Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Click here to learn more about MyHeritage and get free genealogy resources

Experiences of a Backwoods Preacher
Chapter X. With the Sick and Dying

THERE is no part of the duties of a Christian minister that is so much calculated to beget in the mind serious thoughts and to stir up tender emotions in the soul as visiting the sick and dying. At least that has been my experience. There are a number of reasons for this. In the first place, there is the voice of nature that speaks in tones of sadness to the heart. What I mean by this is the natural sympathy that almost every creature manifests towards its fellow in the time of suffering. Even the dumb brute is moved by seeing its companion in distress. And mankind is not less feeling than the mute creatures around him. He is a hard man indeed who can look unmoved into the pale face of the sufferer, who lies upon a bed of pain, tossing from side to side in the bitterness of extreme anguish. Another reason for what I speak of is found in our benevolent affections. God has implanted into almost every one a kindly desire to alleviate pain and suffering. Few, indeed, are those callous natures that can contemplate the sickness and pain of any person, and not feel prompted to acts of kindness, pointing to a restoration to health and the removal of pain.

The claims of religion may be named as one more reason why visiting the sick and dying is so serious a matter. Our Christianity enjoins upon us the duty of relieving the distressed and helping the needy as far as we are able to do so. And a conscientious desire to do our whole duty is one of the most efficient prompters to this kind of service. We may do much good in this way, even though our means may be limited and our abilities may be small. There are so many ways of showing kindness to the sick and sorrowing that no one can claim exemption from the obligation to do something.

And then when we think of what lies beyond the sick bed, and the coffin and the grave, it seems that the work of assisting and directing and encouraging those who are about to enter into that unchanging state is the most important employment that a minister or any other Christian can be called to engage in.

The most unpleasant work of any that I have ever found in the line of ministerial duty has been to visit the unsaved sinners in times of sickness or accident. To live without religion is what a great many are willing to do. But to die without it there are but few who dare to. Men and women will live worldly and sinful lives without thought or care. But if death stares them in the face, the hardest hearts begin to feel ; and as they stand upon the last shifting sands of time, the bravest hearts quail and quake in the presence of terrible realities that burst upon their astonished vision.

Then men who have despised the righteous claims of God and pursued the way of the transgressor see their mistake and seek for mercy. Then the man of God is sent for. Then praying people are called in. Then many promises are given and vows made to God, promises that in nine cases out of ten are broken and trampled upon in case the sinner is restored to health.

Sometimes, however, this is not the case, as the following instance will show.

He Would Not be so Mean.

A young married man was lying very low with malarial fever. His medical attendant and his friends got very much alarmed. His young wife was nearly frantic at the prospect of being left a widow, after only a few months of married life. A consultation of doctors was held. One of the two new men called in was an old man of large and long experience in the profession. The conversation was carried on in the sick-room, and the doctors supposed that the man was asleep. But in this they were mistaken. The invalid heard all they said at the conclusion of their deliberations. He was a Universalist and he never had given himself any uneasiness about the future.

The old doctor was the last to give his opinion. He said at length: “I can see no grounds for hope. The young man is going to die, and that before many hours.”

The man himself related the case to me years after. I give his own words as nearly as I can:

“When the old man said this, 1 do not think L could have been more astounded it’ the earth had opened at my feet. My Universalism was gone in a moment. I felt sure that there was a hell, and I thought that I should be in it in a few short hours. What should I do? Should I now ask the Lord to save me, after I had done all in my power against him? Should I seek for mercy now because I could not do any more harm in the world? Should I desire to go to heaven, when I deserved to be sent to hell? These thoughts ran through my mind in rapid succession. My decision was this: I will not add insult to injury. I will not be so mean as to try and sneak into heaven. I will die and meet the consequences of a misspent life, but if I feel well I will serve the lord. He got well, and a short time afterwards was converted. He has been some years in the Gospel ministry. Hundreds have been saved under his labours. His decision might not have been a wise one, but who will say it was not a manly one I I refer to the first part of that decision.

