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further investigation, sufficiently important to merit a separate work. I soon began to collect materials, and among them the narratives given by Isaac Walton. In the course of my researches, I found that two distinguished individuals had designed a publication similar to the present. Of these Henry Kirke White had actually written the preface, when his hand was stayed by death. The Rev. David Brown, Provost of the College of Fort-William, (whose writings have furnished me with some of the particulars respecting Sir William Jones,) was also prevented from offering a work upon the same subject. When I had made a considerable progress toward the completion of this volume, I communicated its nature to Alexander Chalmers, Esq., a gentleman so well known to the literary world for his Biographical Dictionary, one of the great standard works in our language. Mr. Chalmers informed me that he also, at one time, had designed a work somewhat similar, which his engagements had not allowed him to finish. He then placed in my hands a recent and anonymous publication, “ The Book of Death," which, by its title, led me to conclude, that my own labours had been superseded. A more minute investigation of it considerably stimulated my exertions. It was acknowledged that original biographical memoirs had not been consulted in its composition ; that its narratives were taken exclusively from one work, and it was evident that no attention had been paid to arrangement. But a more essential difference between the two books was perceptible. The present vo was designed to be of an exclusively religious tendency, while the other was evidently of a general and miscellaneous nature.
My object being chiefly to shew the beneficial influence of religious sentiments on the mind in the most trying moments of our existence, I have been led to narrate the pious deaths of those among the nonconformists, who, like a Doddridge or a Lardner, may have been an ornament to the Christian community; and, for the same reasons, I have not omitted the last hours of Fenelon, Pascal, and many of the same church, who, with us, bear the common appellation of Christians : particular care has nevertheless been taken to exclude the reveries of the fanatic and enthusiast,
The title of my work, together with its limits, prevented me from contrasting the deaths of Christians with those of Paine, Voltaire, and others, whose names and writings are associated with the subversion of moral principles, social order, and human happiness. A supplementary volume of this nature would not be without its use. It would set forth the advantages of religion at the hour of death, even in a stronger light
• If on its perusal, some few among unbelievers in futurity shall be found to have departed this life in a state of unconcern, and thoughtless security, let not this state of mind be confounded with that rational tranquillity which distinguishes religious men. The one only shuts his eyes to danger, the other considers calmly its present extent, traces its future consequences, and prudently adopts the means of preservation. The wide and just distinction between the senseless security of that man, and the rational serenity of this, together with the causes even of a trembling anxiety in the latter, as compared with the unconcern of the former, who is dead whilst he liveth, have not escaped the notice even of unenlightened heathens. (See p. 533. of Appendix). The causes of such trembling anxiety in Christians, may thus be classed: First, A deep feeling of humility and unworthiness, arising, perhaps, from a higher degree of self-knowledge, and a deeper sense of the heinousness of sin, than other less serious men have acquired. Secondly, Notions somewhat too exclusive of God's retributive justice, without a due consideration of the extent of divine mercy. Thirdly, A view too partial of divine favour and reprobation ; and not uncommonly, Fourthly, the operation of one or more of these calises on a morbid and melancholy state of the constitution. To ask why this state of mind and body is permitted, is to bring forward the more general inquiry, in which that question is contained : Why are trials and adversities of any kind sanctioned? The answer to which may be found even in the moral treatises of
The narratives of the last hours of those who have been eminently distinguished for their attainments in the arts and sciences, and but little for their religious acquirements, might be included in the same work, for the illustration of the same truth. To those who would be desirous to keep this object in view, and at the same time to complete a general design of " the deaths of eminent persons," I shall be glad to furnish ample materials.
The instances adduced in this volume are to be considered as incontrovertible evidences of the sincerity and constancy even to death of those who have professed the Christian Faith ; it, therefore, appeared to me of the first importance that such statements should preserve the utmost authenticity. Many were the opportunities in which useful reflections and practical advice occurred to my mind, and which would have given me occasion to present this volume in a more attractive form. By how much the statements would have gained perhaps in interest, by so much would they have lost in genuineness and the freshness of the original scenes. Subjects for consideration will be suggested by the narratives themselves; the selected sentences in italics, are designed as aids to reflection.
heathen writers, (Lucius Annæus Seneca de Providentiâ,) who have sufficient light from nature and experience to know that the school of affliction is more favourable to the cultivation of every virtue than the most uninterrupted course of worldly prosperity. Christianity proceeds on this principle of nature, shews this life to be only a state of probation for another, and affliction a means designed by a merciful parent to discipline the mind for a future state of existence". Thus it is, that trials of every kind, when rightly considered, are discerned to be a part of the dispensation of mercy, falling in with the noblest designs displayed in the moral administration of the universe ; that objections, however speciously urged against them, when minutely examined, are clearly proved to arise from mistaken views of the nature of things, and that the principles at which those objections are aimed, are shewn to be a link in the golden chain of designs in the moral, as clearly as the apparently complicated, yet appointed motions of the heavenly bodies in the material world.
• Heb. xii. 5, 6, 7, 8, &c.
I have thought it necessary to adduce the examples of Martyrs in their last moments ; they are interwoven with the history of the Church of Christ; are the noblest monuments of faith, fortitude, and Christian triumph; may be adduced as the best evidence of sincerity in the cause they advocated; and are set forth to be read as illustrious proofs of our capability to bear the lesser evils of life with a like patience and resignation to the divine will.
Let it not be supposed that these, however numerous, are the only instances in which the advantages of Christianity might be seen at the close of life. When it is remembered that the last words even of Wickliffe, Bacon, Boyle, and Newton, do not appear to have been recorded with sufficient care; it may readily be conceived that many unobtrusive Christians, who have trod the humbler walks of life, have expired without a biographer to note down their fervent prayers, their affectionate advice, and their pious conduct.
The instances to be adduced might also have been more numerous, if a sense of delicacy towards the memory of departed friends had not prevented the survivors from publishing to the world that information which chiefly concerned the private feelings of the domestic circle. Sudden deaths and excruciating pains, with the infirmities of age, have prevented many others, as Archbishops Tillotson and Whitgift, Bishops Berkeley and Burnet, with Dr. S. Clarke, from instructing the world by their dying words and examples. In this terra incognita may be included the names of Cudworth, Kepler, Leland, Leibnitz, Bishop Atterbury, Earl Clarendon, Erasmus, Leslie, Jeremy Taylor, Lightfoot,