Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Christina Forsyth

English hymnwriter Christina Forsyth (1825-1859) died on this date; her birthday remains unknown. She was born in Liverpool, and a brief biographical sketch published in Lyra Britannica: A Collection of British Hymns (1867) claims that, from childhood on, 'she was deeply impressed with religious truth, and devoted to her Saviour.'  Like a number of other female hymnwriters of her day, she was in poor health and considered to be an invalid for most of her life.  All but forgotten today, Forsyth and her hymns may bear some re-examination today.

Some of her hymns were published in pamphlets during her lifetime, and after her death a collection was published as Hymns by C.F. (1861), her full name not appearing anywhere in the book.  Several of the forty-three texts included were based on specific passages from scripture, and some clearly reflected her own life, such as one titled Sabbath Hymn for One Confined to the House by Sickness.

This text is probably the one most often published in hymnals of the nineteenth century, though only four of the original nine stanzas were used.  I've changed the selection of stanzas a bit.

O Holy Spirit, now descend on me
As showers of rain upon the thirsty ground;
Cause me to flourish as a spreading tree;
May all thy precious fruits in me abound.

Be thou my Guide into all truth divine;
Give me increasing knowledge of my God.
Show me the glories that in Jesus shine,
And make my heart the place of thine abode.

Be thou my Comforter, when I'm distressed,
O gently soothe my sorrows, calm my grief;
Help me to find upon my Savior's breast
In every hour of trial a sure relief.

Be thou my Intercessor -- teach me how
To pray according to God's holy will;
Cause me with deep and strong desire to glow
And my whole soul with heavenly longings fill.

Be thou my Quickener, thy graces give;
Do for me more than I can ask or think;
Help me on Jesus day to day to live,
And daily deeper from thy fulness drink.

Christina Forsyth, 1861; alt.
Tune: ELLERS (
Edward J. Hopkins, 1869

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