Crowds Do Make Statements
Why so many, why such a large crowd? One source, “an immense number of persons”. Another source (there are not many sources, maybe 3-4), “20,000 people attended his burial service at Bunhill Fields, London”. The 56 year-old man had no position of rank or station attested to by the fact that no remaining portrait exists. In 1760, at age 48 he entered a ministry he faithfully continued until his death only 8 years later. The name of the ministry, ‘Jewin Street Meeting-House’ did not set it apart to notoriety. Little is known of his parentage. “He struggled for twenty-four years with sin and doubts and only gained an assurance of faith for just the last eleven years of his life”. He referred often to “spiritual perturbations”. As to published sermons, one source said there is “just one remaining from the thousands he preached”. He wrote only one book—a hymn book with a short autobiographical preface—a preface that J. C. Philpot called the “sublimest” mortal writing he ever read. “Sublimest”—of outstanding spiritual, intellectual, or moral worth. One of the few sources also uses the word “sublime” in the following statement, “For example, for me, nothing in all of Christian hymnody can compare with the blunt, but doctrinally sublime, opening line of his, A MAN THERE IS, A REAL MAN…” Most often did William Huntington use his hymns in his large London ministry and quote him in his own writings. J. R. Anderson of Scotland “had a warm appreciation of this man’s hymns and commended them to others”.
Again, why so many to attend a funeral? I wonder, did that many people attend the funerals of White Field and Wesley, even combined? Because this hymn writer had reached them deeply, some to spiritual depths beyond their ability of expression—THEY LOVED HIM AND WANTED TO HONOR THE MAN THEY LOVED IN HIS PASSAGE OF DEATH.
When pining sickness wastes the frame,
Acute disease, or tiring pain;
When life fast spends her feeble flame,
And all the help of man proves vain;
Then, THEN to have recourse to God,
To pour a prayer in time of need,
And feel the balm of Jesus’ blood,
This is to find a FRIEND indeed.