And so I hear," said Mrs. Stevens to the Rector, when we were spending an evening at his house, "that poor Old Rachel is dead. I really thought she had died long since, as I have not heard anything about her for a long time."
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"Yes, Madam," replied Mr. Ingleby, "she is dead, and was buried yesterday; she lies very near some of the finest of my flock."
"She must have lived to a great age, for she was an old woman when I was but a little girl."
"She was, I believe, upwards of ninety, and for several years she lived with some relatives in a state of almost entire seclusion. I had quite lost sight of her, and it was owing to a very casual circumstance that my acquaintance with her was renewed."
"How did you happen again to meet with her?"
"It was in this way. I required some one to weed my garden; and hearing that there was an active clever woman residing at Street, about two miles from the rectory, who was a good hand at such work, I took a walk to find her. On reaching her house I knocked at the door, but received no answer; and just as I was going away, rather disappointed at having made a fruitless journey, a neighbour stepped out of the adjoining cottage, and said, 'If, Sir, you want Mrs. Jones, she has just gone out, but I will go and look for her, if you will perhaps come in here, and rest yourself for a few minutes.' I thanked her, and followed her into the house, where she placed a chair for me, saying, as she left to go in search of Mrs. Jones—'It's no use, Sir, to say nothing to my mother there; she is quite blind, and so deaf, that she can't hear a word which nobody says to her.' The person to whom she pointed sat in an arm-chair, on the opposite side of the fire, wrapped up in flannel, her face nearly concealed by her cap and bonnet, and as motionless as a statue. I sat for a few moments in silence, and then, yielding to a feeling of curiosity, and I would also hope to a better motive, to endeavour to ascertain whether I could impart the soothing influences of religious consolation to the seemingly inanimate object that sat opposite to me, I arose, and placing my lips as near her ear as possible, without touching her, said, audibly and distinctly, 'You are very old.' No reply. This was followed by several common-place questions—such as, 'What is your name?' 'Do you want anything?' 'Are you in any pain?' These and other questions I continued to repeat; but they produced no more effect on her than they would have done on a log. 'Poor thing,' I exclaimed, 'it's no use to try, as she is living out of my reach. The door of access is locked, and the key lost.' I resumed my seat. My anxiety to gain access to her mind increased in proportion to the apparent impossibility of succeeding, and I made another effort. 'Do you ever think about dying?' There was a slight convulsive movement of the hand, but this was no satisfactory proof that she heard my question; however, it showed that the inner spirit was awake, and might possibly be bringing itself to a listening attitude. I then put the all-important question—'Do you know anything about Jesus Christ?' Never shall I forget the effect of this question. Her hands were suddenly raised, her arms extended, and her face glowed with more than human radiance, and, in a tone of transport, she exclaimed, 'What! is that my beloved pastor? It was under your ministry I was brought to know Christ, and feel the preciousness of his love.' This unanticipated exclamation astonished and delighted me, especially when I recognized, by the sound of her voice, Old Rachel. To all my questions relating to her secular condition and wants, she was as insensible as though actually dead. I stood and looked on her with joyous wonder, never having previously known a similar case. I repeated question after question, but had no response, till I asked, 'Is Christ precious to you?' Her reply was prompt and audible: He is precious to my soul—my transport and my trust.' The reply had an electrical effect on my spirit. Marvellous! I never witnessed such a scene as this. I varied my questions again and again; but there was no sign of hearing, or even perceptible motion, though I took hold of her hand. It was as though some angelic spirit kept watch, to prevent any thought relating to earth or time from obtruding itself on her attention, now she was waiting on the verge of the celestial world. One question more, and all intercourse was over. 'Do you long to see Christ?' She instantly replied, 'My soul is in haste to be gone.' Again she relapsed into her statue-like appearance, and in that state continued till the return of her daughter with Mrs. Jones, after transacting my business with whom, I took leave, and walked home, musing on the history of Old Rachel, and resolving that I would soon again pay her a visit."
