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crowded streets of Glasgow, he laid aside his hat and exclaimed, Blessed be the name of the Shepherd of Israel, who has brought us to the end of our journey in the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Peace!' and continued for some time praying.”
It was thus, with uplifted hands and words of thanksgiving and blessing, that he entered Glasgow. He thought he had a great work to accomplish in that centre of life and wickedness and sorrow; and so he
but it was no longer to labour or battle that God called His servant. He was not destined to descend from the height of hope which still trembled with the promised lustre of “power from on high” to the chill land of shadows and disappointment and deferred blessings that lay below. But it was a surprise which his Master had prepared for him, - a nearer road to the glory and the perfection that he dreamed of — not to work nor to fight, but to die.
Here once more, and for the last time, Irving took the
pen in his trembling hand, and revealed himself in the fast-closing twilight of his life. He wrote two pastoral letters from Glasgow, containing most pathetic acknowledgment of the sins by which he and his Church had “ let and hindered” the work of God sins which, if they were anything more special than that general unbelief and slowness of heart with which every apostle has had to upbraid his fellow-Christians, are lost in the mysterious records of the Church, and unintelligible except to those who may be thoroughly acquainted with all the details of its origin. His last private letter, written only ten days before his death to his “ dear brother,” William Hamilton, lies under
no such obscuring haze,—but gives with sad and affecting simplicity a final glimpse of his fainting flesh and trusting soul :
“You will be sorry to hear," he writes with the restrained utterance of weakness, “ that I continue very weak. Indeed, the Lord has now permitted me to be brought very low; but my trust and confidence is in Him only, and not in any other, and when He sees fit He will renew my strength. Ob, my brother, cleave you to Him! He is the only refuge. Isabella is in excellent health, and sustained under all her trials. Samuel was with us yesterday. He is quite well, though much troubled for me, as I believe all my friends are."
These were the last words of private affection which dropped from his feeble pen. Amid the friends who were all troubled for him, he was the only one unmoved. He had not yet come to the discussion of that last question, which like all the rest was to be given against him, but still smiled with a heart-breaking confidence over the daily dying of his own wasted frame, waiting for the wonderful moment when God should send back the vigorous life-current to his forlorn and faithful heart.
The last scene of the history now approaches rapidly. For a few weeks he is visible about Glasgow — now appearing against the sunshine in a lonely street, his horse's hoofs echoing slowly along the causeway, his gaunt gigantic figure rising feeble against the light; now in the room which his Glasgow disciples have found to meet in — still preaching — recognising one of Dr. Chalmers's old “agency” who comes to see him after the service,' and recalling, with the courtesy of the heart, to his wife, who has forgotten the stranger,
FLESH AND HEART FAINT AND FAIL.
the familiar Kirkcaldy name he bears; walking home after the worship is over, fain to lean upon the arm of the elder who has come hastily from London to be near him, while his wistful wife
mournful by his side, carrying the stick which is now an insufficient support to his feebleness — sometimes pausing, as they thread the streets in this sad fashion, to take breath and gather strength ; a most sorrowful, pathetic picture. The hearers were few in the Lyceum room, in comparison with former times; but in the street, as he passed along, many a sad glance followed him, and the people stood still, with compassionate looks, to point out to each other “ the great Edward Irving.' His friend, Mr. Story, came hurriedly up from Rosneath to see him, with hopes of persuading him thither, to that mild climate and tranquil seclusion; but found he had gone down to Erskine, on the opposite bank of the Clyde, to consult Dr. Stewart, the physician-minister, with whom, in joyful, youthful days, these two had spent their Saturday holidays in the East Lothian Manse. Neither Dr. Stewart nor any man could aid him now. He came back to the house of the kind stranger and enthusiastic disciple who had taken him in, in Glasgow, and, nature refusing longer to keep up that unreasonable conflict, lay down upon the bed from which he was never to rise.
Dr. Rainy, who attended him, informed me of various particulars in these last days; but indeed, so touched with tears, after nearly thirty years' interval, was even the physician's voice, and so vivid the presentment of that noble, wasted figure, stretched in utter weakness, but utter faith, waiting for the moment when God, out
HIS CERTAINTY OF RECOVERY.
of visible dying should bring life and strength, that I cannot venture to record with any distinctness those heart-breaking details. By times, when on the very verge of the grave, a caprice of sudden strength seized the patient ; he sighed for “God's air” and the outdoor freshness which he thought would restore him. He assured the compassionate spectator, whose skilled eyes saw the golden chords of life melting asunder, how well he knew that he was to all human appearance dying, yet how certainly he was convinced that God yet meant to raise him ; and again, and yet again, commended “ the work of the Holy Ghost ” to all faith and reverence; adding, with pathetic humility, that of these gifts he himself had never been “found worthy." Never death-bed appealed with more moving power to the heart. His mother and sister came to see him, but I know nothing of the intercourse between that sorrowful mother and the last and greatest of her sons. His life-long friends from Kirkcaldy were also there to watch by his bed, to support the poor wife, whose faith gave way at last, and who consented, with such
pangs of natural love and disappointed faith as it would be hard to estimate, that the “word of the Lord” must have had some other interpretation—that God had no purpose of interposing, in visible power, for his deliverance, and that Edward must die; and their home letters give the clearest picture of Irving's last hours. With fluctuations of despairing hope, Dr. Martin and his son wrote to the anxious sisters. Sometimes there were better symptoms — gleams of appetite, alleviation of pain ; but throughout all, a burning fever, which nothing could subdue, consumed away the fainting life. “Your
AT THE GATES OF HEAVEN.
mother and I are at Mr. Taylor's," writes Dr. Martin, on the 4th December; "he is a most devout believer in the reality of the gifts, of Mr. Irving's divine commission, &c., and has hardly ever faltered in his faith that Edward is still to recover strength; till this morning Isabella has never had a doubt of it.” This was on Thursday. As the week waned, the frame which enclosed that spirit, now almost wholly abstracted with its God, died hourly. He grew delirious in those solemn evenings, and “wandered” in his mind. Such wandering! “So long as his articulation continued so distinct that we could make anything of his words, it was of spiritual things he spoke, praying for himself, his church, and his relations.” Sometimes he imagined himself back among his congregation in London, and in the hush of his death chamber, amid its awe-stricken attendants, the faltering voice rose in broken breathings of exhortation and prayer.
“Sometimes he gave counsel to individuals : and Isabella, who knew something of the cases, could understand” what he meant. Human language has no words, but those which are common to all mental weakness, for such a divine abstraction of the soul, thus hovering at the gates of heaven. Once in this wonderful monologue he was heard murmuring to himself sonorous syllables of some unknown tongue. Listening to those mysterious sounds, Dr. Martin found them to be the Hebrew measures of the 23rd Psalm — “The Lord is my Shepherd,” into the latter verses of which the dying voice swelled as the watcher took up and echoed the wonderful strain
“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” As the current of life