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and “beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruninghooks,” thus manifesting that Christianity is indeed, as the angels heralded it, “peace on earth, and good will to men !”
Dr. Gordon continued to suffer severe pain, and was in such a state, that any moment might be his last. As we stood round him, expecting his immediate dismissal, he raised his head, and with a solemnity of manner, which will never be forgotten, said, "I will tell you a prayer I have always been fond of. I have often used it. It is short, and comprehensive. 'O Thou to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid, cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Then, turning to his wife, he affectionately said, “Remember, love, what a favourite this was." He afterwards marked for her some collects in the Common Prayer-Book, which were particularly admired by him.
This was an evidence that he had long felt the need, and earnestly sought the renewing influences of the Holy Spirit. And who, that is an earnest seeker, will ever be disappointed, so long as the promise of God assures us—“If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father, who is in
heaven, give his Holy Spirit unto them that ask him?" It also showed that he could admire and love the good and the true, wherever found. His opinions on ecclesiastical subjects were very decided. He stated that they were more confirmed than ever as he drew nearer to his end. Yet it was evident that he discriminated between essential Christianity and its forms, and recognized the truth of God, and resemblance to Christ, wherever exhibited. This obviously ought to be the temper of every Christian, and to be looked for as a matter of course.
Yet how lamentably does a sectarian spirit narrow the sympathies of multitudes! Too many are apt to look upon their own, as exclusively the Church of Christ, and to regard all beyond its pale as wanderers from the true fold. They avoid co-operation with those who are not of their party, and are as blind to the excellences of other churches as to the defects of their own. But amongst all Christians are to be found evidences of the presence of the great Head of the universal Church, and of the Comforter, whom he promised to send, to abide with his people for ever. In proportion as we have evidence of “the mind that was in Jesus” dwelling in any one, whether of our own church or not, we are bound to recognize a brother in Christ, a fellow-heir of glory. Perfect uniformity of sentiment can scarcely be expected in the present state. It did not exist in the time of the apostles. They themselves tolerated and sanctioned discordant judgments. (Romans xiv.)
Nevertheless, whereunto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing." How much more united, happy, and useful would Christians be, if, while conscientiously differing on minor points, and frankly, and even earnestly discussing those differences (for they should be earnest wherever they think the truth, and therefore the honour of their Master, is concerned), they still recognized the features of their common Lord, under whatever garb, rejoiced in each other's zeal, holiness, and success, and thus proved that their very controversies were prompted only by love to the truth, and anxiety for each other's spiritual good! Then an outward uniformity would be far from being necessary to the accomplishment of the Saviour's prayer“That they all may be one, that the world may know that thou hast sent me.”
Dr. Gordon addressed most of those who were around him individually, and bade them an affectionate farewell. To F. L., one of his nephews, he said, “Seek Christ. Don't be carried away by the world. It's all vanity. It will not comfort you at death. This can only be found by trusting in Christ. You may forget this. I have heard these things often and forgotten them, but it is all true.”
To another nephew, T. S. R., he said, “Good bye, my dear boy. You learn Latin. Let me tell you
what Adrian said to his soul in prospect of death. You may, perhaps, read it some day:
«« « Animula ! vagula, blandula,
Hospes comesque corporis,
Nec, ut soles, dabis jocos ?'”* He then said, “I will translate it for you: 'Kind little wandering soul, companion and guest of my body, into what places art thou now about to depart ?' And then Adrian goes on to say how dreary and forlorn it will be. O my dear boy, remember what a much better hope the gospel gives your uncle."
It was very remarkable to hear a man, suffering severe agony, and in expectation of immediate death, so correctly quoting, and so beautifully translating, a Latin author, for the purpose of impressing an important truth on the mind of a little boy. In all he said, he studied to adapt himself to the peculiar cases of those whom he addressed. And there was such a calm solemnity, and so much affection in his manner, while all he said was so evidently uttered from the very depths of his heart, that these dying admonitions can never be forgotten by those who were privileged to receive them. With similar remarks, in the brief intervals of pain, the night wore away, and to the surprise of every one, the Sabbath light dawned on our yet living friend. It had been throughout a season of mingled anxiety, grief, and joy. To witness sufferings like his, and be unable to relieve them, knowing, too, that very soon we must part from one so beloved, and now more dear than ever, was a cause of the deepest distress. Yet to hear such delightful reassurances of his peace, and a clear confession of reliance on Christ as the cause of it, from lips which had hitherto been sealed on the subject; to witness so wonderful an answer to our prayers, and to see death entirely disarmed of his sting, and despoiled of his terrors, so filled every heart with grateful joy, that it would be difficult to determine whether grief or gladness preponderated. The full development of the spiritual birth was given us, as an antidote to the shock of physical death. As angels rejoice over a sinner that repenteth, so did we rejoice over him. He was leaving earth, but he had been evidently fitted for heaven. Who would not willingly have surrendered him with so blessed a hope, rather than have retained him for the longest life without it? It was a night of weeping. But we could not
* The verses ascribed to Adrian are found in the fragments of Spartian. His life of Adrian is one of the few of his memoirs extant.