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Hymn History: “Rescue the Perishing”

2 min

The seated workmen listened attentively to the small blind woman speaking at the front of the room. Breaking suddenly from her discourse, Fanny Crosby pleaded, “If there is a dear boy here tonight who has perchance wandered away from his mother’s home and his mother’s teaching, would he please come to me at the end of the service?”

Afterward, a youth of about eighteen approached. “Did you mean me?” he asked. “I promised my mother to meet her in heaven, but the way I’ve been living, I don’t think that will be possible now.” Fanny Crosby prayed with the young man. Then, with great joy he stood, exclaiming, “Now I can meet my mother in heaven, for I have found her God!”

With this encounter fresh on her mind, Fanny Crosby considered a request she had recently received. A friend and composer, Mr. William Doane, had asked her to write a hymn about “rescuing the perishing.” The song’s purpose would be to exhort believers to reach out to neglected people in their own localities. She wrote the words that evening and gave them to Mr. Doane the next morning. He composed the tune by the end of the day.  

Thirty-four years later, Fanny Crosby was speaking to an attentive crowd once again. The audience listened as an elderly Fanny Crosby told the story behind the hymn “Rescue the Perishing.” Afterward, a middle-aged man greeted her, his voice filled with great emotion. “Miss Crosby, I was that boy who told you more than thirty years ago that I had wandered from my mother’s God. That evening you spoke, I sought and found peace, and I have tried to live a consistent Christian life ever since. . . .” Fanny Crosby noted that this “nameless friend . . . touched a deep chord of sympathy in my heart.”

God enabled Fanny Crosby to see spiritually despite being blind physically. She saw people with God’s eyes and understood their great value in His sight. Like the woman who sought the lost coin, Fanny Crosby sought to share Jesus with those who were lost and overlooked. Desiring to be a useful instrument in God’s hand, Fanny Crosby relied on the Holy Spirit in her speaking and as she wrote hymns. Through both her speaking and writing, many have heard God’s call and, like this man in the audience that night, have come to salvation. May we be resourceful and careful to not overlook the value of men’s souls or the seemingly insignificant abilities, possessions, and talents God has entrusted to us!

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