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"COMFORT YE, COMFORT YE MY PEOPLE, SAITH YOUR GOD."
* ENDEAVOURING TO KEEP THE UNITY OF THE SPIRIT IN THE BOND OF PEACE" "JESUS CHRIST, THE SAME YESTERDAY, AND TO-DAY, AND FOR EVER." " WHOM TO KNOW IS LIFE ETERNAL
OR, WORDS OF SPIRITUAL CAUTION, COUNSEL, AND COMFORT. “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any
trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God."-2 Cor, i. 4.
“ FOR EVER WITH THE LORD;" THE DYING EXPERIENCE OF MRS. D. A. DOUDNEY, WHO DEPARTED THIS
LIFE DEC. 7TH, 1867, AGED 57 YEARS. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”—Ps.cxvi. 15. MY DEAR READERS,-Seeing, as Job says, that “the thing I greatly feared is come upon me," I have no doubt that you can better imagine than I describe the feelings with which I once more take up my pen to address you. Still I feel that a solemn duty-yea, in one rich and precious sense, a holy and blessed privilege-devolves upon me; and, therefore, I pray that the Holy Ghost may kindly and graciously strengthen and qualify me for what I am about to undertake.
You remember that, in a recent paper, I expressed my gratitude to our God that the affliction with which He saw fit to try me was confined to the foot. I had still the use of the pen, and, through its means, I found no small measure of relief. When, however, the stringent means used to reduce the inflammation under which the foot was suffering wholly incapacitated me for any mental effort whatever, my trial became tenfold greater. I dare not dwell upon this, save only to say that, for a season, as with Abraham of old, a horror of great darkness fell upon me;" or, with the disciples, “it was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.” I cannot, nor will I attempt to, describe what for an hour or so I passed through during this season, when I felt as though passing into eternity, and Jesus was out of sight. I could not find my God at hand. The foundation, in so far as I was permitted to realize it, was (according to present feeling and apprehension) struck away. It was a time of “strong crying and tears indeed. But (thanks to the Lord) it did not last long; and, although deprived of the sweet privilege and power of either reading or even being able to hear read the precious word for some days, yet the Holy Ghost did, in the most blessed way, bring portion after portion--yea,
almost chapter after chapter-to my remembrance, in a way and to an extent that I never before realized.
The first portion was almost the entire of that blessed 38th of Isaiah, where Hezekiah “ turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the Lord.” His experience was precisely mine. I could not feel that my work was done. I was not as yet able to say, with good old Simeon, “Now, Lord, lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace.” I had an intense desire to be raised up again, that I might once more proclaim His faithfulness, love, and power, in a way and to an extent that I felt I had never as yet done. Oh, how I longed for the sanctuary ! how I yearned for the pulpit! Beyond expression I envied those who were ministering, in my dear Lord and Master's name, their holy, sacred privilege. Oh, how I felt that I had never estimated it as it had behoved me!-no, not by comparison in the smallest degree ; and, as for health, oh, how verily guilty I felt myself in not having more appreciated it! I envied the very labourer, as, when at length able to leave my bed and recline on the sofa, I saw such pass and repass to their employ. And then sleep-oh, how great a boon! But, alas, alas ! previously how little had I valued it as the gift, though so common and continuous, of our God!
It may be said that much of this was physical, and the effect of an undue strain upon the nervous system. Granted. But then we must not lose sight of the intimate connexion between the mental and the physical, and that what our God intends to be a trial shall be a trial, arise it from whatever secondary source or cause it may. All is under His direct appointment and control.
But, whatever other effect these exercises may have produced, they have left at least this, an intense sympathy for sufferers. Oh, I think, beloved, I can feel now to an extent I never felt before for those who are tossed upon the beds of languishing, who of an evening exclaim, “ Would God it were morning !”. or of a morning say, “ Would that it were evening !” Poor dear sufferers ! the Lord in mercy help and strengthen and deliver such! and may He also possess His own dear children especially with a deeper sense of the debt of gratitude they owe to Him for daily, momentary mercies !
