Frances Ridley Havergal

Frances Ridley Havergal

Born: De­cem­ber 14, 1836, Ast­ley, Wor­ces­ter­shire, Eng­land.
Died: June 3, 1879, Cas­well Bay, Wales.
Buried: Pri­ory Church of St. Pe­ter, Ast­ley, Wor­ces­ter­shire, Eng­land.

Hymns by Frances Ridley Havergal

A Life Devoted to Hymns and Holiness

The Victorian era produced many fervent Christians, but few matched the devotion and spiritual depth of Frances Ridley Havergal. Born into an Anglican family in 1836, Frances used her considerable talents in poetry and music to glorify her Savior and share the Gospel. Her love for Jesus shone through her many hymns that remain beloved to this day, including “Take My Life and Let It Be” and “I Gave My Life for Thee.” But Frances’ legacy extends beyond her creative gifts-her life was marked by an earnest pursuit of holiness and full consecration to God.

Raised in a Hymn-Loving Home

As the daughter of Rev. William Henry Havergal, a noted clergyman and composer of hymn tunes, Frances grew up immersed in hymns. The Havergal home on Sundays resounded with hymn singing that delighted young Frances. Though losing her mother at age 11 deeply impacted her, Frances found comfort in the Scriptures, memorizing large portions. She also early evidenced the poetic and musical gifts that would later yield such fruit.

Coming to Personal Faith

Despite being raised by godly parents, Frances struggled to find assurance of salvation as a child. She longed to know her sins were forgiven. It was while away at boarding school that the 14-year-old Frances came to personal, saving faith in Christ through the gentle witness of her teacher. The change was dramatic-the Bible came alive to her and she began to write poems expressing her spiritual discoveries.

Using Her Gifts for God’s Glory

Highly intelligent and gifted in languages, music and poetry, Frances devoted her talents fully to Jesus. Fluent in several modern languages as well as Greek and Hebrew, she delved deep into Scripture. Frances loved studying doctrine and took care that her religious feelings were grounded in biblical truth rather than mere emotion.

Frances had an incredible memory, committing to heart the Gospels, Epistles, Revelation, Psalms and Isaiah as a young adult. She continued this pattern of Scripture memorization throughout her life. Her intimacy with God’s Word permeated her speech, her writing, and her hymns.

As an accomplished pianist and singer with an innate grasp of music theory, Frances often ministered through music. Whether singing her original hymns or selections from Handel’s Messiah, she looked for every opportunity to share the gospel and minister to souls.

A Passion for Missions and Evangelism

Supporting missionary causes was a deep passion for Frances, especially the Church Missionary Society. She gave singing lessons to raise support, trained choirs, and even singlehandedly led YWCA mission hymn-meetings. Frances never shied away from sharing the gospel personally, whether with priests while traveling or at London dinner parties, finding that singing her hymns often provided a natural bridge to speak of Christ.

The hymns Frances carefully crafted, prayerfully considering every word and rhyme, focused on consecration to Christ and were rooted in Scripture. In this stanza from her most famous hymn, you can see her heart cry:

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise.

Pursuing Complete Consecration

In her early 30s, Frances entered a special season of spiritual renewal. Deeply convicted of the need to surrender everything to Jesus, she wrote “Take My Life” as an expression of her commitment to live wholly for Him. This theme of complete consecration marked her life and ministry. Even though plagued by ill health, Frances poured out her life in service to Christ, whether teaching Sunday school, visiting her sisters’ families, or using her creative gifts.

A Legacy that Endures

After Frances’ unexpected death at age 42, her family ensured that her collection of poems would be published. Many were set to music and became beloved hymns sung to this day around the world. The spiritual truths captured in the more than 50 hymns we still have from her pen continue to inspire new generations of believers to deeper devotion to Christ.

More than just a hymnwriter, Frances Ridley Havergal modeled a life wholeheartedly dedicated to knowing and serving Jesus. May her legacy spur us on to use our own gifts for His glory, with the same constant refrain that echoed in her heart: “Ever, only, all for Thee!”

Don Chapman

Don Chapman

Composer/arranger Don Chapman has created HYMNDEX as a labor of love to help new generations learn about the lives, legacies and lyrics of historic hymn writers.