Extract from Book entitled The last days of eminent Christianâ€
Extract from Book entitled “The last days of eminent ChristianÂ”
When he left college he went to reside in the family of Dr. Cox, which, doubtless, received great advantages from his holy conversation. He also acknowledged “the goodness of God to him, in the benefit he obtained by the graces and experiences of some Christians in, and related to it, whose tender love to him he gratefully remembered on his deathbed”. But his hard study, and close application to the business he went into the family to perform, was by far too much for him. His body grew weak, and great pains soon broke his constitution, so that he was obliged to retire into the country for the benefit of the air. And here his first dangerous illness, which proved to be consumption, commenced.
Being evidently in a decline, he could have but little hope of life; yet he was so far from being alarmed, that he received the sentence of death in himself with great joy. In order to wean his friends from him, and his affections from them, “he was ashamed to desire and pray for life”. “O”, said he, “is there anything here more desirable than the enjoyment of Christ? Can I expect anything below comparable to that blessed vision? O that crown? That rest which remains for the people of God; and, blessed be God, I can say I know it is mine. I know that when this tabernacle of clay shall be dissolved, I have a house not made with hands; to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”. And when he perceived one of his nearest relations greatly troubled at the thought of his death, he charged him not to pray for his life, except it were purely for the glory of God. “I beg you”, said he, “to keep your minds in submission to the will of God concerning me. The Lord take you nearer to Himself, that you may walk with Him, to whom if I go before, I hope you will follow after”.
He recovered from this indisposition in some good measure, and returned to his former practice of engaging in the private and public duties of religion. He set apart an hour every day for secret retirement and solemn meditation, which was usually in the evening; when a person observing his constant practice, concealed himself that he might witness that divine intercourse which was kept up between God and him. “But, O, what a spectacle did I see. Surely a man walking with God, conversing intimately with his Maker, and maintaining a holy familiarity with the Great Jehovah. Methought I saw a spiritual merchant in a heavenly Exchange, driving a rich trade for the treasures of the other world. O what a glorious sight it was! Methinks I see him still. How lovely was his countenance! How sweetly did his face shine! His looks, his smiles, and every motion, speak him to be upon the confines of glory. To use his own words: ‘God’, saith he, ‘holds mine eyes most upon his goodness, his un-measurable goodness, and the promises which are more sure and firm in Christ. His love to us is greater, surer, fuller, than ours to
ourselves; for when we loved ourselves so as to destroy ourselves, He loved us to save us”.
He used frequently to exhort his friends to keep close to God, and to place their supreme affection upon Him. “Let us”, saith he, “behold Him till our very souls are brought to acquaintance, intimacy, and delight, in Him. It is good for me to draw near to God. His love is a sea, fling thyself into it, and thou shalt be compassed with the height, and depth, and breadth, and length, of love, and be filled with all the fullness of God”.
Yet, beloved of God as he was, he was not free from the assaults of the tempter. “It would make a Christian’s heart ache to read what strange temptations he was exercised with; but he was well armed for such a conflict, having taken the shield of faith, whereby he quenched the fiery darts of the wicked one.”
He never preached publicly but twice, and then he came to the work as if he had been used to it for forty years, delivering the Word of God with that power and majesty, with that tenderness and compassion, with that readiness and freedom, which amazed his hearers. His first and last sermons were upon communion with God, from Job xxii. 21; a subject that few Christians under heaven were better able to manage than himself.
He was much concerned about ministers, that they should be careful not to be engaged in low and sordid designs. He judged that, to take up the ministry as a secular employment and to aggrandize self, was absolutely inconsistent with the spirit of a true gospel minister. He thought it necessary that they who were devoted to the ministry should have first given themselves and their all to God, and be filled with a real interested affection to precious and immortal souls, that they might more ardently promote His glory.
