ROTHERHAM'S REMINISCENCES - CHAPTER 1
CHAPTER 1. - BIRTHPLACE, PARENTAGE AND EARLIEST RECOLLECTIONS.
My birthplace was New Buckenham, Norfolk, a compact little village of about six hundred inhabitants, fifteen miles south-west of the city of Norwich. Here lived my paternal grandfather, Mr. Joseph Rotherham, and my maternal grandfather, Mr. Richard Bryant; the former being a Wesleyan and the latter a Particular Baptist; and here, in 1828, I was born.
My father was born in 1802, and when quite a young man became a Wesleyan Local Preacher: in that capacity rendering excellent service for upwards of forty years. He was an acceptable preacher, who owed something to Matthew Henry's Commentary, Blair's Sermons, and Young's "Night Thoughts;" still more to the thorough preparation of his sermons which he made, notwithstanding onerous business claims. Probably I owe something to his habit of questioning me while I was quite young, on his return from his Sunday preaching appointments, as to the sermons I had heard at home: what were the preacher's texts, how he treated them, and the like. It is impossible for me to say how much more I owe to the nobleness of his life; for he was a man of principle, ready to help in any good cause, and prepared to suffer for righteousness' sake.
I recall his saying at a time of sore trial -
"The darkest day -
Wait till to-morrow - will have passed away!"
My mother was born in 1796. Her piety was of the unobtrusive and practical type, which delighted in doing good to her neighbours. She was accustomed to conduct our devotions at the family altar when my father was from home, and I listen once more to her voice telling me on what proved to be her death-bed of my father's ungratified wish to be spared to bury her; and repeating to me in her blindness (which in all lasted about ten years) those verses of Wesley's: -
"Good Thou art, and good Thou dost,
Thy mercies reach to all:
Chiefly those who on Thee trust,
And for Thy mercy call.
New they every morning are,
As fathers when their children cry;
Us Thou dost in mercy spare,
And all our wants supply."
She died at the age of 84, my father having predeceased her by about three years.
In 1834 my father, mother, and the rest of the family removed from New Buckenham to Feltwell, in the west of Norfolk. I well remember going to our new home - in particular riding in the cart with my father behind his grey mare, across the extensive rabbit-warren stretching about half-way between Thetford and Brandon. Away westward from Feltwell stretched the flat, low-lying Fen, extending to Cambridgeshire, and giving a good view in clear weather of Ely Cathedral, about twelve miles distant. In the Fen my father had the right to cut 12,000 turf a year.
My father and mother being Wesleyans, it is naturally around the small Wesleyan chapel that my religious memories cluster. A leading recollection of life in Feltwell has reference to the Wesleyan Sunday School, which figures brightly in my memory for several reasons: one of the most precious being this - that some of my teachers found a way to my heart by a personal form of appeal to which I was not accustomed in my home, notwithstanding the mighty character-forming influences which abounded in the latter.
Sunday School teachers might take note of this. Some of the children, who could possibly teach you, are just needing that gentle touch of the springs of action which it is our sacred privilege to supply. Do not needlessly expose yourselves to the light opinion of your scholars through your lack of Biblical knowledge lying near your hand; but at the same time remember how rich a reward awaits you, not only from the scholars who are unconsciously waiting for you to lead them to Christ, but from grateful parents also, who, if they never know in this world, will learn some day how you supplied "the missing link" which had been left unforged. It is yours to help to lead, not hurry their lambs into the Saviour's fold.
JOSEPH BRYANT ROTHERHAM INDEX