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Cyril Pocock 1918-2007: An Obituary

Category Articles
Date May 9, 2008

Cyril John Pocock, (always known as John), faithful deacon of the church at South Moreton for fifty-five years, passed away on November 24th, 2007, aged 89 years.

The following details are taken from his own writings:

I was born at Gainfield Farm, Buckland, on March 14th, 1918. My father, Mr. Jacob Pocock, was a minister of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. My mother, Mrs. Sarah Pocock, was a very gracious woman and most loving mother to eight children, of whom I was the youngest.

When I was four years old, I was wonderfully preserved from drowning when, after falling into the brook, I was rescued by my sister Doris. When I was five or six, my brother and I were struck down with scarlet fever and were taken to hospital. Sadly he passed away, but I was again spared, sad to say only to grow up a rebel to my parents and to fall into temptation and sin. As the years passed, I went further into sin, once attending the cinema, but this I did knowing in some measure I was doing wrong, and spent such a dreadful night following with terrifying dreams. I have never entered such a place since.

After leaving school I became friendly with ungodly young men and went into many sinful ways, including watching boxing matches and staying out late at night, much to the grief of my poor mother who tried to restrain me, but to no avail. I also, whilst in company with these young men, as they found young ladies to go out with, wished to do the same. Eventually they introduced me to one, whom I started going out with. Although I was determined to go my own way in this and many other things, I still attended chapel regularly, until after a time I began to make excuses of having to attend to the farm animals. I sometimes did not go to chapel in the afternoon, but sad to say this was more to spend time with the young lady to whom I became very attached.

My young lady did sometimes attend chapel with me, and it was on one of these occasions when I believe the Lord sent the arrow of conviction into my heart under the preaching at Grove Chapel of Mr. William Hope. He pointed out the solemnity of death and the outcome of death – spending a never-ending eternity either in heaven or in hell. He asked his hearers the solemn question: ‘Where will you spend eternity?’ Immediately I was trembling with fear where I should spend eternity. I remember saying to my young lady afterwards, ‘O where shall I spend eternity?’ But I can now see, on looking back, it did not affect her at all. How sovereign are the ways and works of God!

Why me, why me, O blessed God,
Why such a wretch as me?
Who must for ever lie in hell,
Were not salvation free.

I was brought up to say my prayers, and I do believe we may be enabled to pray to God as the God of providence before we are brought to pray to Him as the God of grace. There were times when I believe I had asked Him to help me in things pertaining to my work. But now I was made to cry for mercy for my never-dying soul. I remember going on my knees, trying to pray for faith to believe His Word, and I do remember being prompted, I believe by the Holy Spirit, to pray the prayer of the publican: ‘God be merciful to me a sinner.’ I was made to feel how black my past life was, and I just could not go on as I had been going. One scripture was laid on my heart, ‘Let no filthy communication proceed out of your mouth.’ This put a stop to my filthy swearing and blasphemy which I had done quite a few years, having learned it among workmen and bad company.

I now began to attend chapel more, and regularly both week evenings and Lord’s days. As well as the Grove services, I cycled over to Uffington on Lord’s day evenings. I did not feel to get what I so much needed – the felt pardon of my sins. I remember well on one occasion going to Grove Chapel, and when I arrived, I felt I could not go in. I felt such a leprous lump of sin, if I went in I should pollute that sacred place of worship. However, after a while I had to venture in. I remember one time hearing Mr. Hayler preaching, and he said, ‘Have you been made to know your vileness well?’ I felt I could say, ‘Yes.’

His writings show that, as all the Lord’s people prove to the end of their days, there was more vileness yet to know.

When I went to Uffington on Lord’s day evenings, my dear Aunty Katie Pepler from Goosey used to ask me back to supper. She was made to me a real mother in Israel. I remember being able to tell her my heart-feelings, and she used to encourage me to keep praying. I felt able to tell her more than ever I did my parents at that time. I could now look upon the dear people of God, whom I had despised and disliked in times past, and see how blessed their state was and how they evidenced the grace of God in their life and conversation, and I longed to know I was a child of God.

Another scripture was much laid on my mind at this time: ‘Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.’ This caused me great concern, I being engaged to the young lady previously mentioned, and to whom I was still naturally attached. Many prayers did I try to put up to the Lord that He would call her by His grace, but He seemed to turn a deaf ear, which caused me much grief. This, and my real anxiety to know my sins forgiven, was truly a heavy burden. I sought the Lord’s will concerning our engagement and prayed for about six months that if we must part, the Lord would say to me, ‘Come out from among them, and be ye separate.’ Instead of speaking these words to me, I believe He worked them out in my life, as our affections to each other gradually became less and less, until in the end we parted in a most amicable way. This of course was a great relief to me and to my parents.