"I should like," said Mrs. John Roscoe, "to have witnessed this scene, and heard the retiring spirit thus appearing to bear testimony to the more than magic power of the Saviour's name, and of the preciousness of his love."
"And so, Madam, should I," said the Rev. Mr. Guion; "it would have been to me like a voice speaking from another world, in confirmation of the genuineness of our faith, which sees the invisible, and holds conscious intercourse with Him, though we hear him not. I generally find, that a singular ending is closely connected with a singular origin, or a series of eventful occurrences. Can you favour us with some account of her history?"
"Yes, Sir, I can, and it is both interesting and peculiar. I did not know her till she was advanced in age, and had lost her sight; yet, before I knew her, I had often heard her spoken of as an intelligent woman, very fond of books, and remarkable for the neatness and cleanliness of her person, and her regular and punctual attendance at her parish church. When her sight failed her, she was compelled to relinquish the school by which she had gained her livelihood; but she was so much esteemed, that a good allowance was granted by the parish, and this was augmented by weekly subscriptions from some of the members of her church. On passing by her cottage one day, I looked in to see her, though she was not one of my parishioners; but as she had imbibed the Tractarian doctrines of her Rector, and felt a strong repugnance to evangelical truth, I at once perceived that my presence was more disagreeable than pleasing. I therefore withdrew, not intending to repeat my visit until I had prepared her to desire it. I soon hit upon a plan to accomplish this. The old woman had a little favourite grand-daughter in my Sabbath-school, and it occurred to me that I could employ her as the medium of communication; and I commenced operations by giving her and lending her some little books of anecdotes and descriptive stories. After the lapse of several months, I gave her, as a reward for reading to her grandmother, the sketch of the Rev. John Newton's conversion; and this was followed by a tract on regeneration, with which the old woman was so much pleased, that she requested the loan of another on the same subject. No great while after reading this tract she came to hear me preach, and soon became a regular attendant on my ministry; and ere long she sent to say she should be glad if I would call on her. I went; she apologized for her rudeness of manner on my former visit, and excused herself by referring to the influence which superstitious prejudices had acquired over her. From these superstitions she hoped she was now rescued by the attractive power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
"When it was noised abroad that Rachel, the old blind woman, had left the church, where Tractarian doctrines and ceremonies were the theme of the Rector's ministrations, she received a visit from some of her lady friends, who were very anxious to get her to return, intimating that if she did, they would continue their subscriptions towards her support, otherwise she must not expect to receive any more favours from them. She heard all they chose to say, and thus announced her final decision:—'I have, ladies, attended my parish church for more than fifty years without getting any benefit to my soul, but where I have been only a few Sabbaths I have heard and felt the truth as it is in Jesus, and there I shall continue to go as long as my feeble limbs will carry me. I thank you for all your acts of liberality and kindness to me, but I cannot barter away my freedom, and run the risk of losing my soul. I must live free, though in poverty; and my salvation is now the one thing I value above all price.' She continued for several years both regular and punctual in her attendance on my ministry, but at length was compelled, by increasing infirmities, to give up her house and go to reside with a married daughter. Years rolled on—the grand-daughter had left my school—the cottage where the old woman had resided was occupied by another—she gradually faded from my recollection, and in process of time I had quite forgot her."
"I used," said Mrs. Stevens, "to see her, with her grand-daughter leading her, coming to church and going from it; but she sat in some pew which concealed her from my sight when in the church."
"She was, Madam, one of the most retiring women I ever knew; she had a great objection to be seen, as she knew her conversion and her leaving the ministry of her former Rector had excited a good deal of talk."
"The circumstances attending her conversion to the faith of Christ," observed the Rev. Mr. Guion, "is an evident proof of its genuineness, and of its having been effected by the Holy Spirit; otherwise it would have been impossible for you to have gained her over to the reception of salvation by grace through faith, as she was so self-satisfied with her own Tractarian delusions, and so much under the power of the active agents of the same fatal heresy."
"I must confess that no event in my long pastoral career ever gave me more real pleasure, or excited purer emotions of gratitude to my Divine Master, than being allowed to witness the termination of her course—so unexpected, and so novel."
