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of that regret, which might otherwise appear reasonable and decent. Tell me freely; am I not opening your heart as well as my own? I hope and believe that you find a more abiding sense of the divine presence, and that a principle of holy gratitude and love governs more in your soul than in mine: But is there not yet some room for complaint? We will not dwell on the question: It is much more important to consider, how we may correct an irregularity of temper, which we are not so ignorant as not to see, nor so stupid as not to lament. It is a long time that we have spent in blaming ourselves; let us immediately endeavour to reform, lest our lamentations and acknowledgments serve only to render us so much the more criminal. I am well aware that this unhappy principle of indifference to God is implanted so deeply in our degenerate hearts, that nothing but a divine power is able to eradicate it: But let us make the attempt, and see how far the spirit of God will enable us to execute the resolution, which himself hath inspired. Is it not possible, by the blessing of God on proper attempts, that we may, in a short time, make it as natural and habitual to our thoughts to centre in God, and the Redeemer and the important hopes of eternal glory, as ever we have found them to centre on a favourite creature? At least, let us not conclude the contrary, till we have tried: And can we say that we have ever yet tried? That we have had the resolution, for one single week, to exert the utmost command over our thoughts to fix them upon divine objects? I have tried for a day or two with encouraging success; but never yet had the constancy to hold out for a week.As this evening concludes one quarter of the year, I have devoted it to the review of my own temper and conduct. I find that numberless evils which have surrounded me may be traced up to this unhappy source, the forgetfulness of God. I therefore determine, by divine assistance, to attempt the reformation of the rest, by bending my most resolute opposition against this. I communicate these reflections to you, to engage the assistance of your prayers, and to recommend it to you to make the like attempt.'
The grand principle, that animated him to all these exercises, labours and services was love; love to God and Christ and mankind. The following extracts from some letters to his friends will confirm this. "I bless God, I feel more and more of the power of his love in my heart, and I long for the conversion of souls more sensibly than for any thing besides. Methinks I could not only labour, but die for it with pleasure. The love of Christ constrains me."" I feel the
love of God in Christ shed abroad in my heart. Strive earnestly in your prayers for me, that it may be continued and increased; that he may ever dwell in my soul, consecrate all its powers and engage all its services; that I may be fitted for the whole of his will; in affliction or prosperity, in life or death, in time or eternity. I want above all things in the world, to be brought to greater nearness to God, and to walk more constantly and closely with him."-" O, could I spend more of my time in catechizing children, in exhorting heads of families and addressing to young people; and more in meditating on the things of God in my retirement, without books, without papers, under a deeper and more affecting sense of God, and receiving vital communications of grace and strength immediately from him, methinks, I should be happy. But I am sadly incumbered. If God hath ever made me useful to you, give him the glory. I am one of the least of his children and yet a child; and this is my daily joy. Indeed I feel my love to him increase; I struggle forward towards him, and look at him, as it were, sometimes with tears of love, when in the midst of the hurries of life, I cannot speak to him otherwise than by an ejaculation.”
His last Sickness and Death.
It is an observation of Solomon, that the path of the just is as
the shining light, that shineth more and more to the perfect day. This was eminently verified in the subject of these papers. We have seen with what peculiar and unwearied diligence he applied himself, especially during his last years, to converse with God, to improve his graces, to serve his fellow-christians and train up his soul for the work and felicity of heaven: And we are now to take a view of the happy effect of this pious care and diligence, in the peace of mind and holy joy, which shed a distinguished lustre on the concluding scenes of his life.
In December, 1750, he went to St. Albans, to preach a funeral sermon for his friend and father Dr. Samuel Clark. In that journey he unhappily contracted a cold, which hung upon him through the remainder of the winter. On the advance of the spring, it considerably abated, but returned again with great violence in the summer. His physicians and friends advised him to lay aside his public work for a while, and apply
himself entirely to the use of proper medicines and exercise for the removal of his complaint. But he could not be persuaded to comply with the former part of their advice. To be useless was worse than death to him. While he thought there was no immediate danger, he could not be prevailed upon to decline or lessen his delightful work, and was particularly desirous to complete his Family Expositor. His correspondents, and friends at home, plainly observed his great improvement in spirituality and a heavenly temper, the nearer he approached to his dissolution. He seemed to be got above the world; his affections were more strongly than ever set upon heaven, and he was daily breathing after immortality.
