« PreviousContinue »
man had left the world. A very crowded audience heard attentively the funeral discourse preached on the ensuing Lord's Day.
THE CONVERSION AND DYING EXPERIENCE
OF MR. MATTHEW HILL, OF KIDDERMINSTER, WHO DIED SEPȚ. 24, 1792 g. MR.
CR. Matthew Hill was an intelligent and amiable young
man, whose mind was strongly tinctured with the speculative principles of what is so much boasted of in the present day as a rational religion : but when the messenger Death drew nigh, he was terrified at the thought of appearing in the presence of his Judge, without an atonement to remove his guilt, and a feeling sense of religion in his heart to fit him for the enjoyment of Heaven. His confidence in the one, and his experience of the other, occasioned those lively hopes and animating pleasures which affected and delighted the souls of all who attended his dying-bed :
pleasures and hopes which the cold-hearted principles of the speculating moralist were never yet able to inspire !
The general benevolence of Deity, which before his illness was the only foundation of his hope, he was now afraid any longer to depend upon : he, therefore, frankly made this acknowledgment to a friend : That although this had been his trust under slighter apprehensions of the evil of sin, it could now afford hiin no footing at all; but it appeared only a vague and uncertain ground of confidence, and yielded him no satisfaction or comfort. When the means of relief, which only the Gospel has revealed, were mentioned to him in reply, and those passages were para ticularly referred to, which speak of the Lamb of God taking away the sins of the world, and the blood of Christ cleansing from all sin, he acknowledged (with his accustomed frankness) that he had been taught to consider these sentiments as irrational; that he was prevented from ever studying those parts of Scripture which referred to them, or even giving them a thought; and now, he deeply lamented, he could not comprehend their sense or meaning. In this distressing darkness he must have continued, and consequently have died unhappy, it, as he afterwards
+ Extracted from a funeral sermon, preached by the late Rer. John Barret.
acknowledged acknowledged with gratitude and wonder, God himself had not been his teacher.
It was about two months before his death, that he be came sensible to a more prevailing concern for the salvation of his soul than he had before experienced. This he discovered by expressing a deep sense of sin, and confessing his utter inability to save himself. Before this, as he freels owned and lamented, he was under the power of a natural pride of reason, which strongly prejudiced his mind against the most important truths of the Gospel; the consequence of which was a state of mental darkness, confusion, and trouble; nor could he obtain relief or confort, until he was made willing to sit as a little child at the feet of Jesus, and surrender both his understanding and his will to the direction of infinite Wisdom, and the influence of sovereign Mercy: but when his mind was set at liberty, he was ready to acknowledge it was the Lord's doing, and marvellous in his eyes! Accordingly, when Mr. Barret visited him about this period, he said, “ Notwithstanding all the pains you have taken to instruct me in the knowledge of the truth, I should never have been convinced, if God had not taught me inwardly.”
His convictions were for a long time painful and distressing; but at length he obtained a glimmering of light through these promises : “ Him that cometh to me, I will in nowise cast out; and he that believeth in me shall never perish.” As I was conversing with him, adds Mr. Barret, upon the encouragement which these promises contain, he interrupted me, by saying, It seems an impertinent question; but I cannot help indulging it,- what can there be, to induce the great God to pardon such a siņner as me?" The Scripture, I answered, furnishes a ready reply to your question, “ I, even I am he, that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake t." With this thought he seemed to be greatly relieved; and from that time he continued to be exercised with a mixture of hope and fear, till the Thursday before he died. As he was sitting in his chair that evening, he appeared by the motion of his hands to be engaged in prayer; and after a while, opening his eyes, he said in a low tone of voice,“ Heaven is a glorious place!" When his sister, upon this, went up to him, he took her hand, and exclaimed, " O what a glorious place Heaven is! I shall not now be long out of it; no, I
shall not be long; and I shall some time meet thee there. O what unbounded love! what is all the world to this! Sure, I shall never more complain of pain!"
Mentioning this experience to Mr. Barret on the following Saturday, he added, “ I know there is soine danger of trusting to these feelings, and I am afraid of myselt ; but they are not the foundation of my hope ; and I think, although I ought not to trust in them, I ought to be pleased with thein." Being asked whether he did not wish to communieate his present sentiments and experience to others, he replied in an agony of affection,
" And tell to all poor sinners round" But recovering himself, he observed, “ It is but two days since I have known and enjoyed what I do now; and before then, I was so selfish, I could hardly think of any thing but my own salvation ; but now, I hope, I shall never be ashamed of the cross of Christ.”
