Frances Ridley Havergal
English Religious Poet and Hymn Writer
1836 – 1879 A.D.
The subject of this sketch was the mild-spirited, talented daughter of Jane and the Rev. William Henry Havergal, born December 14, 1836. Her father was the able Rector of Astley Church, Worcestershire, England, a man of learning, true piety, consistent life, and effectual labors among his parishioners. His unusual love for music and talent in musical composition was transmitted to Frances, the youngest of six children.
“Beside the rich chords and tuneful song in our home, there were wise and holy influences. Our parents’ prayers and example in searching the Scriptures, and their loving, cheery ways, activity and punctuality, were the key-notes of our child-life.”
Her dear mamma’s words to her on the eve before her death, “Fanny, dear, pray to God to prepare you for all that He is preparing for you,” became to the child, then only eleven years old, a life prayer.
Being precocious, vivacious, and possessing a keen appetite for learning, though not attending school a very long period, yet her constant studying and wide range of reading, she acquired a scholarship beyond what is commonly accepted as a finished education. She became quite proficient in the use of her native English, also German, French, Hebrew, Latin and Welsh, and the literature of those nations. Her frequent travels in Switzerland and German, and special studies pursued while there, enhanced her intellectual accomplishments.
A passionate yearning for God’s favor early possessed her, and the supreme striving of her heart for many years was to obtain a conscious witness that she was accepted through Christ her Redeemer.
As a child, when she ventured to ask advice and help from the curate, she was put off by such a vague and unsatisfactory reply that she shut up in her bosom her soul’s intense longing, and told it only to God in secret. Said she, “At any time I would willingly have lost or suffered anything might it have brought me to the attainment of full assurance.”
When in her fourteenth year she attended a select school for girls. A revival in the school was the means of salvation to many girls, among them Elizabeth Clay, who became the intimate and live-long friend of Frances. Timidly Frances ventured upon the promises, and intermittent light gleamed upon her soul.
God did not leave her long in this state of mind. He Himself had shown her that there were regions beyond of blessed experience and service; had kindled in her very soul the intense desire to go forward and possess them, and now, in His own grace and love, He took her by the hand and led her into the goodly land.
“The sunless ravines were now forever past, and henceforth her peace and joy flowed outwards, deepening and widening neatly; just see what a find I’ve got! If one only searches, there are such extraordinary things in the Bible.”
She returned, wet and chilly, from a temperance meeting held in the open air. Fever and chills rapidly came on, and all the suffering of peritonitis. Her perfect peace and rest in God is revealed by her calm spirit and helpful words: “Ever since I trusted Jesus altogether, I have been so happy. I cannot tell you how lovely, how precious He is to me.”
A terrible rush of convulsive sickness came on. “It ceased; the nurse gently assisting her, she nestled down in the pillows, folded her hands on her breast saying, “There; now it is all over! Blessed rest!” And now she looked up steadfastly, as if she saw the Lord, and surely, nothing less heavenly could have reflected such a 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 were already talking to Him. Then she tried to sing, but her voice failed; and as her brother commended her soul into her Redeemer’s hand, she passed away.”
Reference: Men and Women of Deep Piety by Mrs. Clara McLeister. Edited and published by Rev. E.E. Shelhamer. ©1920.