The Last Days of John M’Kenzie
My dear Friend,
I take up my pen to write you some account of the last days of our dear departed friend and brother, John M’Kenzie, believing that to you and many of the readers of the Gospel Standard it will be interesting. As you are fully aware of the nature of his complaint, (bleeding from the lungs,) I shall confine myself to his last attack; and to a few gleanings of the words which fell from his lips.
He left Darley Dale, Derbyshire, on Wednesday, the 25th of July, and arrived at Preston the same evening, having travelled about seventy miles. He stood his journey remarkably well, and conversed freely during the evening, expressing thankfulness that he had safely arrived at Preston, his friends remarking to him how well and hearty he was looking, far beyond their expectations.
He took leave of his friends and retired to bed a little after ten o’clock, he or they little expecting that the next time he came downstairs would be for interment, O how true it is that “in the midst of life we are in death!”
We know not what a day may bring forth. What a loud and solemn call to us, (if sanctified by the Spirit of God,) “Be ye also ready, for at a time ye think not the Son of Man cometh!”
He had been in bed little more than a quarter of an hour when he began to cough, followed by the spitting of blood, the colour of which gave us every reason to dread that the same or another vessel of the lungs had given way. Medical aid was immediately procured, and the Lord suffered the means made use of to cause the blood to cease flowing for a time.
From this time a sudden and great change in the state of his mind became very visible to all about him; a solemn composure and sweet resignation now rested upon his countenance, and when he was able to speak, his words fully bore testimony to its being a true indication of his soul’s feeling.
Not being able to speak with an audible voice he lifted up his eyes and whispered, “I know that all has been done for me that human aid can do; I now fall into the hands of my Lord, to do with me as may be good and right in his sight, so that it may be for his own honour and glory. Nothing short of a miracle can raise me up, though there is nothing too hard for the Lord. I feel as helpless as an infant, both in body and soul, yet in a quiet, peaceable and patient waiting to see what his mind and will is concerning me.”
For a few days there now appeared a decided improvement in the state of his health, but he could not bear the least excitement. He requested that no friends should see him, not being able to bear it, as the least excitement had a tendency to bring on the bleeding.
He now appeared much absorbed in thought, and at length said, “What an unutterably glorious place heaven must be! What amazing objects there! The throne of God and the Lamb! that dear Jesus, once crowned with thorns, but now crowned with glory and honour, seated thereon, being the bright and ineffable glory of the place! What glorious mansions must those be that are of the Lord’s own providing and preparing! ‘A house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,’ for his own blood-bought family! We read of music also the most precious. Harps of gold in the hands of all the redeemed, which is to intimate to our finite understanding the richness and incomprehensible sweetness of the sound of the music. All will be fully occupied: there will be none too weak or too lazy to play, shout, and sing the victories of the Lamb.”
These were said in broken sentences, he not being able to say many words without being obliged to stop a short time. To us who were present the words came with a solemn power and weight, every sentence bearing a peculiar evidence that it came from a solemn and sanctified heart.
After a pause he continued, “They (meaning the redeemed) shall also have glorified bodies. At the transfiguration Elijah appeared with his body; Moses in some way, whether with his body or without is of little moment to us; but they did appear with the Lord glorious.”
Pausing a short time, he then said, “How impossible to know or understand the things of which I have been speaking as they really are, while we remain in this fleshly tabernacle, which is of the earth earthy! To flesh and blood there is a sweetness in life. Hezekiah felt the sweetness of life. Job, though he had much of the bitterness, still felt the sweetness of life.”
And having dwelt a little on, the ignorance and darkness of our poor finite understandings, he ceased speaking through apparent exhaustion. The next time he spoke on the things connected with the kingdom of God was on the ministry.
“Oh!” he exclaimed, “I never saw with half the light or felt with half the power I now do the important work of the ministry. Three things are especially and essentially necessary, solemnity, faithfulness, and affection. On looking at the Lord’s ministry, what solemnity marked it in setting forth eternal realities, what faithfulness in warning the sinner, and what affection in all he had to declare to his own dear people!”.
Most of the aforesaid expressions dropped from his lips from the time of his attack, on the evening he arrived here, to Thursday the 2nd of August.
He now appeared so far recovered that the physician thought he might venture to sit up a short time in an easy chair, wrapped in blankets. He accordingly was got up, but soon became fatigued, saying he must go to bed again and sit up an hour in the evening.
He did so, observing, “It is with great difficulty I can bear up.” On going to bed he said, “I fear the bleeding is coming on;” and before the doctors arrived he had expectorated half a pint. The surgeon administered the remedy considered best, and the blood ceased coming up. They then left the house, expecting there would be no more of it that night.
