Friday, November 03, 2017
Fanny Crosby's November Experience by Rose McCormick Brandon
Times of seeking God often precede a moment of revelation that transforms our lives. Blind poetess and prolific hymn writer, Fanny Crosby, had such an experience. Fanny had become the star of the first Institute for the Blind in New York City where she was educated and later taught. She recited her poetry before presidents and had her work published in newspapers and books. One biographer wrote, “As Johann Strauss reigned in Vienna as the Waltz King and John Phillip Sousa in Washington as the March King, so Fanny Crosby reigned in New York in the later nineteenth and early twentieth century as the Hymn Queen.”
Methodist class meetings, with their lively singing and warm atmosphere were attracting many New Yorkers who longed for more than religious formality. In 1850 Mr. Camp, Fanny’s friend and a science teacher at the Institute, invited her to attend special revival meetings at the Methodist Broadway Tabernacle on
Street. Fanny declined. Then one night
she had a vivid dream. “It seemed that the sky had been cloudy for a number of
days and finally, someone came to me and said that Mr. Camp desired to see me
at once. Then the clouds seemed to roll from my spirit and I awoke from the
dream with a start.”
After the dream, Fanny attended meetings with Camp every evening for several weeks. Services consisted of long emotional sermons, punctuated with loud amens and hallelujahs, tears of repentance and joyful outbursts, unlike anything Fanny had experienced in rural
serious Calvinists worshipped in formal services. Connecticut
A feeling that a deeper life in God awaited her kept Fanny returning to the Methodist meetings. A few times she knelt with other God-seekers at the dirt-floor altar and prayed for hours but came away joyless and empty. Until November 20, 1850. “On that night it seemed to me light must come then or never.” At the invitation for prayer, Fanny walked to the altar and again knelt and prayed fervently for a spiritual breakthrough. When she was about to give up, the congregation sang Isaac Watts’ hymn “Alas and Did My Savior Bleed.” When Fanny heard the words of the final verse, “Dear Lord I give myself away, ‘tis all that I can do,” she jumped to her feet and shouted Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Of that night she said, “My very soul was flooded with celestial light. For the first time I realized I had been holding the world in one hand and the Lord in the other.”
Bernard Ruffin writes in his biography of Fanny – “although there were no dramatic changes in her life and she soon realized it did not solve all her spiritual problems, her November experience as she called it, marked the beginning of a deeper Christian life and a total dedication of her life to God.”
Fanny’s hymn portfolio increased to 9,000. Many, like At the Cross Where I First Saw the Light allude to her November 1850 experience. Her reputation as a happy, contented Christian lasted until she died at age 95. She didn’t seek pity for her blindness but often said, "When I get to heaven the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior!" Generations have grown up on Fanny’s hymns and congregations still sing Near the Cross, Tell Me the Story of Jesus, Praise Him Praise Him, I am Thine O Lord, Close to Thee and hundreds of others. Her gravestone in Bridgeport, Connecticut is inscribed with two lines from one of her best known hymns –
“Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine
Oh what a foretaste of glory Divine.”
Experiences like Fanny’s ignite a passion for Christ in our hearts that forever changes us.
Rose McCormick Brandon is the author of Promises of Home - Stories of Canada's British Home Children, One Good Word Makes all the Difference and numerous magazine articles. She writes two blogs, Promises of Home and Listening to my Hair Grow. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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