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Selections.

THE DEATH-BED OF A MODERN FREE-THINKER.

Exemplified in the last hours of the Hon. Francis Newport, son to the late Lord Newport.*

[From the Christian Observer.]

Ar sixteen the honourable Francis Newport was sent to the University, perfectly acquainted

with the Latin and Greek languages; where he continued five years, and behaved so agreeably to his religious education, that he was looked upon as a blessing and ornament to family.

his

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At twenty-one he came London, and entered himself at -, to study the law. His new acquaintance began to rally him for his religion to whom he would say, "Gentlemen, you, who pretend to reason, cannot count laughter a conclusive argument; if religion be so absurd, as you would have me believe, why do not you give some fair reasons against it?" This, some of them. would attempt; and though their arguments at first were as unsuccessful as their raillery, yet the poison

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sunk by degrees, and at last tainted him as deeply as themselves. He was adopted into their society, which met to lay down rules for being so critically wicked, that the law should not be able to take hold of them. He had too much prudence to lay himself open: he still kept a fair correspondence with his friends, and in strange places was sober and reserved; but in secret, and among his acquaintance, he was as wicked as good parts, abundance of temptations, and a fair estate, enabled him to be.

On November 30, 1692,* he was ill; and found, notwithstanding all his precautions, that he had not shook off the expectations of another life.

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This made him throw himself upon a bed, and break out into these expressions : "Whence this war in my breast? What argument is there now to assist me against matter of fact? Do I assert that there is no hell, while I feel one in my own bosom? Am I certain there is no after retribution, when I feel a present judgment? Do I affirm my soul to be as mortal as my body, when this languishes, and that is vigorous as ever? O! that any one could restore me to my ancient guard of piety and innocence Wretch that I am! whither shall I fly from this breast? what will become of

me?"

..........

This date corresponds to the account given of this person in the English peerage.

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One of his old companions alogue, for which I must go and . coming in, said, “How now, give an account.

0! apostate brother! why this? why this wretch, from what hopes art melancholy posture? what is the thou fallen? ( that I had never matter ?" He replied, " It is you known what religion was ; then and your companions, who have I had never denied my Saviour, instilled your principles into me, nor been so black an heir of perwhich now, when I have most dition !" need of them, leave me in con- I stood speechless some time fusion and despair. What ad- at the strange expressions ; but, sice or comfort have you now to as soon as I could recollect myfortify me with, against the fear- self, said, “Sir, I would have ful expectations of another life? you take care how you violate Are you sure that the soul is ma- the mercy of God, and think terial and mortal, and that it will so lightly of the sufferings of dissolve with the body ?” “ So Christ, as if they were not sufficertain," replied the other, " that cient for the redemption of the I venture my whole upon it." greatest sinners. This may be

Here I interrupted them by a delusion of the devil : if you coming into the room ; and, ap- are convinced the soul is immorplying myself to the sick per- tal, I hope it is to a good end; son, told him, I was a stranger if you had died ignorant of it, to him, but hearing he was ill, I you had been miserably undethought it my duty to offer him ceived in another world ; now what service I was capable of. you have some time to prepare “I thank you," says he ; “I de- for your welfare." sire you to engage that gentle- To which he replied, “ As to man that sits there, and prove to the mercies of God in Christ, I him that the soul is not matter, once knew and tasted what they por mortal.” This I endeavour- were ; which is now part of my ed to do by several arguments ; curse, in that I am now sensible to which the sick gentleman an- of my loss : they are, I grant swered only with a sigh, whilst you, sufficient for those that his friend made haste out of the have any share in them ; but room. I was surprised at such what is that to me, who have dean effect, and desired to know nied Christ? I have daily cruci. the reason. “ Alas! Sir," said fied him afresh, and put him to he," you have undeceived me too

