Fanny Crosby, a popular and prolific American hymnwriter who had been blind from infancy, loved to visit rescue missions. Speaking to a group of working men on one visit in 1869, she felt moved to request that, if there was a boy present who had wandered from his mother’s teaching, she would like to speak to him at the end of the service. A young man later approached her and asked if he was the one. He said he promised to meet his mother in heaven but believed that wouldn’t be possible with the life he had been leading. That evening, Crosby helped the boy turn his life around.
Inspired by the event, and recalling someone’s suggestion a few days earlier to write a hymn based on Luke 14:23, Fanny went home that night and penned the text Rescue the Perishing.
Thirty-five years after Fanny Crosby wrote Rescue the Perishing, she spoke at a YMCA gathering in Massachusetts. Afterward, a man approached her and said he was the boy she had “rescued” that night years before – and he had since been living as a Christian.
Crosby later described the encounter as one of the most gratifying moments of her life.
Fanny Crosby often collaborated with William Howard Doane when creating hymns. About thirty of Doane’s nearly 2,300 tunes are still in use today including RESCUE – the tune he composed for Crosby’s text Rescue the Perishing and published the following year in his Songs of Devotion.
Even though the hymn’s message is fairly serious, I decided to create a bright piano arrangement of it to echo the hopeful and joyous idea that “Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.” I changed the meter from march (4/4) time to waltz (3/4) time for a more jubilant sound, gave it a dash of innocence, and sprinkled in a few simple-to-play flourishes. Enjoy!