BROWNLOW NORTH’S LAST DAYS
Mrs.Campbell continues: ‘On Sunday night he had preached a very arousing discourse upon the awfulness of sin and of God’s wrath, addressed to the unconverted. His two discourses on Wednesday and Friday were addressed more to the Lord’s people. He was quiet, and spoke much of the blessedness of the Christian life. He said that weeknight services were generally gatherings of Christians, and he changed his style of preaching accordingly. He spent much of his time in his own room, and when he preached in the evening he did not appear till five o’clock, and when he returned from preaching went direct to his room. Preaching was a very great exertion to him. The doctor said from the state of his health he might have died at any time in the pulpit.
`On the Saturday he was taken ill, our son-in-law, Major Gildea, was in the next room to him, and heard him fall, Â— went in and found him on the floor, and got him to bed. The doctor hoped he would get better, and he was kept as quiet as possible. Mrs. North was sent for, and was with him immediately, and never left, night or day, till the solemn close.’ His illness came on on Saturday, the 30th October, and lasted ten days, terminating in his release from his labours and his suffering on Tuesday, the 9th November, 1875. As both heart and liver were seriously affected., the physician took from the first a gloomy view of the case; but for a week he rallied occasionally, and in the bosoms of his anxious friends hopes alternated with fears. One of those who attended him afterwards told a stranger, who spoke to him on the concerns of his soul, that it was while watching by Brownlow North’s dying bed that he was first impressed with the fact that there was reality in religion. During his illness, he had interviews with his attached friends, the Rev. Walter Ross Taylor and Mr. James Balfour. The latter, to whom he had addressed a letter the very evening he was taken ill, has furnished us with the following relation of his last intercourse with his old friend:-
‘He was ill for only about ten days, and occasionally during that time he rallied so much that hopes were entertained that he might recover. But these hopes were extinguished on the eighth day, and I was telegraphed for on Sunday, to go and see him. I went by the first train on Monday morning, and arrived immediately after breakfast. On getting to the house I saw the doctor, who told me how hopelessly ill he was. I was then taken to his room, but he seemed, when I then saw him, to be very near death; and although I took his hand, I can hardly say that I thought he was conscious of my doing so. I remained at Tullichewan all day, and was well rewarded for staying. About four o’clock I returned to his room with Mr. Campbell, when I found him much revived and perfectly conscious. He first said a few tender words to Mr. Campbell, and I then drew near him, and took his hand, saying, “Do you know me, North?” He looked up, and with a smile pronounced my Christian name. It was touching as he continued to hold my hand, to look on him lying there, like a weaned child, able to speak only in whispers, and slowly, and with an effort. He again looked at me, and said very softly, “Jesus came to me and said, ‘I will never leave thee nor forsake thee,’ and, up to this time He never has. But,” he added, “I have been a beast.” I said, “I have often thought that the verse on which I should like to die is, ‘The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” “That,” he replied, “is the verse on which I am now dying. One wants no more.” I said, “This dying is what you and I have often spoken of.” “Often,” he answered. “Have you peace?” “Perfect peace,” he said, with such meaning. I proposed to pray, to which he gladly assented. After a short prayer he wiped his moistened eyes, and I had to leave him. That was the last expression of his faith and hope. But a day before that he had said, “I used to have a great terror of death, but that is quite gone from me; I have no fear of it now; I am resting on Christ.” He also at that time said to one standing by, “You are young, in good health, and with the prospect of rising in the army; I am dying: hut if the Bible is true, and I know it is, I would not change places with you for the whole world.” As I looked at him, he seemed like a great ship of war slowly entering the harbour, the sails all furled, the guns unshotted, the excitement and the perils of the voyage over, and the desired haven reached. The next day the gates were swung open, and he spent that first five minutes in heaven, of which he often used to speak, when he was wont to imagine that Christ would come to him, when He saw his amazement, and say, “Said I not unto thee, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see?”‘
During his illness, while consciousness remained to him, his thoughts often turned to his friends. In his last will and testament, dated 2nd November, he says, ‘There are a few other dear friends to whom I should have liked to leave something if I had had anything. I leave them however, my love, which heartily is and has long been, theirs and their children’s. May the blessing of the Lord be on them all! Let a copy of this sentence be sent to those named.’
It was arranged that he should be buried in the Dean Cemetery, in Edinburgh, and that the funeral should proceed from the house of his
friend Mr. Brown-Douglas. It is touching to notice that this distinguished servant of the Lord, whose delight for twenty years it had been to go from place to place preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, was struck down in the very midst of his loved work, died in the house of strangers, who received him and bestowed on him every attention that friendship could suggest for the sake of their common Master, and was carried to his grave from the house of an attached friend, to which twenty years before he had also come as a stranger on his great mission of preaching the gospel. The funeral was a private one; but many of his sorrowing friends met with heavy hearts to pay the last offering of respect and love to the dust of one from whose eloquent lips they had often listened to the soul-stirring message which his Master gave him to deliver.