The Secret of a Beautiful Life.
In Memoriam of Mr. & Mrs. James Knowles.
Selected from Their Diaries.
"They shall be Mine in that day when I come to make up My Jewels."
Edited by Rev. Duncan Mcneill Young.
New York: William Knowles, 104 East Thirteenth Street. 1887.
Copyright, 1887. By Wm. Knowles
The present volume is a purely pastoral attempt, emanating from a fraternal affection for two of God's honored saints, and an increasingly growing desire for the glory of God in the salvation of souls.
In presenting the following pages to the friends, acquaintances, and co-laborers of our departed brother and sister I desire to record my appreciation of the good achieved by two whose example among us was as beneficial as that of the angel at the pool of Siloam, stirring up the sluggish waters to fresh life and utility, and teaching us that
Beyond this vale of tears There is a life above, Unmeasured by the flight of years; And all that life is love.
While a proper and very natural sentiment demands that the memoirs of the beloved ones should not appear until some time has passed away, it is also proper that their publication should not be put off till all trace of the facts recorded and the impressions there from made have been forgotten. During the preparation of these memoirs nothing has been more clearly manifest to me than the steady recurrence, throughout their lives, of a deep and earnest unison of feeling between man and wife, in such unfailing sweetness as to find its way at once to our hearts and clothe it with the freshness of a living, loving presence.
The subjects whose earthly career we are about to delineate, were whole-souled enough to elicit the respect of all who knew them, hence they made lasting friends, whilst to their own immediate family their loss is irreparable, and it is hard to realize that they are no more; for who is there among us who does not know what it is to be united by a fond and passionate affection to those who are no longer with us—ever to think of the beloved ones, and to feel ourselves constantly under the influence of the vanished presence?
It cannot be claimed for James Knowles that he was a great man, a learned scholar, or one possessed of extraordinary intellectual culture above his fellows, but, as Hamerton says: "It is not erudition that makes the intellectual man, but a sort of virtue which delights in vigorous and beautiful thinking, just as moral virtue delights in vigorous and beautiful conduct." So it was with our brother, he made the most of the talents God endowed him with, and whatever he undertook to do, he did with might and main; hence his success in any undertaking, or any cause he espoused, for he seemed to realize that success in a good cause is undoubtedly better than failure, while the result in any case is not to be regarded so much as the aim and effort, and the striving with which worthy objects are pursued. Although the Elder may have been less than a Huss, a Calvin, or a Knox in public fame, he had emulated them in self-contemplation and humility.
As for Matilda Knowles, our missionary, she was more than a Dorcas, and equally vigorous in spirit with a Lydia; hence we speak of her in the sphere in which it pleased God for her to labor. Those who will carefully read the chapters devoted to her work, will at once perceive that little is left for me to speak of in words of praise.
Let our Bible women study the pages of this book containing the record of her toil in the vineyard, and note the fruits thereof for over a quarter of a century; for no work purely imaginative in its character ever outrivalled it in intensity of interest, especially to those who have the salvation of the unregenerate at heart. To our children and co-workers and successors we earnestly commend it; praying that the Divine blessing may accompany its circulation and perusal in our own and other lands until He shall come whose right it is to reign.
With these few prefatory remarks, with no claim to literary excellence, and a prayer for the blessing of the Holy Spirit, I commit this imperfect production to the perusal of all co-workers in the vineyard of the Lord.
I also sincerely trust that it will be acceptable to every evangelical denomination, where the love of the Great Creator, and the advancing perfection of human life predominates over all forms of sin and superstition.
DUNCAN M. YOUNG.
NEW YORK, August 18, 1887.
PAGE. CHAPTER I.
Brief Sketch of the Life of James Knowles, 15
Correspondence and Covenants, 24
Scripture Texts, 29
The Last Hours, 38
The Dead Who Die in the Lord, 46
A Brief Historical Sketch of the Allen Street Presbyterian Church, 70
PAGE. CHAPTER VII.
Brief Memoir of Matilda Knowles, 85
The Value of Prayer, 89
The Story of William the Consumptive, 94
Sowing and Reaping, 105
Daily Missionary Work, 113
Destitution and Reformation, 120
Her Faithfulness in Little Things, 125
The Power of Influence, 132
Miscellaneous Extracts from Her Diary, 136
Struggles and Triumphs, 149
Leading Souls To Christ, 156
The Dying Mother and the Intemperate Husband, 159
Help and Loving Kindness, 163
Reaching the Heart, 166
Winter Life and Scenes, 171
Circulating the Scriptures, 175
The Ninety and Nine, 178
Answered Prayer, 185
The Sin of Idolatry, 192
Peace Through Believing, 197
Drawn by the Cords of Love, 202
Love for the Hebrews, 206
Thankfulness to God, 211
Lost, but Found, 214
Sea-Side Excursions for Mothers and Children, 219
The Intemperate Wife, 223
Her Love of Children and of Praying, 226
The Conversion of Children, 231
Asleep in Jesus, 235
Testimonials and Letters of Condolence, 264
To the Pastors, Elders, Sabbath-School Workers, and the New York Female Bible Readers' Society, who were Intimately Associated with the deceased in Winning Souls to Christ,
These Memoirs are Affectionately Dedicated
BY THE EDITOR.
DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF MR. AND MRS. JAMES KNOWLES.
They died within a week of each other, after a married life of forty-seven years, and each at the age of seventy-five.
Ever faithful to the cause of their Master, they died as they had lived—in triumphant faith.
Hand in hand, together they trod Through years twoscore and seven; Their only staff was the Word of God, Their path was the way to heaven.
Hand in hand, e'er the burning sun Had drunk up the morning dew, They started their earthly journey to run, While the heavens were fair and blue.
But life's path lies not through a grassy dell, In the cool of the morning's shade; There are scorching sands, and torrents that swell, As well as the flowery glade.
There are crags to climb in the mountains fast, There are gorges, and canyons deep, And the blinding snow, and the wintry blast Must over the landscape sweep.
And the shoulders must bear a wearisome load, Whether o'er mountain or moor, Or through forest, or dusty highway, lay the road, Or the feet be bleeding and sore.
But hand in hand we see them still, When the sun had drunk up the dew; They were toiling steadfastly up the hill, Ever keeping the end in view.
They scaled the crags of the mountain steep When the noontide sun was high; And they forded the flood of the canyon deep, When the sun lay low in the sky.
But their tired feet are no longer as light As in days of the long, long past, And their youthful tresses have turned to white With the snows, and the wintry blast.
Now hand in hand, they stand by the shore Of a river dark and wide; And the songs which the seraphs are wafting o'er, They catch from the other side.
And their faces beam with unearthly light, In the rays of the setting sun, As their eyes peer far beyond mortals' sight, And they learn that life's journey is done.
Hand in hand by the river, they stray Where the dark waves wash the shore; And they hear the splash, and the feathery spray, As the ferryman dips his oar.
Now the father waves a loving adieu, As he looses his clasped hand; And the ferryman plies his oar anew, Till he reaches the golden strand.
By the silent waves of the river of death, The mother is waiting still, With eager eye and with bated breath, The call of the Master's will.
Now her face is illumed by a heavenly light As sweet as angels' breath; For she knows that the unclasped hands will unite, Across the river of death.
GEORGE F. SARGENT.
NEW YORK, February 17, 1887.
BRIEF SKETCH OF THE LIFE OF JAMES KNOWLES.
"God bless thee, bairn—my bonnie bairn," She said, an' straikit doon his hair; "O may the widow's God be thine, And mak' thee His peculiar care!"
James Knowles was born at sea, December 5, 1811, his father, the previous day, having been swept overboard and lost. Unfortunately no record of the misfortune was kept to be available for the present purpose; hence we are unable to give either the name of the ship, or the latitude and longitude it was in when his birth occurred. Picture to yourself the deck of a vessel in mid-ocean, where the widow of a day becomes a mother the next, the subject of this sketch being the infant presented to her bosom, and you have a glimpse of the situation—though it be unconnected with either a cottage, a mansion, or a palace.
The mother returned with the infant to the home of her father at Ballymena, Ireland, where her relatives then undertook the care of the fatherless babe, which eventually grew into healthy boyhood of the most affectionate character.
As a youth he made rapid progress in the elementary branches of education, often surprising his teachers with the patience and care he exhibited in keeping in advance of his fellow-students—for he was almost always at the head of his class. He was noted for his quiet, unobtrusive disposition, underlying which was an internal force, which made him prompt in action, and to the point in word, when the display of such characteristics was sometimes necessary to establish his individual superiority with more than usual power among his fellow-schoolmates.
In 1826 he commenced his apprenticeship as a compositor, under the care of Mr. Dugan, in the city of Belfast, Ireland, where he continued until the expiration of the time of his indentures.
In 1832, after an ocean passage of sixty days in a sailing vessel, he arrived in Philadelphia, Pa.
