Muriel Ruth Cook, for 50 years a member of the church at Nottingham, and formerly for 6 years at Watford, passed away to her eternal rest on September 23rd, 2016, aged 96.
The following is culled from her writings, left for the family, sermon/diary notes and letters.
* * *
Muriel was born on October 3rd, 1919 of godly parents, and moved to Brighton when she was three years old and attended Galeed Chapel where Mr. J.K. Popham was pastor. As a child she loved to hear Bible stories and felt a love to the Lord Jesus, weeping over His sufferings; she learnt the doctrines in her head but the truth did not touch her heart. War broke out in 1939 and in the autumn she was evacuated, with the school where she was teaching, to Hertfordshire. As it was a quiet village she applied to a school in Uxbridge. Here in the providence of God she met an airman, Ted Page, who was later to become her husband.
Muriel was now quite worldly in her outlook, despised the Strict Baptists, whom she thought lived by their emotions, and rejected the doctrine of election. Despite this, she continued to attend a place of worship on the Lord’s day. She was married on April 12th, 1944, after which Ted was posted to Malaya. After she had been to see him off, she was naturally very upset, but then such a calm pervaded her whole being which she could not comprehend, so that she felt that it must have been imparted by the Lord.
After the war was over, Muriel and her husband settled at Edgware, and at the instigation of her mother they began to attend the Strict Baptist chapel at Kilburn fairly regularly. In 1947 Muriel had appendicitis and she writes, ‘From then on my life changed. I came round from the anaesthetic with the name of Jesus on my lips. I was ill with a high temperature for five days, but during that time I was full of the love of Christ. I had not taken a Bible into hospital with me – too ashamed to do so – but took a tiny 1 ½ ” x 1 ½ ” notebook which had a text for each day. I hid it in my locker, but from the first day that I read it, the Scripture was opened up to me in a most remarkable way, and hymns were brought to my mind. Each day’s short text was a living word, and I lived in the love of God and His Word. “Jesus, Lover of my soul” was constantly my song, and I could happily have gone to heaven.’
After returning home, she went to Kilburn chapel and hymn 667, Immortal Honours Rest on Jesus’ Head, was sung and how Muriel could rejoice in it. However, in the sermon the minister said that if we have never felt sin to be a burden and hell to be a terror, the work of grace was not begun, and so she concluded that all the blessing that she had experienced was only because she was emotionally disturbed.
She continues: ‘However, without knowing why, I now found that the pleasures of the world were no longer attractive – all seemed vanity and only man was vile.’ Her mother knew nothing of this, but when visiting asked if they ever prayed. Muriel writes: ‘I rebelliously replied “Strict Baptists say that prayer must be indited, so it would be no use us praying.” In spite of this unkind and horrid spirit, that night the Lord indited such prayer in my heart which was amazing to me. I was for some time really praying as prompted by God and saying things of which I really knew nothing. I have never had such an experience since. How wonderful that the Lord thus favoured me and proved that prayer must be indited.’
The next few years were busy with a young family of three boys, and it would appear that spiritual exercise was less apparent, but in 1956 Muriel and Ted moved to Pinner. As it was too far to go to Kilburn chapel, they attended a local General Baptist church. The minister preached well, but by this time Muriel was increasingly feeling the need to seek the Lord. She had an aching void and all earthly pleasures had lost their charm. She felt vile in her own eyes, and began to pray as a feelingly – a lost sinner begging for mercy, but fearing to be too wicked for God to pity. She often pleaded the promises: ‘Ask, and ye shall receive’ (John 16. 24); ‘For everyone that asketh receiveth’ (Matt. 7. 8), etc., but she did not really know for what she was asking.
About this time at the Baptist church the minister asked, at the end of the service, for all those who loved the Lord Jesus to go to the front as a witness. Muriel wished that she could join them, but suddenly realised that it was not man’s free will to decide; although she had argued against election for many years she was now being proved wrong by the very ones who advocated free will.