Once being much cast down in not getting what I wanted (the felt pardon of my sins) I felt I must give up. I went to Grove week evening service; Mr. Oxlade was preaching. His text was, ‘Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.’ This was a real encouragement to me to try to press on.

Being employed in farming, he was exempt from military service in the Second World War. However, he joined the local Home Guard, and writes of how he saw the Lord’s hand conspicuously helping him on several occasions:

Soon after joining the Home Guard, they started having training sessions on Lord’s day mornings, which previously they had not. I felt I did not wish to take part, so arranged a meeting with the Sergeant-Major to discuss it with him. I tried to commit this to the Lord in prayer, and when the time came for our meeting, before I could say a word, he said, ‘I know what you have come for, and there is no need for you to attend on Sunday mornings.’ I felt this was a remarkable answer to prayer, and a proof that the hearts of all men are in God’s hand.

However, soon the national situation became very serious and after a while I was made Lance-Corporal and in charge of night duty once a week. We were gradually better armed, and I was put in charge of preparing and training men in the use of hand grenades. These grenades had to be cleaned and charged. In this I was mercifully preserved, as at first 1 used the wrong tool because I was not properly instructed myself. I was subsequently told of this, and realised that I might have blown myself and others to pieces through using the wrong tool. Also, when instructing my men how to throw grenades from a bunker, if one of them did not explode, I had to go out and blow it up. This happened on two occasions, when I had to pray, ‘Lord, help me,’ as I went out. I was mercifully helped and preserved.

On another occasion while on night-duty, when I came off duty, my usual bunk was occupied by another man, so I took to a different one. Later on in the night, two men came in from duty, and in unloading their rifles, one accidentally fired his rifle and shot the man in the leg in the bunk where I would normally have been. Again I was mercifully preserved from harm.

Not a single shaft can hit
till the God of love sees fit.

After another friendship that did not grow to a lasting bond, he became friendly with Mary Wigley from South Moreton. He writes of this:

I met my present wife after a week evening service at Grove, but before I felt it could be any real relationship, I must have a word of direction from the Lord. I felt an earnest spirit of prayer over this, and I believe the Lord answered me through a sermon in The Gospel Standard by Mr. Walters. The text was, ‘And the Lord, He it is that doth go before thee; He will be with thee, He will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.’ I would humbly say to His honour and glory now, not one thing hath failed of all that is in that word, though I feel so ashamed of my own many sins, failings and shortcomings. Dear Mr. C.H. Frost married us on March 18th, 1948. After this we attended South Moreton together, where my wife had attended all her life.

Soul exercises continued, and while at work one day I believe the Lord appeared unto me as my only hope of salvation, and for a few moments my faith saw Him as my Saviour and as He was such, He was to me my All in all in every way in providence and in grace. Now I felt a desire to follow Him in the ordinance of baptism. Sad to say, the devil tempted me that it was not real, and I could not say anything to anyone.

However, some time after, hearing of Mr. D. Stevens going forward to give his testimony to the church, his exercise concerning baptism was renewed.

O how I felt to need divine direction before I could venture forward. One morning those words dropped into my soul: ‘If ye love Me, keep My commandments.’ I asked the Lord that if it was His will for me to go forward, would He keep those words on my mind the whole day even when I was at work. He did, so I felt I must venture tremblingly, and I was received.

Miss Kathleen Lay also ventured to give her testimony and was received at the same church meeting, which was chaired by Mr. William Hope, the minister that the Lord had used in the beginning of the work of grace in Father’s case.

‘We were baptized at Abingdon by dear Mr C.H. Frost.’ Mr. William Hope preached from John 21:17 and Mr. Frost baptized, giving Father the words, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease.’

Father’s mother-in-law, Mrs Annie Wigley, had carried the responsibility of the cause at South Moreton since 1915. In 1952, the year after his baptism, she retired from the position of correspondent, and Mr. D. Stevens and Father were appointed deacons, Father as correspondent.

Though he had a good hope that the Lord had pardoned his sins, it was not for many years he had the assurance of it. He writes of one particular week-evening service when

Mr. Clement Wood was preaching at South Moreton and was led especially to trace out the sufferings of the dear Lord Jesus on the cross at Calvary. I felt to hear the Holy Spirit say to my soul, ‘All this was done for you.’ O how this filled me with real joy and a deep sense of my unworthiness and a broken heart. Many times have I looked back to this unspeakable blessing, and still have to when so tried and tempted in my soul.

