Author: Frederick William Faber (1814-1863), a prolific Catholic writer and poet. Swept by the tide of the Anglo-Catholic movement, he converted from Anglicanism to Catholicism in 1845; nevertheless, his hymns in particular are treasured by Protestant and Catholic alike.
A. W. Tozer did a great deal towards popularizing Faber’s verse to a modern audience, in his books The Knowledge of the Holy and The Christian Book of Mystical Verse (which includes a few of the best hymns from Faber, but omits many of the hymns in the collection discussed in this review).
Overview: As far as hymns go, Faber made his own track, and he has been amply praised for it. Whereas many hymns of the period had a didactic flavor, Faber’s motive and goal is entirely devotional. He does not go on incorporating new elements in a single song; more along the lines of modern worship songs, he is laser focused on one aspect of God’s character.
Note on Editions: Many collections of Faber’s hymns have been published, but this edition (first published in 1894, long after his death) has been particularly popular. For the Pioneer Library reprint, a selection was made of the best 55 hymns, excluding several that should have been classed as poems, and others that were directed towards a Catholic audience. (The original edition had 72 hymns in total.)
Meat: The strength of the collection, as mentioned, is in simple, devotional verses on God’s character. “Come to Jesus” is the most popular of these and has been included in many hymnals; but many, many others are unforgettable: “The Unity of God,” “Majesty Divine,” “The Eternal Father,” “Jesus, My God and My All,” “From Pain to Pain,” and “The Creation of the Angels” are all hymns that are so intense as to be unsuitable for congregational worship. They demand a quiet, lonely space for prayer and the awestruck gratitude of single-hearted worship.
Faber also deals with dry seasons in many great poems, like “Distractions in Prayer,” “Dryness in Prayer,” and others
Faber also deals with grief and the afterlife in many of the hymns near the end of the collection, but in my opinion they were not the strongest of the bunch.
Bones: As I mentioned, the original edition is created for a Catholic (or, perhaps Anglo-Catholic) audience. The idea of a hymn addressed to Mary is inherently offensive to me; some of the ways of talking about the afterlife also seemed odd. For that reason, I recommend our new edition, which was painstakingly re-created.
A few of my favorite hymns, which are available online, are:
“Jesus, My God and My All” (a favorite of Leonard Ravenhill)
Buy: You can buy the new edition in paperback for $9.99, or on Kindle for $2.99. This book also has Kindle Matchbook which means that if you buy my paperback from Amazon, the Kindle version will be free.