BY REVEREND. B. BEDDOW.
DURING my visit to Stambourne, I went to look at a spot associated with the work of the famous John Berridge, which is thus described in an article entitled “Dame Darman”, in the Sunday at Home for 1865, p. 26 (We thank the Religious Tract Society for hearty consent to borrow a portion of the article from their excellent magazine.) “This is a spot of small interest to the antiquary: and one which the traveler might pass without knowing that he had passed it. Stambourne Green no longer answers to the name it still bears. It was once an open green, or common, over which the donkeys and pigs, and ducks and geese of the villagers had a free run and feeding ground; where village gossips strolled, and village children played, and many a village courtship was begun. Law, without the slightest respect to village swains or their belongings, has empowered the enclosure of Stambourne Green. My own inducement to go thither was to see the spot where the Reverend John Berridge had more than once stood to preach to a crowd of rustics. No wide or open space is now to be found. The ‘waste’ has been ‘enclosed’, and the road across The common is flanked by a hedge-row and trees on either side. Tradition still points out the place where Berridge stood to preach. It is in front of a blacksmith’s forge, where the bellows heave to urge the fire, and the anvil rings to the stroke of the hammer, as they did the day that John Berridge stood before it, though the workmen that then used them are, like himself and his hearers, passed away for ever. “Mr. Berridge was never acquainted with Dame Darman, though he knew that his work was not without fruit. Many for miles round might never have heard the gospel but for these itinerant labors… Some portions of the history of ‘Dame Darman’ connected with this Stambourne Green were learned in the course of visits to her cottage paid long ago. To an inquiry about her early days, and how she came to be a Christian, she replied to a lady friend: — “ ‘Ah, ma’am ‘tis wonderful how the Lord works! I can remember the time when there was no gospel about here, — none to preach it, and no one to look after the people, so far as I ever knew. At last there was a great talk about John Berridge, a church parson, who was going to preach on Stambourne Green. A most unlikely thing, as folks said, for a real parson to do; and I thought I should like to go and see the fun.’ “‘You thought it would be “fun” then?’ asked the listener. “‘Why, you see, ma’am, I was a silly gaping mauther (A foolish young girl.) then, fond of going to fairs and dances. and I went that day with a lot more, the same as going to some such sport. But I heard what I never heard or knew before, and I began to be very serious, about it. When I went home, my father asked me where I’d been, and I told him I’d been to hear Berridge preach. Father was very angry with me. He never used to be very kind to me. He saw something strange in me. He thought the parson had made me “glum.” He asked me what business I had to go to hear “such stuff”; and then he swore a great oath, and said, “If ever you go again, I’ll give you such a hiding as you never had in your life afore.” “You see, ma’am, I’d had many a “hiding” afore; but father never beat me for going to fairs and dances, and I thought, may be, he didn’t mean it, and would never do it. So when John Berridge came again in about a month, I went to Stambourne Green to hear him; and when I came home I found my father in a dreadful rage; and though I didn’t believe he’d beat me, he kept his word. Oh, my dear lady, he did give me such a hiding as I never had in all my life afore. Would you believe it, ma’am? he took a thick stick and laid on me till I dropped down and couldn’t stand. He “licked” me till I was blue, and green, and black all over. “He’d beat all that nonsense out of me.” Poor father! he didn’t know what he was a-doing! Yes, I remember I was never able to turn myself over in bed for days after.’ “All the stripes, however, failed to beat out what the daughter had learned from John Berridge, or rather what she had been taught of God; and from that time, according to her little light, she began to be a Christian, stumbling and suffering, ignorantly and imperfectly, but yet sincerely a Christian. She had been convinced of her sin and danger, but she had been led to that precious blood which ‘cleanseth us from all sin’; and she had found that Savior whose presence, became her solace and her stay. “Has the reader found ‘like precious faith’, and like inestimable privilege? “As her religion did not depart, so neither did her father’s displeasure against it. She was often beaten with many stripes, and in all her suffering she had not one earthly friend to sympathize with or to encourage her. “Desiring to escape the effects of her father’s hard usage, she accepted the first proposal of marriage which was made to her. She had not the knowledge and instruction which many Christians have received, who, notwithstanding, shut their eyes to the Pauline precept about marriage — ‘only in the Lord,’ and blindly risking the consequences of being ‘unequally yoked together with unbelievers’, have ‘pierced themselves through with many sorrows.’ She ignorantly accepted an ungodly husband, and did not escape the consequences. Her husband was a brutal, drunken, savage man.
