Thursday, November 03, 2016

Fanny Crosby's November Experience by Rose McCormick Brandon

Fanny Crosby recited her poetry before presidents. Her work was 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 late nineteenth and early twentieth century as the Hymn Queen.”

 In 1850, Methodist class meetings, with their lively singing and warm atmosphere attracted many New Yorkers who longed for more than religious formality. Mr. Camp, Fanny’s friend and a science teacher at the Institute for the Blind, invited her to attend special revival meetings at the Methodist Broadway Tabernacle on Thirtieth Street. Fanny declined. 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.”

            Fanny attended the Methodist 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 Connecticut where serious Calvinists worshipped in formal services.

            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 each time 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 stood and shouted, "Hallelujah! Hallelujah!" Of that night she wrote, “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, a biographer, wrote – “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 hymn 

“Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine

Oh what a foretaste of glory Divine.”

            Personal revivals, like Fanny’s November experience, ignite a passion for Christ in our hearts that forever changes us.

Rose McCormick Brandon is the author of four books, including One Good Word Makes all the Difference and Promises of Home - Stories of Canada's British Home Children. She writes personal essays and devotionals for several publications.



Peter Black said...

Big time THANK YOU! Rose, for sharing this testimony segment of Fanny Crosby's spiritual "ignition." I frequently sing and play those hymns of hers you mention and that have become enduring favourites; they're often requested in the nursing homes and seniors residences. I feel for the generations who will enter their last days, without the knowledge of the life-enriching value of such works, and the comfort and strength they can help bring.
Fanny Crosby's hymn, "Safe in the Arms of Jesus" played a role in my dad's surrendering his life to the Lord in 1938; he'd heard it in a mission hall in Scotland when he was a boy. ~~+~~

Lux G. said...

I must admit that I haven't heard of it before. Thank you for sharing this.

Rose McCormick Brandon said...

Peter, so many beautiful works from Fanny Crosby, a blessing to generations. I hope that soon a few will be re-discovered. They're full of truth and encouragement. So interesting that your Dad's heart was touched by "Safe in the Arms of Jesus."

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