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Hymn of the Month

June

Near the Cross

Fanny J. Crosby, 1820-1915 / William H. Doane, 1832-1915
Written: 1869

And He bearing His cross, went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha. John 19:17 (KJV)

Fanny Crosby was born in Putnam County, New York, in 1820 and was blinded in infancy. In 1835, she enrolled in a school for the blind in New York City, staying there twelve years, first as a student; then as a teacher. Her remarkable poetry brought widespread acclaim to the school.

In 1850, at age thirty, Crosby attended a revival meeting. During these services, she felt something was missing in her life. On two occasions during the meetings, she prayed with counselors, but without gaining assurance of a personal relationship with God. On November 20, 1850, as the altar call was given, she went forward and accepted Christ as her Savior. The congregation was singing Isacc Watts’ great hymn about the cross:

At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light;
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight;
And now I am happy all the day.

Crosby turned her poetic skills to hymn writing when she was forty-four years of age, and many of her songs focused on the theme of the cross, such as “At the Cross, There’s Room”, “Blessed Cross”, “Room at the Cross”, and this one, “Near the Cross”, alternatively title “Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross”. It was composed after Cincinnati businessman William Doane gave her a melody he had written, a practice that was not uncommon in their relationship. Crosby, listening to it, felt it said, “Jesus, keep me near the cross” and she promptly wrote the words.

Hymnal editor Carlton R. Young notes: “It is one of many texts by Crosby that combine vivid imagery and powerful biblical and evangelical metaphors: the Cross, a fountain of healing streams, free grace, the daily walk of faith, God’s pursuing love and mercy, Jesus, the Lamb of God, beyond the river of death—heaven with its golden streets—and rest for the post-Raptured souls”.

It has been translated into several languages including German, Russian, Haitian Creole, and Spanish. Doane was president of a woodworking company but was also a choral director and composer of hymns. He was a longtime collaborator with Crosby, having written music for an estimated 1,500 of her poems.

Crosby wrote more than 8,000 gospel hymns before her home-going at the age of ninety-four. Her hymns have been and are still being sung more frequently than those of any other gospel hymn writer.

Taken from Then Sings My Soul Keepsake Edition by Robert J. Morgan Copyright © 2011 Robert J. Morgan. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson

Used by permission from “History of Hymns” by Dr. C. Michael Hawn, Director of the Sacred Music Program and Distinguished Professor, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.

 

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