When the new year came, 1959, Muriel decided to try the Strict Baptists again and asked Ted if he would mind the children whilst she took Raymond to Watford chapel. No-one knew them and they knew nobody. Muriel writes, ‘We sat in an empty seat at the back and the text given out was, “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Josh. 24.15). The minister preached as though he knew all my thoughts, feelings and experiences. I wondered how another human being, a complete stranger, could know how I felt. He mentioned feeling the love of Christ, the sinfulness of sin and the striving to do better; to discover that all our worldly pleasures are vanity and no longer charming to us; to seek the Lord but to be ignorant; we knew not what to seek for, and then to find that we had no fancied self-will or ability to lay hold of Christ. He concluded by making (which was to me) such a profound statement, that if we had experienced these things in our souls, it was the Lord working in us. I could hardly believe it. The Lord working in me – could it possibly be true? In his prayer at the end of the service, the pastor prayed that the friend who had turned in with them might be able to say from her heart, ‘As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’
‘I went out quickly and returned home in a happy daze repeating to myself. “Is the Lord working in me?” And yet I had to believe that it must be true. Although I had learned about the doctrines, heard Mr. J.K. Popham preach for many years, and knew much in my head about religion and the Bible, I was quite ignorant of a work of grace and how the Lord calls sinners by grace. This had a tremendous effect upon me. My Bible was read with new eyes and so much was opened to my understanding.’
The next Sunday they went to the General Baptist church, but after that, Muriel went to Watford every Sunday evening and often in the week too. Ted was quite antagonistic about the Strict Baptists, due to previous influence from Muriel, and would not go himself, but was not against her going. She found the ministry of Mr. J. Hill, the pastor, so instructive and confirming, echoing her own feelings and exercises. She used to write notes afterwards in a little book. (It was some time later that she realised that Ted had been reading them.)
Muriel continues: ‘My father died on November 30th, 1959, and Mr. Hill called to see us the day after the funeral. After sympathising with us, he went on to recall how his father had come amongst the Strict Baptists, how he had been called by grace and to the ministry and then his coming as pastor to Watford. He read Psalm 103 and prayed before leaving. The children had measles, so I was unable to go to chapel the next day but, to my amazement, Ted asked if I minded if he went. As I watched him leave the house I said, “What hath God wrought!” From then on, we attended the morning services at Watford and I continued to attend in the evening too.
‘I felt that all things had become new – the time of the singing of birds had come and the voice of the turtle was heard in the land (see Song 2.12). All nature wore a wonderful hue, and I felt that I must tell to sinners round what a dear Saviour I had found, so I wrote to Mr. Hill on May 1st and asked to see him.
A Double Baptism
‘When Ted knew that there was a possibility of my being baptized, he was very upset, fearing he would lose me, and could not accept the thought; he felt that everything was being taken away in this world and he had no hope of happiness in the next. He was brought very low, until one night he got up and spent the rest of the night praying. In the morning he said that he felt he could say, “Not my will, but Thine, be done” (Luke 22. 42). The turmoil and striving had subsided, all his rebellion had gone, and he was happy, but very concerned about his own soul and eternity. Returning home on Saturday May 7th from Sussex, he said that he felt he could say, “I know that my Redeemer liveth’” (Job 19. 25).
Now Ted was concerned about baptism too, but was troubled about his fitness. The Lord wonderfully appeared and blessed them both through the ministry, and they came before the church together on May 18th and were baptized on May 29th, 1960, by Mr. Hill.
The next months were a time of establishing in the truth and walking together in the things of God. Then in 1961 Ted’s firm closed, and this necessitated their moving to Bradford, only three months after their fourth son was born. This was a great grief, to leave the pastoral ministry and friends at Watford, but they found another spiritual home under Mr. Walshaw’s preaching.
Due to redundancy, this only lasted a year, and a further move brought them to Nottingham where they attended Mr. F. Foster’s ministry, moving to the city in 1964. Sadly, Mr. Foster died that year and the supply ministry together with unfriendliness from the people made Muriel wish to go elsewhere. However, Mr. F.L. Rowell came and preached from Ruth about Naomi going to Moab and saying ‘I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty’ (Ruth 1.21).
This was a lesson indeed to Muriel, and from that day she was never rebellious again about being at Chaucer Street Chapel. She transferred her membership in 1966 and Ted followed two years later.
In August 1975, Ted died suddenly in his sleep from a heart attack aged 59. He had not been well and had a lot of worry and distress, caused by the recession in the textile industry, but shortly before he died, he told Muriel that the words had come to him: ‘I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee’ (Jer. 31.3). He had been a deacon for six years, and humbly walked in the fear of God. His death was a heavy blow, but Muriel was enabled to say, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1.21).
She was wonderfully supported and helped under the ministry, and, although numbed and dazed, she was graciously given submission, and the text that she was given at her baptism was a comfort and help: ‘I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee’ (Heb. 13.5). Her mother was very ill, but she was enabled to nurse her for three months and continue to run the home with her youngest son aged 14.