During this long and tedious voyage across the Atlantic, he and the captain of the ship became very intimately attached to each other, and he was frequently invited to dine with the officers.
After a brief stay in Philadelphia, he came to New York City, where he found employment. Immediately after his arrival in this city, he became a member of the Rev. Dr. McLeod's Reformed Presbyterian Church, in Chambers Street, and continued with this church until after they had removed to Prince Street.
In 1835 he became an employe in the office of the Journal of Commerce. He frequently recalled that fearful night during the great fire in New York, when the greater part of the lower portion of the city was totally destroyed, and some of the large buildings had to be blown up with gunpowder, to stop the ravages of the flames; he took an active part in carrying the printing "forms" to a place of safety.
In 1839 he was married to Miss Matilda Darroch, who was a member of Dr. McCarthy's Canal Street Presbyterian Church and a teacher in the Sabbath-school.
As a Christian man, at this time, we find him teaching a large Bible-class for young men in the above church, and to the end of his earthly career he was constantly engaged in the Sabbath-school.
In 1849 the Prince Street Church property was sold to erect a new building on Twelfth Street, where he continued to attend the services until the year 1850, when some of the members, being anxious to enlarge their borders, and continue the work in the lower part of the city, formed the Second Reformed Presbyterian Church. They organized, and called the Rev. Spencer L. Finney to the pastorate, who commenced to hold services in the hall of the Apprentices' Library, No. 472 Broadway, where they worshipped for one year, and then secured more ample accommodations in which to worship God, in the rooms of the Medical College, Crosby Street, near Spring.
In 1850 he was carefully examined, and when found qualified for the sacred office, was duly ordained a ruling elder in the Second Reformed Presbyterian Church.
During the year 1854 the Church purchased the building in Mulberry Street, near Grand, belonging to the Lutheran body.
At this time he continued to reside on the west side of the city, and attended two sessions of the Sabbath-school morning and afternoon, with two preaching services, and one prayer-meeting in the evening.
As soon as the congregation were permanently settled in a church building, he removed from the west to the east side of the city, to the Tenth Ward, in order to be in close proximity to his church work.
He continued to worship with the Second Reformed Presbyterian Church, under the pastorate of the Rev. S. L. Finney, who, in 1863, was called to Princeton, N.J.
The Rev. Geo. S. Chambers was subsequently called to take the pastoral charge. Eventually, it was found essential to change their ecclesiastical relations from the Reformed Presbyterian Church to the Old School, from which time (the two religious bodies having become united), the congregation became known as the Ebenezer Presbyterian Church.
In due course it united with the Fortieth Street Presbyterian Church, afterward called the Murray Hill Presbyterian Church, because at the time, though in possession of a church building, they had no pastor. Mr. Knowles continued to attend regularly until the imperative demands of age and time called for change, when he became united with the Allen Street Church.
In 1870 he accepted an invitation from his uncle to visit his native place; and he frequently afterward remarked that the scenes of his boyhood's days had materially changed as much as he had; realizing that change, progress, and decay were written upon all things terrestrial.
During this visit to Europe, he greatly enjoyed rambles over the country roads, admiring the beauties of the surrounding scenery.
On one occasion, while passing the school-house of his boyhood days, he was found by an old friend, wistfully gazing at the building, who said, "What are you looking at?" And upon entering into conversation, he discovered that he and the gentleman who addressed him had been former schoolmates together.
We find recorded in his diary the following:
"I now commence filling this book, which I brought with me from New York, in the steamship Italia. I am now in Fenagh, Ireland."
From the record of this journey, we notice that he was very careful in watching the signs of the times, and the changing moods of the weather. For example, he writes thus:
Sabbath, January 4, 1874.—When I rose this morning, I found the ground covered with snow; the first fall of the season, and like the little captive Syrian maid, though far from home and friends and among comparative strangers, I do not forget God or the sanctuary.
Monday, January 5th.—A fine day, but cold, and snow on the ground.
Tuesday, January 6th.—A fine day, and a fine thaw, which resulted in the removal of the snow which had fallen a short time previously.
Wednesday, January 7th (morning).—A fine day. Afternoon, clouds gathering; lightning and thunder; came on to rain.
Thursday, January 8th.—A fine day of the season.
Friday, January 9th.—A fair day.
Saturday, January 10th.—A fine day. I went into Ballymena myself, and called at several places, and upon Mr. White, the printer, who did not know me, or remember anything about me. I called also on Mrs. McQuitty, who treated me in a very kindly manner. I also called on Mr. Kilpatrick's, but I only saw two of his daughters, and a little child. On the same day I bought McComb's almanac in Ballymena; paid two pence for it. I also bought the Ballymena Observer from Mr. White. I walked into Ballymena, and also returned in like manner, only that in returning I took a circuitous route, that I might see a portion of the country that I had not seen for a length of time before my departure for America, in June, 1832.
Sabbath, January 11th (forenoon).—I heard Mr. Moody lecture from the 16th chapter of John, and 16th verse.
Afternoon.—Nehemiah, 9th chapter and 19th verse: "Yet Thou in Thy manifold mercy, forsookest them not in the wilderness; the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to show them light, and the way wherein they should go."
Monday, January 12th.—A cold day. I received a letter from my son, William Knowles, in New York City.
Wednesday, May 19, 1875.—A fine day. I went to Belfast in an excursion train, and called at several places, and in the evening took a cabin passage for Glasgow, Scotland. I went from Greenock to Glasgow in the train; I arrived on Thursday morning in Glasgow, about six o'clock, and went to my brother-in-law's, Mr. William Darroch. The day is cold, blowing, and showers.
Glasgow, Sabbath morning, May 23d.—Heard the Rev. Mr. Douglass lecture from the 6th chapter of Matthew.
Afternoon.—A lovely day. Heard another minister preach in the same church, from the 3d chapter of Philippians, and 8th verse: "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but lost for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord."
Tuesday, May 25th.—I went with Mrs. Darroch and her daughter, Maggie, to Edinburgh, and after visiting the castle, and a number of other places of interest, returned to Glasgow the same day.
Saturday, May 29th.—Returned to Belfast.
Sabbath morning, May 30th.—A beautiful day. Heard Dr. Houston, pastor of my boyhood, lecture from the 13th chapter of John; then preach from 1st Thessalonians, 3d chapter, 12th and 13th verses. Lecture in the evening, from the 6th and 7th chapter of Revelations. I took dinner and tea with Rev. Dr. Houston and his family. A fine day throughout.
Before returning to this country he expressed his love and unfeigned gratitude to the memory of his sainted mother (who early taught him the ways of God) by erecting a substantial monument over her grave to perpetuate her revered name.
After spending two years in Europe he returned to New York, and was elected an Elder in the Allen Street Church.
On Easter Sabbath, April, 1877, he was regularly installed into office as a Ruling Elder.
So I ask Thee, Lord, to give me grace My little place to fill, That I may ever walk with Thee, And ever do Thy will, And in each duty, great or small; I may be faithful still.
Of course, the life-work of such a man as we are contemplating was full of little peculiarities (eccentricities, society calls them), which even his most intimate relations with the world does not divulge to the inquisitive of his day. It is only after such men pass away and their relatives are permitted to look into the "private jewel-box," as it were, that we come across the brilliant diamonds of thought, the glowing rubies of expressed gratitude and, may be, some softly-tinted pearls of faith, hope and charity, all lying together in the receptacle which, even if humble in workmanship, is full of priceless treasures.
The Bible of our friend was very often used for over forty years, until it showed that it was never allowed to preserve a dainty appearance through a want of use, nor the dust to accumulate on cover or edge by reason of its owner's non-usage of the sacred pages. It was a useful Reference Bible, and, no doubt, of immense value and comfort to him, for the pages are pretty well worn, even where no marks are made indicative of favorite passages, etc.
Next among the eccentricities of our friend was the disposition to keep a quiet order of memorandums, and a diary extending back for many years, from which had we the space to spare in this book we would place before the world some of the gems found in his jewel-box, as indicative of the man's industry and the Christian's freedom from ostentatious display.
Help each step upon the way, Strength sufficient for the day, All things easy in Thy might, Work for thee a felt delight.
Courage, patience, grace supplied, All things needful—at Thy side; Such my happy lot will be, Working, dearest Lord, with thee.
Agreeably with the spirit of our labor, we will take an impartial view of our friend as a Christian, in the eyes of the world, and among laymen generally. That he was no drone in the Christian hive, all the world could see; that he was active and unusually laborious for Christ and the Church, no one who follows the spirit of the sermon eulogizing his memory, or who reads this work, can deny; as an Elder of the Church, he was faithful in anything he was requested to perform, especially in public prayer-meeting, individual devotional study, and self-contemplation.
