Do you know any Psalms by heart? Many of us know the first line of Psalm 23, ‘The Lord is my shepherd: I shall not want”, but how many of us would be able to recite all 6 verses of this short Psalm?! Things were different in the 17th Century, when Lord Philip Wharton left some land in Yorkshire, the income of which was to provide bibles and catechisms for children. The only catch to this fine request was that potential candidates had to learn 7 Psalms by heart! These were Psalms 1, 15, 25, 37, 101, 113 and 145. Some are easier than others to learn, such as the first verse of Psalm 25: “To you O Lord, I lift up my soul, in you I trust, O my God.”
The longest is Psalm 37, which has a challenging 40 verses to learn. But all bear out the teaching that: “one generation will commend your works to another.” (Psalm 145 v4)
The children had to live in Yorkshire, Westmoreland, Cumberland or Buckinghamshire, the latter of which Lord Wharton was Lord Lieutenant during the period of Cromwell’s “Commonwealth.” One suspects that Philip Wharton’s Bible strengthened him at many moments of a roller coaster political career, which included periods in the Tower of London and exile during the reign of James II. “He is their stronghold in time of trouble” (Psalm 37 v39). Politicians and monarchs come and go, but the word of God lasts forever. It is therefore no surprise to know that, 318 years after Wharton’s death (1696), bibles are still being distributed in his name. Recipients have to be under 18, no longer need to recite the 7 Psalms by heart (although we would be impressed if they could!) and can be from Anglican, or non-conformist (such as Baptist, Methodist or United Reformed Church) backgrounds. It is valuable for them to learn that the Lord protects, “he who speaks the truth from his heart” (Psalm 15 v2).
The financial crash of 2008 left the Trustees without regular funds, although the investment capital was safe, and it has taken until now before funds have accumulated enough for a Bible distribution to be made again. We are very pleased that this opportunity is being taken up in Cumbria, where the different denominations work closely together, an area that was included in the original deed to trust.
Psalms are for singing, Bibles are for giving!
“I will sing of your love and justice” (Psalm 101 v1).