Jesus, keep me near the cross,
There a precious fountain,
Free to all, a healing stream
Flows from Calvary‘s mountain.
In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever,
Till my ransomed soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.
Near the cross, a trembling soul,
Love and mercy found me;
There the Bright and Morning Star
Shed His beams around me.
Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day
With it’s 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.
The Christian hymns inspire us as we sing them in seasons of praise, prayer, and affirmation of major doctrines of the faith. Stories behind these hymns draw us into the lives of the writers and composers, and leave us with solemn admiration and profound respect for their talent and faithful endurance. Jesus Keep me near the cross is one of those hymns whose writer’s story leads you to honour God.
This hymn was written by Aunt Funny Crosby. She
Co-wrote this hymn with William Doane. Doane wrote the music first, and then Crosby penned the words we know so well. Frances Crosby more commonly known as Fanny Crosby, or ‘Aunt Fanny’ to some, used many pseudonyms for her hymns. She did not always want to be known as the writer of a particular hymn. She therefore, used such pseudonyms as Victoria Sterling, Sally Smith, and even James Black? She used many fake names, or pseudonyms, at least 100 in her hymn-writing career.
When in her advanced career and Fanny had taken up hymn writing, she turned her poetic skills to hymn writing, and many of her songs focused on the theme of the cross, such as “At the Cross, There’s Room”, “Blessed Cross”, “Room at the Cross”, “Save Me at the Cross”, and this one, “Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross”. It was composed after Cincinnati businessman William Doane gave her a melody he had written. Fanny, listening to it, felt it said, “Jesus keep me near the cross,” and she promptly wrote the words.
Her words show the familiarity she felt with her Lord: from the ‘beams’ around her (verse 2), to the cross’ ‘shadow’ over her (verse 3), senses that were sharpened as she pondered the sight she lacked here on earth, but would inherit to see Him in Eternity.
Some thoughts about the hymn
If we had lived in the day of Christ’s crucifixion, I wonder how near we would have been to the cross. Would we have gotten close enough to see the agony on his face, to hear the final words that he spoke, to witness the blood as it poured from his wounds? How near are you often to the cross and to the crucified Christ? Our nearness to the cross will be evident in the life that we live. If we are near the cross, it will be reflected in how we live, what we do, and in our relationships with others.
I encourage you to examine your nearness to the Christ of the cross. He died on the cross for your sins so that you might like Mary Magdalene experience a changed life……..a new life. If you will draw near the cross, you will learn the true value of humility, and service. At the cross, you can find the strength to live the committed, dedicated life, and at the cross you can become the caring, compassionate person that Christ wants you to be. How near are you to the cross?
Do you glory in the cross of Christ? Or do you glory in your own works? Did you receive salvation through the cross of Christ or through your own efforts? Did you receive the Spirit of God through your obedience to God’s law, or did you receive the Spirit through faith? Are you a child of God through faith, or are you a child of God through law keeping? Are you glorying in the cross of Christ, or are you glorying in your own efforts? Is salvation from God? Or is salvation from you?
If you are glorying in your own efforts, you are denying justification by faith. In other words, you are in reality denying the purpose of the cross of Christ. Paul captures graphically the nature of salvation when he says,
Justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus (Romans 3:24-26).
The cross was an outstanding victory over Satan, death, and condemnation. As the people of God, every believer should live his/her daily life with a sensitive awareness of Christ’s cross. Paul points out the significance of the cross and the blood to the Colossians: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:19-20). Is it any wonder that Paul shudders, as it were, at glorying at anything other than the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 6:14).