Keeping the Hymns Close By

I Am Thine, O Lord

Author – Fanny J. Crosby, 1820 – 1915
Composer – William H. Doane, 1832 – 1915

Composed in 1874

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith… Hebrews 10:22

Fanny J. Crosby

She’s called the “Queen of American Hymn Writers.” During her ninety-five years, Fanny Crosby wrote over eight thousand hymns and gospel songs. Ira Sankey attributed the success of the Moody and Sankey evangelical campaigns largely to Crosby’s hymns. Some publishers were hesitant to have so many hymns by one person in their hymnals, so Crosby used nearly 200 different pseudonyms during her career. Her texts were set to the compositions of some of the most prominent gospel song composers of the day including William Bradbury, William Doane, and Ira Sankey.

One remarkable thing about Crosby was her phenomenal memory. After her eyes were blinded in infancy, her grandmother Eunice took a special interest in teaching her Bible verses. Later a woman named Mrs. Hawley, the Crosbys’ landlady, took over the job, committed to helping Crosby memorize the entire Bible! She learned by heart all of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, plus the four Gospels, most of the Psalms, all of Provers and many portions of the rest of the Bible.

William H. Doane

This hymn is one of many collaborations between Crosby and composer William Doane. Doane wrote music for an estimated 1,500 of her poems. Ira Sankey, in his autobiography, gives us the story behind this particular hymn: “Fanny Crosby was visiting Mr. W.H. Doane, in his home in Cincinnati, Ohio. They were talking together about the nearness of God as the sun was setting and evening shadows were gathering around them. The subject so impressed the well-known hymnwriter, that before retiring, she had written the words to this hymn, which has become one of the most useful she has ever written.”

The next morning she recited the words to Doane, who wrote down the stanzas and composed the tune. Sankey also wrote that “the music by Mr. Doane so well fitted the words that the hymn has become a special favorite wherever the gospel hymns are known.”

Like so many of Crosby’s hymns, “I Am Thine, O Lord” is written in the first person—a personal testimony of her relationship with Christ. Stanza one begins with a total surrender to Christ, “I am thine, O Lord,” and the desire to “be closer drawn to Thee.” The second stanza appropriately draws upon the closeness of this relationship as an impetus of service: “Consecrate me now to Thy service, Lord, by the power of grace divine.”

Stanza three defines the relationship further as one forged in prayer: “When I kneel in prayer, and with Thee, my God, I commune as friend with friend!” In the final stanza, Crosby acknowledges that her relationship will not be complete until she reaches heaven (“cross the narrow sea”) and then she will find “rest in peace with Thee.”
It was first published in 1875 in the little hidden treasure of hymns called Brightest and Best. Underneath the hymn was this Scripture quotation: “Let us draw near with a true heart” (Hebrews 10:22).

Taken from Then Sings My Soul Keepsake Edition by Robert J. Morgan Copyright © 2011 Robert J. Morgan. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson

Used by permission from “History of Hymns” by Dr. C. Michael Hawn, Director of the Sacred Music Program and Distinguished Professor, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.