Issue No 40
From our Minister
IF – such a small word and yet one that can carry layers of meaning. IF can mean hope – IF we can reach our target-: it can mean regret – IF only I had thought more carefully – and it can open up possibility – IF we go in this direction… IF is a word we use hundreds of times each day to convey a variety of thoughts, hopes and dreams, it is a small word with a very big impact.
IF is also now the name of a new campaign, supported by Tearfund, Christian Aid, the Methodist Church and a variety of other faith organisations, charities and denominations. ‘IF’ is short for ‘Enough food for everyone IF…’ and it is a campaign that recognises that the world produces enough food to feed the entire population, but that this is not always shared fairly. The ‘IF’ campaign is focused on the G8 summit this year, which the UK is set to host and aims to encourage world leaders to rethink policies on aid, trade and taxation to give a fairer deal to those who live in poverty. There are four main targets to this campaign; enough food for everyone IF we use land for food not fuel, IF we help poor people to feed themselves, IF taxes are paid in poor countries and IF companies are more transparent about their business dealings. These are big aims, but they would make a big difference in many places where food is scarce.
“What does this have to do with me?” you might ask. The answer is that this campaign will only work IF enough people get behind it and show their MPs and our government that we want them to support these aims. Tearfund, Christian Aid and the ‘IF’ campaign website have a large number of suggestions for petitions to sign, MPs to lobby and ways to get involved and there are also encouragements to pray – for those in need, but also for our leaders that they might show wisdom in this matter. IF we are all prepared to pray and to act then the weight of popular opinion will be able to bring about change and new hope to many.
This is not a purely Christian campaign, but in my opinion it is one that all Christians should be part of as we seek to follow Jesus’ teaching “IF you love me you will keep my commandments” . Jesus calls on us to love our neighbour wherever he or she may be and one way of doing this is to seek justice for all. IF we can all get behind this campaign then maybe it will no longer be a question of IF we can rid the world of hunger, but when.
The Little Pilgrim
One summer’s evening, ere the sun went down,
When city men were hasting from the town
To reach their homes, some near at hand and some afar,
By snorting train, by omnibus or car,
To be beyond the reach of city’s din:-
A tramcar stopped, a little girl got in,
A cheery looking girl, scarce four years old;
Although not shy, her manners were not bold.
But all alone, and scarce could understand,
She held a little bundle in her hand,
A tiny handkerchief with corners tied,
But which did not some bread and butter hide.
A satin scarf, so natty and so neat,
Was o’er her shoulders thrown, she took her seat,
And laid her bundle underneath her arm.
And smiling prettily, but yet so calm,
she to the porter said “May I sit here?”
He answered instantly, “O yes my dear”, ‘
And there she seemed inclined to make her stay,
While once again the tram went on its way.
The tall conductor – over six feet high –
Now scanned the traveller with a business eye.
But in that eye was something kind and mild,
That took good notice of the little child.
A little after, and the man went round
And soon was heard the old familiar sound
Of gathering pence, and clipping tickets too;
The tram was crowded, and he had much to do,
‘Your fare, my little girl” at length he said;
She looked a moment, then shook her little head.
‘I have no pennies, don’t you know?” said she,
“My fare is paid, and Jesus paid for me.”
He looked bewildered, – all the people smiled,
“I didn’t know, and who is Jesus, child?”
‘Why, don’t you know. He once for sinners died,
For little children, and for men besides,
To make us good and wash us from our sin,
Is this His railway I am travelling in?
“Don’t think it is, I want your fare, you know.”
“I told you JESUS paid it long ago.
Why mother told me just before she died,
That Jesus paid when He was crucified,
That at His cross His railway did begin
Which took poor sinners from a world of sin.
My mother said His home was grand and fair,
I want to go to heaven where Jesus lives,
Won’t you go, too? My mother says He gives
A loving welcome – shall we not be late?
O, let us go before He shuts the gate.
He bids us little children come to Him.”
The poor conductor’s eyes felt rather dim,
He knew not why, he fumbled in his coat
And felt a substance rising in his throat.
The people listened to the little child.
Some were in tears, the roughest only smiled.
