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Memoirs of John Urquhart
Chapter 6

The commencement of his last illness—Extract from his Journal— Letter to Mr. Tate — Letter to Mr. Craik — Letter to his father —Letter from Mr. Ewing to his father — Letter from Mrs. Ewing to the same—Letter from Mrs. Ewing, giving an account of his illness and death — Letter from Miss Cathcart on the same subject—His death—Letter from Dr. Chalmers to his father—Lines addressed to John by a friend—Concluding observations on his character and death.

The time now drew nigh, when my beloved friend was to be removed from this delusive and suffering world, to the ‘unsuffering kingdom’ of his adorable Lord. For that state of ineffable bliss, he had been for a considerable time preparing, under the discipline of Providence, and the sanctifying grace of the Redeemer. In knowledge, he had far outstripped his equals of his own age; in zeal and devotedness, he occupied the front rank of a chosen band of youthful associates; and in the feelings and exercises of humility, he lay lower than the lowest. The measure of his spiritual stature was now completed, and the full reward of glory was made ready for him, by Him whom he loved. I feel myself incapable of describing the closing scenes, and shall therefore leave them, in a great measure to be told by others.

From a child, he gave evidence of possessing a constitution of peculiar delicacy, which was, therefore, liable to be affected, both mentally and physically, by many causes, which do not operate powerfully on persons of a robust and hardy temperament. They symptoms of a morbid depression, which appeared during the summer of 1826, were only, I apprehend, the harbingers of the fatal attack, by which he was appointed to be removed from this world. I fear it was not discovered in time, that the brain was the origin of his complaints; the intense and unceasing action of the mind, proving too powerful for his delicate bodily frame. In the mysterious arrangements of Providence, it would seem, that whatever arrives very early at perfection, is destined to be soon cut off. Premature growth is generally followed by a premature end. The case of Urquhart is very similar to those of Durant and Kirke White; and the inimitably beautiful lines which Lord Byron applies to the latter, are, I conceive, equally applicable to my young friend. It is singular, that the passage to which I refer, was transcribed by him into a scrap-book, entitled, "Extracts in Poetry, from various authors," only a short time before his death.

"Oh! What a noble heart was here undone,
When Science’ self destroyed her favourite son!
Yes! she too much indulged thy fond pursuit,
She sowed the seeds, but death has reaped the fruit.
‘Twas thine own genius gave the fatal blow,
And helped to plant the wound that laid thee low.
So the struck eagle, stretched upon the plain,
No more through rolling clouds to soar again,
Viewed his own feather on the fatal dart,
And winged the shaft which quivered in his heart.
Keen were his pangs, but keener far to feel,
He nursed the pinion, which impelled the steel:
While the same plumage that had warmed his nest,
Drank the last life drop of his bleeding breast.

The last entry in his journal describes the commencement of the attack, which terminated his earthly career, and gives a most delightful view of the state of his mind. "The ruling passion," his devoted attachment to the missionary cause, appears strong even in death. To be withdrawn from this work was the only thing which excited his regret, or extorted the expression of painful feeling; yet, even in regard to that, his mind appeared perfectly subdued.

"December, 1826.

"Wednesday, 13th.—An excessive languor and weakness has prevented me from studying regularly this week. Had a long conversation with the gardener, last night, whom I find to be a very shrewd man. He is quite a Scotchman. The contrast, in point of intellect, and acquired knowledge, between him and the English servants in the family, is very striking. Yet they have travelled a good deal, and have nearly one-third of the day at their own disposal. His knowledge has been picked up in his own cottage, and those around it. He argues well on the doctrines of Christianity; but, I fear, as is the case, alas! With many of our countrymen, the head is engaged more than the heart.

"14th. Rose to-day at a quarter to eight. Read half a chapter of the Greek Testament. Second chapter of Joshua in Hebrew. Dr. Cokely called to-day, and pronounces my illness an affection of the liver. This has distressed me a good deal, as it may unfit me for the East, which I have long contemplated as the scene of my labours. But the Lord knows what is best. If he hedge up the way, I may not walk in it. I would not, if I might. I begin a course of medicine on Friday, which, I pray God may bless, for the restoration of my health; that my body may be fitted for his service. If this be not his will, I know, that the destruction of this body will perfect the soul, and fit it for a higher, and a holier service, in the heavenly temple.

"‘O most delightful hour by man
Experienced here below;
That hour which terminates his span,
His sorrow and his woe.’

"14th. Not so weak this morning, but able to accomplish little in the way of study. Prepared and attended my meeting. This is always a refreshment. I was enabled to speak with earnestness and feeling on the mercy and the justice of our God. My breathing a good deal affected to-night in walking. Though the night is wet, I feel better since I have been out."

How delightful it is to find, that to the very last, he laboured in his Master’s service, and seemed to derive fresh strength from doing the will of God.

To his friend Tate, he wrote the following interesting letter, on the 19th of December:--

"TENNOCH SIDE, December 19, 1826.

