« PreviousContinue »
and a new life, thou hast taught me from my youth, and I have declared thy wonderful works, forsake me not now in my old age. Hitherto, through thy peculiar favour, thou has preserved me sound in my body; and my faculties and the functions of my mind have not been impaired; so that a little before I was oppressed by this disease, I found myself as apt and ready for the exercise of my vocation, as in my flourishing youth: O Lord God! if it be thy will that I should longer attend upon thy service, thou canst assuage my disease in one moment: But if thou hast decreed otherwise, lo here is thy servant; thy will be done. This one thing I beg, with the most inward affection, that thou wilt make me conformable to thy good will: let not thy good spirit depart from me, that in this conflict thy strength may make me a conqueror. Accomplish this, O Lord, for thine own sake: and seeing thou hast employed me in thy work, grant that I may die an honourable death, and such as may be an example unto others: that I may stand fast in that sound doctrine which I have taught, and may make a good confession thereof before witnesses, that thereby thy church may be both instructed and edified. Let me apply to myself by a lively faith all the promises of the gospel, and let them put forth their efficacy in me, unto my joy and eternal consolation, that nothing in the world, neither affliction nor distress, may separate me from thee, or cause me to doubt of thy love and favour. Thou knowest my weaknesses and infirmities; permit not the grievousness of my pain to cast me into impatience or murmuring: Either make my pains tolerable, or furnish me with fortitude and constancy sufficient to bear them: That I may not offend with my tongue, keep thou the door of my lips."
The remainder of the day was taken up with pains, the use of remedies, and the visits of friends: When the night came on, he earnestly intreated Mrs. Rivet, his wife, that she would retire into the next chamber; not only because she was afflicted with a vehement cough, but also that he might remove ber from the grievous sight of himself when tormented with his pains; and because he found his tender affections more moved at the sight of her, than any other person. So none remained with him but his niece, Mrs. Mary Moline, and two of the household servants. But who can particularly relate the speeches which he uttered, and in a manner poured forth that night and the day following; (which was Thursday, December 29th,) with an affection and ardour inexpressible, breathing from his heart nothing but repentance, faith, charity, and holy zeal! In a word, he implored the mercy of God, with the greatest self-denial, and abasement of soul, confessing himself to be a miserable sinner, and casting away all confidence in any good thing which he had done in his life; yea speaking of that with very great contempt, he accused his own defects, and ascribed unto God the glory of his good works; often repeating such expressions as these :
“ It is God that hath wrought the work for me: Shall I al. lege or plead my own righteousness before him? Far be that from me: If I should justify myself, my own mouth would condemn me; I will rather open my sin before him, in a most humble confession of it, and pray that he will increase in me the grace of true repentance; yea let him wear out this body with sorrow, it matters not; so he give to me a broken and a contrite heart, which is a sacrifice acceptable to himself; as for my part, I do most willingly offer up myself. Accept, O Lord, this imperfect sacrifice, and supply the defects thereof by the perfect righteousness of that great high priest, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unto God without spot. Let me be accepted as a living sacrifice, holy, and well-pleasing unto God, which is our reasonable service. Crucify, O Lord, this old man, that the body of sin may be utterly destroyed, and I may rise again unto a new life: The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” Rom. vi. ult.
Then repeating the word gift, he added : “ It is mere grace; not of works, but of him that calleth ; Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth: Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." Rom. viii. 33.
Then after a little interruption of his discourse, by a short sleep, he thus proceeded:
“ I am God's, and he will save me; he hath honoured me with a holy calling; and hath not suffered his gift to be altogether useless in me, as to the edification of his church. As to myself, I can most truly affirm, that I have not served him for filthy lucre, but with a sincere heart; and that I was myself first persuaded of the truth of the gospel, and experienced the efficacy thereof, before I preached it to others.
“ I tasted the good word of God, which by its power pierceth even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Thou hast known my heart; O eternal God! thou knowest that I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, but have esteemed it my only honour to serve thee; and that I have delighted myself in the pleasure of obeying thy will! Such was thy goodness unto me! I truly and humbly acknowledge, that whatsoever good was in me, flowed from thy grace; but my defects ought to be ascribed to my inbred corruption: Alas! I acknowledge this with humble and serious repentance; how often have I sinned in so holy a charge, not only by omitting many things which I ought to have done, but also by doing many things amiss! How often have I offended through negligence, and slackness ! Long since had I been cast off, were it not that I had to do with so good a Lord, who hath borne with me, and hath been so gracious to me as not to exact a severe account of my words and works! Alas! O Lord my God! Enter not into judgment with thy servant, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified. Let me be found not having mine own righteousness, but the righteousness of thy Son, for the sake of whom, I beg thy favour. Pardon, O my God, pardon the iniquity of thy servant, who is devoted to thy fear: I refuse not thy discipline, I know it is necessary: only this I earnestly beg, that it may turn to my salvation. Chasten me, O Lord, but in measure, lest thou bring me to nothing. Let not my trial exceed my strength, lest I sin through impatience, and become a scandal to those I should edify. O let me never break out into a murmuring complaint; O how light is this chastisement, if compared with my fault! What are these temporal pains, in comparison with those eternal torments from which I am redeemed by him, that poured out his soul upon the cross for me! For me! This is the language of faith, which makes a particular application of general promises. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceputation; That Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 1 Tim. i. 15. Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief: Turn thou me, and I shall be turned indeed: Seal all thy promises in my soul: Cause in the inmost of my heart a lively perception of those sweet words, My son, be of good comfort, thy sins are forgiven thee." With such holy meditations and speeches as these, was the Thursday night passed over.