However, in about a quarter of an hour the cough came on, the bleeding began with double force, and both medical men were immediately present to witness (without being able to render any assistance) one of the most alarming and agonizing sights I ever saw; a hollow sounding cough, and the blood gushing forth from his mouth like a fountain, in the midst of which he said to a friend who was holding his head, “Oh! this is hard work; pray for me;” his own soul being solemnly engaged, which was visible by the lifting up of his eyes and hands, and the words that escaped, such as “God! Dear Jesus! Blessed Spirit!” &c.
All in the room, with the (Doctors, thought that the blood would choak him, as he seemed not to have strength to get it up, and that in a few minutes he would have terminated this mortal life. But his time was not yet come; the Lord heard prayer and answered, for, to our utter astonishment, he turned up his ghastly face, and fixing his eyes upon the physician, exclaimed, with an audible voice, “It is here we want a God! If I had not the Lord to rest upon now, I should be of all men the most miserable. That Jesus whom my soul has at times delighted to preach is now my only help and support. I believe the truths I have preached, for I now experience that nothing short of the blood and righteousness of Christ can support in the trying hour. I thank you, gentlemen; I am satisfied you have done your best; but Christ is my only hope and strength.”
More blood now coming up, he made motions for a little water, when on raising his head he saw his wife and friends in tears; he said, “Do not weep; this blood is nothing but corrupt, depraved, sinful blood; but the blood that flowed from Jesus was holy, precious, and pure blood. O how I am privileged above that dear, precious Christ! When his blood gushed forth, they mocked his agonies and sufferings, tind when he asked for drink, they gave him vinegar and gall; but I have relations and friends about me, sympathizing with me, and ready to give me whatever I want.”
On taking the water he said, “O, how good! thank the Lord for it.”
And every little thing he took he expressed his thankfulness for, viewing it as coming down from the Lord.
He now called all in the room to come near, and said, “I am desirous of giving you an affectionate warning. There is nothing you may possess in this world that will be of any use to you when you come here; therefore live as becometh the gospel you profess. You will have need for all when you come here; for if I am dying you must soon follow. Although I do not feel any thing particular with which I am upbraided, I feel myself a vile, hell-deserving sinner; yet my faith is firm, and my hope is anchored in the love, blood, and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
During the night he called a friend to him, and said, “The Lord has not given me any intimation whether I must die soon or remain longer, but I feel a patient, quiet, and calm resignation to wait his own time, and see what his will is concerning me.”
His friend asked, “Do you feel the joys of salvation in any measure?”
He said, “Not as I could wish; but the Lord is a sovereign; still I feel my faith and hope resting on the Lord. If it were his blessed will I should like to feel more the enjoyment; but not my will, but his be done.”
“If it be the Lord’s will,” he said, “I desire not to die during the bleeding, for the pain and suffocating feeling I felt for half an hour cannot be expressed; but if it be his will, and more for his honour and glory, his will be done.”
Friday, August the 10th, he said, “The Lord knoweth our frame; he knows I could not now bear temptation; therefore, during this relapse of my complaint, he has not suffered Satan to come to me with, one single suggestion or temptation. Though I do not feel the sweet joys of his presence, I have a humble and firm confidence that when I die I shall enjoy his presence in heaven, if not before.”
In the evening he called his wife, and said, “I have no doubt, after I die, many will wish to know the state of my mind; you may tell them I have not that enjoyment I could wish, but I am neither troubled nor tempted by Satan, for I have not been accused of one sin since I was taken ill this time, and I have a firm confidence that when I die I shall land safe in heaven, and that through the love, blood, and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ; this is my present experience.”
He could not speak much after this, but he was often seen in prayer to the Lord.
He now spit a little scarlet blood, a sure indication of a giving way of the vessel again, which made us begin to fear that another bursting forth was not far distant.
On the Saturday he had a tolerable day and rested better during the night, until about forty minutes past three o’clock.
At about four o’clock the vessel of the lungs again gave way. He had just time to ask for what he wanted when the blood again came up, and continued until his strength was completely exhausted.
All that he was able to say at this time was, “God” which continued long upon his tongue. After a few sighs he quietly breathed his last, and fell into the bosom of everlasting love at forty minutes past four o’clock, Lord’s day morning, August 12th, 1849, never more to sigh or desire the enjoyment of the Lord’s presence, but where there is fulness of joy and pleasures for ever more.
During the time of this illness he dictated what he wished to be on his gravestone, which, is as follows:
“Having no confidence in tlie flesh, all his hope and all his desire was in the love, blood, and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Yours in the truth,
Preston, August, 1849.
PS. Our dear brother stated during his illness, that after his death we should find his experience, on reading which, if we thought it would be of any use to the church of God, it might be published; if not, to do with it as we thought well.
He also said of the work he had in hand, “That work has cost me much labour! I think, you will not be able to make it out, on account of the interlining, and confusion that, appear in the latter part of it, although much of the former part is re-written; but this I leave with you to do also as you may deem fit.”