From February, 1829, to August, 1847.
From his First to his Second Birth.
Our darling child was born in Dublin on the 10th of February, 1829.
How little did I then judge that he was appointed of my Heavenly Father to be the occasion of such an experience as he has lately been to my poor heart! It is, however, easy to say, "My Jesus has done all things well" — well, indeed, to the thankful admiration of my soul!
At his birth he promised to be strong and healthy. But when he was about three years old, we had reason to become watchful of him. And as he still grew, paroxysms of pain in the head were, at times, severer than I ever witnessed in anyone.
The surgeon whom we consulted at length advised issues in the arm and in the back of the neck, and after some time kept up a continual one, for about five years, on the crown of the head. And many, indeed, were our dear child's sufferings all through this period.
When he was about twelve years old, he was standing in a field where some bigger boys were playing cricket; and the ball struck his right arm. On his coming home we felt it right to send for the surgeon, who had known him now for several years — one as well known as any in our city — and to his practised eye the occasion was threatening, and a diseased constitution was betraying itself. The effects, however, of all this were not immediately very distressing; and our dearest boy went on with his books and his tutor; till in May, 1845, he entered college.
Here, I suppose that I was wrong. The state of his health might have been pleaded against his desire of doing this; and, sure I am, that I had no desire for such a stage in his history.
But, under the influence of his natural mind, he had no thoughts of beginning life in any other character than that which a college might give him; and I yielded.
He had been trained from the beginning, in our poor way, under Christian instruction.
At times — as, no doubt, is very common in such cases — we had some happy witness of the exercise of his little heart. I remember his very early pleasure in the Book of God and the great facility with which he attained knowledge of it, and the striking and original style in which he expressed his thoughts upon it. There were also occasional exercises of conscience and of affection, in the fear of God, and in the love of Jesus. But all this yielded no fruit that remained. He would, of course, accompany us to the place of meeting on the Lord's Day and other occasions. But as he grew up, this was done with increasing indifference.
The whole bearing of his natural mind was contrary to the simplicity of it. It was too little in credit with its taste and desire for excitement. So that when he was about sixteen years old, and expecting soon to enter college, I judged it well to leave him to himself in the matter; and from thence he attended one of the established churches.
With this state of body and of soul, if I may so speak, his mind was opening in much beauty.
He had no industry at his books. There was nothing in him of that patience and toil as a scholar, which gives promise of attainment in either service or distinction. And the Lord knows I never desired his distinction among men, but would rather have dreaded it. But his taste, his enjoyment of what he read, was pure and glowing. His memory of large pieces of poetry was very remarkable. Macaulay's Lays of Ancient Rome,* for instance, he was able, to a great extent, to repeat from merely reading it with delight, and without any direct effort to get it by heart, as we speak.
*This book was then first published.
And his mind, impregnated with thoughts and images from sources like these, as well as by his own fancy, promised to make him a favourite in society. And as far as his little course had gone, it was so. For all this, with an attractive person and manner, introduced him to a welcome and affectionate place among his young companions.
And this was our fear. Earlier impressions on his soul yielded to the attractions which offered themselves to his mind and taste and love of social enjoyments. There was sentiment and knowledge, but no manifestation of faith.
He answered at a catechetical examination in college so as to get the premium; and he could write with justness of thought on scriptural subjects; but this was poor fruit to our hearts and none to the Lord. The combination of knowledge and sentiment, as another has said, is not faith.
Thus was it in mind, soul, and body, with our darling boy, when the condition of his poor arm, together with the indication of abscess in the neighbourhood of the hip, made more decided treatment imperative; and, in the spring of 1847, we were ordered to prepare to remove him from Dublin.
I am not, however, designing to give the circumstances of his life. That, of course, I may say; for they had nothing in them worth recording. All I purpose is to introduce that which, I believe, has something in it, the dealing of God with his soul.
I have, however, full persuasion that the Lord had been, in earlier days, in a sense, graciously making him His object. There, was at times, amid the pleasurable excitements which he found among his companions, or in the indulgences of his mind, the uneasiness which came from the whisper that all was not right; that such a course would not do, innocent as it might be judged by the mere moral sense of the natural conscience. And life, he afterwards told me, had never been of much value to him — a sentiment scarcely to be accounted for in such an one, without some interference of God, so to express it, with his heart. But now that the more alarming state of his health was known, and we were under medical orders to take him from Dublin, his thoughts and habits of mind still further witnessed this. It was during that time — May 22, 1847 — that he begged me to listen to the following lines, which he had been composing as he lay on his sick and suffering bed:
"Oh, who can tell how cheerless the light
That breaks, ere sunrise, round the sick man's bed,
Where, wearied with pain, and a sleepless night,
He heavily rests his aching head.
The sun warms all, but the sick man's cold;
The light looks dim, and the sun looks old;
The sun gives joy over vale and hill,
But the sick man's heart is sadden'd still.
'Tis sad — for he's tossed on a wild sea's waving,
With doubts, and fears, and griefs oppress'd;
But a hand unseen his wound is laving,
And soon he shall enter unlook'd for rest.
Oh, who can tell how glorious the light
That oft breaks, ere death, round the sick man's pillow;
'Tis fair as the rosy beam so bright,
That sparkles at morn on the eastern billow.
All around may be wrapt in calm as of death,
And the taper burn dim, and his dear ones mourn;
But his spirit has caught the fair morn's breath,
And floated to heaven, on its freshness up-borne.
And there round his brow the light will play,
And his amaranth breath never fade away;
And the Hand that sooth'd him, and brought to the skies,
Is wiping away all the tears from his eyes;
He knew, by the mark of the nails, the hand,
And he saw a face on which deep love shone;
And these accents came, by a light breeze fann'd,
'Joy! I have found my long-lost son.'"
But such little effusions had been so natural and easy to him, that my heart did not much value this. But since our child has left us, I found the following among his papers; and in it the conscience appears to be more at work than I had counted on at the time. It was in his own handwriting; and must have been written a month or two earlier, for I remember the occasion well to which it refers; and soon after his quickening of the spirit was manifested to me, this sin became the subject of one of his confessions.
"I have sinned today. Query: Did the end justify the means, when a lie was told to save a dearly-loved one unnecessary pain? I have told a lie. O, God, in Thy great mercy, forgive, forgive, forgive! Keep me from lies! And though I am not now, I fear, Thine own, make me ere long to know Jesus and the power of His resurrection! Make me to believe Thy word and grant that I may possess that ruling principle within, that may lead me in Thy paths, for mere guiding from without is vain. O, forgive me my sin, holy, holy, holy God, for Thy dear Son's sake!"
The discovery of this paper shows me that the Lord, as I said, as a disturbing light, was graciously interfering with him. But we had, as yet, no confession of Jesus from him.
On Saturday, May 29, 1847, we left Dublin in a steamship bound for London. We reached Southampton on the following Tuesday, and crossed over at once to Ryde, in the Isle of Wight, where we had been advised to go. There, and at Ventnor, we spent two months, witnessing the decline of our dearly-loved boy, uncheered by anything beyond the ways of nature. Dear he was to us — most dear. … But nothing beyond nature as yet appeared in him. He was sadly impatient. The whole frame seemed to be one surface of resentful sensibility. And great was my relief, when a dear sister* at Ventnor told me, to regard this impatience as something physical, for that there were conditions of body in which such irritability was part of the disease. He had a fine temper from his birth, though ardent, and we observed that these irritations left no trace of gloomy temper behind them.
*The wife of Dr. Wilkie at Ventnor. They both showed us much kindness.
It was at the close of July that we left Ventnor for London. Medical advice which we got there determined us to submit the question of amputation of the arm to one of the most experienced of the faculty. But at our darling's own desire I wrote to our dear relative and brother in the Lord, E. C., * who practised homeopathy near town, offering to put him for a previous trial under his treatment. He knew the nature of the case already. He consented to take it up, though with the faintest expectations. And accordingly we left the Island for London; recollections of sweet Christian sympathy both at Ryde and at Ventnor and its neighbourhood going with us and still linking us with many there.
We took lodgings at Brixton. Our dear E. C. ordered me at once to provide my darling boy with the means of air and exercise. We got him a horse and phaeton, beginning in this way an entirely new course of medical treatment.
But now I may say I have reached "that dear and blessed day" which manifested that purpose of grace which had known him ere the world was, and his name even then "in life's fair book set down." I will therefore close this notice of mere circumstances, and give a tale of the soul, a tale of the Lord's doings through His truth and Spirit, with a poor sinner, in making Jesus the relief of the conscience and the desire of the heart.
This story will be taken from letters written from day to day to a relative who, I felt, on many accounts had peculiar claims to share our joys and sorrows.
What is given in the following pages is extracts from such letters, taking liberty at times either to combine or add sentences in order to convey a juster expression of the scenes and circumstances, as well as to omit passages which were merely private or not needed.
From August, 1847, to March, 1848.
From his Second Birth to his Death.
BRIXTON, Aug. 16.
MY DEAREST — , - Our dear child is still going through much suffering; though the arm itself is better from dear E. C.'s treatment. Nothing is beyond the reach of divine love and power; but I cannot say that my faith draws much upon them in expectation as to his returning health. But all will be in perfect goodness.
I can, however, begin to tell of happier things.
Last night, as I sat by his bed, he said to me: "Papa, you asked me yesterday if I could trust the Lord for pardon. I do not say that I can; but I am sure that I approach Him much more as my Father than I used to do." I said: "I will not, darling, ask for a distinct answer to such an enquiry; but I want to know — Is your conscience engaged? Do you feel and believe that a man must be born again?" "I do, indeed," he said. "I have never been convicted of sin so as to be thrown into agitation of mind as I hear of some; but I am fully assured that I am a sinner." "That's the thing," I said, "my child. The eunuch* had not much agitation of mind, but he was assured he was a sinner, in the evangelic sense of such a condition." "That's just what I mean," he answered. All this, dear —, was music to my heart.
* Acts 8:37.
I left him for the night; and a sad night of suffering, he has had; and this morning he has been very impatient with Mary, as is common on these occasions.* But that soon passed; and, when I was again quietly at his side, as he lay in his bed, he said to me, "Papa, did you read the account of H. B.'s death? She grieved that she had never brought forth fruit to God; and that made me think that at times I had sought to be patient for Jesus' sake, but then again I remembered that I thought this might give me ease; and so it was no fruit to God."
*The dressing of the poor arm. — ED.
Then, after a pause, he said: "Papa, I have long had something on my mind which has been a great trouble to me: I want to confess it to you; but you must promise me that you will never refer to it again, it is so painful to me." Upon my saying I hoped I should never have occasion to do so, he reminded me of a conversation we had last winter in Dublin, and then confessed that in it he had told me a lie.*
*This was the occasion, I doubt not, of the paper mentioned before.
