Hymn History: Safe in the Arms of Jesus April 13, 2022

safe in the arms

“The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them.”  – Deuteronomy 33:27

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 behind a comforting hymn, “Safe in the Arms of Jesus”.


Most hymns are written in the following order: words first, then music set to the words. This hymn was written in reverse order. On April 30, 1868, William Howard Doan, a composer and friend of Fanny Crosby’s knocked on her door.

He said, “Miss Fanny, I have exactly forty minutes before my train leaves for Cincinnati, and I must take that train.”

“Surely you know that this is not the train station,” said Fanny.

“I am on my way to Cincinnati to a Sunday school convention and I would like to take a new hymn with me,” Mr. Doan explained.

“You already have the tune, don’t you?” asked Fanny.

“How did you know?” said William.

“Woman’s intuition,” exclaimed Fanny.

“Would you listen to it and tell me what you think? I don’t have much time before I need to catch my train,” asked William.

William went to the piano in Fanny Crosby’s apartment and played the tune. Fanny told William that she had been thinking about a Bible verse all day.

Deuteronomy 33:27
“The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them.”

Mr. Doane consulted his watch. “Just thirty minutes left,” he said, somewhat impatiently.

She replied, “You will have your hymn.”

Fanny asked William to play the tune again as she thought about the Bible verse. Upon finishing, Fanny Crosby said    “Your music says ‘Safe in the arms of Jesus.’ What could be more appropriate for boys and girls at a Sunday School convention?” She went to her secretary, who lived with her, and quoted the lyrics to Safe in the Arms of Jesus . Mr. Doane played through the tune several other times, as Fanny continued to quote the words.

When she was through, she folded the sheet of paper, placed it in an envelope and handed it to her friend.

When she handed William the envelope, she could hear him tearing it open. “Don’t open it now. You said that you were in a hurry to catch a train. Open it on the train.”

He thanked her, said his “Goodbyes,” grabbed his hat and rushed for the carriage that was awaiting him in front of the house.

On the train, he opened the envelope, took out the piece of paper, and read what she had written to fit his music.

Safe in the Arms of Jesus was used often at funerals, especially children’s funerals. It was also popular to sing as a lullaby.  The song was played on August 8, 1885, when American President Ulysses S. Grant was buried. Few of Fanny Crosby’s over 8,000 hymns equaled in popularity as did Safe in the Arms of Jesus.


1. Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe on His gentle breast,
There by His love o’ershaded,
Sweetly my soul shall rest.
Hark! ’tis the voice of angels,
Borne in a song to me,
Over the fields of glory,
Over the jasper sea.

Refrain: Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe on His gentle breast,
There by His love o’ershaded,
Sweetly my soul shall rest.

2. Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe from corroding care,
Safe from the world’s temptations,
Sin cannot harm me there.
Free from the blight of sorrow,
Free from my doubts and fears;
Only a few more trials,
Only a few more tears. [Refrain]

3. Jesus, my heart’s dear refuge,
Jesus has died for me;
Firm on the Rock of Ages,
Ever my trust shall be.
Here let me wait with patience,
Wait till the night is o’er;
Wait till I see the morning
Break on the golden shore. [Refrain]

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  1. Raymond Ricard on April 13, 2022 at 9:26 AM

    Thank you for this blessing this morning ,
    What a wonderful grace to know the reality of this hymn in my day to day life.
    To our God all the glory and honour.

  2. Susie Hall on April 15, 2022 at 10:10 AM

    I enjoy reading why and how a song was written. It s amazing how many songs Fanny Crosby is associated with writing. How the Holy Spirit lead those writing the song which would bless believers for hundreds of years.

    Thank you for sharing, Scott

    • scottpauley on April 19, 2022 at 1:47 PM

      She was used of God in a special way!

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