The devil has late ; I was afraid of nothing so nothing to do with the torture I much as the immortality of the undergo; it is no delusion of soul : now you have assured me his, but the just judgment of of that, you have ascertained me God; and it is also a part of my of a hell, and a portion among heavy judgment, that you have those, who have apostatized from given me a sensible horror of their religion. You have now my sin, by proving my soul is sealed my damnation, by giving immortal. Had I gone strait to me an earnest of it; I mean an hell in my old opinion, I had enawakened conscience, that brings dured but one hell, whereas I my sins into remembrance, by now feel two; I mean not only reckoning up the numerous cat an inexpressible torture, which I

an open shame.

and God hath sworn by himself, As I live, saith the Lord, I would not the death of a sinner; but rather that he turn from his wickedness, and live.”

carry in my own breast, but an expectation of I know not what change. O that I were in hell, that I might feel the worst! and yet I fear to die, because the worst will never have an end." All this he spoke with an air of eagerness, and such horror as is scarce to be imagined.

He was got to bed, refusing all sustenance, and had an exceeding sweating through the extremity of his torments.

Before I took my leave of him, I desired to pray by him; which with much reluctance he consented to. In the midst of prayer, he groaned extremely, tossing himself as if he was in the agonies of death. When prayer was over, I asked him the reason of it.

He answered, "As the damn ed in hell, who lift up their eyes in torments, and behold afar off the saints in Abraham's bosom, have thereby their torments doubled, first, by reflecting on the misery they are in; and, secondly, by observing the happiness they have lost : so I, knowing myself to be hardened and sealed to damnation, hearing the prayers of the righteous, to which God's ears are ever open; this increases my torment, to think how I am excluded from such a privilege, and have no other portion left me than blaspheming, weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth forever."

"Pray, Sir," said I, "consider there is a vast difference between you and them in hell; they are lost irrecoverably for evermore, without any opportunity of a reprieve, or hope of pardon; you are yet alive, and have the promises in common with other sinners: Christ died for sinners;

He replied, with his usual earnestness, "I will grant as much difference between me and those in hell, as between a common devil and a devil incarnate: if these are irrecoverably lost, without opportunity of reprieve or hopes of pardon, and I am yet alive, what then? what is the consequence? Not that the promises belong in common to me with other sinners, nor to any sinners, but such as believe and repent. If Christ died for sinners, it was such as repent and believe; but though I would, I can do neither: I have outstood my day of grace, am hardened and reprobate. If God delight not in the death of sinners, it is of such sinners as repent and turn to him; but his justice will vindicate itself on such obstinate sinners as me, who have denied his power and providence both in my words and actions. Now he has met with me for it; and O! it is a fear. ful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. If God was not against me, I should not care though all the power and malice of men were joined against me; though all the legions of hell continued to torture me with the most consuming pains: but when an irreconcileable God looks down upon his creature in wrath, and consigns him over to eternal vengeance, this is intole rable, inexpressible! ah, who can dwell with eternal burnings? Oh, ye that have any hope, that have not yet passed the day of grace, cry mightily to God

day and night: think no labour too much to secure you from the wrath of God. O! who can stand before him when he is angry? What stubble can resist that consuming fire?" This, and more to the same purpose, he spoke with so deep a concern, the tears all the while trickling down his face, that no one in the room could forbear weeping. Which he perceiving, said, "If ye weep at the image and bare relation of the effects of God's wrath, what then do I suffer, who actually lie under the very weight of his fury? Refrain your tears, for it is in vain; pity is no debt to me; nothing is so proper for me as some curse to complete my misery, and free me from the torment of expectation." Here he paused a while; then looking towards the fire, he said, "Oh, that I was to lie and broil upon that fire a thousand years, to purchase the favour of God, and be reconciled to him again! But it is a fruitless wish; millions of millions of years will bring me no nearer the end of my torments than one poor hour. Oh, eternity, eternity; who can discover the abyss of eternity? Who can paraphrase upon these words, forever and ever !”