On Friday morning, Mrs. Rivet his wife, put him in mind of sending one to the Hague for his son; “ By all means (said he) that ought to have been done sooner;" and then gave orders himself concerning it. About nine o'clock he was visited by Renessius, a doctor of divinity, and pastor of a Dutch church; who in the Latin tongue saluted him after the following manner: Most excellent man, how do you do? To whom he answered in the same language: “I am yet strong, neither doth my speech fail me; but that passage in my bowels is not yet opened, and
unless that be opened, I see I must make my passage another way, even that which the eternal God hath set before me from my infancy. I should be the most ungrateful of men, if I should not acknowledge the mercy of God towards me, who hath so wonderfully preserved me even from my cradle:" Then rehearsing his deliverance from a very dangerous* accident that befel him in his infancy, through the negligence of the maid; he added,
“ From that time my mother consecrated me unto God, and he abundantly blessed me all my life time, and the whole family: And therefore I place all my hope in the goodness of God, being ready either to live or to die. I have always thought, that either this disease would be my death, or else the stone, for I have scarce ever been afflicted with any other distemper. I pray you to testify unto all men, that I die in that faith and doctrine, which I have always delivered both in preaching and writing: And if perhaps in some things I have erred, I pray God that he will make perfect all my imperfections.”
The rest of the day was filled up with the visits of friends; for he would have none hindered from coming to him.
.« Let all that will (saith he) have access to visit me; I ought to give an example of dying to other men.”
With such sayings as these, he filled the by-standers both with consolation and with wonder; while he thus proceeded: « Come, see a man, who is an example of the great mercy of God: What shall I render unto him? All his benefits overwhelm me: He hath so disposed my life, that in my whole course, I have had an healthful body; he hath heaped upon me both temporal and spiritual blessings: And now before I am rendered feeble or morose through old age, he comes unto me, and prevents me; he both calleth me, and causeth me willingly to follow him at his call: And now the end of my life is within my view, he still affords me the perfect use of my reason, that I may praise the holy name of God in the land of the living, and instruct my neighbours by my example. Pray for me, my friends, that this grace may be continued unto me till I draw my last breath; that he will strengthen my faith, confirm my patience, and raise my hope; he hath already captivated all my affections to his will; I have cast the care of me, of mine, of life, and all my affairs upon him; let him do with my body as it pleaseth him, so it may but be well with my soul. There is no going hence
• A fall whereby his life was in great hazard.
hence without pains; this flesh must suffer and fall: It matters not, provided the soul obtains new strength, and I arrive at a better mansion than that made with hands; it is that I aspire to, I lament not the world. I have lived long enough, and have had leisure to make trial of all things, and to know that they are vanity and vexation of spirit. One thing is necessary; to fear God and keep his commandments, for that is the whole duty of man. And now there is nothing that I am concerned about, neither is my life dear unto me, so that I may finish my course with joy, and fulfil the ministry which I have received of the Lord; which is best done at the last. This is the end, and this the mark, which a christian ought to aim at: The end of this frail life is the beginning of eternal life: 0 happy change! Truly I fear nothing; Christ is gain both in life and death; he forsakes me not: If he make heavy my bodily pains, yet be increaseth the joy of my soul. Come, and I will tell you what he hath done for my soul; I called upon him, and he inclined his ear and heard me; he hath blotted out my sins as a cloud; and as a father piti. eth his children, 80 the Lord pitieth them that fear him.”
His manner was to let no minister part from him, before he had prayed with him; “ Pray unto God (would he say) now is the acceptable time.”
Towards evening, when his wife could not be prevailed upon to withdraw, and betake herself to some rest; “ It troubles me (said he) to see so dear a person, and one that I honour so much, so far in years, and of so weak a body, to wear out herself at this rate:” But then giving way to her desire, “ Seeing thou wilt have it so (said he) tarry; it is a pleasure to me to see thee. The Lord strengthen thee."
The night before Saturday was spent in grievous pains, and in most ardent prayers for the church of God.
When the night was spent, he was exceedingly wearied and tired out, both with overmuch speaking, and especially by means of abstinence from drink, with which he was wont to be refreshed: For when through the extremity of his thirst he was forced to take down a little, immediately his stomach cast it back again, being like a vessel filled to the top, that could receive no more. The physicians afflicted his body with the use of various remedies, but he bore all with an even temper of mind; often saying, “I have told you before, that the use of these things will be to no purpose: But it is no matter, I must comply with you; do what you please, for your own satisfaction."
[To be continued.]