Lindley Murray.

The power of religion on the mind, in retirement, affliction, and at the approach of death; exemplified in the testimonies and experience of persons distinguished by their greatness, learning, or virt online

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Online LibraryLindley MurrayThe power of religion on the mind, in retirement, affliction, and at the approach of death; exemplified in the testimonies and experience of persons distinguished by their greatness, learning, or virt → online text (page 13 of 20)
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peat acknowledgments of the Divine Power, Pres-
ence, and Goodness, and own his follies and faults, he
was stopped short by the remonstrances of his con-
science, on the flagrant absurdity of confessing sins
he did not desire to forsake ; and of pretending to
praise God for his mercies, though he did not en-
deavour to live in his service, and to behave in
such a manner as gratitude, if sincere, would have

About the thirty-first year of his age, it pleased
God to make him deeply sensible of the great
wickedness of his life, and of the dreadful conse-
quences of persisting in it. He became truly peni-
tent, lived ever afterwards with great circumspec-
tion, and was a bright and steady example of piety
and goodness.

After this great change in his heart pnd Hfe, he
did not entirely withdraw himself f'^^n^ cheerful
conversation ; but, on the contrary", gave several
hours every day to it, lest religi^'fi should be re-
proached, as having made him morose. He, how-
ever, early began a practice- which to the last day
of his life he retained, of reproving vice and pro-
faneness ; and, under the consciousness of his su-
periority in the goodness of his cause, he was never
afraid to debate tfte matter with any person. A


remarkable instance of this happened about the
middle of the year 1720. It was on his first re-
turn, to make any considerable abode in England,
after his singular conversion. He had heard, whilst
he was at Paris, that it was currently reported
among his companions in England, that he was
stark mad. He concluded, therefore, that he should
have many battles to fight, and was willing to des-
patch the business as fast as he could. And, there-
fore, intending to spend a few days at the country-
house of a person of distinguished rank, with whom
-he had been very intimate, he desired him to con-
trive that, a day or two after he came, several of
their former gay companions should meet at his
lordship's table; that he might have an opportu-
nity of making his apology to them, and of ac-
quainting them with the nature and reasons of his
change. It was accordingly agreed to ; and a
pretty large company met on the day appointed^
with previous notice that major Gardiner would
be there. A good deal of raillery passed at din-
ner, to which the major made very little answer.
But when the cloth was taken away, and the ser-
vants had retired, he begged the patience of the
company for a few minutes : and then plainly and
seriously informed them what were his sentiments
of religion and virtue ; and on what ground he had
determined, that, by the grace of God, he would
make religion +he great business of his life, what-
ever he might lo^e by it, and whatever censure and
contempt he migty: incur. He then challenged
them to propose anj thing they could urge, to
prove that a hfe of irrdigion and debauchery was
preferable to the fear, love, and worship, of the
eternal God, and a conduct aorreeable to the pre-
cepts of the Gospel, And he Ni^iled not to bear


testimony, from his own experience, (to a part of
wiiicli many of them had been witnesses,) that after
having run the widest round of sensual pleasure,
wilh all the advantages which the best constitution
and spirits could give him, he had never tasted any
thing that deserved to be called happiness, till he had
made religion his refuge and his delight. He des"
cribed, calmly and boldly, the habitual serenity and
peace that he now felt in his own breast, (for the
most elevated delights he did not think fit to plead,
lest they should be esteemed enthusiasm',) and the
composure and pleasure with which he looked for-
ward to objects, ■ which the gayest sinner must
acknowledge to be equally unavoidable and dread-

After this solemn and manly defence of his
•principles and conduct, the master of the table,
who was a sensible and candid person, said to the
company, "Come, let us call another cause. We
thought this man mad, and he is in good earnest
proving that we are so." — On the whole, this well-
judged circumstance saved him a great deal of
trouble. When his former acquaintance observed,
that he was still conversable and innocently cheer-
ful, and that he was immovable in his resolutions,,
*hey desisted from farther importunity. And he
afterwards declared, that instead of losing any one
valuable friend, by this change in his character, he
found himself much more esteemed and regarded
by many, who could not persuade themselves to
imitate his example.

