Confirmation at Worcester Cathedral, July 17, 1854

Frances Ridley Havergal



Now, on the evening of my confirmation day, I will look back upon it, and briefly endeavour to write some little record of it, for my own interest and profit in coming years.

Satan has been busy with me all this day. I rose early; he then tried to persuade me to put off, little by little, my reading of the Bible and prayer, and to some extent succeeded in making me do other minor things first, and in preoccupying my mind. At length I knelt. I looked back on all my past life, and tried to thank God for all; but the praise was not so fervent as it should have been, nor the prayer so earnest, for a blessing no: only on this day but on my future life; and my soul was grieved at this coldness. But, ere I rose, my heart did seem a little warmer and Jesua a little nearer. . . .

In the procession to Worcester Cathedral Ellen Wakeman was my companion. On reaching our seat very near the rails, I sunk on my knees, and for the first time to-day the thought of "whose I am" burst upon me, and I prayed "my God, oh, my own Father, Thou blessed Jesus my own Saviour, Thou Holy Spirit my own Comforter," and I stopped. It scarcely seemed right for me to use the language of such strong assurance as this, but yet I did not retract. The Litany only was chanted; and, though my thoughts would fain have flown with each petition heavenward, yet every little thing seemed trebly a distraction, and the chanting was too often the subject of my thoughts. My heart beat very fast, and my breath almost seemed to stop, while the solemn question was being put by the Bishop. Never I think did I feel my own weakness and utter helplessness so much. I hardly dared answer; but "the Lord is my strength" was graciously suggested to me, and then the words quickly came from (I trust) my very heart; "Lord, I cannot without Thee, but oh, with Thy almighty help,—I Do."

I believe that the solemnity of what had just been uttered, with its exceeding comprehensiveness, was realized by me as far as my mind could grasp it. I thought a good deal of the words "now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling"; and that was my chief comfort. We were the first to go up, and I was the fourth or fifth on whom the bishop laid his hands. At first, the thought came as to who was kneeling next to me, but then the next moment I felt alone, unconscious of my fellow candidates, of the many eyes fixed upon us, and the many thoughts of and prayers for me, alone with God and His chief minister. My feelings when his hands were placed on my head (and there was solemnity and earnestness in the very touch and manner) I cannot describe, they were too confused; but when the words "Defend, O Lord, this Thy child with Thy heavenly grace, that she may continue Thine for ever, and daily increase in Thy Holy Spirit more and more, until she come unto Thy everlasting kingdom," were solemnly pronounced, if ever my heart followed a prayer it did then, if ever it thrilled with earnest longing not unmixed with joy, it did at the words "Thine for ever." But, as if in no feeling I might or could rest satisfied, there was still a longing "oh that I desired this yet more earnestly, that I believed it yet more fully." We returned to our seats, and for some time I wept, why I hardly know, it was not grief, nor anxiety, nor exactly joy. About an hour and a quarter elapsed before all the candidates had been up to the rails; part of the time being spent in meditation on the double transaction which was now sealed, and in thinking that I was now more than ever His; but I still rather sadly wished that I could feel more. Many portions of Scripture passed through my mind, particularly part of Romans viii. . . . Each time that the "Amen" was chanted in a more distant part of the cathedral, after the "Defend" had been pronounced, it seemed as though a choir of angels had come down to witness, and pour out from their pure spirits a deep and felt "Amen."

The bishop pronounced the closing blessing so very impressively that it was like soothing balm to me, and the thought came "why should I doubt that my soul will indeed receive the blessing which God's minister is thus giving? why did God appoint him thus to bless if it were to be a mere idle form? May not His blessing accompany them, and ..."

The paper was not finished, nor can any account of her first communion be found. In her manuscript book of poems she wrote:

"Thine For Ever."

Oh!" Thine for ever," what a blessed thing 

To be for ever His who died for me! 

My Saviour, all my life Thy praise I'l1 sing, 

Nor cease my song throughout eternity.—In Worcester Cathedral, July 17, 1854.


Remembering Her Confirmation

She always kept the anniversary of her confirmation day. When at Celbridge (1856), her juvenile instructor in Hebrews, John H. Shaw, remembers on one of these occasions missing her at their hour for study, and that she spent most of the day in holy retirement. So lately as 1876 and 1877 she seems to have renewed her confirmation vow, in the following verses.


A Covenant.

Now, Lord, I give myself to Thee,

I would be wholly Thine; 

As Thou hast given Thyself to me, 

And Thou art wholly mine; 

Oh take me, seal me as Thine own, 

Thine altogether—Thine alone.

(July 1876.)


Only for Jesus! Lord, keep it for ever,

Sealed on the heart and engraved on the life!

Pulse of all gladness, and nerve of endeavour, 

Secret of rest, and the strength of our strife! 

(July 1877)