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Frances Ridley Havergal

by Christopher Knapp

Frances HavergalMiss Havergal, of lovely memory, and author of the hymn, "Precious, precious blood of Jesus," was the youngest daughter of the Rev. W. H. Havergal, rector of Astley, Worcestershire, England, where Frances Ridley was born, December 14, 1836. She was named after "Master Ridley," the reformer-martyr. She was a bright and clever child, and from her earliest years manifested a gift for versification which in time made her known wherever Christ is loved and the English language spoken.

A writer says that "in her girlhood days she knew the whole of the New Testament, the Psalms, and Isaiah by heart, and afterwards memorized the Minor Prophets ... that she early acquired the French, German, Italian, Latin, Greek and Hebrew languages, and daily read the Old and New Testaments in the originals ... A deep longing after a purer life, united to delicacy of conscience, caused some melancholy in her younger years, which disappeared later on, with a sweeter mind and humbler trust in God."

"Miss Havergal was never married," writes Dr. Robinson, from whose brief sketch of her life we quote, "She lived a happy, peaceful life, engaged in writing books of prose and poetry. Her health was precarious, and at times she suffered painfully from disease. But her Christian trust was supreme over every trial. She had a intense love for music and an excellent gift in the composition of tunes. Her voice was expressive and sweet, though never very strong, and grace divine was derived from her sorrows. She died at Caswell Bay, near Swansea in Wales, June 3, 1879, at the age of only 42 years. Her life was full of courage, faith, sympathy for others and forgetfulness of self."

The hymn beginning, "Golden harps are sounding," is, perhaps, the most popular of her hymns, though by no means the best. It is entitled, "Ascension Song," and was written while visiting at Perry Bar in 1871. Weary with her walk she leaned for rest against the playground wall of the boys' school there, and there wrote her "Ascension Song," for which she subsequently composed the tune "Hermas," to which it is usually sung.

"He who came to save us,
  He who bled and died,
Now is crowned with gladness
  At His Father's side.
Never more to suffer,
  Never more to die,
Jesus, King of glory,
  Is gone up on high."

This is the strain she sang while dying. Her sister, who tells the story, says, "Now she looked up steadfastly, as if she saw the Lord; and surely nothing less heavenly could have reflected such glorious radiance upon her face. For ten minutes we watched that almost visible meeting with her King, and her countenance was so glad, as if she had already talked to Him! Then she tried to sing; but after one sweet, high note her voice failed, and as her brother commended her soul into the Redeemer's hand, she passed away."

Her hymns are largely on what is called the "subjective side"—that is, on experience and what relates to ourselves. Her own favorite among her many compositions was, "I am trusting Thee, Lord Jesus," It was found in her pocket-Bible after her home-going.

"I am trusting Thee, Lord Jesus!
  Trusting only Thee!
Trusting Thee for full salvation,
  Great and free.

I am trusting Thee, Lord Jesus!
  At Thy feet I bow,
For Thy grace and tender mercy,
  Trusting now!

I am trusting Thee to guide me:
  Thou alone shalt lead,
Ev'ry day and hour supplying
  All my need.

I am trusting Thee, Lord Jesus!
  Never let me fall!
I am trusting Thee, for ever,
  And for all."

Now, for ever free from pain and weakness, she rests with Him whom she so implicitly trusted and whose praises she so sweetly sang. It has been said of her: "She was the happiest creature in the world, though she was ill and failing all the time. She never rebelled nor repined." Yes, "Fanny," as she was familiarly called at home, who in her poetry bids the Christian not to repine or complain in trial and sorrow, showed the way herself, which other poets have not always done.

Of the hymn, "I could not do without Thee," a compiler says: "Among the many hymns of Miss Havergal scarcely any other expresses such absolute dependence upon Christ's saving grace. It was written and printed in Home Words in 1873." It is to our mind the best of all her excellent compositions.

"Without Me—Nothing" John 15:5.
by Frances Ridley Havergal

I could not do without Thee,
  O Saviour of the lost!
Whose wondrous love redeemed me
  At such tremendous cost;
Thy righteousness, Thy pardon,
  Thy precious blood must be
My only hope and comfort,
  My glory and my plea.

I could not do without Thee,
  I cannot stand alone,
I have no strength or goodness,
  No wisdom of my own;
But, Thou, belovéd Saviour,
  Art all in all to me,
And strength in perfect weakness
  Is theirs who trust in Thee.

I could not do without Thee,
  For, oh, the way is long,
And I am often weary,
  And sigh replaces song.
How could I do without Thee?
  I do not know the way;
Thou knowest, and Thou leadest,
  And wilt not let me stray.

I could not do without Thee!
  For life is ebbing fast,
And soon in solemn loneliness
  The river must be passed.
But Thou wilt never leave me,
   And though the waves roll high,
I know Thou wilt be with me,
  And whisper, "It is I."

Perfect Peace
by Frances R. Havergal

Like a river glorious
Is God's perfect peace,
Over all victorious
In its bright increase.

Perfect—yet it floweth
Fuller every day;
Perfect—yet it groweth
Deeper all the way.

Stayed upon Jehovah,
Hearts are fully blest,
Finding, as He promised,
Perfect peace and rest.

From Who Wrote Our Hymns by Christopher Knapp. New York: Loizeaux Brothers, [1925?].

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