Saturday, February 16, 2013

Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross

Please enjoy another wonderful hymn!

Title: Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross

Tune: Near the Cross


Composer: William H. Doane (February 3rd, 1832-December 24th, 1915

Author: Fanny J. Crosby (March 24th 1820-February 12th, 1915)

               This hymn first appeared in the collection Bright Jewels for the Sunday School (New York, 1869), which was edited by Robert Lowry and W.F. Sherwin (see “Break Thou the Bread of Life”). For the author of this text, Fanny J. Crosby, the cross held special meaning. Edith Blumhofer says, “for Crosby the cross held a special appeal as a place for centering proximity to Christ. Since something good happened to one near there, what better place to 'Linger'?” (Westermeyer, 2010, p. 129). Known as one of the best gospel hymn writers, Crosby was born into a Puritan Reformed world in northern Connecticut, near the New York Border. Her lineage can be traced back to the time of Magna Carta in the early thirteenth century. Much of her family also can be found in the Massachusetts Bay colony in the early 17th century. From her family, we can tracer her descendants to the 20th century crooner, Bing Crosby. When Crosby was only six weeks old, she went completely blind due to maltreatment of her eyes during a bout of illness. At the age of eight, Crosby moved with her family to Eidgefiled, Connecticut, around the same time she began writing verse. Seven years later, in 1835, Crosby entered into the New York City institution for the Blind. After studying at the school for over ten years, Crosby eventually became a teacher at the institution (1847-1858).

               While serving as a teacher at the institution, Crosby met her husband, Alexander Van Alstyne, who was also a blind musician. The two were married in 1858 when Crosby was 38 years old, and she is sometimes known (mostly in England) by her married name. Crosby began writing hymns when she was only 24 (1844) years old, but it wasn't until she was 44 years old (1864) that she discovered her true vocation as a hymn writer. Her first hymn was a Sunday-School hymn written for Wm. B. Bradbury entitled We are Going, We are Going, to a Home Beyond the Skies. The hymn was written on February 5th of that year, and was also performed at Bradbury's funeral in 1868. From that point on, Crosby supported herself with her writings for the publishing company, Biglow & Maine Co., where she wrote nearly 4,000 hymns. Her hymns were very popular, and were inspiring to many prominent composers of that time (Rev. Robert Lowry, Wm. B. Bradbury, Geo F. Root, and many others). Crosby was so proficient at writing hymns, she did not need to wait for any sort of inspiration to come to her. She always composed with an open book in her hand, most times with a copy of Golden Hymns, held closely over her eyes and upside down (, Paragraph 7).

               Though Crosby grew up with connections in the Presbyterian church as well as being influence by the Holiness movement, she did not formally join a church until 1887—Cornell Methodist Episcopal Church in New York City, New York. Crosby was a very small women, standing only four feet, nine inches, and weighing less than 100 pounds. Because she worked among many who were marginalized, Crosby kept her language simple and idiomatic, making it easy for others to understand. Having spent most of her life writing hymns, it is said that Crosby has written around 8,000 hymns, but this number could be more. Some of Crosby's hymns may have been lost in the nearly 200 different pseudonyms she published her work under. Before the age of ten, Crosby had the first four books of the bible, as well as the four gospels, committed to memory. Her mental capacity was astounding, often times editing her poems in her head while dictating several others, allowing her to compose nearly seven hymns a day. Edith Blumhofer has divided Crosby's hymns into four distinct categories: salvation, consecration, service, and heaven. Through out all 95 years of Crosby's life, she has come across many important figures, including Henry Clay, of who she wrote a special poem for clay on the anniversary of his son's death in the Civil War. To learn more about Crosby, see “Blessed Assurance: Jesus is Mine.”

               As Crosby did several times, the text of this hymn was written to fit the tune, which then took its name from the text. The tune, written by William H. Doane uses a compound rhythm with a very simple harmonic structure. Doane, who often signed his name as W. Howard, was one of the most prominent collaborators with Fanny Crosby for providing tunes to accompany her texts. Much like Crosby, Doane's lineage can be traced back to English settlers in the early 1700's from Cape Cod Massachusetts, soon after the Mayflower. Born to the head of the cotton manufacturer Doane & Treat, Doane grew up in Connecticut as well. From an early age, Doane's interest in music was very clear, being influence by singing schools and learning to play many different instruments including the Violin, Flute, and Double Bass. At the age of 14, Doane attended the Woodstock Academy, where he directed the student choir. Though he never abandoned music entirely, Doane became a very successful businessman who gave generously as a Baptist lay person, having followed his mothers Baptist roots instead of his fathers Congregational roots. In 1851, Doane joined J.A. Fay & Company, which was a company that manufactured woodworking machinery. For the next several years, Doane would have many different jobs as well as events. In 1857, he married Francis Treat, the daughter of his father's business partner, in 1858, Doane moved to Chicago to continue his work for the Fay company filing patent claims. In 1861, he moved as a partner to the company headquarters in Cincinnati, and finally in 1866 was named president of the company.

