Hymn Take My Life And Let It Be

This hymn was written by Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879), an unusually gifted poetess, Christian devotional writer, musician and passionate hymnal. The woman on point has provided us with one of the classic hymns of Christian commitment known as the “consecration poet”. Miss Havergal called this a consecration hymn in which she calls all of us to consecrate every area of our lives to God.

Havergal was born into an Anglican family [a cultured, religious family], at Astley in Worcestershire [a county in the West Midlands of England] and was the youngest child of William Henry Havergal (1793–1870), a Church of England clergyman and noted poet, church musician and hymn writer who authored about 100 hymns. His great solace was composing music for cathedral services, many hundreds of chants (for singing the Psalms), and hymn tunes. Her brother, Henry East Havergal, was a priest in the Church of England and an organist.

Ridley [her middle name she loved] was an attractive, cheerful and intelligent child, full of fun. Educated at home and in private schools in Worcester, England, and in Dusseldorf, Germany (1852-53), her scholastic achievements included proficiency in several modern languages, in addition to Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. At the age of three, Miss Havergal could read; at the age of four, she began reading and memorizing the Bible [memorizing the New Testament as well as the Psalms, Isaiah, and the Minor Prophets]; at seven she began writing verse. She was a well-known hymn-writer by the time she reached her mid-30s. Eventually she had 71 hymn lyrics to her credit. She did write some of her own tunes for her hymns and her father wrote the music for others

Havergal was a Christian all her life and her greatest study was Scripture. She made it her business to read it morning and night; reflecting on the daily, practical ways she should be changed by it “into the likeness of Christ.” But at age 36 she experienced what we might describe as a conversion experience.  A little book entitled all for Jesus made her aware of the incompleteness of her own devotion, and she rededicated her life to Christ.

Soon thereafter, she spent five days with a small group of people, some of whom were not Christians, and others of whom were lukewarm.  She spent those five days witnessing to them and praying for them, and was delighted to see her prayers answered.  By the end of that week, all ten people had devoted themselves to Christ.  That night, too excited to sleep, Havergal sat up writing this hymn, “TAKE MY LIFE AND LET IT BE.”

Here is an account in her own words concerning the composition of "Take My Life" in 1874. The history of its origin is thus given in the HAV. Manuscript:
I went for a little visit of five days [to Areley House]. There were ten persons in the house, some unconverted and long prayed for, and 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 everyone 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, etc.; then and there both of them trusted and rejoiced; 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 little couplets formed themselves, and chimed in my heart one after another till they finished with ‘Ever, Only, ALL for Thee!’”

This hymn was written at Areley House, Feb. 4, 1874, in 11 stanzas of 2 lines, and published in her Loyal Responses, 1878; the musical edition of the same, 1881; and in Life Chords, 1880.  A twelfth couplet was added at some later point, producing the six stanzas published in the Psalter Hymnal. It has also been printed as a leaflet, in various forms for Confirmation, Self-Consecration, and for enclosing in letters, some being accompanied by her father's tune Patmos. The music to which Miss Havergal invariably sang this hymn, and with which it was always associated in the publications over which she had any influence, and the family's desire is that this course may be followed by others.

Other tunes used to sing the hymn are Consecration or Hendon by Henri Abraham Cesar Malan (1787-1864) and St. Bee by John Bacchus Dykes (1862)

About the line “take my silver and my gold, not one mite would I withhold,” In August, 1878, Miss Havergal wrote to a friend:
The Lord has shown me another little step, and, of course, I have taken it with extreme delight. ‘Take my silver and my gold’ now means shipping off all my ornaments to the Church Missionary House, including a jewel cabinet that is really fit for a countess, where all will be accepted and disposed of for me…Nearly fifty articles are being packed up. I don’t think I ever packed a box with such pleasure.

It was recorded that she had both a great taste for music and a good knowledge of harmony, a natural and inherited turn for melody, and a ringing touch on the piano, a beautiful and well-trained voice. And because her voice was so lovely, Frances was in demand as a concert soloist. However, the line “Take my voice and let me sing always only for my King,” led her to give up her career as a concert soloist, and she sang nothing but sacred music of the love of God and His way of salvation. Her life's mission was to sing and work for Jesus. These gifts she later devoted to Christ entirely; whether at home or in mixed society she always sing only for the Lord.

At age 42, Frances Ridley Havergal died of peritonitis near Caswell Bay on the Gower Peninsula in Wales. She was buried in the far western corner of the churchyard at St Peter's parish church, Astley, together with her father and near her sister, Maria Vernon Graham Havergal.

She was plagued with poor health for most of her life, but found joy in encouraging others to place their trust in Jesus and seek a deeper walk with Him. Her entire life was characterized by spiritual saintliness and lived an active and productive life until her death. One of the best ways she did this was through her gift of writing. Throughout her short life she wrote many poems, many of which have become well-loved hymns, as well as prose. The Lord richly blessed her ministry, and many of these are still read and sung today.

The Hymn “Take my life and let it be, consecrated, Lord, to Thee” is probably Frances Ridley Havergal’s best-known hymn, and it is a fitting summary of her life. It was her whole-hearted devotion to God that characterised everything about her. What we find in her hymns is an expression of her heart’s desire to know Christ better; and to serve Him more devotedly.

The text is as follow:

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

Take my hands, and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love;
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee,
Swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing
Always, only, for my King;
Take my lips, and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee,
Filled with messages from Thee.

Take my silver and my gold;
Not a mite would I withhold;
Take my intellect, and use
Every power as Thou shalt choose,
Every power as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will, and make it Thine;
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart; it is Thine own;
It shall be Thy royal throne,
It shall be Thy royal throne.

Take my love; my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure-store.
Take myself, and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee,
Ever, only, all for Thee.

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