labour done, as sinks the clay,—
Light from its load the spirit flies,
While heaven and earth combine to say,—
How blest the righteous when he dies!"—Barbauld.
"The time now began rapidly to approach," says his biographer, "when Mr. Charles Wesley perceived that he also must die. His removal into the world of spirits was not an event that came upon him unawares. To prepare for it had been the leading business of the greater part of his life. He expected it therefore, not with alarm, but with hope and desire. His treasure and his heart were already in heaven; and the abiding consciousness which he had of his title to the future inheritance, resulting from his filial relation to God, and of his meetness for it, through the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost, filled him with adoring thankfulness. Deeply was he sensible that he possessed no proper merit in the sight of God; and he knew that he needed none, according to the tenor of the evangelical covenant. Hence, his self-abasement was profound; his reliance upon the sacrifice and intercession of Christ, entire; and his hope of glory was that of a sinner, who knew that he was both justified and sanctified by grace, and looked for eternal life as a gift to be gratuitously bestowed upon a believing penitent."
His physician, Dr. Whitehead, says,—"I visited him several times in his last sickness; and his body was indeed reduced to the most extreme state of weakness. He possessed that state of mind which he had been always pleased to see in others—unaffected humility, and holy resignation to the will of God. He had no transports of joy, but solid hope and unshaken confidence in Christ, which kept his mind in perfect peace."
The decree, however, was gone forth, and no means could avail for the preservation of his life. While he remained in this state of extreme feebleness, having been silent and quiet for some time, he called Mrs. Wesley to him, and requested her to write the following lines at his dictation:—
In age and feebleness extreme,
Who shall a sinful worm redeem?
Jesus, my only hope thou art,
Strength of my failing flesh and heart;
O could I catch a smile from thee,
And drop into eternity!
For fifty years Christ, as the Redeemer of men, had been the subject of his effective ministry, and of his loftiest songs; and he may be said to have died with a hymn to Christ upon his lips. He lingered till the 29th of March, 1788, when he yielded up his spirit into the hands of his God and Saviour, at the advanced age of seventy-nine years and three months.
From Death-Bed Scenes, or Dying With and Without Religion... edited by Davis W. Clark. New York: Published by Lane & Scott, 1851.
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