Frances Ridley Havergal
Sinless Perfection Consecration Hymn Singing God's Keeping Writing Poetry
Various Hymns God's Blessings Lord as Our Portion Trust God Enduring Pain
. . Certainly your letters have filled me with gladness and thanksgiving. Loving thanks to Mr. Shaw for his message. . . .
I have long wanted to explain to you and others in writing (which is easier to me to be clear in, than in conversation, with its natural interruptions) what I see as to the subject which to me was undoubtedly the portal into a happy life. As to "perfectionism" or "sinlessness," I have all along, and over and over again, said I never did, and do not, hold either. "Sinlessness" belongs only to Christ now, and to our glorified state in heaven. I believe it to be not merely an impossibility on earth, but an actual contradiction of our very being, which cannot be "sinless" till the resurrection change has passed upon us. But being kept from falling, kept from sins, is quite another thing, and the Bible seems to teem with commands and promises about it. First, however, I would distinctly state, that it is only as and while a soul is under the full power of the blood of Christ that it can be cleansed from all sin; that one moment's withdrawal from that power, and it is again actively because really sinning; and that it is only as, and while, kept by the power of God Himself that we are not sinning against Him; one instant of standing alone is certain fall! But (premising that) have we not been limiting the cleansing power of the precious blood when applied by the Holy Spirit, and also the keeping power of our God? Have we not been limiting 1 John 1. 7, by practically making it refer only to "the remission of sins that are past," instead of taking the grand simplicity of "cleanseth us from all sin?" "All” is all; and as we may trust Him to cleanse from, the stain of past sins, so we may trust Him to cleanse from all present defilement; yes, all! If not, we take away from this most precious promise, and, by refusing to take it in its fullness, lose the fullness of its application and power. Then we limit God's power to "keep;" we look at our frailty more than at His omnipotence. Where is the line to be drawn, beyond which He is not "able?" The very keeping implies total helplessness without it, and the very cleansing most distinctly implies defilement without it. It was that one word "cleanseth" which opened the door of a very glory of hope and joy to me. I had never seen the force of the tense before, a continual present, always a present tense, not a present which the next moment becomes a past. It goes on cleansing, and I have no words to tell how my heart rejoices in it. Not a coming to be cleansed in the fountain only, but a remaining in the fountain, so that it may and can go on cleansing.
Why should we pare down the commands and promises of God to the level of what we have hitherto experienced of what God is "able to do," or even of what we have thought He might be able to do for us? Why not receive God's promises, nothing doubting, just as they stand? "Take the shield of faith, whereby ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked;" "He is able to make all grace abound toward you, that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things;" and so on, through whole constellations of promises, which surely mean really and fully what they say.
One arrives at the same thing, starting almost from anywhere. Take Philippians iv. 19, "your need;" well, what is my great need and craving of soul? Surely it is now (having been justified by faith, and having assurance of salvation) to be made holy by the continual sanctifying power of God's Spirit; to be kept from grieving the Lord Jesus; to be kept from thinking or doing whatever is not accordant with His holy will: Oh what a need is this! And it is said, "He shall supply all need;" now, shall we turn round and say "all" does not mean quite all? Both as to the commands and the promises, it seems to me that anything short of believing them as they stand is but another form of "yea, hath God said?"
Thus accepting, in simple and unquestioning faith, God's commands and promises, one seems to be at once, brought into intensified views of everything. Never, oh never before, did sin seem so hateful, so really "intolerable," nor was watchfulness so necessary, and a keenness and uninterruptedness of watchfulness too, beyond what one ever thought of; only somehow different, not a distressed sort but a happy sort. It is the watchfulness of a sentinel when his captain is standing by him on the ramparts, when his eye is more than ever on the alert for any sign of the approaching enemy, because he knows they can only approach to be defeated. Then, too, the "all for Jesus" comes in; one sees there is no half-way, it must be absolutely all yielded up, because the least unyielded or doubtful point is sin, let alone the great fact of owing all to Him. And one cannot, dare not, temporize with sin. I know, and have found, that even a momentary hesitation about yielding, or obeying, or trusting and believing, vitiates all, the communion is broken, the joy vanished; only, thank God, this never need continue even five minutes, faith may plunge instantly into "the fountain open for sin and uncleanness," and again find its power to cleanse and restore. Then one wants to have more and more light; one does not shrink from painful discoveries of evil, because one so wants to have the unknown depths of it cleansed as well as what comes to the surface. "Cleanse me thoroughly from my sin;" and one prays to be shown this. But so far as one does see, one must "put away sin" and obey entirely; and here again His power is our resource, enabling us to do what without it we could not do.
