IN Pulverbach Churchyard, nine miles out of Shrewsbury, stands a large memorial stone over a family grave. It records the names of nine of the family and their parents, and has the beautiful words on it Blessed be God for the grace given unto them through our Lord Jesus Christ, whereby they lived in His fear and died in sure and certain hope of life eternal. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost.
Not very unusual, you will say. There must be thousands of such tombs in the old churchyards of England. True, but the interesting thing about this family, the Gilpins, is that they have left records of their lives and the way 'whereby they lived in His fear'. These are not just jottings about providential troubles and deliverances, interesting as these always are, but, as one puts it, 'faithful records of what each of them felt to be the teaching and leading of the spirit of God' in their lives. 'So original and so memorable are these,' says their nephew, Dr. Richard Benson, 'that it did not seem right that they should continue to be hidden in manuscript now that the last of that large and gifted family has passed away.' So in 1895 he published what had been hidden, and called it Memoirs of Six Sisters. He had already published the Life and Letters of their brother, Bernard Gilpin.
Perhaps some readers have these books on their shelves, and perhaps a volume of The Life and Letters of James Bourne (www.Jamesbourne.net). But they may not have had the opportunity of reading seven or eight other books connected with these, or thought to arrange them chronologically. A research on these lines has most beautifully revealed the sacred Hand that drew these lives together like pieces of mosaic, so that the whole makes a perfect picture. And the theme of it all? This can best be worded in a quotation from one of Bernard's letters:
'The Lord's work, from the beginning to this day, has been to take for Himself a people out of the midst of another people. Even where false religion is rampant, it is often found there are a few simple confused saints, who, though outwardly bound up with the mass, are inwardly separated from them. The Lord sends a minister of His own, gradually to call out these hidden ones.'
The books are all now long out of print, but lest the modern reader feels they are also out of date, my hope for him is that he may presently be filled with the same astonishment that made Henrietta Gilpin exclaim, 'What? Now? In 1832 is there any religion like this really existing? Are there any living in these days to whom the Lord really and sensibly speaks, and to whom He manifests Himself in this beautiful manner? I thought all such things had ceased since Bible days'.
But Henrietta found they had not, and so, I hope, may you.