Malcolm Horlock, Cardiff, Wales
21st JUNE 1925 - 5th FEBRUARY 2008
Cyril’s story began in 1925, when a well-known Christian evangelist of the time, Mr. Victor Cirel, held a week of gospel meetings at North Clive Street Gospel Hall, Cardiff. As was her practice, Cyril’s mother, who has been described as something of a rough diamond, and who was pregnant with what would be her last child, attended the Mothers Meeting and that week she responded to the message and was converted. She prayed that the child she was then carrying would also become a Christian, and would become a missionary. And when her son was born, on 21st June, out of gratitude to the man who had pointed her to the Saviour (Victor Cirel), she named her son, Cyril. Some thirteen years later, this same Victor Cirel held a series of gospel meetings in Bournemouth, at which Stan Ford was converted. Mr. Ford was later to play an all-important role in Cyril’s life.
Cyril left school at the age of 14, going to work as a telegraph boy during the Second World War. The following year he met Jean, who lived near his home in Llandaff, Cardiff. Following the end of the war, in August 1945, when Cyril was 20 years old, Stan Ford held a week of gospel meetings in a tin hut in Pengam, Cardiff, the tin hut being an off-shoot of the assembly at Adamsdown. To keep a promise made to Cyril’s eldest sister Phyllis (who was a Christian), Cyril and Jean went along to these meetings, and on the third night, they counted the cost of becoming Christians, and together trusted the Lord. This was a full twenty years after Cyril’s mother had been converted under the preaching of Victor Cirel, and had prayed that her then-unborn child would become a Christian. And now, very wonderfully, the Lord used Stan Ford, who had himself also been converted under the preaching of Mr. Cirel, to bring her son to the Saviour. Cyril and Jean were baptized at the Adamsdown Gospel Hall the following February, and were married that August, one year after they had been converted. The newlyweds spent a few months in the Birmingham area, where Cyril had obtained a teaching job with the British Telecom training school, and where both Aneurin Ward and Henry Steedman were a great spiritual help to him. From there they moved back to Cardiff, where Cyril and his boss inaugurated the British Telecom training school in Penarth. For about 15 years, Cyril and Jean were in fellowship in the assembly at Adamsdown. During their early years there, one man who had a profound effect upon Cyril was Mr. Harry Lacey from Rhiwbina. According to Cyril’s wife Jean, Mr. Lacey showed Cyril some of the joys of the word of God, which Cyril soaked up like blotting paper.
But, sadly for Cyril, and for many believers of the day, Mr. Lacey was called home to be with Christ in 1951 at the age of just 48. At the graveside, following Mr. Lacey’s funeral, at which Cyril was a bearer, Cyril, silently and without telling anyone, asked God for a double portion of that man’s spirit, with obvious reference to the Old Testament prophets Elijah and Elisha, 2 Kgs. 2. 9. When Cyril returned home, he told Jean of his prayer. Mr. Lacey bequeathed to Cyril, not only his large black umbrella to keep Cyril dry when waiting for buses to take him out speaking, but his Hebrew Bible, Lexicons and Grammars. But, at the age of just 26, having left school at 14 and having been a Christian for only six years, not to say the father then of three young children, Cyril wondered what on earth he was going to do with these books! But, keen to make the best use of this precious legacy, Cyril enrolled for extra-mural lessons in Hebrew at Cardiff University, sacrificing his lunch hours to go there. When these lessons finished, he turned his attention to New Testament Greek. Over the years, Cyril continued to do for others what Mr. Lacey had done for him. Enthusiastically enjoying the word of God himself, he sought to enthuse others, particularly young people, to love both that word and the Lord Jesus of whom it speaks.
