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Soon after this a prayer-meeting was opened in his house : he became a true penitent, obtained a sense of God's favour, and spent the last years of his life in union with God and his church.
Her attention was now directed to a neighbouring Sunday-school; and she was urged to undertake the humble, but honourable and important, office of a Teacher. After much hesitation and prayer, she consented, from a sense of duty. She was eminently qualified for this department of usefulness. The integrity of her principles, the solidity and consistency of her piety, the plainness of her dress and modesty of her deportment, the mildness, impartiality, and forbearance displayed towards the children; all tended to awaken esteem, and to recommend religion. She continued in the unostentatious and successful discharge of this office, up to the time of her marriage to Mr. Swindells.
Having married in the Lord, she quitted the paternal roof, and became mistress of her own house. Her husband and herself were of one mind, and, like Zacharias and Elizabeth, resolved to “ walk in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless." Their first act was to consecrate the domestic hearth, that, from that altar, they might send up their morning and evening sacrifices to heaven. In consequence of unforeseen adversity, their income was at that time very limited; but such was the prudence and economy evinced by Mrs. Swindells, that it was quite sufficient to supply all their wants. They experienced the truth of those words : “A little that a righteous man hath, is better than the riches of many wicked.” Under no circumstances of difficulty or privation, would Mrs. Swindells contract debts; but constantly adhered to the scriptural injunction, “Owe no man anything, but to love one another.” When divine Providence poured its bounties copiously into her lap, she could adopt the language of David, and say, “My soul is even as a weaned child.” So fearful was she of losing any part of her trust in God, or of indulging that lukewarmness which too often accoon panies prosperity, and is frequently succeeded by a total estrangement of the heart from God, that she kept the following lines habitually upon her mind, and continued to repeat them, again and again, almost daily, for many years :
“ Close by thy side still may I keep,
Howe'er life's various current flow,
And follow thee where'er thou go."
She had a deep and continued dread and abhorrence of pride, and often employed the words of the poet to express the jealousy with which she watched the movements of this subtle and destructive principle :
“ Is there ambition in my heart ?
Search, gracious God, and see ;
Lord, I appeal to thee.”
She possessed, in an eminent degree, all those great qualities that are requisite to constitute a good wife, and a Christian mother : indeed, her method of administering religious instruction to her children, is worthy of being distinctly recorded and generally imitated. Aware of the importance of early discipline, she commenced her labours with the first developements of reason and reflection in the infant mind; carefully checking every improper feeling and temper; and rigidly inculcating upon them, as they advanced in life, a uniform regard to “ whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report.” Believing that much of the distress and misery which she witnessed, in many families around her, sprang from the desecration of the Lord's day, and neglect of his worship; and being convinced of the wisdom and mercy of the scriptural precept, “ Remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy;" she always set her house in order on Saturday, that the whole of the day of rest might be dedicated to the service of God. Whilst all merely secular occupations and worldly engagements were excluded from the family circle on that day, the utmost pains were taken to afford the domestics an opportunity to attend the house of God.
It was her regular plan to catechise and instruct the children on the Sunday afternoon. Portions of the Conference Catechism, selections from the Bible, and appropriate hymns, which had been learned during the week, were then repeated to her; and the children were not unfrequently melted into tears, while she explained what was ambiguous, or enforced what was practical, in a way suited to the age and capacity of each child. By this method they not only became acquainted with the histories and narratives of the Bible, but also with the great plan of human redemption, revealed in the Gospel of Christ. These holy and beneficial exercises were prosecuted with a zeal and constancy which yielded to nothing but overwhelming sickness. Verily, she had her reward. Two of the most lovely and interesting members of the family were called to an early grave; but she had the exquisite happiness of seeing them depart this life “in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The illness of the last of the two was so protracted and severe, and Mrs. Swindells's anxiety so great, and her attention so unremitting, that her own health declined; and she continued to linger, for some time, in extreme weakness and danger. During this of
suspense, prayers were offered in her behalf, in the public congregation, and in the social and private meetings of God's people. When the most competent medical judges had pronounced the case to be hopeless, she had it impressed upon her own mind, to ask God to add to her life ten years. This prayer was offered in perfect submission to the divine will, and from an intense wish to see her children brought up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” As in the case of Jabez, God granted her that which she requested ; and it is remarkable, that she died at the close of that period.
From the very commencement of her Christian profession, she esteemed the Ministers of Christ “ highly in love, for their work's sake;" contributed, in every possible way, to their comfort, and deemed it an honour and a privilege to have them under her roof. Employing upwards of fifteen hundred individuals in their own works, numerous claims were necessarily made upon her compassion and benevolence, by the aged and infirm, the widow and the orphan; and the day of the Lord can only reveal the disinterestedness and diffusiveness of her charity. Living in the enjoyment of that peace which passeth all understanding herself, she ever sought to promote peace and unity amongst all her connexions; and, whilst others admired the strength and maturity of her Christian principles and graces, she entertained the lowest possible views of her own attainments.
