24. Blessed Assurance
The creative process of writing hymns is a complex but interesting one. Have you ever wondered whether the words were written first and then the tune or is it the other way round ? And then there is the question of inspiration. Hymn-writing is very much like poetry in that it distils our thoughts, our prayers and our praise into relatively short phrases and stanzas.
The Methodist hymn Blessed Assurance was written by Fanny Crosby (1820-1915) who was blind from the age of six weeks. A friend of hers, Phoebe Knapp, played her a tune that she had been working on and asked Fanny, ‘What does this tune say to you ?’. Straight away Fanny replied, ‘Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine !’ and proceeded to recite the whole first stanza with no preparation at all. A prime example of music, inspiration, words.
The hymn is focused on heaven, a place where “perfect submission” and “perfect delight” will take place. The earthly existence is one of “watching and waiting, looking above” and as we submit ourselves to Christ we are “filled with his goodness” and “lost in his love” .
We find that this hymn appeals to our senses in so many ways. Not only do we have a “foretaste of glory,” we also experience “visions of rapture [that] burst on my sight,” and we hear “echoes of mercy, whispers of love” .
The refrain calls us to “prais[e]. . . my Saviour all the day long,” echoing I Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.”
I haven’t heard this hymn sung in one of our churches recently (that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been sung somewhere!) but in many ways there is a temptation to see it as rather old- fashioned. Well listen to this rendition…. It may well change your mind . I will admit that one of my unfulfilled ambitions is to conduct a Gospel or Jazz Mass and I would love to have this choir singing and swaying behind me.
Love it !