Archive for April, 2016

On This Day Two Hundred Years Ago…

April 27, 2016

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A little girl named Mary Jane Deck was born to John Deck (a postmaster in Bury St. Edmunds) and his wife. (The Deck’s ancestors were Huguenots who had previously fled France because of persecution.) I was unable to find out her first name but it has been recorded that this little girl’s mother, Mrs Deck, was “a praying woman.” Here was a lady who held the spiritual welfare of her children in higher esteem than anything else in life and here was a lady who had the marvellous joy of seeing all of her eight children led to the Lord and their lives consecrated in His service.

Within that family, the eldest son, James George Deck (1807-1884) was a well-known hymn writer, while his much younger sister Mary Jane (1816-1878) was writing poems and hymns from a very early age. Today, 27th April 2016, on the two-hundredth anniversary of her birth I think of how this little girl was inspired to write so many beautiful poems and hymns in her life – words which would be blessing to others long after her passing.  Her hymn, “The wanderer no more will roam” is one of those lovely compositions…

“The wanderer no more will roam,

The lost one to the fold hath come,

The prodigal is welcomed home,

O Lamb of God, in Thee!”

This is just the first verse of this seven-versed hymn, expressing the experience of the prodigal returning to the Father from ‘a far country.’

Indeed, sin has the potential to lead to a ‘far country,’ in the spiritual sense. How many have had the experience of wasting their “substance with riotous living” (Luke 15v13). Poverty stricken, they feel that they are unworthy even to return to the Father. They are in a ‘far country’ because they have distanced themselves from Him – but He (unlike many an earthly father) is still there for as long as this Day of Grace remains, waiting with outstretched arms; even when the prodigal makes those first tentative steps towards the Father, He has great love for him, running with compassion towards him and as the lovely Bible story tells us “he fell on his neck, and kissed him.” (Verse 20)

I love the words of Verse 24: “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” These words can also apply to backsliders (and indeed others who have never trusted the Lord at any time) who come to the Father down through the ages. “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2v1) Praise God, the spiritually dead can be made alive… “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2v13)

As I read the words of Mary Jane (married name “Walker”), I can see clearly that spiritual parallel she sketches, with regard to the prodigal son…

“Though clothed in rags, by sin defiled,

The Father hath embraced His child;

And I am pardoned, reconciled,

O Lamb of God, in Thee!

It is the Father’s joy to bless,

His love provides for me a dress,

A robe of spotless righteousness,

O lamb of God in Thee!”

Two hundred years ago today the life of a future hymn writer began, when Mary Jane was born into an already big family! But today I think of her mother, Mrs Deck and how she fervently prayed for her eight children. It is possible that her name is not recorded anywhere, except perhaps in some genealogy records which are only of interest to those who are her descendants. But by all accounts she was one of many loving mothers through the ages who have had a tremendous burden for the salvation of their children. Not one of the Deck children was born a Christian and who knows truly what their lives consisted of prior to the time when each one in turn came to be “pardoned, reconciled, O Lamb of God, in Thee.”

From reading the background to the Deck family history, I believe that both parents of Mary Jane prayed fervently for their children and praise God – they saw the fruit of those prayers. How wonderful to meet these dear souls in heaven and share how you read their story two hundred years later! Oh that the final words of Mary Jane Walker’s hymn would be ours – and those of our loved ones…

“Yea, in the fullness of His grace,

He puts me in the children’s place,

Where I shall gaze upon His face,

O Lamb of God, in Thee!

I cannot half His love express,

Yet, Lord, with joy my lips confess,

This blessed portion I possess,

O Lamb of God, in Thee!

And when I in Thy likeness shine,

The glory and the praise be Thine,

That everlasting joy is mine,

O Lamb of God in Thee!”

 

 

 

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“Broken Purposes but Answered Prayers”

April 17, 2016

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I discovered this old book quite by accident one morning this week. Written by an English lady with the unusual name of “Anna Boobbyer,” I feel that I am going to find a wealth of spiritual treasure in this antiquarian volume with its old cloth cover! Under the title on the cover of the book are these words:

“Make use of me, my God.

Let me not be forgot,

A broken vessel cast aside

One whom thou needest not.”

The words somehow struck a chord with me. How easy it is to feel discouraged when you are weary and perhaps not feeling as optimistic about life as you once did. Ill health (or even just the aging process!) certainly has the potential to take its toll on your enthusiasm and then when this old life throws other problematic issues your way for good measure, well…

However, my eyes scanned the title page of the book. This book was in its third edition, with over 31,000 copies having been produced! On the very first page of chapter one, I read these words by the author… “I was only two-and-twenty, and in buoyant health and spirits, when in one short day, from mountain climbing, my bodily sufferings began; and my hopes, desires, and prayers for an active life in the Master’s service were utterly crushed, and “all my purposes were broken off,” like poor Job, when those sad words were wrung from his aching heart.” She has written… “it is forty years today (1893) since I became an invalid – for life, unless my heavenly Father should interpose, and heal me in my old age, as I am now sixty-three.”

Yet, as my eyes skim this book by a lady who was “confined to two rooms,” I see a wealth of experiences which, when shared, have the potential to touch hearts and be mightily used of the Lord. I began to think of some hymn writers who also suffered from ill health or were incapacitated in some way. Frances Ridley Havergal suffered much in her short life, surviving almost fatal typhoid in 1874. She said: “Pain as to God’s own children, is truly and really only blessing in disguise. It is but His chiselling, one of His engraving tools.” Frances trusted the Lord to save her at age fourteen and some years later, in 1873, declared: “I was shown that ‘the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin,’ and then it was made plain to me that he who cleansed me had power to keep me clean; so I just utterly yielded myself to Him and utterly trusted Him to keep me.” Despite the brevity of her life (for she died at forty-three) her numerous hymns, inspired by the Holy Spirit, continue to speak on to souls over a century later.

Another hymn writer (Fanny Crosby) was blind for her entire life, from the time that she was only six weeks old. She said: “It may have been a blunder on the physician’s part, but it was no mistake of God’s. I verily believe that it was God’s intention that I should live my days in physical darkness, so as to be better prepared to sing his praise.” For me her beautiful hymns had almost a heavenly perspective. Perhaps, because she had never been able to see the vain things of this life, her spiritual sight was intensified…

“Safe in the arms of Jesus,

Safe on His gentle breast,

There by His love o’ershadowed,

Sweetly my soul shall rest.

Hark, ‘tis the voice of angels,

Borne in a song to me,

Over the fields of glory,

Over the jasper sea.”

Prolific hymn writers and those in other areas of the Lord’s service have very often been subjected to what the rest of the world only sees as ‘terrible misfortune.’ Yet the ‘broken vessel’ is the one which the Master will use for His glory. I am sure there were times when Anna Boobbyer, Frances Ridley Havergal and Fanny Crosby shed silent tears but praise God He has “wiped away all tears from their eyes.”

What an encouragement to know that today the Lord can use the broken vessel mightily; our tears, born of dark experiences and recorded in poignant words, can live on for years to come; to encourage, convict and warm the hearts of other needy souls, perhaps long after we have departed this scene of time and “‘till He come.”