The private letters of this amiable man, show
the religious state of his mind, and what great
enjoyment he derived from communion with the
Father of spirits. We shall make a few extracts
from some of them, which were written to his wife,
and to an intimate friend.


•' I should be glad to hear what wise and good
people, among you, think of the present circum-
stances of things. For my own part, though I
thank God I fear nothing for myself, my apprehen-
sions for the public are very gloomy, considering
the deplorable prevalency of almost all kinds of
wickedness amongst us ; the natural consequence
of the contempt of the Gospel. I am daily otler-
ing up my prayers to God for this sinful land of
ours, over which his judgment seems to be gather-
ing ; and my strength is sometimes so exhausted
with those strong cries and tears, which I pour out
before God on this occasion, that I am hardly able
to stand when I arise from my knees."

" I bless God I was never better in my life ; and
I wish I could be so happy as to hear the same of
you ; or rather, in other words, to hear that you
had obtained an entire trust in God. That would
infallibly keep you in perfect peace ; for the God
of truth has promised it. Oh ! how ought we to
long to be with Christ ; which is infinitely better
than any thing we can propose here \ to be there,
where all complaints shall be for ever banished ;
where no mountains shall separate between God
and our souls! And I hope it will be some addi-
tion to our happiness, that you and I shall be sepa-
rated no more ; but that, as we have joined in
singing the praises of our glorious Redeemer here,
we shall sing them in a much higher strain, through
an endless eternity "

Speaking of one of his children, who, he had
heard, made a commendable progress in learning,
he expressed his satisfaction in it, and added;
"But how much greater joy would it give me,
to hear that he was greatly advanced in the school
of Christ ! Oh ! that our children may b^ wise to


salvation ; and may grow in grace as they do in
stature !"

On another occasion he writes thus : — " What
would I have given this day, upon the road, foroa-
per, pen, and ink, when the Spirit of the Most
High rested upon me ! O ! for the pen of a ready
writer, and the tongue of an angel, to declare what
God has done this day for my soul ! But, in short, it
is in vain to attempt it; all that I am able to say, is
only this, that my soul has been for some hours
joining with the blessed spirits above, in giving glo-
ry, and honour, and praise, unto him that sitteth
upon the throne, and to the Lamb for ever and

Such were the elevations of his mind : yet there
are many who will be inclined to censure them, as
the flights of enthusiasm. But when we consider
the scriptural phrases, " of walking with God ; of
having communion with the Father and his Son Je-
sus Christ; of Christ's coming to them that open
the door of their hearts to him, and supping with
them ; of God's shedding abroad his love in the
heart by his Spirit ; of his coming with Jesus
Christ, and making his abode with any one that
loves him; of making us glad by the light of his
countenance ;" and a variety of other equivalent

^expressions , we shall see reason to judge very fa-
vourably of the sentiments contained in these let-
ters. If habitual love to God ; firm faith in the
Lord Jesus Christ ;• a steady dependence on the
divine promises ; a full persuasion of the wisdom
and goodness of all the dispensations of Provi-
dence ; a high esteem for the blessings of the heav-
enlv world : and a sincere contempt for the vanities

' of this ; can properly be called enthusiasm, then
was colonel Gardiner, indeed, one of the greatest


enthusiasts our age has produced: and m propor^
tion to the degree in which he was so, he must be
esteemed one of the wisest and happiest of man-
kind. — "How often," saj^s the pious Grove, "are
good thoughts suggested, heavenly affections kind-
led and inflamed ! how often is the Christian
prompted to holy actions, drawn to his duty,
restored, quickened, persuaded, in such a man-
ner, that he would be unjust to the Spirit of God,
to question his agency in the whole ! Yes, O my
soul ! there is a supreme Being, who governs the
world, and is present with it; who takes up his
more special habitation in good men, and is nigh to
all who call upon him, to sanctify and assist them !
Hast thou not felt him, O my soul ! like another
soul, actuating thy faculties, exalting thy views, pu-
rifying thy passions, exciting thy graces, and be-
getting in thee an abhorrence of sin, and a love of
holiness ? And is not all this an argument of his
presence, as truly as if thou didst see him?"

