As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” – Psalm 17:15

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 full and powerful story behind the stirring hymn, “My Savior First of All.”

The words to this song were written by Fanny Crosby at the age of 71 in response to a statement by a minister that it was a pity God did not give her sight.

Blind for all of her life, Fanny Crosby, is considered by many the 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; 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, and he had left town and was never heard of again after treating little baby Fanny. 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 eight, she wrote her first recorded poetry:

0 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!

With this in mind, here is the story of the hymn My Savior First of All:

In Western New York state, near Lake Erie, there is a Christian camp called Camp Chataqua.  For many years there were week-long Bible Conferences held on the property. Fanny Crosby took part in these conferences at least one week per year. It was always a special week when Fanny Crosby would attend because people could get acquainted with her personally.

One such week at Camp Chataqua when Fanny Crosby was there she met Pastor John Sweney from New York, who was a hymn writer and composer of music.   Fanny was sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch of the hotel on a hot summer evening.  John introduced himself to her and asked if he could sit with her for a while.  Fanny agreed and the two found common ground because both of them were interested in hymn writing.

Fanny said to John, “Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition to my Creator, it would have been that I should be born blind?”

John asked, “Why?”

 Fanny Crosby responded, “Because, when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior.”

John said, “Fanny, you have been blind all of your life. Since you have never seen anyone, when you get to Heaven, how will you know who Jesus is?”

“That’s easy”, said Fanny. “I will just walk all over heaven and ask people if I may see their hands. When I see Jesus’ nail prints in His hands, I will know who He is.”

“That is a tremendous thought. Could you put those thoughts into a poem so I may write some music that fits them?” asked John.

“It is late and I am tired. I am going to go to my room to rest. I will talk with you in the morning.” replied Fanny.

The next day John saw Fanny in the dining room and asked her if she had given any thought to his request. Fanny handed John a piece of paper with the words that her secretary had recorded for her.

Thus, the hymn My Savior First of All was written.

1. When my life work 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. (Refrain)

(Refrain) I shall know Him, I shall know Him,
And redeemed by His side I shall stand,
I shall know Him, I shall know Him,
By the print of the nails in His hand.

2. Oh, the soul thrilling rapture when I view His blessèd face,
And the luster of His kindly beaming eye;
How my full heart will praise Him for the mercy, love and grace,
That prepare for me a mansion in the sky. (Refrain)

3. Oh, the dear ones in glory, how they beckon me to come,
And our parting at the river I recall;
To the sweet vales of Eden they will sing my welcome home;
But I long to meet my Savior first of all. (Refrain)

4. Through the gates to the city in a robe of spotless white,
He will lead me where no tears will ever fall;
In the glad song of ages I shall mingle with delight;
But I long to meet my Savior first of all. (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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