Edith Gilling Cherry wrote many beautiful hymns. They filled two volumes. The first volume was named "The Master's Touch" and contained a prefatory note by F.B. Meyer. The second volume was named "The Master's Treasures" and had an introductory note by Bishop H.C.G. Moule.
Extracts from the preface by Samuel Vincent to the second volume:
"Recognition of anything more than a common gift for rhyming in pious verse came to her slowly. When much of her intense verse had gone abroad in the 'Christian', local appreciation was but faint. How unlikely it seemed that the simple little cripple girl, moving through the streets with the indispensible crutch, could have a choice gift of song! But she sang because she must. Praise heartened her, but never made her proud; though any slight or disparagement wounded her sensitive heart sorely.
"Her songs were mainly 'unpremeditated art', whether she sang under dark clouds or soared above them. Of these poems she once said, 'They were given to me just ready, and all I had to do was write them down'. So in her measure, our young poetess sang out her moods, bright or grave, and often with as little labour and as much joy as the birds sing. But days, weeks and sometimes months passed, she said, and there was no inspiration, no 'songs gushed from her heart'. Occasionally she toiled to express herself, but how rapidly she wrote at times appears from 'Midnight and Morning' or 'The Passing of Pastor C.H. Spurgeon'. On Saturday evening the late Miss Hearne, (Marianne Farningham) addressed 3,000 people in the Plymouth Guildhall when a telegram was read out saying that Mr. Spurgeon was then dying. Before she slept, the verses called 'Midnight' were written. The next morning, newspapers announced his death. When she heard the news, she wrote the verses called 'Morning' before she rose.
"Probably she never sat down to find a theme to write upon, but waited until some theme found her 'listening heavenward' as she went about her daily duties. Sorrow she knew well, and shared it with her devoted mother; and self-reproach she knew intimately; but doubt, in our modern sense, probably she never knew.
"Her gift of song she greatly prized, and being told of it in her early days, it always seemed to her a sacred and humbling gift. Her skill in marginal embellishments and in various lettering of cards with scriptural texts, and her rapid execution of really artistic work, was surprising. To her quiet, humble soul no duty or service for the Master, however small, seemed trivial. The light of His love made all duty fair".
In an editorial note, Isabella Bishop wrote:
"Many letters have been received testifying to the helpfulness of the poems. One wrote from India. I was delighted to find that Edith Cherry's poems are being used in India. A little girl died of plague and her small savings were given to one who works among children in India; he had a memorial library formed, and inside each book is Edith Cherry's beautiful poem, 'From the other side of the Gates of Pearl"'.
In an account of the late Edith Gilling Cherry written for 'The Christian', Mrs. John Ripley wrote:
"Those who have read the sweet poems written by this gifted young poetess might not unnaturally have felt surprise had they met her. Her verses gave evidence of such deep thought, such wide sympathy, such spiritual insight; and she herself looked so youthful — indeed so childlike. In spite of the crutches which were the necessary companions of her life through infantile paralysis, she was so extremely bright and even joyous, with something of the pure abandon of a happy child, that you associated her naturally with flowers and sunshine and music. The death of her only little sister, fifteen months younger than herself, occurred when she was about six, and, as was natural, made a deep impression on the sensitive heart of the child; but happily, no gloomy thoughts were permitted to associate with this event, and she often wondered 'how they would meet each other in the bright heavenly home'. Though it is quite evident from the entries in her diary, that her religious experiences were very deep and thorough, passing from death unto life through repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, yet she loved her Saviour as a little child, and fuller knowledge of herself and her needs only made her love Him more. Most of her poems were written before she was 15 years old".
Memory notes of the Sweet Singer.
She was just a bright winsome girl with a spirit deeply taught in the truths of God. Sweet and gentle in disposition, but frail in body, yet that did not sadden her life — scarcely handicapped it — seemed rather to thin the casement through which the light of Heaven shone into her spirit so clearly as to make the Homeland almost more real than earth, things Eternal more visible and certain than the temporal. She was a merry lover of fun and frolic, happy and glad as a summer morning, but singularly gifted with the power of entering into the sorrows of others; and a 'heart at leisure with itself, to soothe and to sympathise'. Hence, some of her poems express a depth of experience and suffering that it would otherwise be difficult to accredit to one so young, though the soul of a poet always expresses the delicate sensibilities of a highly strung nature. A cold look, an unkind word, estrangement, misrepresentation, the stab in secret would be either retaliated or scarcely noticed by another, but to her would cause acute pain, and always drive her to 'Christ the Consoler'.
One morning, some time in the summer of 1876, the little maiden was unwittingly disturbed while kneeling in a corner of the drawing room. She rose and ran over to her mother, and said "O Mama, I was naughty to Kate this morning and I've been asking Jesus to forgive me, and He will won't He?" Assurance was quickly given and as quickly followed with "Now I am going to tell Kate I'm sorry". [An excellent testimony for more mature Christians].
One of the verses of Scripture that was a blessing to her was 'him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out' and for her service she found the words in 1 Cor. 1 to be an encouragement, 'God hath chosen the foolish ....things....the base things, and things that are despised'.