The cheerful and happy state of mind, for which
this excellent man had been remarkable, continued
with him to the last. It seems, indeed, that to-
wards the close of life, his pious fervours, like the
flame of a lamp almost expiring, sometimes rose to
an unusual biaze. " O !" said he, on a particular
occasion, " how gracious a Master do we serve !
how pleasant is his service ! how rich are the en-*
tertainments of his love ! yet how poor and cold
are our services !"

When he found his health declining, and enter-
tained a fixed sentiment that he should continue
but a little while longer in life, he was so far from be-
ing depressed with the prospect, that he was de-
hghted with it, and rejoiced the nearer his end ap-
proached. The holy Scriptures, with which he


had as intimate an acquaintance as most men, con-
tinued to be his daily study. They furnished him
with matter of frequent conversation, much to the
edification and comfort of those that were about
him. Among other passages he spoke of the fol-
lowing, as having made a deep impression on his
mind: " My soul, wait thou only upon God !" He
would repeat it again and again, "Only, only,
only !" so plainly did he see, and so deeply did he
feel, the vanity of all earthly confidences and ex-
pectations. He often mentioned these words in
Isaiah, as verified to him by long experience :
" Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind
is stayed on thee ; because he trusteth in thee."
And with peculiar satisfaction he uttered these he-
roic words in Habakkuk, which he found armour of
proof against every fear, and every contingency :
" Though the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall
fruit be in the vines ; the labour of the olive shall
fail, and the fields shall yield no meat ; the flocks
shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no
herd in the stalls ; yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I
will joy HI the God of my salvation."

In the year 1745, he was ordered to repair to
Stirling, to assist in subduing the rebellion. It was
in the castle of that place, that his wife and eldest
^daughter enjo}ed the last happy hours of his com-
pany : about eight or ten days before his death, he
parted from them there. A remarkable circum-
stance attended the separation. His wife was so
affected when she took her last leave of him, that
she burst into a flood of tears, and betrayed other
marks of unusual emotion. When he asked her
the reason, she urged, as a suflicient apology, the
apprehensions she had of losing so invaluable a
friend, amidst the dangers to which he was thea


called. She took particular notice, that though he
had generally comforted her on such occasions, by
reminding her of that remarkable hand of Provi-
dence, which had so frequently, in former instances,
been exerted for his preservation, even in the
greatest extremity, he said nothing of it now ; but
only replied, in his sententious manner, " We have
an eternity to spend together." — He was killed in
the battle of Preston-Pans, in the 57th year of his


In the life, sufferings, and death, of lady Eliza-
beth Hastings, we have a lively instance of the
power and support of religion.

An ingenuous temper, a quickness of under-
standing, a benevolent spirit, a flexibility of nature,
and a solemn sense of divine things, were observa-
ble in her tender age ; and in the dangerous ascent
of life, her feet were guided and preserved in the^-
paths of rectitude and goodness ; so that she was^
not only free from the stain of vice in her rising

^ This account of Colonel Gardiner is extracted from a valu-
ablje little work, written by Dr. Doddridge, and entitled,
" Some remarkable Passages in the Life of Colonel James


years, but superior to the world, and its vain and trif-
lin:> amusements. Through the whole course of
her time, her lamp shone brightly ; and in mature
age, diffused its light and influence in a wide ex-
tent around her.

It appears that the great aim of her life was, to
promote the glory of God, and the welfare of
men ; keeping her talents, extensive fortune, and
other means of doing good, continually employed
for the benefit of her fellow-creatures. Of all her
cares, a most special one was that of the stranger,
the fatherless and the widow ; the needy, and him
that had no helper ; the lame, the halt, and the
blind. These objects excited her most tender com^i
passion. She participated in their sutFerings ; she
often conversed with them ; and inquired into their
history, with great condescension. She studied
their particular cases, and put them in the way of
improving their condition. She often visited them
in sickness, bore the expenses of it ; and, no doubt,
endeavoured to cheer and encourage them under
all the apparent hardships of their allotment.

