Frances Jane Crosby wrote the words for Hymn 132 — “To God Be The Glory”. She was commonly known as Fanny Crosby. Fanny was born on March 24, 1820, of humble parents in southeast Putnam County, New York. When she was six weeks old she caught a slight cold that inflamed her eyes. The country doctor who came to her home put mustard poultices on her head and chest to loosen her congestion. The poultice slipped and some of the mustard went into her eyes. As a consequence Fanny was totally blind for the rest of her life.
Even though Fanny was blind her mother insisted that she be raised as normally as possible, and she was involved in activities that sighted children enjoyed — climbing trees and playing with other children, despite the dangers of these activities to someone blind. As a result Fanny became very independent in finding her way about throughout her life.
By age ten, Fanny had memorized the first four books of both the Old and New Testaments. She had to learn everything from other people reading to her. The Braille system for the blind was not invented until 1821. It was invented by Louis Braille, a Frenchman, and became the official reading and writing method at the National Institute for the Blind in 1852 in France. The Braille System did not come to the United States until 1860.
When Fanny was fifteen, her mother learned about the work being accomplished for students in New York at the Institute for the Blind. Weeks before Fanny’s fifteenth birthday, her mother enrolled her at the school. She remained at the Institute for 23 years. At first she was a student there and later became a teacher. She taught English and history from 1847 to 1858. Fanny left the Institute in 1858 and married Alexander Van Alstyne who was also blind. Like Frances, he was a teacher at the Institute for the Blind.
Alexander Van Alstyne was an accomplished musician and composed the music to several of Fanny’s hymns during their forty plus years of married life. Throughout her lifetime Fanny composed thousands of hymns (some articles say more than 5,000; other articles claim 8,000).
Fanny and her husband made a large amount of money for that time. Guided by a generous spirit, they gave most of it to the poor and needy, and only retained enough money to provide for their basic needs.
Although in earlier life Fanny wrote many secular songs, at the age of 40 she begin to write hymns. Many current hymnbooks contain hymns written by Fanny Crosby. She died February 12, 1915, at the age of 95.
Words to Hymn 132
The words for Hymn 132 are based on the passage from Galatians 1:3-5:
“Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
Throughout Hymn 132, glory is ascribed to God for His redeeming work in Jesus. The opening line of the hymn is:
“To God be the glory, great things He has done!”
The last two lines of the three refrains also ascribe glory to God:
“O come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,
And give Him the glory! Great things He has done!”
Jesus’ willing sacrifice of himself for our deliverance by the will of God is the theme of Galatians 1:4. Fanny expresses this concept in verse 1 with these thoughts:
“So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
Who yielded his life — an atonement for sin,
and opened the holiest that we may go in.”
In verse 2 Fanny encourages a positive response to Jesus self-sacrifice:
“O how can we thank him — Christ Jesus our Lord?
By faith and obedience to his living word.”
In verse 3 are thoughts of present and future joy given by belief in Jesus:
“And great our rejoicing through Jesus His Son;
But purer and higher and greater will be,
Our joy and our wonder when Jesus we see.”
Blindness a blessing
How could one blind from a tiny infant express in beautiful, everyday language such clear, joyful, optimistic and thankful thoughts, based on the Word of God? She accepted her blindness as a gift from God rather than something to be angry or discontented about. When discussing her blindness Fanny said:
“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 me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me.”
Fanny’s acceptance of her loss of vision and her understanding of God’s purpose with her through this affliction is a wonderful example to us. Through the difficult times in our life we know “…that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28).
Joan and Ken Curry
Sources used for this article: “Fanny Crosby Van Alystyne blind hymn writer and poetess”, Christian Biography Resources, by Edward S. Ninde; Stories Behind The Hymns, by Warren Shiver; Moments For Mothers, by Robert Strand.