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Impressions

November 1998 | by Vernon Higham

In today’s world of haste and stress there seems very little opportunity to stay awhile and recall the past. Yet it is a good thing to do occasionally, and just bring to mind past acquaintances and events. For me, many folk that have been a help to me on life’s journey are like milestones on this earthly pilgrimage. I cherish their memories. Do you remember when you were a child running down a hill and finding it was so steep that you could not stop? You were no longer in control; the hill had taken over. I wonder if today the pace and the course of this world are doing just that? To quote the poet who wondered,

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare?

In my own case, I love to take out an old photograph album and, for a little while, recall the memories it contains. This is partly sentimental, but mainly it is so precious that they enrich the present. The memory of my maternal grandmother, for example, is very special to me. The background to her life was very interesting and later in life when, I read some of her writings, I understood even more her remarkable character and the spiritually dramatic times in which she had lived.

Children of revival

Whatever one’s opinion may be on the matter of revival, I can only testify to its fruits. Such people were called the ‘children of the revival’, and they filled the chapels for a considerable time afterwards, until one by one they were called to glory. My grandmother was one of them, and I believe we were rather special to each other. I was seven years old when she died, and I still think of her with love and affection. Why should this be? Well, there are lasting impressions of things that are worthwhile. I can only give brief snapshots in this article, but I learned from her something of the tender beauty of the Lord Jesus Christ and how she loved him.

As a little boy I sometimes looked at her wrinkled face and thought I saw him gazing at me in her tender eyes. By some misfortune, in middle life, she had become completely deaf and that meant I could chatter to her as much as I liked, unhindered by any constraint. Despite that, I learnt more about the Lord at that time than I could describe. Godly people are a benediction wherever they are, and she was such to me and many others.

The church embraced

She often took me to visit her friends and I came to the conclusion that they could read each other’s minds or at least lip read. I would often report these times to my mother who greatly enjoyed my interpretation of these visits. They were fascinating occasions and I always wondered why she and her friends loved walking around cemeteries. They would pause at a grave and say, ‘Wonderful, Wonderful, Snatched from the flames!’ Then they would move on quietly and pause again at another grave, saying, ‘What a rebel, What a struggle, What a saint — and endured to the end!’ I could go on with other similar comments, but perhaps it is their collective effect that is the most significant impression on me. It may seem strange that although I was a mischievous child, I loved the house of God. In later life, when involved with many other ideas and projects, I knew at the back of my mind that God at times took his church into his arms and embraced her. In a way it was a wordless knowledge, almost caught rather than taught.

Remarkable people

During the depression of the 1930s, everyone I knew seemed to leave our town in north-west Wales and scatter far and wide. Eventually my father’s business suffered the effects of those terrible days and we too left. We moved to Lancashire, which was my father’s home county, and we soon settled into the network of Welsh chapels there at that time. Ours was ‘The Tabernacle’ and during the week there was a meeting for prayer and fellowship. It was there that I again met the ‘children of the revival’. One evening my turn came to read an essay I had to prepare for the fellowship meeting, on the topic of ‘The 1859 Revival’. Imagine that today! I remember nothing of the occasion now, except that I felt as if my legs had disappeared with fright. However, from then onwards I had one desire, and that was that God might come again in great power.

In a branch church of my first pastorate there was a most remarkable group of people. It was within a mile of where the revival had started in 1904, and in the congregation there was the sister of Evan Roberts, the revivalist. There was also her husband who had been greatly used by God, and an old lady who was instrumental in leading Evan Roberts to the Lord.

For me they were special people from a special time. These memories cannot be erased, they are cherished, and they keep the flame of desire for another visitation by God burning in my heart.