His sympathy for suffering humanity in any form, was, indeed, very large, in fact so easily moved, that he would habitually visit the sick members of the Church after being relieved from such duties. To him all men and women were brothers and sisters, the distance of relationship (if very strained and far between in some instances), he would claim, was closer, more congenial, and intimate in others.
As a builder among the builders, a workman among the workmen of the temple; or as a brother among brethren of the same house, he was meekness itself; his spirit of patience never failing him in instances where "to wait was gain," either for God, the Church, or himself.
His acquiescence in the decision of his brethren, when they at last decided upon changing the location of their place of worship, was secured at the price of sacrificing his own preferences in the matter—and all for the sake of peace, harmony, and continued brotherly love. In this he was a "light shining upon a hill-top."
The interest he always displayed and the anxiety he expressed for the continued welfare of the Church, manifesting the same in the labors performed or duties undertaken, was always profound, as it embraced among other items of care the temporal welfare and spiritual prosperity of the various clergymen with whom he had labored.
In his demeanor he was never in a hurry to do to-day what he should have done yesterday, because having no faith in procrastination, he left nothing undone to-day to be performed on the morrow, if by any means it could be accomplished, or the duty performed at once. In going to the House of God, he left all worry about the world on the outside of it, the moment he entered the porch; the drudgery of every-day life did not go with him into the pew; the prejudices of an ambiguous man troubled him not, while the disposition to "take things easy," while others bore the burden, was never fostered by him.
But he did carry something into the house every time he entered! He took in with him his Bible, his sweetest temper, his most charitable disposition, a vigorous condition of soul-life, a sensible care of the temporal body, and also the continued desire to be always walking with God, as well as the desire for larger acquisitions of intuitive spiritual knowledge—very proper things to take into the House of God with you at all times; and our departed brother had enough of these, and to spare.
But to cease from reflection, we close this chapter with one of our friend's favorite little gems of poetry, believing that when you have read it, you will agree with us that James Knowles was a man to be beloved, indeed; for through these few lines his spirit breathes back again to us from the great beyond:
If you cannot be a leader In the crowd that pours along, Raise the fallen, lying prostrate Under foot, amid the throng.
Though your work be never mentioned, Though your name may not appear, Speak one word for "Jesus only," And the Lord, at least, will hear.
CORRESPONDENCE AND COVENANTS.
The following letter was written to his mother while an apprentice as a printer in the city of Belfast, Ireland:
BELFAST, January 15, 1829.
DEAR MOTHER:—I write this letter to you for the purpose of letting you know how I am doing. I am devoting the most of my leisure hours to reading and improving my mind, some way or other. Indeed, it is not much time I have to devote to things of that nature; but all the time I have I am busy. I meet with a good many advantages in every respect, where I am now. I have the advantage of having a room to apply my time to whatever study I resolve to persevere in. If I had time, I would give you a more correct account of my transactions through the day; but if I have time to meditate a little, I hope I will be enabled to give you some account of the sermons that I hear, as I think it would be greatly to my own interest, for if I pry into that part of information, there is no danger but that I will have success in whatever situation I am placed in life. I may be thankful that I have a room to read my Bible in on Sabbath days. I have none to speak to me or give me annoyance of any sort whatever. I hope the next letter I write you, that it will be in a more correct sense. I hope you will write me by Johnny, when he is coming back to town, and let me know how you are succeeding in work, and how Jane is succeeding in the business of the shop. I send my love to all my friends (everyone in particular), I hope you will let me know how they are all doing; but I have nothing more to say at present. But I trust you will write me in the beginning of the week. I must conclude, as it is now too late for me to say anything more. All here are well, but Mrs. L——, who is in a bad state of health.
* * * * * *
The following letter is a sample of many to his old pastors, showing his strong attachment to those who labored with him in word and doctrine:
NEW YORK, March 26, 1883.
MR. PHELPS—Reverend and dear friend and Christian brother: It has been my purpose for some time to write to you and yours, even if it should be but a few lines, to assure you that you are not forgotten by us; for although you are absent from us, yet your faithful and earnest appeals still live in our remembrance, and I have no doubt will continue to do so; and while I may not be able to recall much of the many sermons which I have heard you deliver, yet the impressions made upon my mind while sitting under them are retained. I might, however, state here, that I was sorry to part with you and your family, and to feel that your pastoral relationship with us would soon be broken up; I had made up my mind to stay by the Church while you remained, if I lived, as I was attached to you and your family as to personal friends.... My wife and I unite in love to you and Mrs. Phelps and your son.
* * * * * *
COVENANTS WITH GOD.
"Dear Lord, and shall Thy Spirit rest In such a wretched heart as mine? Unworthy dwelling! Glorious Guest! Favor astonishing, Divine!"
* * * * * *
The following acts of consecration will, no doubt, be of interest to the reader:
NEW YORK, Thursday, June 21, 1860.
I do solemnly resolve from this day onward to endeavor, relying on thy Holy Spirit, to serve Thee better. This is my covenant, and I would ask Thee to own and bless me with peace and joy in believing.
* * * * * *
NEW YORK, Saturday, October 6, 1860.
I now promise, as I have formerly promised to do, from this day onward, to serve God better than I have been doing; depending on God's spirit for assistance; and will now ask to be prospered as God may see good for me.
* * * * * *
NEW YORK, Friday, October 18, 1861.
I resolved to serve God with renewed efforts, determining to look alone to God for help.
 The Fulton Street Noon Prayer Meetings found him an occasional visitor during these days of national peril, anxiety, and prayer.
* * * * * *
NEW YORK, Thursday, April 9, 1863.
Entered into an agreement with my Heavenly Father that, through the strength of His divine grace, I will live more for the glory of God than I have ever done.
* * * * * *
NEW YORK, Saturday afternoon, April 22, 1865.
I renewed my covenant with God in the City Hall Park while standing there, which I some years ago made, and now I again renew it, that I would serve God better than formerly.
* * * * * *
NEW YORK, Thursday, April 19, 1866.
Renewed my engagement with the Lord to serve Him better than I had done before, after having prayed to Him to be justified through faith in the righteousness of Christ; and asked for other blessings which I felt satisfied I would receive, for I feel my great need of these, as I felt very helpless in myself, but that there was abundant fulness in Christ.
I write this and the above on this Saturday night, the 22d of April, 1866.
* * * * * *
NEW YORK, Wednesday, December 5, 1866.
My birth-day, and a fine day.
I resolved on this day to endeavor to serve the Lord better, and renewed my covenant with the Lord, which I formerly made, and have again and again sought or attempted to renew. May the Lord aid me in the future.
And thus, from these few specimens of his constantly self-convicted weakness and appeals for more spiritual strength, we get a look at the inner life of a practical Christian worker which it is rare to find among us in these days. He could not stand alone; his last self-examination always found him short, though it consisted of but a few questions put by the spirit to the flesh at the end of every devotional service incidental to the life and work of each day, thus:
Did I this morn devoutly pray For God's assistance through the day? And did I read His sacred Word, To make my life therewith accord? Did I for any purpose try To hide the truth and tell a lie? Did I my time and thoughts engage As fits my duty, station, age? Did I with care my temper guide, Checking ill-humor, anger, pride? Did I my lips from aught refrain That might my fellow-creature pain? Did I with cheerful patience bear The little ills that all must share? For all God's mercies through this day Did I my grateful tribute pay? And did I, when the day was o'er, God's watchful aid again implore?
"I want a meek, a gentle, quiet frame, A heart that glows with love to Jesus' name; I want a living sacrifice to be For Him who died a sacrifice for me."
The following extracts from his diary reveal to us his carefulness in noting the texts of Scripture and the analysis of sermons he heard preached on the Sabbaths and week days from 1858 up to the time of his death.
Thursday (fast-day), September 16, 1858.—Heard a sermon preached by Dr. Crawford from the 57th chapter of Isaiah and the 15th verse: "For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."
Saturday, September 18th.—Preached by Mr. Sanderson, from the 15th chapter of St. Luke and the 2d verse: "And the Pharisees and Scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them."
Sabbath, June 20, 1859.—Preached by Mr. Finney, from Ecclesiastes, chapter 9, verse 10: "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest."
Sabbath, December 16, 1860.—Preached by Mr. Finney, from the 53d chapter of Isaiah and 11th verse, last clause: "By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many: for he shall bear their iniquities." Afternoon.—"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ." It is like the love of my mother. What an inexpressible peace and love and gentleness is launched upon you; which none but a mother can bestow, oft do I sigh in my struggles with the hard, uncaring world, for the sweet, deep security I felt, when of an evening, nestling in her bosom, I listened to some quiet tale. In my younger years I read in her tender and loving voice an invaluable incentive to be good. I can never forget her sweet smile upon me. When I appear to sleep, I feel her sweet kiss of peace.
* * * * * *
A MOTHER'S LOVE.