His convictions of the evil of sin were not only continued, but sensibly increased by the discoveries of divine love with which he was favoured. “ I remember,” said he, " it was once observed by a member of the Honse of Commons, that the Methodists inaintain faith to be the great essential of religion; and this he thought a dangerous principle, as it weakened the obligations of morality. At ihat time I thought so too. It appeared to me the strangest and most unaccountable thing in the world, that. forgiveness should promote holiness. I little thought that the forgivinig love of God would inspire the hatred of sin which I now feel.” He then, in the most genuine manner, expressed his self-abhorrence on account of the sins of his past life, and added, “ It must surely be an infernal doctrine, to sin that grace may abound.”
When a friend, who called to see him about this time, observed, that he had a more smiling countenance than when he saw bim before, he said, “ Ah! I had then a great burden of sins upon my back.” The person replied,
You seein now very comfortable;' he answered, “I am more'than comfortable."
When another friend looked in upon him early on the Lord's Day morning, he found him in a transport of joy : "Glory, glory, through a bleeding Lamb,even for such a sinper as 1,9 were the words with which he met him. He then seemned to wish himself surrounded by all the world, that
he might tell what God had done for his soul; and uttered with looks emphatically wishful,
“ could I tell to sinners round,
“ And say, Behold the way to God !” When an affectionate relation whom he tenderly lovedi, and whom he much wished to see before he died, came into the room, he clasped his hand, and cried out“ All is well, -all is well.” He then expressed his wishes and hopes of meeting him in Heaven; and added, “ but it inust be bor the grace of God at last.” On the same day, the Sabbatła, he said, “ God has now made iny bed in my sickness; and such a bed as few kings ever lay on.” As death approached, and a dear friend stood sighing by him, he spoke out, “ No sighing now; that must all flee away.' One asking him how he did ; the answer was, “ Better and þetter." Another putting the same question afterwards; the reply was, “ Just gone, I hope. I hoped to have beea in glory before this.” Shortly after which, he departed.
What a shining instance is this of the grace of God! Well might the preacher fix upon that Scripture which was the text of his funeral sermon, “ Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire ?" The deliverance of a singer is indeed an astonishing deliverance: and how glorious is that Gospel which reveals it to us!
the word Conscience: it is in every one's mouth; but Little understood, and less atiended to. It may be described as an inward consciousness of our own thoughts, desires, and actions. A late valuable writer has thus defined it: “ The testimony and secret judgment of the soul, which gives its approbation to actions that it thinks good, or reproaches itself with those which it believes to be evil." By nature it is evil and guilty, in consequence of our sin; and hence we endcavour, while without God, to silence its remonstrances, or drown its voice, by business or pleasure. Its testimony is ungrateful; we cannot refuse its evidence, or endure its verdict. It is perhaps the only power in the human mind, since the fall, on the Lord's side. It is a friendly inunitor to all; and, without doubt, its testimony will leave every sinner at last without excuse,
whether favoured with revelation or not. Those who aim to resist its reproofs, it is righteous in God to leave; and thus their conscience becomes defiled and perverted, so that it cannot judge“ aught*.”. In some instances, how awful have been the effects of a guilty conscience ! Judas, and Saul the king of Israel, and multitudes of later examples, might be brought forward ; and often, it is to be feared, those acts of suicide which are supposed to arise from lunacy, are proofs of the power of conscience. wounded spirit, who can bear!"
How infinitely are we indebted to the Gospel for the peace and purity of our conscience! It reveals to us an allsufficient remedy for a guilty conscience, in the efficacious blood of the Lord, our Redeemer t. Is this a remedy to be neglected or despised ? Shall we 'think lightly of that which excites the attention of angels, and by which they learn the manifold wisdom of God?"
We should seek an enlightened conscience, otherwise we shall degenerate into superstition or error; and this we can only obtain by prayer and searching the Scriptures. The conscience of the true believer is not only rendered pure and peaceful, but tender :, its tenderness consists in a sensibility of the approach of sin,-an uneasiness under its influence, - an unfeigned desire to do the will of God, and the exercise of compassion towards others.-It should be our daily exercise to have always a conscience“ void of offence towards God and man:”-that while we suffer the reproaches and scorn of the world, who cast out our name as evil, we may enjoy the testiinony of our conscience, as to our sincerity and uprightness g.
Sin wounds the conscience. Let us learn to hate and flee from it, and consider it as that which alone can do us any essential harm, in life, at death, or to all eternity; and by renewed application to the “ opened fountain" for sin, let us preserve the peace of our conscience.
How useful, and often successful, is an address to conscience! This was exemplified in the history of our blessed Lord, in many instances, especially when the woman was brought before him . Her accusers were convic!ed by their own consciences; perhaps, by what Jesus wrote on the ground. Let this be an example to ministers, in addressing both saints and sinners, “'By manifestation of the truth, commending themselves to eyery man's conscience in the sight Westminster.
S• Titus i. 15. 1 Tim. iv. 2. + Heb. iv, 14. and X. 22. Acts xxix. 26 $ Cor. i. 12. ll John viii, 2 Cor. iv. m
of God **.”