Three Timely Texts. A Tribute to the late C. A. Hammond.
ON JULY 4th, 1960, one day before he would have attained the age of 83, the Lord called home to Himself the Publisher for some twenty-seven years of this Magazine [Words of Help]. The following notes are in no way intended to be an appreciation of his life and work, but are offered to our readers in his memory, and because they illustrate the delightful way in which the Holy Spirit ministers the Word of God to souls just when guidance and encouragement are needed.
Cyril Alfred Hammond was born at Southsea in July, 1877. When only eleven years of age, he came under deep conviction of sin. Whether any of his relatives or friends were aware of this we cannot say; but the Lord knew, and in His own gracious way, revealed Himself to the seeking lad.
Reading one day a magazine given to him, the words "Come unto Me . . ." (Matt. xi. 28) riveted his attention, and as he knelt at his bedside that night, he told the Lord quite simply that he wanted to come to Him in response to His invitation, and that he counted upon the Lord to receive him.
No sincere seeker after the Lord is ever disappointed, and that simple prayer based on a timely text, and offered in the privacy of his bedroom, marked the great turning point in his life. From the decision then made, Cyril Hammond never turned back, and for seventy-two years, through many a change of circumstances, he followed the Lord steadfastly.
Mr. Hammond always felt that this incident in his own life should be a great encouragement to those who undertake magazine work in any form. Little wonder that he himself felt drawn to undertake the work of the London Publishing Depot when the vacancy occurred in 1921. Who can say, in this world at any rate, how many souls have received blessing through the literature that passed through his hands?
The Lord declared concerning His own utterances: "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (John vi. 63). Of necessity, therefore, it was the divine Word of the Lord Himself which brought eternal life to the boy in Southsea. Nevertheless, it was through the instrumentality of a magazine that the "good seed" was conveyed to the "good ground," prepared by the Holy Spirit to receive it.
The Lord be praised for yet another example of His sovereign grace and saving power towards all who come to Him in childlike faith! Let all those who write, or distribute, books or tracts which bring the Word of God to their fellows, take fresh heart, knowing "that your labour is not in vain in the Lord" (I Cor. xv. 58).
Many years later, during the dark years of the first world war, C.A.H. was called up for national service. He was then approaching forty years of age. Now the austerities of army life may be all very well for young men seeking adventure, but to be called away near middle age from the comforts of a settled home and the felicity of a devoted wife and family, was a severe ordeal.
One evening in 1916, when his particular company had been walking for most of the day, with very little to eat, and no billets fixed for the night, Mr. Hammond found his faith sorely tried and tested. How lonely the soul can feel at such times despite the presence of others! The very thought of home and loved ones can bring pain to a sensitive heart. Was there anyone near enough at such a moment to speak a much-needed word of comfort?
Yes! the One who stood by Paul one night during the shipwreck of Acts xxvii., was at the side of His downcast servant, whispering to him once again one of His own sayings: "The Father Himself loveth you." The sweetness of such words, brought forcibly to his mind at such a moment, was inexpressible. No wonder that Mr. Hammond never tired of offering this text as comfort to others in their difficulties. He could never forget the solace it had brought to him in his own.
When the Lord Jesus was about to leave "His own" to go to the Cross, and a little later, to return to Heaven, He sought to encourage them to pray direct to the Father. While He Himself had been with His disciples, He had supplied all their requirements; they had but to ask, and whatever they needed He had given them. But He was now about to leave them. To whom should they go after His departure?
The answer was a simple one: they were to pray to the Father. In exactly the same way that they had not hesitated to come to Him, their Master, because they could see Him and knew He loved them, so they were to count upon the Father because He had given them the most positive assurance that "The Father Himself loveth you." These words remain the blessed heritage of all who accept the Scriptures as their guide, a timely text to comfort each and every believer in his darkest hour.
Some twenty-five years later, Britain was in the throes of another world war. In the interval, Mr. Hammond had taken over the Publishing Depot in London House Yard, Paternoster Row, carried on by the late Mr. F. E. Race until his death. This was a venture of faith and involved relinquishing a commercial appointment which ensured a steady income. Nevertheless, convinced that the Lord had called him to such service, he set about the new task of producing and distributing Christian magazines and other literature.
One characteristic feature of his work was the compilation of the Gleanings tear-off calendar, which has appeared regularly since 1921. One verse only from the Word of God is given for each day, but had not a single verse been sufficient to bring the compiler to the Lord? And had not one single text brought comfort to his own heart? Mr. Hammond's daughter, who assisted her father in the Book Room from the beginning, estimates that over the years some hundreds have testified to the help received from the "Gleanings of Gladness" calendar. Many who would not normally open a Bible, have by this means been brought into contact with words which indeed are "spirit" and "life."
To resume, it was during an air raid on Sunday night, 29th December 1940, that the whole of the area in the City of London in which the Publishing Depot was situated was devastated by fire, and Mr. Hammond arrived the following morning to find his shop, the interest and work of many years, buried under a heap of smouldering ruins. It was a moment of bitter disappointment, calculated to dismay the stoutest heart. But as he gazed upon the scene of desolation, yet another timely text came vividly to him, the words of Paul in Romans viii. 28: "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose."
Mr. Hammond's mind was, without doubt, richly stored with texts of scripture, either committed to memory in younger days, or with which he had become familiar during years of Bible reading and ministry. But who is it that can call forth from the memory at a moment's notice some such verse which seems so exactly to match the need of the hour? Surely, this can only be the ministration of the Spirit of God to one in whom He is pleased to dwell! How indebted the believer is to Him for His gracious comfort and enabling.
So, encouraged by God's Word, Mr. Hammond lost no time in seeking other premises from which to carry on his work, and by the opening of the New Year, he was installed at No. 11, Little Britain. At this address, he continued as long as health and strength permitted.
One other circumstance may be of interest. Two days before he passed away, in response to an enquiry by one of his daughters, Mr. Hammond replied: "Yes, I have had a good sleep: I have been in Paradise, and it was beautiful." Was this mere imagination, or may we conclude that the Lord gave His servant a glimpse of the glory to which he was going before actually taking him there? We know of no reason why the latter should not have been the case. And, if so, was the experience for his comfort, or for the strengthening of the faith of those left behind?
On the same day that the remains of our beloved friend were laid to rest in Streatham Cemetery, the private funeral of an eminent statesman was taking place elsewhere; whereat, according to the press report, no hymns were sung, and no prayers offered. What a dark, sad exit! C.A.H. had sung until he could sing no longer—in this world; and around his grave the large company who assembled to pay their last respects to him, sang a triumphant doxology. Thanks be to God for giving the humblest believer victory over death through Jesus Christ our Lord!
“'Tis sweet to think of those at rest,
Who sleep in Christ the Lord;
Whose spirits now with Him are blest
According to His word.
How bright the resurrection-morn
On all the saints will break!
The Lord Himself will then return
His ransomed church to take.”
E. A. PETTMAN
“Words of Help” 1960