Almost Fatally Deceived.

In the early part of my ministry there was a man lived near me who was dying with consumption. He lost one wife by that flattering disease, so that he was not ignorant of its deceptive character. He had been respectably brought up under Methodist influences, so that the claims of religion were not unknown to him, but like many others he had lived until middle life without attending to the interests of his soul.

And he was now on the brink of the eternal world— a dying, yet unconverted man. In visiting him I found that he felt safe, although he knew that he was dying. His plea was, “God is too merciful to cast me off.” I could not get him to look at any other aspect of the question. Not a word that expressed sorrow for the sins of the past. Not one word about trusting in the Saviour. Nothing about the cleansing blood or the sanctifying Spirit. He was simply relying on the bare mercy of God, without any reference to His other attributes. I was not just satisfied. But as the time passed on he sank lower and lower, yet he kept to that ground of hope; he seemed perfectly willing and ready to die. At last I began*to conclude that my doubts were groundless, and what I had looked upon as a thick cloud was only a thin shadow thrown over his real condition, by his mode of expressing himself.

One Sunday night I came home from my evening service. As I was about to retire a message came for me to go and see Mr. M., saying that he was in a fearful state of mind. I went as fast as I could to the place. When I went into the room where he was I found a number of people; they were all weeping, and no wonder. On the bed lay the sufferer, whose bitter cries for mercy might well have moved the hardest heart. As soon as be saw me come into the room he cried out, “O, Mr. Hilts, what shall I do? Here I have been deceiving myself; I thought I was fit to die; that is all a delusion. I am a dying man and yet unsaved, unsaved ! What will I do? What will I do?

I sat down by the bedside. He became a little calm. Then I said to him, “John, I am at a loss what to say to you. If you have not been mistaken when you have told me that you were prepared to die, this is a temptation of the enemy. But if you are not prepared to die, this is the work of the Holy Spirit showing you your danger before it is too late.” “0,” said he, “this is no temptation; I am not mistaken now. I am dying, and set in my sins. O, what shall I do?” I talked to him, and read and prayed with him. When we rose up from prayer he said to me, “This can’t last long. Don’t leave me until I am either dead or saved.” I said to him. “I will stay with you as long as you wish. But neither I nor any one else can do much for 3*ou now. It is a personal matter between 3rou and 3'our Saviour. Can you not trust him to take away 3rour sins, and fit you for death?” He answered, “I will try.”

He was for a few moments quite calm, and seemed to be in deep thought. Then he commenced, as if he were talking to himself. He said, “I am a sinner; Jesus came to save sinners; I do believe that Jesus will save me; I believe that he will save me now.” With what intense eagerness did we catch everuy word. The during man went on, “I believe that He is saving me now. O, He has saved me. Glory to His name! I am saved! I am saved!” A happier man I never saw, and a more deeply moved lot of people I never met than those that stood round that bed that night.

One week from that night I was sent for again in the middle of the night. When I went into the room and asked him what I could do for him, he looked up and said, “I do not want anything more here, I am just going. But I sent for you to tell you once more that Jesus saves me, and all is well.” He turned over with his face to the wall, and in a few minutes he was gone. John Mockman lives in a brighter world than this.

There was no Getting Away.

I was once sent for to go and see a man that was thought to be near to his end. When I came to the place I found a man well up in years. He was a man of more than ordinary intelligence and culture. He thought he was going to die. When I commenced to talk with him I soon found that he knew more than I did. He had any amount of Scripture at his command. He could state a point and give the proof as readily and clearly as any man that I had ever met with. But for all this I found it impossible to get him to realize his condition as an unconverted man about to appear before his Maker. And yet he knew that he was not prepared to die. He would acknowledge his faults, but did not seem to see anything like transgression of God’s laws in them.

