Page images
PDF
EPUB

in a few paces of the gate of futurity. He felt no joy, his mind was dark and his soul clouded. His exercises were painful, and the opposite of every enjoyment. He was not dying. He recovered. He had not been in the death-stream. After this he was taken again. He believed himself dying, and he was not mistaken. All was peace, serenity, hope, triumph.

2. There was a man who mocked at holy things. He became seriously diseased, and supposed himself sinking into the death slumber. He was not frightened. His fortitude and composure were his pride, and the boast of his friends. The undaunted firmness with which he could enter futurity was spoken of exultingly. It was a mistake. He was not in the condition of dissolution. His soul never had been on the line between two worlds. After this he was taken ill again. He supposed as before that he was entering the next state, and he really was;

but his soul seemed to feel a different atmosphere. The horrors of these scenes have been often described, and are often seen. I need not endeavour to picture such a departure here. The only difficulty in which I was thrown by such cases was, Why was he not thus agonized when he thought himself departing? Can it be possible that we can stand so precisely on the divid. ing line, that the gale from both this and the coming world may blow upon our cheek? Can we have a taste of the exercises of the next territory before we enter it?” When I attempted to account for this on the simple ground of bravery and cowardice, I was met by the two following facts.

First, I have known those (the cases are not unfrequent,) who were brave, who had stood unflinching in battle's whirlpool. They had resolved never to disgrace

66

their system of unbelief by a trembling death. They had called to Christians in the tone of resolve, saying, w I can die as coolly as you can.'

." I had seen those die from whom entire firmness might fairly be expected. I had heard groans, even if the teeth were clenched for fear of complaint, such as I never wish to hear again; and I had looked into countenances, such as I hope never to see again.

Again, I had seen cowards die. I had seen those de. part who were naturally timid, who expected themselves to meet death with fright and alarm. I had heard such as it were, sing before Jordan was half forded. I had seen faces where, pallid as they were, I beheld more ce. lestial triumph than I had ever witnessed any where else. In that voice there was a sweetness, and in that eye there was a glory, which I never could have fancied in the death-spasms, If I had not been near.

CHAPTER LIX.

THE SUBJECT CONTINUED.

The condition of the soul, when the death-stream is entered, is not the same with that which it becomes (oftentimes) when it is almost passed. The brave man who steps upon the ladder across the dark ravine, with eye undaunted and haughty spirit, changes fearfully, in many cases, when he comes near enough to the curtain

lift it. The Christian who goes down the ladder, pale and disconsolate, oftentimes starts with exultation and tries to burst into a song when almost across.

Case of Illustration --A revolutionary officer, wound. ed at the battle of Germantown, was praised for his pa. triotism. The war ended, but he continued still to fight, in a different way, under the banner of one whom he called the Captain of his salvation. The applause of men never made him too proud to talk of the Man of Calvary. The hurry of life's driving pursuits could not consume all his time, or make him forget to kneel by the side of his consort, in the circle of his children, and anticipate a happy meeting in a more quiet clime.

To abbreviate this history, his life was such that these who knew him believed, if any one ever did die happily, this man would be one of that class. I saw him when the time arrived. He said to those around him, “I am not as happy as I could wish, or as I had expected. I cannot say that I distrust my Saviour, for I know in whom I have believed; but I have not that pleasing readiness to depart which I had looked for." This distressed his relatives beyond expression. His friends were greatly pained, for they had looked for triumph. His departure was very slow, and still his language was, “ I have no exhilaration and delightful readiness in my travel.” The weeping circle pressed around him. Another hour passed. His hands and his feet became entirely cold. The feeling of heart remained the same. Another hour passes, and his vision has grown dim, but the state of his soul is unchanged. His daughter seemed as though her body could not sus. tain her anguish of spirit, if her father should cross the valley before the cloud passed from his sun.

She (before his hearing vanished) made an agreement with him, that at any stage as he travelled on, if he had a discov. ery of advancing glory, or a foretaste of heavenly

delight, he should give her a certain token with nis hand: his hands he could still move, cold as they were. She sat holding his hand hour after hour. In addition to his sight, his hearing at length failed. After a time he appeared almost unconscious of any thing, and the obstructed breathing peculiar to death was advanced near its termination, when he gave the token to his pale, but now joyous daughter; and the expressive flash of exul. tation was seen to spread itself through the stiffening muscles of his face. When his child asked him to give a signal if he had any happy view of heavenly light, with the feelings and opinions I once owned, I could have asked, “Do you suppose that the increase of the death-chill will add to his happiness? Are you to expect, that as his eyesight leaves, and as his hearing becomes confused, and his breathing convulsed, and as he sinks into that cold, fainting, sickening condition of pallid death, that his exultation is to commence ?"

It did then commence. Then is the time when ma. ny who enter the dark valley cheerless, begin to see something that transports ; but some are too low to tell of it, and their friends think they departed under a cloud, when they really did not. It is at this stage of the journey that the enemy of God, who started with look of defiance and words of pride, seems to meet with that which alters his views and expectations, but he cannot tell it, for his tongue can no longer move.

Those who inquire after, and read the death of the wife of the celebrated John Newton, will find a very plain and very interesting instance where the Saviour seemed to meet with a smiling countenance his dying servant, when she had advanced too far to call back to her sorrowful friends, and tell them of the pleasing news.

CHAPTER LX.

THE SUBJECT CONTINUED.

My attention was awakened very much by observing the dying fancies of the servants of this world, differing with such characteristic singularity from the fancies of the departing Christian. It is no uncommon thing for those who die to believe they see, or hear, or feel, that which appears only fancy to by-standers. Their friends believe that it is the overturning of their intellect. I am not about to enter into the discussion of the question, whether it is, or is not, always fancy. Some attribute it to more than fancy; but inasmuch as in many instances the mind is deranged whilst its habitation is falling into ruins around it; and inasmuch as it is the common belief that it is only imagination of which I am writing, we will look at it under the name of fancy.

The fanciful views of the dying servants of sin, and the devoted friends of Christ, were strangely different as far as my observation extended. One who had been an entire sensualist and a mocker at religion, whilst dying, appeared in his senses in all but one thing. “ Take that black man from the room,” said he. He was an. swered that there was none in the room.

He replied, “ There he is standing near the window. His presence is very irksome to me, take him out.” After a time, again and again, his call was, “Will no one remove him? There he is, surely some one will take him

away !”

I was mentioning to another physician my surprise that he should have been so much distressed if there

« PreviousContinue »