"MY DEAR BROTHER—This world, though which we are passing, is a desert, and no wonder that its dreariness should depress our spirits. Our souls too are suffering under a loathsome disease; and if we are sensible of its loathsomeness, no wonder that we sometimes abhor our ownselves. But the desert through which we travel, leads to our home, and we have an all powerful remedy for the disease that preys upon our souls. True, sin will struggle on, and the old man will fight for the mastery, as long as he may, but we shall soon leave the wilderness, and all its sufferings, behind us. Strange that we should ever wish to linger. You remember that beautiful hymn;

—There is a land of pure delight,
Where saints immortal reign;
Infinite day excludes the night,
And pleasures banish pain.

There everlasting spring abides,
And never-withering flowers:
Death, like a narrow sea, divides,
This heavenly land from ours.

Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood
Stand dressed in living green:
So to the Jews old Canaan stood,
While Jordan rolled between.

But timorous mortals start and shrink
To cross this narrow sea,
And linger, shivering on the brink,
And fear to launch away.

Could we but climb where Moses stood;
And view the landscape o’er;
Not Jordan’s stream, — nor death’s cold flood,
Should fright us from the shore.’

"I had a letter from our dear Craik, a few days before I received your last. He talks of being a missionary. Brown and he think of Ireland. I should think them well fitted for debate, especially Henry. I fear some one must be found to supply my place among the number of intending missionaries. You know that I have not been bent from what I thought the course of duty, by the arguments of men; but now God has spoken in a way which I think, (but I am not sure,) is decisive. I have been sickly for some weeks, and it turns out to be inflammation of the liver. I have been taking the usual course of mercurial pills for some days, and the Doctor orders the side to be blistered to-morrow. I wished to write before I am quite laid up, chiefly to request you to tell me all about St. Andrew’s when you return. I hoped to have visited it soon, but the Lord has determined otherwise. Pray for me, that whether death or life be in this cup, the Lord may enable me to drink it with cheerfulness. Remember that I am literally in a land of strangers. Not a single Christian friend to whisper consolation, none to whom I can pour forth the feelings of my soul. Remember me very affectionately to my dear Rentoul, in whom I feel a very peculiar interest. My old companion, William Adam, I expected to have heard from. I have others, in my mind, but I am wearied. My chief pain is in my right arm and side. Do not speak of my illness at St. Andrew’s, as the report might reach home, and I have not yet written."

Whether the means resorted to, were those best suited to his case, I pretend not to say; but while a partial recovery was effected, the disease would seem still to have gone on. To his esteemed friend, Craik, at Exeter, he wrote at different times, the following letter: —

"TENNOCH SIDE, December, 1826.

I have to thank you, my dear brother, for two affectionate letters, since I wrote last. Your last was a letter of mourning, and yet it refreshed me much, and comforted me. It was but a day or two after, that I had a letter from our dear friend Tait, breathing the same strain of lamentation for worldliness, and panting after a closer walk with God. We are all one family, my brother, and what wonder that the feelings of our hearts are one, while banished from our home, and wandering amid dangers, fighting with powerful enemies, and surrounded by strangers who know us not, or who know us only to hate us. But let us take courage. ‘The night is far spent, the day is at hand.’ Weeping may endure for a night; but joy will come in the morning. It is not always by light, and faith, and joy, that the Lord answers prayer for spirituality of mind. There is great truth in that hymn of Newton’s, —

"‘ I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of his salvation know,
And seek more earnestly his face.

I hoped that in some favoured hour,
At once he’d answer my request;
And by his love’s constraining power,
Subdue my sins and give me rest.

Instead of this, he made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry powers of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Lord, why is this? I trembling cried;
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
‘‘Tis in this way,’ the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I employ,
From self and pride to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st seek thy all in me.’

"Why does God leave us so long in a world of sin? Why were his ancient people forty years in travelling through the wilderness? Why are we exposed to so many temptations? It is because he will not only deliver us, but will show us the horror of that state, from which we have been delivered. And the more we know of our own vileness, shall not our praise be the louder, when we join in that glorious anthem, ‘Unto him that loved us?’

