited Fanny, the blind hymn writer, to her palatial home.

Blind for all of her life, Fanny Crosby is greatest hymn writer in the history of the Christian Church. She saw over 8,500 poems set to music and over 100,000,000 copies of her songs printed. To show her humility, as many as 150 different pen names were used by her so the public wouldn’t know she wrote so large a number of them. She produced as many as seven hymn-poems in one day. On several occasions, upon hearing an unfamiliar hymn sung, she would inquire about the author, and find it to be one of her own!

Born in a one-story cottage, her father, John, was never to be remembered by Fanny for he died in her twelfth month. When Fanny was six weeks old, she caught a slight cold in her eyes. The family physician was away. Another country doctor was called in to treat her. He prescribed hot mustard plasters to be applied to her eyes, which destroyed her sight completely!  It was later learned that the man was not qualified to practice medicine, but he had left town and was never heard of again. Fanny never felt any resentment against him, but believed it was permitted by the Lord to fulfill His plan for her life. A wise mother set about immediately to prepare her daughter for a happy life, in spite of this great handicap.

Surprisingly, at the age of seven, she wrote her first recorded poetry:

“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!”

Around nine years of age, the family moved to Ridgefield, Connecticut, where she was to stay until age 15. Mother was kind, but busy making a living for both of them, so it was Grandmother who became an unforgettable influence in her life. Grandmother spent many hours describing the things of nature and heaven to her. Her Grandmother told her that she would not get an education like other children, so she would need to remember as much as she could of anything she heard. Also, she introduced Fanny to the Bible and this book now became more familiar to her than any other. She began to devour the scriptures. It is said, that as a young lady, she could repeat from memory Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, the book of Ruth, many of the Psalms, the books of Proverbs, Song of Solomon, and much of the New Testament! This furnished the themes, inspiration, and diction for her imperishable gospel hymns.

Her amazing memory was attributed to her Grandmother. Fanny could not write, although she did learn how to sign her name. She could not read Braille because the tips of her fingers were so calloused from playing the guitar and harp. There was one occasion when Fanny had over 40 hymns in her memory before she could get to someone who could write them down for her. For her living expenses, she was under a contract to write three hymns per week at the rate of $2.00 per hymn. In order to accomplish this, the publishers hired a secretary to live with Fanny and write down all of the hymns that came to her mind.

Back to the story of the hymn Blessed Assurance:

One day Phoebe Knapp went to visit Fanny Crosby in her humble apartment. Phoebe had written a tune, but had no words for it. Fanny relayed this incident in her autobiography:

“My friend, Mrs. Knapp, composed a melody, and played it over to me two or three times on the piano in my apartment. She then asked me what it said, and I immediately replied, ‘Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine!’”

Within a few minutes of having heard the tune, Fanny had effortlessly quoted three verses and a chorus to her secretary who wrote them down and gave them to Mrs. Knapp. The song was written in 1873, and remains a favorite among Christians everywhere. Fanny Crosby passed from this life in 1915 at the age of 95.

1. Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood

Refrain:
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

2. Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels, descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love. [Refrain]

3. 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. [Refrain]

Enjoying the Journey

Enjoying the Journey exists to evangelize the lost with the gospel of Jesus Christ, encourage pastors and local churches, and equip believers to walk with God and serve Him each day. Through audio, video, and print resources we are seeking to preach the gospel, teach the Word of God, and reach this generation for Christ.

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