Such are the beginnings of eternal gladness and sunshine. I cannot doubt that he is under divine operation. But do not make much of this; only I have a wish that you should now keep all my letters, for they may be sweet to our poor hearts in future days, dark and gloomy to nature.
BRIXTON, August 17.
Our dear child has had a much better night, and early this morning he invited me to sit by his bed-side. He then told me that Mr. C — had put a question to him yesterday, which had exercised his mind much through the night. "It was," he said, "whether I felt personal love to the Lord Jesus." Then he added, "Papa, I am sure that I have felt an enmity to Him, which I have not felt to God."
I told him that was just the working of the natural mind, as the Lord Himself says: "The reproaches of them that reproached Thee, fell on Me." "Yes," he answered; "and though none of us would like to know that another was making efforts to love us; yet, I am sure, that my seeking through last night, to bring the Lord before me in affection, was pleasant to Him."
I fully allowed this, and (perhaps with not much suitableness to his thought) instanced Zacchaeus' desire to see Jesus.
He then observed, "How sweet, that the Lord did not turn down another street, but went right on the very way that made Him reach and gratify Zacchaeus."
With all this, I need not say that he is becoming increasingly dear to us. E. C. is taking the greatest interest in him, but has no human hope of his recovery. It is God's own way, he says, of delivering from the world one who was fitted to take part conspicuously in all its refined enjoyments. He tells me he never met one to whom he could more freely speak of death. Indeed, that is very plain to us all. That subject never moves him; and he repeats to me with the fullest calmness all that E. C. says to him of the dangerous state of his body. This is all in sweet mercy, but we look for still brighter manifestation.
BRIXTON, August 21.
MY DEAR — , - Last night our darling child had a severe paroxysm of pain; and poor nature fretted and was impatient. This morning he has begged us all to excuse his temper. And indeed we may; for at times the pain masters all about him.
Yesterday he said to me that he felt he could not trust God if he were brought back to the world.
This was very pleasant to me. It showed that he had a sense of his own tendencies, and took knowledge also of the state of his soul.
He told me that he had been thinking of those sweet lines of Gambold's —
"See the dear sheep by Jesus drawn,
In blest simplicity move on."
I have just come in from a drive with him. In the course of it I said to him, "We have not had much of the Lord with us this morning, darling." "Ah, papa, I have been in great pain," he said, "but I know that is no excuse"; and then he put his hand on my knee, and kept it there till we got home, and kissed me so significantly, that perhaps all was better than if we had talked much about the Lord.
Sunday Evening. — He was very impatient while the poor arm was dressing this morning. I was afterwards sitting beside him, and I said: "I do not wish, Johnny, to either pain or reproach you; but I am sure that in the Lord's love this illness is leading you into the right path; for He must have had a controversy with you for many things in Dublin." With great decision he admitted it. I then said: "I was wrong, my child, in letting you enter College." "No, papa;" he answered, "it was not my being in College — nothing of nature will do: the Lord must impart the good thing Himself." All this was said in a tone that gave me great comfort. I have just now left him, I hope for a little sleep, after sitting with him for about an hour, when he repeated many hymns with an accuracy and relish that was delightful to me — among others —
"A little while — 't will soon be gone —
And we shall wander here no more."
And expressed a wish that he had been the author of those lines —
"Soul, then know thy full salvation."
Monday Morning. — After being very impatient at the dressing of the poor arm last night, Mary P. has now told me that he said to her: "I deserve it all, and much more, Mary; but there is One that has borne all for me."
As I sat beside him just now he said: "I was thinking in the night how gracious it was in the Lord not to have brought me through strong conviction of sin, for it would have worn me completely down. And I thought also of our drive to Chelsea today, and after a little I began to think of other things; but I was not at all uneasy when I remembered that these had been my thoughts, and that also is very gracious in the Lord, not to let my heart be troubled, as some would be, if they had allowed their thoughts to go after such things. I felt it gave me no uneasiness."
Thus the blessed Lord is with our dear suffering child, leading both his heart and mind.
You will be glad to hear that we expect dear George on Wednesday.
BRIXTON, Aug. 24.
— , - Yesterday Letty, Johnny, and I took our drive to Chelsea. In the evening E. C. had a sweet conversation with him as he lay in bed. But the night was very disturbed; and this morning he passed through the most violent paroxysm of pain I have witnessed since we left Ventnor.
It was piteous indeed, dear — , but he is now much relieved.
Thursday Evening. — Dear E. C. having examined his chest this morning, suggested to him that if disease should be stayed there, it might be well to remove the arm in order to give the constitution increased advantage. He appeared quite to refuse the prospect of coming back to life and to the world, evidently under the sense of the temptation being too much for him. This was said and done with a manner that much affected E. C.
This morning I went to the North-Western Terminus, and returned with dear George. He is going to Boulogne, please God, for a few days with Mr. and Mrs. R, of Hampstead. He has already had much conversation with our dear child, and found it very happy. The calm and certain habit of his soul when thinking or talking of his death is very lovely. The kingdom in him evidences itself very much in that way.
It is on scriptures like John 14:1-2 that he likes to dwell. He rests in the sufficiency of Christ to the full peace of his conscience. Those who have prayed for him, as so many of the Lord's people have, may be encouraged.
The Lord bless you!
BRIXTON, August 29.
MY DEAR — , - George left us on Friday, and our dear child is feeling the excitement which his happy visit occasioned.
We are looking for further fruit in patience; and Mary in her simpler faith counts on all our desire being fulfilled. Confidence in the work of the Lord strongly marks his mind. He was weeping much this morning,* the pain was so severe, but in the midst of his tears he said, "He will never leave nor forsake." Pained in his pain, I said fervently, "The Lord bless you, my child." "He has blessed me, papa," he answered.
*This was very unusual with him, and shows the intensity of the suffering. — ED,
Monday Morning. - I was at his bed-side just now, and said to him, "What words those are, darling: 'Ye have learned of me how ye should walk and please God.' What a thought it is, that we can please the divine mind." He simply said, "Yes, papa." But shortly afterwards he added, "I think I was not five minutes last night, while lying awake, without thinking of the Lord." "Well, darling," I said, "I am happy to hear it; but you are not thereby justified — the blood must get all the glory of that." He answered, "Why, papa, if it were not so, I should sit on pins and needles all the day long."
This is just what marks the character of his religion — he glories in Jesus as a sacrifice; his soul can conceive no other relief.
He afterwards begged me, when I saw him impatient, to rebuke him very sharply. I have now just returned with him from a little drive. In the course of it he said, "I am sure, when weariness leads me to sleep, it has done me no harm; it injures only when we cannot rest after it. And so with the weariness of life. It will do us no harm, for it leads to rest."
BRIXTON, September 2.
Our dear child has passed through twenty-six or twenty-eight hours of great suffering in the poor arm; and the uneasiness in the hip seems to be advancing.
He is more thoughtful than communicative. But a morning or two ago he said to me, "How blessed it is, papa, that there is another scene to look at." It was not, however, till this afternoon that I got what I now understand he meant. For, as we were sitting together before dinner, he said to me, "Papa, in what way were you particularly conscious of a change of mind?" "I remember," I said to him, "the moment when I was brought to say to myself, 'What must my eternity be if I went on as I then was?' and soon after that Jesus became an object to me." "What I particularly feel," he then said, "is in the mornings. On waking, I used to be planning what amusements were before me for the day; but now that is gone; and I find that I have other objects before me. It is now like a boy looking on to manhood."
This figure of a boy looking on to manhood was beautiful and scriptural. He meant, I am sure, anticipating eternal and heavenly things; and it was according to 1 Cor. 13:11. This explained to me the observation he made a morning or two since.
I have just now been sitting by him, and on his telling me that E. C. had warned him not to make too much of his horse and phaeton, and of the recreation they afforded him, he added, "And indeed, papa, I do watch and check myself, and I can say, I would give it all up for Him."
This was very sweet to me, for Johnny is very true. There is nothing of religious language or of the exhibition of experiences about him. I am sure the secret exercises of his soul are quite beyond all that appears.
Yesterday morning he told me he had had a dream. He thought he had been reading the Pilgrim's Progress, and heard how one man was telling his companion that he feared how he might have a cold walk through the Jordan, saying, "Some persons walk so briskly through the previous stages of their Christian journey, that when they reach those waters their feet are so warm that the water recedes as it would from hot iron, and they pass over very comfortably: but others are hot-headed, having their feet cold, unwarmed by a previous diligent walk, and they feel the cold of those waters very much."
I thought there was much moral value in this little dream, and saw something of the character of his mind through it. We must pray that he may be kept in his present calm, believing mind; for he told me this day, that while he never for a single moment questions the sufficiency of the sacrifice of Christ, he does, at times, the genuineness of his own feelings.
BRIXTON, Sept. 6.
MY DEAREST — , - SYMPTOMS of an advanced state of disease show themselves in our darling boy. The thought of losing him passes like a cold wave at times over the heart, threatening to leave its impression there for the rest of the journey; but then the thought of his returning to health, and to the follies and ambitions of the world, dispose it to thankfulness and gladness at the prospect of his being early sheltered with the Lord.
This day, in his easy, cheerful manner, he went over many recollections of other days. He told me that he was always glad at any symptom of good in any of his companions, and that he never felt resentment at persons speaking to him about the Lord. But he said the strongest feeling he was conscious of was the absence of the fear of death, and rather, he might say, a satisfaction in the thought of it. And in the midst of the conversation he said to me: "What complacency God takes in the work of Christ, papa. What happiness He finds in looking at it, and I believe that He can make us partakers of that happiness with Him." I enjoyed this much. And such thoughts very much form the character of his renewed mind, he has such a sense of the perfection of the work of the Lord Jesus.
Wednesday Morning. — Last night, after ten o'clock, we lost his powder, which he was then to take. I had my coat on to go out for another, when he would by no means allow me; and very sweetly quieted himself under it. I then took my seat at his bedside; when, on putting my hand into my pocket, to my amazement I touched it. "See, papa," he immediately said, "you ought to have more confidence in God. I prayed to Him and said, 'Lord, if it be for my good that I should take this powder, let it be found, and let us not be confounded!' and now you see He has given it to us."
He has more of these hidden exercises of heart than we are aware of, I am quite sure.
He has had a very uneasy night, but in a moment of calmness I said to him, "The Lord has been very gracious to you, darling." And with great earnestness he answered, "He has, indeed, papa."
Two o'clock. — He has just passed through a great agony. When he was at ease again I said to him, "How sad this would be to me, my child, if I did not know that you had received Jesus and the atonement."
"How sad to me, papa," he answered with great emphasis.
Dear George has just returned from Boulogne.
HAMPSTEAD, Sept. 19.
MY DEAR —, — We have moved, for change of air, to this higher ground; and he has been for the present a little renovated. But we have lost George, who has returned to Bridgnorth; and his being here interrupted a little my communication with you.