"I have been a mourner too. New circumstances have presented new temptations, and the Lord has shown me my utter weakness. Once, I thought my heart could not be viler than I knew it to be; but God has led me, as he did his prophet of old, from one scene of iniquity to another; and when I have thought that now I have seen all, he has opened some secret place within my breast, and showed me ‘greater abominations still.’ Nor am I sure, that I know yet the depths of iniquity that are within me. How easy to pass among men as pious and holy! They compare themselves among themselves. You talk about passing the Rubicon, my dear brother. The river of death is the Rubicon. Not till we have passed it, shall we be completely freed from the world, and from its cares. I say this, because I remember feeling, as I think you do. I thought, did I decidedly give up the hope of worldly honours and comforts, by deciding on the missionary life, I should no more be harassed by the cares, or allured by the vanities of earth. But it is not so. To think much of the Saviour is the only way to be made like him. I like much your plan regarding Ireland. I do think your talents, and also those of our friend Brown, are quite of a cast for it. It has been urged much upon me, but you know well I am not the person for such a scene. You ask me concerning my plans. I have no plan at present. If Colonel Moreland goes to Edinburgh in April, I may probably stay a little longer with him. Some information I got to-day, has distressed me a good deal, as it makes me fear that I shall never be fit for a warm climate. I have been drooping and sickly for some weeks. To-day, the doctor has come from Glasgow, and pronounces my illness an affection of the liver. He thinks there is no inflammation, and that a course of medicine will remove this attack. I am able to go about, though not very fit for study, and, have merely a slight pain, like rheumatism, in my arm and side. Rentoul, Alexander, Duff and Trail, are in St. Andrew’s. From John Adam, I have not heard since I wrote you. My meeting here is confined to young people, thirteen or fourteen attend. There is no village. They come from scattered cottages. Of course, I do not preach, I talk to them. My meeting with them always refreshes and invigorates me. We go, perhaps, to Dysart, at Christmas. I may, perhaps, have an opportunity of visiting St. Andrew’s."

"This is Christmas-day, and it is well for me the family have not moved. John Adam has written me lately; he is well, and goes on with his plan of preaching occasionally.

"The other part of this letter was written a considerable time ago; but I thought it better, since I had mentioned my illness, not to send it off till I should see what the issue might be. Decided symptoms of inflammation soon appeared; but I am glad to say, that the Lord has blessed the means employed to remove the disease. At least, we think so at present. You must excuse me for not writing more, as I am excessively weak. I have ate very little, and have been allowed to eat nothing nourishing for some time. Add to this, that I have had a good deal of medicine, and a blister on my side, and you will not wonder that I am much reduced. I can add no more at present, but that I am ever your friend and brother in the strongest bonds."

The last letter he wrote was to his father, though the painful event that so soon followed, was then little anticipated.

"TENNOCH SIDE, December 27, 1826.

"MY DEAR FATHER — Christmas is past, and I am afraid you will be expecting me. This is the reason, I suppose, that my many letters have produced no answers. The family do not go to Dysart; and, in my present circumstances, that has been a great blessing to me. I may venture to tell you, now that I am better, that I have had rather a serious illness, inflammatiomi of the liver. I had been very weak for some time, loathing food, and oppressed with a pain in my arm and side, which I called rheumatism. Mrs. Moreland had the kindness to send for the doctor of the regiment, who prescribed great abstinence; the blue pill to be taken every night; and, lastly, a large blister for the right side. It has pleased God to bless these means for the removal of the disease. Of course, I am very much reduced. I have been treated with as much kindness as if I had been at home, by the house-keeper especially, who always dressed my blister, and watched me like a mother. I could not have looked for such kindness in a land of strangers. The Lord can raise up friends wherever we are; but I have had no Christian to whom I could open my heart. But the Lord is here. With love to all, I am ever your affectionate son."

This letter was written when he must have been very ill, as he found it necessary to leave Colonel Moreland’s on the second or third of January, with a view to return home. He got as far as Glasgow; and, under the hospitable roof of Mr Ewing, received that kind welcome, which, had invariably been shown him, from the first period of his acquaintance with that excellent family. The following letters, addressed by Mr and Mrs Ewing, to his father, are important, as they show the progress of the complaint, the means which were employed to arrest it, and the deep interest which they took in the amiable sufferer.

"GLASGOW, January 5, 1827

"MY DEAR SIR — I am sorry to inform you, that your son came to us two days ago, rather in a poor state of health. I suppose he must have informed you, some weeks ago, of his having pain in his side, for which the regimental surgeon, (who seems a very respectable man,) ordered a course of mercury, that is now finished, but seems to have reduced our young friend to a state of great weakness. Nevertheless the doctor says he sees no cause for alarm, as there is little or no fever in his pulse, but there is no getting him to follow advice in taking his food. This the doctor thinks will prevent him from recovering strength till he can go home, which he thinks he may do, if he gets into the coach, and takes a little warm brandy and water once or twice on the road. At Tennoch Side, he became hypochondriac, and would eat nothing till it was out of season. We hoped he would have cheered up a little here, from conversation and nourishment; but I am sorry to say we are disappointed. I think it my duty, therefore, to beg, that if possible, either you or his mother will come here in the beginning of the week, to endeavour to prevail with him to take nourishment, and to consult with his medical attendant what is best to be done. The doctor declares he sees nothing but the flatulency of an empty stomach that should prevent him from eating. After all, I shall not be surprised if he propose going to-morrow by the coach, for he did so last night, but not till the places had been all taken. Yet, if he persist in neglecting his food, he cannot get better. I grieve to write thus, but we are quite at a loss, for we cannot urge him; and he does not appear to be at present a good judge in his own case. I am writing without his knowledge, for when I proposed it before, he refused to let me."

"GLASGOW, January 5, 1827.

