While the American continent was being richly blessed with the hymns of Fanny Crosby, England’s hymnody was being written with the pen of Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879). She, sixteen years Crosby’s junior, said of blind Fanny, “Her heart can see!” The truth be told, Havergal had the same spiritual perception to make much of Jesus through music.
It was a deep and abiding well within Havergal that led to the writing of her glorious anthems. She was a sanctified vessel, meet for the master’s use. Educated in English and German boarding schools, she became a scholar of the Hebrew and Greek langauge, a brilliant pianist and vocalist, as well as a student of the Bible, having memorized much of the New Testament as well as the Psalms, Isaiah and the Minor Prophets. Out of this well the Holy Spirit drew such hymns as, “Like a River Glorious,” “I Could Not Do Without Thee,” “I Gave My Life for Thee” and many more. Based on her recurring theme of surrender and devotion this “Sweetest Voice of Hymnody” also became known as “The Consecration Poet.”
She once exclaimed, “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 my hymns come.”
To many believers, “Take My Life and Let it Be” would be the masterpiece of her sacred collection. The lyrics of this hymn do indeed etch into human hearts the need for personal surrender to Christ.
In February of 1874, Miss Havergal had gone to London for a visit of five days. There in the home of the family she was visiting were ten persons, some not converted and those who were converted had lost the joy of salvation. Through the prayers of her burdened heart, she prayed that within those five days each of them might receive a blessing. Indeed, they did! By week’s end, all ten persons were either saved or renewed in Christian joy.
As she retired to her room the last night, she experienced a blessed sleeplessness. She was too happy to sleep! She rather spent the night in praise and prayer that God might renew her own consecration. In that night, the words to this song were born.
“Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to thee,
Take my moments and my days
Let them flow in ceaseless praise”
Havergal thought of her vast musical abilities. She was expertly versed in the performance and interpretation of the music greats, especially Handel, Mendelssohn, and Beethoven. Her singing voice was that of an angel. But after considering that all her talents were on loan from the Lord Jesus, she determined not to use her voice for secular purposes, but would wholly give her voice to the singing and playing of sacred songs.
“Take my voice and let me sing
Always, only, for my King;
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee”
Remarkably, neither fame, fortune, nor the franchising of her musical and intellectual accomplishments owned her; Christ did. Every word of this timeless hymn was sincerely phrased! She at once gathered together her many fine pieces of jewelry and family heirlooms and shipped them to a church missionary house to be used in financing evangelistic meetings. She reported that she with “extreme delight” surrendered fifty items. She then sang,
“Take my silver and my gold
Not a mite would I withhold;
Take my intellect and use
Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose”
At forty-two years of age, Havergal caught a severe cold which caused inflammation in the lungs. She had often stated, “Thy will be done is not a sigh, but only a song.” Hearing that her life was in danger, Havergal exclaimed, “If I am really going, it is too good to be true! Splendid! To be so near the gates of Heaven!” Fading from earth’s shore to Glory’s, she drew into her lungs the breath that would expel her final feelings, “Jesus, I will trust Thee, trust Thee with my soul!” Then, she looked up steadfastly toward Heaven, as if she had seen the Lord. Her sister recounted, “For ten minutes we watched that almost visible meeting with her King, and her countenance was so glad, as if she were already talking to Him!”
“Take my love– my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store;
Take myself–and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee”
From the soul of a man abiding in Christ will not emanate the sensual songs of the world and the sweet songs of Zion. The Bible says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear,” (I Peter 3:15).
Many today have “blended” the songs of Zion with the tunes and jingles of a world gone mad. Bible-believing Christians have swallowed the lie that what you listen to at the church house should be sacred but what you listen to and enjoy at your house is personal. Such error has led to the secularizing of sacred music and the acceptance of cultural trends that are racing quickly away from the heart of a Thrice-Holy God.
Sadly, America has been adversely affected by our compromises. Not only has our nation not seen a revival “under the influence” of modern Bible versions, but she has also not seen a great revival with contemporary sounds wafting from the platform either! Oh, how we need to be people of God, sanctified, separated, sold-out, spiritual, sensible and sincere again! May the songs of Zion permeate our choirs, cars and, yes, the corridors of our homes. May each believer today echo the clarion call of Christ-likeness which proceeded from “The Consecration Poet’s” heart: “Always, only for my King,”