I Shall See Him Face to Face
Perhaps it was her blindness and poverty that kept Fanny Crosby acutely focused on eternal things. No doubt it was this eternal perspective that produced much of her joy. She had one hymn she kept private most of her life. She called it her “soul’s poem.” One verse goes like this:
Someday the silver cord will break,
And I no more as now shall sing;
But oh, the joy when I shall wake
Within the palace of the King!
And I shall see Him face to face,
And tell the story–saved by grace!
According to Kenneth Osbeck, this hymn became well known as the result of unusual circumstances surrounding her relationship with the evangelistic team of Dwight L. Moody and Ira Sankey:
After completing the poem, Fanny sent it to her publisher, the Bigelow-Main Company, and received her usual two-dollar check. The publisher put the poem in the files and nothing more was heard of it for the next three years. It was the summer of 1894, and Fanny Crosby was attending the Christian Worker’s Conference in Northfield, Massachusetts, a ministry that Mr. Moody had established in 1879. When it was learned that the noted poetess…was on the grounds, there was a request for her to address the group. At first she firmly declined, saying that she could not speak to such an array of talent. Finally, however, she relented and, in the midst of her remarks, quoted her ‘heart’s song’–the poem ‘Some Day.’ When she finished there was not a dry eye in the auditorium. That evening, Ira Sankey asked Fanny where and when she had written those beautiful words. She told him that she had submitted it to the Bigelow and Main Publishers, three years earlier, but that no one had seen fit to set it to music. She further stated that she had now decided to stow it away in her memory…and added, ‘I don’t intend to let any of you singers have it either…’
However, it was too late. A reporter who had attended the meeting published it in a London newspaper. Ira Sankey saw it and gave it to George Stebbins, who composed the music and added the chorus to what became one of the most famous hymns used during the closing years of the Moody Sankey evangelistic ministry [we know it under the title “Saved by Grace”]. Later, Ira Sankey wrote,
Dear Fanny, co-laborer in the blessed service of sacred song for so many years: I wish that when you get to heaven (as you may before I will) that you will watch for me at the pearly gate at the eastern side of the city; and when I get there I’ll take you by the hand and lead you along the golden street, up to the throne of God, and there we’ll stand before the Lamb, and say to Him: and now we see Thee face to face, saved by Thy matchless, boundless grace, and we are satisfied.
Yours, till the day dawns and the shadows flee away, Ira D. Sankey
Frances Jane Crosby died on February 12, 1915 at the age of ninety-five. She was honored with the largest funeral ever held in Bridgeport, Connecticut with people standing for blocks. In the epilogue of her biography, Sandy Dengler writes, “The honorary pallbearers were Ira Sankey’s son Allan, Vet’s son Hugh Main, composer George Stebbins, and a family friend, S. Travena Jackson. Children not one-tenth her age sang her hymns. And her casket was smothered in violets.” Above her grave there lies a simple headstone with the name “Aunt Fanny,” and these words:
Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine.
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine.