With the passage of years there is an accumulation of Associations; objects that come under observation, sounds that we hear, words that are spoken, will recall to our minds events which may have taken place many years ago. A face we see, a house, a town;Â—even the tones of a voice, the pealing of a bell, a clap of thunder, the song of a bird, or many other things will invariably bring the memory of some friend, or of some painful or pleasing matter to mind.
How many passages of Scripture: how many of our old Hymns, have associations attached to them, bringing to mind circumstances which made a deep impression upon us at the time? The following is an instance of this.
The Hymn “Jerusalem my happy home” had a place in the
affections of the Lord’s people of other days; and by godly people to-day is accounted one of the most choice of their songs. It is very old; and was written presumably by P.B.P. 1576. revised by D. Dickenson, 1660, and by W. Burkitt, 1693. In the “Moravian Hymn Book” we read it was recast by L. Bromhead, 1795. In other collections of hymns we find the names Dickson and Mason attached to it.
Whenever this hymn is brought to my notice in any way, it takes my thoughts back to a circumstance which occurred in the year 1893.
At that time I was the Pastor of the strict Baptist Church at Catworth, Huntingdonshire.* I was non-resident, and lived in the town of St. Neots: a distance of 12 miles from Catworth. I used to arrive there on Lord’s day morning, and return home at night. This I did for nearly 12 years; and during the whole of that time I never spent a night in the Village, but whatever the weather or condition of the roads I manage to get home. Sometimes I had a long stretch of flood water to drive through in darkness; at other times deep snow, or roads covered with ice. I can but record the Lord’s goodness to me all those years.
One of the hearers in regular attendance at the chapel was an old agricultural labourer, named Henry Berrage. He could neither read nor write, but was well instructed in the Gospel of the Grace of God. He had a quaint and forcible manner in conversation which I found not unpleasing. He used to sit on the furthest seat in the front gallery, and give his whole attention to the speaker: if anything was said which touched his heart he would nod his head to me: this I found very encouraging.
During the winter months he had been engaged threshing out beans with a flail in the barn, and doubtless had the doors closed to keep out the cold winds and snow. The bean straw was full of dirt, and the dust was drawn into his lungs. His health failed in the spring, rendering him unable to work, or to attend the services it the Chapel.
The first time I visited him was on Lord’s day April 30th, 1893. I found him sitting in the front (downstairs) room of the little cottage. My visits were continued week by week Â— with one exception, when I was engaged elsewhere. I knew but little of his wife, she was a most peculiar woman, and seemed to be of a weak mind. Whether this was in anyway on account of her age, I am not able to say: but I had been told she was a great trouble to him, and had been for some years. It was generally understood that the poor man lacked ordinary attentions, and had to “look after himself.” The house was ill kept, and very dirty. The last time I saw him was on June 18th, the day was unusually hot, even for the time of year. I climbed the ladder in the corner of the filthy kitchen, which led to the upstair rooms, and found him lying on a bed raised a few inches from the floor, in the front
bedroomÂ—a wretched whitewashed room, with a slanting ceiling, quite bare of furniture. Vermin were running about the bedclothes.
His face lit up when he saw me, and we spent some time in conversation and prayer. Before I left he said he hoped soon to be
“Where congregations ne’er break up,
And Sabbaths have no end.”
Whenever I read that hymn, or hear it quoted, there always comes vividly to my mind, that miserable, bare, dirty room; and lying on that loathsome bed, a dear old man, who, Â— with no apparent sense of discomfort; no material wants; no earthly longings, Â— was waiting only for the advent of the Eternal Sabbath and never ending service.
*The church has ceased to exist, the chapel demolished and the site has been sold. Services were held as late as 1935.