"MY DEAR SIR — Since writing to you in the forenoon, Mr. Ewing (who has been obliged to go to the church-meeting) thinks I should write to go by the seven o’clock coach, by which you might expect your son, to say he has never spoken of it again this day at all; and that though his pulse is down, we do not think him better, and feel at a loss how to manage him. The doctor says he should not lie in bed, but we cannot persuade him to make any exertion. The doctor says he must eat, and it is almost by compulsion, and never but when one of us in a manner insists and holds it to him, that he takes anything. We hope, therefore, you will come, as the doctor assures us he is quite able for the journey. We should feel it quite distressing to let him go alone, and shall feel very anxious till you come. At the same time let me assure you, we have not concealed any circumstance from you. The doctor says his pulse is seventy-two only. He appears to me, as I have seen people, highly hysterical. We are sorry to give you all this anxiety, knowing what must be felt for such a son; but we feel it a matter of duty, and, doing as we would be done by. Lieutenant-Colonel Moreland called to-day with the doctor; all that family seem to have paid him uncommon attention."

His father, it may be supposed, lost no time in proceeding to Glasgow; but before he could reach it, the most melancholy progress had been made by the fatal disease. Other medical aid had been called in, and that which had been supposed to be an affection of the liver, was discovered to be an affection of the brain, on which an effusion had taken place, which accounts for the comatose state into which he had been sinking for some days, till at last it had deprived him of all consciousness, and left no hope of a recovery.

My esteemed friend, Mrs. Ewing, who watched his dying bed with a mother’s anxiety, has furnished me with a full and interesting account of his last days, which, together with the additional information supplied by her valued relative Miss Cathcart, who also acted the part of a tender nurse, the reader I am sure, will be pleased to receive in their own words, although their letters contain a slight repetition in some particulars.

"GLASGOW, April, 7, 1827.

"After Colonel Moreland’s family returned at the end of October, I think from Lord Rosslyn’s, young Urquhart was only one Sabbath with us, and then said he had been a good deal troubled with his stomach. When Dr. Marshman was here, I wrote to ask him to meet him at dinner. He wrote, I might guess his disappointment at not being able to come seven miles to see him, when he had gone to London to see Dr. Morrison. The surgeon of the cavalry told me he had had a threatening of inflammation of the liver, for which he had given him Dover’s powders, and blue pill, but this Mr. Urquhart had mistaken for a course of mercury. He came in here on the Wednesday preceding the one on which he died, and seemed very weak and much worn out with the drive; but told me he was now quite free of pain or complaint, except weakness and sickness when he took food. He said he had been so very ill, that though he never was insensible, he had felt what he never had before, that he could not pronounce the words he wished to say. He appeared to me highly nervous, and till his illness took a more serious turn, I had the idea which the medical attendant confirmed, that it was a hysterical case, from weakness. Both the surgeon and himself thought he was able for the journey to Perth, but he was persuaded to stop till the Friday, and take one day’s rest. No ticket was to be had providentially for Friday: for we should have attributed his illness and death to the journey, had he gone. But it is very probable, though the ticket had been got he could not have been conveyed to the coach, as we could never get him to set up after the Thursday night; though he told the doctor he was better, and that he had had five hours’ sleep. His pulse also was better that day. That night, however, we thought him worse, and got a careful sick nurse, in whom we could confide, to be in his room all night. It was two next day when the surgeon called, and when I told him that he ate and drank what we gave him, but stared at us and did not speak, he left me abruptly, and ran up to his room. I followed instantly, being alarmed, and on examining his eyes and trying him in every way to make him speak, he requested more assistance, and told us what the other medical man confirmed, that it was a very bad case of suffusion on the brain. His head was shaved, leeches applied, and then a large blister over his head, and one on his neck. He continued quite insensible that night and next morning, and the medical gentleman then thought it was hastening to a close. His father arrived at eleven, but John did not know him when first he came. When Mr. Ewing came in from the forenoon service, it struck me there was more intelligence in Mr. Urquhart’s face, and I begged of him to come up and speak to him, and pray; which, to gratify me he did, for he had no hope himself, thinking I fancied I saw what I so eagerly wished. Mr. Ewing spoke a few sentences on the hope of the gospel, as suited to one in the near prospect of death, and the glory, honour, and immortality, that were treasured up in heaven for those whose trust was in the Lord Jesus Christ; and then prayed for him as seemingly near death. You may believe I watched narrowly the effect of this, and observed him exceedingly agitated and affected. When Mr. Ewing finished, his hands, which he had not moved for many hours, I saw him endeavouring to disengage from the bed clothes, and therefore I raised the clothes; when he stretched out his hand and pressed Mr. Ewing’s, and smiled. Mr. Ewing said, ‘Do you know me?’ When he said, ‘Do not I know Mr. Ewing?’ I went for his father, and he knew him and named him. After this he lay above an hour quite motionless, but apparently to me in meditation and prayer. At the end of that period, he observed and named me, and said, ‘My mind is quite calm now.’ I said, I trust your hope is fixed on the Rock of Ages. He three times replied in a most impressive way, ‘Yes; my hope is fixed on the Rock of Ages.’ I went on speaking for a little in the same way, saying, You will find it ‘a sure foundation;’ that Christ is able to save to the uttermost; that he is a very present help in trouble; that the hope set before us in his blessed gospel, is a glorious hope. His weakness seemed not to permit him to say much, but he repeated the emphatic words in each passage, in a tone of exultation I think I hear yet, and with a countenance beaming with delight. Knowing the state of insensibility from which he seemed newly recovered, I felt a kind of half fear at his only repeating what I said, and stopped; when he went on himself with two or three passages, importing the full triumph of faith. But now I remember only one; it was, ‘I know that nothing shall separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus my Lord;’ but it is impossible to convey an idea of the tone and manner. It made all in the room weep abundantly except myself; I was thankful I could command my feelings, on his account. We were not aware till afterwards, that his mind had, during the illness before Christmas, been extremely depressed; and that it was on expressing that to his young friend, that the beautiful lines were sent that were something like prophetical of his state before death. I send you Jane’s letter to Miss Young, which will supply anything else he said while able to speak. From that time till within an hour or two of his death, and long after he ceased to speak or see, whenever he heard Mr. Ewing’s voice, he ceased his moaning or laborious breathing, to listen; or when any of us repeated a passage of Scripture. When the medical men returned at four on Sabbath, expecting to find him very near a close of his sufferings, they were very much astonished at the change in his sight, and restored understanding and speech; and though they would not say they could give us hope, they said symptoms were better, and that he must not be excited by speaking, but kept very quiet. This slight hope was kept up all Monday, and we went to bed that night (leaving two to watch him) with stronger hope; but at four in the morning his attendants came for me on his being greatly worse. At four in the afternoon of Tuesday, he was increasingly worse, and then death was so evidently near, that both Miss Cathcart and I sat up till after four, when I was compelled to lie down for two hours, from worn-out strength. When I returned at six he was evidently weaker. His last hour was while we were at breakfast. Miss Cathcart would not leave the room, and I just entered it to see the last breath drawn by the dear young saint.

