Sunday, 19 April 2015

A Man Of A Thousand

Now here's the thing, I have always thought that Swanton Morley [the little village where Cornerstones is] had just one big connection with the USA, namely that Abe Lincoln's ancestors came from SM. But this month I discovered an older link, and one that I find fascinating because it involves nonconformity, hymns, and Biblical Scholarship [all of which are important to me] Back in 1571 a chap called Henry Ainsworth was born in the village, of humble farming stock. But he was clever, went to Cambridge, and studied theology. He joined the Puritans, and eventually had to flee religious persecution, and settled in Amsterdam. He was incredibly poor [ it is said that he lived 'on ninepence a week and boiled roots'] but worked hard translating the Psalms and making them 'singable'. His friend was a printer, and produced Henry's "Book Of Psalmes; Englished both in prose and Metre". [didn't know it was a verb!]
 Here's where it starts to get more interesting - Henry's great friend in Holland was a chap called William Brewster. He went across on the Mayflower, with the Pilgrim Fathers, became chief elder of their church in the new Plymouth Colony...and took his Ainsworth hymn book with him.
So the first hymnbook used by the Christians in the USA was a book of Psalms written by a bloke from my little village in Norfolk!

If you visit the Plimoth Plantation, you can find out even more, and see a shelf of Brewster's books and pewter plates - and there is HA's psalter, 400 years old. Henry was a great Hebraic scholar, and made friends with many rabbis whilst in Holland.

However, he wasn't always popular with the other 'separatists', and often disagreed with the Anabaptists. But despite that, at his death, one of those who disagreed with him on points of theology described him thus  "A man of a thousand…He was a man very modest, amiable, and sociable in his ordinary course and carriage, of an innocent and unblamable life and conversation, of a meek spirit, and a calm temper, void of passion, and not easily provoked….He had an excellent gift of teaching and opening the Scriptures; and things did flow from him with that facility, plainness and sweetness, as did much affect the hearers…. he was most ready and pregnant in the Scriptures, as if the book of God had been written in his heart…teaching not only the word and doctrine of God, but in the words of God, and for the most part in a continued phrase and words of Scripture…….In a word , the times and place in which he lived were not worthy of such a man."

C H Spurgeon even refers to Ainsworth's's Psalter in his "Treasury of David" [but then Bob says CHS quotes everybody in T of D!] I am just pleased to have discovered somebody with a Norfolk connection who loved the Psalms too.

btw the clip at the top is a re-enactor at the Plimoth Plantation. She is singing HA's version of Psalm 3. Not that sure about the tune - prefer Kendrick or Townend myself!

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful tribute from the one who disagreed with him!

    There are quite a few churches scattered about the US (I think Orthodox Presbyterians among others) in which a psalter is still used - whether this one or another I don't know.

    Thank you for this post. :)


Always glad to hear from you - thanks for stopping by!
I am blocking anonymous comments now, due to excessive spam!