Almost one and a half centuries ago a remarkable girl was born in a country vicarage ,her name Francis ridley Havergal.She was a great poet and devoted Christian.
Francis was the child of William Henry,a patriarcal figure-a leader in the Anglican Church in England on the side of the Evangelicals. His career had been greatly influenced by the godly Charles Simeon mighty preacher of the time.Francis mother called Jane was loving and took care of the family home.Now by the time Francis was 4 years old she could read her Bible and write in French.She was a bright ,active and mischievous child.As she grew she developed intellectually,but emotionally she had problems.She describes her childhood memories of this hard period.
"From six to eight I recall a different state of things.The beginning of it was a sermon preached on Sunday morning at Hallow Church.I even now retain the impression.It was to me a very terrible one,dwelling much on hell and judgement,and what a fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God.No one ever knew it,but this sermon haunted me,and day and night crossed me."
Francis did find joy even as she was thinking about her faith in God at such an early age.She loved being outdoors and drank in the delights of nature,often going for walks in the forest ,where she would read her Bible.At nine years of age she moved to St Nicholas in worcester, at this time she began to keep a diary,thus developing a talent for writing. The love of words being a skill which she used in her writing of poetry was also coupled with her musical ability, which gave her a foundation in later life to write the hymns we know and love. [READ MORE]
The Consecrated Life:The Life and Times of Francis Ridley Havergal by J J Burns
January 29, 2011
At St. Nicholas she continued to be troubled about her spiritual state,as the conviction of sin became more intense. To proud to ask advice from her family,she consulted a young curate. Mistakenly he thought her unhappiness was due to the upset of moving homes. Francis however knew it was God speaking to her.Her misery deepened when her mother died in 1848. At only 12 years of age,this event broke the sensitive girl's heart.
Two years later Francis was sent to boarding school where she came into contact with a remarkable woman,the headmistress Mrs.Teed.She ran the school with inflexible strictness,yet Francis spoke of her with great affection."She prayed and spoke with us together and individually,witha fervour which I have never seen equalled,and seemed a very St .Paul in the intensity of her yearning over us.The result was what might be called a revival broke out amongst us".
Francis school friend Jane became a Christian at this time it was her example and counsel which finally brought her to trust in Christ as her Saviour and Lord.
The following year,in 1851,Francis gained a new mother,whom she welcomed into the family,feeling it would be a blessing to her father.But shortly after the happy event a worrying time ensued.Her father became ill and had to attend a specialist in Germany. The whole family accompanied him and Francis settled down in a German school. She became an outstanding student and her teachers wre most impressed with her ability.On September 17 1853, Francis wrote in her diary, " one feels that childhood is over now,and a sense of tenfold increase in responsibility and independence is a weight upon the spirit." The girl had become a woman!
On returning to St. Nicholas Church, the following year a momentous event took place in Francis' life . This was the day she first took communion for it represented to Francis a symbloic commitment to Christ,for life.She writes about her feelings of that day:" The thought 'who's I am' burnt upon me and I prayed ,'my God,oh my own Father, thou blessed Jesus,my own Saviour,thou Holy spirit,my own comforter." She wrote some verse about this experience.
Thine For Ever
Thine for ever,what a blessed thing,
To be for ever His,who died for me!
My Saviour ,all my life thy praise I'll sing
Nor cease my song throughout eternity.
Worcester cathedral .Sep.17 1854
As a young woman Francis made a trip to Ireland.She sang to classes of children and was greatly admired.One child who was present wrote in later years, that francis seemed to shine.Francis continued to work among children and to take a Sunday school class,when she returned to St. Nicholas. She loved children and prayed fervently for them.
Francis also did charitable work among the poor of the parish and raised funds for the Irish Protestant Missionary Society.When the family moved to a smaller parish,due to her father's poor state of health,Francis became increasingly concerned about her spiritual state.she realised that the problems she was encountering in her work now as a teacher were exacerbated by her lack of faith.She wrote in her diary: " I think the great root of all my trouble and alienation is that I do not now make an unreserved surrender to christ.". She also developed physical problems,becoming seriously ill-and this poor health was to dog her for the rest of her life.However,she learned that suffering is a means whereby God teaches us to lean less on self,and more on Him.
When Francis recovered from this bout of illness, Francis sought activities in serving Christ.One avenue she persued was her music.She visited Hiller,the German composer and he assured her that she had talent and encouraged her to continue composing. On her return to England,she wrote hymns and hymn tunes and sang solos for a music society. This was a period of a more settled faith,she writes" why should I hesitate and tremble,as I have been doing for years? I have been oppropiating all the promises with a calm sort of twilight happiness-I do love God,o that I loved him more and more." On the death of her father in 1870, Francis set her self the task of editing his hymns for The Havergal Psalmody.
As Francis composing and writing developed,so did her faith and love in god. By 1873 she could write " I know i love Jesus..... I rejoice in him as my master and sovereign,but I want to come nearer still....so i want jesus to speak to me,to say many things to me, that I may speak to others with a real power." Later in this year ,following a holiday in switzerland,she threw herself with renewed zeal into the Lord's work. she did cottage visitation,organized missions in towns and cities such as Liverpool,wrote books and articles and spoke at women's Conferences.
As her books began to cell and her poetry became wider known,the public recognised that she had spiritual authority and letters began to arrive asking for advice and cousel.
All this time she learned to trust more and more, and on returning from a futher holiday in Switzerland to find that all her hard work with her father's manuscripts had been destroyed by fire,she was able to record "Thy way,not mine ,O Lord."
Her faith was further tested by more frequent bouts of bad health and even more,when ,on the death of her stepmother,the family home was broken up and she found herself with no idea of where she might live.
The Lord did provide and Francis went to live with her sister in South Wales. The glorious countryside and coastline was a great joy to her and on fine days she could be seen ,armed with a Greek concordance and the compete works of Thomas Goodwin (Her favourite auther),sitting on the cliff tops in some secluded spot,writing the devotional books,to which she devoted her timeIt was on one christmas day Francis became seriously ill. She was dying.The doctor was duly touched when Francis told him she was glad to go and be with the Lord.In 1879 francis died with jubilant christian joy.She left behind a legacy of hymns,and devotional books.She was a woman of great learning,humble atitude,she did not have an easy life,but the talents God had given her she used them for His glory.
Why not take time and pray over each of these verses of Francis great Hymn?
Take my life,and let it be
Consecrated,Lord to Thee.
Take my moments and my days;
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands,and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet,and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.
Take my voice ,and let me sing
Always,only for my King.
Take my lips,and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold;
Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect,and use
every power as thou shalt choose.
Take my will,and make it Thine;
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart -it is Thine own;
It shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love; my Lord,I pour
At Thy feet its treasure-store.
Take myself,and I will be
Ever,only ,all for Thee!
Francis Ridley Havergal,1836-1879