“Come! hear the gospel sound–
“Yet there is room!”
This contagious gospel song tied into the conversion of an Irishman named George West Frazer (1839-1896). He put his own conversion experience to poetry,
God’s house is filling fast–
“Yet there is room!”
Some soul will be the last–
“Yet there is room!”
Yes, soon Salvation’s day
From you will pass away,
Then grace no more will say–
“Yet there is room!”
We are indebted to Frazer. Once we know the truth in our minds, we are compelled to rejoice over it in our hearts, and George West Frazer helps us do that.
George’s father haled from the Lovat-Frazer family, of Inverness, in northern Scotland. He was a police inspector in the Royal Irish Constabulary. George was born at Bally, near Sligo, in the west of Ireland, the third of ten children. Though George had been shaken by the death of his younger brother, at the age of 20 he was nonchalant about his own soul’s eternal destiny. But his older brother, William, himself recently converted, was eager to see his brother saved.
The great event occurred in October, 1859. The evangelist H. Grattan Guinness was holding crowded gospel meetings in Dublin in “The Rotunda.” Guinness, then himself only 24, was witnessing a powerful awakening in the city. William had coerced his reluctant brother to come hear Guinness. Actually, George had just purchased a new reading lamp, and wanted to spend the evening with some book other than the Bible.
At the hall they found its entrances crammed with people. Instead of using this as an excuse to return home, George was challenged by this bulging crowd. No room? George took this as a dare. Leaving his lamp with his brother, he shimmied up a rain pipe to grasp the ledge of an upper window. There he sat with legs dangling inside the room. Thankfully, this Eutycus did not fall asleep or fall off.
Below him a throng of intense expressions all faced Guinness. More striking was the Bible verse that Guinness spoke from. The preacher’s voice floated to the open window as he set to work on his verse, “Yet there is room” (Lk. 14:22). After hearing so much about God’s salvation from sin and the judgment to come, George was deeply troubled about his condition before the Almighty.
It was a considerably humbler young man who climbed down that rain pipe than the one who climbed up.
Determined not to rest until he had found the Saviour for himself, fourteen agonizing days followed for Frazer. Each night he knelt at his bedside, but no relief came. He so panicked, realizing he had sought salvation but could not find it, that he was about to quit seeking and instead plunge himself into the world. But that idea made him tremble even more. Ultimately he must meet God. “If I must perish,” he cried, “I am resolved to perish at His feet.” And so saying, he abandoned himself to the Saviour’s mercy.
Once he yielded in this way, the words came to him as if by an audible voice, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” “That’s just what I want; I’m a sinner, and Christ Jesus came to save such.” A calm came over his soul immediately, the joy and peace of believing.
A friend wrote, “After lying awake, praising God for hours, he fell into the first sweet, refreshing sleep he had had since that memorable night. Rising early the next morning to tell his brother the good news, the thought struck him, ‘What shall I tell him?’ For a moment, the peace and joy of the night before vanished. Then he remembered, ‘It was that blessed verse, 1 Timothy 1:15, that gave me peace last night,’ and it was just the same though his feelings had changed.” Those words that brought him peace had not disappeared, and George perceived that the assurance of God’s salvation did not depend on his fickle emotions.
Frazer confessed Christ to his family and afterwards to a wider circle of friends. The blessing that resulted stands as a testimony that God honors those who honor Him. His example incites devotion to the Lord. How vital to confess our Saviour in our immediate circle, beginning at home.
“From that time,” his sister wrote, “his one endeavor was that others should be brought to the Lord. He was much blessed in our family circle. In many places around Dublin he, with another earnest Christian, had gospel meetings, and many were brought to the Lord.” Another related how “he labored diligently in the Lord’s service, preaching the gospel acceptably, and ministering to the Lord’s people out of the Word.”
He worked as a clerk in Close’s Bank in Dublin. There his Christian demeanor earned the respect and enduring friendship of his employer, brother Farnham Close. Through this friendship, he was introduced to scriptural assemblies of saints, and thereafter discontinued his membership in the Church of Ireland. This move was not easy. The Frazers were high church people and nine of his cousins were clergyman, but whatever prestige he had once experienced in the state church now seemed miniscule compared to the preciousness of meeting around Christ alone. The value he put on the meetings of that despised band of Christians in Dublin is evident in his poetry.
On that same night, Lord Jesus,
When all around Thee joined
To cast its darkest shadow
Across Thy holy mind,
We hear Thy voice, blest Saviour,
“This do, remember Me!”
