« PreviousContinue »
he had nursed most affectionately for several months previous to that event; and as we stood by the shrouded corpse, he gave me an account of the reluctance with which his brother had seemed to part with life, and the little desire with which he apparently looked forward to a future world of blessedness. The evidences, indeed, of this brother's piety had been clear and uniform ; so that his state was not to be judged of by what he said, or did not say, towards the last. Much allowance, also, was to be made for the extremely shy and shrinking nature of his brother Samuel ; and his wish to live was doubtless augmented by the wish to be useful. Probably, on the whole, he had not sufficiently learned the hardest of all lessons, to SUFFER the will of God. Cornelius, who, it appears, was then wavering in a kind of religious scepticism, was perhaps desirous of being roused by the sight of glorious evidences of a triumphant departure ; so that this reluctant giving up of the ghost was to him very painful. His spirits were very much lowered at it.* Then afterwards followed the death of his eldest brother. His only sister died little more than a year before him. His own composure, as death drew on towards himself,—first by distant approaches, and then by steps more evident, though still slow,-must be attributed mainly to the singular clearness with which he was enabled to see his interest in the Saviour, and to that strong appropriating faith by which he apprehended every part of his Redeemer's perfect work. - But he had also seen, in instances before him, how, so to speak, the family-constitution could meet death ; how their bodily frame and their mental temperament were affected by the last scene.
* In a letter to his friend Grinfield, written at that time, his feelings are very naturally described by himself, and a few particulars mentioned relative to the painful event. He writes—“My poor brother died in great agony of body, and in considerable doubt and despondency of mind. This [doubt], however, I am persuaded, could communicate itself to none who knew him, and the blamelessness and spirituality of his life and conversation. I certainly can think no worse of the man who feels an awe and a shuddering, when about to enter into the immediate presence of his God. Even after he was acquainted with the full extent of his danger, he cherished, I believe, a silent hope of recovery.
In this respect probably he had learned from his seniors, that went before him, more than he was himself aware of.
" He died,
In which chief study he had possessed the advantages of many premonitions, and a greater number of intimate examples, than the generality of Christians enjoy.
9. Concerning THE MORE OR LESS FAULTY SHADES OF CHARACTER in my friend, as I was not very often with him during the last eight years of his life, when his mind was properly
He even then asked with eagerness, if a voyage could not save him. On the evening before he ied, he asked me, when the doctor was gone, if he could do nothing for him. I said, I was afraid not. Then I must die,' he said, 'I cannot live the night out.' And he did not."
matured, there is so much the less for me to offer. Yet, as a biographical sketch is incomplete in its instructive tendency without some such notice, this, therefore, though with a reluctant hand, I shall attempt. He was by nature too retiring, and disinclined to the rough business of life. While at College, he wisely enough preferred the company of the few to large and general acquaintance; yet there followed this consequence, that, in his later years, although gifted with the power of pleasing in no slight degree where he was perfectly at ease, he yet felt it extremely irksome to engage in promiscuous conversation. Neither, when the powerful motive of religion had gained its influence on his mind, did he feel himself impelled to use (so it has been represented to me) even sufficient exertion to make his general intercourse with society prominently useful. He was himself aware of this defect, as appears by the following extract from a letter to Mr. Grinfield, of the date April 27th 1821, in which he laments it; yet cheering himself with the hope of correcting it.
I find,” he writes, “a great difficulty in what you truly speak of as so desirable, religious conversation; not in religious talk, but in conversation at once easy, rational, and heavenly. This, indeed, seems to me a peculiar, but a most desirable talent, and one surely, like every other, improveable.” The principle of grace did, however, coerce and subdue one constitutional evil of his character. He was by nature quick and sharp-spoken; but, after the great change, he
was observed to be very considerate in this respect, especially towards domestics, and those in any way under his command or influence. Perhaps his chief fault (such, at least, it has appeared to some) was impatience, as manifested in his seeking public duty too soon after his first illness, and not sufficiently husbanding his strength while thus engaged. But this is a point in which invalids, endued with a devoted mind, are peculiarly liable to commit error.
Where a tender and conscientious spirit on the one hand, and real bodily weakness on the other, concur in rendering the line of duty doubtful, and the problem lies between the seeming opposites of, too little for conscience, and too much for health, it is not surprising that the exact middle course should not be discerned and held ; especially, as was here the case, by one agonized with the thought that so much of his time had run to waste. But with an error of this kind who would not prefer to deal gently ? Even as S. Paul does with the case of Epaphroditus, whom he commends, without a single censure, to the love and care of the Philippian church, bidding them hold such in reputation : because for the work of the Lord he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life. Philippians ii. 29, 30.
Since, however, all have some deficiency, this, to the honour of his memory, is to be noticed ; that during the very short period that he was spared to his friends and to the church, he did not disparage his Christian profession by any extravagancy in opinions, or by any inconsistency in conduct. He kept the good old way. He walked humbly with his God; he loved the brotherhood with a pure heart, fervently, and his neighbour as himself; he pretended to nothing extraordinary; his moderation while living, and his peace in death, were fitly allied together.
10. THE MYSTERIOUS WISDOM OF GOD, in the early removal of his servant, is to be viewed with humble and adoring thoughts. He was taken away when his usefulness was tending towards maturity, and when his presence in this life appeared to be most likely to be needed. Some glimpses we may catch of the mercy designed by such a dispensation; but, without faith, it is very dark to us. To his friends, it seemed that, had life been spared, he bid fair for distinguished excellence in several departments of useful influence. Besides the exemplary assiduity, tenderness, and intelligence, with which he was discharging the various claims of conjugal, parental, and domestic life; he had also distinctly chosen his path for relative duties of a more general nature, and consistently maintained his walk in that path. To the public life of the religious world he had not given himself: perhaps he shrunk from such a course. Not that he was sparing of labour, or indulgent to self; but his
inclined to a sphere in which he might rather be the master of his own plans. There is an inevitable consumption of time, and there is a requisite bending of daily habits to the ever-varying circumstances and feelings of others, both of which are inseparable from public life: this