"You will remember first introducing him to my husband, and I have often thought we owed to the fondness of that interview excited in both to each other, the honour God granted us of having him to minister to in his illness and death. He came first to this house when he arrived in Glasgow, and we secured by that, what any other family would have done, that he should always come to us; and so eager were we to have him, that when Mr. and Mrs. Matheson and children were with us, after fixing we should ask a bed for him from our kind neighbour Mrs. Smith, we put up a bed for him in the little dressing-room. I send you the letters of Dr. Chalmers, and Mrs. Moreland, &c., and you know the universal testimony to his worth, and talents, and piety, and engaging manners. If there is anything further you wish on this subject that I can supply, it will give me satisfaction. I cannot but hope the Lord will bless the memoir to many souls. Surely such a bright star has not, in the short space it was seen, reflected all it was lighted up for, of the glory of God."

The following is Miss Cathcart’s letter, to which Mrs. Ewing refers: —

"We have witnessed a very painful and solemn scene, in the death of that dear child of God. Mr. and Mrs. Ewing felt it an honour to administer to his comfort; and it was a privilege to myself attending him, which I trust will benefit my own soul. Much mercy was mixed with the trying dispensation. It was most providential a ticket in the Perth coach could not be had; and when Mr. Urquhart seemed to regret it, Mr. Ewing said there was a Providence in all these things; in which he directly acquiesced. In all his wanderings, not a murmur or complaint was heard. When he was collected and prayed aloud, it was most delightful to hear him pouring out his heart to God in such humble and scriptural language. I wish the self-righteous had heard him declare that if he got where he deserved he would be in hell-fire, and that he had nothing to plead but the mercy of God, through the righteousness of Christ. At times, when unable to speak, he appeared sensible, by the placid smile on his countenance. When Mr. Ewing was praying, and when he mentioned any of the cheering promises in the gospel to believers, Urquhart would say, ‘Yes! yes!’ with great emphasis. At one time when his poor father asked the state of his mind, he replied, ‘in perfect peace, stayed on God,’ and repeated a second time, ‘stayed on God.’ One morning he asked me if his father was up. I asked him if he wished to see him; he replied, ‘Yes.’ When he came he said, ‘John, do you know your father?’ to which he replied, ‘I know my father;’ and then Mr. Urquhart said, ‘I hope you know your Father in heaven, who, I trust, has prepared a mansion for you.’ I think the sweet youth said, ‘I believe there is.’ At another time when nobody was in his sight, I heard him say, ‘Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.’ When alone in his room, but not that he could see me, he said, ‘Who is there?’ I went to his bed-side, and said Miss Cathcart, thinking he might not know my voice; he replied, ‘When did you come here?’ I said I have been with you all the time you have been ill here, and I feed you with what you eat; he said, ‘I am happy to have my friends with me.’ I replied, you have a Friend who sticketh closer than a brother; ‘Yes,’ he added, ‘Jesus Christ is a friend who sticketh closer than a brother; but all the Lord’s people are interested in each other.’ At times when we did not think he knew us, he showed us he did by naming us, or holding out his hand, and expressed anxiety for Mrs. Ewing fatiguing herself, by different times saying, ‘My beloved Mrs. Ewing, lie down beside me.’ The most heart-rending scene I ever witnessed, was on the Tuesday night before his death. Mr. Urquhart came into the room, and at the bed-side gave up in prayer his son to the Lord, when all the yearning of the afflicted parent was expressed, and the submission of the Christian exemplified. Some present thought John sensible and agitated, but I was so much distressed myself that I did not observe. The poor father is much to be pitied, who says he has lost his child, son, friend, counsellor, and comforter. My friend Mrs. Smith’s husband, told me he had never been at a funeral where such a feeling of regret was shown. The sick-nurse and the servants paid him the greatest attention, and many tears they shed for him. He told us how very kind Colonel and Mrs. Moreland had been to him; also that the housekeeper had been quite like a mother to him during his illness."

