Posted by: Sherry Goodwin | July 12, 2013

Conclusion of FRH’s Article on Charlotte Elliott

This is the third, final part of Frances Ridley Havergal’s article on Charlotte Elliott’s hymns.


We may remark here that Miss Elliott is exceptionally happy in refrain, and the short, simple, always telling words which she thus uses form the point to nearly all the swiftest and brightest arrows in her quiver. Most hymns leave a merely general impression; good memories quote whole verses, but others only retain a vague idea that it was “a very nice hymn.” But once read, or, still better, once sung, the very essence of many of Miss Elliott’s hymns is carried away in a single phrase, impossible to forget, and containing the one thought which all the rest unfolds or illustrates. “Just as I am” is a volume of divinity in four syllables. “We cling to Thee” and “Oh, plead for me,” come back again and again, when a whole hymn, or even verse, would not be dwelt upon. “Let me be with Thee where Thou art” is all one’s loving and longing set to music in one bar.


     Sometimes her refrain is taken from the most musical as well as the most poetical Book that ever was written, as in this hymn: ­—




When waves of trouble round me swell,
My soul is not dismayed:
I hear a voice I know full well —
“‘Tis I; be not afraid.”


When black the threatening skies appear,
And storms my path invade,
Those accents tranquillize each fear —
“‘Tis I; be not afraid.”


There is a gulf that must be crossed;
Saviour, be near to aid!
Whisper, when my frail bark is tossed —
“‘Tis I; be not afraid.”


There is a dark and fearful vale,
Death hides within its shade;
Oh, say, when flesh and heart shall fail —
“‘Tis I; be not afraid.”


     Tender experimental hymns were not the only outflow of this life of seclusion and suffering. Sometimes a clear trumpet-note rang out. Andthen, with that sensitive perception of metre which is analogous to an artist’s choice of key in musical composition, she exchanged her usual meditative iambics for bright ringing trochaics. For instance, take the following: —




“Christian! seek not yet repose”;
Hear thy guardian angel say,
“Thou art in the midst of foes —
“Watch and pray!’”


Principalities and powers,
Musteringtheir unseen array,
Wait for thy unguarded hours —
“Watch and pray!”


Gird thy heavenly armour on,
Wear it ever, night and day;
Ambushed lies the evil one —
“Watch and pray!”


Hear the victors who o’ercame:
Still they mark each warrior’s way;
All, with one sweet voice, exclaim —
“Watch and pray!”


Hear, above all, hear thy Lord,
Him thou lovest to obey;
Hide within thy heart His word —
“Watch and pray!”


Watch, as if on that alone
Hung the issue of the day;
Pray that help may be sent down —
“Watch and pray!”


Or again this: —




O faint and feeble hearted!
Why thus cast down with fear?
Fresh aid shall be imparted,
Thy God unseen is near.


His eye can never slumber,
He marks thy cruel foes;
Observes their strength and number,
And all thy weakness knows.


Though heavy clouds of sorrow
Make dark thy path to-day,
There may shine forth to-morrow
Once more a cheering ray.


Doubts, griefs, and foes assailing,
Conceal heaven’s fair abode;
Yet now faith’s power prevailing
Should stay thy mind on God!


     We have spoken of Miss Elliott’s realizing faith; we find it joined, as such faith always is, with earnest desire and effort to attain practical holiness. This comes out beautifully in, —




I want that adorning Divine
Thou only, my God, canst bestow;
I want in those beautiful garments to shine,
Which distinguish Thy household below.


Iwant every moment to feel
That Thy Spirit resides in my heart:
That His power is present to cleanse and to heal,
And newness of life to impart.


I want, oh, I want to attain
Some likeness, my Saviour, to Thee;
Thatlonged-for resemblance once more to regain;
Thy comeliness put upon me.


I want to be marked for Thine own,
Thy seal on my forehead to wear;
To receive that “new name” on the mystic white stone,
Which none but Thyself can declare.


I want in Thee so to abide,
As to bring forth some fruit to Thy praise!
The branch which Thou prunest, though feeble and dried,
May languish, but never decays,


I want Thine own hand to unbind
Each tie to terrestrial things, —
Too tenderly cherished, too closely entwined,
Where my heart too tenaciously clings.


I want by my aspect serene,
My actions and words, to declare
That my treasure is placed in a country unseen, —
That my heart’s best affections are there.


Iwant, as a traveller, to haste
Straight onward, nor pause on my way,
Nor forethought nor anxious contrivance to waste
On the tent only pitched for a day.


Iwant, — and this sums up my prayer, —
To glorify Thee till I die;
Then calmly to yield up my soul to Thy care, —
And breathe out, in faith, my last sigh!