The Spirit's work in our dear child I rest assured of. But it has some features in it which distinguish it from the most common cases. He has reached peace of conscience and triumph over fear of death very quickly; but with this there does not appear that sense of the need of prayer, and watchfulness, and self-judgment, which is so commonly acknowledged.
I will give you a sample of what I mean.
"Papa," he said to me a day or two ago, "I thought you would not like my asking Mr. Cronin yesterday about the bankruptcies which have been taking place lately; but I think you are too particular in those things. You too much feel yourself under necessity to have the Lord brought forward on all occasions. Now I believe the Lord does not like to have Himself made an intruder."
I asked what he meant by that.
"I will show you, papa," he said. "Suppose that I saw a person in danger, my duty would be to run forward at once and help him; and I am sure the Lord would not like me to stop till I felt that I was doing this kindness to a fellow-creature in His name, or till I had prayed to Him about it. He would not have Himself brought in between the danger of another, and my duty or endeavour to help him."
I thought this a very striking word; and it illustrates the freedom in which he walks with God. I am sure he regards me as somewhat under the spirit of bondage. I delight to trace in him this independency of me; but he is still wanting in that spiritual frame of mind which a tenderer watchfulness would impart. He told me the other day that he was sure he never had a tender conscience. And I suppose it was so. His natural mind tended to infidelity rather than to religiousness.
I had, however, a sweet little moment with him yesterday. The evening before, while sitting at his bedside, I observed that while the knowledge of Christ was a principle of peace to the conscience, it was also one of heavenliness of mind and of fruitfulness to God. He owned it, but soon fell asleep.
Yesterday, as we sat together at the fire, he said, "You told me, papa, that there should be fruit to God, and, indeed, I own that it is little I give Him; but I am sure that I love Him every day more and more;" and, as he said this, he wiped a tear from his eye. I cannot tell you how grateful this was to me; because, as you know, there is not the most distant approach to religious pretence about him. He errs in the other direction. Did he more simply cherish a communicating spirit, his soul would flourish the more.
He is not, I may say, prepared for the ways of the Brethren, as we speak. He told me the other day, that, in the ruined state of all things, he sees no sufficient cause to leave the Church of England.
But he is far, indeed, from feeling debtor to its forms. Like thousands in it, Jesus is all to him.
HAMPSTEAD, September 24.
Our dear child has just passed through another severe season. The agony in the arm both yesterday and Wednesday was all but intolerable. A large mass of bone is just at the opening of the wound. The thought of amputation is again before us. But this day he has been better, and able to drive to Finchley.
In the midst of all this suffering, dear J. N. D. came out to see him. He had much wished it. I left them alone for a time, and our dear brother has now comforted me by saying, that he is as sure of a work of God in him, as in any one he knows; and that he scarcely ever met one who more simply apprehended the sin of the nature; and the sufficiency of Christ: but the peace of the conscience having been reached with so little exercise or conviction, he thinks that he may still have conflict to undergo.
Sunday Night. — Yesterday was another painful day to him; but he is again easier. Every clock last night did he hear, except four and five, and, as he lay awake, he mused over this little hymn, which he has just been scribbling with his left hand.
Hebrew 13:8, as you will see, was his theme.
"And will He ever be the same,
The same dear Lord who loves so free,
And still unchanging as His name,
As now, be all in all to me?
And is His love as full today,
As when He hung upon the tree,
And look'd these words, 'My life I lay
Down gladly, sinning one for thee'?
And say, 'mid heaven's gorgeous glare,
Will He love tenderly as here,
Will He not sit as Conqueror there,
And scarcely mark the silent tear?
No — for unchanging as His name,
That blessed Lord shall fail us never;
For Jesus is today the same
As yesterday and so for ever.
And when above the skies we soar,
We'll see a bright and crownéd Head,
Beaming with love-looks as of yore,
When thorns its brows encompassèd.
Yesterday's work the theme will be,
'Worthy the Lamb, Salvation's Giver!'
The darksome journeyings of today,
But brilliance add to bright for ever."
HAMPSTEAD, October 8.
MY DEAR — , - I have again a little leisure and disposition to give you further tidings of our dear, dear sufferer. And I may call him so; though all is well, and will be so for ever.
About ten days ago, it was decided that Mr. Liston* should be consulted, and, as was natural, his nervous sensibility became much increased, and I had not much communion with him. His heart, however, had had its exercises, and between that day and the day of consultation, he scribbled another little hymn with his left hand on Mark 5:30, which I will give you presently, suitable to the anxious moments he was passing through.
*A well-known surgeon at that time. — ED.
On Tuesday last we had the consultation. On seeing the poor arm, Mr. L. was shocked, and told me that he had never seen a worse case; and he is a practitioner of the greatest experience. He at once decided on the necessity of amputation. Our darling requested that it might be at once, and that he might have the ether. Mr. L. told him that he never operated without it, and appointed half-past three on the next day.
It was a gloomy time, dear -. But Johnny was very calm, and on leaving Mr. L. he asked F. C., who was with us, what he judged the effect of the operation would be; and on learning that it could lead only to present relief, he again listened to the sentence of death, as always, with perfect quietness.
On Wednesday he lay in bed till twelve o'clock, begging me to sit in his room, and occasionally giving me a subject for prayer. He took a little dinner at one. Dear Mr. Reynolds and E. C. came soon after, and we all sat with him — Mamma, Aunt C., and Letty being out of the room at his request.
About four Mr. Liston arrived in company with Dr. S. and Mr. P.; our darling, in full composure, sat himself in the arm-chair. A little table was placed behind him; and the tube conveying the ether was applied to his mouth. He inhaled it for about two minutes. Dr. S. then gave Mr. L. liberty to proceed; and the knife and the saw entered the poor arm. But there was no more quiver or resentment than there would have been from a dead body. The arm was off in half a minute. The vessels were then bound up (in about three minutes), and he was laid on the bed. Soon afterwards he opened his eyes and said in a strong emphatic manner: "It is not fast for ever, it is not fast for ever! "
He was then composed, wondered that he was on the bed, and took leave of Dr. Snow in his usual sweet manner, just telling him that he had been in the profoundest sleep he had ever known.
But he soon became sensible of the soreness of the wound; and when the room was cleared, again, dear E. C. watched him till, in the evening, Mr. Pratt returned to sew up the poor stump. That was painful indeed.
He was then put into bed, and remained, I may say, in one posture for forty-five hours. But he has been in a sweet mind, humble, thoughtful of the Lord, and thankful; and all is under the wing of his gracious Almighty Helper.
O for hearts to love Him and to long for Him!
I will now copy the hymn on Mark 5:30:
"And didst Thou feel the gentle touch
Amid the noisy rabble throng;
Knowing that need of Thee had drawn
A weak one, that rude crowd among?
With sicken'd frame, and trembling heart,
She crept unnoticed through the throng;
And, shelter'd 'neath those healing wings,
She found, at once, her burden gone.
Her need was answer'd — and unseen
As she had come, she hoped to go,
Alone to love that healing One
Whom soon she'd as Messiah know.
But no — the words 'Who touch'd My clothes?'
Gave birth to thoughts which none could tell:
She had spent all — had naught to give —
And trembling at His feet she fell.
She knew Him not. 'Be of good cheer'
Threw peace, and joy, and light around;
As rainbow-drops from heaven descend
In grateful showers on thirsty ground.
Her fears dispell'd, she sees Him now
Her God and Saviour, looking love:
He'd been her hope of comfort here,
And now her hope of joy above.
And, rising from the throng of men
Who daily call upon His name,
He knows the hem-touch, heals as then,
For Jesus is today the same."
HAMPSTEAD, Oct. 10.
MY DEAR — , - Our dear child is feeling the soreness of the poor stump; but that is to be expected for some time. But he has been in a very sweet spirit.
He said to me yesterday, that he wondered the Lord Jesus had ever wanted attractions for him. He has been constantly asking me to pray or to praise with him, giving me my subjects. I observe that it is the affections rather than the mind that are now in exercise, and this I used to desire.
He said to me yesterday that he had something to show me — and then exhibited a ring on his little finger. He had bought it, he said, in Dublin, but I had known nothing of it. However this day, he asked me if I would allow him to give it to Letty. I objected, saying, it was far better to put it away. He still desired to give it to her; and perceiving that there was some purpose in his mind, I consented. He then begged me to call her, requesting that I would stand apart when she came.
She accordingly was called and came; and I retired towards the window. Johnny then showed her the ring; and as well as his labouring heart and falling tears allowed him, he said to her — "Letty, papa has allowed me to give you this ring — keep it in your drawer, and when you look on it, remember that I bought it in the days of my folly, but that I have since found the Pearl of great price — and may you, dear Letty, find it also."
He could say no more and told her to go down to dinner.
It was a little feast to my ear and heart.
HAMPSTEAD, Oct. 17.
MY DEAR — , - I have not written to you for a week, but I am thankful to tell you that our darling boy again got downstairs on the 17th — the 11th day since the operation. From the state of disease, the healing of the poor stump proceeds slowly; and the dressing of it occasionally he greatly dreads. He is still impatient — but he carries his need and his mercies to the Lord in supplication and praise so simply, that we delight in him increasingly.
Last night I was in his room several times. He was full of kind and grateful affections.
About three o'clock he begged me to take my pencil, and write some lines he had been musing over.
He then dictated the following:
"MY Saviour-God! the day is not far spent;
The noontide of my life is scarcely come;
Abide with me till evening's waning hour;
And then with Thee I'll gently journey home.
Perchance the evening-dews may be too chill;
And 'ere they fall, I'll enter into rest—
But let death come, dear Saviour, when he will;
Abide with me — and on Thy tender breast
He'll find me: and from this cold world of night
I'll vanish into realms of purest light."
These lines are very sweet, I think. I give them to you with one or two corrections he made since. The thought of the Lord carrying him through the whole day of life, and then, perhaps, of closing it, ere its evening set in, is tenderly expressed, and the truest picture of his own feelings.*
*It has been said that at times of deepest feeling, the mind seeks for fancies, types, and dim similitudes, extracting from them consolation and strength. — So was it here, I believe.
HAMPSTEAD, Oct. 28.
The process of healing in the poor stump goes on very slowly, and delays our removal to Bath. This tries him, and he is still impatient at times, but his condition of soul is very comforting to me.
As I sat beside his bed the other evening, he asked me, when it was that I judged the Lord began to work with him. I told him that I believed the Lord had had a striving with him long before, but that spiritual life had manifested itself to me to be in him on the 15th of last August. "Yes, papa," he said, "there was something in that, I know, but months before I remember feeling very peculiarly under a word of Sir Edward's,* 'Sometime or another, Johnny, the Lord must have to do immediately with you,' meaning that if I did not listen to Him in grace now, He must sooner or later let me hear Him in judgment."
