I am perpetually amazed at the way God works. The last two posts on this blog addressed just one problem of many in today’s churches. Yes, the tone was negative and comments underscored the grief experienced by many where the lack of love in Christian churches, often starting at the pastoral level, has had a tragic effect.
I found a large box on my porch the other morning. It was heavy. Seeing it was sent to me, and not expecting any deliveries, I was curious. Well, friends, it was a box of treasures—treasures so rich that I am still taking out the gems and admiring their facets.
It was a box of books, just the latest of many sent to me over the years from a long time friend who has an eye for literary riches of a spiritual nature. Occasionally, she sends them on to me. The books inside the box deserve a much longer post, because the story surrounding them is long. and each one is special. But because we had just been discussing pastors and churches here at the Hope Blog, and in a decidedly discouraging way, one of the book treasures in that box is the topic here today.
I was at a church recently, the one I referenced in my first post on churches and looked down at the hymnal during the singing. The name underneath the hymn, the composer of the hymn tune, was William Henry Havergal. I smiled inwardly. His daughter Frances Ridley Havergal is the author of many familiar hymns still sung in hymn-using churches today. (Take My Life, and Let It Be, Like a River Glorious, and I Am Trusting Thee Lord Jesus are just three I will mention.) Her father was a great musician and also wrote many hymn tunes familiar to hymn lovers.
William Havergal is the subject of one of the books in the box. I will write more on these new paperback books, freshly available, in a moment.
Here’s a little description of William Henry Havergal, an English pastor of the 19th Century.
William Henry Havergal (whose youngest child, Frances Ridley Havergal, is more known today) was a wonderfully gifted musician, both as a performer and as a composer, but he declined the offer of a music professorship at Oxford to enter pastoral ministry. Over nearly five decades, his sermons, home visits, care of his flock, diligent ministry, was a “heart work,” bringing many to true faith in Christ and building up believers. His extant sermons (so few now remaining among the more than 2,500 briefly listed in his handwritten book, listing only the date, location, and Scripture text for the sermons he preached from 1816 to 1869) are gold, similar in valuable edification to Spurgeon, Ryle, Lloyd-Jones. The same as his written works, his life was a true example of the believer, and he could say like Paul, “be ye followers of me even as I also am of Christ.” He so much loved his Saviour, and earnestly wanted and sought for others to know and love Him. He is summed up in the Latin phrase that he would write, “Laus Deo.” “Praise be to God.” The Lamb is all the glory in Emmanuel’s land. This collection has the four volumes of his Sermons (all that have been found, leaving us wanting more), his sterling account of “A Wise and Holy Child,” nearly all of his extant hymns and poems, and a brief glimpse at his music compositions; at the end is his daughter’s biography Records of the Life of the Rev. William Henry Havergal, with also others’ statements and articles about him. His life and works can be described by these two comments that he said about his sermon (quoted in his daughter’s biography): “A lady calling, expressing her thanks to him for his sweet and comforting sermon, he meekly answered, ‘The Lord make it profitable, and then take all the praise.’ Another thanking him said it was a precious sermon. ‘Nothing in itself,’ he said, ‘all nothing; but the Lord can make it precious, and may He do so.’ ” (Taken from a longer portion on the back of the book, Works by William Henry Havergal.
Here are a couple other significant things said about this minister of the Gospel.
“He advised, he admonished, he sympathized; and, to the utmost of his means, he aided those who stood in need of aid. An throughout his ministry he was eminently “faithful.” HE did not hesitate, though he well knew the cost, to battle manfully with the vices and frivolities of the day. None could hearken to his conversation and think it possible to serve God and mammon.”
“…As genial as he was gentlemanly, refined in his tastes, high-souled, and gifted, his own immediate home circle, relatives and numerous friends, were all perfectly devoted to him; and no one could possibly approach him, even in a casual way, without feeling the radiation of Christian light and warmth from his heart and beaming face, for to the core he was a true man: true to God, and true to his fellow men: ( from Biographical Sketch of W.H.H. by Andrew James Symington)
Someone who commented on one of my earlier posts asked about what a true pastor would look like in action. I think in these two brief descriptions of William Henry Havergal, you find the basics. He had sympathy, a radiation of Christian light and warmth to all he met, a true man, true to God and true to his fellow men, he helped those in need to the full extent of his ability. In short, a pastor. A shepherd.
So I picked up this very large volume that contains the surviving sermons and other writings of Rev. Havergal. This brings us to the other thing so frequently lamented today – the state of the pulpits—the sermons or lack thereof. Within seconds of picking up the book, I was plunged into a world of detailed, solid Bible teaching. The early messages in the book went straight to the Old Testament and emphasized the importance of Christians reading these books in depth, something frequently rejected today in favor of the New Testament alone. The first sermon I read was on the Ark of the Covenant. I won’t go any farther, except to say that the sermon contains rich, rich teaching, the like of which is very rarely heard today in an American evangelical church.
You enter a different world with Old Path preachers when you read or hear their sermons. They were serious men of God, with hearts of love for the listener, who spoke the truth, and did not hold back when they needed to say unpopular things. They always, always exalted Christ and preached the pure word of God to whose in their care.
My treasure box is filled with so much, I am still taking in what arrived at my door. It came at a time when I needed the encouragement. Isn’t that like the Lord? Elijah was in the cave and needed food, and it was brought to him by the ravens. This box came to me on the wings of the US Mail, sent by God’s own kindly hand through his loving servant, my friend. How wonderful it is that God still meets our needs before we even ask.
If you would like to know what was in my treasure box, go to Amazon.com and type in the search window the following words exactly. “Havergal Chalkley Paperback”. Every one of these books contains wonderful things. The book I have referenced above about William Henry Havergal is here at this link. It is a large book. Some of the books in this collection of books are for children, written by Frances Havergal, some contain music from Frances and her father, some are devotionals. Click on each book listed on Amazon for a description. On page 2 of the listings, you will find the Five Royal Books. These are the very first Havergal books I ever encountered years ago when we were in South Carolina. They are devotionals. If you start with those, you can’t go wrong.
William Havergal was a shepherd long ago. Thanks to the work of those committed to seeing this project through, these sermons, and the beautiful writings of Frances Ridley Havergal, his daughter, have been brought to life again. They are here for a reason. Those needing spiritual food, comfort and a glimpse of real teaching need look no farther than these books. God can send food with the “ravens” in these times of great spiritual poverty. I know, because he sent a box of good spiritual food straight to my door. And now I can share it with you.
(You can see my markers in the book in the box. I’m already using my post-it notes for page reference!)