It is not possible here to record all the things which Father passed through over the many years of married life, and in his exercises as deacon at South Moreton. He was blessed with a good measure of spiritual discernment. Though a very kind, tender and gentle man, he was made by the grace of God firm regarding the truth. The Lord blessed his labours as deacon. The engagement of ministers, public prayer, choice of hymns and reading sermons were great exercises to him. He was blessed with that particular gracious way of reading which discerning hearers greatly appreciate in listening to a read sermon, and over the years, several have spoken of receiving the Lord’s blessing as they listened.

In the early 1970s he was given an exercise regarding enlargement of the chapel at South Moreton. He felt to be given the words in Isaiah 54:2: ‘Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes.’ He watched and waited for two years till the anniversary services on Good Friday in 1976. On this occasion, as in previous years, the congregations overflowed the chapel. When Mr. S.A. Garnham said to him, ‘John, you will have to lengthen the cords and strengthen the stakes,’ he felt this was a confirmation of his exercises and ventured to bring the matter before the church, and in the Lord’s providence a way was made for the capacity of the chapel to be doubled.

In November 1994 he wrote:

I now come to 1st November, 1994 . . . Before reading the precious Word of God this morning, I did try to tell the Lord how I felt to need His help to read His Word, and that He would make it a living word to my soul. I felt led to pray the prayer of the psalmist, ‘Let my soul live, and it shall praise Thee: and let Thy judgments help me.’ The reading was in Psalm 119 from verse 130. I came to the words, ‘Look Thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as Thou usest to do unto those that love Thy name.’ This took my mind back to a blessed hearing time under Mr. J. Pack at Uffington on the Lord’s day evening that his dear father died. When reading on in that Psalm, I came to verse 175 and found my poor prayer and desire I had set before the Lord. I felt so softened, and reading Mr. Philpot’s portion for today so set forth the desires of my soul, and I then felt a soft heart in prayer . . . As I sat down to breakfast and felt to ask the Lord for a thankful heart for all His mercies to me so unworthy, how my soul went out in praise to Him! I had to sing aloud, ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name.’ My dear wife coming in said to me, ‘Who have you been speaking to’?’ I said, ‘The Lord Jesus,’ and told her how I had felt to have had a sweet time, and how it came about. Now I see once again how the Lord fulfilled my petition, ‘Let my soul live and it shall praise Thee’.

Soon after this, Father suffered a great loss in the death of his dear wife. He himself was not well, suffering from heart disease. In August 1995, three months after his wife’s death, he underwent major heart surgery. Regarding this, he felt the Lord assured him of His presence through it by applying the words of Joshua 1:5, and by the words of Isaiah 38:5 that a good many years would yet be added to his life. He was wonderfully restored and strengthened following the operation.

In October 1996 he wrote:

The first Lord’s day I went to chapel feeling so destitute of any feeling and in darkness (and had felt so for two or three weeks), no life in my soul. Our dear Pastor took for his text, ‘And thou shall remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments, or no,’ and he was very helped to speak of the way and so brought back to my mind things which I had passed through, and it was a blessed time. As we partook of the ordinance of the Lord’s supper, I felt such unworthiness as I never felt before and when Pastor was seeking the Lord’s blessing on the cup, those precious words were spoken to me again: ‘All this was done for you.’ O the peace I felt flow into my soul! what a transformation to my feelings! As I drove home to dinner, I sang the first two verses of hymn 420.

In 1999 he wrote:

In February, feeling much cast down at my soul’s poverty and far-off condition from the Lord, He spoke a most wonderful promise to me from Isaiah 41:10: ‘Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness.’ I was amazed that He should speak such a word to me, such a sinfully-unworthy wretch. O I hope a little grain of faith has been given me to believe it (at least at times) and I have had to plead those precious words many, many times, and still do, and I am sure I shall need it to the end of my days.

I think it was the first Lord’s day December 1998 when I arrived at chapel in the morning, I spoke some vain words to a worldly person before going into the Lord’s house, and immediately felt condemned for doing so as a professing Christian going to worship God. I felt such condemnation and guilt all day. In the evening I went with Pastor to Reading and he said he was to conduct the ordinance of the Lord’s supper. I was invited to sit down with them. O I felt I could not, so guilty was I. However I ventured and I trust I shall never forget that occasion. Pastor announced the hymn 441, and the line, ‘He wept, He bled, He died for you,’ was spoken to me. O how I felt so freed from my guilt and condemnation! It remains with me. I try to remind the dear Lord of it many times.