He was full of compassion to souls, and would greatly lament the barrenness of Christians in their converse with each other. He once sat down silent, and took out his pen and ink, and wrote the conversation that passed between some friends, even some who professed more than common understanding in the things of God; and after a while, he took his paper and read it to them, and asked them whether such talk was that which they would be willing God should record. “O”, says he, “to spend an hour or two together, and to hear scarce a word of Christ, or that speaks people’s hearts in love with holiness? Where is our love to God and souls all this while? Where is our sense of the preciousness of time? Of the greatness of our account? Should we talk thus if we believed we should hear of it again at the day of judgement? Doth not this speak aloud our hearts to be very empty of grace, and that we have little sense of spiritual and eternal concerns?”
As the empty converse of Christians was matter of grief, so was their want of love to each other. These cost him many a tear and groan, and he did all in his power to make up differences, and unite their hearts in a cordial esteem for one another.
And now we shall consider him approaching the heavenly state. Near the close of his life, he evidently lived like a man quite weary of
the world, and almost in immediate view of a better. His temper, his language, his deportment, all spoke him one of another world.
When he felt his body ready to faint, he called to his mother, and said, “Dear mother, I am dying, but I beseech you be not troubled, for I am, through mercy, quite above the fears of death. It is no great matter; I have nothing to trouble me but the apprehensions of your grief. I am going to Him whom I love above life”.
It pleased the Lord to raise him again out of this fainting, having yet something more for him to do. His graces were never more active; his soul was almost filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory. How would he cry out, “O that I could but let you know what I now feel? O that I could but show you what I now see! O that I could express the thousandth part of that sweetness which I now find in Christ! You would all think it well worth the while to make it your business to be religious. O my dear friends, we little think what Christ is worth upon a death bed. I would not for a world, nay, for a million of worlds, be now without Christ and pardon. The very thought of a possibility of recovery makes me even tremble”.
“O”, says he, “How sweet is Jesus! Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly! Death do thy worst. Death has lost its terribleness. Death is nothing, I say, death is nothing, through grace, to me. I can as easily die as shut my eyes, or turn my head and sleep. I long to be with Christ, I long to die!”
His mother and brethren standing by him, he said, “Dear mother, I beseech you earnestly, as ever I desired anything of you in all my life, that you would cheerfully give me up to Christ. I beseech you do not hinder me, now I am going to rest and glory. I am afraid of your prayers, less they pull one way, and mine another.” And then turning to his brethren, he said, “I charge you all, do not pray for my life any more. You do me wrong if you do. O that glory, that unspeakable glory which I behold! My heart is full, my heart is full. Christ smiles, and I cannot but smile. Can you find in your heart to stop me, who am now going to the complete and everlasting enjoyment of Christ? Would you keep me from my crown? The arms of my blessed Saviour are open to embrace me. The angels stand ready to carry my soul into His bosom. O did you see but what I see, you would all cry out with me, how long, dear Lord, how long! Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly! O, why are His chariot wheels so long a-coming?”
A minister came often to visit him, and discoursed with him of the excellency of Christ, and the glory of the invisible world. Â“Sir”, said he, “I feel something of it. My heart is as full as it can hold in this lower state. I can hold no more here. O, that I could but let you know what I feel!”
Though he was, towards his end, usually in a triumphant frame, yet he had some small intermissions. He would cry out, “Hold out faith and patience, yet a little while, and your work is done;” and when he found not his heart raised up to the highest pitch of thankfulness, admiration, and love, he would bemoan himself, and cry out
in this language: “And what is the matter now, O my soul? What! wilt thou, canst thou, thus slight this admirable and astonishing condescension of God to thee? Seems it a small matter that the great Jehovah should deal familiarly with this worm?”
And then he breaks out again into another ecstasy of joy and praiseÂ—”Stand astonished, O ye heavens! and wonder, O ye angels, at this infinite grace! Was any under heaven more beholden to free grace than I? O, bless the Lord with me! Come, let us shout for joy, and boast in the God of our salvation. O, help me to praise the Lord, for His mercy endureth for ever.” Another of his brethren praying with him, seeing him near his dissolution, desired that the Lord would be pleased to continue those extraordinary comforts to him. At the end of the duty he burst out into a wonderful ecstasy of joy, crying out, “Amen, Amen, Amen, Hallelujah!”