               During his time in Cincinnati, Doane became a civic leader as well as a benefactor, and for 25 years, he held the position of superintendent of the Sunday School at Mount Auburn Baptist Church. In his home in Mount Auburn, Doane included a music room, which contained a pipe organ and many pianos. His home also had a large library with manuscripts from composers such as Haydn, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, and Mendelssohn (Westermeyer, p. 130). Having written nearly 200 pieces of music throughout his career, most of them being hymn tunes, Doane was able to publish over 40 different song books. After the death of William B. Bradbury, Doane resumed Bradbury's work, with the help of Robert Lowry, composing Sunday School hymns. The collection Silver Spray, published in 1869. outsold all other similar collections, allowing Lowry and Doane to donate enough money to the YMCA in Cincinnati so that they may buy a large pipe organ.
The Text:

  1. 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;
    'til my raptured soul shall find,
    rest beyond the river.

    (2) Near the cross, a trembling soul,
    love and mercy found me;
    there the bright and morning star
    sheds its beams around me.


    (3) Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
    bring its scenes before me;
    help me walk from day to day,
    with its shadows over me.


    (4) Near the cross I'll watch and wait,
    hoping, trusting ever,
    'til I reach the golden strand,
    just beyond the river.

My Take on the Hymn:

               This hymn is incredibly powerful, asking Christ to take us and keep us near to him every day. This him is a reminder of what happened on the Cross, both when we as humans failed to see what we were doing, and what God was doing for us in that moment. The first verse tells us that the river of life flows from Christ's side and down Calvary to all of us. If we are not near the Cross, we would not be able to feel the stream of life that comes from the river that Christ sheds for us. The second verse reminds us that we are all lost until we find Christ. When we come to the Cross, we find that we are nervous, we are lost, and we are weak, but through Christ on the Cross, we become found, and we are shown the light, the truth, and the way. The third verse talks about the Cross giving us strength in every day life. Each and every one of us has been given something in life that we may consider a burden  That burden is our Cross to bear. Through finding our Cross, we will see how strong we can truly become by facing our problems with the help of Christ. The fourth verse shows reverence for the Cross. Until our dying day, we must turn towards the Cross and face Christ. It is in facing Christ and seeing God within his only son that we can see our true potential, and know God gave his only son so that we may be free of sin and be taken into our heavenly home, if we only face what we have done!

The Hymn:

If you cannot read music, just start the Youtube video and follow along!


Julian, John. "Near the Cross." Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2013.

Julian, John. "Fanny Crosby." - Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2013.

Psalter, Hymnal Handbook. "NEAR THE CROSS (Doane)." Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2013.

Julian, John. "W. Howard Doane." - Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2013.

"Hymn Jesus Keep Me Near The Cross Lyrics." JESUS KEEP ME NEAR THE CROSS Lyrics., n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2013.

Westermeyer, Paul. "Lent." Hymnal Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship. Vol. 1. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2010. 129-31. Print.


  1. Great Blog! This is my grandfather's favorite hymn. I am literally reading this a year after you wrote it. On the exact same day! To make it even more eery, my name is Evan Collins and I am from Memphis, TN. LOL! The Lord moves in mysterious ways. God bless you for posting this Hymn and I pray continued blessing upon you. I was in awe reading your name and this hymn! It is very sentimental to my family and myself.

  2. Yes.this hymn is very powerful.and your description of the hymn has made me understand more clearly,you interpreted the words to make more meaning.God bless you for the teaching through songs.

  3. Great hymn and powerful words. Can be appreciated well only with real experience of cross.

  4. I was lying in bed crying , due to being in a marriage that is in shambles because my husband is a mentally abusive alcoholic, when it seemed as though a womans voice out of nowhere said Near The Cross, so I immediately in my mind started singing the old southern gospel hymn that I remembered as a child. It made me get up and google the author. I don't think it was coincidence that the song writer was a woman or that she wrote her 1st song on February 5th (my birthday) or that this blog was written on February 16th, my Grandmothers birthday, who went through the same trials with an alcoholic husband for 20 years. I know this was from God to comfort me and give me strength. Thanks for writing this blog!

  5. The YouTube link is not working.