Children, look in those eyes; listen to that dear voice; notice the feeling of a single touch that is bestowed upon you by that gentle hand. Make much of it while yet you have that most precious of all good gifts—a loving mother. Read the unfathomable love of those eyes; the kind anxiety of that tone and look, and by analogy remember the tenderness and compassion of Jesus.
New York, November 12, 1865 (Sabbath Day).—Heard Mr. Finney preach from the Gospel according to St. Luke, 24th chapter and 23d verse: "And they said one to another, did not our hearts burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the Scripture?" It was powerful and impressive to all present, as: 1. The doctrinal teaching of Christ, as understood in this part of the chapter. 2. It is scriptural. 3. It is faithful. 4. It is pointed. 5. It is instructive to the understanding.
Friday, December 12, 1867.—I attended our church, and heard a sermon preached from the 3d chapter of St. Matthew and the 3d verse, last clause: "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight." Afterward Mr. Chambers was ordained to the office of the gospel ministry, and the charge was given to him by Dr. Campbell; and the charge to the people by Dr. Hall. After the conclusion of the services, the congregation congratulated our newly-ordained pastor in his new relation to us.
Sabbath, October 1st.—Preached by Mr. Chambers to the children of the Sabbath school, in the Fortieth Street Church, from Luke ii., verses 27 to 32. Simeon was led by the Spirit into the Temple, and for an important object. He had been waiting in expectancy of this great event, and at the appointed period was led to the temple, where he became satisfied in beholding the Lord's Christ, and thus his faith became constant in the fulfilment of God's promise to him, and found that the desires awakened in his soul was now satisfied; and although he had been comparatively unknown to others, yet he now enjoyed not only a convincing proof of God's goodness to himself on this occasion, with such an appearance of love, but he enjoyed the privilege of prophesying concerning his own people, and also the effects of the gospel upon the Gentile nations.
Sabbath, November 21st.—Preached by Mr. Chambers, from Jeremiah, 2d chapter and 19th verse: "Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord God of hosts."
In one of his notes, as if he had just heard a sermon upon the subject, he writes: "In lives of faith and long obedience to the command of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, we have first presented to us something of the operations and workings of the mind of the depth of humility and gratitude expressed in his own words, and the evident absence of everything of a proud spirit. Thus when the sinner is brought to Christ, the change will become manifest not in giving expression to similar feelings in only thankful acknowledgments in words, but a becoming and thankful spirit will be seen in the entire life, in proportion as Jesus is followed and kept in view. But when Jesus is received into the heart, the recipient of this precious gift will feel anxious to do good to others, that they, too, may partake of the benefits of His salvation. First, then, deep repentance of sin. Second, a heart full of gratitude to God for this free gift. Third, the Apostle is not ashamed to acknowledge his entire indebtedness to God. What encouragement we may have from this circumstance in common with others to endeavor to do good; for if it was such an advantage to this man to be made whole, how great, then, must the advantage be to those, who are led to believe in Christ, and are delivered from condemnation, and become heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ."
New York, Sabbath, March 6, 1870.—Sermon [preached by Dr. McElroy's assistant] from 1st Thessalonians, 5th chapter, 17th verse: "Pray without ceasing."
1. By observing stated seasons for prayer.
2. Always maintain a prayerful spirit.
3. Always acting as in the immediate presence of God.
4. Turning everything into prayer.
New York, Sabbath, March 20, 1870.—Sermon preached by Mr. Chambers, to the Sabbath-school, from 6th chapter of Romans, 23d verse: "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ, our Lord."
1. The death of character.
2. The death of all good prospect.
3. The death of the body.
4. The death of the soul.
Fortieth Street Church, Sabbath, December 3, 1871.—Sermon preached by Mr. Chambers, from the 25th chapter of St. Matthew, 31st and 32d verses: "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of His glory. And before Him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats."
Subject, the goats and sheep.
G—Go into dangerous places. O—Often annoy the sheep. A—Appear like sheep. T—Take poisonous food. S—Stubborn.
S—Seek the fold. H—Hear the shepherd's voice. E—Ever the same. E—Eat the wholesome food. P—Peaceful and peaceable.
New York, Sabbath, December 30, 1883.—Heard Rev. Dr. Conkling preach from St. Matthew, 17th chapter and 8th verse: "And when they had lifted up their eyes they saw no man save Jesus only."
1. Take Jesus as your guide. 2. Trust Jesus as your Saviour. 3. We should follow Jesus as our example. 4. We should love Jesus with a supreme love.
I heard Mr. Moody preach from the 11th chapter of Hebrews and the 16th verse: "But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly; wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for he hath prepared for them a city." This he divided into three parts:
I. The persons referred to are believers.
(a.) They lived by faith. (b.) They died in faith.
II. They were called by His name; and realized His presence.
III. He had prepared for them a city.
Sabbath, November 21st.—Preached by Mr. Chambers to the children of the Sabbath-school, from Proverbs 20th chapter and 11th verse: "Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right." Subject: How children may be known. First. We will take the word Lord, and let each letter stand for a word, or a particular part.
L—Love. Love to God, etc. O—Obedience. Obedience to God and to their parents. R—Respectful to their superiors. D—Doing good.
How bad children are known:
Take one word and let each letter stand for a particular subject. By their
D—Disobedience. E—Enticing others to evil. V—Vanity and pride. I—Insulting to their superiors. L—Love of sin.
Heard Mr. Chambers preach from the 19th chapter of St. Matthew's gospel and the 13th and 14th verses: "Then were brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and his disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said: Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me; for of such is the kingdom of heaven."
A. Approach of the parents to Christ. B. Blessing sought. C. Conduct of the disciples. D. Displeasure of Christ. E. Encouragement of Christ to the parents of the children. F. Familiar reception of those parents and the children on the part of Christ. G. Gracious words of Christ. H. Heavenly requirements.
Improvement, or instructions from lesson. Under the 8th head of the discourse, Heavenly requirements, he referred to five characteristics of children as designated by the five letters of the word child; viz., C, Confiding. H, Happy. I, Inquisitive. L, Loving. D, Dependants.
Citing another interesting sermon, he writes:
New York, September 25th (Sabbath).—Heard Rev. George O. Phelps preach from the 3d chapter of Acts and 6th verse, "Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk." The true followers of Christ, in their desire to do good, will frequently find cases to excite their sympathy. Here was a most affecting case, a man lame from his mother's womb, but is suddenly cured by the power of God. He was directed by Peter to look upon John and himself, assuring him that they had neither silver nor gold, but such as they had he would give. He had only to look upon them, Peter and John, at the beautiful gate that is supposed to divide the Gentiles from the inner Court.
1. The power of Christ displayed in such a remarkable manner on this occasion. 2. The faith of the man in doing as he was told, and the effects produced. 3. The faith of Peter and John, united with their desire to work a miracle in this man's case. 4. The gratitude of this man; he had received far more than he had expected.
Their success was even more than they had anticipated. They had gone forth at the command of Christ. They had not only respect for His authority, but they gave testimony to this by their ready obedience to the command of Jesus, and thus far they had the satisfaction of doing the will of their Lord and Master.
It was a loving obedience, as can be seen by the results that followed.
They commenced their work right, receiving their instructions from their Saviour Himself. They went forth relying upon Him for the help and assistance required.
They returned again to give him their report, and they rejoiced to feel that their success was even beyond what they expected. And yet, while the Saviour heard their report, He cautioned them not to let their success occupy too much of their attention, but rather rejoice because their names are written in heaven. It is pleasant to know that when we obey the Lord, as these seventy disciples did, that we adhere strictly to all His words of command; and that we know that we have experienced the love of God in our hearts; but yet we are not to make this the ground-work of our rejoicing, but trust more in that which is done without us than in that which is done within us.
Another grand characteristic of the elder was his almost invariable custom to watch and note the providential dealings of God with the officers of the church, whenever they met for the transaction of business.
His fidelity in noting the texts preached from, down to the last Sabbath he spent on earth, is a proof of his unparalleled perseverance and painstaking in keeping his diary.
We close this part of our work by giving our readers a sample of his carefulness at this time.
New York, October 10th (Sabbath evening).—Heard Mr. Young preach from the 5th chapter of Romans and 1st verse: "Therefore being justified by faith," etc., and onward, giving an account of Rome the imperial city, and its surroundings; also the triumphs and advances of Christianity notwithstanding the opposition which the church had to encounter.
The last sermon he ever heard on earth was peculiarly appropriate to prepare his mind and heart for the peaceful closing hour of this mortal life. He again writes:
New York, October 17th, 1886 (Sabbath evening).—Heard Mr. Young preach from the 11th chapter of St. John's Gospel, and the 39th verse: "Jesus said, Take ye away the stone.... Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?" Unfolding the omnipotency of Christ's love in the hour of sickness and sorrow—also the profound sympathy with the sorrowing sisters of Bethany in their great bereavement; and His matchless power over death and the grave, because He said, "I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live."