Twenty-two years after Mr Lacey’s funeral, when Cyril was 48 years old, the same age Mr. Lacey had been when he died, Cyril and Jean felt God’s call to go to Israel. At first, they didn’t share their burden with anyone else, although they put out many fleeces, which encouraged them. One day, on his way home from work, Cyril begged the Lord to make the way clear to them once and for all. When he arrived home, there was a letter waiting for him, a letter which had come out of the blue from Mr. Kimber of Crawley. Mr. Kimber said that he felt constrained to tell Cyril something which had happened back at Harry Lacey’s funeral when he, Mr. Kimber, had remarked to Mr. William Trew just how great a loss Mr. Lacey’s passing, at such a young age, would be to everyone. Mr. Trew had responded, with clear reference to Cyril, that there was a young man there upon whom Elijah’s cloak had fallen! In the most wonderful way, knowing nothing of course, of Cyril’s silent prayer that day, Mr. Trew had echoed Cyril’s own longing. Mr. Kimber explained that he was writing to Cyril then because he felt that Cyril might be exercised about something, and thought he should let him know about the conversation he had had with Mr. Trew at the funeral. Cyril and Jean could hardly believe the amazing connection back to Harry Lacey, and took Mr. Kimber’s letter as confirmation from the Lord of their call to Israel and to full-time work for Him. Cyril immediately handed in his notice, and the rest, as they say, is history! Now Cyril understood why the Lord had seen to it that, over twenty years before, he had been given Harry Lacey’s Hebrew books. For he and Jean were meant to serve the Lord in Israel! Which they did, serving the Lord both there and in the UK for over thirty years.
What an incredible story! That the young man who, at the graveside of Harry Lacey (who had been full-time in the Lord’s work), had prayed for a double portion of that man’s spirit, should himself be called into the Lord’s work full-time and at the very same age as Mr. Lacey had been when he went to be with Christ. And that in the most remarkable way, Cyril’s mother’s prayer that her thenunborn child should be a missionary was also answered. Truly, the Lord could say of Cyril, as He once did of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you (I set you apart)’, Jer. 1. 5 NKJV. Cyril was perhaps known best in the UK for his oral Bible teaching, given at Holiday Bible Weeks, Bible Readings, Conferences and innumerable Ministry Meetings. How many of us treasure the memories, and for the privileged few, the tapes of his teaching! But for well over half of his Christian life Cyril was also extremely active in the work of the Precious Seed committee, being associated with the magazine for about 35 years, many of these in an editorial role. In 1970, together with John Heading, Cyril jointly edited the first of the Precious Seed Publications, Church Doctrine and Practice, and, again together with John Heading, followed this up in 1977 with Treasury of Bible Doctrine (a wide-ranging symposium of biblical doctrines). He also edited, or part-edited, several of the Day by Day series (Through the New Testament, 1979; Through the Old Testament, 1982; and Moments with the Master, 1994). Cyril contributed to some of these books himself, as he did also to The Minor Prophets, 1992, providing the 54-page commentary on Zechariah’s prophecy. He wrote only one book in its entirety. This was his outstanding commentary on the Song of Songs, Rise Up My Love, 1988.
Cyril suffered progressively with Vascular Dementia for the last seven years of his life; until in the early hours of the 5th February, he passed from this world into the presence of the Lord he had long loved and served. As was to be expected, several hundred attended his Thanksgiving Service, held in Cardiff on Tuesday 19th February, to show their respect for a man of deep devotion to the Lord Jesus, whose enthusiasm and profound knowledge both of the scriptures and of Israel were an inspiration to all who met him. But how can I summarize in a few words the life and ministry of such a spiritual giant as Cyril Hocking? Frankly, I can’t! And so, in a sense, I am going to let Cyril do it himself.
When Mr. William Trew went to be with Christ in 1971, it was Cyril who wrote a tribute to him in this magazine. I have no hesitation in applying Cyril’s words then to the man who wrote them: ‘His painstaking study of God's word gave richness to his public teaching. Here was one totally committed to the New Testament teaching regarding the assembly, and who discharged the Lord's threefold commission, never shunning to declare the whole counsel of God. Little wonder that so many turned to him for counsel and help. Younger and more mature believers alike had such confidence in him, because this man of the word was a man of God. For him now it is very far better. For us, there remains the memory of a faithful preacher, teacher, writer, shepherd, friend, whose faith we should seek grace to follow, and whose ministry lives on to stir us to greater devotedness to our soon coming Lord’.