In some letters to his friends, about this time, he thus expresseth himself; "I bless God, earth is less and less to me; and I shall be very glad to have done with it once for all, as soon as it shall please my master to give me leave. Yet for him I would live and labour; and I hope, if such were his will, suffer too."- "I thank God, that I do indeed feel my affection to this vanishing world, dying and vanishing every day. I have long since weighed it in the balances and found it wanting; and my heart and hopes are above. Fain would I attain more lively views of glory. Fain would I feel more powerful attractions towards that world, where you and I, through grace, shall soon be; and in the mean time would be exerting myself more and more, to people that blessed, but neglected region."" I am now intent upon having something done among the dissenters, in a more public manner, for propagating the gospel abroad, which lies near my heart. I wish to live to see this design brought into execution, at least into some forwardness; and then I should die the more chearfully. Should God spare my life, many opportunities of doing good in this respect may arise: But to depart and be with Christ is far, far, infinitely better. I desire the prayers of my friends in my present circumstances. I remember them in my poor way: But alas! what with my infirmities, and what with the hurries to which I am here [in London] peculiarly obnoxious, and the many affairs and interruptions, which are pressing upon me, my praying time is sadly contracted. O that I had wings like a dove! You know whither they would carry me. I feel nothing in myself at present, that should give me reason to apprehend immediate danger. But the obstinacy of my cough and its proneness to return upon every little provocation, gives me some alarm. Go on to pray for me, that my heart may be fixed upon God; that every motion and every word may be directed
by love to him and zeal for his glory; and leave me with him, as chearfully as I leave myself. He will do well with his servant according to his word. Not a sparrow falleth to the ground without him; and though I am indeed, I think, less than the least of all saints, I am nevertheless of more value than many sparrows. May you increase, while I decrease; and shine many years as a bright star in the Redeemer's hand, when I am set!"-He began his last will thus; "Whereas it is customary on these occasions to begin with commending the soul into the hands of God through Christ, I do it; not in mere form, but with sincerity and joy; esteeming it my greatest happiness, that I am taught and encouraged to do it, by that glorious gospel, which, having most assuredly believed, I have spent my life in preaching to others; and which I esteem an infinitely greater treasure than all my little worldly store, or possessions ten thousand times greater than mine."
The last time he administered the Lord's supper to his congregation at Northampton, was on June 2, 1751, after having preached from Hebrews xii. 23. Ye are come—to the general assembly, and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, &c. At the conclusion of that service, he mentioned, with marks of uncommon pleasure, that view of Christ, given in the Revelation, as holding the stars in his right-hand and walking among the candlesticks; expressing his authority over ministers and churches, his right to dispose of them as he pleaseth, and the care he taketh of them. He dropped some hints of his own approaching dissolution, and spoke of taking leave of them with the greatest tenderness and affection. After this he spent some weeks in London, and the hurries and labours he went through there, contributed to increase his disorder..
Immediately after his return from London, on July 14, 1751, notwithstanding the earnest intreaties of his friends, he was determined to address his beloved flock once more from the pulpit. His discourse was well adapted to be, as he imagined it probably might be, (and as indeed it proved) a farewell serFor whether we His subject was, "Romans xiv. 8. live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore or die, we are the Lord's, From whence he shewed, First, That it is essential to the character of true christians to be devoted to Christ in life and death;-to live to him, as his property, redeemed ones and servants,—to seek his glory and the advancement of his kingdom. It is peculiarly the duty of christian ministers to live thus; to direct their hearers to Christ as the foundation of Z
their hope-engage them to live by faith in him--and promote the great end of his undertaking and love. They are also devoted to Christ in death; as-they are sincerely willing to die for Christ, if, in the course of providence, they should be called to it as they are desirous, that Christ may be honoured by their dying behaviour,-recommending him to those that are about them, and solemnly resigning their own souls into his hands.He shewed, Secondly, That it is the happiness of true christians to be the care of Christ in life and death.He will prolong their lives and continue their usefulness, as long as he sees it good:-he will also take care of them in death,— adjusting the circumstances of it, so as to subserve the purposes of his glory-granting them all necessary supports in deathand after that, giving them eternal life and raising them up at the last day. From hence he inferred, that it is of the greatest importance for all to enquire, whether this be their character; and that it becomes true christians to maintain a noble indif. ference with regard to life or death." I mention these hints, that the reader may perceive, what was the frame of his mind under his decay, and how desirous he was to bear his testimony, even to the last, to the honour of his master, and to promote the zeal and consolation of his fellow servants, and particularly his pupils.
The last public service, in which he was engaged, was at the ordination of the Reverend Mr. Adams at Bewdley in Worcestershire, July 18. His pale countenance and languid trembling voice, shewed how unfit he was for the service at that time: But he had promised his assistance some weeks before, and was unwilling to be absent or unemployed on so solemn and edifying an occasion. Thus he wrote to a friend concerning his intended journey thither; "I am at present much indisposed. My cough continues, and where it may end God only knows. I will however struggle hard to come to Bewdley, that I may be fitter to serve Christ, if I live, or to go and enjoy him, if I die. I can write but little; help me with your prayMy unworthiness is greater even than my weakness, though that be great. Here is my comfort, the strength of Christ may perhaps be made perfect in weakness." From Bewdley he went to Shrewsbury, where he spent several weeks, for the convenience of air, exercise, and an entire recess from business and company; and by this he seemed a little recruited. While he was there, in this languishing state, he received many letters from his friends, expressing their high
*At the house of his friend Mr. Orton.