“Near the Cross” was introduced first in Robert Lowry and William Doane’s volume “Brightest and Best” in 1875. Its simple melody and lyrics have made an indelible mark on the hearts of millions the world over. Hymnwriter Ira Sankey records, “Like many other hymns by this author (Fanny Crosby), the words were written to a tune already composed by Mr. Doane, and at his request. The words and tune are remarkably well adapted to each other, and the hymn will continue to be used long after many more pretentious ones have been forgotten.” Indeed, this is the case, as more than one hundred seventy-five years later, thousands still find “Near the Cross” a blessing.
Many know the remarkable story of Fanny Crosby. Blinded at 18 months by a physician’s damaging remedy, she passed her years in darkness, yet with a heart that yearned for knowledge. Permitted to study at a school for the blind, Fanny laboured fruitfully at her tasks and excelled in writing – though mathematics she gave up as a complete loss. Finding great success as a writer of secular poetry, soon her name was associated with many popular pieces. The day she found Jesus, her heart found light that her eyes could not give her. Having been given light in her heart, joy in her soul, “Aunt Fanny” began to sing a new song. Ten years after her conversion, she began working with sacred musician William Bradbury, writing her first hymn at his request.
In her autobiography, she writes of her decision thus:
“It now seemed to me as if the great work of my life had really begun: and I commenced the delicious toil which, with an occasional pause for rest, I have continued ever since.”
Crosby and Bradbury laboured together for four years, mutually composing a great number of songs; she the lyrics, he the melodies. Others of her contemporaries who also wrote melodies for her poems include William Doane, Ira Sankey, H. R. Palmer, and Hubert P. Main.
The number of songs attributed to this incredible woman, who would at times write as many as six or seven hymns in one day, totals between 5,000 and 9,000. The exact count cannot be known, for she used more than one hundred “nom-de-plumes” or “pen names” for her work, many of which are not known.
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Thank you all for your thoughtful comments.
In response to Nancy’s comment above about the lyrics to the refrain; Near the Cross seems to have first appeared in “Bright Jewels for the Sunday School” in 1869. It was seemingly written expressly for publication in that book. The lyrics of the refrain as given by Ms. Crosby begin “In the cross…” The Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs hymnal restored the original lyrics as intended by the author.
I hope this answers your question and others as well if they were curious as to the wording in our hymnal.
I really appreciate your dedication of Jesus christ and I also blessed your sing a song by there is power of blood song and hopefully by grace of God you always writing so many song of praise and worship song God bless your all entire team
I’m just curious, why “near” is changed to “in”?
I am thankful for Michael Eldridge’s desire to keep the classic hymns alive for the younger generation and pray God will bless this effort in a big way! However I, as an elderly person, am enormously thankful that these hymns are not lost to me either, and I listen to him on CD and MP3 player most every day and make melody in my heart to my Lord along with him. How I praise God for his ministry!
Thank you for bring back the old hymns I loved so much as a child. the church today sings many lovely and new songs, yet my heart yearns for the old hymns. I have all your CDs and play them daily. Thank you for letting God lead in your life. He will continue to be a blessing to you and to those who hear your voice.