IN December, 1834, Edward Irving
re-entered Glasgow with uplifted hands and words of thanksgiving and
blessing in his heart and on his lips. He thought he had a great work to
accomplish in that centre of life and wickedness and sorrow, and so he
had, but it was no longer to labour or battle that God had called his
servant. He had come not to work, not to fight, but to die. Never
death-bed appealed with more moving power to the heart. His mother and
sister had come to see him, and his lifelong Kirkcaldy friends watched him
in the last struggle.
With fluctuations of despairing
hope, Martin, his father-in-law, 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 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,
etc., 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
"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 unbroken breathings of 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 these mysterious
sounds, Dr. Martin found them to be the Hebrew measures of the 23rd
Psalms.— 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 grew feebler and feebler,
a last debate seemed to rise in that soul which was now hidden with God.
They heard him murmuring to himself in inarticulate argument, confusedly
struggling in his weakness to account for this visible death which, at
last, his human faculties could no longer refuse to believe in, perhaps
touched with ineffable trouble that his Master had seemed to fail of His
word and promise. At last that self argument came to a sublime conclusion
in a trust more strong than life or death.
As the gloomy December Sunday sank
into the night shadows, his last audible words on earth fell from his pale
lips. The last thing like a sentence we could make out was,— "If I die, I
die unto the Lord, Amen." And so, at the wintry midnight hour, which ended
that last Sabbath on earth, the last bonds of mortal trouble dropped
asunder, and the saint entered into the rest of his Lord.