     A very striking means of giving effect and actuality to such desires is pointed out in her hymn for “Saturday Morning.” This gives a glimpse of the detail, so to speak, of her own practical efforts in this direction, and sets a very lovely and stimulating example of holy preparation for Sabbath blessing. Our Sundays would often be very different, if our Saturdays thus “tuned with care each unseen chord within.”




This is the day to tune with care
Each unseen cord within:
Would we for Sabbaths well prepare,
To-day we should begin.


Before the majesty of Heaven
To-morrow we appear;
No honour half so great is given,
Throughout man’s sojourn here.


Yet if his heart be not prepared,
His soul not meetly dressed,
In vain that honour will be shared,
No smile will greet the guest.


We must beforehand lay aside
Our own polluted dress,
And wear the robe of Jesu’s bride
His spotless righteousness.


We must forsake this world below,
Forget all earthly things;
Strive with a seraph’s love to glow,
And soar on angel wings.


The altar must be cleansed to-day,
Meet for the offered Lamb:
The wood in order we must lay,
And wait to-morrow’s flame.


Lord of the sacrifice we bring,
To Thee our hopes aspire;
Our Prophet, our High Priest and King,
Send down the sacred fire!


     After such preparation of heart, what wonder that her Sunday morning song was so rich and full. The very page seems to glow with the holy sunshine lighting up her own heart. It is a golden litany; perhaps the brightest intercessory prayer ever written, as well as one of the most comprehensive.




Thou glorious Sun of Righteousness,
On this Day risen to set no more,
Shine on me now, to heal, to bless,
With brighter beams than e’er before.


Shine on Thy work of grace within,
On each celestial blossom there;
Destroy each bitterroot of sin,
And make Thy garden fresh and fair.


Shine on Thy pure eternal Word,
Its mysteries to my soul reveal;
And whether read, remembered, heard,
Oh, let it quicken, strengthen, heal!


Shine on the temples of Thy grace;
In spotless robes Thy priests be clad;
There show the brightness of Thy Face,
And make Thy chosen people glad.


Shine on those unseen things, dispayed
To faith’s far penetrating eye;
And let their splendour cast a shade
On every earthly vanity.


Shine in the hearts of those most dear,
Disperse each cloud ‘twixt them and Thee,
Their glorious heavenward prospects clear;
“Light in Thy light,” oh, let them see!


Shine on those friends for whom we mourn,
Who know not yet Thy healing ray:
Quicken their souls and bid them turn
To Thee, “the Life, the Truth, the Way.”


Shine on those tribes no country owns,
On Judah , once Thy dwelling-place;
“Thy servants think upon her stones,”
And long to see her day of grace.


Shine on the missionary’s home,
Give him his heart’s desire to see.
Collect thy scattered ones who roam;
One fold, one Shepherd, let there be!


Shine, till Thy glorious beam shall chase
The blinding film from every eye;
Till every earthly dwelling-place
Shall hail the Dayspring from on high.


Shine on, shine on, Eternal Sun!
Pour richer floods of life and light;
Till that bright Sabbath be begun,
That glorious day which knows no night!


     “That glorious day which knows no night” has begun for her. She does not regret now, she never did, that in early life she turned away from paths which had fair promise of earthly fame, and gave her talents all and entirely to Him who lent them to her. He gave her better things even in this life, I think Healways does. And now, and henceforth, and for ever and ever, she has “the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him,” and the never-ending fulfilment of her prayer, “Let me be with Thee where Thou art.”


     Her transition to this consummation was another page in the ever-filling records of the Saviour’s faithfulness and tender love to His children. Her sister writes:


     “In the last years and days of her life — days of increased weakness and suffering — she was sustained and blessed with a sense of her Saviour’s love and her Saviour’s presence, and with a sure and abiding trust in Him. … The last manifestation of consciousness was on the morning of her death, when, on her sister repeating to her the text for the day, ‘Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty; they shall behold the land that is very far off,’ she clasped her hands together; and as she raised her eyes to heaven, a beam came over her countenance which showed that she fully entered into the precious words, and was realizing the glorious vision she was so soon to behold. On the evening of that day, September 22nd, 1871, without any apparent suffering or the slightest struggle, she fell asleep in Jesus.”


                         Frances Ridley Havergal

[Note:  Frances Ridley Havergal wrote a series of articles on hymnwriters and hymns, published individually in a magazine edited and published by her friend and colleague, Rev. Charles Bullock.  After F.R.H. died, Rev. Bullock gathered together and published the completed articles by F.R.H. on hymnwriters in the book Specimen Glasses for the King’s Minstrels, given in Volume II of the new (soon to be published, if the Lord wills) edition of The Complete Works of Frances Ridley Havergal.]  



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