Friday, September 25, 2015

Fanny Crosby and the Parables (part 2)

Although a talented musician—she played the piano, organ, harp, and guitar, as well as singing—Crosby focused on writing lyrics for hymns. She collaborated with a number of composers, most notably George Root, William Bradbury, William Done, and Ira Sankey, and she published hymns under the names of over two hundred pseudonyms (see a partial list in Blumhofer 2005: 358-360).

Crosby’s hymn, “All is Ready” (1889), specifically alludes to Matthew’s parable of the Wedding Feast but interprets the parable allegorically and generalizes the parable into an altar call for all human beings. The first stanza quotes the king’s invitation to his invited guests for his son’s wedding banquet: “all is ready” (Matt. 22:4). This quote comes from the king’s second invitation, after the invited guests had already spurned his first call to come to the wedding feast, so the hymnist wonders how many will spurn this call:

All is ready, the Master, said,
All is ready, the feast is spread;
Sweet His message of love to all,
Yet how many will slight the call!

Why, why, why will you die?
Ask, and the Savior will freely forgive;
Why, why, why will you die?
Only a look, and your soul shall live.

The second stanza repeats that “all is ready” and urges people to come and bring their burdens of doubts, fears, sorrow, cares, and tears. The offer of salvation is the focus, and the hymn exhorts its hearers to respond and accept the invitation before it is too late. Instead of focusing directly on the man who lacked a wedding garment and was thrown “into the outer darkness” (Matt. 22:11-13), the hymn advises its the hearers to wear “the garment of praise”:

Though His mercy prolongs your day,
Time is precious, no more delay;
Now He listens to hear your prayer,
Haste the garment of praise to wear.

The hymn ends with another exhortation to accept Jesus’s offer of pardon so that the waters of eternal life can begin to flow.

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