Speed Away! [Missionary Hymn]

Russel Wells writes:

Fanny Crosby is one of the greatest of the world’s [English-speaking] hymn writers; perhaps only Watts and Wesley would rank above her. She is great in the number of her hymns — more than three thousand, and in the large number of them that have found favor with Christians and seem destined to live forever. To name only a few, what immortal glory belongs to the author of:

  • “Pass me not, O gentle Saviour,”
  • “Rescue the perishing,”
  • “I am Thine, O Lord,”
  • “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine,”
  • “Jesus, keep me near the cross,”
  • “‘Tis the blessed hour of prayer,”
  • “Safe in the arms of Jesus,”
  • “Some day the silver cord will break,”
  • “Thou, my everlasting portion,”
  • “Saviour, more than life to me,”
  • “All the way my Saviour leads me,”
  • “Hide Thou me,”
  • “Jesus is tenderly calling thee home,”
  • “Lord, at Thy mercy seat humbly I fall,”

and many other hymns almost as well known.

Frances Jane Crosby was born in Southeast, N. Y., on March 24, 1820. She is now, therefore, eighty-six years old, but is still, I believe, in excellent health.

She has been blind since she was six months old, but she is of a happy, contented disposition, and refuses to be pitied because of her great affliction. Indeed, when only eight years old she wrote: —

“O what a happy soul am I!
 Although I cannot see,
I am resolved that in this world
 Contented I will be;

How many blessings I enjoy
 That other people don’t!
To weep and sigh because I’m blind,
 I cannot, and I won’t.”

Fanny Crosby spent twelve years as a pupil in the New York Institution for the blind, and then she was a teacher from 1847 to 1858, teaching language and history. While she was yet a pupil she was a splendid illustration of what education can do for the blind, and once she recited a poem on the subject before the Senate and House of Representatives at Washington, and also before the governor and legislature of New Jersey.

In 1845 she began to write words for the music of George F. Root, who became music-teacher in the institution. Many of these songs became famous, and the royalties on one of them, “Rosalie, the Prairie Flower,” amounted to nearly three thousand dollars. Another well-known song of hers is “There’s music in the air.”

It was not, however, till February 5, 1864, that she wrote her first hymn. It was written for W. B. Bradbury, and ever since that time he, and his successors, Biglow and Main, have been her publishers, accepting and paying for all that she writes. She has written many hymns for such singers and composers as Sankey, Doane, Lowry, Philip Phillips, Sweney, Sherwin and Kirkpatrick. Her songs have blessed thousands of lives, and there is scarcely one of them but has won many souls to the Saviour.

In 1858 Miss Crosby was married to another pupil of the institution, Alexander Van Alstyne, a musician, and the two lived together in tender sympathy and mutual helpfulness. She sometimes uses her full name, but often signs her hymns with pen names: A., C, D. H. W., V. A., Ella Dale; Jenny V., Mrs. Jenie Glenn, Mrs. Kate Grinley, Viola, Grace J. Francis, Mrs. C. M. Wilson, Lizzie Edwards, Henrietta E. Blair, Rose Atherton, Maud Marion, Leah Carlton, and still others!

She writes very rapidly, and some of her most famous hymns have been dictated almost as fast as the words could be taken down. Her hymns are full of the Bible with which her memory is stored. When she was a mere child she committed to memory the first four books of the Old Testament and the four Gospels.

In her home at Bridgeport, Conn., the aged singer sits peacefully awaiting the call to the world where she shall see all beautiful things and shall join — and what voice will be sweeter? — in the song of Moses and the Lamb.

The memory hymn by her which we are to learn this month is “Speed away " — a song that has done much to arouse interest in missions. It has become the missionary farewell hymn, being sung at the parting with hundreds of missionaries as they set out upon their noble errands.

Speed away! speed away on your mission of light,
To the lands that are lying in darkness and night;
‘Tis the Master’s command; go ye forth in His name,
The wonderful gospel of Jesus proclaim;
Take your lives in your hand, to the work while ’tis day,
Speed away! speed away! speed away!

Speed away, speed away with the life-giving Word,
To the nations that know not the voice of the Lord;
Take the wings of the morning and fly o’er the wave,
In the strength of your Master the lost ones to save;
He is calling once more, not a moment’s delay,
Speed away! speed away! speed away!

Speed away, speed away with the message of rest,
To the souls by the tempter in bondage oppressed;
For the Saviour has purchased their ransom from sin,
And the banquet is ready. O gather them in;
To the rescue make haste, there’s no time for delay,
Speed away! speed away! speed away!

From: Rev. Amos Wells. Twenty-Four Memory Hymns And Their Stories Available from LutheranLibrary.org (ebook) and from Amazon (paperback)