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M.E. Barber
on the
Crucified Life

15 October 2022

Her hymns speak of
what it Means
to Die with Christ

In our previous Note we spoke of how every believer must, sooner or later, pass through the experience of the cross, so that we may also enter into glory with the Lord (“If We Suffer with Him”; cf. John 12:24-26, Rom. 6:3-5, 8:17).

As I was preparing that Note I was reminded of two hymns written by M.E. Barber (1869-1930). She was the British missionary to China who raised up Watchman Nee, and was one who passed through the experience of the cross in a very deep way.

In her poem, “Buried? Yes, But It Is Seed,” she seems to refer to the Lord’s word in John 12:24:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

She writes:

Buried? Yes, but it is seed
From which continents may feed;
Millions yet may bless the day
When that seed was laid away.

Buried! Hidden! Out of sight!
Dwelling in the deepest night;
Losing, underneath the sod,
Everything, except its God.

Buried, unremember’d, lost
So thinks man: but all the cost
God has counted to display
Life abundant one glad day.

Art thou buried? God’s pure seed,
Doth thy heart in silence bleed?
Change thy sighing into song;
Thus alone can harvests come.

Another very touching hymn she wrote on the way of the cross is “Via Bethlehem We Journey,”  which is to the tune of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” It’s quite a long hymn, tracing the path of Jesus we all must follow from the manger to the cross. Amidst the suffering this hymn speaks of, she encourages us with these words (verses 5 and 8):

Then the Cross! for via Calvary
Every royal soul must go;
Here we draw the veil, for Jesus
Only can the pathway show;
“If we suffer with Him,” listen,
Just a little, little while,
And the memory will have faded
In the glory of His smile….

Just a few more miles, beloved!
And our feet shall ache no more;
No more sin, and no more sorrow;
Hush thee, Jesus went before.
And I hear Him
sweetly whispering,
“Faint not, fear not, still press on,
For it may be ere tomorrow,
The long journey will be done.”

The hymns this dear sister wrote were produced out of her own very real experience of the cross; Brother Nee testified that in all his travels, he never met another believer in Western Christianity who was so deep in the Lord as she was. Considering her life and the tremendous harvest it produced should inspire us all to follow the Lord more closely today, in particular, by taking the way of the cross as she did.

Lord, grant us Your mercy and grace, according to Your purpose, to truly follow You! We would take the way of the cross, so that You may also bring us into and resurrection and glory!

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— 15 October 2022 —