Posts Tagged ‘hymn writers’

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!”

 

 

 

“Yet there is Room!” (Luke 14v22)

December 25, 2012

As far as I remember it was on a cold evening approaching Christmas that I first spotted the lone caravan on a narrow country road close to our home. ‘Travelling folks,’ I thought, as I glanced at it on my way home to prepare dinner. Somehow I knew that the Lord wanted me to talk to the occupants but busy as I was, I hurriedly drove past, resolving to return as soon as possible. I did call several times, only to find them gone and one day (to my dismay) the caravan too had disappeared.

Then the following Easter the caravan returned again to the very same location. This time, despite the fact that no one was in, I left some gifts in a safe place and a little booklet entitled “If you had been the only one… He would still have died for you!” One evening I returned to find the little caravan occupied. Now, at last, I could meet the owners! Parking my car some distance away, I apprehensively walked up and knocked my knuckles on the cold metal door. To my surprise it swung open and a friendly face beamed at me. “Were you the person who left the booklet and the gifts? Thank you so much!  Please do come in… ” Looking over her shoulder at the many faces within, I felt that to get in would be impossible! “Oh, thank you but… it’s o.k.”  I faltered awkwardly. “I just wanted to be sure you got the stuff I left.” I was embarrassed at my own reaction to their overcrowded circumstances, yet at the same time touched and humbled by the hospitality of that traveller lady.

Many years ago my father struck up acquaintance with an elderly Romany Gypsy man who had travelled over from England. The elderly man in question had just one eye, the other having been put out by a briar springing back on him. He was touring Ireland in his old Romany caravan with his middle-aged daughter, both pleasant friendly people, as I recall. I will always remember one evening, seeing the light of the camp-fire as they cooked their evening meal. I thought of my own limited conversation with the travelling folk I had met just recently and compared it to my father’s witness to the Romany gypsies all those years ago. How relaxed he was when he spoke to them!

I don’t remember my precise exchange of words with the lady in the crowded caravan, but I do pray that the Lord took my feeble inadequate words and spoke to that family, as only He can. As a naturally shy person, I often get tongue-tied, especially when trying to talk to people who are of a different background to me but the Lord has taught me that I should not “respect persons.” (James 2v9)  The local Rector or the ‘lord of the manor’ may quite well be more difficult to reach with spiritual truths than someone from the “travelling community!” It is my sincere desire that the Lord would use me; that I would learn to be natural with people, whatever their circumstances – and how differing those circumstances can be! I have encountered those who live in vast mansions, akin to castles, yet the door has been opened but narrowly and reluctantly – if at all. No welcoming voice has invited me in. On the other hand, I have visited a small one-storey dwelling with only one bedroom, one box room and a family of six children and their parents, where the mother has invited me in for tea. Despite education and widespread affluence, there remains that great gulf in our society between rich and poor and the people we meet are as diverse and interesting as the dwellings they live in.

Oh that the Lord would assist me to proclaim His name to all these differing individuals and that these words of St. Paul would be apply to me… “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” (1Cor. 9v19-22)

That little caravan was so full of people! Perhaps I would have fitted in – perhaps not. Certainly I didn’t want to take anyone’s seat. Unlike Heaven there may not have been room for just one more person. In this context, George Frazer’s hymn “Come, Hear the Gospel Sound” comes to mind. Born in CountyLeitrim in 1840, George found the Saviour in the Great Revival of 1859/60 in the city of Dublin. There was ‘no room’ in the meeting for George on the night that God spoke to his heart, but by climbing up to a second storey windowsill, he was able to hear those life-changing words: “Yet there is room.” (Luke 14v22) After two weeks of deep conviction, he trusted the Lord for salvation. He was then twenty years old and soon he began writing verse to the glory of his new Master. Much later he recalled that night at the crowded gospel meeting where the Lord spoke to him as he sat on a windowsill, and the hymn “Come, Hear the Gospel Sound” was born. How beautifully it fits in with his conversion experience!

Come! Hear the gospel sound –

“Yet there is room!”

It tells to all around –

“Yet there is room!”

Though guilty, now draw near,

Though vile, you need not fear,

With joy you now may hear –

“Yet there is room!”

God’s love in Christ we see –

“Yet there is room!”

Greater it could not be –

“Yet there is room!”

His only Son He gave,

He’s righteous now to save

All who on Him believe –

“Yet there is room!”

“All things are ready: come!”

“Yet there is room!”

Christ everything hath done –

“Yet there is room!”

The work is now complete,

“Before the mercy-seat,”

A Saviour you shall meet –

“Yet there is room!”

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 will no more say –

“Yet there is room!”

George West Frazer

(1840-1896)

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