His death took place on Wednesday, the 10th of January, 1827, when he was only eighteen years and six months old. His career was short, but interesting, useful, and glorious. However mysterious it may appear to us, it was doubtless well with him; and Christ, who was gain to him in life, proved to him gain in death also. His course was calm, holy, and consistent; its termination was peaceful and happy. It was improved by Mr. Ewing, on the following Lord’s day, from Psalm cxvi. 15. "Precious in the sight of the Lord, is the death of his saints." It produced, among many others, the following letter from Dr. Chalmers, to his father:—

"ST. ANDREW’S, January 15, 1827.

"MY DEAR SIR — I cannot refrain from offering my condolence on the late melancholy bereavement, wherewith it hath pleased a mysterious Providence to visit you. I received the intelligence, by a letter from Mr. Ewing, which I circulated among the numerous friends and acquaintances of your son in this place. His death has created a great sensation among his fellow-students, by whom he was held in the highest reverence and regard; which feelings were shared also by the Professors; several of whom I heard expressing their utmost regret, and affirming him to be the most distinguished, in point of ability and good conduct, of all the disciples who ever attended them. I yesterday communicated the afflicting intelligence to the children of my Sabbath-school. They both knew and loved him, he having taken charge of their religious instruction for one session of College. They were evidently affected by the melancholy news.

"To your Christian mind, there is a far richer consolation than that which is afforded by the report, or the remembrance of his first-rate talents; talents which would have raised him to the highest summits of learning and philosophy, had he not wished to consecrate them all to the service of his Redeemer. Your best, and most precious comforts, under this heavy dispensation, are to be drawn from the consideration of that faith, by which he was actuated; of that grace which animated his heart and adorned his history; of that glory, for the enjoyment of which he was so ripened and prepared; in a word, of that promise, that they who sleep in Jesus, shall meet again in that country, where sorrow and separation are alike unknown.

"Few parents are called to sustain so severe a loss as you have now done; but with few, very few indeed, is the loss tempered by such precious alleviations.

"I am, my dear sir,

"Yours, with sympathy and regard,


The following lines addressed to him by one of his correspondents, were, indeed, sadly prophetical of the event which so soon after took place. They are simple, and beautifully descriptive of the feelings, not of the writer only, but of his friend, and strikingly applicable to his last closing scene.

2 TIMOTHY iv. 6.

"The Christian Pilgrim bid depart,
Departs without a sigh,
Fear can no longer chill his heart,
Or sorrow dim his eye.

In Heaven’s own garments see him stand
On death’s much dreaded shore,
He gazes on the promised land,
And seems already o’er.

We saw him oft betray a fear
As near this flood he drew;
But now a willing pilgrim here,
He kindles at the view.

A ray hath broke from Canaan’s land,
Across that sullen flood:
It bids him quit his mortal strand,
And onward march to God.

He marches on for now his eye
Hath lost life’s lurid ray,
As suns which quit a clouded sky
To shine in brighter day.

Oh could we catch a moment’s view,
Of what he now must know,
Sorrow would fill our spirits too,
To linger thus below."

I feel as if I had now filled my allotted task; and that it is better to draw this narrative to a close, than by attempting anything in the shape of character, to deprive the reader of the impression, which the facts themselves, and the concluding scene, are fitted to produce. But I cannot abstain from a few concluding observations.

To me, the undertaking has been one of a very painful, and, at the same time, pleasing nature; partaking as much of the mixed feeling, which the poet describes, as "the joy of grief," as anything which has ever engaged my attention. How much I loved him, I have not ventured, nor will I now venture to express. That he was entitled to it all, and to more than all, I am well convinced. If I felt towards him all the affection of a father, he repayed it with all the tenderness and confidence of a son. I feel as if the world had become, by his death, less an object of interest to me than it was; but I trust I have also been made to feel, in common with many of his devoted friends, that the attractions of a better world have been multiplied and strengthened, by his removal thither.