"I have known," said the Rev. Mr. Guion, "some delivered from their terrors and misgivings, just prior to their departure, who have been in bondage all their life, through fear of death, and then they have felt even a transport of joy in anticipation of the end of their faith, but I have never known a case like this of Old Rachel."
"I recollect," said Mr. Roscoe, "reading in the Times, some years ago, the report of a case bearing a strong resemblance to it in some of its distinctive peculiarities. Mr. M——, of ——-, who had through a very lengthened course distinguished himself by his activity in secular life, and by his practical piety, when drawing near his latter end, appeared quite indifferent, if not positively insensible, to everything bearing a relation to earth, though surrounded by its wealth and honours; but even then he gave unmistakeable signs to his pious relatives, that he was filled with all joy and peace in believing, abounding in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost."
Mr. Lewellin remarked:—"An intimate friend related to me, some time since, the following circumstances, which belong to the same remarkable order with that of Old Rachel and Mr. M——. He knew a Mr. Griffith, who left Wales when a young man, and settled in London, where he practised as a surgeon for half a century with very considerable success; but feeling the infirmities of age coming on, he disposed of his business and withdrew into private life. From his youth up he had maintained a good report amongst his Christian brethren. He lived for years after he had relinquished his practice, but latterly fell into such a state of apathy that he was unable to recollect his own children, and had even forgotten the English language, which he had spoken for more than fifty years, using, in his Scripture quotations and audible prayers, his native Welsh. He would remain for many hours in succession without appearing to notice any visible object, asking any question, or replying to any observation relating to secular matters. He had withdrawn from the world, living surrounded with invisible realities, the varying aspect of his countenance indicating some active process of thinking and emotion; but when he heard the name of Jesus mentioned, or any allusion to his love in dying for sinners, his eyes would sparkle with peculiar radiance, his hands would clasp together, and he would pour forth expressions of gratitude and joy, which betokened the vital energy of his soul, and the intense interest he felt in anticipation of the grand crisis. On his favourite theme of meditation he evinced no dulness, nor lack of mental energy; he would emerge from his seclusion to hold intelligible intercourse with his Christian brethren, when he heard them give utterance to the joyful sound, and then drew back, without any distinct recognition of their persons, to dwell alone in the pavilion of the Divine presence."
"These are spiritual phenomena," said the Rev. Mr. Roscoe, "which, like the phenomena of nature, are too plain and palpable to be denied, even though it may not be in our power to give all the explanations about the causes of them which our curiosity would like to receive."
JAMES GODWIN. W. L. THOMAS.
GEORGE III. AND THE DYING GIPSY.
Vol. ii. p. 7.
"Very true, Sir," said Mr. Ingleby; "but there are certain statements and expressions in the New Testament which throw light enough upon such phenomena to demonstrate that they have their natural causes, and thus they are rescued from the supposition that they are self-originated and self-sustained movements of the human spirit, in some complexed and eccentric condition of existence. Our Lord says to his disciples, 'I am the vine, ye are the branches; he that abideth in me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit' (John xv. 5). The life of the branch depends on its adhesion to the tree which supplies the sap of nourishment. Again, he says, 'I in them' (John xvii. 23). The apostle says, 'I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me' (Gal. ii. 20). Again, 'Your life is hid with Christ in God' (Col. iii. 3), denoting its invulnerable security. From the passages which I have now quoted, and there are many others of the same import, we arrive at this conclusion, which is an explanation and a defence of the spiritual phenomenon, that there is an actual, though inexplicable inhabitation of Jesus Christ in the soul of a believer (Rev. iii. 20), sustaining the spiritual life within him, as the vine nourishes the branch which bears its own fruit. And as He has life in himself, he can do this with perfect ease, not only when the believer is in vigorous health, and in the full exercise of all his mental faculties, but when he is labouring under those physical diseases and mental infirmities which, by a slow progression, lead to his decay and death."
