“FANNY dear, pray to God to prepare you for all He is preparing for you,” said the dying mother to her little girl in pleading, solemn tones.
Frances Ridley Havergal was about eleven years of age when these words were spoken to her, but she would not believe that her beloved mother was dying. As she says in her autobiography, she shut her eyes in a very hardened way to those who tried to prepare her for it. Mrs. Havergal was quite aware of this, and strove to lead her child to trust and love the Saviour that she might have comfort when the heavy blow should fall.
“You are my youngest little girl, and I feel more anxious about you than the rest. I do pray for the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you. And remember nothing but the precious blood of Christ can make you clean and lovely in God’s sight.”
But little Frances put it off, saying:
“Oh, mamma, I’m sure you will get well again” and not even the mother’s solemn, glad affirmation that she would soon see her Saviour face to face could penetrate those wilfully closed little ears.
When the end had really come, the child, highly strung and highly imaginative, hoped, until almost the very day of the funeral that her mother was only in a trance. She had heard of people supposed to be dead who had recovered, and so, again and again she tiptoed into that room and stood looking upon the lovely face, half expecting the eyes to unclose and smile at her.
Poor child! they did not do so, and it was a grief-stricken little Frances who, on that sad day, peeped through a tiny space between blind and window to watch the funeral procession pass through the Rectory gates into the church.
Mrs. Havergal died on 5th July, 1848, and that day little Frances wrote:
“Eye hath not seen, nor ear hath heard,
Neither can man’s heart conceive,
The blessed things God hath prepared
For those who love Him and believe.”
And again, on 9th July:
“Oh! had I the wings of a dove,
Soon, soon would I be at my rest;
I would fly to the Saviour I love
And there would I lie on His breast.”
These verses show how clear her head knowledge of the truths, but her heart was as yet unreached. Her grief over her mother’s death was very great, but not always evident. Her lively disposition enabled her to put it away and engage for the moment, intensely, on whatever she had on hand. She writes: “And thus it happened that a merry laugh or a sudden light-heeled scamper upstairs and downstairs led others to think I had not many sad thoughts, whereas not a minute before my little heart was heavy and sad.”
Up to the age of six years, she said, she had not any thoughts or ideas on religion, but after that time she began to long (to use her own words) “to be a Christian,” “to be made a Christian.” And yet, as we have seen, how resisting even that dear, dying mother who, even when Frances was only four had tenderly taught her about the Lord Jesus. . .
But during all her strivings after peace, and during the days when she did trouble at all, little Frances always knew the sinfulness of her heart.
When she was about thirteen she went to school at Belmont, where Mrs. Teed, a godly, loving woman, whose heart was yearning to lead her girls to the Saviour, was concluding her long course of school work.
One little schoolfellow, so gentle and so consistently good that all her companions fancied that she was already a Christian, found the Saviour at this time and the joy unspeakable and full of glory which radiated from her in consequence filled Frances with awe. She never, never forgot how this loving girl tried to lead her to the same course of bliss that she, too, might know her sins forgiven.
But it was not till two months or so later, February, 1851, that she really trusted her soul to the Lord Jesus Christ. She was visiting at Oakhampton, the home of her sister Miriam, Mrs. Henry Crane. Miss Cooke, who afterwards married Frances’ father, was there too, and this true child of God spoke the words which brought Frances to the point of trusting.
“Why cannot you trust yourself to the Saviour at once?” she asked. “If Jesus should come now to take up His redeemed could you not trust Him? Would not His call, His promise be enough for you? Could you not commit your soul to Him, to your Saviour, Jesus?” “I could, surely,” the little girl replied, and filled with a hope which made her literally breathless, she went upstairs, and though there was still a slight admixture of fear, she committed her soul to the Saviour–she did trust the Lord Jesus at last. Her whole real happiness from that time lay in pleasing and serving Him.
Yes, her soul was saved, she had committed it to Him, and she knew that He was able to keep it against that day.
“Why will you do without Him?
The Word of God is true,
The world is passing to its doom–
And you are passing too.
It may be no to-morrow
Shall dawn on you or me;
Why will you run the awful risk
Of all Eternity?
“He would not do without you!
He calls and calls again–
‘Come unto Me! Come unto Me!’
Oh, shall He call in vain?
He wants to have you with Him;
Do you not want Him too?
You cannot do without Him,
And He wants–even you.”
Excerpts from SINGERS OF ZION
Pickering & Inglis