One of the intensest moments of my life was when I saw the force of that word "cleanseth." The utterly unexpected and altogether unimagined sense of its fulfillment to me, on simply believing it in its fullness, was just indescribable. I expected nothing like it short of heaven. I am so thankful that, in the whole matter, there was as little human instrumentality as well could be, for certainly two sentences in letters from a total stranger were little. I say only two sentences, for nothing else seemed to make much difference to me; all the rest was, I am sure, God's own direct teaching. And you know I had read no books and attended no meetings or conferences! I am so conscious of His direct teaching and guidance, through His Word and Spirit, in the matter that I cannot think I can ever unsee it again. I have waited many months before writing this, so it is no new and untested theory to me; in fact, experience came before theory, and is more to me than any theory. But, understand me, it is "not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." pp. 102-105
The Story of the Consecration Hymn:
Perhaps you will be interested to know the origin of the consecration hymn, "Take my life." I went for a little visit of five days. There were ten persons in the house, some unconverted and long prayed for, some converted but not rejoicing Christians. He gave me the prayer, "Lord, give me all in this house!" And He just did! Before I left the house every one had got a blessing. The last night of my visit I was too happy to sleep, and passed most of the night in praise and renewal of my own consecration, and these little couplets formed themselves and chimed in my heart one after another, till they finished with, "Ever, ONLY, ALL for Thee!" p. 106
The beautiful couplet in the same hymn, "Take my voice, and let me sing, Always, only for my King," was thenceforth (from December 1873) really carried out. She writes: Let us sing words which we feel and love, sacrificing everything to clearness of enunciation, and looking up to meet His smile all the while we are singing; our songs will reach more hearts than those of finer voices and more brilliant execution, unaccompanied by His power. A sacred song thus sung often gives a higher tone to the evening, and affords, both to singer and listeners, some opportunity of speaking a word for Jesus. p. 106
On God’s Keeping:
DEAR MR. S-,
I have just had such a blessing in the shape of what would have been only two months ago a really bitter blow to me; and now it is actual accession of joy, because I find that it does not even touch me. I was expecting a letter from America, enclosing £35 now due to me, and possibly news that "Bruey" was going on like steam, and "Under the Surface" pressingly wanted. The letter has come, and, instead of all this, my publisher has failed in the universal crash. He holds my written promise to publish only with him as the condition of his launching me; so this is not simply a little loss, but an end of all my American prospects of either cash, influence, or fame, at any, rate for a long time to come. I really had not expected that He would do for me so much above all I asked, as not merely to help me to acquiesce in this, but positively not to feel it at all, and only to rejoice in it as a clear test of the reality of victorious faith which I do find brightening almost daily. Two months ago this would have been a real trial to me, for I had built a good deal on my American prospects, now "Thy will be done" is not a sigh but only a song! I think if it had been all my English footing, present and prospective, as well as the American, that I thus found suddenly gone, it would have been worth it, for the joy it has been to find my Lord so faithful and true to all His promises. With regard to many of the promises, there seems no room for even the exercise of faith. It is not that I believe or grasp them, but that I find them all come true as I never did before. The sense of His unutterable loving kindness to me is simply overwhelming . . . Several, times lately I have felt literally overwhelmed and overpowered with the realization of God's unspeakable goodness to me. I say it deliberately, and with thankfulness and joy for which I have no words. I have not a fear, or a doubt, or a care, or a shadow upon the sunshine of my heart. Every day brings some quite new cause for thankfulness; only today He has given me such a victory as I never had before, in a very strong temptation; He lifted me above it in a way I never experienced yet. pp.107,108
On Writing Poetry:
. . . I have not had a single poem come to me for some time, till last night, when one shot into my mind. All my best have come in that way, Minerva fashion, full grown. It is so curious, one minute I have not an idea of writing anything, the next I have a poem; it is mine, I see it all, except laying out rhymes and metre,- which is then easy work! I rarely write anything which has not come thus. "Hidden Leaves" is the title; I wonder how you would work it out after this beginning: "Oh, the hidden leaves of life, Closely folded in the breast!" p. 75
. . . I can never set myself to write verse. I believe my King suggests a thought and whispers me a musical line or two, and then I look up and thank Him delightedly, and go on with it. That is how the hymns and poems come. Just now there is silence. I have not had the least stir of music in my mind since I wrote that tiny consecration hymn, a most unusually long interval; and till He sends it there will be none. I am always ready to welcome it and work it when it comes but I never press for it. . . . p. 108
DEAR MR. W.
