•  10 min. read  •  grade level: 8
George Vicesimus Wigram (1805-1879) was given his unusual middle name, which means twentieth, because he was the twentieth child of Sir Robert Wigram and his wife, who had 10 boys and 10 girls, 210 although I have read that the total was twenty-four; besides which, the National Dictionary of Biography says that he was the fourteenth by his father' s second wife. GVW had married Fanny Bligh, who died in 1834, and subsequently married Cathrine Parnell.
T.C.F. Stunt says that GVW's father was a wealthy merchant having wharfs and warehouses, and supplying service to the British government during the Napoleonic wars. He had also been a member of Parliament and used his influence for obtaining commercial concession.
GVW was wealthy and used his money in the service of the Lord.
We turn now to an account of his conversion: Good instruction as to the contents of the Bible were mine at school, at seventeen, 'miler a John the Baptist ministry; but I never knew the gospel till, at nineteen, 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. Arriving late at night at ... I soon went to my bedroom. It struck me, will say my prayers.' It was the habit of childhood, neglected in youth. I knelt down by my bedside; but I 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 to Italy, and I found my own company—stayed with those who were suffering for Christ.
I could quite now, after fifty years' trial, adopt to myself these few lines, as descriptive of that night's experience:
Christ, the Father's rest eternal,
Jesus once looked down on me,
Called me by my name external,
And revealed Himself to me.
With His whisper, light, life giving,
Glowed in me, the dark and dead;
Made me live, Himself receiving,
Who once died for me and bled.
Edward Dennett remarked:
His ministry, like his conversion, was of no ordinary kind. Like the precious stones on Aaron's breastplate, it sparkled with the varied beauties and glories of the Person of the living, glorified Christ—Christ as Son of man and Son of God. The Christ of God was his one theme. Whatever might be the Scripture preached from, the truth unfolded was always exhibited as some ray of His glory. This was the feature of his earlier, whatever his larger spiritual apprehensions in after years, as well as of his later ministry. It was, on this account, ministry of the highest kind—of the highest kind, because it bore the evident stamp of the Holy Spirit, who (said our blessed Lord) "shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you" (John 16:1414He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. (John 16:14)).
Nor can it be forgotten that his life (as those who knew him most intimately testify) equally with his ministry was characterized by the power of the Spirit of God. In one of his addresses he says, The first impression on my heart when converted was, 'Enoch walked with God.' That was my start. 'Now then,' I said, will walk with God.' Beautiful as far as it went; but I very soon found, as Luther said to Melancthon, You will find old Melancthon stronger than young Philip.' I came to my wits' end, for I wanted a fund whence to draw so as to live it out." He found that fund; for he goes on to say, "You are unable to live out of resources in yourself—you must not act as though your life is separate; CHRIST must be the fountain."
There are two remarks GVW made which have struck me very deeply, and bows the heart in adoration and thanksgiving:
But for the incarnation of the Son of God, I should be ashamed to be a man.
... a Man upon the throne of God. Is it possible?
Having been saved while in the army, in 1826 GVW entered
Queens College, Oxford, intending to become a Church of
England clergyman. The Lord had other plans for him. There he met J. L. Harris and B. W. Newton of Exeter College. He also met JND and was instrumental in the beginnings at Plymouth. He initiated like meetings in London between 1832-1838.
I am under the impression that GVW had one child, a daughter. She died of illness, caught while nursing brethren in Christ. Hear the man of God, oh my soul, and learn from it:
It has pleased Him, verily, to permit me to be called upon to pay back a loan of His love to me. And the way in which He has wrought has been most merciful and pitiful, saying, as it were, to herself, If you know love, in that He laid down His life for you, do thou also lay down thy life for the brethren. This hindered its being an accident, as many call it. "My steps, thy steps" involves, and grows up out of, the privilege of having been made, through grace, one with Himself.
The reality that she is gone before remains, however, and through grace, by the Spirit, I justify Him in every step of the way, and cannot call it hard that He should have permitted her to go on high through nursing the sick.
We are hardly up to the mark as to walking with God down here; walking as the Lord walked.
I see this abundantly in myself as to, and under, the privileged departure of my daughter. The iron may enter into the soul—and it does in my case, and that of us all in this departure—but there should be no surprise. For two or three years she has been in work as a nurse, and been exposed in worse forms to that which the Lord was pleased to remove her by. I think she had counted the risks, and this was not the one she deprecated.
Perhaps it is my want of girdedness which makes me feel that others are not girded up, ready to depart at any moment. She and I had a talk, after I had spoken at North Row, on 1 John 3:1616Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (1 John 3:16), and I found her mind thoroughly made up, at least so far as the theoretic and practical parts of the question.
"Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."
You may both have heard that it has pleased the Lord to call my child to Himself, and to have appointed the nursing of the sick poor, as her chariot of fire. The last Monday in April she went, hoping to save M. C.—, a nursemaid, from being overtaxed in nursing a case of malignant scarlet fever; on Tuesday night she saw she was ill; Wednesday was ailing, but about; Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, ill, and departed at 7.30 that evening. When HE told me, Saturday, 5.30 a. m., "Pray not, for I take her," I said, Not my will, but thine be done. Only enable thou me to glorify Christ therein, so shall I neither repine nor wish her back." He has been faithful as ever, and His grace perfects itself in weakness. Sorrow is selfish, and makes us turn in on self. I know that, and know too who has touched me herein. But not one single thing is displaced in heaven, but the Lord's loan to me, through 39-1/2 years, being moved up there. Till she was gone I had no idea of what she was to saints, and to many of the laboring ones too. She had got quietly into work, and had grown in grace and truth perceptibly to all around her. To me the way of her departure was a great grace, not disease accidentally contracted, but in service, and in one of danger, known danger; but her mind was made up that 1 John 3:1616Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (1 John 3:16) meant what it did. And, grievously too, the danger on that one occasion seemed nothing compared with the other cases she had met. But the Lord's mercy is perfect. I have not the will, if I had the power, to alter one item. Thank God, I feel what He has done! but surely the Lord Jesus is welcome to the best of what He has given me, to take it back at any moment; and for herself, how much has she gained! I know many of you will sympathize with me ...
It appears that there are two hymns by his daughter, Theodora Wigram, in Hymns for the Little Flock, 1881.
A. T. Schofield said GVW was at his wedding and also commented about GVW's brother, Octavius. He wrote:
I soon came over to Ireland again, and we were married in 1871, at Cheltenham, and our wedding was graced by the presence of an old friend of my father's, a very remarkable man. His name was George Vicesimus Wigram, so called because he was the twentieth child of his mother, ten boys and ten girls.
T. F. C. Stunt quoted the following from W. Kelly, found in W. G. Turner, John Nelson Darby, p. 70 (1944):
The same visit of his [Darby's] I acted more privately (not on Mr. W. E. Gladstone, who saw and heard him then,) but on G. V. Wigram, Sir L. C. L. Brenton, B. W. Newton and W. Jarrett [sc. Jarratt] as well as others too halting in faith to make a decided stand and endure the consequences. It was characteristic of those young men that, when once at a conversazione some one remarked, `May the Lord give me a living in the beautiful country' (and he had more than his desire in a Scotch bishopric), Mr. Wigram immediately exclaimed, 'May he give me to follow and serve Him at all cost.'
T.F. C. Stunt comments:
Allowing for elements of prejudice and pious hagiography which may have found their way into this account...
G.V. Wigram had a prominent role in resisting Bethesda in 1848 and wrote numerous papers on that matter. I wonder if this accounts for TFCS's tendentious remarks about those who rejected Bethesda?