Afraid to trust myself in describing his character and attainments, lest my personal feelings might be supposed to have too powerfully influenced my judgment, I have interspersed the opinions and testimonies of others, with my own statements, and the papers of the deceased. These testimonies I have not nearly exhausted; nor is it possible for me to convey an adequate idea of the extent to which he was beloved and admired by all who knew him. The sweetness of his natural disposition, and the bewitching simplicity of his manners; the soundness of his judgment, and the fertility of his imagination; the ardor of his pursuit of science and literature, with the variety and accuracy of his attainments, rendered him one of the most extraordinary individuals of his years. When with these, are combined his extensive knowledge of the mystery of redemption, and of the sacred volume; his simplicity of aim, with the fixed and intense ardor of his zeal; his love to the souls of others, which made him ready to lay his learning, his talents, his genius, and his life, at the foot of the cross, and to abandon the country where he might have shone and triumphed, for scenes of foreign labour and suffering; the eminent spirituality of his mind, the consistency of deportment, and maturity of character and experience, at which he arrived, I need scarcely add, he presented an uncommonly rare assemblage of natural, acquired, and Christian excellencies. Of the truth of this representation, every reader has now been furnished with the means of judging for himself; and I safely leave with him the conclusion to be drawn.

His Christian character is that on which the mind now reposes, with the greatest satisfaction. As it regards his other attainments, "literature has failed, tongues have ceased," and "knowledge has vanished away." What he was as a linguist, and a mathematician, might have been of importance, had he lived; what he was as a believer in Jesus, is the only thing of importance to him now. He has attained to the perfect state, and experiences a high degree of that felicity, which he could so well describe, and which he so earnestly panted to enjoy.

"If I might be allowed," says a correspondent, to whom one of his last letters was addressed, "to say anything, from the acquaintance I had with him—and there was scarce a day, last winter, in which I was not some time with him—I would say of him, as his biographer said of Henry Martyn, ‘A more perfect Christian character I never knew.’ Like Martyn, indeed, it might be said of him, ‘His symmetry in the Christian stature, was as surprising as its height.’ I never saw a finer example of ‘a living sacrifice;’ he seemed, indeed, to reckon himself not his own, but bought with a price, and, as such, he was entirely devoted to the glory of God. Nor did he care what perils, or sufferings, he underwent, if so be that that object might be promoted. In this cause, even death did not appal him. I remember well, when he thought of China as a scene of missionary labour; and when he was told that the government positively prohibited the missionaries from preaching in that country, he said, he should conceive it his duty to transgress this prohibition; and if his death was the consequence, let it be so; the blood of a missionary sometimes advanced the cause, as much as his long life and labours. Think of such devotion in a youth of eighteen, whose rare talents and unquestioned Christian character, gave him the fairest prospect of usefulness and comfort in his native land, while they would have infallibly secured to him the admiration and affection of all who knew him. He was eminently spiritually-minded. No one ever felt more the burden of indwelling sin, and never did captive exile long more earnestly to be loosed, than he did for deliverance from its taint and its power. Hence he dwelt much on the holiness of heaven. It was the theme, he has often assured me, of his refreshing meditation, when his mind was depressed, as he looked forward to the perils, and sufferings, and privations, which he might be called to undergo in this world. I remember one day, while I was with him, his telling me, that while reading the Scriptures that morning, on this his favourite subject, his mind was so wrapt in contemplation, that he forgot, for the moment, where he was; till, when his consciousness returned, on looking into his own heart, polluted with sin, and then into the world around him, ‘lying in the wicked one,’ he burst into tears. He was possessed of much tenderness of spiritual feeling, and was most vividly impressed by every Scripture truth which he received. In one respect, much of the same mind dwelt in him, which was in Christ Jesus: he felt much for his brethren of mankind, and his heart bled for the condition of those who were not in Christ; yet was he possessed with the keenest indignation at iniquity, and every exhibition of it provoked his holy abhorrence. His was a character most exquisitely formed for Christian friendship. Possessed naturally of the most amiable dispositions, they were rendered still more so by the Spirit of God which dwelt in him. In his friends, he encouraged the most unbounded confidence; and his was a heart, into which, when distressed or disgusted, they could unbosom every thought which grieved them, and find a balsam for every wound. I speak not this at random. I know it from sweet experience."

I cannot conclude the memoir of my beloved friend, without once more soliciting the attention of the reader to the prominent feature of his religion and of his religious character, — his devoted zeal to the glory of Christ in combination with the salvation of men. It is obvious, that, to diffuse the knowledge of the gospel in the world, constituted his life and happiness. The subject pervades all his papers, runs through all his letters, and at length, entirely engrossed his thoughts. In his case, it was nothing assumed or professed, but something growing out of the very principles of his faith, and constituting a chief element in his religion. He had no conception of Christianity, apart from the love of extending it. That which constituted its glory, in his eyes, was its perfect adaptation to the wants and wretchedness of men; and the more he knew the evil, and the better he became acquainted with the remedy, the more powerfully he felt the obligation to preach the gospel to every creature.

