Hymn Story of the Week: I Gave My Life for Thee

I apologize for the lateness of this post. I tried to post it late this afternoon, but it seemed like Blogger was down, so I was unable to. Better now than never, though.

Frances Ridley Havergal had a natural gift for language. “For instance, while the others were having their German lesson, she would take care to be in the room, and without any one's knowing that she was listening, picked up so much that the master begged to be allowed to teach her.” Her father composed sacred music and sacred poetry, and at a young age, she would write down her rhymes.

Outwardly, she was a happy child, clambering up trees and climbing walls. However, there was a darkness in her little life. Even at the age of six, she knew that she did not love God as she ought to. "Up to the time I was six years old," she writes, "I have no remembrance of any religious ideas whatever; I do not think I could ever have said any of those 'pretty things' that little children often do, though there were sweet and beloved and holy ones round me who I must have often tried to put good thoughts into my little mind. But from six to eight I recall a different state of things. The beginning of it was a sermon at Hallow. Of this I even now retain a distinct impression. It was to me a very terrible one, dwelling much on hell and judgment, and what a fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God. This sermon haunted me. I began to pray a good deal, though only night and morning, with a sort of fidget and impatience, almost angry at feeling so unhappy, and wanting and expecting a new heart, and to have everything put straight and be made happy all at once.”

Sometimes men who preached at her father’s church would come over to their home. She writes, “I did so wish they would talk about the Saviour whom I wanted, but had not found. It would have been so much more interesting to me, and oh! why didn't they ever talk to me about Him, instead of about my lessons or their little girls at home? They did not know how a hungry little soul went empty away.”

Her little world fell apart when she was eleven years old, when her mother died after a long period of illness. Her grief was extreme, but she hid it under a facade of merriment and laughter.

After her mother’s death, she spent much time with her sister, Ellen. About this period of time, Frances wrote, “Between thirteen and fourteen, a soberising thoughtful time seemed to fall on me like a mantle, and my strivings were no longer the passionate spasmodic meteor flashes they had been, but something deeper, more settled, more sorrowful. All this was secret, and only within my own breast very few knew me to be anything but a careless, merry girl, light-hearted in the extreme. Now came a more definite and earnest prayer, for faith. Oh, to believe in Jesus, to believe that He had pardoned me! I used to lie awake in the long summer twilight praying for this precious gift. I read a great deal of the Bible in a 'straight on' sort of way. Once I determined, if eternal life were in the Scriptures, find it I would, and resolved to begin giving an hour a day to very careful and prayerful reading of the New Testament.”

It was around that time that she began her formal education. Among all of her friends, there was one girl, Diana, whom Frances “loved with a perfectly idolatrous affection.” Up to this time, Frances had only spoken to her sister, Ellen, about her lack of love for God. However, the longing was still there.

On December 8, 1850, the light began to dawn on Frances’ soul. She writes, “For some time I had noticed a slight depression about [her ‘idol’ Diana]. That evening, as I sat nearly opposite to her at tea, I could not help seeing (nobody could) a new and remarkable radiance about her countenance. It seemed literally lighted up from within while her voice, even in the commonest remarks, sounded like a song of gladness. I looked at her almost with awe. As soon as tea was over she came round to my side of the table, sat down by me on the form, threw her arm around me and said: 'Oh Fanny, dearest Fanny, the blessing has come to me at last. Jesus has forgiven me, I know. He is my Saviour, and I am so happy! Only come to Him and He will receive you. Even now He loves you, though you don't know it.’”

In February, 1851, on her knees in her room, Frances trusted Christ as her Saviour. “Then and there I committed my soul to the 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.

"For the first time my Bible was sweet to me, and the first passage I distinctly remember reading, in a new and glad light, was the fourteenth and following chapters of St. John's Gospel.”

This glimpse into the tender heart of the young Frances Havergal reminds us of the need to preach the Gospel to children as well as to adults. Even a young child can understand the Gospel. Jesus said, after all, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not.” It also helps to shed a new light on her first hymn, I Gave My Life for Thee.

Frances was about 22 years old. In Dusseldorf, Germany, she saw the painting Ecce Homo (Behold the Man), which portrays a flogged Christ standing before Pilate. Immediately the words of her hymn came to her. She wrote them down on a piece of paper, but decided to toss the paper into the fire. However, the paper was only singed. It was not until months after this that she showed the poem to her father. He wrote a melody for it, and it was first printed in 1859.

Frances Havergal also wrote the well-known hymn Take My Life, and Let It Be, as well as Golden Harps Are Sounding and Who Is on the Lord’s Side?
I recommend that you read the biography of her life at Wholesome Words. It is wonderfully written, and is the source of the quotes in this post.

1. I gave My life for thee,
My precious blood I shed,
That thou might’st ransomed be
And quickened from the dead.
I gave My life for thee;
What hast thou given for Me?

2. I spent long years for thee
In weariness and woe
That an eternity
Of joy thou mightest know.
I spent long years for thee;
Hast thou spent one for Me?

3. My Father’s home of light,
My rainbow-circled throne,
I left for earthly night,
For wanderings sad and lone.
I left it all for thee;
Hast thou left aught for Me?

4. I suffered much for thee,
More than My tongue may tell,
Of bitterest agony,
To rescue thee from hell.
I suffered much for thee;
What canst thou bear for Me?

5. And I have brought to thee
Down from My home above
Salvation full and free,
My pardon and My love.
Great gifts I brought to thee;
What hast thou brought to Me?

6. Oh, let thy life be given,
Thy years for Me be spent,
World’s fetters all be riven,
And joy with suffering blent!
I gave Myself for thee:
Give thou thyself to Me.


robert said...

Greetings from Wordwise Hymns. Thanks for the interesting details on Frances Havergal's conversion, and for posting her beautiful hymn of dedication, "I Gave My Life for Thee." God bless. Whenever we seem overwhelmed in the ministry, it is a great help and encouragement to "Consider Him" (Heb. 12:3).

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