In closing this part of our work we would remark, that there are very few men who have been so painstaking and methodical as to record in their diary all the texts, time, and place, and the preacher's name, in connection with the sermons to which he was permitted to listen.
Their commencement, continuation, and close, is all that space allows for further insertion.
THE LAST HOURS.
I often feel impatient, And mourn the long delay, I never can be settled While he remains away. But we shall not long be parted, For I know he'll quickly come, And we shall dwell together In that happy, happy home.
We were about to say farewell to the loved brother whose end was rapidly approaching. His going from this life to that beyond the grave was one of the most remarkable for faith and hope, quietly exhibiting the spirit of Him who went about continually doing good.
There was no attempt to argue with death, and ask for a respite to prepare for the journey through the valley of the shadow of death to the golden shore beyond. We cannot do better here than lay before the reader the following communication written by their son to their former pastor, the Rev. George O. Phelps, of Utica, N.Y. It is a brief narrative of their last hours on earth, which were a triumphant ending to a long life of devotion to their Master:
NEW YORK CITY, November 15, 1886.
Your kind letter was duly received and contents noted. At your request, I will endeavor to give you a brief account of the "goings" of my departed parents. In a spirit of humility I desire to avoid all expressions of fulsomeness when speaking of their lives and last moments, though it might be said that those who were at the death-bed of either, and saw them in their last hours, would have been willing to have left all to exchange places with them. I would say, in the words of one of old, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my end be like theirs." As they lived so they died! As father lay down, so he never moved until he was carried into the arms of Jesus.
All through his two days' sickness, as we put our ears to his lips, we could hear him earnestly praying for Allen Street Church, her minister and people, and for his family. Our mother would frequently speak to him, saying:
"Just one word, papa!"
But he would only shake his head, without uttering a word.
The history of his going was as follows:
On Tuesday, October 19th, father left the office for the last time. When Wednesday morning, October 20th, dawned, he complained of a pain in his side, remarking that he "did not think he would go to the office before noon." He did not go at all.
I went to the house in the evening, to find that the doctor had been called twice, and that father had pleurisy. We passed through the night watching and hoping for favorable changes; but, unfortunately, the next (Thursday) morning, October 21st, pneumonia set in, and the case became complicated. Already very weak, he grew more feeble every hour. He had done his part of this life's work, and seemed conscious that the Universal Master was about to finish the mansion into which his servant was fully prepared to enter. A peaceful, quiet Christian in the home circle; a zealous worker in the Church; watchful in his business relations with the world, he looked the very embodiment of peaceful repose in his last moments, and on his earthly bed of sleeping rest—so life-like, too, that I dare not say bed of death—as he breathed his last at 2.10 A.M., Saturday, October 23d.
The expressions and sentiments of many who visited the house during his sickness, and while lying in the casket (Roman Catholics, believers, and unbelievers) were all in harmony with the idea that "if ever a human being entered heaven, he had gone straight to that realm of blissful repose."
But to go back just prior to his demise, when the doctor quietly told us he could not live another day. We tried hard to be resigned on that Friday night, feeling sure that the end was near. After the meeting at the Church was dismissed, the minister came to the house and remained with us until after midnight, obtaining from father the words and signs that are precious as he passed away; the last audible words to me being: "William, God bless you and your family!"
In the history of my mother's demise, I will briefly state that, on Saturday night, October 23d, while father lay asleep in Jesus, she went to the store, as was her life-long custom, with some tracts, and to purchase a few things. On her return after coming up-stairs she threw herself down upon the sofa with the words, "No papa to come and carry up the basket for me to-night!" and there she sat in deep affliction, as if her heart would break.
On Sabbath night, October 24th, when quite a number of people were in the house, she very earnestly exhorted them in Christ Jesus, allowing no one to pass unobserved. In turning to one young wife, I heard her kindly urge, "Always be cheerful and happy; don't discourage your husband by always complaining. He will also get discouraged. That is what ruins many a happy home." Singular to note, my mother had scarcely got through, when she, too, complained of a pain in her side, remarking, "It is papa's pain."
On Monday morning she arose to eventually lie upon the sofa in an unconscious state. The funeral services over father's remains were to be observed in the Allen Street Presbyterian Church at 1 P.M.: therefore the doctor came in to arouse her, and gave her a stimulant, so that she went to the church with us, returning home instead of going to the grounds, after the services; and here I may say her pastor preached a very solemn sermon, exactly in harmony with the tenor of father's private and public life.
One thing happened (when the relatives were invited to step forward and see the remains for the last time) that was singular, viz.: As my mother bent over to take a last look at the life-long partner of her joys and sorrows, her veil became attached to the handle of the casket, which my sister was compelled to stoop and unloosen. Without being superstitious, this looked like the dead reaching forth to the living.
At all events, on Tuesday, October 26th, mother was confined to her bed, and, as she had said, she had "papa's pain"—pleurisy. The next day, Wednesday, October 27th, pneumonia followed, when it required three persons to care for her in the day, and three to attend her through the night, with no change for the better.
On Thursday there was no favorable sign to note—suspense was still in the balancing beam. Toward Friday night, October 29th, all hope having vanished, my mother was quietly informed that "her day was short!" To which she responded: "My day is short. I must finish my work!"
"Then occurred a repetition of the previous call upon the Allen Street Church, a second Friday in succession. In response, the minister, elder, and' several young men came promptly to the house to hear the testimony of a sainted mother in Israel going to rest. After supplication in prayer and a hymn of praise, the minister asked mother:
"Have you any word for me, sister?"
Turning over and taking his hand, she said:
"No! you know these things yourself. Preach the gospel uncolored!"
To a Roman Catholic she remarked:
"There are no forms about my religion!"
To her daughter-in-law, my wife, she remarked:
"You have a mother!"
To the young men present she lovingly urged:
"Avoid bad company; learn of Christ; seek to be like Him, little by little."
To Mrs. ——, who is a visitor, she firmly said:
"You are well liked, and can do a great deal of good; but pray with the people you visit!"
Then at times she would exclaim:
"Oh, I have so much to do; but I am so weak!"
When Esther, my sister, soothingly said:
"Mother, please do not talk so much, it weakens you;" she responded with:
"The doctor says my day is short!"
Later on, requesting my wife to remove her stockings, she remarked, "I have got to the edge of the river!" Finally: "Once I was young; now I am old, and have never been forsaken!" were the last words of testimony she left those present to bear witness to as she fell asleep in the Lord.
What a blessed "going" for a life-long, zealous Christian who was left an orphan when only eight years of age (as seen and recorded in another chapter), with a rich uncle who would have done anything for her if she had only married as he desired. What an encouragement it holds forth to the living to trust everything to God, and simply follow as He may direct.
Death had no sting or terror for her. She spoke calmly of the last rites to be observed over her remains, saying she would like to be buried like "Papa" (father), and asked my wife if the services would be held over her at the house, or in the church. When informed that the service would be held in the church, she smilingly said, "Very well," and cheerfully resigned herself from earth to heaven.
Her last exhortation to myself was: "Be faithful, humble, meek, and constantly keep at the Master's feet until He calls you up higher. Be kind, gentle, and patiently forbearing with your sister." In her discourse with my sister she was very anxious and urgent that her daughter would ultimately meet her parents in heaven, for which we pray. Her faith was great; she had no fear or thought for self; her great concern was for the heavenly welfare of those around her. She spoke and acted as if her seat or place in the realm of bliss had been long secured to her—in that great faith she died, but not before, in her parting words, she had instructed me, "To gather up the books and tracts; to see that they were properly distributed, and that not one sheet be lost, so that the work would go on after she was gone."
This second source of anxiety having been allayed, she rapturously extended her hands to meet the angels, and raising herself up in bed, turned her head and raised her eyes as if to gaze upon the celestial messengers sent to bear her home, before she said to us: "Be faithful till the Master calls!" then grasping the hands reached out to hers, she was gone—gone from a finite life into heavenly rest!
One or two other items I must note. In looking over my father's papers, I find that he kept a private diary (which forms a part of the contents of this work) of the texts and sermons he heard on the Sabbath, from the year 1858, to the Sabbath before he died, and much significance is given to one he heard you preach from the Book of Jude, 23d verse: "Hating even a garment spotted by the flesh." I feel confident that he grew in grace under the Word of Life conveyed to him by you, and assisted by a close study of his own Bible. In his usual course of reading the Scriptures, he read on the day he was taken sick the 20th Psalm, though not permitted again to drink from the same fountain of Eternal Life, for he was going, unconsciously, to realize the efficacy of the 21st Psalm—a favorite with him—and to receive the crown of gold and life everlasting.
The general remarks of the outside world at the time fostered great interest in the fact of such peaceful "goings" from earth to heaven of two such worthy Christians, at dates so close to each other.