The following character of this noble-minded
woman, was drawn by the hand of an eminent
writer. *' Her countenance was the lively picture
of her mind, which was the seat of honour, truth,
compassion, knowledge and innocence. In the midst
of the most ample fortune, and the veneration of all
that beheld and knew her, without the least affecta-
tion, she devoted herself to retirement, to the contem^
plation of her own being, and of that supreme
Power which bestowed it. Without the learning^
of schools, or knowledge of a long course of argu^
ments, she went on in an uninterrupted course of
piety and virtue; and added to the severity and
privacy of the last age, all the freedom and ease


of this. The language and mein of a court she
was possessed of in a high degree ; but the sim-
plicity and humble thoughts of a cottage, were her
more welcome entertainments. She was a female
philosopher, who did not only live up to the resig-
nation of the most retired lives of the ancient"
sages, but also to the schemes and plans which
they thought beautiful, though inimitable. This
lady was the most exact economist, without ap-
pearing busy ; the most strictly virtuous, without
tasting the praise of it ; and shunned applause with
as much industry as others do reproach."

Towards the close of life, she experienced great
bodily affliction, having a cancer in the breast, for
which she underwent an amputation. But in all
her suiferings from this cause, and even under the
trying operation, her religious fortitude and seren-
ity of mind did not forsake her. The resignation
of her spirit to the dispensations of Divine Prov-
idence, is strongly marked by the following expres-
sions, which dropped from her during the course
of this painful distemper : " I would not wish to be
out of my present situation, for all the world , nor
exchange it for any other, at any price."

The night subsequent to the operation did not
afford her much sleep, but it was a night of celes-
tial peace ; a time of thanksgiving to her God, for
the visible demonstration of his power tn and about
her ; for bis stretched-out arm in her great deliver-
ance ; for the bountiful provisions he had made for
all the wants of her soul and body; and, in a word,
for all his blessings conferred upon her.

She was sooner than expected, restored to a
comfortable state of health, and to that life of
charity and beneficence, which was the joy of her
heart ; but the disorder, repressed only for a time,


appeared again with new malignity, and at length,
put a period to all her sorrows. Her lamp and her
life were, however, to be extinguished together :
she was pious and beneficent to the last.

A short time before her departure, impressed
with a strong sense of Divine Goodness, she broke
out, with a raised accent, in the following manner:
" Lord ! what is it that I see ? O the greatness of
the glory that is revealed in me ! that is before me l"
So joyful appears to have been her entrance into
the kingdom of her Lord and Saviour. She died
in the year 1740.

The truly religious, whose evidences of a blessed
futurity, are clear, rational, and well founded,
have, at times, in their journey through life, a tide
of hope and joy springing up in their minds, be-
yond expression : a felicity more moving and satis-
factory than any can imagine, but they who have,
in some degree, experienced it. And when they
are just entering upon the promised land, they
are sometimes favoured to have the splendour of
tbe eternal day dawn upon them, and to shine as
through the breaches of their shattered bodies ;
raising in their spirits such an earnest of happiness,
such foretastes of joy, as enable them to pass
through the valley of death in peace and triumph.
What a rich reward for all the crosses and con-
flicts of this probationary scene 1 and how ani-
mating a source of encouragement, during our pil
grimage, to rise above, and look beyond, all the
troubles of time !



There are few greater instances of the happy-
power of religion on the mind, than that which
was exhibited by an excellent and pious woman of
the name of Housman, when she drew near the
close of life.

She was bom at Kidderminster, of religious
parents, who early instructed her in the duties of
religion. By her diary, it appears she was brought
under lively impressions of divine things, at thir-
teen years of age. From 1711, when her diary
begins, to 1735, the time of her death, her life
seems to have been a circumspect walking in the
fear of God. The following account of her last
illness and death, was drawn up by a person who
attended her throughout.

From the time of her first seizure, she was ex-
ercised with very violent pains, without any inter-
mission, till her death ; such as, she would often
say, she thought she could not have borne : " But,"
said she, " God is good ; verily he is good to me !
I have found him a good and gracious God to me
all my days."

