America had its “Quaker Poet” in John Greenleaf Whittier, and Bernard Barton was given the same title in England. Barton went into a corn and coal business with his brother. But he abandoned that enterprise in great sorrow, when his wife died after only one year of marriage. He obtained work as a tutor for awhile, and then got a job as a bank teller, work he continued for 40 years. A man of regular habits, it was said that when he returned home for lunch each day, housewives along the road as he passed knew it was time to put the potatoes on to boil!
Bernard Barton was a prolific poet, writing 10 volumes of devotional verse. He was also a friend of many literary figures of the day, including Charles Lamb, Lord Byron, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Southey. Edward Fitzgerald (who translated The Rubdiydt of Omar Khayyam) married Barton’s daughter.
Quite a number of Bernard Barton’s poems were turned into hymns, among them Walk in the Light, and Lamp of Our Feet. The latter reminds us of the great blessing God has given us in the Scriptures. It is, among other things, “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105).
Lamp of our feet whereby we trace
Our path when wont to stray;
Stream from the fount of heav’nly grace,
Brook by the traveler’s way.
Bread of our souls whereon we feed,
True manna from on high;
Our guide and chart wherein we read
Of realms beyond the sky.
Pillar of fire, through watches dark,
Or radiant cloud by day;
When waves would break our tossing bark,
Our anchor and our stay.
Word of the ever living God,
Will of His glorious Son;
Without Thee, how could earth be trod
Or heav’n itself be won?
Yet to unfold thy hidden worth,
Thy mysteries to reveal,
That Spirit which first gave thee forth,
Thy volume must unseal.
Lord, grant us all aright to learn
The wisdom it imparts
And to its heavenly teaching turn
With simple, childlike hearts.
(2) Today in 1834 – Charles Spurgeon Born
There is no question that Charles Haddon Spurgeon was a remarkable man. Converted on January 6th, 1850, he preached his first sermon the same year, at the age of sixteen. Two years later, he became a pastor, moving on at the age of twenty to a life-long ministry in London. Soon he was preaching to audiences of ten thousand people (in the days before electronic amplification).
By the time he was twenty-two Spurgeon was the most popular preacher of his day. His sermons, still available, contained strong doses of Bible doctrine, combined with sound biblical scholarship. Yet they were anything but dry. Hearers sensed his good humour, his heart for God, and his love for the people. Many consider him to be the greatest English-speaking preacher of all time.
And Spurgeon’s preaching was only part of the contribution made by this outstanding man. He established orphanages that housed 500 children, and founded a college for training pastors (seeing about 900 graduate from it before his death). He operated 21 city missions providing the poor with food, clothing and free education. He authored 135 books and edited 28 others–many of these are still in print. His sermons were published, selling 25,000 copies each week, and eventually being translated into 40 languages.
All of this and more occupied his 18-hour work days until the time of his death at the age of 58. (For his deathbed hymn, see Item 2 under Today in 1807.) At his passing 100,000 filed past his coffin to pay their respects, and the two-mile funeral procession through the streets of London rivaled that of royalty. Spurgeon penned a number of hymns, including the lovely Communion hymn, Amidst Us Our Beloved Stands.
Amidst us our Belovèd stands,
And bids us view His piercèd hands;
Points to the wounded feet and side,
Blest emblems of the Crucified.
What food luxurious loads the board,
When at His table sits the Lord!
The wine how rich, the bread how sweet,
When Jesus deigns the guests to meet!
(3) Today in 1932 – Annie Barker Died
Annie Herbert Barker was a school teacher, and she also wrote a number of songs. She and her husband were pioneer settlers in Montana. They moved to San Rafael, California in 1888, where she lived the remainder of her life.
Mrs. Barker has given us one gospel song, When the Mists Have Rolled Away, which is still found in some books. The idea of the song is that things that puzzle us here will be made clear in heaven. There is an allusion to the words of the Apostle Paul, “Now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known” (I Cor. 13:12).
Many years ago, I stood with my own father on the summit of one of the Adirondack Mountains. The early morning mist was still settled in the valley below, and my father was inspired to sing Annie Barker’s song. But a more remarkable incident relates to the author herself.
In January of 1932, the hymn was used on a Christian radio program beamed out from Los Angeles. And before the soloist sang he said, “We wish to dedicate this song to its author, wherever she may be.” At the time, Annie Barker was the resident of a seniors home, penniless, alone and forgotten. Providentially, she heard the words of the singer, and the rendition of her song. Then, she asked one of the attendants to help her into bed. A few moments later, she passed into eternity, ushered into the presence of the Lord, where the mists of time were swept away.
When the mists have rolled in splendour
From the beauty of the hills,
And the sunlight falls in gladness
On the rivers and the rills,
We recall our Father’s promise
In the rainbow of the spray:
We shall know each other better
When the mists have rolled away.
We shall know, as we are known,
Never more to walk alone,
In the dawning of the morning
Of that bright and happy day,
We shall know each other better,
When the mists have rolled away.
We shall come with joy and gladness,
We shall gather round the throne.
Face to face with those that love us
We shall know as we are known.
And the song of our redemption
Shall resound through endless day
When the shadows have departed
And the mists have rolled away.