Iris' Archives, January 2018
by Iris Holt, Church Warden Emerita
COVERDALE, MILES (kuv'er-dal) 1488-1568 Translator of the first complete English Bible, 1535. In 1539, he produced the Great Bible, a revision of the Matthew's Bible. His work affected all later English Bibles.
THE EPIPHANY STAR
The star of Jacob (Numbers 24:17) finds its fulfilment in the "manifestation" of Jesus to the Gentiles (Matthew 2:1,2).
The brightest and best of the stars of the morning
Reginald Heber was the distinguished son of a noble father, who himself was a Fellow of Brasenose College at Oxford. He was born at Malpas in Cheshire in 1783, and when only 17, entered his father's College, where he had a brilliant career. His Newdigate poem on “Palestine“ is one of the few prize poems that have lived.
For 16 years he was Vicar of Hodnet, where he combined the two positions of pastor and squire. Thackeray's tribute in The Four Georges will never be forgotten. He mentions Collingwood as a good man of letters and Heber as a type of a good divine. Thackeray's paragraph has become almost proverbial: "The charming poet, the happy possessor of all sorts of gifts and accomplishments — birth, wit, fame, high character, competence — he was the beloved priest in his own home of Hodnet, counselling the people in their trouble, advising them in their difficulties, kneeling often at their sick beds at the hazard of his own life; where there was strife, the peacemaker; where there was want, the free giver." From the first, right on to the end when he laid down his life after a short episcopate in India, he was a person of great courage.
In 1824, when Bishop Heber consecrated a church in India, he says 'I had the gratification of hearing my own hymns, "Brightest and best", and "The Son of God goes forth to war", sung better than I had heard them in a church before.' There is a reverent joyousness in the hymn 'Brightest and best’:
Brightest and best of the sons of the morning,
Dawn on our darkness, and lend us thine aid;
Star of the east, the horizon adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.
This joyousness reaches its zenith in the grand truth that it is the giver rather than the gift that is acceptable:
Vainly we offer each ample oblation,
Vainly with gifts would His favour secure;
Richer by far is the heart's adoration,
Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.
It has been said that Heber's hymns do not have 'the scriptural strength of our best early hymns, nor the dogmatic force of the best Latin ones. But as pure and graceful devotional poetry they are always true and reverent and are an unfailing pleasure.
Bishops, too, are faced with the pressing need to raise funds. Samuel Wilberforce encountered a wealthy, but tight-fisted, financier who showed more than usual reluctance to contribute to diocesan funds. After several appeals the old skinflint reluctantly agreed and told the bishop, 'I shall be happy to give my mite.' I always thought that there were two,' replied Wilber- force, 'and that they represented the widow's all.'