He said to me at length: “You see before you a man of a strange experience. God has often laid His hand upon me and brought me very low. But I have always put Him off with promises of doing better; but in every case I have broken my pledges. I am like an unruly boy who has repeatedly offended his father, and has escaped punishment by promises of future obedience. At length the father’s patience is exhausted. He takes the lad in hand and there is no more getting away from his strong grasp and heavy hand. The long-delayed punishment comes at last. So it is with me. There is no getting away this time.”

He did get off that time. By God’s blessing and medical skill the man was once more restored to health and lived some time after this. But he went back into his old ways again. He is dead now; but how he died I am not able to say. How few there are who faithfully fulfil their sick-bed promises.

She did not Die Then.

When people are given up to die by their friends and physicians there is a sort of melancholy pleasure in trying to do all that can be done to make them as comfortable as possible. At such times the kindness of neighbours and friends is manifested in various ways. Everything is done that will relieve the pain of body, or give comfort of mind, so far as it is possible for willing hands and loving hearts to do so.

Prompted by this feeling a man called on me one day to go and administer the sacrament to a woman who was supposed to be in a dying condition. She lived on the far side of the circuit, and was a member of the Church. She was an excellent woman. I was much surprised to learn that she was given up by two doctors. I had not heard of her sickness till then. I lost no time in going to see her.

When I got to the house I found Mrs. C. very sick, and the family in great distress. The children were greatly alarmed by the prospect of losing one of the best of mothers. Mr. C. was nearly broken-hearted at the thought of losing a true and faithful and loving wife. A number of neighbours were there, and they were lamenting about losing a good neighbour and friend. We proceeded with the administration of the Lord’s Supper, the husband and some others taking a part in the solemn rite. During the service the impression was made on my mind that the woman was not going to die at that time; and in praying for her restoration I felt confident that the prayer would be answered.

After the room was vacated by all except Mr. C. and myself, I said to her, “Mrs. C., I feel confident that you are not going to die at this time.” Her looks changed in an instant. She said, “Do you think so?” I said, “Yes, I believe that you will be well enough to go to meeting and hear me preach yet before Conference.” “Well,” she answered, “I am willing to die if the Lord so orders. But if it be His will that I should live a few years more, I would like to do so on account of William and the children.” She did get well, and lived some sixteen years after that. She saw her children well provided for, and her husband an honoured and useful man in the Church. Then she peacefully and joyfully went to her rest. And her children called her blessed.

End of a Wild Career.

One day I was splitting some firewood at the door of the parsonage. My attention was directed to a man on horseback who was riding toward me at a rapid rate. When he came up he said to me, “The friend of J. S. wishes you to come and see him. He is dying.” Here was a very undesirable call. I knew J. S. to be one of the most wicked young men that I had ever known. His mother had been left a widow in fair circumstances some years before. She had a number of boys of which this J. was the eldest. The mother, like many another good woman, had more heart than head, and more kindness than firmness. She was just the kind of woman to indulge and spoil a lot of boys. The softest mothers sometimes send out the hardest boys. So it was in this case. I had sometimes seen J. walk past the church on Sunday morning. But I never saw him inside a place of worship. I had seen him drunk more than a score of times. I had heard the terrible oaths that came from him. I knew that the doctor had told him some months before that unless he gave up his dissipation he would die before the year was out. Knowing all this, is it to be wondered at that I felt reluctant to go?

I asked the messenger if J. sent for me. He said “No; it was his mother and his brothers.” His mother was a member of the Church, and his brothers respectable young men. I could not refuse them.

But what good could I do him? He had lived in sin against God just as long as he could lift a hand or move a foot. He was dying, not by a visitation of God, but as the outcome of his own recklessness. In fact, he was but little less of a suicide than the man who blows his own brains out or cuts his own throat.

