Thursday, August 18, 2022
Anne Steele was born in 1716. She was the eldest daughter of William Steele, a Baptist pastor at Broughton, England. In her teenage years, Anne demonstrated a beautiful gift for writing. Her teenage years were also the beginning of a hard life that could have turned her into a bitter woman.
First, her mother died. Then a fall from a horse rendered her permanently disabled. Because of her natural beauty and the more important beauty of her spirit, she was able to attract and fall in love with a wonderful young man who proposed marriage. Just hours before their wedding ceremony, her fiance drowned in the river where he was bathing. She spent the rest of her days, until she died at age 63, in the quiet seclusion of her father’s home. But she did not live in despair. In fact, she was described by those who knew her as “cultured, pious, and beautiful.”
From the moment of her fiancés death, she began to write. Her poetry was filled with hope and joy because of her faith in Jesus Christ. Finally, at age 41, she decided to have some of her writing printed. Her father’s diary contained this entry – “Nanny sent part of her composition to London, to be printed. I entreat a gracious God, who enabled, and stirred her up to such a work—to make it useful, and keep her humble.” Perhaps it was this emphasis on humility that compelled “Nanny” to write under a pen name, “Theodosia.” The proceeds of all her works were donated to charity.
Anne Steele never married, and her already feeble health was aggravated by the shock of her father’s death in 1769. She lived the last 10 years of her life alone. Yet despite her many trials, “Nanny” wrote 144 hymns and 34 psalm versions. She published Poems on Subjects Chiefly Devotional in two volumes in 1760, and a third was produced after her death. Her hymns received wide acceptance, and her poems were reprinted in America. More than a century after her death, it was written that she “stands at the head” of all Baptist hymn writers.
Her most famous hymn was written right after the death of her fiancé. As you read the words of this poem, even though written in Old English, you will understand what Peter says in today’s Scripture.
1 Peter 1:8-9 “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
The hymn was entitled “Father: Whate’er of Earthly Bliss.”
Father, whate’er of earthly bliss
Thy sovereign will denies,
Accepted at Thy throne, let this
My humble prayer, arise:
Give me a calm and thankful heart,
From every murmur free;
The blessing of Thy grace impart,
And make me live to Thee.
Let the sweet hope that Thou art mine
My life and death attend,
Thy presence through my journey shine,
And crown my journey’s end.
May we live our lives in that kind of faith – faith that produces joy. The world chooses to believe only what they can see and what makes them happy. We believe God, even though He is unseen, and as a result, we are filled with true joy. Let His joy overwhelm you, no matter what earthly bliss is denied.