DANIEL HERBERT: (born c.1751, died Aug. 29th, 1833), was for many years a Congregational minister at Sudbury, Suffolk, from whence he itinerated from time to time to preach to “the scattered flock” who loved him for the truth’s sake, especially, it seems, some little gatherings in south Lincolnshire.
In his early twenties he was divinely taught his sad condition, and favoured with clear views concerning his salvation, as being, as Hart says (Gadsby’s 876) “without” him, settled in the Father’s covenant love before time, accomplished by the Son in the fulness of the time, and made known to the elect by the Holy Spirit in His time.
On setting out upon the pilgrim way, Mr. Herbert was given the promise (which of course is also a prediction concerning the state of the road), “thy shoes shall be iron and brass, and as thy days, so shall thy strength be.” (Deut. 33; 25). The truth and faithfulness of this was verified throughout half a century of trials and deliverances, sorrows and consolations; he being one of those sensitive persons, with a usually rather low state of mind, upon whom those “many blows, from sinner and from saint” (Gadsby’s 287) fall with double weight and sting, because their backs seem doubly tender.
What few of his letters remain to edify the church, reveal his affectionate heart and sensitivity, and low estimation of himself; on the other hand there is to be seen his hope for a happy eternity fixed upon Christ as his Surety; but we will let him speak for himself in the following extracts:
“Ah, my dear madam, I am truly surprised at your kindness, and well assured I am that you must entertain a much better opinion of me than I dare do of myself; for I am led to view myself a poor, helpless, worthless, needy sinner; yet for ever blessed be my God for His matchless grace, I was a sinner saved, being saved before time, and shall be saved through time, and saved when time shall die into eternity. O what a mercy for a filthy ruined sinner to be complete in Jesus, white in Jesus, holy in Jesus, safe in Jesus, and one with Jesus! This I hope, dear madam, is your privilege and mine, then who shall lay anything to our charge?” (1821).
“Verily do I believe that were not the salvation of my soul as free as the air I breathe, and the grace of God as sovereign and uncontrollable as the wind, I should despair of ever being saved;
but as grace has found me out, and as grace has brought me out, I believe grace will lead me on and lead me through.
I know by experience that Jesus is the only Physician that can heal nature’s death-wound. He is the only Fountain that can cleanse the sinner’s polluted soul. He is the only Counsellor that can direct, the Husband that can protect, the Father that can provide, and the Treasure that can enrich.” (1821).
“When I see a poor thoughtless sinner rolling sin under his tongue, and with hasty steps seeking his own destruction, me-thinks I hear a voice saying ‘Just such a wretch were you, but you are washed, but you are sanctified’. Ah! my dear friend, it is not all the commands, promises, threats, exhortations, or creature persuasion from a legal principle, that was ever effectual in turning one sinner to God, cleansing one conscience from its guilt, or producing one spark of holiness in the heart. ‘You hath he quickened, who were dead.’ And but for this quickening, dead all men would remain.
I am often surprised that I should meet with such kind attention so many times. Surely the people must be tired of me.” (1822)
“My being apparently abandoned by my Quadrain friends hurt my mind so much that I have hardly recovered; and though I have had such crosses, losses and heart-rending occurrences that have not fallen to the lot of everyone, yet I never had one that I think affected me so. I never pretended to have but one thing to recommend me; and that is, the Lord made me honest to declare just what God was pleased to put into my mouth; which has been my plan for almost half a century, and I hope to abide by it while I have breath, and leave the event with God.
You will perceive by my scribble how my hand trembles; for my heart is unstrung, my house is full, and all appear happy but myself. Though I am truly gratified to see my dear boys (three sons and two nephews) from London, who have not been with me for almost four years, it is best for me to dwell alone”. (1830)
“Methinks I hear mv friends ready to inquire, “But how is it with your soul, in the midst of all your trials?’ To which I would answer, that ‘though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.’ Verily my Lord has slain all my earthly prospects, and brought me to experience what I never anticipated. What my Father was once pleased to give me, my Father has been pleased to take away; and blessed be His name? And sometimes I can say, ‘none of these things move me,’ though at other times I am grieved. But my Father has told me, in Ps. 72, He would hear, answer and help the needy when they crv: and the Lord knows I am crying to Him for help from morning till night. And I trust I can still say that sometimes He directs me, as He did Moses, to that Tree which sweetens the bitter waters of Marah.
‘And after so much mercy past.
I’m sure I shall not sink at last.'” (1831)
When he at last approached the land to which he had often and for so long cast a wishful eye, he suffered the assaults of Satan for some weeks, but his faith, though damped, never died, and he was brought through that which was his last trial, testifying “all, all is well! I know whom I have believed, Jesus is mine: He paid down a price for me, and I should be the basest wretch were I not to declare it.” Nearing the end, he said, “it will soon be over; redeemed by precious blood, saved by sovereign grace, rich and free,
I shall soon sing as loud as Paul the apostle. Come, Lord, with Thy smiles, and take Thy poor servant home!”
On the evening of August 29th, 1833, he faced the river in a quiet and happy frame, and breathing the words “Ah, my Father, my Father, my Father!” he bade this world farewell.
Daniel Herbert is dismissed by the great hymnologist Dr. Julian in these few words; “both hymns and poems are very indifferent in quality, and strongly Calvinistic in doctrine”!
Many would agree that Mr. Herbert’s poetry is not of an immortal cast; but the sterling quality of the jewel in the casket will ensure that, while there is a trembling sinner upon earth wonderingly whispering:
“Why me, why me, O blessed God,
Why such wretch as me?”
the memory of this just man will be blessed.
There are only twelve of Daniel Herbert’s hymns in Gadsby’s Selection, but how much the poorer would that beloved volume be without them! Breathing no vague, cloudy mysticism, with both feet on the ground, although his eyes and heart may be towards heaven, he declares in his hymns just what he feels, is assured of, and hoping for; and they who use that book easily remember his plain language, imbibe his clear teaching, and hear portions of his hymns quoted and re-quoted from their pulpits, so that they are surprised when they learn there are only twelve among one thousand, one hundred and fifty-six.
Their numbers in Gadsby’s Selection are as follows: 507/8/9/10, 675/6/7/8/9/680, 711, 986. (Denham’s, 419, 903).
He published three volumes, entitled “Hymns and Poems, doctrinal and sentimental, for the Citizens of Zion, who are longing to know their Election of God, and who love Evangelical Truths.” Vol. 1, 1801-, Vol. 2, 1819; Vol. 3, 1827.