… His state of health gives us no increased hope. There are pains in the remaining arm which we do not like, but as yet know not what they are.
*Sir E. Denny, an old and valued friend, who had always felt the greatest interest in him. — ED.
BATH, Nov. 18.
MY DEAR — , - It is some time since I wrote to you one of my particular letters about our darling child.
However, I have only enlarging testimony that the work is no occasional excitement, but that it is the Spirit of God renewing a soul by a right knowledge of itself and Jesus.
A spirit of confession has marked him lately, and he has gone over, in an open and gracious way, the follies and the carelessness of last winter in Dublin.
You perceive that we have come to Bath. But I was not, till a day or two since, aware of one reason for his great desire to reach this: that he might pay a little debt which he foolishly incurred with a tobacconist here, while on a visit with his aunts fifteen months ago.
Dear E. D., I need not say, is all kindness to him, and thoughtfulness about him.* Their natural tastes and minds are a good deal kindred.
*It is grateful to remember the like Christian love in the Island where we first were, then at Brixton, at Hampstead and now at Bath; the names of many might be mentioned.
The remaining arm has become very painful; and he has fears that abscess is attacking it, and that he may have to lose it like the other. This apprehension has been very trying to him, and he has told us to ask the Lord for mercies in this matter. And the night before last, as he lay in bed, this fear having been very present with him, he mused over these lines:—
"Longer that I Thy chastening rod should bear,
Father! it seems Thy blessèd will to be;
Let love, and faith, and hope my spirit cheer,
And fill my soul alone with thoughts of Thee!
Give grace and patience, Lord, and gentleness;
That loving, calm, and thankful I may be
And let my soul know the full blessedness
Of child-like trust, my Father-God, in Thee!
And do as seemeth good and right — Thy love
I'll trust — for lately musing, I did see
The dear God-man, who intercedes above,
Give up the Ghost on Calvary, for me.
We were not made for pain and suffering, Lord!
Along with sin and death they found their way;
Gnawing consumers! — yet ere long Thy Word
Will blast them all from Thy eternal day,
And we, in glorious bodies, rise in bright array."
I may add, dear — , in connection with this, that the subjection of mind with which he has bowed to the expectation of abscess in the poor remaining arm has indeed been sweet fruit of a renewed mind. These lines express it, and his whole way has manifested it.
BATH, Nov. 29.
MY DEAR — , - Our dear child took a drive today, the first time he has left the house since Wednesday. The poor remaining arm, I may say, is almost useless. But the Lord's love and wisdom are over it all, and so he owns it. As we were driving round the Victoria Park, he said to me, "I should have liked to have been riding here; and I should have been gratifying my love of pleasure, and perhaps my vanity; and the Lord has seen that nothing would do but the depriving me of all power." He then opened his whole heart to me. He told me that he had formed his future life entirely with regard to pleasure, and that he would have judged it impossible for him to become what his mind now was, and could hardly identify his former with his present self.
In the course of the drive, I alluded to his acts of impatience. He did not answer me for a while, but then, he said — "Papa, you may think it self-complacency; but I will say to you, I wonder that I am as well as I am."
I listened to this as a very affecting word; for it told me of a struggle with himself more than we had apprehended, and of a temptation to impatience from his poor diseased arm beyond what we had calculated.
The thought of parting with him is sad indeed. As far as personal enjoyment goes, gladly would I thus wait on him, for the remnant of my own days here. But, when I think of what the world is, and what it is like to be, and of the tendencies of his nature, I get comfort in the thought, that the Lord has rescued and will shelter him.
"The morning cometh."
BATH, Dec. 24.
Our darling boy is going through suffering indeed; the sight of him and the thought of him gets down into the quickest parts of the heart.
As we sat together this day, he said to me, "I have been thinking, papa, of the summer, and of my being able again to ride and drive, and of going to see Uncle and Aunt at Stoodleigh; and when I have felt all this happy, I have asked myself, would I give up the desire of the Lord's presence for it all; and I felt that I could answer, No. I am sure the disease of the poor left shoulder has been a blessing to me, for I could not have felt this at Hampstead."
He is a little better in general health, but we rejoice with trembling.
Feb. 16, 1848.
MY DEAREST -, — We have been in a new and aggravated scene of sorrow. Our dear child has had a paroxysm of pain in the left shoulder.* which nothing has equalled since his suffering at Ventnor on July 19th.
*It had been opened, and an issue established there, as the abscess was found to be so much advancing. It was some few weeks afterwards that this attack took place, i.e., on Feb. 2; and it proved to be the beginning of the last stage of his little journey.
But the Lord has indeed been gracious, enabling him to hold on in full peace, through this deeply trying path.
As I sat with him on Thursday last, the day after the paroxysm, I had thought he was in a dull state of soul, for he had said nothing to me. But, to my surprise, with earnestness, he said rather suddenly, "Papa, kneel down and thank the Lord for the deep and happy peace He has given me in Himself all the morning."
But he has told me this day, not to expect many words from him, but to speak to him. And among other Scriptures quoting those words, "I will arise, and go to my Father," he said, with great decision, "How willingly, how gladly, would I rise from this bed and go to my Father; and I am as sure of the fatted calf as ever the prodigal was; but, O papa, what sorrow would it be to me if I did not know that you were sure of it also." Precious child! may I not say?
After coming home from the meeting this morning, he said to me, "The enemy has had a little advantage of me; but it was soon over: he tried to persuade me that it was all fiction, but Jesus was too near me."
And again he said, "What would it be to drop into His arms now? but I am in His arms while in this bed; He frowns the enemy out of sight."
I may again say, the Lord be praised. He has been in a sweet mind all the day. When Mr. G. (the surgeon) came, he begged me to leave the room, and Mr. G. told me afterwards that he had been asking him whether this attack would hasten his end, but all in the calmest, sweetest manner.
Tuesday Morning. — He has just passed a good night; I may say — at least, free from pain. But weak he is, and cares for no food. He has told his aunt Eliza that his legs were no better than two straws, and that his body was like an egg-shell — conscious of a state of weakness beyond all that he has ever felt. I cannot tell you all his sweet words.
He had some little time with dear L. alone. And he told me that he had been searching his heart and found two unconfessed evils, which he then mentioned to me.
He longs for departure, and wonders that, with such a prospect, he can ever feel pain or annoyance.
Speaking of the Lord's dealings with him, he said to me this day, "He has shocked me" (meaning as by an earthquake) out of a world of vanities into real life."
BATH, Feb. 8th.
MY DEAR — , - Our darling is sensible that the last stage of his little journey has begun. But grace abounds. Nature's weakness is proving the Spirit's strength.
He got up last evening for about two hours, and as dearest Mamma, Eliza, Charlotte,* and I sat round him, he said, 'All is gentle and sure, one hand under my head, the other embracing me; all deliciously peaceful." He afterwards said, "The Lord seemed to speak to me last night, and to say, 'My child, the way has, as yet, been pain and impatience; but now, for a little time it shall be weakness and love.'" And this morning, he begged that dear Miss Bland would come and see him; and in the course of what he was able to say to her, he said, "It is not so much praise, Miss Bland, as enjoyment."
*His aunts. — ED.
The weakness is rapidly increasing. This day he put this question to me in a very solemn manner, "Papa, I wish you to tell me, has Sir Edward, or my aunts, or Miss Bland, or anyone else, observed a difference in my ways and manners from what they were." I answered that we had none of us any doubt of his being born again. "I don't ask that," he said, "I don't seek to know that, but whether they have seen me more for the Lord; for I am grieved I have been so little fruitful to Him."
It was very sweet to hear this; like all his words they so told me that he wanted none to strengthen his assurance of salvation, but that at the same time he desired to have his Saviour honoured in him and his ways. Indeed, nothing can exceed the full peace and assurance of his soul. He speaks of his departure as certainly near and altogether desirable to him.
MY DEAR — , - Our darling has again been in much pain, and we feared one of the terrible paroxysms. But, in sweet mercy it proved otherwise; and he has been lying now for hours in comparative ease.
After the pain had subsided, he called me, and said, "The Lord is still near me;" meaning, I am sure, that He had not withdrawn Himself, though, under the pain, some impatience had been betrayed. "Give them all my love, and say, I have but one word to send them — Jesus."*
*It was, I suppose, about this time that he pencilled the following lines, the last he ever wrote. They were scarcely legible, when we discovered them afterwards in his MS. book, his poor remaining hand was so feeble.
"Lord of my soul! let naught but thoughts of Thee
Bid a good morning to my fancy, waking —
And when, day-tired, my fancy seeks to rest,
Be Thou her last thought, other flights forsaking;
And if in sleep she find her fetters free,
May all her flight be upward, Lord, to Thee."
Referring, after this, to his scribbling verses, and like entertainments of his mind, he said, while Eliza and I were with him, "We may gather such flowers along the wayside as we pass, but we must be careful that we press them not too hard, lest we press the sticking stuff out of them, or dirty our hands, for we must not go in with dirty hands." This conveys a holy warning to us all.
Wednesday night. — Our dearest Johnny was in bed this day till nearly five o'clock. He then had the poor shoulder dressed. Mr. G. kindly sat and listened to his artless tale of the last four years of his life. He then took some soup and a little almond milk, and looked better; and I said that perhaps he would be downstairs for a while tomorrow. "Don't take me out of the Lord's hands, Pappy," he said (for "Pappy" is my name upon his dear lips now, the language of still tenderer and dearer affection), "I would not be in health again, and lose my happy mind." And E. D., coming in for a minute to him, and enquiring after the pain of the poor shoulder, he said, "We shall see each other happy by and bye, dear Sir Edward; if I never till now knew the influence of the Comforter, I do now."
Thursday. — He was impatient and excited last night, but it soon subsided, and when composed, I heard him say to himself, "My precious Jesus." Afterwards, addressing me, he said, "Pappy, must I not long to lie down in the pure fields, and have His smile upon me for ever."
He then begged me to detach his chain from his watch, for he intended, he said, to give it to L- , adding, "I feel her to be half my own child, I have prayed so much for her." Accordingly, since breakfast, the watch has been given.
He says, this is the first birthday he has ever spent in real life.
Dear, dear child! I know not how to wish him to stay, and yet the length and breadth of the earth, and all that it has to give, could not supply him to me.
BATH, Feb. 11.
MY DEAREST -, — Through the Lord's mercy he has had a quiet night. I was with him only once; and then on leaving him I just said, "Where I am, there shall also My servant be," to which he replied, "Yes, Pappy, and where His servant is, there will He be, for He has been with me here all night."
On going to him this morning I said: "The Lord has done for you, darling, beyond what we had thought of." "Do not tell me that, Pappy," he answered. "I know it myself full well."