The Rev. Mr. Guion observed, "That to deny the existence of such phenomena, and others which bear some affinity to them, simply because they are extraordinary, would be an act of absurdity which no spiritual or even philosophic mind would venture to defend, because the evidence in proof of their actual occurrence is so clear and conclusive. The real question of difficulty to decide is simply this:—Are they supernatural manifestations, or illusions of the imagination? but, in either case, they go off into their own element of mysteriousness, compelling us to believe what we cannot explain. On a supposition that they are real manifestations of Divine power and love, which I fully believe they are, I cannot help thinking that the highly-favoured spirit (Old Rachel, for example), while in such a state of lucid and active unconsciousness, if I may use such an expression, must exist in something like an intermediate position between the material and immaterial world—dying off from one by a very slow progression, and getting meet for the other by a similar process; occasionally stepping back to give unmistakeable signs of the continued possession of the faculties of thought and emotion, and then retreating, as into a citadel standing near the dark frontier of the invisible world, and into which its celestial rays sometimes penetrate."
"In these cases of rare occurrence," said Mr. Roscoe, "it is the soul of the spiritual man retreating from visible and audible fellowship with his pious associates; but biography supplies us with another order of moral phenomena equally inexplicable, yet equally gratifying, tending to confirm the reality of the connection between the visible and invisible world which the Christian revelation so plainly and positively announces. I received, some time ago, the following statement from an elder of a Scotch church, on whose testimony I can place implicit dependence:—'About the month of August, 1838, I went to see my grandfather, a pious old man, ninety-two years of age. I sat by his bedside, and others also were with him. He had been silent and motionless for about five hours, when he opened his eyes, his countenance beaming with joy, and raising his hands he said, I see heaven open, and Jesus Christ at the right hand of God, and the angels of God descending to receive me. These were his last words, and when he had given utterance to them he expired.'"
"This reminds me," said Mr. Lewellin, "of an incident which occurred at Stepney College, not long ago. When Ebenezer Birrel, a student there, was dying, he requested all who were in the room with him to keep silence. He also was silent and motionless. At length he looked and gazed in rapture on some glorious object, which to him alone was visible, exclaiming, as he gazed, 'Beautiful! beautiful!' and in uttering the word 'GLORY!' his head fell and he expired."
"The case of Dr. Gordon, of Hull," said the Rev. Mr. Guion, "differing, as it does in some particulars, from all the specimens we have had of these spiritual phenomena, is, I think, deserving of our special notice. 'He appeared,' says his biographer, 'just as he was expiring, no longer conscious of what took place around him. He gazed upwards, as in wrapt vision. No film overspread his eyes. They beamed with an unwonted lustre, and the whole countenance, losing the aspect of disease and pain, with which we had been so long familiar, glowed with an expression of indescribable rapture. As we watched, in silent wonder and praise, his features, which had become motionless, suddenly yielded for a few seconds to a smile of ecstasy which no pencil could ever depict, and which none who witnessed it can ever forget. And when it passed away, still the whole countenance continued to beam and brighten, as if reflecting the glory on which the soul was gazing. This glorious spectacle continued for about a quarter of an hour, increasing in interest to the last.'"
"I have heard of other cases," remarked Mr. Ingleby, "bearing a strong resemblance to some which have been mentioned; but I have never made much use of them, except as supplementary proofs in confirmation of my own belief in the inseparable connection of the two worlds. They are not absolutely necessary to establish this great fact; yet we must all admit, that such proofs can be supplied, if it should please God to do so; and we know he has done it more than once. Not to dwell on the vision of the apostle Paul, I would just advert to the case of Stephen. When his enemies were gnashing on him with their teeth, expressive of their indignation against him, for accusing them of having betrayed and murdered the Just One—'He, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God' (Acts vii. 55). He saw clearly what the others saw not, and for reporting what he saw he was denounced a blasphemer, and was led out and stoned to death. This case settles two great facts:—First, that God can, when he pleases, unveil to mortal vision the glorious forms and appearances of the invisible world; and secondly, that he has done it."
