During this year I lost one of my best parishioners. His death was very striking. J. H. was one of the poorest of the poor. He had been disabled from all work by illness for years. Sorely afflicted as he was, he bore his heavy burden with a patience I never saw equalled. He was a dissenter, but not a rancorous one, and always welcomed my visits kindly. I never went to him that I did not carry away from him more good than I left behind me. It was impossible to be in his company without feeling one’s immeasurable inferiority to him in all the essentials of vital religion. With his rearing and association it was only natural that he should have imbibed something of the phraseology common to dissent, and which many would call cant; but a man must have a very circumscribed mind who could not have overlooked his language for the sake of the Christian’s meekness, faith, patience, hopefulness, and charity with which his spirit was imbued.
The last time I saw him was under circumstances not easily forgotten. During the four years I had known him he was never entirely free from pain. From the crown of his head to the sole of his feet he was a mass of putrefying scrofulous sores; and yet his face always shone with an inward peace, which no amount of bodily anguish was able to disturb. In a rude upper chamber, with a flooring so rickety and full of holes as to be dangerous;
with a roof so dismantled and rotten that the rain dropped through it,Â—stretched on a crazy pallet, without any covering but two parish blankets lay this brave martyr, and his only son, a youth of fifteen years; ‘their hands clasped together, their countenances reflecting back on each other the mutual love that glowed within their hearts,Â—fellow sufferers from the same hereditary malady, fellow believers in the same creed, rejoicing in their common sufferings, and dying almost together. They were alone when I entered: for the good wife and mother (and she was both) had walked into Wootton Bassett for the doctor. As soon as the father saw me he exclaimed, “Before you do anything for us I wish you would pray for our good doctor. I pray for him daily. For six or seven years I have had from him the best advice, and never had it in my power to pay him anything. For six or seven years I have had to send for him in the night, and in all weathers, and never has he failed me. He has come to me as readily and as quickly as if he were obeying the summons of a wealthy gentleman, instead of such a pauper as I am; ay, and seldom has he left my wretched roof without leaving a trifle in my wife’s hand. I wish you to pray for a blessing on his head.” I had not been with him half-an-hour, when I saw a movement in bed. I heard a gulp a gurgle, a gasp; then saw the son clutch the father’s hand and heard him say, “Come, father; come quickly. I’m going, don’t be long behind me,” and then sink back and breathed his last. The father smiled, raised himsef in bed, looked on his son, kissed him, clasped
together his emaciated hands, lifted them on high, and in tones which some may call fanatical, but which I can only think were those of heavenly rapture, uttered these lines from his old Puritan hymn-book:
“My sins are countless as the stars,
Or sands upon the shore;
But yet the mercies of my God
Are infinitely more.
Manasseh, Paul, and Magdalene
Were pardoned all by thee;
I read it, and believe it. Lord,
For thou hast pardoned me.”
He then sank back, like his son, smiled, and expired.
(Extract from the Journal of the late Julian C. Young, of Lyneham, June, 1840).