Sweet will be the Flower: a Testimony of Grace
In the year 1967 I was living with my husband and son in the village of Framfield near Uckfield in East Sussex. I was also with child the second time, and was having great problems with the pregnancy.
My mother took care of my family whilst I was confined to bed for three months. It was a very trying time, as I was both young and active, but my doctor advised bed rest for these three months. This enforced stillness gave me much time to consider many aspects of my life. I was brought up in a Christian family. God’s Word was revered, and my parents were praying people. They led a simple but busy life as my father was Pastor of a church which met in a country chapel.
During this time of confinement, I was much struck by the verses of a very well known hymn by William Cowper which begins with the words:-
God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform,
He plants his footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
and includes the following verse:-
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour.
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
I was deeply concerned that the Lord would preserve the life of the baby I was carrying, and the lines of that hymn – ‘The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower’ gave me hope that the life of our child would be spared to us.
At last I was allowed to return to my own home. What a joy it was for me that together with my husband David and little son Mark we could be together again as a family unit.
On the following Lord’s Day I was even able to go out to the services, morning and afternoon, at our chapel (‘Hope’ Chapel: Blackboys). In the evening we attended a little chapel nearby at Pick Hill, where we received the distressing news that Marion and Katherine Dadswell (aged 13 & 8 respectively) had been involved in a car accident on their way home from ‘Hope’ Chapel that same afternoon. Marion died very soon after the accident, and Katherine died two days later. These two young girls were very special in our lives. Marion had been our bridesmaid when we were married in 1963. The following days were spent in deep shock at this tragic loss, and it brought home to me the fact that life was very uncertain, and that the Lord could take our life at any time. This brought me into a deep concern, not only for myself, but for the baby I was carrying as well.
The funeral day came, and I wanted to be there out of deep respect for the family, yet I did not know how to bear the grief. My husband had dug the grave for these two dear girls, and so was not right by my side at the end of the service. When the two coffins were carried to the grave, they passed by me very closely, as I stood respectfully, along with the rest of the congregation. As I stood there, the power of the Holy Spirit brought a solemn warning to my soul. It seemed that a voice was saying ‘Where are you going to spend eternity?’ This warning went through the veins of my body, causing me in the days following to tremble and to stop and consider my ways.
I knew also that I needed the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, to save me from my sins.
In due time, our baby daughter, Fiona, was born. She proved to be the ‘sweet flower’ of promise, and was saved by grace at the age of 17.
Some time after her birth the Lord very graciously brought me to repentance over my many sins, and gave me the assurance of my salvation by grace alone, through his precious atoning death on the cross of Calvary. The death of these two dear girls meant life for me. It was the means used by the Lord to bring me to consider eternity, and the need of salvation. Marion and Katherine were also saved. Many times they would read their Bible together. When my dear father took the funeral service, he felt sweetly assured that their redeemed spirits were in heaven. Amidst all the distresses felt in the life of the family at that time, these were blessings that could be remembered, and I can testify to the remembrance of these events, vividly recapturing them.
A Precious Postscript by David Cottington
It all happened between the time of my first driving lesson to my passing the test a little later. Firstly, it was on Sunday 10th December 1967 that my grandmother Esther Cottington was involved in a fatal accident on the way to ‘Hope’ Strict Baptist Chapel, Blackboys, East Sussex. Just five weeks later, as you have already read above, two girls, Marion Dadswell and her little sister Katherine met with a similar incident travelling home from the same Chapel. I believe that it was just a week before my grandmother died, that she came to our house for tea on the Saturday. I had just bought myself a black cardigan. I wasn’t happy with it, and I intended returning it to the shop, but Grandmother suggested that I hold on to it to wear when she died! She then went on to quote from John Newton’s hymn, verse four of which runs
I feel this mud-walled cottage shake
And long to see it fall;
That I my willing flight may take
To Him who is my All.
adding this, ‘I haven’t been able to say “and long to see it fall” until now, but I do feel I can say so now’. Newton is referring to our corruptible, mortal bodies when he uses that quaint expression ‘mud walled cottage’, mortal bodies which house our never-dying souls – souls that will either rest in Jesus until that glorious Resurrection day or dwell in torment forever in Hell.
J.C.Ryle expressed the happy state of the saved sinner’s soul like this:-
How near a dying believer is to rest in glory! The word to the dying thief, ‘Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise’ (Luke 23:43) contains a body of divinity. It tells us that the very moment a believer dies his soul is in happiness and safe keeping. His full redemption is not yet come. His perfect bliss will not begin before the resurrection morning. But there is no mysterious delay, no season of suspense, no purgatory between his death and a state of reward. In the day that he breathes his last he goes to Paradise. In the hour that he departs he is with Christ.1
Secondly, it is worthy of note that two years earlier, Marion had attended a Gideons’ Assembly at her school in Ringmer, where she was presented with a copy of the New Testament and Psalms. The very day before the accident she informed her mother that she had just completed the ‘Two-Year Reading Plan’ suggested by the Gideons International, that is to say that Marion had read the complete New Testament and Psalms before being called home to glory on that never-to-be-forgotten Lord’s Day, 14th January 1968.
What a mercy to be prepared for eternity whenever and however it may come. Jesus spoke many searching and solemn things, and when he repeats himself, his repetitions are not vain like those of the Scribes. Twice we read those words which should awaken and warn us ‘for many are called, but few are chosen’ (Matt. 20:16; 22:14). In thinking of my grandmother, Marion and Katharine, it must be said of them like Abel of old that ‘He being dead yet speaketh.’
- J. C. Ryle, Expository thoughts on Luke, Volume 2 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1986), pp. 473-4.
Mercy Field is from Hermenches, Switzerland.
Reprinted with permission from the Gospel Advocate No. 5, Winter 2009.
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