I hitched up and went at once. When I got within twenty rods of the house, I heard the moanings of poor J. When I went into the house I found a number of people there. All of them were sad, as well they might be. On a bed in one corner of the room lay a perfect wreck of the once active and strong young man. At each breath came the short ejaculation, “0 Lord, 0 Lord.” It was evident that this was not meant for prayer, as his mind was so beclouded that he was quite insensible to everything around him.

We read a chapter and had prayer. Then I tried to get his attention so that I might say something to him about his condition. But he seemed to be entirely oblivious of all surrounding objects. Still his cry at every breath was, “O Lord, O Lord.” The way this was said made it sound like the utterances of a soul in anguish, or the bitter outcry of a tortured spirit as it was just about to sink into that night that knows no morning. That plaintive cry seemed like the wailing of despair, and it fell upon the listener’s ear like an appealing and warning voice coming up from the regions of the lost.

Before another day had dawned upon our world he died. At the hour of midnight, when the earth was enveloped in its thickest clouds of darkness, the poor abused and suffering body of J. S. sank into the arms of death and his soul entered into the spirit world to meet its God and receive its doom.

Saved at the Eleventh Hour.

On a bright Sabbath morning, in the early summer, I started to my forenoon appointment. When I had gone about a mile I was overtaken by a man who came riding after me on horseback. As he came up he said, “I want you to turn about and come with me.”

I asked what was the matter. He said, “Mrs. B. is very low, and the doctor says she cannot live twelve hours. She is unconverted. She is in a pitiable condition, and very much alarmed about her future state. She sent me to ask you to go and see her.”

This woman lived some distance in the opposite direction from my work, so that to comply with her request would cause me to disappoint two congregations.

The man who came for me was one of my circuit officials. He said, “I think you had better go. The living can stand to be disappointed better than the dying. And before the day is gone the poor woman ma}’ be in eternity.”

I turned and went with him. I had sometimes seen this woman and her husband at church. They were respectable people. But they, like thousands in the world, took no interest in a personal salvation. They lived for this world only. When we got to the place we found the house full of people. A number of Christian men and women were trying to help and comfort the penitent sufferer. She was a woman in middle life, with a fair share of intellect, and some amount of culture. She was suffering from some kind of inflammation. She was enduring great pain of body, but her mental distress seemed to be more hard to bear than her physical sufferings. We prayed, and read, and talked with that poor woman till four o’clock in the day. Then she came out of the darkness into light, and out of sadness into joy. Her soul was filled with a heavenly peace of mind and a joy unspeakable sprang up in her heart. O how she talked to her husband, and with what earnestness did she pray for the children she was leaving behind her. Her husband promised her that he would seek and serve the Lord so that he might meet her in that heaven to which she now felt that she was going. Whether he kept that pledge or not I do not know. The woman died that night rejoicing in the hope of a blessed immortality and eternal life. When I next visited the congregations that were disappointed that day I explained to them the reason of my absence. Everybody seemed to be satisfied. Several of the people said to me, “You did right in going to look after the dying first.”

A Doctor’s Needless Fears.

Sometimes people allow themselves to drift along with the tide of events, and do not know in what direction they are moving, nor how fast they are going. Feeling no uneasiness, they take it for granted they are on the right path. But at length they discover that they have missed the way, and are travelling in the opposite direction from that they intend. Then they become alarmed, and they seek again the path from which they have wandered. They chide themselves for their carelessness, and resolve to do better in the future.

This was the experience of Mrs. F. in her religious life. She had been converted and had joined the Church in early life. She lived a consistent and useful life until she married an unconverted man. They settled in a distant village. She neglected to take her place in the Church, and was so far deprived of Christian counsel and encouragement. For some time things went on smoothly with the young couple. Then a very severe attack of disease brought Mrs. F. face to face with her real state. She saw that she had strayed from the fold and wandered away on the bleak mountains of sin.