In January 2000:

I felt such a darkness come over me and I felt shut up; it was so solemn, so distressing; it was very hard to continue. I do not remember having had quite the same experience before. It continued till the afternoon when I tried to beg of the Lord that He would appear to me, and speak a word to me, and immediately those sweet words were spoken to me so quietly: ‘I love thee well, My child.’ O to me, yes to me. I tried to bless and praise the dear Lord for such a blessed word to me, the vilest of sinners. I cannot praise Him as I would . . . May it remain with me until I see His dear face and praise Him as I ought.

The last entry in his writings is for October 14th, 2000.

This morning as I woke at 4.40 a.m. I was so favoured to have my mind led to Calvary and helped a little to consider Him in a tiny way, in His great sufferings. It was the answer to my many poor prayers. Those words were brought to my mind: ‘How light compared with Thine, are all the pains I feel!’ May I be given grace always to feel it so, for it is so true.

He had to walk through seven years of increasing, grievous affliction after this. Through increasing difficulty walking, then when in a wheelchair he insisted on coming to the house of God, even giving out the hymns when in his wheelchair. When it became impossible for him to go to the house of God, this was his greatest grief. It could truly be said of him: ‘I have loved the habitation of Thy house, and the place where Thine honour dwelleth.’ The last two years of his life he was bedridden, eventually being unable to move even his hands.

This account concludes with the diary entries of his son and Pastor.

July and August 2004: Father in Didcot hospital. Favoured with the Lord’s blessing on several occasions in reading and prayer together out in the hospital garden. In particular I remember reading Romans 5 and we both felt blessed and lifted above all things around us for a few moments. He mentioned these times many months later.

September 5th, 2005: Visited Father in hospital. Read John 17 with him. He said the word was good to him. I felt some help in prayer though the ward was noisy. He said he was the worst sinner, but that he had a hope. Mentioned when the question, ‘Where will you spend eternity?’ came with power to him in his youth. He said what a great question it still is.

November 5th, 2005: When I read Exodus 12 with him, Father said, ‘You have read one of “my” promises.’ He seemed a little unclear in his mind about what he was referring to. He asked me to read again the last six verses of the portion I had read. When I read the words, ‘When I see the blood, I will pass over you,’ he put his hand up. He expressed hope in that precious blood alone.

November 17th, 2005: Father said the verse of the hymn is often with him:

In union with the Lamb,
From condemnation free,

The saints from everlasting were;

And shall for ever be.

He said it with savour and feeling, and evidently with a sweet hope that he is among those in union with the Lamb.

January 2006: Father told me that the Lord had told him, ‘In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.’

March 30th, 2006: Father spoke of the dreadful sins of his life that he could not tell any of. He said he often thinks of the woman who begged, ‘Lord, help me.’ He said with some feeling, ‘And He is the same today.’

May 23rd, 2006: Felt it especially laid on my mind last night to read John 11 to Father this morning. When I did so, he was evidently broken and blessed in the reading and in prayer.

June 16th, 2006: Felt directed to read Psalm 22 with Father. He was very broken in reading and afterward when he spoke of the Lord’s sufferings. He spoke of his thoughts having been upon the Lord Jesus in His deep sufferings.

July 14th, 2006: He indicated to his daughter that he wanted to tell her something. He quoted the lines of the hymn, ‘My breaches of the law are His, and His obedience mine.’ She replied, ‘What a great thing that is!’ and he said, ‘It is everything.

January 2007: The Lord made him willing lo leave his bungalow to live with his family. He felt he could move on the Lord’s promise: ‘The Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.’ The way was remarkably made clear.

Though unable to speak much this year, his mind was still kept clear. His chief delights were times of reading and prayer, and listening to sermons. In early November he called us into his room and told us that the Lord had again assured him of His love, with the words, ‘I love thee well, My child.’ On November 14th, he said to his daughter, ‘I may not see you again, for the Lord has said to me, “Today shall thou be with Me in paradise.”‘ He was not sure the Lord meant that day, but was sure that it would be soon. Two days later he began to show symptoms of chest infection.

November 20th: Father weaker this morning, but seems peaceful. I asked him if he felt inward support. He nodded. ‘Is it well?’ – he nodded. I reminded him of the Lord’s words to him some years back: ‘Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness.’ His face lit up with a smile.

On November 24th, the day of his death, he again was able to indicate to us that he felt upheld, feeling the everlasting arms beneath. At night his breathing became more laboured, and he quietly passed away at 10.15 p.m.

‘Help, Lord; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men’ (Psa. 12:1).

Taken with permission from The Gospel Standard, May 2008

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