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Enter the name of the tune for hymn 362
It’s so easy to forget. Our memories are like sieves, which seem to let things slip through, although everything may be somewhere in the mind, if only we could retrieve it! But what about things that happened years ago, things which a nation needs to remember as part of its political, cultural or religious heritage? How about that?
One way is to erect a memorial, a plaque or an inscription. Many towns and villages have war memorials to remind people about soldiers who died in battles fought long ago and ceremonies are held annually at the memorial to remember the fallen.
Many buildings have plaques attached to say that so-and-so was born or lived there, although the property might now bear little resemblance to the original dwelling. Sometimes the original property might have been preserved much as it was, perhaps as a museum or an exhibition centre.
The cottage on this month’s cover is exactly that. Named “Ty Mawr”, which translates as ‘Big House’, it is located in a remote part of North Wales and has been preserved to remind visitors that in 1545 William Morgan was born here. His father was a tenant farmer and William might have followed in his footsteps, in which case we would never have heard of him. Instead, somehow he was able to attend St John’s College in Cambridge where he became proficient in Hebrew and Greek, the languages in which the Old and New Testaments were first written. Years afterwards, as a later article explains, William Morgan was responsible for publishing the first printed Welsh Bible. If you remember that the Spanish Armada was conquered by Sir Francis Drake in 1588, you also know the date when William Morgan’s Bible was first published.
The translation itself was undertaken when William was vicar of a church in the village of Llanrhaedr-ym-Mochnant (not very far, as it happens, from where the Editor was born). Visit there today and you will find the church, a plaque, an inscription where a summerhouse once stood, where much of the work was done, and the former vicarage has been renamed in his honour. The 'photo on the right shows the plaque on the former vicarage, now named "Morgan Hall".
But the Bible would mean nothing to a nation if nobody wanted to read it. Journey towards the Mid-Wales coast, near Dolgellau, and you can find another memorial, this time in recognition of a young girl who had a burning desire to read the Bible and to possess a copy of her own. The story of Mary Jones and her Bible is widely known but in 1800 she was just a poor girl who had saved for six years in order to buy her own Welsh Bible and walked 25 miles to Bala in order to purchase one. What happened as a consequence is described in a later article, but so that people don’t forget her and her fervent desire to read God’s Word, there is a plaque at the ruined cottage where she once lived, a memorial within its walls and, of course, a suitable inscription on her gravestone in the village of Bryn-Crug.
Some people like to re-enact Mary’s 25 mile walk to Bala, following a likely route, especially as it’s a beautiful part of Wales. Arriving in Bala they head, of course, for the building where Thomas Charles once lived – the man who could have sold Mary that Bible. Bala is a lovely lakeside town, very popular with tourists, and it too has suitable ways of remembering Mary’s journey and its aftermath. There are three plaques on the house where Mr Charles once lived (which is now a bank), and an imposing statue of the man himself, a founder of the British and Foreign Bible Society.
These three people – William Morgan, Mary Jones and Thomas Charles – are all worth remembering for they help us to appreciate how privileged we are to have such ready and affordable access to God’s Word and they challenge us. We can compare ourselves with them to get some measure of our own determination, commitment and concern. But we also show that every day by reading or ignoring what God says to us in the Bible.
Nobody really knows just where the Lord Jesus was born in Bethlehem, where he lived in Nazareth, or Capernaum, just where he died in Jerusalem, or where he was laid in a tomb. He has no gravestone, for he rose from the dead, and lives now in heaven.
But we must never forget what he did and said, and how he lived − entirely without fault or failure. He asked for no plaque, memorial or statue to be erected to keep us remembering him. Instead he commanded his followers to share bread and wine together, saying: “do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). It is when baptised believers do this Sunday by Sunday that they “proclaim the Lord’s death till he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
The Bible promises that Jesus will return from heaven to rule on earth and we need to keep that promise in mind. If we remember it, it should affect the way we think, act and live.