In her distress she wanted a minister of her old Church. Being the nearest one to where she lived, I was sent for. The distance was fifteen miles; however, I lost no time in going. I was acquainted with the woman, having been employed to attend her marriage. When I came to her home I found her indeed very low. She was in great pain of body and in great distress of mind. I soon concluded that her case required spiritual remedies more than medical treatment. We had prayer with her, and just then the doctor came. He lived in the same village that I did; we were acquainted. I knew that he took but little interest in religion of any kind, and I had been told that he particularly disliked the Methodist.

After the doctor had attended to his duties and was ready to start away, he called me outside; then he said to me, “I want to caution you before I leave. Be very careful not to excite that woman in any way, as her life depends on her being kept quiet.” I said to him, “Doctor, I think I know my business, I was sent for, or I should not be here. The woman is in great distress of mind, and it seems to me that if you can be trusted with my penitent you may trust your patient with me. I shall be prudent but faithful in the discharge of my duty.” After the doctor left me Mrs. F. requested that five or six of her Christian neighbours should be invited to come in and hold a prayer-meeting in the evening, as I was to stay all night in the village. They came in as she wished. I cautioned them, and also Mrs. F., against any undue excitement in our devotions; but it was of little use. The well ones did as I told them, but the sick one got into a perfect agony of spirit for a while. We were all uneasy for her safety for a short time. Then everything changed. She found again her lost enjoyment, and with a loud voice she praised the Lord for restoring to her the joys of His salvation. This continued for an hour, and then she went into a peaceful slumber, and rested well all night. Next forenoon the doctor came; when he went into the room he found the sick woman sitting up in bed talking cheerfully with a neighbour. He expressed great surprise at the change for the better. The woman was well in a short time. She insisted upon it that it was the Lord that cured her, not the doctor.

Fear of Death All Gone.

George Maynarcl was a good man. For thirty years he was a class-leader in the Methodist Church. When an old man, he was thrown on a bed of sickness which proved to be unto death. One day I went to sec him, he referred to his feelings on the subject of death. He said, “I know that I was converted when I was a young man. For many years I have had the evidence of my acceptance with God. How is it that I have always had a dread of death? Can you explain this? Why should I be afraid of that which I fully believe I am prepared for?”

“Well,” I said, “you know more than I do about many things; but in this, it seems to me that you are taking too gloomy a view of things. Human nature instinctively shrinks from death; but by the help of God’s grace, even the fear of death may be overcome.” “Do you think,” said he, “that I can get dying grace if I ask for it?”

I said, “Doubtless you will get dying grace when you need it. You know as well as I do, that the help we get to-day will not meet the wants of to-morrow, any more than that the bread we cat to-day will satisfy the hunger of to-morrow. If God gives us grace day by day to live right, we need not trouble ourselves about dying grace until we need it. Then we may rest assured we will get it.”

“That is a view of the case that I have not thought of before; but I see that it is the correct view,” was his answer. About a week after this conversation I called again to see him. When I went into the room I noticed a wonderful change in the expression of his countenance. His face, it seemed to me, shone with a heavenly light, and an angelic smile rested upon it. As soon as he saw me, he said, “I have been waiting for you to come; I want to tell you that all my fears are gone, and death to me now wears the kindly aspect of a friend, instead of the forbidding look of an enemy. I want to tell you how it was that I got into this happy frame of mind.

“Two nights ago I lay here alone. My wife was in the other room attending to her housework. I was thinking about death. What a solemn thing it is to die. How must the spirit feel when it moves out of the tenement it has so long inhabited. What will be the soul’s sensations when it goes out into the untried and unknown state of things and for the first time looks upon its new surroundings and realizes its changed conditions.

