Little is known about Albert Allen Ketchum, except that he was once a student at Moody Bible Institute, in Chicago, and lived at one time in Long Beach, California. The date of his death appears to be May 21, 1982, though Rejoice Hymns (Majesty Music, 2011) lists it as 1984. While attending Moody in the early 1920’s, he wrote the words and music for a gospel song called, Why Do I Sing About Jesus? It was one of 12 or 15 songs he submitted to Harry Dixon Clarke for publication. The song raises a good question. We certainly sing to praise the Lord, and to bear witness to what He means to us. For an article on this subject, see Why Christians Sing.
Deep in my heart there’s a gladness–
Jesus has saved me from sin!
Praise to His name, what a Saviour!
Cleansing without and within.
Why do I sing about Jesus?
Why is He precious to me?
He is my Lord and my Saviour:
Dying, He set me free!
(2) Today in 1915 – Fanny Crosby Died
Frances Jane (Fanny) Crosby was the preeminent gospel song writer of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Not only is that indicated by the sheer volume of her work (somewhere between 8,500 and 9,000 songs), but by the number of songs she wrote that are still found in our hymn books, and still enjoyed by believers everywhere.
The blind poetess was able to express the joy and emotional warmth of the Christian life, within the context of simple, but sound, doctrine. Notice the book in her hand in the photograph. She always held a small Bible or New Testament before her when she composed her hymns. While she could not see it, it seemed to be a reminder to her of where the truths she expressed in poetry came from.
Even to list all of her more popular songs is beyond the scope of this blog. Here are just a few:
All the Way My Saviour Leads Me
Draw Me Nearer
He Hideth My Soul
Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross
Meet Me There
Pass Me Not, O Gentle Saviour
Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It
Rescue the Perishing
Safe in the Arms of Jesus
To God Be the Glory
Will Jesus Find Us Watching?
For a list of some of the songs Fanny wrote in collaboration with composer William H. Doane, see the second item under Today in 1809.
Fanny Crosby’s 95 years of life (1820-1915) roughly corresponded to the life of Queen Victoria (1819 to 1901), so she lived through the entire Victorian Era. As she neared the time of her death, Fanny made careful preparations. Close by the cemetery plot where she would be buried was the grave of the famous showman and circus entrepreneur P. T. Barnum. His grave was marked by a large, ostentatious monument that Fanny abhorred. She asked for a simple gravestone, and her wish was granted–a stone describing her affectionately as “Aunt Fannie,” and quoting Jesus’ words about Mary, after she anointed Him with costly oil, “She hath done what she could” (Mk. 14:8:, KJV).
In after years friends, who appreciated her enormous contribution to the Christian community worldwide, replaced the original stone with one that contains a bit more information about Fanny and her husband, Alexander Van Alstyne. It also quotes from her song, Blessed Assurance, which sums up the very essence of her personal testimony and her message:
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.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Saviour, all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Saviour, all the day long.
It may be of interest to include here Fanny’s final lines of verse, written just hours before she died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage:
In the morn of Zion’s glory,
When the clouds have rolled away,
And my hope has dropped its anchor
In the vale of perfect day,
When with all the pure and holy
I shall strike my harp anew,
With a power no arm can sever,
Love will hold me fast and true.