Keeping the Hymns Close By

To God Be the Glory

Author – Fanny J. Crosby, 1820 – 1915
Composer – William H. Doane, 1832 – 1915
Published in 1875

Be exalted O God, above the heavens, and Your glory above all the earth. Psalm 108:5

Fanny J. Crosby

Occasionally a hymn drops into the furrows of history to be buried and forgotten for a while, only to later spring to life for future generations. That is what happened with Fanny Crosby’s “To God Be the Glory.” Scholars believe the hymn was written by Crosby in 1872. The music was composed by William Doane. It wasn’t published until 1875 by Robert Lowry and William Doane in a volume of hymns that introduced several of Crosby’s hymns including “All the Way My Savior Leads Me” (June 2015 KHCB Hymn of the Month), “I Am Thine O Lord”, and “Rescue the Perishing”. “To God Be the Glory” was originally called “Praise for Redemption.” It was not widely sung nor included in many hymnals. Dwight Moody and Ira Sankey helped to establish the hymn’s popularity during their revivals in Great Britain in the late 19th century.

In 1954, Cliff Barrows, the music director for the Billy Graham was given a copy of “Praise for Redemption” with the suggestion that it be included in the songbook for the London Crusade. Though unfamiliar with the hymn, Barrow decided to use it anyway. It was sung almost every night. The three-month crusade led to a sense of revival across Great Britain. The hymn was so well-loved that Barrow included it again later that year in the crusade in Nashville, TN. Due to the enthusiastic audience response to the hymn, Barrow used it frequently. With this exposure, the hymn quickly became well-known to Christians worldwide and is printed in most modern hymnals.

Fanny Crosby began composing hymns at age 6, became a student at the New York Institute of the Blind at 15 and joined the faculty of the Institute at 22, teaching rhetoric and history. Her hymn texts were staples for the music of the most prominent gospel songwriters of her day. William Doane was a longtime collaborator of Crosby, having written music for an estimated 1,500 of her poems. In this hymn, the primary focus of God’s actions is on the redemption of humanity through Jesus Christ. The second line of the first stanza, “So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,” echoes John 3:16. The second stanza, though referring to “the promise of God,” centers on Christ, the “perfect redemption, the purchase of blood.” In the third stanza the focus is again on Christ who is “our wonder [and] our transport,” and the one that we long to see in glory.

William Doane

Hymnologist William J. Reynolds, writing in his hymnal companion Hymns of Faith (1964), documented the return of this hymn to the USA: “It is most extraordinary that this long-forgotten American gospel song should have been imported from England and become immensely popular during the last decade.”

It is said that Fanny Crosby never wrote a hymn text without first kneeling in earnest prayer and asking for divine guidance. Other hymns by Fanny J. Crosby include “Blessed Assurance” (May 2014 KHCB Hymn of the Month), and “My Savior First Of All.”

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.

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