All the letters that come he has read to him, and is unmoved by the constant reference in them to his speedy removal from us. His old impatience still breaks out. Mr. G. says it is all but impossible that it should be otherwise.
All paid him a visit today, aunts and cousins, and as I sat alone with him afterwards, he lamented his constant impatience, but added:
"I love you all; and I know you love me." I told him we found it easy to love him. "Aye, Pappy," he said, "we have found it easy to love Him; but we shall not be fully happy till we are with Him."
Saturday Morning. — He has been too weak for any to see him; and as I sat alone with him he said, "It will be blessed to rest in His bosom for a little space before the kingdom, and it will be blessed for those who are taken up at once to Him."
Thus the days wear on in the sweet enjoyment of waiting upon him.
The last are first indeed.
He has had no sleep, counting the hours from one to eight. I was with him frequently. But he was free from pain, and told me he was happy. His weakness and weariness greatly increase; and the presence of two persons is too much for him. Even to see me reading fatigues him.
Monday. — An affection in the mouth and throat, called the thrush, threatens him with much suffering. But there is One who turns the shadow of death into the morning.
As I sat by him I whispered, "The night is far spent, the day is at hand."
He just answered, "Well for us it is; we can have communion with Himself, but the devil is very busy."
I did not know what he meant.
An hour or two afterwards, as I again sat beside him, he told me to read about the living fountains in Revelation. I did so. He then told me to pray a short prayer. In the course of it I asked the Lord graciously to keep apart from him all but Himself, or what witnessed of Him. As I finished he said, "Pappy, your prayer was what I wanted. The devil was busy last night in bringing before my mind a billiard-table and such things. But I want to have none but Himself; and I am feeling that His arm is under my head, and that He is fonder of me than ever He was." I told him that in one sense God loved him while at the billiard-table, meaning as an elect one, though then unmanifested. He said he was sure of that and then he began to speak about his dinner, saying "I can speak of any thing, Pappy, that comes into my mind," meaning that his conscience was at perfect case. Indeed I never saw the absence of the spirit of bondage and of fear more perfect.
BATH, February 15.
MY DEAR — , - The poor throat and mouth, covered with little blisters, give him much increased uneasiness.
He cannot speak much, but takes great delight in hearing some of the little books which he knew in his childhood — "The Two Lambs" and "The Holy-day Queen," and others like them. I am pleased with this desire of a child in him.
He said to me yesterday that he hoped his happy state of mind was in no way debtor to the medicine which he is taking; for he was evidently jealous of such a possibility as that.* He told me that, to his surprise, he found that he was again and again speaking to himself in French; of which, as he says, he knows so little. Among other sentences he had been saying, "O Mon Seigneur, vous etes très cher, très bien aimé, vous êtes très prochain à moi."
*Mr. G, told me, when I enquired of him, that this could not be the case.
Wednesday. - I was up with him several times last night, and he was in such a state of exhaustion that we judged it might be the closing scene. But all was blessed. On one occasion I just said, "Therefore doth My Father love you, because ye believe that I came out from God." "Yes," he said, "None shall pluck us out of His hand. He is all to me now." I said he had our love also, and he valued that. "Value it," he said, "Indeed I do. He sees me too tender and weak to deny me that." On recovering out of a minute or two of extreme exhaustion, he said, "I was very near Him, and how good of the Lord not to let the devil come near me. I can always trust Him." I said, "What would it be, my child, if at such a time as this you did not care for Him." He looked up as with a worshipping countenance and said, "I should not then care for myself."
It is a marked history, dear — , and those who have prayed for him, may now be encouraged by this fresh token that God hears from His dwelling-place; and we who were teaching him may be humbled at the method which the blessed Lord has taken with him, seeming to set our instructions aside.
All yesterday our darling child was very ill. At ten o'clock he thought that he was dying, and said to me, "I am going to Him, Pappy; and I hope so." The state of his throat and mouth, the soreness of parts of his body from the constant lying, and the loss, I may say, of both his arms, leaves him in a condition of helplessness not commonly seen. But his soul is kept in unbroken peace.
On going in to him on one occasion last night, I heard him repeat the close of Rom. 8, with great energy, though to speak at all is a difficulty to him now. Then, referring to his many sufferings of body, he said to me, "We shall little think of them, when by-and-bye we are gazing on Him." At another time, I said to him, "The Lord is as near you as ever. Jesus is precious." "Yes, very precious," he answered.
This morning he was very fervent in assuring us all of his love; and with tears said, "You are all too fond of me; you all make too much of me. I can bear the thought of His loving me too much, for so He will for ever."
So is it, dear — . I had not thought of such an hour as this. I have remembered Abraham in Gen. 15. For, watching this sacrifice now for eight or nine months, we first saw "the smoking furnace" of sharp discipline, and that only; but now "the burning lamp" of God's salvation passes before us.
The poor frame the Lord remembers, but the natural impatience still betrays itself. I told him to be fruitful to God, as well as happy in God was his calling; and read Heb. 12, which wrought strongly on his soul.
Sunday. — The night has been very uneasy, but the shoulder being somewhat relieved of pain, he is able in a small measure to use the poor arm and hand. I observed this to him, when he replied, "Ah, Pappy, they will be but of small use to me till they get their companions in glory;" referring, of course, to the poor hand and arm which had been amputated.
As dearest Mary and I sat beside him today, I told him that we had remarked that, though so often impatient with us, he had never murmured against the Lord. He looked up with an expression of surprise and of pleasure, and said, "That could not be, that could not be. It is of grace, however, that I did not."
This day he proposed that as some of us remained at home, we should have the Lord's Supper together. But on my saying that I regarded it as for the congregation of saints in their assembly, and not for sick chambers, he yielded at once. The peace of his soul hangs so simply on Christ.
Dear E. C., from Brixton, has come down to see him, and sees much of the old impatience in him, and of which I tell you so freely.
MY DEAR -, — Our dear one sinks so much, that we may, perhaps, begin to count his hours. I was reading a little to him today, and he felt he could not bear it, it so fatigued him. I told him I feared I had read too loud. "Yes, Pappy;" he said, "but soon we shall be equal to a loud song."
Wednesday. — He had a better night on Monday than we could have expected, so that dear *Lord Congleton, coming from London to see him, he invited him to his room, and sat a little with him over the fire. During their words together, Johnny told him that the day before, when thinking of his death, he had felt some discomfort at the thought of going among strangers. This was a feeling I had never heard him express. But we had all observed how often he had lately spoken of the shortness of the time of our separation from him, and according to this, a great increase of personal fondness to us all.
And we may prize the truth that our heavenly Father loves this personal fondness in His children toward each other. Our selfish hearts know it far too poorly.
*"John Parnell," mentioned in an early letter. — ED.
Mr. G. does not think his strength can hold out another month. But I need not say, to hear the sentence of death again does not move him.
While Mary, Aunt C., and I were sitting beside him, he begged us to pray, for he did not find himself very happy. We did so.
In a little time afterwards he said, "It will comfort you, dear papa and mamma, to know that I am always happy, except when the devil tempts me to think of leaving you behind." This explained his previous words. And this feeling and fondness are again and again expressed.
This day, in the course of sitting with him, I reminded him that he had long refused the Lord, though he had lived in the midst of light and testimony. "Yes," he said, "but He chose me before the foundation of the world."
Friday. — Last night he was fully persuaded that the time of his departure was come. He made us all sit very near him, and spoke as if it were the parting moment. But about 1 o'clock he was disposed to go to bed,* and passed the night tolerably well.
*He usually lay upon a stretcher for a few hours each day. — ED.
Saturday, 5 o'clock a.m.
We have just closed a scene around our dear one's bed, which it is surely easy to say I can never forget.
Between 11 and 12 o'clock dearest Mary and I were sitting beside him; and he became sadly impatient. He kicked about violently, and muttered something about its being a dark place. I was very uneasy, and spoke to him. He raised his head a little, and in a wild manner cried out against the devil, calling him "a nasty fellow;" because, as he said, he had been accusing him of his impatience now that he was on the point of death, seeking to persuade him that he was ruined, both reminding him of his sins, and telling him of others which he would have been shocked at committing. And then in a tone of coarse indignation he said, "Let him go to hell; it is his proper place."
I was greatly moved at all this, judging that the disease was working delirium; and I spoke to him soothingly. He looked at me then with a different expression altogether, and, with tears, I believe, told me to pray for him, because the enemy was making the valley a dark place.
I believe I had just begun to pray; when, in the most beautiful and triumphant style, he testified to his Lord, saying, among other things, "The devil told me of sins that I abhor; but my Lord has answered him that all such thoughts are his, not mine."
Shortly afterwards, however, again he told me to pray, and to let the desire be that the Lord would give him a speedy passage through the valley: and he composed himself to die, telling me to close his eyes, fervently delivering his last message of love to each and all, but saying that Jesus was dearest and chiefest with him, and, together with this, making confession of his impatience.
We then waited, in expectation of his death.
I kept my hand upon his eyes, dear M- sitting by. He spoke as one dying, "The water is not deep, but cold. My Lord holds my hand. I am very happy. Now He has carried me more than half-way over. How lovely!
These were his broken utterances.
He repeated also some scriptures, and alluded to his Lord's victory for him over the accuser.
But he became disturbed again, and asked for more prayer for a quick departure, hoping that none of us would be called to pass through the valley, but rise to meet the Lord in the air, saying that he also would meet us there.
We did ask the Lord for this mercy, if it were His blessed will. But it was not.*
*Further experiences of His love which our dear child had, and further testimonies to His faithfulness which he was able to bear, now manifest the grace of this refusal. God is thus, in time, His own Interpreter, perfect in wisdom and goodness.
Saturday Night. About an hour after I closed the preceding account, our darling called me and spoke comfortably, supposing that he had just passed a solemn crisis — and again he went to sleep.
But in the morning as soon as the family could be got around him, he desired it, believing again that the moment of departure was come. It was about 10 o'clock.
The scene was beautiful. In deepest expressions of love to us all, with words of counsel to some, in recollections of some who were absent, giving presents to a few of us, and delivering a confession of his faith and hope; all was affecting indeed. Nothing could exceed the simplicity, the certainty and the joy of his experience. And, having gone through all this, and more of the like kind than I can call to mind, he composed himself to die, as he had done last night. He looked upward and said, "The heavens are breaking down! joy, joy!" He then shut his eyes, and I was full of expectation, and perhaps of hope — considering his poor pained body — that he was breathing his last breath. But after lying with closed eyes for about twenty minutes, he returned to us all, still seated around his bed.
On reviewing all this, I do not doubt that our darling has been passing through a certain amount of excitement, which attends, I understand, disease like this.
