This gospel hymn was written by Fanny Crosby, probably the most well-known hymn-writer of all time. Being the most prolific of all those who wrote texts for gospel and Sunday School hymns, she wrote between 5,000 and 8,000 and didn’t write her first until she was in her forties. Sometimes she wrote as many as 6 or 8 in one day. For well over a century, she has been an inspiration to many, in spite of her blindness.
She often wrote her hymns as a result of something said in a casual conversation or some experience in her life. Such is the story of “Give Me Jesus,” published in 1879. Biographer Bernard Ruffin relates the story: Fanny was talking to one of her neighbors who complained bitterly of his poverty, “If I had wealth, I would be able to make an appearance (impress) in the world.” Fanny replied, “Well, take the world, but give me Jesus.” It’s hard to imagine that one would complain about the inconvenience of being poor to someone who was blind from infancy. This conversation inspired her to write the song within hours. Fanny was able to compose her poems mentally and then recite them at a later time so someone could write them. She was unable to do braille because of her calloused fingers from playing the guitar and harp.
The reply she gave to her neighbor is emphasized as every stanza of the hymn begins with “Take the world, but give me Jesus,” a reminder of Christ’s words: For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mark 8:36-37).
The stanzas tell of the many blessings that come from experiencing the presence of Christ: abiding love, comfort, and joy.
The 4th stanza expresses Fanny’s most-quoted statement: “If I had a choice, I would still choose to remain blind, for when I die, the very first face I ever see will be the face of my blessed Jesus.” The refrain is a reminder of God’s great mercy and love that has made redemption and eternal life available to all. "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:17-19).
All its joys are but a name;
But his love abideth ever,
Through eternal years the same.
O the height and depth of mercy,
O the length and breadth of love.
O the fulness of redemption,
Pledge of endless life above.
Sweetest comfort of my soul;
With my Saviour watching o’er me
I can sing, though billows roll.
Let me view his constant smile;
Then throughout my pilgrim journey
Light will cheer me all the while.
In his cross my trust shall be,
Till, with clearer, brighter vision,
Face to face my Lord I see.
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