Page:An Exposition of the Old and New Testament (1828) vol 1.djvu/37

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17
MEMOIRS OF THE REV. MATTHEW HENRY.

ford, whither Mr. Gardiner accompanied him, and where he met several of his brethren. From thence he rode, on the Tuesday evening, to Chowbent in Lancashire, and the next day returned to Chester. Though he did not perceive himself to be greatly fatigued, some of his friends could not but fear that he must have injured his health by riding so many miles in so short a time, and by preaching at every place where he came, especially in so hot a summer. Indeed he himself, in a letter written at this time to Mrs. Henry, complains of the heat of the weather, which, he says, made him as faint and feeble as he was when he came up last from the country; and, from a subsequent passage, it seems as if he found himself, after his late hasty tour, far from being well. "If God bring me home in safety," says he, "I believe it will do well to use the means I did last year, unless the return of the cool weather should make it needless; for when I am in the air I am best." He adds, "Though I am here among my old friends, yet I find my new ones lie near my heart, among whom God has now cut out my work."

In the last letter which Mrs. Henry received from him, dated June 19, he informed her that he had taken the coach for Wednesday, the 23d, and that he was to get into it at Whitchurch, from whence he was pleased to think he should have the company of Mr. Yates of that place; and as the following Wednesday was the day for the quarterly fast at Hackney, he expressed his desire that due care might be taken to engage the assistance of some of his brethren.

The next day after he wrote this letter was the sabbath, which he spent at Chester; and it was the last he spent on earth: a remarkable circumstance, that Providence should so order it that his last labours should be bestowed where they were begun, and where the most of his days had been spent. It was also singular and pleasing that, on his two last sabbaths in the church below, he was directed to a subject so peculiarly adapted to the occasion, namely, that of the eternal sabbath in heaven, on which he was so soon to enter; for on the preceding Lord’s day, he had preached twice on Heb. iv. 9. There remaineth a rest for the people of God; which he considered, agreeably to the original, under the idea of a sabbath, which he illustrated in a variety of particulars. On the Lord’s day following, he kept the same idea in view, while he treated on that solemn caution, for the improvement of the subject—Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. The circumstances of Mr. Henry’s closing his ministry in this remarkable manner, induced Mr. Tong, in his Life, to give his readers the substances of both these discourses.

The next day after delivering them he set off, in his journey homeward, without feeling any inconvenience from the past day’s labours; indeed he thought he had found relief from his late indisposition, by his excursion to Knutsford and Lancashire; so that he was encouraged (not very prudently) to make an appointment for preaching at Nantwich that day, in his way to London. But all his friends observed that he appeared very heavy and drowsy; though, when asked how he did, he always answered, "Well." An apothecary, however, Mr. Sudlow, a good friend of Mr. Henry, said, before he left Chester, they should never see him again. His friends therefore should have dissuaded him from this undertaking, especially on horseback. As he passed Dudden he drank a glass of the mineral water there. Before he came to Torporley, his horse stumbled in a hole, and threw him off. He was a little wet, but said he was not hurt, and felt no inconvenience from the fall. His companions pressed him to alight at Torporley, but he resolved to go on to Nantwich, and there he preached on Jer. xxxi. 18; but all his hearers noticed his want of his usual liveliness, and, after dinner, he was advised to lose a little blood. He consented to this, though he made no complaint of indisposition. After bleeding he fell asleep, and slept so long, that some of his friends thought it right to awaken him, at which he expressed himself rather displeased.

His old intimate friend, Mr. Illidge, was present, who had been desired by Sir Thomas Delves and his lady to invite him to their house, at Doddington, whither their steward was sent to conduct him. But he was not able to proceed any further, and went to bed at Mr. Mottershed’s house, where he felt himself so ill that he said to his friends, "Pray for me, for now I cannot pray for myself." While they were putting him to bed, he spoke of the excellence of spiritual comforts in a time of affliction, and blessed God that he enjoyed them. To his friend, Mr. Illidge, he addressed himself in these memorable words: "You have been used to take notice of the sayings of dying men—this is mine: That a life spent in the service of God, and communion with him, is the most comfortable and pleasant life that one can live in the present world." He had a restless night, and about five o’clock on Tuesday morning he was seized with a fit, which his medical attendants agreed to be an apoplexy. He lay speechless, with his eyes fixed, till about eight o’clock, June 22, and then expired.

A near relation of his wrote on this occasion, "I believe it was most agreeable to him to have so short a passage from his work to his reward. And why should we envy him? It is glorious to die in the service of so great and good a Master, who, we are sure, will not let any of his servants lose by him." Yet it cannot but be regretted, that any of them should, by an inordinate zeal, shorten their days, and, by this means, prevent their more lasting usefulness.

On Thursday, before the corpse was removed from Nantwich, Mr. Reynolds, of Salop, preached an excellent sermon on the sad occasion, which was printed. Six ministers accompanied it to Chester, who were met by eight of the clergy, ten coaches, and a great many persons on horseback. Many dissenting ministers followed the mourners, and a universal respect was paid to the deceased by persons of distinction of all denominations. He was buried in Trinity church, in Chester, where several dear relatives had been laid before him. Mr. Withington delivered a suitable discourse, for the improvement of the providence, at the Thursday lecture, and another on the Lord’s day morning after the funeral, as Mr. Gardiner also did in the afternoon, on 2 Kings ii. 12. My father, my father, &c. Mr. Acton, the Baptist minister, took a respectful notice of the loss which the church had sustained by this event. When the news of his death reached London, it occasioned universal lamentation: there was scarcely a pulpit among the dissenters in which notice was not taken of the breach made in the church of God; almost every sermon was a funeral sermon for Mr. Henry; and many, who were no friends to the nonconformists, acknowledged that they had lost one who was a great support and honour to their interest. The sermon preached to his congregation at Hackney, July 11, 1714, was by his intimate friend, Mr. William Tong, on John xiii. 36. Whither I go thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterward. This discourse was published, and afterward subjoined to the folio edition of Mr. Henry’s Works.