On a good number of dates in the Church of England calendar, we are invited to give thanks for the ministry of notable women and men of the faith. Today, the church remembers Henry Martyn, for whom this short summary is provided
Born in Truro in 1781, Henry Martyn went up to Cambridge at the age of sixteen. He became an avowed evangelical and his friendship with Charles Simeon led to his interest in missionary work. In 1805, he left for Calcutta as a chaplain to the East India Company. The expectation was that he would minister to the British expatriate community, not to the indigenous peoples; in fact, there was a constant fear of insurrection and even the recitation of Magnificat at Evensong was forbidden, lest ‘putting down the mighty from their seat’ should incite the natives. Henry set about learning the local languages and then supervised the translation of the New Testament first into Hindustani and then into Persian and Arabic, as well as preaching and teaching in mission schools. He went to Persia to continue the work but, suffering from tuberculosis, he died in Armenia on this day in 1812.
When reading this, whilst at first chuckling at the prospect of the revolutionary nature of the Magnificat, I came to realise that the nature of God’s word; “sharper than a two edged sword” has always had the potential to challenge and bring about change. Mike’s own recent musings on the Reformation and the impact of the translation of the scriptures into our own language, certainly backs this up. Indeed long may we be exposed to the transformational power of God’s word.
I was also struck by the hard position Henry Martyn must have found himself, with responsibilities to the East India company, but also (under God) to the indigenous people of Calcutta. He, I dare say, must have felt a duty to work on behalf of both interest groups, as well as finding ways to bring them together. This role as ‘go between', or ‘mediator’ was one which Moses many years previously had experienced and was partially the subject of last Sunday’s sermon as Mike our preacher writes:
‘On Sunday we carried on looking at the story of Moses leading the newly freed people of Israel through the desert to the Promised Land. We were reminded of the privileged relationship Moses had with God as he was able to come into God’s presence and speak with him face to face like a friend. This closeness gave him the opportunity to act as a mediator at times between God and his people. This didn’t make Moses a proud man, on the contrary, in another part of the Bible he is described as ‘...a humble man, more humble than anyone else on earth’ (Numbers 12:3). We also discovered that Moses’ encounters with God left he changed and transformed, helping us to think about the places where we might meet alone with God and how the ways in which we are changed by our own encounters might shine out before others in our world.’
Our sermon series comes to and end this Sunday. Do join us if you possibly can, as we reflect together on the opportunities the Israelites were given to express their thanks in worship to God, for the freedom and provision they had received from Him, and how we as God’s followers today, might be encouraged to do the same