Rescue the Perishing (The History Behind the Hymns #30) with Daniel Whyte III

Welcome to the History Behind the Hymns podcast. This is episode #30

I am your host, Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International. I am one of many Christians who still loves the old hymns of the faith even more than many modern Christian songs. For the past 33 years, my wife and children and I have sung the old hymns during our family devotion time. Over the years we have used an Independent Baptist hymn book, a National Baptist hymn book, and a Southern Baptist hymn book to sing the old hymns of the faith. And we have sung the old hymns of the faith with traditional Methodist churches online. The old hymns of the faith have been a tremendous source of blessing and encouragement to my heart down through the years. The purpose of this podcast is to encourage you to dust off your old hymn book and experience the power and blessing of well-written hymns based upon sound doctrine for the glory of God that will strengthen your faith.

The History Behind the Hymns passage of Scripture is 2 Peter 3:9 which reads: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

The History Behind the Hymns quote for today is from William Temple. He said: “Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness, the nourishment of the mind with His truth, the purifying of the imagination of His beauty, the opening of the heart to His love, the surrender of the will to His purpose.”

The quote in connection to today’s hymn is from A. W. Tozer. He said: “Christians alone are in a position to rescue the perishing. We dare not settle down to try to live as if things were ‘normal.’ Nothing is normal while sin and lust and death roam the world, pouncing upon one and another till the whole population has been destroyed.”

Our hymn for today is “Rescue the Perishing” by Fanny J. Crosby. It reads:

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.

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 are 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.

Rescue the perishing,
Care for the dying;
Jesus is merciful,
Jesus will save.

Now here is the history behind the hymn, “Rescue the Perishing”. According to and

When thinking of Gospel hymnody, one of the first people who comes to mind is Fanny J. Crosby. She composed nearly 8,500 texts in her lifetime, including approximately 1,000 found in 1972 by the Hope Publishing Company. Two of Crosby’s most famous hymns that cross many denominational boundaries are “To God Be the Glory” and “Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine.”

Born in Putnam County, New York, on March 24, 1820, Fanny Crosby was a part of a Presbyterian family. At six weeks old, she had an eye infection and it is believed that she received improper treatment, which caused her to become blind, from a man who pretended to be a doctor. That same year, Crosby’s father died and she was then raised by her mother and grandmother.

Fanny J. Crosby eventually entered the New York School for the Blind. Her skills as a musician were well noted and they showed that she had incredible memory and intelligence. Later on, Crosby joined the faculty at the school and married Alexander van Alstyne, who was also blind and a teacher at the school.

During the 1840s, Crosby did not identify with any particular denomination. However, in 1850, she experienced a conversion at Chelsea Methodist Episcopal Church in New York City and converted to Methodism and was attracted to the work the denomination was doing with those on the margins of society. In the mid 1860s, the composer and publisher, William B. Bradbury, encouraged Fanny Crosby to begin writing sacred, instead of secular, texts. Eventually, she wrote six or seven hymns a day and her hymns were sung at many evangelistic services in the U.S. and Great Britain.

In 1869, Fanny J. Crosby was inspired to write “Rescue the Perishing” after she met the men who were housed in a New York City mission. She was concerned about their spiritual well-being and earnestly pleaded with the men that if there was someone “who had wandered from his mother’s home and teaching,” to please come and see her at the end of the service. A young man came up to Crosby and said that he would like to see his mother in heaven, but according to the way he was living his life, he was convinced it was not possible. After ardent prayer with Crosby and everyone attending the service, he accepted God’s justifying grace. That night, when Fanny Crosby went home, she wrote the words “Rescue the Perishing.” It should be noted that Crosby wrote texts pertaining to the temperance movement and this hymn carries the same overtones.

Fanny Crosby loved sharing the Gospel with anyone who would listen. In 1869 she penned the words to “Rescue the Perishing.”When asked about the song, Crosby explained, “It was written following a personal experience at the New York City Bowery Mission.” She went on to explain that she would go one night a week to talk to “her boys.”

One night while speaking to them, she kept having the thought that there was a boy present who had wandered away from his mother and must be rescued that night, or he would be eternally lost. She made a plea to each boy that was there that night. At the end of the service, one of the young men came forward and said, “Did you mean me, Miss Crosby? I promised my mother to meet her in Heaven, but as I am now living that will be impossible.” She prayed with him and led him to Christ. As they finished, he said, “Now I am ready to meet my mother in Heaven, for I have found God.”

Crosby’s hymn appears in The United Methodist Hymnal in four stanzas and has been included in Methodist hymnals since 1882. S. Paul Scholling, who was a consultant to the Hymnal Revision Committee, argued in deliberations to keep this hymn because it is one of the few Gospel hymns that express “the Gospel imperative” to minister to our neighbors. Too often, Gospel songs reflect personal piety and do not mention our duties as Christians living in a secular society.

The text is directed to Christians, but it is implicit. Crosby’s words in stanza one give six commands to the Christian: Rescue, care, snatch, weep, lift, and tell. We are to be active in the lives of those who have yet to realize they are beloved children of God and continuously walk with them on their journey.

In the second stanza, Crosby writes that while people who are not saved ignore the love and grace of Jesus Christ, Christ is still there waiting for them. Our duty is to plead with them gently and unceasingly, for we are to not lose hope that Christ will bring the sinner into Christ’s arms.

Stanza three juxtaposes what the sinner’s heart is like and what it could be. The tempter has crushed any feelings of hope or joy for the person. However, grace can restore the person to lead a hopeful life that has been touched by someone who will love the sinner and treat them with kindness. Notice it does not say to proselytize through the use of dogma, but rather the Christian is to love unconditionally and walk with that person through uncertain times. In other words, belonging is greater than believing. If the Christian treats the person with radical hospitality first, the faith of that person will come to fruition later.

Crosby writes in the fourth stanza that it is our duty to rescue those in trouble. We are not to sit idly and watch our neighbors suffer. For if we pray to God for strength and pure hearts to witness to the people around us, God will provide what we need to share Christ’s love. We are to “patiently win them,” for salvation is a process and does not happen all at once. Above all else, we are to proclaim to the world that a loving Savior has died for them, lives forever, and wants to be in communion with them.

Finally, each stanza is followed by the simple refrain:

Rescue the perishing,
Care for the dying;
Jesus is merciful,
Jesus will save.

We are reminded of our duties to our neighbors. We rescue and care for them. The Christian life is a process and this hymn reminds us that we are to constantly be there for our neighbors and that Jesus is indeed merciful and ready to save.

The composer of the tune for “Rescue the Perishing,” RESCUE, is William Howard Doane. He collaborated with Fanny Crosby on approximately 1,000 of her hymn texts. Out of the 2,200 tunes he created, about thirty remain used today, including NEAR THE CROSS, PASS ME NOT, I AM THINE, and TO GOD BE THE GLORY.

In our next episode we will look at the history behind the hymn, “Lead Me, Guide Me” by Doris Akers.

Let’s Pray —

Dear friend, this hymn honors God and the Lord Jesus Christ, if you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, and you want to get to know Him today here’s how.

First, accept the fact that you are a sinner, and that you have broken God’s law. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

Second, accept the fact that there is a penalty for sin. The Bible states in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death…”

Third, accept the fact that you are on the road to hell. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 10:28: Also, the Bible states in Revelation 21:8: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”

Now this is bad news, but here’s the good news. Jesus Christ said in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can live eternally with Him. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will.

Romans 10:9-13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Pray and ask Him to come into your heart and He will.

May God bless you and keep you until we meet again.