"I feel unwilling," said the Rev. Mr. Roscoe, "to object to any evidence which tends to confirm our belief in the connection between the visible and invisible world; but I think great caution is necessary in employing such cases as have now been reported in proof of it. What the old Scotchman and the youthful student saw, or thought they saw, may, after all, have been nothing more than the illusions of their own disturbed imagination, left at the closing scene uncontrolled by the immortal spirit itself, while in the act of passing from its material tabernacle, and away from its material senses, into another, a higher, and more congenial economy of existence."
"True, Sir," said Mr. Ingleby; "but then, if we admit that they really are illusions, we must also admit that they are illusive only by a forestalling process; the imagination bringing to the senses, yet bounded by the material economy, objects of vision belonging to another state of existence—framing types of invisible realities—lifting up, in the living temple of humanity, prefigurations of what will be seen when the fulness of time comes for the disembodying of the soul and its glorification. The illusion then relates, not to the UNREALITY ofwhat is seen and felt, but to the unreality of the act of vision, and its consequent excitement and impression, both mental and physical."
"We know," said. Mr. Roscoe, "that God very rarely deviates in his providential administration, from the established laws of his government; but we also know that he does sometimes, and for the purpose of making us know more impressively that he is the Lord, who exercises loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things he delights. Hence, there have been two translations from earth to heaven, without the intervening infliction of death, but only two, since the fall of man. In reference to the remarkable cases under consideration, there may be some difficulty in deciding whether the persons actually saw what they are reported to have seen, or were imposed on by the mysterious action of their own imagination; but yet I cannot bring my mind to the conclusion, that the visions were positive illusions, and that the happy spirits who saw them, and spake of them, and whose radiant countenances betokened the truthfulness of their testimony, were dying under the spell of self-deception. Such cases, we know, but very rarely occur, and when they do occur they make their appearance quite unexpectedly; but I think they occur often enough, and with such varying peculiarities, as to make us hesitate to pronounce them positive illusions, even if we cannot admit with confidence that they are positive realities."
"At any rate," said Mrs. John Roscoe, "the spell of self-deception, if they were deceived, was soon broken, as in each case death came immediately after they uttered their last joyous exclamation; and then the sublime vision of immortality opened upon them, with all its glorious realities."
The Rev. Mr. Guion here remarked that, "in general, the Lord's people die in hope and with great calmness; and sometimes they rise to confidence, and even to joy, and joy unspeakable. Few, indeed, rise higher than this; but I have known enough, and heard enough, to satisfy me that some do. The case of Dr. Gordon, who uttered no exclamation, is to me a decisive proof of this. He is calm, motionless, wrapped in profound thoughts, when his countenance, which had long been marked by the lines of disease and pain, begins to radiate, till at length its lustre was so clear and bright, attended by an ecstatic smile so ethereal, that the spectators were awe-struck, standing and gazing for the space of a quarter of an hour on this more than human vision. At least, they thought it more than human while they were gazing on it."
"Every effect," said Mr. Ingleby, "must have some adequate cause; and this extraordinary radiation on the countenance of Dr. Gordon was produced either by the action of his own thoughts, or by the intervention of a supernatural power. If produced by his own thoughts, what a hold must his soul have taken of invisible realities when he was dying, to give such a glowing brilliancy to his pallid face! If produced by the intervening action of supernatural power, it was a premature shining forth of the glory to be revealed more fully in the disembodied state. In other words, he did what was done by the impulse of his own conceptions, or God was especially with him in his dying chamber, shedding upon him some effulgent rays of his own glory."
"But to return," said the Rev. Mr. Roscoe, "to the case of Rachel, the old blind woman, which, because it is capable of a more practical bearing, I must confess, interests me more than the splendid case of Dr. Gordon, interesting as it is. But, before I touch on this, will you permit me to ask how long she lived after your unexpected interview with her? and whether there was a recurrence of the astonishing responses to your inquiries?"