Neither of them feared death. Both had lived and worked in harmony for the same great end.
Both to be ultimately called up higher in one week and two hours of each other.
I desire to supplement the foregoing account of the "Last Hours," by stating that when we reached the house of sickness and death, we found her son reading that precious portion of God's Word, the 14th chapter of St. John's Gospel, "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my father's house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you," etc. The scene was deeply affecting. Loved ones were gathered around the bedside.
After reading the Scriptures, and prayer, we united in singing that well known hymn,
Jesus, lover of my soul, Let me to Thy bosom fly, While the nearer waters roll, While the tempest still is high, Hide me, O my Saviour, hide, Till the storm of life be past; Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last!
The dying missionary endeavored to join in the singing though extremely faint, and life's latest sun was sinking fast, for the hour of her departure had come, and she heard the voice that called her home, and at last she peacefully entered into that rest that remains for the people of God.
Three thousand copies of the "Last Hours" were printed in pamphlet form and widely scattered over different parts of the country. And the Lord has been graciously pleased to bless their circulation to the spiritual edification of those who had the privilege of reading them.
It was a singular coincidence that the last chapter read by the Elder was the same as the one selected by the minister as the Lesson of the Day, on the occasion of the celebration of the Jubilee exercises in honor of the noble and beloved Queen Victoria, in Westminster Abbey.
THE DEAD WHO DIE IN THE LORD.
"And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them"—Rev. xiv. 13.
 The substance of a sermon preached in the Allen Street Presbyterian Church, New York City, October 25, 1886, on the occasion of the death of Elder James Knowles, who triumphantly fell asleep in Jesus, October 23, 1886, in the seventy fifth year of his age.
Elder James Knowles is at rest—sweet, sweet rest. It is the rest for which he sighed and for which he prayed. His favorite hymn was:
O land of rest, for thee I sigh, When will the moment come, When I shall lay my armor by, And dwell in peace at home?
To keep an eye on the home above is consummate wisdom. Hence the injunction of the Holy Apostle, "Set your affections on things above." This exercise of the heart can only be attained by first seeking an interest in the atoning blood and justifying righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ.
"John looked, and, lo! a Lamb (the Lamb of God) stood on the mount Sion, and with Him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name (the new name) written in their foreheads, and I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: and they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the four hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth." Those who had here below redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of their sins, according to the riches of His grace. These are they who keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus Christ. Concerning such is this solemn affirmation made, corroborated by the attestation of the Divine voice, that the dearly beloved John heard, saying, "Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord."
You know that the original signification of the word "blessed" means happy. In Christ's inimitable Sermon on the Mount He declares, "Happy are the beggars in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." All the uninterrupted felicities of the glory land are theirs at the hour of dissolution. Their joy is augmented by the pure fellowship and friendship of the Saviour and the saints before the throne of the Eternal.
There is a broad avenue opened up to the saved of pleasing and familiar intercourse with the general assembly, and the spirits of just men made perfect. They share the attention and affection of the heavenly host, and are gladdened by the presence of Him who is the King eternal, immortal, but not now invisible, for they behold the King in his beauty.
"Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord." Death to the Christian is represented in the Scripture as a sleep. "Them that sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him." He is redeemed from the power of death. "For Christ came to deliver them, who, through fear of death were all their life time subject to bondage." (Heb. ii. 15.) All believers, therefore, need not dread death—he is a conquered enemy. And so every one of us who are here to day in Christ can say humbly, but truly, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" No Christian, however weak he may be, need fail to feel with Paul, and ask the same question, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?... Nay in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
The last great conflict is inevitable, but the secret of a triumphant departure from this life is found in the language of the "Faith Psalm," "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." It is not really death that we have to grapple with. It is only the shadow of death. We do not fear the shadow of a sword, or the shadow of a serpent. The above verse of the twenty-third Psalm is very frequently misquoted. It is called the dark valley. But you remember that when Bunyan's pilgrim came down to the valley it was not dark, for Jesus, the light, was with him. The sting of death is not simply concealed; it is completely destroyed by the death of Christ. He conquered the great enemy. "The sting of death is sin, the strength of sin is the law; but thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
Thus understood, the Christian is truly blessed in his death. He cannot be separated from Christ, or from his symmetrically developed spiritual character. Death is not the extinction of being. We must make a distinction between natural and spiritual death. It is sin unforgiven that gives death his power. It is a fearful catastrophe to those out of Christ. Hence the holiness of others will not avail them at the hour of dissolution. "When the soul raves round the walls of its clay tenement, and runs to each avenue, and shrieks for help when no help can come," then the door of salvation is eternally shut. The last ray of hope is then forever faded. "There are no acts of pardon past in the cold grave to which we haste." Oh, let us not content ourselves with a mere external profession of Christianity. True wisdom consists in having the graces of the Holy Spirit in the heart. Walking day by day by faith in Jesus Christ, so that when the cry is made, "Behold the Bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet Him," we go forth with joy and not with grief.
Scriptural facts concerning death go to show that it is not an unimportant event. To the soul who is found clothed not in his own righteousness which is of the law, but with the righteousness of the Redeemer, to die is gain, for precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints (or holy ones). It is then the refining process is thoroughly completed. They are ready to be offered. The honor and favor of the Father is now about to be received. The union formed on earth is at death gloriously ratified in heaven.
The obedience of Christ's death is fully realized to be laid to their account. The life and immortality brought to light by the Gospel is then permanently enjoyed. The clouds and mysteries that cluster around this earthly life are then dissipated. The full communion of the populace of glory is wonderfully experienced without interruption or restraint. The "conflict is over, and the prize is won." "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his." It is then we view the Divine glory, for this was a part of Christ's prayer: "Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory."
You see, then, how the believer is ushered into the beauties and blessedness of the beatic state. There is, therefore, nothing to be dreaded by the approach of the last enemy. For, says the prophet, He "will swallow up death in victory: and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of the people shall he take away from off all the earth; for the Lord hath spoken it." It is by a realization of his security in death that the believer in Jesus can calmly meditate on the hour of dissolution—that he is blest with longings for home; that he is soon to be delivered from the present evil world; in short, that he is completely constituted an actuality in the Church triumphant. He is at last brought into intimate alliance with Christ, not now by faith but by sight, not by prayer, but by praise; not by earthly circumscribed anticipation, but by the power of unfathomable and constraining grace, and a deep sensibility of soul which springs from the knowledge that he is forever with the Lord; now the strugglings of faith are ended.
When Peter, James, and John beheld Christ transfigured on the summit of the mount, and as they gazed upon the glory of the scene, they said, "It is good to be here." It was a sight of Moses and Elias that enraptured their soul. That was only a transitory sight. But at death the Christian is admitted into endless glory. It is day without a night. It is to be admitted into the House of the Lord. "The house not made by hands, eternal in the heavens." Through much tribulation they enter into the kingdom. Soon shall close their earthly mission; soon shall end their pilgrim days; hope shall change to glad fruition. God is continually guiding our feet to those mansions above, where flowers that never fade do deck the heavenly plains. Where our loved ones gone before shall meet us and greet us on the golden strand. Many are the voices so sweet and tender, and true, who are calling us away to join the holy ones, that no man can number, who stand around the throne clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands. The angels beckon us away to join their ranks. Truly blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.
In the Treasury Hymnal there is a Pilgrim Song by Dr. Horatius Bonar, and the music is from Beethoven; it is very sweet and cheering in this connection:
A few more years shall roll, a few more seasons come, And we shall be with those that rest asleep within the tomb. Then, oh, my Lord, prepare my soul for that great day, Oh, wash me in my Saviour's blood, and take my sins away.
We truly spend our years as a tale that is told. But in heavenly love abiding, no change my heart shall fear. How precious is this thought; though friend after friend depart, "For who has not lost a friend?" What though the storm of bereavement and affliction howl without? Still, amid it all, the unbounded, uncomprehended love of God changeth never.
Though our days are determined, and the number of our months are with God; "though He hath appointed the bounds that He cannot pass, yet He will hide us in the grave; He will keep us secret until His wrath upon the ungodly is past." We read, however, His power to redeem and deliver His elect, even amid the wreck and ruin of years and the gloom of the grave, for Christ is the resurrection and the life.
There is rest, yonder; only just across the river. It is only a narrow stream. "This is not my place of resting; mine's a city yet to come; onward to it I am hastening; on to my eternal home." "I go to prepare a place for you," said Jesus. No threatening danger or death there. It is no desert dreary. It is freedom from pain and weariness, from sin and sadness, in the dominions of the Bridegroom. For He says, "I have betrothed thee unto me forever; I have betrothed thee in righteousness, in the judgment, in loving kindness, and in mercy, and in faithfulness."