I can't make you quite understand me! You say "F. R. H. could do 'satisfied' grandly!" No, she couldn't! Not unless He gave it it me line by line. That is how verses come. The Master has not put a chest of poetic gold into my possession and said, "Now use it as you like!" But He keeps the gold, and gives it me piece by piece just when He will and as much as He will, and no more. Some day perhaps He will send me a bright line of verse on "Satisfied" ringing through my mind, and then I shall look up and thank Him, and say, "Now, dear Master, give me another to rhyme with it, and then another;" and then perhaps He will send it all in one flow of musical thoughts, but more likely one at a time, that I may be kept asking Him for every line. There, that is the process, and you see there is no "I can do it" at all. That isn't His way with me. I often smile to myself when people talk about "gifted pen" or "clever verses," etc.; because they don't know that it is neither, but something really much nicer than being "talented" or "clever." P.108, 109
Nearly every poem would verify the above. Some instances are given. When visiting at Perry Barr she walked to the boy's schoolroom, and being very tired she leaned against the playground wall while Mr. Snepp went in. Returning in ten minutes, he found her scribbling on an old envelope, and at his request she handed him the hymn just penciled, "Golden harps are sounding." p.109
Writing “Tell it Out Among the Heathen”:
Her missionary hymn "Tell it out among the heathen" was written at Winterdyne, when unable to go to church one snowy Sunday morning. She asked for her Prayer-Book (in bed), always liking to follow the services for the day. On Mr. Shaw's return from church, he heard her touch on the piano. "Why, Frances, I thought you were upstairs!" "Yes; but I had my Prayer-Book, and in the Psalms for to-day I read 'Tell it out among the heathen that the Lord is King.' I thought, what a splendid first line! and then words and music came rushing in to me. There it's all written out." With copperplate neatness she had rapidly written out the words, music and harmonies complete. Only those who heard her could imagine the brisk ringing time with which she sang this tune. It distressed her when told how slowly and drowsily it was sometimes given.
On “Submission” in “O Master”:
"O Master!" It is perhaps my favorite title, because it implies rule and submission; and this is what love craves. Men may feel differently, but a true woman's submission is inseparable from deep love.
On Writing “Adoration”:
"Adoration" ("O Master, at Thy feet I bow in rapture sweet"): was written on December 3r, 1866. I felt that I had not written anything specially in praise to Christ; a strong longing to do so possessed me. I wanted to show forth His praise to Him, not to others; even if no mortal ever saw it, He would see every line, would know the unwritten longing to praise Him, even if words failed utterly. It describes, as most of my poems do, rather reminiscence than present feeling. p.110
Thoughts on God’s Blessings:
I have been thinking much lately of the Lord's loving, kindness in giving us so much wayside enjoyment, and so much present reward in all our work for him. In spite of dark life enigmas, and real and heavy trials, and often keen inner conflict, not to mention daily burdens of weariness or anxiety or worry, we can set to our seal that "His ways are ways of pleasantness." For, over and above the great gifts, the "blessed hope" set before us, and the quiet "peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ," what numbers of bits and drops of pleasure and delight one gets, which simply would not exist for us if we were not His children. Just look at Christian intercourse, the meetings without any cloud of suspicion or doubt of each other, the consciousness of true sweet sympathy, the thrill that one does feel when His beloved name is named; all this, even with Christian acquaintances, is a great deal more than all the pleasure or good to be got out of any worldly intimacy or friendship so called. I want to hand over to you what I have been enjoying very much this week, a simple thought enough, but so nice Dr. Caudlish gives (in his beautiful book on the First. Epistle of St. John) as one of the proofs of "fellowship with the Father," etc., our sympathy of aim, His cause being our cause, His kingdom and its advancement our interest, what interests Him interests us, and so on. This seemed at once to transfigure all one's daily life, and, poor little small efforts to speak or write or work for God, and to exalt it into "fellowship." I cannot convey to you how much I enjoyed it, and what a bright reality and force it gave to the words "TRULY our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ." I like to think how impossible it would be to untwine Christ and the things of Christ from our life, inner and outer; when one comes to think about it He is so really and truly interwoven with our life that one seems to feel the "no separation" not merely as a grand promise, but an actuality which cannot be otherwise. pp.112,113
The Lord is My Portion:
"I have been resting lately on 'The Lord is my portion.' All else is so unsatisfying, and even the best earthly gifts fail to reach the true depths of the heart. I do so love that hymn ‘To Thee, O dear, dear Saviour, My spirit turns for rest.’ What could we do without Him in this lonely world of shadows? And He will not let us do without Him. And may we not reverently and wonderingly say, Neither can He do without us! His people are so entwined around His heart that it must be so.
