Fanny Crosby was born in 1820. For many years she worked in the Bowery Mission in New York City, reaching lost souls for Christ. For years a pew held a plaque with this inscription to her: “Fanny Crosby occupied this seat on her many visits to this mission for over a period of 50 years. It was while sitting here that she received the inspiration for the great Gospel song, ‘Rescue the Perishing’.”
It was a hot, summer evening in the summer of 1869 when upon Fanny’s mind the thought came that in the meeting that night was a mother’s son who would be rescued that night or not at all. After her fervent plea for souls, a young man of eighteen years came to her and said, “Did you mean me? I promised my mother to meet her in Heaven, but as I am now living that will be impossible.” They then prayed together and he received Christ!
A few days previous to that Mr. William Doane had sent her as a great subject for a hymn this thought, “Rescue the Perishing, care for the dying.” It was to this theme and upon the occasion of the young man’s conversion that we have this story.
But, as Paul Harvey would state, “Now, the rest of the story.” Ms. Crosby continues, “In November, 1903, I went to Lynn, Massachusetts, to speak before the Young Men’s Christian Association. I told them the incident that led me to write “Rescue the Perishing,” as I have just related it. After the meeting a large number of men shook hands with me, and among them was a man, who seemed to be deeply moved. You may imagine my surprise when he said, “Miss Crosby, I was the boy, who told you more than thirty-five years ago that I had wandered from my mother’s God. The evening that you spoke at the mission I sought and found peace, and I have tried to live a consistent Christian life ever since. If we never meet again on earth, we will meet up yonder.” As he said this, he raised my hand to his lips; and before I had recovered from my surprise he had gone; and remains to this day a nameless friend, who touched a deep chord of sympathy in my heart. It is these notes of sympathy that vibrate when a voice calls them forth from the dim memories of the past, and the music is celestial.”
Ira Sankey in his work, “My Life and the Story of the Gospel Hymns and of Sacred Songs and Solos” tells the wondrous story of this hymn’s effect in human hearts, crushed by the tempter.
Years later and “On a stormy night” into that same Bowery Mission staggered a middle-aged disheveled drunkard who was once at high rank in the Union Army. The man slumped into his seat, gazing about the room and wondering as to the kind of place he had just stumbled. Into his ears came the sounds of “Rescue the Perishing,” the song written upon the conversion of a sin-sick soul in that very place.
His senses awakened, he listened with great intent as the leader of the meeting told of the Gospel and how the Lord had changed his life. The leader in his younger years had been a solder of active military service who intertwined incidents of the war into his preaching and singing.
At the close of the meeting the drunkard “staggered up to the leader and in a broken voice said,
“When were you in that company you spoke of?”
“Why, all through the war,” said the leader.
“Do you remember the battle of ______________?”
“Do you remember the name of the captain of your company at that time?”
“Yes, his name was ____________.”
With excited sobriety the Captain said, “You are right! I am that man! I was your captain. Look at me today, and see what a wreck I am. Can you save your old captain? I have lost everything I had in the world through drink, and I don’t know where to go.” The old captain was glorious saved that night. Once again, the perishing had been rescued and the dying received care!
Hallelujah! Fanny Crosby knew that the captain of our salvation was made perfect through His sufferings, “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come to God by Him!”
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.
Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.
Though they are slighting Him, still He is waiting,
Waiting the penitent child to receive;
Plead with them earnestly, plead with them gently;
He will forgive if they only believe.
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 were 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.