Fanny J. Crosby, 1820 - 1915
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives… (Isaiah 61:1 KJV)
One of the most tragic words in our vocabulary is the word perishing. Yet it was a word that Jesus Himself often used (Matthew 18:14; Luke 13:3,5) to describe people who are spiritually alienated from God.
Fanny Crosby, often called the “Queen of Gospel Music,” recalled how she wrote this challenging hymn:
I remember writing that hymn in the year 1869. Like many of my hymns, it was written following a personal experience at the New York City Bowery Mission. I usually tried to get to the mission at least one night a week to talk to “my boys.” I was addressing a large company of working men one hot summer evening, when the thought kept forcing itself on my mind that some mother’s boy must be rescued that night or he might be eternally lost. So I made a pressing plea that if there was a boy present who had wandered from his mother’s home and teaching, he should come to me at the end of the service. A young man of 18 came forward –
“Did you mean me, Miss Crosby? I promised my mother to meet her in heaven, but as I am now living, that will be impossible.”
We prayed for him and suddenly he arose with a new light in his eyes – “Now I am ready to meet my mother in heaven, for I have found God.”
A few days before, William Doane, composer of the music, had sent Fanny Crosby a tune for a new song to be titled “Rescue the Perishing.” It was to be based on the text “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23).
Rescue the perishing, care for the dying snatch them in pity from sin and the grave; weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen, tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.
Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter, feelings lie buried that grace can restore; touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness, chords that are broken will vibrate once more.
Rescue the perishing, duty demands it; strength for thy labor the Lord will provide; back to the narrow way patiently win them; tell the poor wand’rer a Savior has died.
Refrain: Rescue the perishing, care for the dying; Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.
For Today: Ezekiel 18:32; Luke 14:23; Romans 9:2, 3; 2 Peter 3:9
Reflect seriously that it is the divine image in every person (Genesis 1:26, 27) that gives life an intrinsic dignity and worth – regardless of race, color, sex, age, or social standing. That’s what makes each person worthy of being rescued from eternal damnation. Sing this musical challenge as you go –
William H. Doane, 1832-1915
Rescue the perishing, care for the dying; Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.
Adapted from Amazing Grace – 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions by Kenneth W. Osbeck.