WINTERDYNE, February 22, 1875.
I want to thank you for all your prayers for me. Only, only, have the prayers of my dear friends held me back from going to be with the Beloved One! Or is it that He has some more little work for me to do, and so has richly only been answering all your prayers in the "perfect peace" in which He has kept me! Oh, He has been to tenderly gracious to me; it has been such gentle, faithful loving kindness all through. It seems worth even coming back from the very golden gates if I may but in some way "tell of His faithfulness." I do wish people would but trust Jesus out and out, and give themselves up utterly to Him; and then wouldn't they find rest to their souls! But it will be a long waiting time yet, "at least six months," says my doctor, before I may write or do anything. But now just see how wonderfully kind He is to me. He has taken my will as I gave it to Him, and now I really am not conscious of even a wish crossing His will concerning me. I seem to be enabled to be perfectly satisfied with whatever He chooses, and it is so nice. This is all of Him, otherwise I would somehow, of late, I mean for many months, He seems to not have allowed the enemy to come near me. From the hour my illness began I have only had one dark hour, and that was when I thought my special prayer "that this sickness might be for the glory of God, had been denied, for I felt I had not "glorified Him in the fires, because, after I had lost all my strength, I could not bear the pain without moaning and crying out, and showing eagerness for remedies. But He so tenderly assured me of pardon, and gave me "He knoweth our frame," that even that cloud soon passed. In this second illness He has mercifully spared me any recurrence of such pain, only laying upon me discomfort enough to exercise the patience which has perhaps been His chief lesson for me. Perhaps you and other dear friends will be disappointed. I know you expect that the Master will give me new and fuller messages for others after all this. But I really do not know what He has been teaching me; I do not seem conscious (at present), of having gained anything for others; it has been just lying fallow. For myself I feel as if it had intensified my trust; I do trust Him utterly, and feel as if I could not help trusting Him; it seems to "come natural" now! And "I will fear no evil" seems a natural sequence; what should I fear? There is no terror in anything when "safe in the arms of Jesus," and nothing can take me out of them. The marvelous way God has inclined you especially, and others too, for me, does seem such a token of His incomprehensible love to me, that I see I need an eternity to praise Him to my heart's content! Now, dear friend, I am asking Him that, somehow, and in His own time, that He would graciously let me, even me, be the means of some new sweet blessing to you, perhaps to your people too, as a tiny return for all your loving prayers for me.
Do you think that the Lord does show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass? It was so strange that, while perfectly well and strong in Switzerland, I had a constant presentiment that some form of physical suffering would be the next step in His dealings me, that His loving wisdom would see it needful for me. But, I had not vestige of fear or shrinking; I rather felt I could welcome it, if it might but make me more “meet for the Master's use." So I was not a bit surprised when the illness came.
How infinitely blessed it is to be entirely Christ's. To think that you and I are never to have another care or another fear, but that Jesus has undertaken simply for us And isn't it grand to have the privilege of being His instruments? It does seem such loving condescension that He should use us.
I don't know when I shall get downstairs; much too weak as yet, I am in no hurry. He will give me
strength at the right time. Yours, etc., etc. pp. 133,134
Pain, as to God's own children, is truly and really, only blessing in disguise. It is but His chiseling, one of His graving tools, producing the likeness to Jesus for which we long. I never yet came across a suffering (real) Christian who could not thank Him for pain! Is not this a strong and comforting fact! I do not say that they always do so during the very moments of keenest pain, though much more often than not I think they are able to do this; but, certainly, they do deliberately praise Him for it afterwards. I think one must pass through it for oneself before one can fully realize the actual blessedness of suffering; meanwhile, you may well take the testimony of those who have. Its conscious effects are to give one deeper feeling of one's entire weakness and helplessness (a lesson which we are all slow to learn in health), and of the real nothingness of earthly aims and comforts, and the fleetingness and unsatisfactoriness of everything except Christ. Then, it drives one to Him each moment, one cannot bear it even one minute alone, one must lean and cling (and anything is blessed which does this!). And then, one finds that He is tender and gracious, that His promises are precious, that His presence is a reality even if unrealized (a true paradox)! Then, one has opportunities which one could not otherwise have of learning trust, and patience, and meekness; it is a time of growing up into Him in these things. Then, one realizes more what it must have been to Jesus to endure real, actual, bodily pain for us.
