Miss Havergal was a hymn-writer between whom and the world there was deep sympathy.
She was the daughter of the Rev. W. H. Havergal, and was born in Astley, a little country village of Worcestershire, in December, 1836. She died in 1879.
Her father was a man of great musical talent, which showed itself in many a chant and hymn tune, and in a great measure this gift was inherited by his little girl, the youngest daughter of the house.
Her first great sorrow was the loss of her mother when she was twelve years old. She felt the loss very keenly, although her father ana sisters surrounded her with loving care. She was much loved by the people in the parish, who rejoiced in her sunny disposition, and in her home they called her their "household fairy."
Her school life was fortunate - it was spent partly in England and partly in Germany, and her intellect and religious feeling were strengthened and built up by living for a time in the house of a German pastor, who read with her, and gave her the benefit of his keen brain and deep religious feeling.
She spoke German as well as English She studied Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, and read the Bible in the original. The work she loved best was among the children in the Sunday-school. Her health began to fail quite early in life, and she suffered more or less to the end of it. The way in which she loved best to obtain rest and recreation was travelling in Switzerland.
There was always something girlish in her smile, in her clear, calm glance, in her brisk movements, and in her ringing laughter. Wherever she went, she gathered round her men and women anxious to learn of her; there was sympathy in her very appearance and in the sound of her voice, which made strangers open their hearts to her.
What Inspired her Writings
She was a very womanly woman, and at the same time she was possessed of a right sort of courage of which any man might have been proud. She was also a very orderly woman; nothing untidy in any of her habits.
She made no mystery as to her writing, or the thoughts which prompted her hymns, and so we learn that nearly all her hymns were first written on odd scraps of paper, and afterwards copied into exercise books, and that they rarely needed any correction.
On being asked how she composed her hymns, she said : "I can never set myself to write verse; 1 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 the hymns come. The Master has not put a chest of poetic gold into my possession and said, ' Now use it as you like,' but He keeps the gold and gives it me piece by piece just when He will and as much as He will, and no more.
"I often smile to myself when people talk about 'gifted pen ' or ' clever verses.' Be sure they don't know that it is neither, but something really much nicer than being ' talented or clever.'
"Writing is praying with me. 1 never seem to write even a verse by myself, and feel like a little child writing. You know how a little child would look up at every sentence and say, 'what next ?' That is just what I feel."
She wrote many beautiful hymns, one of the most popular and a great favourite in America being, "I gave My life for thee."
She herself says :
"This is the first thing 1 ever wrote which could be called a hymn, and it was composed when 1 was quite a young girl. I did not half realise what I was writing about."
Her sister says :
" It was written on January 10, 1858. She had come in weary, and sitting down, she read the motto under a picture in the room, and the lines of her hymn flashed upon her. She wrote them in pencil on a scrap of paper. Reading them over, she thought them poor, and tossed them on the fire, but they fell out untouched."
Showing them some time after to her father, he encouraged her to preserve them, and wrote the tune specially for them. The hymn was published in "Good Words " in February, 1860.
Thy life was given for me,
Thy blood, O Lord, was shed, That I might ransomed be,
And quickened from the dead; Thy life was given for me - What have I given for Thee ?
Long years were spent for me
In weariness and woe, That through eternity,
Thy glory I might know; Long years were spent for me - Have I spent one for Thee ?
Another of her hymns, and almost as popular, is the "Consecration Hymn." It was written in February, 1874, while on a visit. It has been translated into French, German, Swedish, Russian, and other European languages, and into several of those of Africa. She herself tells how she wrote this Consecration hymn :
"I went on a little visit of five days to Areley House. There were ten persons in the house, some converted and long prayed for, some converted but not rejoicing Christians. He gave me the prayer, ' Lord, give me all in this house.' And He just did. Before I left the house every one had got a blessing.
"The last night of my visit, after I had retired, the governess asked me to go to the two daughters - they were crying. Then and there both of them trusted and rejoiced, and it was nearly midnight. I was too happy to sleep, and passed most of the night in praise and renewal of my own consecration, and these two couplets formed themselves and chimed to my heart one after another till they finished with ' Ever only, all for Thee." The words run :