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Thursday
Mar042010

Thankful Thursday

I’m thankful that human beings see colour. Colour is a good gift.

I’m thankful for vegetables in all varieties. I can’t think of one I don’t enjoy. That the vegies I love provide good things to keep me healthy is an added bonus.

And while I’m thinking of it, I’m thankful for good health.

I’m thankful that God’s prepares his people for suffering, upholds them in it, sanctifies them through it, and gives them joy because of it. I’m thankful that Jesus endured the suffering of the cross for the joy set before him, and that we can consider his example when we need courage to endure.

On Thursdays throughout this year, I plan to post a few thoughts of thanksgiving along with Kim at the Upward Call and others.

Thursday
Mar042010

The Other Fanny 

Frances Ridley Havergal was a contemporary of Fanny Crosby and a hymn writer, too. In hymn output, Fanny Crosby wins hands-down. She has 530 hymns listed at Cyberhymnal—and wrote, they say, over 8000—while Frances Havergal has 81 hymns listed there. Eight-one hymns, of course, is nothing to sneeze at, but compared to 8000, it’s small-scale.

But sometimes less is more. If you asked me, I’d have to say that I prefer the hymns of Miss Havergal to those of Miss Crosby. The lyrics are more poetic, I think, and the tunes attached to Havergal’s hymns are better than the ones for Crosby’s.

Frances Ridley Havergal was the youngest child in a very gifted family. Her father was an ordained minister in the Church of England and  a hymnist, too, so she grew up surrounded by music and poetry and literature. Little Fanny was a very bright girl, reading as a three-year-old and memorizing texts of scripture at four. One biographer tells us that as a girl she memorized the whole New Testament, the Psalms, and Isaiah. Impressive, right? But there’s more: She was developing into an exceptional pianist and singer, and also learning “French, German, Italian, Latin, Greek and Hebrew languages, and daily read the Old and New Testaments in the originals.”

What all this knowledge of language and things musical and biblical didn’t give young Fanny was peace with God. When she was six years old, she was convicted of her sin while listening to a sermon, but she found no relief from this burden of guilt, carrying it always for several years. The adults she dared to approach for help tried to comfort her but couldn’t, perhaps because they didn’t understand her problem, or maybe because they didn’t understand the gospel.

When Fanny was fourteen, she spoke with the woman who would become her stepmother, telling her how much she wished that she could find Christ as Saviour. “Why,” said Miss Cooke, “can’t you trust yourself to him at once?”

Here’s how Frances Havergal tells the rest of the story:

Then came a flash of hope across me, which made me feel literally breathless. I remember how my heart beat. ‘I could surely,’ was my response; and I left her suddenly and ran away upstairs to think it out.  … I could commit my soul to Jesus. I could trust Him with my all for eternity. … Then and there, I committed my soul to my Saviour, I do not mean to say without any trembling or fear, but I did—and earth and heaven seemed bright from that moment—I did trust the Lord Jesus.”

Finally there was peace for young Fanny. Later she would write a hymn that paints us a picture of God’s peace, a hymn that also happens to be on of my very favorites.

Like a River Glorious

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. 

Refrain

Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest
Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.

Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand,
Never foe can follow, never traitor stand;
Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,
Not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.

Every joy or trial falleth from above,
Traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love;
We may trust Him fully all for us to do.
They who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.

Frances Havergal’s trust in and devotion to the Lord Jesus stayed with her. She never married, not because she wasn’t asked, but because the one she truly loved did not share her love for Jesus. So she filled her life with Bible study, writing, caring for the poor, and doing house to house visitation, both to encourage believers and  evangelize unbelievers.

According to some who write of her life, Miss Havergal’s health was always delicate. I’m not so sure this is exactly right, for she also loved travelling and hiking in the Alps. What is certain is that people loved her for her good humour and joyfulness.

Frances Havergal died young—at forty-three—from peritonitis. She was, she said, glad to be seeing her King: “If I am really going, it is too good to be true!”

She left behind for us a collection of wonderful hymns and devotional writings, along with a whole bunch of people who have claimed her for their particular brand of Christianity. She was a pietist, some say, and others argue that she was an advocate of the second blessing or sinless perfection. I don’t see any evidence, especially of the last two claims, in the writings of Frances Havergal that I’ve read.

Here’s what I do know: Frances Havergal was pious, devoted and revivalistic. But all her action and all her devotion was grounded in a deep theology that came from her study of God’s word, a theology that included a penal substitutionary atonement, the imputed righteousness of Christ, the total inability of the unbeliever and grace that does the job. If I didn’t know better, I might think she was a Puritan.

Wednesday
Mar032010

For My Sinful Coldness, Too

While cataloguing books for the church library, I found one with daily devotionals written by Frances Ridley Havergal, better known to me as a hymn writer. I’ve decided to work on little biographical sketch of Miss Havergal, which I’ll be posting soon. Meanwhile, here’s the devotional for today from the little book Opened Treasures.


Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. (1 Peter 3:18)

If when we looked back on some terrible suffering unto death of one who loved us dearly, I really do not know how any heart could bear it, if we distinctly knew that all that prolonged agony was borne instead of us, and borne for nothing in the world but love of us. But if to this were added the knowledge that we had behaved abominably to that dying one, done all sorts of things, now beyond recall, to grieve and vex him, not cared one bit about his love or made him any return of even natural affection, held aloof from him and sided with those who were against him; and then the terrible details of his slow agony were told, nay shown to us—well, imagine our remorse if you can, I cannot! The burden of grief and gratitude would be crushing, and if there were still any possible way in which we could show that poor, late gratitude, we should count nothing at any cost if we might but prove our tardy love. Only I think we should never know another hour’s rest. But it is part of the strange power of the remembrance of our Lord’s sufferings that it brings strength and solace and peace; for, as Bunyan says, “He hath given us rest by His sorrow.” The bitterness of death to Him is the very fountain of the sweetness of life to us. Do the words after all seem to fall without power or reality on your heart? Is it nothing, or very little more than nothing, to you? Not that you do not know it is all true, but your heart seems cold and your apprehension mechanical, and your faith paralyzed—does this describe you? Thank God that feelings do not alter facts! He suffered for this sinful coldness as well as for all other sins. He suffered, the Just for the unjust; and are we not emphatically unjust when we requite his tremendous love this way?