When recovering from extreme pain she said,
*• God is good ; I have found him so ; and though
he slay me, yet I will trust in him. These pains
make me love my Lord Jesus the better. O they
put me in mind of what he suffered, to purchase
salvation for my poor soul ! "Why for me. Lord !
why for me, the greatest of sinners ? Why for ^e.


who SO long refused the rich offers of thy grace,
and the kind invitations of the Gospel ? How naany
helps and means .have I enjoyed more than many
others ; yea, above most ! — -1 had a religious father
and mother; and I had access to a valuable minis-
ter, to whom I could of(en and freely open my
mind. I have lived in a golde« age. I have lived
in peaceable times, and have enjoyed great ad-
vantages and helps for communion with God, and
the peace of my own mind; for which 1 owe my
gracious God and Father more praises than words
can express. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all
that is within me bless his holy name ! Bless the
Lord, O my soul, and forget not all, or any, of his
benefits !" ■%

When any were weeping and mourning over her,
she would say ; " Weep not for me ; it is the will
of God ; therefore be content. If it may be for
his honor and glory, he will spare me a little longer;
if not, I am wholly resigned to the will of God.
I am content to stay here, as long as he has any
thing for me to do, or to sutfer ; and I am willing
to go, if it be my Fathe-r's good pleasure. There-
fore be content, and say, ' It is the Lord, let him
do what seemeth to him good.' "

To a person who came to see her, she said ;

Cousin, I think I shall die : and now, what a
comfort it is, that I am not afraid of death ! The
blood of Christ cleanses me from all sin. But mis*
take me not ; there must be a life and conversa-
tion agreeable to the Gospel, or else our faith in
Christ is a dead faith Secure Christ for your
friend ; set not your heart on things below : riches
and honours, and what the world calls pleasures,
are all fading, perishing things." She then threw
out her hand, and said ; " O, if I had thousands
18 .


and tett thousands of gold and silver lying hy me,
what could they do for me, now I am dying ?
Take the advice of a departing friend who wishes
you well. Do not set your affections on riches,
or on any thing here below. Remember, death
will come in a Httle while, whether you are ready
or unready, wiUing or unwilling. 1 commend you
to God. I hope, in a short time, we shall meet
again, in heaven, that place of perfect rest, peace,
and happiness."

The whole time of her sickness, she was in a
cheerful, thankful frame of mind. When she was
cold, and had something warm given to her, she
often said ; " Blessed be God for all his mercies ;
and for this comfort in my affliction." On her at-
tendant's warming a piece of flannel, and putting
it round her cold hands, she thanked her for it,
and said ; " O, how many mercies 1 have ! I want
for nothing. Here is every thing I can wish for.
I can say, I never wanted any good thing- I wish
only for a tranquil passage to glory. It was free
Grace that plucked me from the very brink of hell;
and it is the power of divine Grace, that has sup-
ported me through the whole of my life. Hitherto
1 can say, the Lord is gracious. He has been very
merciful to me, in sustaining me under all my trials.
The Lord brings affliction, but it is not because he
delights to afflict his children : it is at all times I'or
our profit. I can say, it has been good for me to
be afflicted ; it has enabled me to discern things,
which, when 1 was in health, I could not perceive.
It has made me see more of the vanity and empti-
ness of this world, and all its transient comforts ;
for, at best, they are but vanity. 1 can say from
my own experience, i have found them to be so
many a time."


To her husband, the day before she died, she
said ; " My dear, I think I am going apace ; and
I hope you will be satisfied, because it is the will
of God. You have at all times been very loving
and good to me ; and 1 thank you for it kindly :
and now I desire you freely to resign me to God.
If God sees it best to prolong my stay here upon
earth, I am willing to stay ; or, if he sees it best to
take me to himself, T am willing to go. I am wil-
ling to be, and to bear, what may be most for his

The evening before she died, she found death
stealing upon her ; and, feeling her own pulse,
said ; " Well, it will be but a little while before
my work in this world will be finished. Then I
shall have done with prayer. My whole employ-
ment in heaven will be praise and love. Here, I
love God but faintly, yet, I hope, sincerely ; but
there, it will be perfectly. 1 shall behold his face
in righteousness ; for I am thy servant, Lord !
bought with blood, with precious blood. Christ
died to purchase the life of my soul. — A little while,
and then I shall be singing that sweet song, —
* Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be
unto HIM that sitteth upon the throne, and to the
LAMB for ever and ever.' "

With smiles in her face, and transports of joy,
she often said; "Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!
Why tarry the wheels of thy chariot ? O blessed

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Online LibraryLindley MurrayThe power of religion on the mind, in retirement, affliction, and at the approach of death; exemplified in the testimonies and experience of persons distinguished by their greatness, learning, or virt → online text (page 13 of 20)