Reverend William Henry Havergal and his wife, Jane, welcomed their sixth into their homes and their lives mere weeks before Christmas. Born December 14, in 1836, in Astley, Worcestershire, Frances Ridley Havergal was the last child the Lord sent to bless the Havergal home.
Her sister recalls her as a bright, happy child, who brightened the family home. Her father called her his “Little Quicksilver”. She was a reportedly a beautiful child with a sunny disposition, and her whole family doted on her. Frances had a delicate constitution, and from childhood endured frail health, which endeared her even more to those surrounding her.
Her home-life was a blessed one indeed — it was abundant in all holy influences, her father read the Scriptures to the family every morning, and there was a delightful musical atmosphere. Frances was passionately fond of music from her babyhood; her grandmother noticed one day and said she would die singing, she was that fond of it. Her parents encouraged her to develop her musical talent, and everything money and education, could provide belonged to her to further her musical interests. Her father, himself, had published almost one hundred different hymns, and was a distinguished composer and a musician.
At the age of three, little Frances learned to read, and became extremely fond of it. She started writing poetry when she was seven, and continued throughout her life to write. She had a strong desire to learn the greek and hebrew languages fluently enough to read through the Scriptures in the original language, with the hope that this ability would open the Word of God to her as it had not been.
Growing up in a home influenced by Christ, she had times in her childhood where she writes of knowing she should love Jesus, and just not having the ability to do so. She would outwardly pretend to be a Christian, while inside she was constantly searching and longing for Him.
The first sorrow of Frances young life was the death of her mother when she was eleven years old. Throughout her life, she remembered what her mother had said to her on her deathbed, and it became her lifelong prayer: “Ask God to prepare you for all He is preparing for you.”
Frances was just shy of her fourteenth birthday, when, in August of 1850, her father enrolled her in Mrs. Tweed’s school for young ladies. He felt she needed to be taught more of the feminine ways and accomplishments than he could possibly do, and Frances was excited about the chance of furthering her education, and her goal of learning to read hebrew and greek. She still struggled with wanting to call Jesus her Lord and Saviour, and not having the strength in herself to act like a Christian, but this school was an answer to her earnest prayers.
In 1851, Frances wrote in a letter, “I committed my soul to the Saviour, and earth and heaven seemed brighter from that moment.” At last, her soul had found rest and comfort in her Saviour. She told a friend of Christ finding her: “I was sitting on the sofa alone with Miss Cooke, and I told her how I longed to know that I was forgiven. She said: ‘Do you desire it above everything else?’ I said ‘I do.’ She paused and then said slowly: ‘Then, Fanny, I think — I am sure, it will not be long before your wish is granted.’ After a few more words she said: ‘Why cannot you trust yourself to your Saviour now? If you saw Jesus coming in the clouds of Heaven, and heard Him call you, could not you trust Him then?’ ‘I could, surely,’ was my reply; and running to my room, I fell on my knees and committed my soul to Jesus. I could and I did trust myself to the Saviour for all eternity, and peace and joy flowed in.”
From this time forward Frances Havergal became a wonderful example to emulate of what a Christian can and ought to do. She kept her Bible constantly with her, but she never carried it for a mere ornament, or to decorate her coffee table or her nightstand. She studied it. She learned it. She knew it by heart, and she searched it for new things the lord would teach her. She had large portions of the texts written upon her heart — she had memorized all four of the gospels, all the epistles, Revelation, and most of the book of Psalms. She was constantly encouraging others — especially the younger children — to write the Words of God upon their hearts. She wrote and passed out many tracts to the people she came in contact with, and she thoroughly devoted her whole self to the Master’s use, working gladly and strenuously for Him even though she still experienced delicate health.
Her poetry became distinct and individual, and she quickly found the niche that only she could fill by writing simply and sweetly of God’s love. She spread the message of salvation with her pen, writing of God’s grace, of His mercy, and of His ways, consecrating her whole life to Him. From her poetry and hymns, you can easily discern that this woman was remarkable in her passionate love of her Saviour. When she was twenty seven years old, she was asked to begin to contribute her poetry to a monthly publication, which she gladly did, rejoicing in her chance to share Christ with all who read it.
Frances Havergal prayed earnestly three times a day, as did Daniel of old. After her death, her sister found a scrap of paper on which she had written her requests, and just by reading these you can tell what kind of character Christ had developed in her: Because of her frail health, Frances faced many different illnesses in her life. One day in spring, of 1879, she caught a cold, which led to inflammation of her lungs. When her doctor visited her, she asked him if he thought she had a chance of dying, and he told her he did not think her seriously ill. Later, he realized the inflammation was increasing, and told her he was worried. She rejoiced over his words, for she said she was excited to soon meet her Saviour. On June 3 of that year, her grandmother’s prediction of her dying while she was singing came true. She was visibly failing, and in pain, yet she was still able to sing the first verse of Jesus I will trust Thee before she had to succumb to the pain. It soon passed, and she tried to sing again. She was only able to get out the first word, “He”, and her voice failed. It was the last time she spoke on this earth, for later that day she passed peacefully into the arms of her Saviour.
Frances Havergal died at the age of 42 — and she left behind a rich legacy of faith. She was known in this life for her studying, her writing, her prayers, and her devotion to the Saviour who bled for her sins. She became known as the greatest female hymn writer of her century in England.
I will be posting some of each study on this blog…..if you are interested in joining this study with me, here’s what you need to do:
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Once you have emailed me, you will be sent an email three times a week, filled with ideas and inspiration for studying each hymn. You can easily learn about each hymn by simply reading what I post on this blog, but the email will contain more information, more lessons not posted here, and some (hopefully) fun hands-on activities. If the study has already started — no problem! I will happily send you all the emails that have been sent to date, and you can look over them and play catch up.
And, to celebrate the first such study, there will be a fun give-away at the end of these first three weeks…..which I will have more details about later =)
If you know others who would enjoy participating in this study, feel free to invite them along for the ride too. The more the merrier, right?