Updated: May 11
Norwegian: Salige Visshet, Jesus er min
Text: Fanny Crosby (1820-1915. Tune: Phoebe Palmer Knapp (1839-1908)
1. Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine; Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
R/This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long.
2. Perfect submission, perfect delight, Visions of rapture now burst on my sight; Angels descending, bring from above Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.
3. Perfect submission, all is at rest, I in my Savior am happy and blest; Watching and waiting, looking above, Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.
Fanny Crosby was possibly the most famous American woman in the 19th century. Blind almost from birth, she rose above whatever handicap she had with the help of her mother and grandmother. Her grandmother did not coddle her; she taught her how to function well on her own. She helped her memorize much of the Bible and educated her in the Christian faith. At first she wrote poetry and plays, even an opera libretto. She did not really start writing hymns until Jenny Lind, the Swedish nightingale, came to America in 1850, and visited the school for the blind where Crosby taught. Lind, a devout Christian, sang Swedish folk hymns to the group, to great effect. Crosby realized that hymns moved the hearers and helped to bring Christ to people of every station.
One day she was visiting her wealthy friends, Joseph and Phoebe Knapp, in Manhattan. (Joseph founded what became MetLife.) Phoebe went to the piano and played a melody for Fanny. When it was done, she asked Fanny how it spoke to her. Fanny is reported to have said, without missing a beat, “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine.” The rest is history. Fanny completed the hymn. It became one of the all time favorite hymns.
Fanny had a close and intimate relationship with the Lord: to know him was heaven: "glory divine," here and now. The Gospel for this Sunday is from John 14, where Jesus says, "I go to prepare a place for you." We will live together for ever.
The Norwegian translation of the text has always fascinated me. It is maybe richer than the English version. Jesus is my Shepherd in the first stanza: Han er min hyrde. The rhymes for God, Gud, are much more plentiful in Norwegian than English where we have pitifully few. In Norwegian Gud rhymes with Brud, or bride. So the refrain ends with the image of Christ as bridegroom. Ham skal jeg evig love hos Gud, Han er min brudgom, jeg er hans brud. (I will eternally praise Jesus when I am with God. He is my bridegroom, I am his bride.)
Bride mysticism goes back into Scripture—in fact, the entire story of Jesus can be seen as Jesus coming out of eternity to seek his bride and redeem her and bring her back home to God. While the concept is not specifically in the Crosby text, it certainly is implied. Fanny loved Jesus; she once said that she did not want to be able to see in this life; the first thing she wanted to see was the face of her Savior.
Bride mysticism comes and goes in Christian devotion. But here it is: The Supper of the Lamb, the wedding banquet in heaven, where we will praise him, “all the day long.”
Phoebe Knapp, the composer, wrote many hymn tunes, but only two are still used: this one and “Open the Gates of the Temple," an old chestnut. She and her husband belonged to John Street Methodist church in New York City where they taught Sunday School and worked for many philanthropic causes. Fanny belonged to the church and shared their concerns as well. Through them, she got to know many famous American leaders, among them General Ulysses S. Grant. Fanny is said to have met every American president from John Tyler to Woodrow Wilson. Scholars have no idea how many hymns she wrote--she would have three going at a time with three stenographers taking down her work--since she used hundreds of pseudonyms to hide her identity—not only to avoid recognition, quite—but to help songbook publishers who were reluctant to publish collections of songs in which she was almost the only writer. Some estimate she wrote almost 10,000 hymns. Her concern for the blind and the needy was well known, she even spoke to Congressional committees about their needs. Her hymns became especially popular when the Moody Sankey gospel team used them in their revivals. Fanny was probably cheated out of most of her earnings by her publishers, but did not really care as she gave almost all she had away to the needy.
Good old fashioned singspiration at Temple Baptist Church, Powell, Tennessee
Tennessee Ernie Ford
Salige Visshet/Norwegian version/Via Vitae