“Then trust Him for today
As thine unfailing Friend,
And let Him lead thee all the way
Who loveth to the end.
And let the morrow rest
In His beloved hand,
His good is better than our best,
As we shall understand;
If, trusting Him who faileth never,
We rest on Him today, for ever.
—Starlight Through the Shadows
Encouraging Trust in God’s Power:
Your letter came on the evening of a day of more than usual languor, after a bad night, and it was spiritual salvolatile to me! I am so glad to hear of your ten.
Many thanks for your remembrance of me on Wednesday evening, and for letting me have the pleasure of joining you. Will you tell your "band" that God seemed to put it into my heart, in a very special way, to pray that they all might be soul-winners, and at once! No waiting for further orders, they have got their commission now: "Let him that heareth say, Come!" And I prayed long at Acts iv. 29, 30, for them: "grant unto Thy servants," etc. But there must be power from on high, or they are helpless; and I asked that this might be given. Then, I think the Master gave me a special text for them, will you ask them to take it each one as from Him: " Behold I give you power over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you?" Why it is grand; "power over all the power of the enemy!" Just where he is strongest, there they shall prevail; not over his weak points and places, but over every focus of his power; not over his power here and there, or now and then, but over all his power. And Jesus said it! Isn't it enough to go into any battle with! And it is not future; not "I will give," but present, now: "I give unto you," " unto you," to every one whom He sends out, to every one of your dear "ten," if they will but put out the hand of faith to take it. One hardly seems to need any addition to this, and yet His tender love adds the personal assurance, "nothing shall by any means hurt you." Nothing, really and absolutely nothing! So there is not the least loop-hole left for the shadow of a fear to steal in. No end to the promise, it won't leave off, good for every day and moment all along, "till glory." Now, with such a clear commission and such an inspiring promise, which of your "ten" will be content to let another day pass without an attack upon "the power of the enemy?" When shall I hear of the victories that must follow? You will tell me of them, won't you? I want each one of your "ten" to begin at once to work out with God the fulfilment of Isaiah xlix. 25, so that numbers of captives may be delivered from the enemy, and led as blessed, willing, rejoicing captives in the triumph of Jesus Christ. I should like also to send to your "loving F—" "more than conquerors through Him that loved us," and to your "little S—" Jeremiah i.
7. Why, only think if he begins winning souls at fourteen, and goes straight on (God sparing him), what splendid sheaves he will have to lay at the Master's feet! Will you ask them to send me a text for myself.
In what I have said I need hardly say I do not forget the other side, that "no man can come to Me except," etc., and so on; but then is not the seeking and obtaining His power a proof that we are on the track of His purposes? "Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power," and it is only in "Thy power" that we hope to succeed. I rejoice in your joy in Him. How good He is to us!
I never find that He fails to respond to trust; it is indeed "whatsoever" in its fullness. And now I see that "able" means able, and "all" means all. Do you not find that, even in proportion as we realize this marvelous power upon us and in us, we realize as never before our utter dependence upon it, and utter weakness without it, AND our utter vileness and sinfulness were the cleansing power of His precious blood withdrawn for one moment! But why should we ever refuse to believe in its glorious fullness? (1 John i. 7.)
I keep wondering every day what new loving kindness is coming next! It is such a glorious life And the really leaving EVERYTHING to Him is so inexpressibly sweet; and surely He does arrange so much better than we could for ourselves, when we leave it all to Him. pp. 133-136
(To J. E. J:)
I realize, "Lord, I have given my life to Thee, and every day and hour is Thine." For, literally, every hour
seems in His hand, and filled with His work in some form or other, either preparation, actual service, or, as now, weakness and pain. It is quite marvelous how He really seems answering my prayer that He would accept my whole life, down to its very moments.
. . . It always seems to me the worst compliment possible to our dear Church of England, when a certain class of minds regard anything which has a little extra life, and love, and warmth, and glow, as being, well— suspicious! As if WE are never to ask, and never to expect, and never to have any such extra blessing as He is pouring out in our very midst! pp.136, 137
Taken from Maria Havergal, Memorials of Frances Ridley Havergal, (Lodon: James Nisbet & Co., 1880)