« AnteriorContinuar »
“ The end of that man is peace.”—Psal. xxxvii. 37.
The leading circumstances of Bishop Sandford's life have been narrated, and the Diary which accompanies this Memoir, will supply the notice of his last years. Many had been his blessings, and in the midst of much bodily affliction, he had ever felt and acknowledged them.
The time was now come when he was to encounter the last enemy, and then inherit the portion for which his comforts as well as his sufferings were intended to prepare him. Mercy and truth had followed him all the days of his life, and they were to uphold him at its close, to light up his expiring features, and wake his dying song
On Christmas, 1829, he, for the last time, administered the Lord's Supper to his congregation, over which he had presided for thirtyeight years.
There was a peculiar sacredness about his manner of dispensing this rite,-an earnest, but subdued devotion, which showed itself in his frequent involuntary tears, in the tremulousness of his voice, in the fervour with which he uttered the words of the affect
ing and comprehensive blessing. On this occasion he saw two hundred and ninety-four communicants gather round the table, and partook, for the last time in public, of the symbols which he had so often dispensed.
The festivals were to him delightful seasons, and none was more so than that of the nativity, which he always spent in the society of his family. But on that day, on his return from church, he was taken very ill, and retired immediately to bed.
He felt himself that it was the breaking up of his frame, the loosing of the pins of his frail tabernacle ; and others saw that he was now ripe, and that the time drew near when he should be gathered to the garner.
God sometimes gives his people intimation of approaching death, and it is evident, from Bishop Sandford's Diary, that he had such a presentiment. As his increasing sufferings promoted this conviction, he retired more frequently to his own rooms, and sat chiefly in his inner apartment. Here he communed with his own heart, and was still ; and here he imbibed strength for his approaching trial. Many who had intercourse with him shortly before his last illness, will remember circumstances which prove that his own mind was occupied with death ; and his family could frequently observe, that however selfishly they might wish to detain him longer amongst them, it was in his own heart to depart and be with Christ. His exposition at
family worship became more than ever impressive, his views more elevating and encouraging, and his conversation more exclusively religious.
On Sunday the 29th of December, he delivered his last sermon, on these words, from Deuteronomy xxxii. 29. “O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end.” He believed that he was never more to stand up before his people in God's name, and his own words were, « The voice which now addresses you may never again be heard in this place.” Within those walls his living voice was heard no more ; his ministrations on earth were ended, and he had only now to seal them with the testimony of his dying bed.
On the first of January he became so extremely ill that his physicians were immediately sent for, and one of them, on approaching his bed, exclaimed, “he is just on the wing for eternity.” By the application of powerful stimulants, he was, however, partially recovered, and continued for several days to struggle with disease. His sufferings were excruciating, but his was always the triumph of mind over body, and he bore them with perfect resignation.
Lord,” said he, “if it be thy will, heal thy servant, if not, take him to thyself.” In the language of praise he seemed to find strength and relief; and the words of that noble and
elevating hymn, the Te Deum, were continually on his lips. During the most violent paroxysms of pain, he frequently exclaimed, “ mercy,
all is mercy;" and again, “ Christ is my salvation ! what mercy in all his dealings ! thank God, it is the body that suffers, not the mind !”
There were indeed intervals of ease when his family, who had so often seen him suffer, encouraged hopes of his recovery, and even his physicians were doubtful of the issue. The bishop himself, though he owned that his sufferings were intense, does not appear to have expected that their termination would be immediate. “ Go back,” said he, on the Tuesday before his death, to one of his sons, whom an intimation of his illness had hurried into Edinburgh, “Go back to your dear wife and children, and to your delightful duties; if I recover, never can I repay this proof of your affection ; if I die, you will think of it with comfort.” Thus grateful was he to the last for the slightest acts of duty! Immediately afterwards he expressed a wish that other members of his family should not be sent for ; “ The weather,” said he, “ is very severe, why should they be exposed to it ?"
For several nights one or other of his family had sat up with him, and to them he frequently expressed himself in terms of the liveliest gratitude for the most trifling attentions, while they were, at the same time, blessed in beholding
his beautiful patience and almost continual devotion. On the day preceding his death, although no immediate danger was apprehended, his family remained with him all day, and he seemed deeply affected by their watchful care. “ All this kindness,” he' repeatedly exclaimed, “is the effect of christianity. I must die, for I never can return this debt of gratitude.” Then he said, “ It flashed across me in the pulpit that I should never preach within those walls again, but they will get a better minister.” He spoke of the
forgiveness of sins," as a topic on which he should have wished to expatiate once more ; but when it was remarked, as he pursued the train of religious sentiment thus awakened, that his “ words were very precious ;" his humility, unvaried to the last, was shown in the immediate reply: “Do not tell me so, they are no more precious than those of any other sinner.”
A lady of his congregation had sent him a splendid edition of his favourite Milton, thinking he might be amused by the illustrations. It lay on his bed, and he recited several passages with great strength of voice, and with all that chasteness of delivery, which marked his exquisite reading of that poet. Immediately, however, he recurred to his Greek Testament, which was a favourite pocket edition, and which, during his illness, had been continually in his hand. He then repeated the following verses from the 30th chapter of Isaiah, which seemed to occupy