"I sat gazing on her," said the Rev. Mr. Ingleby, "some time after I ceased speaking; and before I left her, her countenance had resumed its statue-like appearance of positive insensibility; and every feature was fixed, as though set by the cold hand of death, and there was not a movement of any part of her body, except the breast and the shoulders, from the more powerful action of the lungs. The following week I took a friend with me, in expectation of having another interview with her; but I was disappointed. On entering the cottage, her daughter informed me, that having awoke in the night, and thinking she heard her mother utter some sound, she went with a light to her bedside, when the old woman, after a slight convulsive struggle, raised her hands, and said, 'Dear Saviour, I come to thee,' and died."
"What a splendid transition!" said Mrs. Stevens; "the cottage exchanged for a mansion! What a glorious sequel to all her privations and sufferings! Her happy spirit, long confined in total darkness, is at last liberated, and is now beholding the glory of Christ, and living and moving amidst the celestial beings and sublime grandeur of immortality."
"And yet we are told," said Mr. Roscoe, "that the faith of Christ, which unveils such grand prospects of a future state of existence, is a mere delusion, and that we who indulge them are self-deceived. If we admit this, we must also admit that it is a very remarkable delusion, as it usually comes in its most vivid forms, and with its most attractive influences, just at that period of human existence when all things of earth and of time are vanishing away. At that awful crisis, when the pomp of distinction, the fascination of sensible objects, and the grandeur of wealth, are all losing their hold on us—and nothing is left to man but the shroud, the coffin, and the grave —at that very time the Christian faith opens up a scene of grandeur which no words can adequately describe; and yet the dying man, who feels his departing spirit embracing these revelations as sublime realities, is told by the cold-hearted sceptic that all is a delusion, and he is self-deceived. But he heeds not such random assertions. He moves forward, repeating the soul-inspiring words, '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' (Psal. xxiii. 4)."
"But this case of poor Old Rachel," said the Rev. Mr. Roscoe, "does something more than exhibit the efficacy of the Christian faith, in sustaining the human soul when the dread hour comes—it supplies a proof of the immateriality, and, by a fair inference, of the immortality of the soul itself. We are told, by some sagacious sceptics, that the mind of man, like his body, is material, only that it has passed through a more refined process, and is endowed by nature with certain faculties analogous to the senses; and as they came into existence together at the time of his birth, and live together through life, so they will go out of existence together when they pay the debt of nature, and, at last, perish together. And I must confess that humanity has, in some instances, seemed to give a confirmation to this opinion, as the body and the mind have appeared to wither and decay together, as age and infirmities have come upon them. Hence there has been a loss of memory with the loss of animal vivacity—a loss of intellectual vigour with the loss of physical strength—a loss of imaginative power with the loss of sensitive acuteness—the mind and the body undergoing this reciprocal decay before the change comes which, according to the sceptic's theory, is to end in their extinction. But, then, I have met with another class of cases bearing some analogy to this reciprocal decay, but, at the same time, putting forth indications in confirmation of a reversed issue, as in the history of Old Rachel. In her we see the memory losing the impression of earthly objects, but retaining the impression of heavenly ones. Her intellect lies prostrate and powerless in the presence of sensuous and secular inquiries, but it springs into vigorous activity when spiritual ones are addressed to her. The affections of her heart have died off from the relationships of life; but they are concentrated on the perfection of moral beauty, and cleave to Jesus Christ with an intensity and ardour surpassing that of a youthful passion. Here we have a living exponent, and a confirmation of the truthfulness of the apostolic expression, 'Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.' (See John xi. 25, 26)."
"And there is another practical lesson," Mr. Ingleby remarked, "which this case of Old Rachel teaches us, and it is this:—When a man is enlightened by the Spirit, and is brought into fellowship with Jesus Christ, and has felt the power of the world to come, he never outlives his knowledge of these wondrous realities which stand out in bold relief when his remembrance of all other things is blotted out. He may forget the wife of his bosom, and the children who revered and loved him—he may forget his mother tongue, and not recognize the hand which feeds and clothes him—and he may live till almost every sense has become extinct, and the avenues of communication between the imprisoned spirit and the living world are blocked up—but he will never forget by whose blood he has been redeemed—he will never become insensible to the charm of His name or the preciousness of His love—nor will he ever lose sight of the bright and unfading inheritance of which he has received the earnest. Old Rachel was living at ease, conscious of her possessions, even when, in the estimation of others, she was unconscious of her own existence; and indulging the sublimest anticipations of faith and hope, while in the dark cell of her confinement."
