Tomb of Sir Thomas Horsman

I received a telling off when I called at St Andrew’s Church, Burton Pedwardine, last summer. I was attempting to open a gate through which my bicycle and I could be admitted to the grounds but a loud lady's voice belonging to the landowner shouted across that I might only use the smaller gate, through which I could only enter without the bike. For my apology and compliance, the lady displayed a kindness which resulted in her obtaining the key to the church, to which I would have otherwise been denied. She even arranged for a second key to be procured the following day, that I might enter an additional area, one with a fine Jacobean tomb within.

The second journey to that little church did not disappoint. There in all his deathly grandeur lay Sir Thomas Horsman MP, who departed this life in 1610. A large alabaster monument with a life-sized effigy was affixed to one of the walls of a small side chapel. There he lay, wearing body armour and his head on a cushion, hands clasped in prayer, though some vandal or careless fool had broken them off.

The unfortunate damage reminded me that prayer is the prerogative of the living, not the dead. Those who go to heaven speak face to face with the Lord; those in hades can no longer be heard, their voices muffled, their entreaties lost. What a squandered privilege to have lived a life in which God counted our hairs and heard our sighs, only to depart it never having called out for His mercy. There are millions in that dark place who now resemble Sir Thomas: prayer hands broken off and stony mouths unable to cry for grace. This is as chilling a prospect as the cold stonework of his tomb.

Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. Isaiah 55:6-7