"In the Lord." How significant the words. It is to have the infinite arms of love and power encircling us. It is not to receive the spirit of bondage again to fear. It is to rise above the uncertainties of this life to the realities of that land where congregations ne'er break up, and Sabbaths have no end. Linked to the eternal, never broken chain of God's goodness, what can affright? Can the consolation of God be small with those who are His, when we are informed that He will ransom His people from the power of the grave? Shortly it will be all over with you in your pilgrimage journey. Watch and wait, therefore, for the coming of the King.
On earth, here and now, those who die in the Lord have attentively listened to His kind remonstrances, concerning reconciliation and entire renunciation of every false hope of heaven only through faith in the name of Jesus. They realize that God's methods of mercy are peculiarly calculated to impart peace in the hour of sickness and death. They see the city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God, where the inhabitants say, "I am sick, I am weary no more." They know that their Redeemer liveth, and though worms may destroy the body, yet in their flesh they shall see God. They know there are realms where
The voices of song never cease 'neath a burden of tears, And the music falls sweet from those radiant spheres.
God's children on earth are remarkable for their love to Christ and His Church, and delight to meditate on the glories of heaven. Hence when death comes they are prepared to enter upon their purchased possessions, for which they habitually awaited with bright anticipations, knowing full well that He that had promised is able also to perform.
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but He that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." "For to be carnally minded is death (death eternal), but to be spiritually minded is life and peace."
Henry says, "The Providence that removes God's saints has a loved voice which crieth in the city to the survivors. The death of the saints speaketh the evil of sin." It is owing to that they die, for "the body is dead because of sin." It speaks the vanities of life, and of all its delights and enjoyments; for if the favorites of heaven are dying daily, and going out of this world it is a sign that the things of this world are not the best things, else those whom God loves best would not be taken soonest from them. It speaks that all things come alike to all, and that one event happeneth to the righteous and to the wicked, "so that none knows love or hatred by all that is before him in this world." But he that would know it must look before him into the invisible world. Lay your ears this day to the coffins and graves of departed saints, who though they do not pray for us, yet preach to us in the words of Christ, "Be ye also ready." (Matt. xxiv. 44.) They are gone, and we are going; their glass is run out, and ours is running; and therefore it concerns us to daily die unto sin, and be alive to holiness, standing on the watchtower, like the sentinel, with "loins girt," and "lamps burning," knowing that it is not the stroke, but the sting of death from which the imputed righteousness of the Redeemer delivers.
God's saints are like a green olive-tree, in the house of God, because they trust in His manifold mercy. They are like trees planted by the rivers of water, and whose leaf shall never fade. While death can lay his cold and icy hand upon the Christian's body, yet his soul he can never touch. While God destroys the wicked at death, and plucks him out of his dwelling-place, and roots him out of the land of the living, yet to die in the Lord is to sing with the Psalmist, "I will not be afraid," "I will render praises unto thee, for thou hast delivered my soul from death," "and thou shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth."
Heaven is propitious. Streaming love flows from the fountain of Divine compassion. "God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Oh, this constant untiring love of our kind heavenly father. "Scarcely," says Paul, "for a righteous man will one die: yet, peradventure, for a good man some would even dare to die; but God commendeth his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." If we would die in the Lord, we must get a sight of Calvary. He has died that we might live. We must behold His pierced hands and feet and side. It is this sight that saves.
Not all the blood of goats and bulls, On Jewish altars slain, Can give the guilty conscience peace, Or wash away the stain. But Christ, the heavenly Lamb, Takes all our guilt away.
It is the free gift of grace that, through saving faith, that will hold us until this short life is past, and then when we come to the river of death, like our dear Elder, we will reach our home safely. "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound, that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord."
Are we all who are here to-day to this funeral in the Lord—"I in them and thou in me?" Perhaps, some have been living at a distance from Him. Others may have been grieving the Holy Spirit. The Master has come (by this death) and calls for thee. He is standing to-day at the door of thy heart knocking and saying, "If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." No friend so forgiving, so gentle as he. Oh, wilt thou let Him depart? Patiently waiting, earnestly pleading, Jesus thy Saviour knocks at thine heart. Is there some idol that you are cherishing? Is there some secret, darling sin to which you are clinging? Oh, what wilt thou do in the swellings of Jordan without an interest in the atoning work of Jesus? Are you still slighting the Saviour? He waits for thee. How tender the look. He says unto you as he said to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, "How often would I have gathered thy children together as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but ye would not."
Christ alone is our true Shechem, our City of Refuge. He is the living well of Jacob and the rifled tomb of Joseph. Isaiah says, "A man shall be as an hiding-place from the wind and a covert from the tempest, as rivers of water in a dry place, and as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land." What boundless resources are found in Christ. We are guilty, but He atoned for our guilt; He paid the ransom price; He engaged in the great work of paying the penalty due to our sin, for He was made sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. "We could never have been saved without Divine interference, save from going down to the pit, for I have found a ransom," was the declaration of the stupendous wealth of God's free love. For it is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, even the very chief. The mysteries of redeeming love are solved at Golgotha.
Listen to the sweet singer of Israel as he surveys the administration of mercy seen anticipatively at the Cross:
I love the Lord, because my voice And prayer He did hear; I, while I live, will call on Him Who bowed to me His ear.
He was greatly encouraged to serve God in view of the alliance and assistance of Jehovah towards the redemption of Israel. In the fortieth Psalm he illustrates this thought still further:
I waited for the Lord my God, And patiently did bear. He took me from the fearful pit, And from the miry clay, And on a Rock He set my feet, Establishing my way.
The nature of salvation is the same all the world over. The scheme is sovereign. The objects are poor, helpless sinners. The results are ever the same, namely, the forgiveness of sin—justification by faith alone; and then, at last, an abundant entrance is afforded into the beautiful mansions of light, where friendship is changeless and carkering care is unknown, and no more pale faces with mute hearts breaking every day. Yonder we shall be clad in the beauteous wedding garments of the King.
To die in the Lord will be an ample equivalent for all of earth's sorrows and difficulties. In the meantime, we must continually say concerning such providences as the present, "Draw me, we will run after thee. Awake, O north wind and come thou, south, and blow upon my garden that the spices thereof may flow out." This loss will work together for our good if we hear His voice. It calls us to the necessary duty of immediate decision. We must not halt any longer between two opinions. If the Lord be God follow Him, but if Baal be your God follow him no longer. But please remember that the wages of sin is death. You are called to decide for Christ, to decide for heaven, by this sad bereavement. He draws you with the cords of love as with the bands of a man. Will you run after Him?
There is no one can help you in the hour of death and the judgment but Jesus. Choose ye this day whom ye will serve. Yield, oh! yield to His call! Say yes, "My beloved is mine and I am His; He feedeth among the lilies until the daybreak, and the shadows flee away." Oh! turn your eyes upwards:
Where high the heavenly temple stands, The house of God not made with hands, A great High Priest our nature wears, The guardian of mankind appears.
If we would die in the Lord, we must recognize Christ, not only as having died that we might live, but also as having triumphed over the grave, and is now sitting at the right hand of God making continual intercession for us. By day and by night He pleads our cause. Don't try to get to heaven by the intercession of saints or angels. Christ alone is the Great High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. Disobedience in this direction will prove disastrous.
Say, "who is this that cometh from Edom with dyed garments, from Bozrah travelling in the greatness of His strength?" I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. This is your Daysman, your Mediator. He hath opened a fountain for sin and uncleanness.
Five bleeding wounds He bears, Received on Calvary, Now pour effectual prayers And strongly speak for thee.
If you would die like our dear Brother Knowles, in the Lord, then to-day behold His wounded hands and side. We have all sinned against God and abused His mercy; but, oh, let us to-day consecrate ourselves to Christ, and like the prodigal son say, "I will arise and go to my father." Christ is our great representative before the throne. Oh, that He would ever teach us to offer this prayer:
Lord God of Hosts, my prayer hear; O Jacob's God, give ear! See God, our shield, look on the face Of thine anointed dear.
I tell you, my friends, we do not want any new school theology. The holy religion of our fathers is good enough for me. Here it is a loving father, a crucified and triumphant and pleading saviour for us poor, miserable and helpless sinners, and a Home beyond the flood.
I will arise now and go about the city, in the streets, on the cars, in the workshop, on the ship, on the sea and land where-ever God may guide my wandering footsteps through each perplexing path of life. And I will seek Him whom my soul loveth.
They rest from their labors and their works do follow them. The Psalmist says that our strength is labor and sorrow. The more we toil for Christ and His church the more we honor Him and become fruit-bearers. By a constant course of activity and devotedness for the welfare of fallen humanity, the capacities of the soul are greatly enlarged, and we apprehend more fully the fact that God hath put the treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of man. Sometimes, too, our good will be evil spoken of and attributed to selfish motives. We may be traduced by tongues which neither know our faculties nor our person. 'Tis but the rough road that virtue must go through. We must not allow any discouragements or censure to retard our aggressive work, remembering constantly that the Master was accused of having a devil, and that he cast out devils by the power of Beelzebub. Oh, what wrong ideas men have of the great work of saving souls. What prejudices, what indifference, what neglect, what lukewarmness have the true servants of Christ to encounter as they earnestly toil in transplanting souls into the vineyard of the Lord.