He beat her as she had been beaten aforetime, and perhaps more. frequently. She had exchanged one wretched home for another. ‘I found’, she said, ‘that I had only jumped out of the frying-pan into the fire.’ “Her children, as they grew, joined the father in mocking their mother’s piety, and learned to scorn her infirmities, which were largely due to the illtreatment she had received. “When I first knew her she lived in a small cottage, and being utterly unable to work, she was allowed the sum of one shilling and sixpence a week as ‘parish pay.’ Even this she could scarcely call her own. Her son, who lived in her house, when he had no work, and that was not seldom, made no scruple of sharing his mother’s scanty meal; and when any better food was sent for her use, it was common for the bearer to stay and see her eat, to make sure she was not deprived of it. In the midst of all these hardships, I do not remember that she made a single complaint or spoke an unkind word, unless the narratives of her sufferings, which were drawn from her, should be so regarded. For daily mercies, and for what she looked upon as special providences, she was continually grateful. Her humility, serenity and peace were probably perplexing and unaccountable to many of her neighbors; but there were those who believed in a peace, which, though familiar to experience, passeth all. understanding. They might have been sure she had learned obedience to the Bible precept,. ‘Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God’; and they might have perceived that she knew the meaning of the promise, ‘The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.’ “Methinks I see the poor lone woman sitting in the chimney corner, with a Bible on her knees and spectacles on her nose; both the book and the helps to read it being gifts of Christian love. God’s blessed sunlight streams in through the diamonded panes of the little window, casting on the irregular floor strange patches of light and shadow. The sunbeam was but an emblem of God’s holy Word, which had entered the once dark mind as ‘a light shining in a dark place.’ Best of all, God had lifted up ‘the light of his countenance’, and caused his face to shine, giving ‘peace’, the pledge of the peace of heaven. “What a pleasant picture, for the preacher if he could have seen it! yet how often the work of the preacher is a ‘work of faith’! How much work he does without seeing its appropriate results, or without seeing them all! He sometimes has a seed-time of which another reaps the harvest. John Berridge knew nothing in this world of the effect of those services at Stambourne Green on that ‘silly gaping mauther’ who heard him there. He knew nothing of the great change which passed upon her, as she stood with the group of kindred companions, who had come ‘to see the fun’; nothing of the sufferings which she endured for righteousness’ sake; nothing of the hard life, and scanty fare, and crippled age, and nothing withal of the sustaining faith of this poor woman, and her endearing and grateful recollection of that servant of God who preached ‘the word of faith’ to her ear, whilst the gracious Spirit of the Lord bore the message to her heart. “Yet the Lord knew it all; and it may have been the privilege of his servant, and a part of his reward, to learn these things in that region of perfection and love, where, with mutual interchange of holiest thoughts, the communion of saints is undisturbed for ever.”
Among those who were born to the Lord at Stambourne Green, under the preaching of the rare John Berridge was one Caleb Price, a true witness for the Lord. He was altogether uneducated, but being full of zeal, and having good understanding in the things of God, he gathered a congregation at Steeple Bumpstead, and enjoyed the blessing of his Master. The stories told of him were often amusing enough. A tradition tells us that he was one day preaching up the virtues of perseverance, and he cried, “Per severe.
Yes, dear friends, you must per severe. There is nothing like per severance.
You should per severe, and per severe, and per severe, like Queen Elizabeth.
She per severed and per severed till she was crowned KING!”
How curious it is that the minister, who, in his youth, followed the footprints of Berridge in Waterbeach, and around Cambridge, should now be, in this little volume, editing a record of his gracious deeds!