But whether under excitement now, or in natural composedness as before, blessed be God, his testimony to the Lord is as full and satisfactory as that of an Apostle could have been, in the simplicity and certainty of the work of his Saviour for him. There could not be more fervent guilelessness or assured utterance of a soul resting in the blood of the Lamb of God. "Triumphant Jesus," he called his Lord among other striking words. "Death," he said, "was nothing to him, but a journey to a higher room." Observing that he did not understand how people talked of submission to die, he added. "But that arises from my knowing so surely where I am going."
Bless the Lord, O our souls! What can we say but with David, "According to Thine own heart, hast Thou done all this greatness."
Sunday Evening. - In mercy he has had a little sleep. On waking I heard him say to himself, "O, blessed Jesus, who but Thou," referring to one of our hymns, I suppose. I went to him and said, "My child, how gracious of the Lord in not allowing you to feel a wounded spirit together with the infirmities of your poor body." He then assured me of his perfect happiness, and added, "I have never had a moment's doubt of my salvation, Pappy, but one day when dear Sir Edward said to me, 'Johnny, we shall walk together in the streets of the New Jerusalem,' I asked myself 'Should I?' for a moment; but now I have no more doubt of walking there, than that that is a door," looking over at the door of the room as he spoke. The Lord is edifying us all through him, if we but apply the lesson. His experience leaves us far behind.
Monday Morning. — Dear C. stayed with us the whole of last night; and it was another time much to be remembered.
About 2 o'clock we raised him up in the bed. Soon afterwards he looked upward, and with broken voice and tearful eye repeated what is commonly called, "The Apostles' Creed." Recovering strength a little, he added, "My dear, darling, precious, beautiful Saviour." Then, after another pause, "Whom having not seen I love."
Afterwards he said, "Lord, have mercy on me." "My child, He has had mercy on you," I said. "Yes," he answered, "He loved me before the foundation of the world." Then, after another pause, he said, "I have kept the faith."
He lay down about 4 o'clock and got a little sleep.
I daresay the excitement attending on the disease still prevails; but there is indeed "joy and peace in believing."
BATH, February 28.
MY DEAR — , - Mary P. and I were just now waiting on him; and with tears he said it so distressed him, that we should so love him as to have none of his impatience and unkind ways in remembrance. "I can't bear that, after all my ways, you should love me as you do; and yet what should I do, if you did not love me, and if He did not love me? But I am not distressed as if my safety were concerned: but this thought disciplines me."
His dear aunt has just reminded him that he has the Lord's staff to comfort him. "Yes, Aunt Bessy, and His rod, too," he answered her.
Thursday Evening. — About four o'clock yesterday, Uncles and Aunt arrived from Stoodleigh and Bridgnorth. The scenes which passed from that time till ten o'clock, when they left him for the night, I cannot describe to you. Perhaps dear George, or Bessy may.
This day has been comparatively easy. His heart still anticipates his departure with desire. He had been a little disturbed, I think, by some awkwardness of ours in attending on him; but on one occasion he said, "There will be no mistakes nor awkwardness in wiping every tear away in the home where I am going. I shall be taken care of in the warmest bosom."
Wednesday. - Last night as Aunt E. was sitting beside him, he sang all alone, and to our great surprise, that beautiful chant, "I will arise and go to my Father." We were all soon gathered around him; and after a little pause he gave out the Doxology, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow," to the tune of the 100th Psalm, and we all joined. His singing was strong and accurate, and very pleasing. We then sang, "There is a land of pure delight." Then he desired another, "Lame though I am, I take the prey," the last verse of "Come, O thou Traveller unknown."
All this was very striking; but fearing a little excitement, we took leave of him for the night, Aunt C. being the watcher.
About one o'clock I was called in, the sufferings of the poor remaining arm demanding help.
The time was very peculiar. He was very patient; and as we began our service, "The sufferings of this present time," he said, "are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in me." Having had perspiration, and the mouth being much relieved, I observed that perhaps he was passing through a favourable crisis. He wept, and said "He could not consent to give up the joy to which he had been brought so near." I said that if the Lord pleased to give him a continuance of days here, He was able to keep him from evil. "Keep me from evil, Pappy," he replied, with great animation, "that will not do. I will make a bargain with the Lord to be recovered only on the terms of living a devoted life to His service." And then he told me to listen to a prayer that he would make according to that. And he then prayed accordingly.
The following letter was written by my Uncle to Aunt Alice: — ED.
"Your heart has been made happy by all that you have heard of dearest Johnny. The dealing of God with him has been wonderful and gracious, beyond what our hearts had ever anticipated. When we arrived yesterday, his mind was slightly affected; and on going into the room, he was singing a Psalm tune. But on seeing me he came quite to himself, and told me, with tears, that he had a peace which he would not part with for one thousand worlds, a peace which he had forfeited, but which had been restored to him through the Lord. He met his dear aunt in the same way, making confession of the trifling state of his mind while with her at S.; and that he did not then even believe the Bible. How different now! Its promises are his stay and support, and he knows them to be "Yea and Amen in Christ Jesus." We prayed with him, and he repeated the Lord's Prayer with a strong voice, and then made confession of his faith in the words of the Creed; *as if to assure us all, that however unbelieving he may have been, he now believed with all his heart. His love to us all greatly abounds. He joined very earnestly in Cowper's beautiful hymn, "Lord, I believe Thou hast prepared."
He had not much sleep, and has been in much pain this morning, and has often requested us to pray for his speedy removal.
Were it the Lord's will, we might rejoice; for life is indeed a burden. But we have to leave it all with confidence in the hand of his gracious Saviour, who has shown such mercies to him.
I write in haste.
BATH, March 1st.
MY DEAR -, — Dear George added to my last, and I had not space to tell you all the scene of last night.
I told you of his prayer and bargain with the Lord. After that he looked at me with great affection, expressing an earnest wish that we were all round one table of the Lord, and venturing to hope that it would be so. I did not, of course, reason any point with him, the ruling thing in his soul being affection, desire for the visible union of those who were so dear to him; and as G. and I were just now beside him, with tears and much fervency, he alluded to it again. He also expressed a hope that the Lord would speedily come to take us, that we might meet Him all together. And with much decision, though in a way that evinced he did not forget the age and relationships in which we stood to him, he told us that he had been very near heaven, he believed nearer than any of us had ever been, saying, too, that he did not speak under any excitement.
Friday. — The little wanderings of the mind are still more apparent, but the name of Jesus is sweet to him, and nothing escapes him which in any measure offends against the truth itself or its holiness.
BATH, March 5th.
MY DEAR -, — Since I last wrote, the wanderings of the mind have greatly subsided; but the strength is not returning. He has just been saying, with tears, and in the sweetest mind, that he holds nothing surely but the Lord Himself.
He got no sleep last night; but was in a sweet loving mind, weeping at the name of Jesus, full of affection to us, and of the kindest thoughts towards all the people of God. I may, indeed, say the work of a renewed mind is deeply and largely manifested in him. As to living or dying, his times are in God's hands!
BATH, March 6th.
MY DEAR -, — There are now some indications of weakness approaching childishness, making him the sport of many a changing thought. He is full of generosity, making presents to us all; and talks a good deal, which is such a new thing with him; but, in the midst of all, we are comforted, instructed, and encouraged by every glance of his soul towards the Lord. His affections are as true to their Object as ever. And thus we have the satisfaction of seeing that in a variety of paths, when he was in pain and expectation of death, under excitement from disease, or now in comparative ease of body, with some childishness of mind, Jesus is still the same in his heart and on his lips. To all who see him he is the sweet witness of what the Lord has done for his soul. Into the peace and liberty of the precious Gospel, through faith in the sufficiency of Christ, the Spirit has indeed led him with a sure hand. We have now the prospect of seeing him taken from us, by the gentle, gradual ebbing away of all the remaining vigour of life. May we be given grace, dear -, to feel it as the sore wounding of the deepest natural affection; but to know the blessing of our God, who has wrought so wondrously for him
BATH, March 10th.
MY DEAREST -, — These two days have been passed by our darling in occasional little acts of excitement, occasional ways of natural impatience not yet subdued, and occasional sweet exercises of renewed affections.
His confidence and peace are undisturbed; and every expression of his lips is true to Jesus. In answer to some word of mine, this morning, he said, "I have no more doubt, Pappy, that I am His child than I have that I am yours."
As I sat this morning in his room from three to six o'clock, he dosed a good deal, and talked much in his sleep. It appeared as though dear little Richard and he were wading some river, for I heard him distinctly say, "Dicky, my sweetest child, it is only fright with you, it is pain with me; but I feel the bottom, darling; He is holding up my head." These broken sentences were among what I heard. And without my referring to this, he told me since, that last night he thought he had been with Dicky, who was very cold, and sought to get warmth under his poor shoulder, but could not.*
*Dear Richard was a younger brother who died upwards of fourteen years before, at the age of three. Johnny was eighteen months older, and very fond of him.
BATH, March 12th.
MY DEAR -, — We have got Farley to sit up with him half the night, and then I take the watch. The lungs have resisted the disease; and Mr. G. is rather surprised by the constitution holding out.
He has lately exhibited much concern for the souls of others; and this has been another comfort to us, and according to this, he has little Edward Farley as a pupil every morning that he may read a Psalm to him, and that he may have opportunity of speaking to him a little, though it is a great exertion. How long it may continue, the Lord only knows.
March 17th. — Strength still reducing. Farley has ceased to come for the night; and a stretcher is laid at the foot of his bed for me. All these are symptoms of shortening days, dear … Prayer is the natural business of our souls now, with a little enquiry after the joys at His right hand, and the pleasures of His presence.
Saturday. — Weakness, haggardness of countenance, and the soreness of the poor back from continued lying, are all increasing. Soon after rising this morning, I read Deut. 8 to him. When I came to that verse which promises that out of the hills they should dig brass, he observed, "They will want shoes of iron and brass to tread that land, sandals will do for us here." He evidently referred to Deut. 33:25; and I thought this comment was very just. For the promise to Asher is generally applied to present spiritual strength under trial. But that's a mistake. It evidently, like the whole of the chapter, anticipates milliennial days, as our dear child understood it. And I felt that what he meant by the sandals was this — that all here being a sandy foundation, slight shoes would do for it. We all remark with what accuracy he uses Scripture.
We now move him occasionally on the stretcher where I lie at night. As I sat beside him just now, he complained a little of his pains. I said he had pleasures to speak of also. This was urging him too far, and not considerate enough of his weakness. He resented it a little, and spoke impatiently. Then he wept and said, "I was strong, Pappy, and excited some time ago; but now, all is weakness, with His bosom to rest on a gentler one than yours." Dear, dear child! his Pappy may well be humbled by his faith, and suffer this rebuke at his hands. It was grateful. The last are first, and the first last.
He is feeling his weakness deeply; but he slumbers a good deal, which is a mercy. "The shell is nearly gone, Pappy", he has just said to me; "it would be delightful to me to slumber into heaven; but I suppose that would not be right."
