Saturday, February 23, 2013

'Waiting for Jesus'

Frances Ridley Havergal was born in Worcestershire in 1836. She was the youngest of six children of an evangelical Anglican clergyman, himself the author of about a hundred hymns.

Frances could read at three years old, and wrote her first poetry at seven. From six years old, she longed to find forgiveness in Christ, but it was only at 14 that she found peace in Him. "I committed my soul to the Saviour," she said, "and earth and heaven seemed brighter from that moment."

Although not able to go to school for long periods, she was proficient in several modern languages, as well as Latin, Hebrew and Greek. She was a sweet singer and a gifted pianist, playing Handel, Mendelssohn and Beethoven, often from memory.

By the time she was 22, she had learned the Psalms, the book of Isaiah and almost all the New Testament off by heart. She went on to memorise the Minor Prophets. (Do they make Christians like that any more?)

Whilst in Germany, she saw a picture of Christ during His passion, bearing the inscription "I did this for thee; what hast thou done for Me?" It appears to have made a considerable impression.

Despite long periods of illness, Frances wrote books, articles, poetry, a considerable number of hymns - some of them well known - and a number of hymn tunes.

She died of peritonitis at 42 years old.

At the beginning of her last illness, she asked her doctor "Do you think I have a chance of going? If I am going, it is too good to be true!"

Towards the end of that last illness, although in agonising pain, "It is all perfect peace," she said. "I am only waiting for Jesus to take me in."

Clearly, though faintly, she sang the whole verse of one of her hymns. She looked up steadfastly, her face radiant, as though she saw the Lord. For 10 minutes, said her sister, the family watched her almost visible meeting with her King.

She tried to sing again, but after one sweet high note, her voice failed and she was gone.

Her favourite bit of Scripture, "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin," was inscribed on her coffin and on her gravestone.

May I be allowed to ask you a question? It's the same question she was faced with. He died for you. What have you done for Him?