His devotedness, therefore, was not so much an act of obedience to a law, as the operation of the great principle of the new economy, and of the new nature, LOVE — grateful love to God, and compassionate love to men. Hence the calmness and rationality, as well as the ardour of his mind, in reference to this great subject. He did not regard himself as making an unreasonable sacrifice, though to certain consequences he was acutely sensible; or as called to a work of a peculiar and unprecedented nature; but merely as discharging a common obligation, and engaging in a service which ought, in one way or other, to be attended to by every disciple of Jesus. He felt that much had been forgiven him, he therefore loved much. As he grew in spirituality of mind, he grew not only in deadness to the world, but in indifference to those literary and scientific pursuits in which he was so well qualified to excel, and in his admiration of the superior excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord. He despised them, not because he was ignorant of them, or because they were beyond his reach; but after he had subdued the difficulties of the ascent, and had their loftiest summits full in view! Even then, he did not disregard them as worthless, but as less worthy than another and a higher object. While the laurels, which he had so honourably won, were yet fresh and unwithered on his brow, he laid them at the foot of the cross, and with high Christian magnanimity declared, "that what things were gain to him, those he counted loss for Christ."

When I speak of his indifference to the pursuits of philosophy, I mean not to say that he neglected the cultivation of his mind, or that he turned aside from any of the paths of learning and science which he was capable of exploring. I only mean to say that he pursued them no longer for their own sake, for the gratification which they afforded, or for the earthly rewards which they might have secured. They became subordinate, in his mind, to an ulterior object. In as far as they might fit him for more eminent usefulness, he considered them important, and studied them with diligence and unconquerable determination.

To the ardour of his spirit in the acquisition of the qualifications which he felt to be necessary for the service of Christ, and the intense working of his mind in regard to that service itself, I have no doubt he fell a sacrifice. Many an individual has been a martyr for Christ, who has not expired on a gibbet, or suffered at the stake. Zeal for the glory and the house of God is a consuming principle. It burnt up the Saviour himself, and it has brought to a speedy termination the career of many a disciple. Such, I feel assured, was the case of John Urquhart. His feelings became morbid; but this was the result of weakness of body, rather than of any improper or undue exercise of the mind. The sensibilities of his nature were indeed refined and excited by his Christian principles, till they became too powerful for the bodily structure on which they operated. But this reflects no discredit on Christianity. It only illustrates the weakness of man, and the disproportion of his powers to the magnitude and the lofty enterprise of the gospel. Granting that it killed the individual, it only follows, that the event is mysterious, not that a loss has been sustained. That the reward of the sufferer is secured, we have the best reason for believing; and that gain, rather than damage, may arise to the cause of the Saviour, eternity will enable us to discover.

Did the present state terminate the being and the bliss of man, we might well be discouraged by the occurrence of such early deaths, from cultivating our intellectual faculties. The uncertainty of enjoying them for any length of time is so great, that the labour of the cultivation might seem disproportioned to the result. But if all intellectual and moral worth shall find place and scope in the eternal world, the case is very different. No mental attainment can be lost. The language and the literature, and the science of heaven may be different from all that we have known on earth; but the capacity which grasped the word and the works of God in this world, and which was improved by the influence which is from above, will operate in proportion to its strength and its spirituality on the things of eternity.

If the reader is young, and enterprising; if he possesses talents, and if those talents are cultivated; let me submit to such an individual the consideration of the example, and the lessons recorded in these memoirs. I mean the example and the lesson of high devotedness. For what purpose has God endowed you with his gifts, and blessed you with his grace? What is your proposed field of glory or enterprise? Have you devoted your life and your talents to Christ, or to the business and the ambition of this world? Are you a Christian? Then is there one object placed before you, and one course marked out for you to follow. "None of us liveth to himself." Every Christian is Christ’s property and Christ’s servant. The service of Christ, the glory of Christ, and the salvation of the world, are as much the interest of the weakest believer as they were that of the apostle Paul. Every Christian owes his all to the Redeemer; and Paul could owe no more. We may not be honoured to preach the gospel, or to die for the gospel; but to live and die to Christ is the honour and privilege of all his saints. The life which is consecrated to his service, and the talents which are devoted to his glory, will be found the happiest, and, in the end, the most productive. It may be short, it may be long, as the will of God shall determine; that is not our concern, and ought not to cause our anxiety. But it ought to be our anxious and unceasing desire, that, "whether we live, we may live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we may die unto the Lord: that, whether we live or die, we may be the Lord’s." We are constantly reminded, by the events which occur, of the truth of the Scriptures: "All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away." While these things humble us, and remind us of our sinfulness and our mortality, we still have hope. "We are cast down, but not destroyed; we are sorrowful, yet always rejoicing:" for, "while the world passeth away, and the lust thereof;" we know that "he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."

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