An aged minister repeatedly said that he never saw, nor read, nor heard the like. He talked as if he had been in the third heavens, and break out into such words as these: “O, He is come! He is come! O how sweet, how glorious is the blessed Jesus! How shall I do to speak the thousandth part of His praises! O, for words to set forth a little of that excellency! But it is inexpressible! O how excellent, glorious, and lovely is this precious Jesus! He is sweet. He is altogether lovely.”
“O my friends, stand and wonder; come, look upon a dying man and wonder. I cannot myself but wonder. Was there ever a greater kindness! Was there ever more sensible manifestations of rich grace! O, why me. Lord? Why me? Sure this is akin to heaven; and if I were never to enjoy more than this, it were well worth all the torments men and devils could invent, to come through even a hell to such transcendent joys as these. If this be dying, dying is sweet. Let no Christian ever be afraid of dying. O, death is sweet to me; this bed is soft. Christ’s arms. His smiles, and visits, sure they would turn hell into heaven! O, that you did but see and feel as I do! Come and behold a dying man more cheerful than ever you saw any healthful man in the midst of his sweetest enjoyments. O, sirs, worldly pleasures are pitiful things compared with one glimpse of His glory, which shines so strongly into my soul. O, why should any of you be sad, when I am so glad! This, this is the hour that I have waited for.”
About forty-eight hours before his death, his eyes were dim, his sight failed, and every part had the symptoms of death upon it. Yet even then, if possible, his joys were greater still. He spake like one entering into the gates of the New Jerusalem, not a word dropped from his mouth, but it breathed of Christ and heaven; most of his work was praise: an hundred times admiring the boundless love of God to him. “0, why me. Lord why me?”
He took leave of his friends every evening, expecting to see them no more till the morning of the resurrection. “Now”, says the dying saint, “I want but one thing, and that is, a speedy lift to heaven. O help me, help me to praise and admire Him that hath done such astonishing wonders for my soul! Come, help me with
praise: all is too little: come, help me, all ye glorious and mighty angels, who are skilful in this heavenly work of praise. Praise is now my work, and I shall be engaged in that sweet employment for ever. Come let us lift up our voice in praise; I with you, as long as my breath dost last, and when I have none I shall do it better.”
According to his desire, most of the time was spent in praise, and he would still be crying out, “More praise still! O help me to praise Him! I have nothing else to do, I have nothing else to do. I have done with prayer, and all other ordinances. I have almost done with conversing with mortals. I shall presently be beholding Christ Himself, that died for me, and loved me, and washed me in His blood. I shall, in a few hours, be in eternity, singing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb. I shall presently stand upon Mount Zion with an innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of the just made perfect, and Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant. I shall hear the voice of much people, and be one amongst them which say, Hallelujah! salvation, glory, and honour, and power unto the Lord our God! And again, we say, Hallelujah! Methinks I stand as it were one foot in heaven and the other on earth. Methinks I hear the melody of heaven, and by faith I see the angels waiting to carry my soul to the bosom of Jesus, and I shall be for ever with the Lord in glory. And who can choose but to rejoice in all this?”
The day before his death he looked earnestly upon his brother James, and said, “I thank thee, dear brother, for thy love; thou art praying for me, and I know thou lovest me dearly: but Christ loveth me ten thousand times more than thou dost. Come and kiss me, dear brother, before I die.” And then with his cold dying lips he kissed him, and said, “I shall go before, and I hope thou shalt follow after to glory.”
A few hours before his death he called his relations and brethren together, that he might bless them, and pray for them, which he did with much affection, authority, and spirituality. Then the godly minister who used to visit him, came to pay his last visit. When he spake to him, his heart was in a flame of love and joy, which drew tears from the holy man, being amazed to hear a dying man talk as if he had been with Jesus, and come from the immediate presence of God: O the smiles that were then in his face, and the unspeakable joy that was in his heart! One might have read grace and glory in his countenance. O the praises, the triumphant praises that he put up! A little before he died, in prayer, or rather praise, he was so full of admiration, that he could scarce forbear shouting for joy; and at length, with abundance of faith and fervency, he said aloud, “Amen, Amen.”
And now his desires were soon satisfied. Death was coming apace to do his last office. And after a few moments he turned himself on one side, and immediately fell asleep in Jesus, June 1657, aged twenty-four.