It began to grow late; so I took my leave of him for that night, promising to come again the next day; when I found his mind in the same condition still, but his body much weakened: there were with him three or four divines, who had been at prayer: which, they told me, had the same uneasy effect upon him as before.

One of them reminded him that Peter denied his Master

with oaths and curses, and was yet received again into his fa

vour.

He replied, "It is true, Peter did deny his Master, as I have done, but what then? His Master prayed for him, that his faith should not fail; accordingly he looked him into repentance, and assisted him by his Spirit to perfect it. Now, if he would assist me to repent, I should do so too; but he has justly withdrawn his intercession from me : I have grieved his Holy Spirit so often, that he has taken him from me, and in the room thereof has left me the spirit of impenitence and reprobation; and given me a certain earnest of a fearful inheritance in another life." He spoke little more that day; much company pressing towards night, orders were given to prevent it: at six of the clock, we all looked upon one another to know what course to take, no text being offered in his favour, but which he turned another way.

While we were thus musing, he cried out with the utmost vehemence, "How long, O Lord, shall thy wrath burn forever against me? Shall thy eternal justice exact upon a poor despicable worm? What is my value or worth, that thou shouldst pour out full vials of wrath upon me? Oh, that thou wouldst let go thy hand forever, forget, and let me fall into my first nothing! As my righteousness could have profited thee nothing, so my im. pieties can have done thee no hurt; therefore annihilate me, and let me perish. Be not angry that I thus expostulate with thee; it will be but a little while before thy wrath shall force the

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now; I have no honour, no repe utation, and, what is yet worse, no heaven to lose by this or any other act." Upon this I broke it open. The letter received was as follows:

dreadfullest blasphemies from me. Oh, that thou wouldest take away my being or misery: neither can increase or diminish thy happiness; and therefore let them both cease, and let my name be known no more. But if I must be, and be immortal, and thou wilt punish me because I have despised thee: let a privation of thought suffice, and let me pass my eternity in a dream, without ever being awakened by the pangs of torment, or by the gnawing of the worm that never dies. But, oh, fruitless desires! I am expostulating with a God that forever hath shut out my prayers; and only protracts my breath a little longer, to make me an example to others. O! ye rocks and mountains, that ye would cover and hide me from the wrath of an incensed God: but I cannot flee from his presence: what he hath begun he will finish. He will extend his wrath against me forever and ever."

Here some one knocked at the door, and it proved to be the postman, with a letter for him : which being told him, "How," said he, "a letter for me! A little longer, and I expect another sort of message : I am very shortly to give an account of every secret action I have done; and I have a mind to make an experiment to see how I can bear it. Pray Sir," added he to me, "do me the favour to read me this letter. The contents I know not, but I suspect it comes from some of my old acquaintance." I desired to be excused, alleging there might be something in it improper to be divulged. "Nothing," replied he, "can affect me

"Dearest Sir,

are

"Understanding you dangerously ill, and that it has had a melancholy effect upon you, I could not (considering our strict friendship) but endeayour to remove those evils your mind may be under; which per haps is an office no less grateful, than making the body sound. Sickness and death are the common lot of mankind; and to repine and grieve at this lot, is to combat the laws of nature, and ght against impossibilities. What wise man repines at the heat in summer, or the cold in winter? A common evil ceases to be an evil. But perhaps your melancholy suggests to you, that it is a dismal thing to launch into an unknown abyss. I answer : Sometimes I dream of dreadful things, but when I awake, all vanishes. Thus if we examine death and its consequences by our reason, those formidable monsters grow tame and familiar to us. I would demand of him, who asks me what estate I shall be in after death, what estate he was in before life? Pain and pleasure will leave their impres, sions upon a human spirit. If I was either happy or miserable before I was born, I must still retain the impression: but I do not now, therefore I shall not hereaf er: I came out of nothing, and shall return into it. As the flame of an extinguished candle dissolves and loses itself in the cir cumambient air, even so the taper

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