"Without giving any opinion," said the Rev. Mr. Roscoe, "as to which of the cases reported this evening is the most remarkable, or presuming to decide, whether they are to be referred to some mysterious action of the imagination, or to a real, yet marvellous manifestation of the Divine presence—leaving each case to stand for your decision on the ground of its own merits—I think we may make a good practical use of the whole of them, as, when we see lights burning, though of varying degrees of brightness, we may avail ourselves of their radiance even if we cannot tell by whom they are enkindled. We believe that the evidence which the Bible supplies, in confirmation of the existence of another world, is sufficiently ample and decisive to satisfy us of its reality; but still it is not so ample and decisive as to preclude the desirableness of some additional evidence. This is often given in the death-chamber of the Christian believer; and not only to him, when dying, but to those who are eye-witnesses of the mode of his departure. When, for example, we see a man of intelligence, of taste, of great sobriety of thinking, and of courteous speech, quite calm on his death-bed, and alternately strongly excited—when we hear him speak of the hope he entertains of a glorious immortality—when we see him rising above hope into full assurance, eager to depart, though surrounded by many of the attractions of earth—when every look, and aspiration, and utterance, beats in harmony with his long-settled expectation of a grand issue to his faith—we may very naturally take his experience, not only as a safe guide, but as a valid testimony to the certainty of what we believe in common. But now suppose, if, in addition to this tranquil state of mind, we should see a bright radiance beaming on the countenance of our dying friend, previously pallid and careworn by disease—and suppose we should see him raise himself up in bed, looking intently, as if seeing some beautiful object concealed from us, and, after a profound silence and stillness of some minutes, we should hear him speak of actually seeing, while in the body, what we believe he will see the moment he is out of the body—would not this tend to strengthen our faith, even though we are unable to decide whether he actually saw, or merely thought he saw, the scenes he described? I think it would; and that even the most dubious on the question of illusion or reality would retire from such a hallowed spectacle, filled with emotions of deep solemnity and joyous delight, similar to what a primitive believer must have felt when looking on the face of Stephen, shining with angelic brilliancy, a visible attestation of the reality of his miraculous vision."
"I think so too," said the Rev. Mr. Guion. "I should like to witness such a sight and hear such an exclamation; and though I will admit that such things may be nothing more than the illusive action of the imagination, yet how comes the imagination, when performing its very last operations, to act with so much power, as to imprint such a visible radiance on a death-struck countenance? I cannot resist the impression that such cases as Old Rachel's and Dr. Gordon's, belonging certainly to a diverse order of spiritual phenomena, are real manifestations of the glory and love of God, and are intended by him, like the translation of Enoch and Elijah, as supplementary evidence to confirm the faith, and animate the hope of his redeemed and beloved children. At any rate, such is the effect they have on me."
"They have the same effect on my mind," said Mr. Ingleby; "especially this case of poor Old Rachel, which will retain its power of impression as long as I exist. I shall never forget the last interview I had with her, nor her death-like appearance when I left her; but when I see her again—and I trust to see her ere long—she will appear in a beauteous form, arrayed in the spotless robe of celestial glory. We know that our latter end is coming, but we know not when it will come, or who of the living will be with us when it does come; nor do we know whether we shall pass away, like Dr. Gordon, while beams of glory are radiating our countenance, or steal out of life like poor Old Rachel, as from under a pile of material ruins; but, for our consolation, we know that our dear Redeemer has promised that He will come to receive us to himself when we depart hence, and that where he is we shall be also, and for ever: 'Wherefore, comfort one another with these words' (1 Thess. iv. 18)."