It was a hot summer afternoon in 1869. Fanny wanted to feel the river's cool waters on her toes. As she stepped a little closer to the bubbling, soothing stream, she lost her footing and started plunging forward. Her dear friend, Mrs. Hawley caught her arm just as she stumbled and gently led her back to the bank.
“Fanny, please be careful dear. You gave me such a fright!”
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Hawley. I so wanted to feel the rushing water again like I did as a child. I am so happy to be back in Ridgefield. It brings back such great memories just being here, visiting with you. Do you remember when we used to come picnic on summer afternoons down by this riverside? You always packed the most scrumptious tea cakes! Oh, I do pray you brought some today.” Fanny reflected with joy shining from her face.
Mrs. Hawley smiled at her friend’s inner beauty coming through. How she had missed Fanny while she had been away at school, teaching the blind children in New York. It had been way too long since last they had seen each other.
“Yes I brought your favorite tea cakes, my dearest child. How could I forget?” She teasingly replied.
“Mrs Hawley, when I was a child, I used to pretend this was the river Jordan. I thought if I could just cross over to the other side, Jesus would be there waiting for me. He’d be my glory ever, and I’d find rest beyond the river! My eyes would be opened and I would see His face and know the wonder of His mercy and grace. Such a glorious sight He will be! To finally see the face of dear Jesus, the One who died for me.” Fanny’s words rushed out.
“Dear Fanny, you’re talking in rhyme again. Do you feel the Holy Spirit’s inspiration of another great hymnal? I brought my pen and paper, just in case.”
Fanny felt the smooth cross she wore around her neck and smiled, feeling the warm quivering sensation in her heart.
“Yes Mam, I believe I do. Let me just say a prayer first. Dear Father, thank you for allowing me to come back to my childhood home and for all your wonderful blessings bestowed on my life. Thank you for Mrs. Hawley, my dearest friend and sister in Christ. How I love her so! Lord, if You will it, speak to me now of your love. In Jesus precious name, Amen.”
As Fanny prayed, Mrs. Hawley excitedly settled down on the river bank beside her to write on the parchment she retrieved from their picnic basket. She knew this was going to be a great masterpiece.
Fanny spoke very softly;
“Jesus, keep me near the cross,
There a precious fountain
Free to all, a healing stream
Flows from Calvary's mountain.
This next verse will be the refrain:” she thoughtfully instructed as she continued on;
"In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever;
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.
Near the cross, a trembling soul,
Love and mercy found me;
There the bright and morning star
Sheds its beams around me.
Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day,
With its shadows o'er me.
Near the cross I'll watch and wait
Hoping, trusting ever,
Till I reach the golden strand,
Just beyond the river.”
Fanny sighed with contented peace.
Mrs. Hawley was in awe. How Fanny's words flowed so perfectly! She had tears in her eyes at the deep meaning and beauty of the words: Till my raptured soul shall find….rest beyond the river.
Beautiful. Her friend, Fanny Crosby had an amazing gift from God. Mrs. Hawley knew she was blessed to be the first to hear this great hymn, inspired by God Himself.
Frances Jane Crosby (1820 - 1915) wrote approximately 9000 great hymns in her life. “Near The Cross” was written in 1869 - Public Domain
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