Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dying Experience of Rev. Dr. Samuel Finley

The Dying Experience of Rev. Dr. Samuel Finley as found in Thoughts on Religious Experience by J.A. Alexander (1809-1860)

The Rev. Dr. Samuel Finley, who had been for some time President of New Jersey College, upon being informed by his physicians that his disease was incurable, expressed his entire resignation, and exclaimed, 'Welcome, Lord Jesus.' On the Sabbath preceding his death, Dr. Clarkson, one of his physicians, told him that he observed a manifest alteration, and that he could not live many days. He said, 'May the Lord bring me near Himself! I have been waiting with a Canaan hunger for the Promised Land. I have often wondered that God suffered me to live. I have more wondered that He ever called me to be a minister of His Word. He has often afforded me much strength which I have abused. He has returned in mercy. O how faithful are the promises of God! O that I could see Him as I have seen Him before in His sanctuary! Although I have as earnestly desired death as the hireling pants for the evening shade, yet will I wait all the days of my appointed time. I have often struggled with principalities and powers, and have been brought to the borders of despair. Lord, let it suffice.' He then closed his eyes and sat up and prayed fervently that God would show him His glory before he departed hence; that He would enable him to endure patiently to the end—and, particularly, that he might be kept from dishonouring the ministry. He then resumed his dis­course, and said, 'I can truly say that I have loved the service of God. I know not in what language to speak of my own un-worthiness—I have been undutiful—I have honestly endeavoured to act for God, but with much weakness and corruption.' Then lying down again, he said, 'A Christian's death is the best part of his experience. The Lord has made provision for the whole way; provision for the soul, and provision for the body. The Lord has given me many souls as the crown of my rejoicing. Blessed be God—eternal rest is at hand. Eternity is but long enough to enjoy my God. This, this has animated me in my severest studies. I was ashamed to take rest here. O! that I could be filled with the fulness of God, that fulness which fills heaven!' Being asked whether he would choose to live or die, he said, 'To die, though I cannot but feel the same strait that Paul did when he knew not which to choose. "For me to live is Christ—and to die is gain." But should God, by a miracle, prolong my life, I would still continue to serve Him. His service has been sweet to me. I have loved it much. I have tried my Master's yoke, and will never shrink my neck from it. His yoke is easy, and His burden is lightl' One said to him, 'You are more cheerful and vigorous, sir.' 'Yes, I rise or fall, as eternal life seems nearer or further off.' It being remarked that he always used the appellation, 'dear Lord', in his prayers, he answered, 'O! He is very dear! very precious, indeed 1 How pretty is it for a minister to die on the Sabbath! I expect to spend the remainder of this Sabbath in heaven.' One said, 'You will soon join the blessed society of heaven—you will for ever hold converse with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and with the spirits of the just made perfect—with old friends, and many old-fashioned people.' 'Yes, sir,' he replied with a smile, 'but they are a most polite people now.'

He expressed great gratitude to his friends around him, and said, 'May the Lord repay you for your tenderness to me! may He bless you abundantly, not only with temporal, but with spiritual blessings!' Turning to his wife, he said, 'My dear, I expect to see you shortly in glory.' Seeing a member of the Second Presbyterian Church present, he said, 'I have often preached and prayed among you, my dear sir, and the doctrines I preached are now my support, and blessed be God, they are without a flaw. May the Lord bless and preserve your church! He designs good for it yet, I trust.' To a person from Princeton he said, 'Give my love to the people of Princeton, and tell them that I am going to die, and that I am not afraid to die.'

He would sometimes cry out, 'The Lord Jesus will take care of His cause in the world.' Upon waking next morning, he ex­claimed, 'O what a disappointment I have met with—I expected this morning to have been in heaven.' On account of his extreme weakness, he was unable to speak much during the day, but all that he said was in the language of triumph. Next morning, with a pleasing smile on his countenance, he cried out, 'O I shall triumph over every foe—the Lord has given me the victory. Now I know that it is impossible that faith should not triumph over earth and hell—I exult—I triumph. O that I could see untainted purity! I think I have nothing to do but die—yet perhaps I have —Lord, show me my task. He then said, 'Lord Jesus, into Thy hands I commit my spirit—I do it with confidence—I do it with full assurance. I know that Thou wilt keep that which I have committed to Thee. I have been dreaming too fast of the time of my departure, for I find it does not yet come—but the Lord is faithful, and will not tarry beyond the appointed time.'

In the afternoon, the Rev. Mr. Spencer came to see him, and said, I have come, dear sir, to see you confirm by facts the Gospel you have been preaching. Pray, sir, how do you feel?' To which he replied, 'Full of triumph—I triumph through Christ. Nothing clips my wings but the thoughts of my dissolution being pro­longed—O that it were tonight! My very soul thirsts for eternal rest.' Mr. Spencer asked him what he saw in eternity to excite such vehement desires in his soul. He said, 'I see the eternal love and goodness of God. I see the fullness of the Mediator. I see the love of Jesus. O to be dissolved and to be with Him! I long to be clothed with the complete righteousness of Christ.' He then re­quested Mr. Spencer to pray with him before they parted, and said, 'I have gained the victory over the devil; pray to God to preserve me from evil, to keep me from evil in this critical hour and to support me with His presence through the valley of the shadow of death.'

He spent the remainder of the day in taking an affectionate and solemn leave of his friends, and exhorting such of his chil­dren as were with him.

On the next day, July 16, the conflict was terminated. He was no longer able to speak, but a friend having desired him to give a token by which his friends might know whether he still con­tinued to triumph, he lifted up his hand and uttered the word 'Yes.' About nine o’clock he fell into a sound sleep, and appeared much more free from pain than he had been for many days before. He continued to sleep, without changing his position, till about one o'clock, when he expired without a groan or a sigh. During his whole sickness he was never heard to utter a repining word; and in taking leave of his dearest friends he was never seen to shed a tear, or exhibit any sign of sorrow.

His remains were interred in the Second Presbyterian Church, on the corner of Mulberry or Arch and Third Streets; by the side of his dear friend, the Rev. Gilbert Tennent.

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