I have often said—and I am now more than ever convinced of the fact—that the trial of circumstances, or, in other words, the so-called limited means, with which most of the Lord's people are called to contend, is the very least trial they can have. There are sorrows and sufferings, troubles and temptations, which, by comparison, are tenfold keener and more difficult to bear. I know this may be disputed by many honest-hearted ones, labouring for the bread that perisheth, and called, it may be in a way of business, to compete with unprincipled men, who, having no fear of God before their eyes, can lend themselves without scruple or remorse to the basest of practices. But, ah! with all their difficulty, and that prosperity on the part of wicked men of which the psalmist speaks, in the 73rd Psalm, there is, notwithstanding, “a deep that lieth under”-there is “the answer of a good
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conscience." There is the secret, earnest heart-appeal to God as to His knowing that there is a fervent wish and prayerful effort and desire to live and act as becometh the Gospel of His grace.
Again, we have often remarked with respect to circumstances that they are, by comparison, only, as it were, external-outside-trials. There are trials, afflictions, sorrows of the heart, and these come home. They touch the core! They pierce to the very innermost man! There is no laying aside these—no putting off these till the morrow-no postponing their consideration till the shop is reopened, or the counting house again entered, or the factory-din once more begins. Ah, no : it is a heart-trial—a home-trial-a night as well as a day-trial. It is ever present—always near. There is no changing it, no shifting it, or laying it aside. It is here-here, at the very heart's core ; keen, touching, tender, sensitive to the last degree. Creature aid is a mockery. Human wisdom, human power, human intervention is all, all out of the question. It is a case for God—and God ALONEto bear up under, mercifully to soothe beneath, and, in due time, to deliver from, in such degree and by such means as He alone can devise and accomplish.
For days, dear readers, in my recent illness, I was quite at a loss to know the issue. At times I thought myself in the very article of death. When at length the Lord brought me to a state of almost entire passiveness—a willingness either to live or die, just as it seemed good in His sight-and enabled me to leave all-wife, children, congregation, readers—all, all in His hands, without one anxious thought-then, and not until then, did I feel myself gradually recovering
Ah, little indeed did I then apprehend for what all this was preparing me. Little did I conceive, when telling the Lord if He would but send me refreshing, soothing sleep, and spare me the dreadful sensations I was then labouring under, that He might (His grace enabling me) substitute for it any trial or any privation. It was thus the Lord was “bringing down my heart with labour,” and, by little and little, wisely and lovingly fitting me for what He had in reserve. I see the wisdom and the love and the mercy now; I saw it not then. Oh, never, never did I see how kind and how gracious it is of our God to withhold from us a knowledge of the future, as I see it now. Often and often of late months have I publicly testified, that I never less wished to look into the future than at the then present. Often have I declared my gratitude for that most sweet and appropriate portion, "Take no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." Oh, the goodness and the compassion of our all-wise God in this, as well as in ten thousand other respects! Had I known a short month since, the circumstances under which I now address you, beloved readers, humanly speaking, I should have been crushed in the anticipation; so prone are we to look to the weight and the burden and the anguish, rather than to Him who says, “ My grace
is sufficient for thee;" “ Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days so shall thy strength be.” So powerful is sense, reason, unbelief, in contrast to that little tender germ of faith which the Lord is graciously pleased to bestow according
to our daily necessities, and in connexion with our diversified trials and temptations.
But I pass on. When leaving my bedroom upon crutches, in order to seek a few minutes' change of air and scene in the study, in thus passing from one room to the other, a gentle breeze from an open window wafted itself towards me. I think I shall never forget the effect of that gentle breeze—it was so sweet, so soothing, so reviving. With it came instantaneously an intense desire for my native air—the genial seabreeze of Southsea. I begged my dearest wife to allow me to sit a few minutes longer in the study. Every minute seemed to revive me, whereas, one short half-hour before, I thought I was a dying man. “Pray let me remain," said I. With that she put a light to the already-laid fire, and there I remained the rest of the day. That was Sunday. By the next Sabbath I had so far recovered as to receive my dear friend (Dr. FRYER's) permission to undertake the journey to Southsea the next day. So completely was my mind set upon it, that I could not help remarking, "I hope my heart is not too much set upon Southsea." For years I have felt the force of Dr. Watts' words
“We should suspect some danger nigh,
When we possess delight.” Oh, how often have I felt rebuked upon this very ground, and yet seem as frail and foolish as ever! The Lord pity and pardon one's folly.