And someone whispered as they looked amazed,
‘Out of the mouth of babes the Lord is praised”;
“I am a little pilgrim”, said the little thing,
I’m going to heaven: my mother used to sing
To me of Jesus and His Father’s love,
Told me to meet her in His home above.
And so today, when Aunt went out to tea,
And looking out I could not father see,
I got my bundle, kissed my little kit,
(I am so hungry; won’t you have a little bit)
And got my hat, and then I left my home
A little pilgrim up to heaven to roam;
And then your carriage stopped, and I could see
You looked so kind, I saw you beckon me –
I thought you must belong to Jesus’ train.
And are you just going home to heaven again?”
The poor conductor only shook his head
Tears in his eyes, the power of speech had fled.
Had conscience, by her prattle, roused his fears,
And struck upon the fountain of his tears,
And made his thoughts in sad confusion whirl?
At last he said, “Once I ‘d a little girl,
I loved her much, she was my little pet,
And with great fondness I remember yet,
How much she loved me, but one day she died”.
“She’s gone to heaven”, the little girl replied,
“She’s gone to Jesus, Jesus paid her fare,
Oh, dear conductor, won’t you meet her there?”
The poor conductor now broke fairly down.
He could have borne the hardest look or frown,
But no-one laughed, but many sitting by,
Beheld the scene with sympathetic eye.
He kissed the child, for she his heart had won.
“I am so sleepy”, said the little one,
“If you will let me, I’ll lie here and wait
Until your carriage comes to Jesus’ gate.
Be sure you wake me up and pull my frock,
And at the gate, give just one little knock.
And you’ll see Jesus there.” The strong man wept.
I could but think as from the car I stepped,
How oft a little one has found the road,
The narrow pathway to that blest abode,
Through faith in Christ has read its title clear,
While learned men remain in doubt and fear,
A little child! The Lord oft uses such
To break or bend, the stoutest heart to touch.
Then by His Spirit bids the conflict cease,
And once for ever enter into peace;
And then along the road the news we hear,
“We’re going to heaven – that Jesus paid the fare.”
With grateful thanks to Ros Carrington for sharing this poem by E. C. Jewett.
The Hymn Writers
Isaac Watts was born in Southampton on 17th July 1674 and died in Stoke Newington, London on 25th Nov 1748. He was the son of a clothier who was a staunch nonconformist and was twice imprisoned for his beliefs. He was educated at Southampton privately, and then at a Dissenting Academy at Stoke Newington run by Thomas Rowe, an independent pastor as he would not be accepted at Oxford or Cambridge because of his non conformity. He spent some time at home in Southampton, 1694-96, and it was then that many of his hymns were written and tried out at the Southampton chapel. He became private tutor to the son of an eminent Puritan, Sir John Hartopp, 1696-1702, and then was ordained pastor of Mark Lane Independent Chapel, London. He suffered from considerable ill-health, and was forced to accept the help of an assistant: in 1712 he had to give up his post, and he became a semi-invalid in the house of Sir Thomas Abney, first at Theobalds, Hertfordshire, and later at Stoke Newington. The degree of DD was conferred upon him by the University of Edinburgh, 1728. His publications were numerous, in prose and in verse; his text-book, Logic was used at Oxford for many years. His books containing hymns included Horae Lyricae (poems and hymns), Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Divine Songs attempted in easy language for the Use of Children, and The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament. Watts has sometimes been called ‘the father of English hymnody’. He was a considerable poet in his own right, and his hymns are sometimes magnificent in their celebration of God in Creation and Christ in Redemption. Two of them, ‘0 God, our help in ages past’, and ‘When I survey the wondrous cross’, are probably the best-known sacred poems in the English language. In all he wrote about 600 hymns and there are nearly 40 of his hymns in Hymns and Psalms. He published several books of poetry, hymns and three volumes of theological discourses.
He died on the 25th of November 1748, and was buried at Bunhill Fields, where a tombstone was erected to his memory by Sir John Hartopp and Lady Abney. A memorial was also erected to him in Westminster Abbey, and a memorial hall, erected in his honour at Southampton, was opened in 1875.