Extracts from her Diary.
"There is forgiveness with Thee" is my pillow text for tonight, and oh! I need so much forgiveness! I need it all day long, from friends, from Mother, from Him. The hardest part is to forgive myself! How strange it seems to think that some day He will so perfect us that we shall no longer need to cry continually for His forgivenness. The fine linen will be clean and bright, and the fine linen is the righteousnesses of the saints".
"I want to write here such a sweet little thing that happened last night. All yesterday I was in a good deal of pain from neuralgia, and when I went up to my room I knew I should not fall asleep very soon, so I took up a story to read myself to sleep. It was rather difficult to find something I hadn't read before, but at last I remembered an odd chapter of one I had caught sight of in a weekly paper by Rider Haggard, so I brought that up, though I felt a little guilty about reading it, and that spoiled my evening Bible reading and prayers. However, I fixed up an extra light, lay down, tried to silence the gentle whisper in my heart, and prepared to read. Just one of those deliberate self-willed things I am always doing. One whisper to Him would have saved me from it, but then I did not want to be saved from it. I wanted to read the story. That was the worst of it. Suddenly just as I reached out my hand for the paper, there floated into my mind some words of a hymn: "Our lamps are trimmed and burning, Our robes are white and clean, We've tarried for the Bridegroom, Oh may we enter in", and into my mind there seemed to come a flood of sweet thoughts about 'His Coming' and about the 'Midnight Cry' and 'The going forth to meet Him'. Instantly all interest in the story seemed gone and I got up, put out the light, and lay down again, asking His forgiveness and feeling ashamed of myself; but I dropped asleep thinking out the sweet thoughts that He Himself had sent in His goodness, though I never even asked Him to help me".
"Ready to do whatsoever my Lord the King shall appoint me" was her own motto as well as that of the 'Whatsoever Band' of which she was the organiser; and only a short time before she passed into the Lord's presence, where the 'whatsoevers' of the King are done without let or hindrance, she said "I wonder what will become of my 'Whatsoever Band' when you and I are both gone. But there, I need not worry about it, it is His hand not mine, and He will take care of it". Y.W.C.A. and S.S. work each shared her interest, but those ranked second only to her beloved 'Whatsoever Band'. Still the 'stray tasks' were counted the more precious of all, coming as she wrote them, "straight from Thine own dear pierced Hand to mine". Texts were printed by hand on porcelain or scroll, and decorated with sprays of ivy or maiden hair — "painted for Jesus" — "I can't preach but I can print a text, and that will do more work for the Lord than any sermon for He has said 'My word shall not return unto Me void'". So a special blessing was asked on each text, before it was sent out as a silent messenger from God.
Her out-of-door life of loving service was accomplished by the help of a pair of light crutches (my ponies she used to call them). During the last years of her life she had a great desire for the salvation of souls. One day she was seen to throw her arms round a drunken woman to kiss her; such was her earnestness to see souls saved.
"The Master's Touch" has gone out by the tens of thousands into almost every part of the world. A copy was seen pasted on the white-washed walls of a leper hospital in Palestine; another was found by a missionary in China, who wrote home saying, "I was lying too ill with malarial fever to speak, or be spoken to, but I could lift up my soul in the prayer, 'Touch Thou my hands — let the fever leave me. So shall I minister unto Thee'".
February 9th. 1872 was her date of birth; at sixteen months, infantile paralysis winged the bright little bird of the home. At twelve years another stroke, but that seemed only to touch the spring for sweeter music, for about then she began to write, and henceforth her pen was always busy. Quite early, one Sunday morning, August 29th. 1897, she suffered a third stroke. Only a few hours were given for farewells. "I think I am going Mother, and I am so glad. I've been hungry to go for some while — and you won't be long. You know you always wanted me to be Home first, and so did I. You will come soon". A few hours later, speaking of the past she said, "it all seems so small, all I have tried to do — so small to Him". Her mother replied, "But there are your songs dear, they will carry on your work". Her answer came quickly, but in a tone of gentle reproach, "Ah, but they were not mine at all, they were just given to me all ready, and all I had to do was to write them down".
Another hour passed, and something was said about recovery. "I shall be really disappointed if I don't go now" was her reply. She was not disappointed. The Lord was at hand, and just as she stepped off into His love-paved chariot, she called back, just as she used to do at the garden gate, "I'm all right mama; I'm trusting in God, and He will undertake for me".
Miss Cherry left an unfinished poem called "To see Him". A fourth unfinished stanza reads like this:
"What will it be to serve Him,
How shall we gain the bliss?
Sweet to the home-sick wanderer
Is the Father's welcome kiss".
Miss Cherry's hymn in 'Spiritual Songs' is number 332.
"We rest on thee, our Shield and our Defender;
We go not forth alone against the foe,
Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender;
We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go".
This hymn will always be remembered for its association with the five American missionaries who were martyred by the Auca Indians in Ecuador. It is a hymn of great encouragement and has become a favourite in the gatherings of the saints.