George Vicesimus Wigram (1805-1879)

 •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Gathered to the Lord’s Name
Hymns #22, 72, 91, 330.
G. V. Wigram was the twentieth child of Sir Robert Wig-ram and this is the reason for his middle name, which means twenty in Latin. One of his brothers, Joseph, became a bishop in the Church of England, and another, James, became the Vice-Chancellor in the Old Court of Chancery. But the Lord had higher and better things for George.
He started out for a military career and had a low rank in the British Army when the Lord “recruited” him. We shall set forth in his own words how this took place:
“Good instructions as to the contents of the Bible were mine at school, at 17, under a John the Baptist ministry: but I never knew the gospel till, at 19, I went abroad, full of the animal pleasures of a military life. I and my comrade spent a long and tiring day on the field of Waterloo in June 1824 (note: this was nine years after the battle). Arriving late at night at –-, I soon went to my bedroom. It struck me, ‘I will say my prayers.’ It was the habit of childhood, neglected in youth. I knelt down by my bedside, but found I had forgotten what to say. I looked up as if trying to remember, when suddenly there came on my soul a something I had never known before. It was as if some One, infinite and almighty, knowing everything, full of the deepest, tenderest interest in myself, though utterly and entirely abhorring everything in and connected with me, made known to me that He pitied and loved myself. My eye saw no one; but I knew assuredly that the One whom I knew not, and never had met, had met me for the first time, and made me to know that we were together. There was a light, no sense or faculty my own human nature ever knew; there was a presence of what seemed infinite in greatness—something altogether of a class that was apart and supreme, and yet at the same time making itself known to me in a way that I as a man could thoroughly feel, and taste, and enjoy. The Light made all light, Himself withal; but it did not destroy, for it was love itself, and I was loved individually by Him. The exquisite tenderness and fullness of that love, the way it appropriated me myself for Him, in whom it all was, while the light from which it was inseparable in Him discovered to me the contrast I had been to all that was light and love. I wept for a while on my knees, said nothing, then got into bed. The next morning’s thought was ‘Get a Bible’. I got one, and it was thenceforward my handbook. My clergyman companion noticed this, and also my entire change of life and thought. We journeyed on together to Geneva, where there was an active persecution of the faithful going on.. He went on to Italy, and I found my own company— stayed with those who were suffering for Christ.”
About 1830 he became acquainted with J.N. Darby and this began a happy lifelong fellowship with him and others acting on the truth of the one body, gathered to the Lord’s Name outside the religious camp.
One great work was his having compiled The Englishman’s Greek and English Concordance of the New Testament, and The Englishman’s Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance of the Old Testament. He is said to have spent more than fifty thousand English pounds, which at today’s rate (1974) would be about $130,000. He modestly spoke of this sum as only passing through his hand.
He edited also the magazine called “The Present Testimony.” His great enjoyment of the truth of Christ and the church is so well expressed in #330:
“What raised the wondrous thought,
Or who did it suggest,
That we, the church, to glory brought
Should with the Son be blest?
O God, the thought was Thine!
(Thine only it could be,)
Fruit of the wisdom, love divine,
Peculiar unto Thee.”
He once remarked, .”.. and what a poor-hearted thing he must be, who, with the arm of a wife pressing on his own, has never thought of it as pointing to the love of the Lord Jesus Christ for that church, for whom He gave Himself and which He is to present to Himself without spot or wrinkle or any such thing!”
Besides his ardent labors in the British West Indies and Guiana, he (as explained elsewhere in this book) edited a hymn book in 1838 called “Hymns for the Poor of the Flock,” and then in 1856 gave himself to a compilation known then as “A Few Hymns and Some Spiritual Songs (Selected).”
In September 1867 his wife and daughter joined him at Montreal. He says, “My wife had been ill, and wished to come.” They arrived on August 29th and the Lord took Mrs. Wigram home. “She gently departed at 10:10 p.m. on Thursday, 12Th September, 1867, in perfect peace—the peace of God Himself,” he wrote to another. She is buried in Montreal. In March 1871 his daughter was taken from him and he shows the same spirit of submission as when his wife was taken. He rejoined them both on January 1, 1879 at the age of 73.
“How bright, there above, is the mercy of God!
And void of all guilt, and clear of all sin
Is my conscience and heart,
Through my Savior’s blood,
Not a cloud above—not a spot within.”