Lyrics by Franny Crosby. Music by Phoebe Knapp
No other hymn has been a part of my life longer than, Blessed Assurance. It was my Dad’s favorite song. For as long as I can remember, he would either be humming the song or singing it as he worked around the house or while mowing the grass. How often I remember it being sung in on those precious Sunday mornings in our small Baptist Church. We would stand as a family along with other church members singing this song and I vividly remember Dad raising his hand, eyes closed with his face towards heaven, singing, 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. 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.
As I prepared to do my research on this song, I found there wasn’t much about how the song Blessed Assurance came to be. But as the story goes, Franny’s friend, Phoebe Knapp had come to visit her. Ms. Knapp shared with her that she had a unique melody in her stuck in her head. She sat down at the piano in Franny’s home and played it for her. Phoebe turned to Franny and said, “What does that say to you” and instantly Franny replied, “Blessed assurance Jesus is mine, Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine”. The pair continued working on the song and within a few hours, the hymn was completed, with Franny writing 3 verses and a chorus. It was just a short time after this meeting that the song began to spread across the area churches and more and more congregations heard the song. The first publishing of the words and melody appeared in 1873 in a magazine called, Palmer’s Guide to Holiness and Revival Miscellany.
The song takes on special meaning for me in knowing about the life of Franny Crosby. She was born in 1820 to John and Mercy Crosby from New York City and was their only child. When Franny was 6 months old her father passed away leaving her mother and grandmother, Eunice Paddock Crosby to raise her. But before he passed away Franny became very sick with a cold and inflammation affected her eyes. At just 6 weeks old her father took her to a questionable doctor who ordered Mustard Plaster be placed on her eyes. This decision would turn out to be life-changing for her as it affected the optic nerve in her eyes, causing total blindness.
By all accounts, Franny grew up a happy and active child. She attended New York Institution for the Blind in New York City, where later in life she would work and meet her husband. She was raised with strong Christian values and from an early age she was read scriptures by her mother and grandmother and would memorize verses, and overtime nearly had the entire devoted to memory. It was also at a young age she began to write poetry. Her love for writing followed her throughout her life and never seem to be bothered by her lack of site. She is quoted as saying, “It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered to me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have ever sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me. She also once said, “when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior”. She had an ability to craft words, phrases and thoughts so vividly that would allow us to see the Savior so clearly in her songs.
Among her many accomplishments, she was an English teacher at the New York Institution for the Blind, a published author, hymn and secular writer of approximately 5,000 to 9000 songs, she also wrote a poetic eulogy for President William Henry Harrison (1773b-1841d), upon his death after only serving 31 days as President. Franny married a former classmate and they had one child that died shortly after birth in its sleep. The song Safe in the Arms of Jesus was written from that experience.
Though it all, Franny Cosby had an amazing and full life. She wrote or contributed to many songs of the church that we still sing today, a hundred years after her death.