Tuesday, 27 February 2018

From his passion our happiness flows

A researcher into church pewter recently contacted us about permission to view and photograph a mid-eighteenth century flagon held on behalf of Haworth church at York Minster’s Treasury.  It is a pair to one which the church retains, and local historian Steven Wood was able quickly to provide me with the photograph from 1920s reproduced above which shows the two together. 

We went over to York yesterday to view the flagon (and the silver communion beaker in the photograph – but that demands a separate post of its own). 

Each flagon has an inscription on the front which includes the date 1750 and this date is repeated on the base of each with the names W. Grimshaw, Minister, W. Sharp, B. Hey, Ch. Wardens.

William Grimshaw became Perpetual Curate of Haworth in  1742, soon after a converting experience similar to that which had inspired John Wesley (who was six years his senior) four years earlier.  In the same way that Wesley then travelled the whole country preaching the Methodist revival, Grimshaw came to travel an extensive local area doing something similar, and the two men were close collaborators.

In Haworth itself, Grimshaw revived what was an ill attended church, so that, for example, Wesley’s Journal records a visit on Sunday 22nd May 1757 when I suppose there were nearly a thousand communicants, and scarcely a trifler among them. 

This is where the flagons come in.  Clearly a good supply of wine was needed to keep topping up the chalices and the pair of new large flagons would have been used for this purpose.  The inscriptions on the front of each fits with this.  In both cases it is a verse from a Communion hymn.

The verse on the flagon in York is from a hymn by Isaac Watts, who had died two years earlier, first published in 1707 (Far from my thoughts vain world be gone):

Blest Jesus, what delicious Fare!
How sweet thine entertainments are!
Never did Angels taste above,
Redeeming grace or dying love.

The verse on the one which the church retains is from a hymn by John or Charles Wesley published just five years before the flagon was inscribed:

In Jesus we live, in Jesus we rest,
And thankful receive His dying bequest,
The Cup of Salvation His mercy bestows,
And all from His passion our Happiness flows.

Hymns on the Lord’s Supper (1745) is prefaced by John Wesley’s abridgment of a work of Daniel Brevint The Christian Sacrament and Sacrifice (1673).  The Wesley hymns are then intended to teach this theology and embed it in the worshipper’s use and memory. 

One section of the work is headed Concerning the Sacrament as it is a pledge of future glory and the section of the hymnbook which contains this hymn reflects this by being headed The Sacrament, a pledge of heaven.  Wesley includes Brevint’s prayer feed me with the living bread which [these mysteries] present and sanctify me in both body and spirit for that eternal happiness which they promise, so the word ‘happiness’ in the verse is not incidental.

(I’m enjoying the link back to Brevint because he succeeded Michael Honeywood who was made as Dean of Lincoln at the Restoration in 1660; like Honeywood he was deprived of office under the Commonwaelth and like him he was in due course buried in Lincoln Cathedral.)

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