With joyful hearts responding,
We do remember Thee.
David Beattie said that this Dublin assembly “for a time lay dormant; and while there would doubtless be those away from the public gaze, who chose to carry out God’s will in humble obscurity, still it was not till the early sixties that the mists of uncertainty were dispelled by the penetrating beams of the gospel light, bringing in its train a joyful return to the carrying out of New Testament teaching.”
The restoration of the lampstand in Dublin is traced to “the great revival.” As in Ulster, there was a spiritual visitation in and around Dublin. Multitudes “in the bondage of sin, were brought into the conscious enjoyment of the peace of God, while many of His own people were awakened to a fuller knowledge of their blessings in the Risen Christ.”
A habitual fellowship with his God marked George’s years in Dublin. His days were exhausting, but happy. After office hours, he visited from house to house and was also seen at a busy street corner giving open-air discourses. His passion to reach the lost did not lessen and eventually he left his position in the bank to give his time more fully to the Word of God and prayer. And if his hymns are any indicator, we believe that George knew how to pray.
The throne of grace surrounding,
In Jesu’s peerless Name,
Supply for need abounding
With confidence we claim!
One vital concern for prayer was a life companion. But he had a legitimate concern. Such was his zeal for God that he feared that the lovely girl he was engaged to would distract him from devotion to Christ. During this time of engagement, he penned these lines,
Have I an object, Lord, below,
Which would divide my heart with Thee,
Which would divert its even flow
In answer to Thy constancy?
Oh! teach me quickly to return,
And cause my heart afresh to burn.
Be Thou the object bright and fair
To fill and satisfy the heart;
My hope to meet Thee in the air,
And nevermore from Thee to part:
That I may undistracted be
To follow, serve, and wait for Thee.
Happily, he discovered that he that finds a wife finds good, and obtains favor from the Lord. His helpmeet in life only encouraged him to love Christ all the more.
The Frazers’ early ministry centered around Dublin, then they moved to England, where he expended his time strengthening assemblies. He settled at Cheltenham, in Gloucestershire, next door to C. H. McIntosh, the editor of Things New and Old. The two neighbors enjoyed close fellowship. C. H. M. called Frazer his “son by adoption.” E. E. Cornwall knew Frazer in those days, and marvelled at “his freshness of spirit and evident enjoyment of that whereof he spake. He delighted in the company of saints, and gave himself to their service: the meeting-room was to him a hallowed place.”
At the age of 56, he became critically ill and the doctors suggested he undergo surgery. The operation was not successful and he died on January 24, 1896. Consistent with his life, his end was a triumph. His sister gave Christopher Knapp the account of his final hours. “On his deathbed he ceased not to proclaim Christ to all who came near him. I heard a nurse say to him, ‘You would make me wish to die and go to heaven with you.’ He called his wife and me to his bedside and said, ‘I feel grieved to leave my work for the Lord, and you, and Tillie, and all I love; but it is infinitely more to me to be with Christ.’ His deathbed was a scene of rejoicing. To those around him, the doctors and nurses, he said, ‘What matters it about my sufferings if it is the means of bringing me to my Saviour?'”
His body awaits the resurrection in Cheltenham cemetery near to C. H. MacIntosh’s burial plot. The epitaph on his tombstone is from his pen:
His spirit now has winged its way
To those bright realms of cloudless day:
Then, mourner, cease to weep;
Far better is it thus to be,
From self, the world, and Satan free,
By Jesus put to sleep.
Frazer’s hymns, such as ‘Twas On That Night of Deepest Woe, and What Rich Eternal Bursts of Praise, rank among the finest. His hymns were published in three volumes–Midnight Praises, Day-Dawn Praises, and The Day-Spring. Many of these treasures are still in use.
Those close to him, said Frazer’s character was “lovely and pleasant.” George showed us that the doctrines of Scripture are most beautifully expressed in soul-thrilling song. For him doctrine did not remain long in the realm of theory. Devotion to the Lord and obedience to His Word were the hallmarks of our brother’s ministry. Christopher Knapp summarized his thirty-five years of pilgrimage as “redolent with the savor of Christ.”
Materials for this article have been taken from:
Christopher Knapp, Who Wrote Our Hymns, Loizeaux Bros.
Jack Strahan, Hymns & Their Writers, Gospel Tract Publ.
David J. Beattie, The Brethren, the Story of a Great Recovery, John Ritchie Ltd.