“All at once a light darted into my room. I looked up and seemed to see a shining pathway leading up a gently ascending grade. With my eyes I followed this shining way until it seemed to be swallowed up by a brightness that is indescribable. Just there I saw one standing whose garments looked like glittering gold bestudded with sparkling diamonds. In one hand he held a robe that was whiter than snow and a crown that was brighter than the noonday sun. With the other hand he pointed to these as he looked at me and smiled. That look and that smile sent a thrill to every fibre of my body and touched every faculty and sensibility of my soul. My shouts of praise brought my wife to enquire what had taken place. The vision vanished, but not the joy. My soul has been in an ecstasy ever since. There is not left a single shadow of the fear of death.” He never lost this happy frame of mind until the last. He died within a week after he related this to me. He was a man of sterling character and beloved by all who knew him.

A Mother’s Last Conversation.

Among the names whose memory I cannot but cherish is that of Mrs. Ann Gilroy. I first made the acquaintance of her and her family on the Teeswater mission in the year 1858. Some years later she lived in Kincardine when I was stationed there.

We were having a good revival in our church. Mrs. Gilroy and her family all took more or less interest in the meetings. When she could not attend, her son, who lived at home, and three daughters were generally at the services.

One night, on account of not feeling well, she stayed at home. The rest of the family went to meeting. During the evening some one made the statement that “a true Christian is prepared for death at any time. That to such a sudden death simply means sudden glory.” Jacob Gilroy noticed this statement. He thought it was an extravagant saying.

When he went home his mother was still sitting by the stove waiting for him and his sisters to come. After the girls retired, mother and son sat up for a while talking about family matters. After they talked some time and were about to retire, the son said, “Mother, are you too tired to tell me one thing that I would like to know before you go to rest?” “What is it?” she said. “Well, it is this: to-night it was said in the meeting that ‘ true Christians are always ready to die. That to them sudden death is sudden glory. Now, mother, you have been a Christian ever since I can remember, and I believe that if there are any good people in the world you are one of them. Tell me, now, if you knew that you would die before morning would you not be frightened?” She stood for a short time as if in deep thought, and then said, “I do not think that I would be at all alarmed if I knew that I should die to-night. Why should I be afraid to go to my home in my Father’s house? Good night.” She never spoke again. In the morning she was found in her bed entirely speechless and motionless, though still alive. Before night she was dead. Some time after this the young man was in the city of Philadelphia. He had been to a revival meeting and got very happy. He came home to his boarding house, sat on a chair and fell off it, and was dead before his room-mate could get to him. So that both mother and son died unexpectedly. And we hope and believe that both proved by a happy experience that to the Christian “ sudden death is sudden glory.”

A Night of Sorrow.

One of the most touching events that I have known occurred in one of the new settlements a few years after I entered the ministry.

Typhoid fever was prevailing in the neighbourhood and many were dying of it. There was a family that lived in the bush by themselves. The man took the fever and was lying very low. No one entered the house except the doctor. One night the man died. His wife found herself alone with her dead husband and her two small children, who, all unconscious of trouble, were sleeping in their little cot. The woman’s parents lived about three-fourths of a mile off, through a dense piece of woods and over a large stream of water. The stillness of the house and the lonesomeness of the place at length overcame the poor woman’s fortitude and courage. She picked up her two children and ran as fast as she could till she came to the creek. In her confused haste she forgot all about the footbridge over it; she waded through it.

She went to her father’s door. Through fear of the fever her own parents refused to let her into the house. Then she made her way back to her home as best she could. When she came there she dared not go inside. She sat down on the doorstep with her two little ones in her arms. Next morning when the doctor came he found her still sitting there, soundly sleeping, forgetful of the terrible ordeal through which she had passed. Two men went and carried the dead man out and a few others took and buried him.

A Mistaken Doctor.

I once knew a boy in his teens who was stricken down with typhoid fever. The medical man who attended him was taken down with the same disease just when the boy was at the worst. He sent twenty-two miles for another doctor to come and see himself and his patients.

This strange doctor visited the sick boy, and left orders to give him a certain amount of brandy every hour. The lad kept sinking until he could not be got to swallow the liquor or anything else. I was present when he made his last call (until he called for his pay). He was told that the brandy had not been given, for the simple reason that the patient could not be made to take it. He got angry and scolded the attendants a good deal; then he went away, saying the boy would not live two hours.