During the greater part of her life, Mrs. Swindells was subjected to frequent and severe personal affliction. These repeated attacks weakened her constitution, and produced that chronic affection of the lungs which terminated her valuable life. Prior to her last illness, she was visited with unusual manifestations of the power and grace of God. The last time but one that she enjoyed the privilege of class-meeting, she was emphatically “in the Spirit;" and declared, with animation, pathos, and tears, what the Lord had done for her soul. After requesting, with affectionate importunity, that all present would unite with her, in giving themselves more devotedly to God, she concluded by saying, that the following lines expressed the supreme wish of her heart:
“ I want the witness, Lord,
That all I do is right,
Well-pleasing in thy sight.
Indulge me but in this,
To my eternal bliss.”
The last opportunity she had of meeting her family, was at the house of her son-in-law, Joseph Brooke, Esq., of Limefield-House. Here, as if anticipating the time of her departure, she delivered her last message to her children. There was such love and earnestness in her manner, as disclosed the sweetness and sanctity of her disposition, and the intenseness of her solicitude for their spiritual and eternal welfare; and, with a burst of feeling, which almost overpowered her, said, "I am not only willing to live, but even to die, if that would promote your salvation."
On the following morning she complained of uneasiness about the chest. That uneasiness increasing during the day, the family-Physician was called in, who at once pronounced the case to be one of great danger. She received the announcement of his opinion without emo
tion, knowing whom she had believed, and being persuaded that He was able to keep that which she had committed unto Him against that day. Respiration becoming more difficult and painful, she said, “O what should I do, if I had religion to seek now, when I can scarcely lift up a thought to heaven? But the Lord supports me.” After quoting that passage, “Grace to help in time of need," she repeated the words, “ time of need, time of need ;” and then added, “ Who can understand this promise, who is not in ny situation ? But what a promise ! and how suitable for me!”
On Sunday evening, (November 17th, 1839,) while sitting in her chair, her husband took her by the hand, and expressed his sorrow on seeing her in such distress. She turned round, and said, “I do suffer ; but the bitterness of death is passed.” He reminded her of the submissive appeal of Jesus, in the depth of his agony. “I often think," she replied, “ that it is one of the glories of heaven, and that its enjoyments would not be complete, were there not perfect resignation to the divine will.” After a short pause, she said, with much feeling,
« O what are all my sufferings here,
If, Lord, thou count me meet
And worship at thy feet ?'
Being feeble and exhausted, she fell asleep. After reposing a short time, she awoke, and, seizing the hand of a friend who sat by the bedside, exclaimed,
“The goodly land I see,
With peace and plenty blest;
And endless rest!'
That rest will be mine!"
Having from a child known the holy Scriptures, the word of Christ dwelt in her richly in all wisdom; and, being a great admirer of the Wesleyan poetry, she continued, during her affliction, to repeat, alternately, portions of Scripture, and verses of hymns, beautifully descriptive of the validity of her hope, the strength of her faith, and the fervour of her love. A few hours before her decease, she desired to be removed to her chair. After sitting for a short time, evidently absorbed in thought, and adjusting her spiritual armour for the last conflict, she rose rather suddenly, and, advancing towards the bed, with a firm step, said, as she crossed the room,–
“ Jesus, in thy great name I go,
To conquer death, my final foe!
Then, stretching herself upon the bed, like a warrior retiring to rest, after having beaten the last enemy from the field, she faintly uttered, in an adoring attitude, “I will
Clap my glad wings, and tower away,
And mingle with the blaze of day ;'” and, shortly after, fell asleep in the Lord. She died, November 18th, 1839, in the fifty-eighth year of her age.
TO THE FAINTING AND PARTLY-DECLINING
FROM ONE OF BERNARD'S EPISTLES. Arise, soldier of Christ ! arise, shake thyself from the dust, return to the combat whence thou hast fled ! after flight, more courageous to combat, more determined to triumph! Christ, indeed, has many soldiers who have valiantly begun the fight, maintained their ground, and won the victory; but not many who return from flight, again engage in the perils of the conflict, and drive before them the foes to whom they had given way: and because what is rare is precious, let me rejoice to find thee among those who shall appear the more glorious, as they are the more rare. But, otherwise, if thou fearest much, why is it that thou fearest where no fear is, while thou fearest not where there is most to be feared ? And because thou fleest before the enemy, thinkest thou to escape his hand? More gladly will he follow thee Heeing, than meet thee fighting ; more boldly strike thee in the back, than withstand thee to thy face. Think not of sleeping, when an armed multitude besiege thy house. Awake, and bestir thyself. Seize thine arms, and again join thy fellow-soldiers, whom, in thy Aight, tbou wast leaving. What hast thou to fear ? Even the unanimity of thine armed brethren fences thee about ; angels are on thy side; and Christ, the Leader of the war, goes before thee, stirring up bis people to victory, and saying, “Be of good cheer ; I have overcome the world.” If Christ be for us, who shall be against us? Thou fightest secure, where the victory is secured to thee. O truly safe battle with Christ, and for Christ! in which, though wounded, prostrate, trampled on, and, were it possible, a thousand times slain, thou canst not be deprived of victory and its fruits, unless thou thyself fleest. Flight alone loses the battle. Flight casts away that of which not even death can otherwise deprive thee. And blessed art thou if thou diest fighting, for then shalt thou be presently crowned; but woe to thee if thou declinest the fight, for then shalt thou lose together both the victory and the crown. - Ad Robertum nepotem suum. (Cir. an. 1119.)