Thus you may judge of his present path. All wandering or excitement is over. Weakness is the condition now. Various, as well as tedious and severe, has been his suffering course from childhood. But, in riches of grace, the Lord is bearing him away, as another quickened sinner who has learned that there is no song in heaven but that which celebrates the conquests of the Lamb. May we walk more singly before Him!
BATH, March 19th.
We are evidently passing through the last watch of the night with our darling child. But I wonder at the energy of his mind under such a condition of body. Little E. Farley still comes in the morning to say his hymn and his texts; and a nephew of the lady of the house, doing some little kindness for him, he desired to see him when he next called. The interview has just taken place. He thanked him, begged him to accept a penknife and a book, and then expressed a hope that when he came to lie on such a bed of weakness and weariness, he would be given to know the same peace through the same Jesus.
It was beautiful, indeed, dear -.
BATH, March 22nd.
Our darling child is still, as we might expect, wasting. The face is gathering a dark hue. About five o'clock this morning, he asked me to sit down beside him. I left my stretcher, and did so. He then asked me to tell him what state his body was in; for he said he did not understand it. I told him that Mr. G. said his system was in such a condition that it received no nourishment from what he ate, and that he was gradually sinking. He then enquired how long that could go on. I said, not long. He then said, "I would it were so, Pappy, that I were going; but none but Himself can persuade me, but that we shall all go together."* He then said, looking upward, "Jesus, Jesus!"
*This he said in reference to 1 Thess. 4:16-18; for all through this last stage of his illness, he had much referred to the hope of the Lord's speedy taking of the saints.
I was then struck by another characteristic expression of his mind. "What would it be, darling," I said to him, "if you had not at such a time as this fled to Jesus?" He was immediately moved at the suggestion of such a possibility, and told me not to speak of such a thing to him. So stable and perfect is his peace and assurance under all conditions. It seems to me that his soul does not understand doubt, or difficulty, as to his title with the Lord.
After breakfast time, after we had moved him on the stretcher, again asking how long it was thought he might still linger, he added, "I would not say it for the world, but it does seem to me to be scarcely fair of the Lord to keep me here so long." But afterwards, with much decision of manner, he owned the great patience of the Lord with him, and desired patience in return, though longing to be delivered; and through the day he has been in a calm, loving frame of mind. As we were sitting by him, squeezing an orange, one of us observed, it needed a long pull to get out the sweet. He then said, "I have had a long pull, and I have not got the sweet yet." Aunt R. observed, "You have had darling, the sweet of His presence." "Yes, Aunt Bessy," he answered, "and in the same way in which I shall have it for ever," looking upward, as though his whole soul owned what he was saying; and then, after a little pause, he added, "and I have had also the sweet of the love of you all; but I mean, I have not had the sweet yet."
Well may we bless Him who thus, by the virtue of His Cross, triumphs in a poor worm over death, and sin, and the accuser, the thorns of the way, and the feebleness of flesh and blood. It will, however, be another scene to us without our child.
BATH, March 23rd.
He holds out; and Mr. G. is surprised. Last evening and again this morning, he summoned us to prayer around his bed; and told me to pray for all his old companions. A love for souls has given much character to the exercises of his mind of late.
Friday. — He is again much exhausted, but quiet, patient, and loving, All our attendance on him only binds him the closer to us.
"Jesus, Lover of my soul,
Let me to Thy bosom fly,"
he uttered last night; and this morning has been again glad at the mention of his departure, but in a way as if he still looked for the rapture of all into the air together.
May our hearts find their relief in Jesus, for I feel indeed that they are passing through a sore wounding.
BATH, March 27.
MY DEAR -, — Our watchings are ended — our dear child sleeps in Jesus.
After my last, the general state of his poor frame was that of increased distress.
On Saturday evening he again gathered us round his bed, and made me read a little. He then begged us to sing the evening hymn. We did so, and he made an effort to join, and gave out the first line of the Doxology at the end. During the night, in great gentleness and sweetness, he yielded himself to all that I had to do for the case or relief of his poor sinking, withering body. Soon after breakfast yesterday morning we moved him to the stretcher; but all told us that we had nearly reached the moment of separation. He strongly conveyed a wish that I should go to the meeting-room; and in simple consent to him, my dear, dear child, much against my desire, I went. And through the tender mercy of my God, on my return, I found him much as I had left him; dear Mary, Aunt R., and Mary P. had remained with him. It was then a little after one. At 2 o'clock we left Mary P. alone with him, and came down to dinner. Aunt R. left the room in about half-an-hour, but had not reached him one minute, ere a knocking with her foot summoned us upstairs. I ran first; and was just in time to see a convulsed action of his eyes, which, together with a flushing in the face, had been noticed by Aunt R. almost immediately upon her seating herself beside him.
We sent over to Dunsford-place for our dear people there; and in a few minutes we were all around him, dear Mamma and I, Aunt R., Aunts Bessy, Elise, and Charlotte, Letty, Augusta, Isabella, and Mary P. There we watched our loved and cherished child in silence. In about half-an-hour he was able to utter a word or two, and told us to lift him up. We did so, and this seemed to relieve him; for soon afterwards he opened his eyes, and with intelligence and affection, and an expression full of peace, he looked round upon us all. Very soon, however, he closed his eyes again, and then uttered the word "pain;" as if some sudden distress had just passed over the poor enfeebled frame. But it was only for a moment. He then lay still again, with gently interrupted breathing. And after some short interval, his eyes remaining closed, he said, "Just gone home." The breathing continued interrupted but not painful; and again he opened his eyes. Seeing his mamma on his right, with the tenderest, most loving expression he looked on her, and said "Mamma"; then turning to the left, and looking on me with the same expression, he said "Papa." These were his last words. He lay breathing with a slight effort, and a convulsive action of the mouth, which, however, did not appear to be painful, till a quarter before four o'clock; and then the last breath was drawn.
Every desire has been answered, dear —,-. Our souls approve the way of the divine love and wisdom from first to last. When our darling was in a more rapturous state of soul, about a month since, I had a desire that in such a state we might be summoned to close his eyes. But it has been otherwise and better. He lived to pass through many changes since then. But amid them all his peace has been unmoved. Nothing has for a single moment affected his full assurance of faith. Nor has the confidence of his soul for a single moment rested on anything but the sufficiency of Jesus.
What shall we render to the Lord when we can thus speak? I believe there could not have been a faith more true to the simple, unaided, all-sufficient redemption that is in Christ Jesus, and his soul gathered the fruit of it in full peace and certainty of heart. A poor, sore, and wounded body he carried about with him for years; but for six bright months an unwounded spirit, which went on its way in the light of the Lord, unclouded by a doubt or fear, but shining brighter and brighter. And all this just because he believed the precious record, that God had appointed redemption, and Jesus had accomplished it.
Blessed, blessed God! the desire of my eyes has been withdrawn from them; and almost the fondest object of my heart (the thought of whom for many, many years was scarcely a stranger to me for a waking hour) is gone from the midst of us. But God's election of him has, as I need not now repeat, been made most sure to me. Since "that dear and blessed day," August 15, this has been my joy concerning him.*
*I might have mentioned that some little time before this he desired that his love might be sent to a Roman Catholic servant, who was very fond of him, and whom he much loved, with this message: "Tell him, if he think I need anything else, he must conclude that I am going to be lost, for I have no confidence but in Christ only."
Blessed be the God and Father of our only Saviour Jesus, our Father in Him! May He speedily make up the number of His elect, that my darling child, with all His dear and foreknown ones, may be caught up together in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air!
BATH, March 29.
MY DEAR — , - I need not tell you that it is our sweetest occupation to talk of him; next, I trust to the being alone with Him who has put the theme into our lips. Eliza has just told us, that a few nights before his last he said to her, "Good-night, dear Aunt, if the little chariot do not come for me before the morning."
My dear, dear Johnny! round his Pappy's heart, how closely he had got, that bereaved heart increasingly feels! But it is more than well.
Ever yours, dear -.
Here the letters end.
On the 31st we conveyed the remains to the little churchyard of S. A., in a distant part of the county, where the bodies of some of our near kindred lie (as we know because of their faith in Christ) in hope of resurrection; dear G., so loved and honoured by this cherished child, committing to the earth this fresh "handful of sacred dust." Since then I have had a small tablet put up with this inscription:
PEACE IN JESUS.
ONLY AND MUCH LOVED SON
HE DIED ON MARCH 26, 1848, AGED 19,
IN PEACEFUL AND BLESSED ASSURANCE
OF ETERNAL LIFE THROUGH THE
REDEMPTION THAT IS IN
Conclusion. REFLECTIONS AND EXPERIENCES.
The soul ought not to need it; but still it is conscious that what has happened in the midst of us has given a fresh sense of oneness with the Lord. The thought that one who had been my object for so many years is now in His company as His object, tells me that there is another link between the heart and heaven. One whom I so lately appropriated here, my Lord now appropriates in Paradise. In circumstances I am thus nearer to Him; and He is of a mind to have it so. The unjealous love of the blessed Lord allows this.
And this has been much prized by me lately. The Lord warrants our finding mere circumstances a help to our hearts, even in those cases in which He might have said to us, that He Himself was all-sufficient. He is a jealous God, I know, and will not allow us to have any other. He is a jealous Saviour, I also know, and will not allow us to have any other. But, in a great sense, He is not a jealous Friend. He allows other connections and affections to move our hearts as well as Himself. When Paul saw the brethren he took courage. (Acts 28:15.) Did the Lord resent this? Did He rebuke Paul's experience at that moment as though it had done wrong to Him? Did He tell him that he had His presence before, and that that ought to have been enough for him? No. He warranted His servant thus finding refreshment in the countenance and companionship of brethren. And so to this hour, He is well pleased and only well pleased when our poor hearts are open to like influences.
"It was but a little question between my Lord and me," said a Christian woman to a friend sympathizing with her in the loss of three little ones, "it was but a little question between my Lord and me, which of us should have the care of the children."
Yes, He allows all this, and more than allows it. Prayer too, and the sweetness of being alone with Him, are more to the soul than ever. And this He also warrants, He gives our hearts liberty to determine the character of our communion with Him. Let it be, He says, according to your condition. "Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing Psalms." This is not the way, of a master, or a patron. The patron's pleasure or humour must give colour to the scene around him. It was dangerous to sully the presence of the Persian King with sadness. There was danger of death if one had a heavy countenance there (Nehemiah 1, 2). But God's presence gives play to the heart and its conditions, whatever they be. If "such and such things have happened to us," we need not eat the sacrifices. If we be in a strange land, the harp of God may be hung by our hand, which should have awakened it, on the willows. "Is any afflicted? let him pray."