After he was gone, Mr. Hacking, the boy’s father, said to me, “I have a great notion to try the water cure, and put William in wet sheets. What would you do if you were in my place?” I said, “I am not prepared to give any advice in the matter. You heard what the doctor said. From all appearances, I am afraid that his predictions will be verified. So far as the boy is concerned, I do not think that it makes much difference what you do, or what you don’t do. I fear he is past being benefited by human help.”

The preparations for using the wet sheets commenced at once. I left them, fearing that the boy would die as soon as they undertook to move him. He had been in a stupor for some days, and was seemingly unconscious of everything about him; but the result of the effort on the part of Mr. H. and family was marvellous. All night they continued their work. Next morning early I went to the house expecting to find the boy dead; but he was still living, and when I looked at him, I could see that he was unmistakably better. That boy got well, and is living yet. The doctor afterwards sued for a very exorbitant fee, and I was called as a witness in the case. The judge allowed him just half the amount asked for, and he paid the cost, the amount having been offered to him, but he refused it.

Deaths By Accident.

When people die, the shock to the surviving friends is not so great as when they are killed by what is called accident. In the one case there is time for the friends to prepare for what they look upon as inevitable. In the other case the suddenness of the unexpected event gives a more crushing aspect to the bereavement.

During my ministry I have been called upon to perform the funeral rites for nine persons who were accidentally killed; six of them were killed by trees and limbs, one at a raising, and two in wells. To particularize all of these would occupy too much space. I will briefly refer to three cases.

Died in a Well.

James Mullen lived in a house built on one of those “gravel hills” so common in some parts of the country. He started to dig a well near the house, and on the side of the hill; he was in the well which had been dug to the depth of eighteen feet, and “curbed” with plank and scantling. His father and his wife were working the windlass one afternoon; all at onee the curbing gave way at the top of the first length of scantling, and the whole thing collapsed. The planks came together a few feet above Mullen’s head, thus saving him from being instantly crushed to death by the tons of gravel that burst into the well from all sides. As soon as the first shock was over he called to those above to tell them he was not dead, but said he was badly hurt, and partly covered up with earth. The alarm was given, and men began to come from all directions to assist in trying to get the poor man out. They commenced to dig down to him from the top. Every blow they struck only sent more of the dry gravel sifting down upon the man below. Some fifty men were there; all night long they toiled, but all in vain to save his life. Once they got so near him he took a cup of water from them between the planks, then a fresh lot of dirt fell in and shut up all the openings. Somewhere about ten o’clock in the morning he called to one of his neighbours and said, “Tell me the honest truth. Is there any chance to get me out alive. The dirt is up to my chin; I cannot move so much as a finger; one more shaking down of the gravel will bury me all up. Can you get me out?”

The friend said to him, “James, you must look to your God for help; we are doing all in our power, and will do so; but I greatly fear no human help can reach you in time to save your life.”

Shortly after he spoke again, saying, “The dirt is covering me up;” that was his last word.

When he was at length got out, one of his legs was broken; that was all the serious hurt that could be found upon the body. A great concourse of people attended his funeral; I spoke to them out of an upstairs window, that being the most suitable place from which to address the multitude. I saw James Mullen’s wife a few years ago; she was still a widow, though now past middle age.

He Read His Own Funeral Text.

People who have always lived on the front have but little idea what life in the backwoods means. The deprivations of the early settlers are far from being appreciated by those who have never been without schools, and churches, and mills, and stores, and neighbours; and never is the want of these so severely felt as in the time of trouble and bereavement. A number of years ago a family by the name of Col beck moved into the north part of the township of Luther. They were Methodists; but now they found themselves away from the means of grace in the public worship of God. They instituted a system of worship of their own. The whole family would take a part in reading at family devotions. One morning the lesson read was the fifteenth chapter of Jeremiah. The youngest son, a young man, read the last verse, which reads as follows: “And I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the terrible.” That was the last thing he ever read.

