Page:An Exposition of the Old and New Testament (1828) vol 1.djvu/36

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16
MEMOIRS OF THE REV. MATTHEW HENRY.

and administered the Lord's supper to my beloved flock: a great congregation. Monday went to Middlewich; preached from Matth. xxiv. 12. Iniquity abounds. The next day to Knutsford, to a meeting of ministers: preached from Col. ii. 8. Though absent in the flesh, yet present in the spirit. Lord's day, August 9, preached at Chester, Tit. ii. 13. Looking for the blessed hope. I took an affectionate farewell of my friends; prayed with many of them: the next day set out, with much ado, for Nantwich, where Mr. Mottershed is well settled: preached from Jos. i. 5, 6. As I was with Moses, I will be with thee, &c. From thence, that night, went to Wrenbury-wood, and preached there from John i. 48; from thence to Danford, and preached at Whitchurch, on 1 Pet. v. 10; took leave of my dear friends there, and went in the coach alone. Came to London the 15th, and found my tabernacle in peace."

The following day being the sabbath, he preached twice at Hackney, as usual, and administered the Lord's supper. But it appeared that his late great exertions in preaching and travelling were too much for him; so that it was no wonder he should, on the day following, have complained of great weariness, which was attended with drowsiness. Sir Richard Blackmore, being sent for, perceived symptoms of a diabetes, which obliged him to confine himself to the house. The doctor absolutely forbid his going out the next Lord's day; upon which he writes—"A melancholy day: yet not without some communion with God. Perhaps I have been inordinately desirous to be at my study and work again." By the blessing of God, however, upon the means prescribed, his disorder was removed in a few days after this, and the following sabbath he went on in his ordinary work. "Blessed be my God," says he, "who carried me through it with ease and pleasure."

The next month, September 20, he had a severe fit of the stone, and it happened to be on the Lord’s day: but it did not prevent his going through his public work. That evening, and the day following, he voided several stones, and rather large ones. He went, however, on the Tuesday, to catechise in London, and on Wednesday preached his weekly lecture at Hackney; on Thursday evening a lecture in Spitalfields, and on Friday joined in the service of a fast, at Mr. Fleming’s Meeting, at Founder’s-hall, where he preached the sermon. This seemed to be trying his strength beyond the rule of prudence or of duty. However on the Saturday he writes—"I bless God, I have now my health well again." But the painful disorder several times returned. Early on Lord’s day morning, December 13, he was seized with another fit, but the pain went off in about an hour, and, notwithstanding the fatigue it had occasioned, he ventured to London, to preach the morning lecture, before it was light, when he took that text, John xx. 1. The first day of the week early, while it was yet dark, &c; and, after this, he performed the whole service at Hackney. Having related these circumstances, he says—"Blessed be God for help from on high!" On the following Thursday he had another very violent fit of the stone, of which his own account is as follows—"I went to my study very early, but before seven o’clock I was seized with a fit of the stone, which held me all day: pained and sick, I lay much on the bed, but had comfort in lifting up my heart to God, &c. About five o’clock in the evening I had ease, and about ten I voided a large stone. Though my God caused me grief, yet he had compassion. December 18. Very well to day, though very ill yesterday. How is this life counterchanged! And yet I am but girding on my harness; the Lord prepare me for the next fit, and the Lord prepare me for the last!"

That period was not now very distant, though none apprehended it to be so near as it proved. Though his constitution was strong, his uncommon exertions must have tended to weaken it; and his close application in his study doubtless occasioned his nephritic complaint. It was also said, by those who knew him at Hackney, that after his settlement there, he yielded to the many invitations he had to sup with his friends, when he was under the temptation, though not to any unbecoming excess, yet to eat and drink what was unfavourable to the health of so studious a man, and one who has been used to a more abstemious mode of life, and had grown corpulent, as his portrait shows him to have been. It is not improbable that this circumstance tended to shorten his days.

At the beginning of this his last year (for so it proved to be) Mr. Henry’s mind appears from his diary to have been filled with dark apprehensions, on account of public affairs. The bill which had passed for suppressing the schools of the dissenters he looked upon not only as a heavy grievance in itself, but as a prelude to further severities. On this occasion he preached an excellent discourse at Mr. Bush’s meeting, on 2 Chron. xx. 12. Neither know we what to do, but our eyes are up unto thee.

The following week he took his journey to Chester, from whence he never returned. On May 30, he administered the Lord’s supper, as the best way of parting with his friends at Hackney. In the morning he expounded Exodus xxxviii, in the afternoon Luke vii, and preached on Rev. v. 9. For thou wast slain, &c. On the next day he took the coach for Chester. Mr. Tong, and some other friends, going to Coventry, accompanied him as far as St. Albans, and there they parted with him, never to see his face any more! From a letter to Mrs. Henry, dated June 7, it appeared that he bore the journey well, and that his friends told him he looked better than he did when they saw him the last year. In the same letter he expressed much joy on account of his old congregation being well settled with a minister, with whom he had communicated at the Lord’s table the day preceding, much to his satisfaction. With pleasure he remarks—“They had a full communion: none of the congregation are gone off: if none have left it while it was unsettled, I hope none will leave it now.”

From a subsequent article in Mr. Tong’s narrative, it appears that Mr. Gardiner was not the sole minister of the congregation, but that a Mr. Withington was united with him. How long the church and congregation continued in the flourishing state in which Mr. Henry now beheld it, is uncertain; but it is well known that, whatever was the cause, Mr. Gardiner lived to see it greatly decline. This, however, was no just reflection upon him: it has been the common affliction of the best of ministers, especially when they have been advanced in years. Mr. Henry, however, was gone to a better world before the sad change took place, the knowledge of which would have occasioned him inexpressible regret, on the recollection of his being at all accessory to it.

As he continued to interest himself in the welfare of that society to the very last, so likewise he did in whatever concerned the other congregations in that neighbourhood, with which he had been so long connected; and in this his last journey he visited several of them, to the great injury of his health: indeed he may be said to have sacrificed his life in their service. On Tuesday, June 8, he went to Wrexham, and, having preached there, returned to Chester that night; he says, "not at all tired:" but it seems he had some apprehension of a return of the diabetes, and drank some of the Bristol water, by way of prevention. On the 14th, he went to visit his brother Warburton, at Grange, and from thence to Knuts--