One of the top 10 hits in the United Methodist Hymnal has a life outside the church
The hymn is one of 8,000 gospel hymn texts under American poet, composer, mission-worker and lyricist Fanny Crosby’s name. Her hymns made her a household name in the 19th century. Her hymn “ Blessed Assurance” (1889) is one of eight of her hymns found in the United Methodist Hymnal. Plus, it is one of the top ten most popular hymns sung by the United Methodists (according to Methodist Editor Carlton Young).
Crosby’s a genius who’s been blind since early in her childhood and began hymn-crafting at age six. At fifteen Crosby entered the New York Institute of the Blind as a student, and later on as a rhetoric and history teacher. Crosby married her institute colleague Alexander Van Alstyne. To this day, Crosby’s hymns are staples for the music of the most prominent gospel writers.
Aside from her husband who was a fine musician, Crosby was a close friend to American composer and organist Phoebe Knapp who was like Crosby, a member of the John Street Methodist Episcopal Church in New York. Knapp composed 500 gospel hymns and tunes. One day, while Crosby was at Knapp’s while their large pipe organ was being installed. Knapp played her new composition, “Assurance”, then asked Crosby what she thought the melody was conveying. To which Crosby answered, “Blessed Assurance; Jesus is mine.” And Crosby recited the rest of the song’s first stanza. The two completed “Blessed Assurance” and it was published in Palmer’s Guide to Holiness and Revival Miscellany” (July 1873 issue). The Biblical link of Crosby’s lyrics is Philippians 1:21. The biggest push for Crosby’s song was when Ira Sankey put it on Gospel Songs, No. 5 (1887). Sankey and Moody sang it frequently in their US and UK revivals. The song became phenomenally popular, as Crosby became an icon herself in gospel hymn-making, and at the moment you could find numerous renditions of it on Youtube.