He and his brother went out to the fallow to chop. Before noon a limb fell out of a tree and struck him, He never spoke nor moved.

I being the nearest Methodist minister, was sent for to attend his funeral. At the time I lived on the sixth line of Garafraxa. I had to go about twenty miles to get to the place.

When I came there it was the wish of the mother that the last verse that her boy had ever read should be his funeral text. I could not refuse her, though it allowed me no time for preparation. There were two or three married children settled around the old people. From what I saw of them I took them to be an excellent family. One of the Colbecks is in our ministry, and a member of the Guelph Conference.

Choke-damp Killed Them.

Two dead men in one old well are not often seen in this country. Such a thing is enough to cause a sensation in any locality. In the vicinity of the Black Horse Corners in Kinloss this scene was witnessed a few years ago.

Two well-diggers undertook to clear out an old well and dig it deeper. They went to the place to commence work. They prepared a windlass. One of them was to go down and do the work in the well, and the other was to work the windlass. When the man in the tub got about half way to the bottom he fell over out of the tub and went to the bottom, where he lay so still his companion thought that he had fainted, or else he was in a fit.

Help was called for. A number of men were on hand in a short time. But the question was, Who would volunteer to go down and bring up the body of the man whom every one now believed to be dead.

At length an old farmer, named Brownscome, who lived on the adjoining lot, offered to go if none of the younger men would do so. He had them to tie a rope tightly around him under his arms. They commenced slowly to let him down. When he reached the point where the other had fallen out of the tub, he seemed to wilt like a scorched leaf, and, slipping out of the rope, he fell to the bottom as lifeless as a lump of lead.

Then it became evident that there was something in the well more than the common air. On applying a test it was ascertained that the well was half full of gas of the most deadly kind. The bodies were taken out by long iron rods with hooks on the ends of them. Mr. Brownscome was an Englishman. He was one of the class-leaders on the Kincardine Circuit. He was an excellent man, but his life was thrown away for want of a little forethought, for if the well had been tested sooner he might have been saved. We buried his remains at Kincardine Cemetery.

IIow great to him would be the sudden change. One moment surrounded by a group of anxious neighbours; the next moment among the angels and the spirits of just men made perfect. No doubt, to him sudden death was sudden glory. the next day. There was no help for it—we must face the storm. As we were about starting Mrs. Hodgins said to me, “You must not freeze Mr. Simpson on that cold road. Y"ou have been over it so often that you have got used to it.” I replied that he had only one to look after, while I had two—myself and horse.

We started out about 10 a.m., and of all the days that I have ever experienced that was one of the worst. When we got about half way I asked Mr. Simpson if he was cold. He said he was not, and we went on. As we came nearer the lake the storm seemed more severe. We both got cold, and concluded to stop at the house of Henry Daniels and warm, but when we came to his gate it was entirely snowed up. Then we thought to go on and stop at William Purdy’s on the next side line, but the snow was so blinding that we passed that without seeing it. We concluded that we were a lone: while in reaching the side line, but when we found where we were it was inside the corporation of Kincardine and almost home.

Next morning when I met Simpson I could not keep my face straight while I looked at him. His face had the most comical appearance of anything that I had seen of the kind. Wherever the frozen snow had touched, it had left a mark. His face looked as though some one had taken the skin of an Indian and cut it into round pieces ranging from five to fifty cents in size, and stuck them on in grand confusion all over it from top to bottom. When I had laughed at him for a while, he asked me if I had looked into the glass yet since we came home. When I did so I found that I had been making merry at my own likeness, for my face was about as spotted as his. I had been doing what people often do, namely, criticise in others what is most like in themselves. Some of the people said that we were queer looking specimens of clerical dignity and official importance.

Return to Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.