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Mary Jones And Her Bible

Psalm 119:105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

How many Bibles do you have at home? Here in the western world we seem to have a glut on books and Christians usually have at least two Bibles sitting on their bookshelves. Even as I write this article I can see four Bibles before me.

Not so for Welsh-born, Mary Jones, from Llanfihangel-y-pennant, in Wales, UK. Born in 1784, into a poor, but God-fearing family, Mary had an insatiable appetite to learn, but even more than this, Mary had a yearning to read and acquire a Bible of her own. However, most families just etched out a frugal existence, and Bibles were both rare and very expensive.

On Sunday mornings, Mary would walk to the little chapel in the village two miles away. At the front of the church, the minister would open a large, black, leather-bound book. As he began to read the words therein, Mary sat enthralled, storing up the wonderful words she heard. After the service she would creep up to the podium, trace her finger over the gold letters on the front cover, and gently open the book looking at the words inside. But Mary could not understand the squiggles and longed for the time when a school would open in her village and she could learn to read for herself.

Then one Sunday morning, almost two years later, the minister announced that a school was to open in the village. Mary was excited because in time she would be able to understand all the strange markings in the Bible at chapel.

The school master and his wife moved into a farmhouse not far from Mary’s home. Every Saturday afternoon, once her chores were complete, Mary would walk to their home where she could sit alone in the parlor and read from their family Holy Bible. Mary loved this time and would go diligently, growing in wisdom and understanding of the Scriptures.

Months passed until one day at the tender age of nine years old, Mary was asked to read from the chapel Bible one Sunday morning. Now the squiggles were no longer strange to her and she read perfectly. After the service Mary said excitedly to her mother, ‘I must have a Bible! I must have a Bible! I don’t care how long it takes, I’ll work hard and save, but I must have a Bible!’

And with her usual determination and enthusiasm, that is exactly what Mary did. It took six years. At the age of fifteen, when most girls Mary’s age were considering pretty dresses and other fancies, Mary walked twenty-five miles to the township of Bala. Here she asked for the home of Mr Thomas Charles, a renowned preacher. Exhausted and hungry, Dr Charles rewarded Mary for her determination with not one, but three Bibles in the Welsh language.

As Mary left his home, Mr Charles began to think of all the other Mary Jones’ who must be wanting Bibles, not only in Wales, but in England, Scotland, Ireland and other distant lands. Thus in 1804, the British and Foreign Bible Society was formed by Thomas Charles inspired by the determination of a young girl.

Matthew 5:6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.

Mary’s story prompts me to consider our own hunger for God’s word. I doubt that if we had to, many of us would be as keen as Mary was to purchase a Bible. That we would go to such extremes. It is almost difficult to relate to this story and see ourselves standing in Mary’s shoes. But there are many who, unlike Christians in the western nations, do hunger and thirst for God’s word, both physically and spiritually. Christians under persecution do not have the luxury of a couple of Bibles sitting on their bookshelves. Many have never laid their eyes on a Bible at all. Supporting and praying for organizations like the Bible Society is vital to ensure that persecuted Christians might hold a Bible in their own hands and treasure the words it contains.

And do we hunger and thirst for God’s words? Only as we do, will we, like Mary be filled. May the longing to read and understand the Scriptures grow deeper and deeper within us so that we would be people of God with His words etched upon our hearts.

Psalm 119:11 Thy word I have hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.

About Jennifer Woodley

Jennifer is an Australian freelance writer who lives in a small rural town in sunny Queensland. She is passionate about encouraging others on their journey with Christ through writing and mentoring. Jennifer is a school chaplain, wife, mother of three adult sons and loving grandma of one adorable grandson. More of her writing can be found at www.inhisname6.com and www.faithwriters.com.

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One comment

  1. This was a lovely message Jennifer – so interesting too.
    Thank you for sharing with us.
    God Bless~

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