Ås I afterwards learned, on that very Sunday, my loved one said, “What should I do without a God, with the prospect I have before me ?" alluding to accompanying me in such a weak and feeble state on a journey of little short of a hundred miles, involving sundry changes. Little did she, or any of us, imagine she was leaving our house for the last time. All were in tears, but (through ignorance of what was in store) not weeping from the real cause. Again I say, oh, what a mercy that we cannot foresee! Painful as the scene was that morning, what would it have been had the real state of things been known? Oh, the wisdom and kindness of our God!“O that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men.” “How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out.”
I dare not dwell. Dear readers, you are already in possession of the fact, that, whilst in conversation about our son in Australia with the kind-hearted medical friend who had been called in, my precious wife was of a sudden seized with apoplexy, and was immediately conveyed upstairs to the bed from which she was, a few days afterwards, to be removed to her last resting-place. It harrows up my feelings too keenly to enter into details. Suffice it, it was a shock that even caused the
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doctor himself to shed tears. He said (notwithstanding his prolonged practice and extensive knowledge) that he never witnessed a similar scene, and would have sooner been twenty miles away than have witnessed that. “Had a house fallen upon him," alluding to myself, he said, “I could not have received a greater shock.” But, oh, the goodness and mercy and power of our God in supporting and sustaining me under that agonizing scene-a scene never, never to be forgotten, but far too keen and
too distressing to be dwelt upon. Wounded-yea, pierced to the very core-as my heart was, I felt and said, “ It would be both selfish and cruel to wish her life to be prolonged in a state of suffering;" and my fervent cry was that, if the Lord did not see fit to restore her, He would be pleased to give her a gentle and a speedy dismissal. But how good the Lord was in by degrees restoring my loved one to intervals of consciousness, during which she was enabled to give the most blessed and triumphant testimony, I shall proceed to state. Such was my knowledge of her character for so many years, that, had not the mercy of which I speak been afforded, I should not have had the shadow of a doubt of her salvation. A beloved brother remarked, “I have never had a doubt about her state for forty years.” He had traced the work of God upon her soul whilst she was yet but a girl ; and, during all that lengthened period, I also had personally witnessed the growth and development of grace.
Before, however, I pass on to record the testimony which my dear departed one was privileged to give, during her last brief illness, I may be permitted to say, touching her character, that it was one of no ordinary kind. I have often remarked, in regard to her longdeceased father, that if I had been asked to bring forward what I deemed a truly-conscientious, high-principled man,
Mr. Durkin would have been the first named. The testimony thus borne to the parent I could as readily and as unequivocally bear to the child. Her integrity, thorough conscientiousness, firedness of purpose, indomitable perseverance, were most remarkable, and truthfulness to the very heart's core. None need fear speaking after her. There was not the veriest semblance of prevarication, misrepresentation, colour, or dissemblance. Her characteristics as a wife, mother, or friend, might be summed up in one word—that word truth. Those who best knew her, will, I am sure, bear me out in this testimony. Writing of her, one who had had ample opportunity of judging, says, “ Hers was a reliable charactér; no time-serving there ; truth was stamped on the very forefront of all she said and did.” As I once heard it said of one who has long since passed away, “He was too honest for trade," so I can testify of her that is now with her Lord, “She was too truthful-too outspoken—too regardless of the opinions of others-for the world.” The world understood her not. She had a mind of no ordinary cast. She had deep insight into character-possessed a sound judgment-was prudent, cautious, and economizing almost to a fault. During a companionship of nearly five-and-twenty years, I never could but admire her sterling courage when facing a difficulty, con