The life of Christ on earth was a life of generous labor; and when He called His disciples, He said, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Kempis, in his "Imitation of Christ," says, "by the words of Christ we are taught to imitate His life and manner, if we would be truly enlightened and be delivered from all blindness of heart." "Learn of me," said Jesus, as well as "Come unto me. I have set the Lord always before me, said David. What a glorious thing it is for the servant of Christ to know that he is earnestly engaged in the work of His Master. It is our labors of love that alone meets with the smile and approbation of God, for He is cognizant of everything we try to accomplish for His cause on earth. Oh, that we may say from the heart, I must work the works of Him that sent me; the night cometh when no man can work."
The trees of the Lord are full of sap, they are fat and flourishing. We are all familiar with the work of blessed beneficence of Howard, the great philanthropist, and Henry Martyn, the self-denying missionary. To be a true Christian, then, requires a life of toil. "For man goeth forth unto the work and to his labor until the evening." How sweet, then, is rest to the laboring man. When the harvest is gathered in. A harvest of souls for Christ. Here am I, Lord, and the children which thou hast given me. Paul said that I may so preach and labor that I may present every one of you perfect before God. This is no mean toil. What prayers. What watching. What toil. What tears. Ah! but at eventide it shall be light. Strange language.
What a beautiful and touching description does Burns give, in his "Cottar's Saturday Night," of the sweet rest and joy that springs into the soul when the weary work is over. He says:
The toil-worn cottar frae his labor goes, This night his weekly moil is at an end, Collects his spades, his mattocks and his hoes, Hoping the morn in ease and rest to spend, And weary o'er the moor his course does hameward bend.
The next stanza can be truly applied to our Elder in his Christian experience:
The parent pair their secret homage pay, And proffer up to heaven the warm request, That He who stills the raven's clamorous nest, And decks the lily fair in flowery pride, Would in His way His Wisdom see the best, For them and for their little ones provide, But chiefly in their hearts with grace Divine reside.
I think this is the most descriptive, and true, and touching scene of a Christian man's experience that can be found in any language. Burns knew how to touch the tender chord of a human heart. "An honest man's the noblest work of God." "They rest from their labor and their works do follow them."
Paul, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, says, "Beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak: For God is not unrighteous to forget your work, and the love which He showed unto His name."
Listen, then, to this sweet, silent voice calling us to go and do likewise.
Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? It is to a life of toil, not of indolence, we are called. The fields are white already, unto harvest. Who will bear the sheaves away? Who among our young men in this congregation will take the place of Elder Knowles? Can you be engaged in a grander or nobler work? He that winneth souls is wise. Is there any purer pleasure in this world than the joy that is experienced in the heart when souls are converted to God? Oh, young men, deeply meditate on that precious passage. He that converteth a sinner from the error of his ways, doth save a soul from death, and doth hide a multitude of sins. Are not the opportunities great in this city for doing good? Is not the wickedness great? Are not souls perishing around you for lack of knowledge? Resolve, from this day, that, God helping you, you will dedicate all your powers of heart, soul, and strength to the blessed service of Christ. You are not your own. You have been saved, that you may save others by pulling them out of the fire. Haste then, haste to the rescue. Souls may perish, and go down to hell, while you are deliberating.
I remember, years ago, while coming into New York Harbor, we lost a very promising young man overboard. The life-boat was launched, and the life-buoy was cut adrift. But through some delay, the young man perished. What a tremendous disappointment those parents experienced as they stepped on board the frigate at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and learned that their darling boy had found a watery grave.
I never think of the above sad occurrence but I am forcibly reminded that through the delays and sad neglect of Christian parents and Sabbath-school teachers, many young persons perish, and I inquire, Who is responsible for their destruction? Many ask the question that Cain impudently put to the Lord, "Am I my brother's keeper?" We can be guilty of other men's sins. This is a mysterious fact, but it is nevertheless true. If you are an idler in the Master's vineyard, you are, to a certain extent, responsible. Oh, that the Holy Spirit would show us our duty to our fellow-men.
Our departed brother realized this truth. Just look at a man seventy-five years old, occupied every Lord's Day teaching a large class of youth in the Sabbath-school. But you must remember that for six days in the week he nobly toiled as a printer, from eight in the morning until six at night. And he seldom missed the prayer-meeting, or other gatherings of the Church. He was, indeed, a worker that needeth not to be ashamed.
In the absence of the pastor he frequently led the prayer-meeting, and his expositions of the chapter read as the lesson of the night were very scriptural, cheering, and full of encouragement.
He was familiarly acquainted with the Word of God, and his prayers were earnest, solemn, and to the point, because his soul was surcharged with Divine truth.
It is no wonder, then, that everybody loved him—his young men in the various Bible-classes especially. Eternity alone will reveal the amount of good he accomplished by his kind, gentle, meek, cheerful, and quiet spirit.
Servant of Christ, well done; you rest from your labor, and your works do follow you.
Let us look at his work as a ruling Elder of the Church of Christ.
Paul, in writing to Timothy, says: "Let the elders that rule well, be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine" (1 Timothy v. 17). An elder is one who rules the house of God. They are, therefore, the magistrates of the Church. They are to administer the laws of His holy sanctuary. How great and important this work. Who is sufficient for these things? The pastor, in apostolic times, was called an elder. But as an under-shepherd his labors are greatly assisted and augmented by the hearty co-operation of a judicious selection of men filled with the spirit of God, and duly ordained for their work. Men who recognize among their fellows no moral superiority, but that spiritually-mindedness that flows from prayer and the study of God's Word. Their work is immortal. Their duties are great. But their peculiar privileges are greater—to rule well the House of God.
It is, certainly, a sad sight to see men filling this sacred office without the requisite qualifications. The negotiations between man and man are so stupendous, that it is not every member of the Church who is fitted for this responsible work. We ought to study adaptation in the selection and ordination of ruling them.
Every time I looked in the face of Elder Knowles, I was deeply impressed with the thought that no blunder had been committed when he was chosen and set apart in this line of Apostolic toil. For he was a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
He knew full well how to rule his own spirit, and he that can do that is more mighty than he who taketh a city. Self must be slain by the sword of the spirit, if we would lead the army of the Lord on to victory. Hence the solemn injunction of Paul: "I charge thee before God, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.... Lay hands suddenly on no man" (1 Timothy, v. 21-22).
We commend, for attentive perusal and prayerful reflection, the qualification of an elder, as laid down by Paul, and elaborated by the holy McCheyne, strictly germane to the life of Elder James Knowles.
They are fundamental requisites. The good McCheyne, of St. Peter's, Dundee, says: "I feel, brethren, that a minister alone is incapable of ruling the House of God well. If a minister is to thrive in his own soul, he must be half of his time on his knees; and therefore, if Christ's house is to be ruled well, there must not only be pastors, but there must be ruling elders."
"The first qualification is grace. Grace in the heart. If it be a qualification in a church member that he should have grace, then much more ought it to be a qualification in one who rules the Church of God. How is it possible for him to admit any to the Lord's table, when he is but a judge himself?" How is it possible to excommunicate, when he ought to be excommunicated himself? So, brethren, a graceless elder is a curse instead of a blessing.
We can safely say our dear departed elder had grace. This was remarkably developed in his Christian character. Patience found a permanent home in his heart. It occupied a significantly prominent place there, and was strenuously cultivated. It was copied and commented upon by all who knew him, and uniformly evoked universal favor and approval by the various ministers and sessions of the different Presbyterian churches in this city, in which he was an elder.
He had many trials, and we think he could say with Paul, in his letter to the Church at Rome: "We glory in tribulation, also knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience."
It seems they had some little misunderstanding in the session of one of the churches to which he (our elder) formerly belonged. And some remark made by the elder to the pastor was so cutting, that the minister said unless the elder would take back what he said, that next Sabbath he would tender his resignation to the congregation.
The elder replied that he would not take it back for him. To preserve harmony, and be a peacemaker, Elder Knowles stepped up to his brother in the session, and asked him if he would not take it back for his sake, and the sake of the blessed Jesus. At this, the elder said, with tears in his eyes, "Yes, James, for your sake, I will take it back." Perhaps the minister was partly to blame, and also the elder, but by having the grace of patience, not only was a reconciliation brought about, the pastor was retained, and permitted to resume his work, and precious souls were added to the Church. Oh, how much trouble and scandal might be averted in some of the churches if our elders and deacons and church members would only strive to cultivate the grace of patience.