The Later Years
In 1978, Muriel married Harry Cook, the deacon at Chaucer Street, and they were favoured with six happy years together, enjoying union in the things of God. After his death, Muriel became the treasurer and correspondent at the chapel, and felt very much the need of wisdom and ability to serve in this way. She entertained most of the ministers and also many of the university or college students. Often she was enabled to give them wise counsel, both naturally and spiritually, which was much appreciated.
In 1987 a new chapel, Hope, was opened (Chaucer Street having been a compulsory purchase), and then in 1989 Mr. G.M. Shaw became pastor. During the next nine years, Muriel often spoke of profiting from the ministry. After his death in November 1998, she again had to act as treasurer and correspondent until Mr. J.R. Ince became pastor in 2002.
In 1997 Muriel had a hip replacement operation. She had a great fear of surgery, but the Sunday before she went to the clinic, Mr. Shaw preached from, ‘Fear not to go down into Egypt… and I will also surely bring thee up again’ (Gen. 46.3, 4). All fear was taken away and she was brought safely through and returned home.
From correspondence, it is evident that Muriel knew much soul exercise – times of declension, and restoration, times of reproof and confession, and times of blessing and encouragement. She often benefited from the preaching of her own pastors and visiting ministers as well as private reading and meditation. In her lonely path she proved that the Lord was her only refuge and that His faithfulness did not fail.
In one letter she wrote: ‘I was feeling guilty about the fact that the unkind words and acts of mine towards those I have loved cannot be confessed to them as they are now passed away – it is too late; and then I realised how often I have sinned against my God and He still liveth, so that I can ask His forgiveness and obtain it, I hope. It did cheer me and made me pray to be kept from offending Him and ever to remember that He liveth.’
While the Nearer Waters Roll
Muriel had a fear of death, but also often grieved because she did not long to be with Christ; but there were occasions when this was not the case. In 1999 she wrote: ‘I felt a special touch at the ordinance when the account of Christ’s crucifixion was read and the dying thief’s plea. It came like this: a poor wretched sinful creature longed to be with Jesus. Such a one as a public malefactor should ask to be with Christ and here am I not able, honestly, to long for such a day. It melted me down and I could then join with the thief and long to be in Paradise.’
On another occasion she wrote, ‘last Sunday our pastor preached from “Jesus only” (Matt. 17.8), when at the transfiguration the disciples saw Him only when the cloud was taken up. Much was mentioned on the resurrection and the glory of our translated bodies in heaven and also of death. It was a very special hearing and I had prayed that morning to feel the resurrecting power of the Holy Spirit. My grief is that I cannot say I long to be with Christ. I fear death – yes – but it is not so much that – it is so sinful to have to admit such a guilty feeling. In measure I had a desire to be with “Jesus only” on Sunday, but I still feel ashamed of my lack of love. I feel perhaps that Satan binds me in his slavish chains.’
Muriel wrote of a sad period when she suffered much from false accusations: ‘With no-one to help I felt sorely oppressed and distressed and recourse to prayer and God’s holy Word was my only help and refuge. But then I was favoured with a most blessed visitation and felt the presence of the Lord Jesus – His beauty, immutability, perfection and love that brought me to His feet in love, adoration and thanksgiving. Words cannot express the beauty I saw in Him and then I saw how vile man is and that the best of men are but men at best. Under the sweet influence of the Holy Spirit, when I next entered the house of God, instead of being sad and dejected, I could indeed sing in praise and adoration and thanksgiving. The trial was not removed but it became a “gift” from the Lord that had brought the blessing.’
In 2015 Muriel went into the Hove Bethesda Home and was most grateful for the care she received and thankful to have services regularly at or relayed from Galeed chapel. In June 2016 she was unwell and had two spells in hospital. The hymn, How sweet the name of Jesus sounds was particularly blessed to her, and she felt to enter into each verse. It was not until August that it was realised that the condition was terminal and she rapidly deteriorated. She was only confined to bed the last week and felt to be ‘resting in the everlasting arms’ and so peacefully passed away to be forever with the Lord.
Muriel was a woman of prayer; in particular for all her family (and may those many prayers yet be answered), but also for her friends, the church and the cause of Christ in the earth. She mourned deeply over the sad declension and departure from the truth as declared in the holy Bible. This indeed was her standard and it was loved and esteemed by her.
This article has been reprinted from the July 2017 Edition of the Gospel Standard Magazine with the permission of the editor.