I have felt the grace of such a word as this. It indulges nature, and makes affliction welcome in the sanctuary. The full acceptableness of our communion with our Lord is not for a moment to be questioned, because the affections of nature are giving it its character.
Looking on my dear child as converted during his last illness, supposing there were no symptom of a quickened state in earlier days, yet, how truly may we say, what a common case is this! How often, times without number, has the Lord been sought and found in the day of nature's weakness; when, perhaps, other objects could not have been sought, or, if sought, would not have been found! But He puts up with such treatment. He consents to be used as a last resort. And whether it be to show this excellent way of His grace, I will not say; but so it is, that a goodly number of the redeemed will have to say, "Before I was afflicted I went astray." Further, however, in the Lord's dealing with my precious child, I notice the decisiveness and strength of the operation. In early days, he had betrayed the workings of an unbelieving spirit. And so recently as during our stay at Ventnor, on asking him if he did not own the need of being born again, he answered that he did, "when he was disposed to own or believe anything." But after his election of God was made manifest to me, I never for a moment saw the trace of an infidel mind in him, no more than if there never had been such a spirit in himself or in any one at all. The truth of scripture was the full unquestioned conclusion and possession of his understanding and his faith. All its mysteries were delighted in by him; and their moral character and bearing were spiritually manifested to him. The persons of the Godhead, the election of the Father, the work of Christ, the indwelling of the Spirit, the covenant relations and actings of each in the salvation of sinners, the perfectness and sovereignty of grace, together with the calling of the Church, and the coming days of millennial glory — none of these ever raised a question in his soul. With great decision did the Spirit lead him from nature's uncertainty into the clear and steady light of faith.
I would specially bless the Lord for this. My darling boy had a mind formed for some of the deepest enjoyments of what was refined and tasteful. But, as he used it for years, it was a lust, "the lust of the mind." And its liberty and exercise had induced many a misgiving within; not, however, of conscience as to his condition before God, but as to the verity of the divine revelation. But against all this, the Spirit lifted up a standard. And after his conversion not the faintest soil of such a mind was to be detected in him. Every trace of it was gone. The strength of the operation of God in his soul appeared also in the assurance of his faith, or his constant settled peace of conscience. It was perfect. It was no mere hope — with him, or conflict of uncertainties. He never wronged his Saviour by any doubts or fears; but rested in the perfection of His work, and in the certainty of His grace and purpose, in giving him, a poor sinner, all the fruit of it.
In these ways the operation of God in him was sweetly manifested and magnified. But nature had not done with him. I cannot speak, as is common in these little histories, of the patience he exercised in his sufferings. No. Through the progress and stages of this illness there was the betraying of an impatience beyond, I may say, what I had ever witnessed. Occasional irritabilities of temper were deeply painful to us all. Certain seasons, as when the poor wounded arm was dressing, specially produced them.*
*Some comforted us, as I said in one of the letters, by saying that these irritations were almost incidental to the disease; rather to be interpreted as something physical than moral. It may be so. But I speak of the fact simply, remembering too, with shame and sorrow, the way in which I often rebuked this impatience.
But I may add, the kingdom of God in him was not disturbed by all this. Will that be admitted? Am I too bold in thus speaking? I think I witnessed this in my dear and suffering child. These occasional bursts of impatience never brought a cloud over the sunshine of his conscience before God. When told of them, if, with tenderness and consideration, he would own them and lament them; but if reminded of them in order to awaken uneasiness, he would resent.
The recollection of him is one of great delight to me, as a witness of the way of God with the soul. And in that recollection (vivid as it will be, I doubt not, for the rest of my days) what a companion for my journey onward has my God given me! But the loss of his presence and his voice is what the like trial alone can teach any to understand. Nothing remains to our hearts now of this joy from our child, but "the echo of it in memory's land." But I ask myself, what is the comfort that I desire to enjoy under this? I believe I can somewhat feel that it is this — that my heavenly Father still enjoys that cry of conscious adoption from my lips, as from thousands beside. Our God delights to have His house and His ear filled with the living witness that it is children who are under His roof and at His side.
Was not God's hand known in giving Job a family at the beginning? Was not the same hand seen in taking them away as with a stroke? And was not the same hand still traced in giving him another family, and in making his latter end better than his beginning? And so in our little history. It was the Lord who gave us our child some twenty years ago; it was His hand that lately took him from the midst of us; and it was the precious power of His Spirit that has left with us the remembrance of such a work in his soul, as in a great sense make our latter end, as parents, better than our beginning.
And I have learned with a fresh witness how dear to the Lord is a spirit of entire dependence. For there is nothing in the recollections of my child which so affects me as his state of dependence upon me, and the freedom with which at all times he used me. He wanted me by night and by day. He wanted me to do the smallest and meanest services for him. His helplessness, from the loss of one arm and the disease of the other, was such that I was as a nail or a finger to him, as well as an arm or a hand. But let the service be as trivial or as menial as it could be, he knew his heartiest welcome to it; and without apology used it at all times.
There is nothing to my heart like the recollection of this. I am sure that I can say that. It teaches me afresh to think of my Heavenly Father. How sure am I at this moment that nothing in His saints is more acceptable with Him than this same ready and confiding use of Him. The recollection that my child needed me in all things, and used me in all things, is the sweetest and tenderest possession of my heart. And if we that are evil understand these affections and joys, how much more our Heavenly Father! Our services are due to our Divine Master, were they immeasurable in their devotedness and zeal, and acceptable with Him they are. But they are not to His heart what our confidence and use of Him is. To rest in His everlasting, personal love is the highest joy we can afford Him. To know that if He were suddenly to awake in the majesty and strength of His revealed glories, to find us by faith assuming the nearest place to Him, would be the occasion of His most prized dignity and joy in the midst of it all.
His love needs no watching from us. It will be faithful to us while we are asleep. It will wait on us when we neither cry for it, nor labour for it. Jesus intercedes for us, as another once said, not when we ask Him, but when we need Him. We may trust every motion, every word, every purpose behind our back, as it were, or within the veil of the heavens.
I was sitting the other day in a large assembly, where a sense of duty and not choice had taken me; and looking round upon it, I felt, in some measure, the pain of being a stranger, exposed, it might be, to notice and enquiry. My thoughts soon turned to my loved and deeply-remembered child; and I fancied I saw him enter the room, and like myself suffer under the uneasiness of beholding a large unknown assembly. But then, following my fancy, I thought of his suddenly turning his eye on me, and at once, without asking leave, taking part of my chair, and using my side as a shelter from all that was paining and disturbing him; and finding there more than a shelter, a loophole and calm retreat, from whence to look on the scene rather with delight than with painful amazement.
This parable was very sweet to my mind. It told me that such was the side of my Lord to me, and that such it would be to me, though the bright assemblage of unknown glories were all to open on my view in a moment. This was happy; but from this parable I drew more.
I concluded how important I and my confidence were to my Lord, if He and His presence were thus important to to me. Because I was assured that, in the case assumed, my child was imparting more to me than I was to him. He was finding a shelter at my side; and in an instant a strange place, full of painful surprise to him, became more than a mere home to him. He was at ease, and I alone had made him so. This was my value to him. But then he was using my side and my presence without asking, or even thinking of asking, my leave, and this confidence, I was assured, made me far happier than my presence and shelter made him. And this was his value to me.
Did I not taste that it was more blessed to give than to receive? Did I not rejoice with joy of a higher order? How was the value and sufficiency of my presence set off under my own eye? I was everything, as I saw in my fancy, to my startled child; and he took everything at my hand without reserve or question. What value was he in all this to the purest happiness of my heart! And in the parable, I am the same to the Lord in whom I trust. I claim anchorage at His side in full conscious safety; let the scene around, or without, be what it may. It may be altogether strange to me; but that is nothing. It may have splendours to dazzle me with, and even terrors and judgments to alarm; His side is enough for me. But all the while He is in a wealthier place than I am, and sits at a richer feast. For, "it is more blessed to give than to receive."
My fond thoughts turning thus to my dear departed child, have led my heart this way for a little moment; and Jesus, "my sweet retreat," has thus been reached through the musings of natural affections.
I have observed that in earlier days Scripture suggested subjects to our child for the exercise of his mind and taste. We have many things of such a character in his own handwriting; but I will give only the following as an instance of what I mean. It was written hastily after returning from our meeting-room one Sunday, when perhaps he was fourteen years old, and when the subject had been spoken on.
The Cloudy Pillar.
Ye wilds and desert glens, upraise your heads!
Thou barren mountain, bend thy clouded brow,
See where Jehovah favour'd Israel leads;—
In grandeur stalks the wilderness below.
Disperse, ye clouds! depart, thou misty rain!
Let Sinai see its Maker walk with men.
Behold how nature owns Him and obeys,
Prepares His path, makes straight the crooked ways.
And who shall dare that Israel to offend,
Whose God declares Himself their prince and friend?
His promise still He pledges every morn,
And proves His love at every eve's return.
But lo! the sun His hand has form'd doth set,
And sinks in splendour in the gorgeous west.
Lo! at his rays each desert golden glows;
On Sinai's heights his glorious beams he throws.
The night comes on — the wearied creatures rest.
Is it the light still glimmering in the west
That tints the pillar with a brilliant flame
While Israel blesses his great guardian's name?
No! glorious cloud! no borrower art thou,
No base reflector of another's glow;
'Tis thine own glory giving Israel light,
And they, adoring, bless thee for the sight.
Still lead them onward, cloud of promise, lead
To Jordan's fruitful banks and Canaan's mead.
There is a knowledge of God's ways and purposes conveyed through some other lines, as well as the expression of just religious sentiment. But, as I have noticed in earlier days we had also occasional evidence of this, that the Lord was graciously interfering with the easy current of his life, and giving him a sense of uneasiness and dissatisfaction. This is confirmed by some little manuscripts he has left behind him.
I cannot but judge, that if we had had more spiritual energy, we might have ripened the manifestation of the kingdom in him long before. A larger measure of power in addressing the conscience would have led to the confession of sin, and through that to the peace which he afterwards so richly enjoyed. But we failed. The work was too great for the grace and power in which we were walking. The manifestation of his election had to wait for other ministry. We are humbled, but the purpose of grace stands and is accomplished. The Lord is glorified in the end and in the means, and another poor sinner, redeemed from destruction, has been crowned with loving-kindness and tender mercies. Our own child, whose memory will live in our hearts while there is a pulse there, is enrolled for that company that is both to enjoy and reflect the glory of the Lamb for ever and ever.
The heart is deeply bereaved. But it is also borne a little upward and onward. The tenderest affections are wounded. But faith and hope are fed. "The eye of him that hath seen me shall see me no more" — "neither shall his place any more behold him." But why make we this ado and weep? our child is not dead but sleepeth. "In the morning he shall have dominion among the upright," and till then his spirit is received of Jesus the Lord. "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."