« PreviousContinue »
profession, was reckoned a deep and learned scholar and divine, a character which his young patient was no less desirous of attaining, and which he afterwards lived to attain. Dr. Randolph died in the year 1765; but Mr. Stevens appears to have transferred all the affectionate friendship he entertained for the father to the son, Dr. Francis Randolph, and to his daughter, Mrs. Gunning, in the house of which most amiable woman he spent a great part of many of the latter summers of his life.
That Mr. Stevens was early tinctured with the deepest convictions of religion ; and that it formed the consolation of his life in the very precarious state of health, under which he was then labouring, appears from the following letter written from Bristol to a young friend, who appears to have even then profited by his instructions and example.
The letter is dated the 31st August, 1756, from Bristol Hot Wells.
“I thank you for sending a letter to my tenant: you did not forget to urge him to see the work “ was well done. I hope it will please my hea
venly landlord likewise thoroughly to repair this “poor ruinous clay cottage of mine, that I may live
snug and comfortable: or if it is his good pleasure “ to pull it down to the ground, that he will raise
"me up a building of more durable materials, " which shall not decay by time, but last for ever. “ Though the present building, notwithstanding it
seems weak and crazy, may (in the opinion of the “ workman, who has surveyed it, one Randolph) “stand many years, there being no apparent
danger at present of its falling; what a windy
night or a hard rain might do, one cannot say: “ to be sure a house out of repair is sooner blown “ down than one that is tight and whole. In short “ I cannot be more particular about myself than " that I am much the same upon the whole; and " whether I shall get the better of my disorder is
quite uncertain : but the Doctor does not appre“hend any danger, as the phrase is. I wish, my “ dear friend, I was as able to comply with one
part of your request as the other; and had it in my power to afford you instruction and comfort,
as well as to write to you by the first post. If I “ have been any way instrumental to your good I “thank God for it: and by the weakness of the " means is his strength made perfect. To him “ be all the glory! for what am I? a worm, and
Of this truth I am more and more “convinced every day. You need not desire me to “excuse your faults: I see too many in myself to “ be severe on others. Besides, the honesty of
your confession would be a sufficient cover for
“ all other defects. Give my best respects to Mr. “ Hookham; and as the prayers of the righteous
man (one made righteous) availeth much, let “me have yours for God's blessing on the means " used for my recovery; that he may give me
patience under my sufferings, and a happy issue “out of all my afflictions, for Christ's sake.
“I am, &c."
It is quite apparent from this letter, that this excellent youth had already begun, both by precept and example, to allure other young men into those paths, from having walked in which he was himself deriving comfort and consolation, in those trying hours of sickness, which left it doubtful whether his then flattering prospects of worldly prosperity might not close in immature death. It pleased God, however, to order otherwise ; and this his faithful servant was ordained to continue to be a burning and shining light to all, who had the happiness of coming within his sphere, to a ripe old age. His life was spared ; and his pious sentiments and constant resignation to the will of God were now become the governing principle of his conduct: and what he had thus learnt himself, he endeavoured to teach and to impress upon others. I have already said, that Dr. Randolph, the physician, died in 1765, and soon after his
death Mr. Stevens wrote the following letter to his widow.
" 5th March, 1765. “ DEAR MADAM,
Knowing my own inability to afford you any comfort in your affliction for the loss of the “ best of husbands, I declined writing to you on “ the melancholy subject, lest I should only in
crease your sorrow : for indeed I was too sensi“ bly affected myself, in being deprived of so good " a friend to be able to speak comfort to others, “and had myself need of a comforter. But I “ trust it has pleased the Father of Mercies so to « comfort you in your tribulation, that you are “ now reconciled in some degree to the parting for
a season, in hopes of again meeting to part no “ more for ever; and are disposed to consider
my dear friend's gain more than your own loss. ro We are exhorted not to sorrow for them that " are asleep, as those which have no hope : mourn
we may for our friends departed: but our " mourning must be as becometh Christians, not “ hopeless ; for if we believe that Jesus died and “rose again, even so them also which sleep in
Jesus, will God bring with him, when we likewise " shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, " and so with them shall ever be with the Lord.
“ ' Wherefore,' says the Apostle, comfort one ano"ther with these words ;' and comfortable words
they are indeed. Nature suggests that our “ friend is dead, and we shall behold him no more “ in the land of the living: but faith assures us, “he is not dead but sleepeth ; and we know, if “ he sleep, he shall do well, he will wake again “ to health and joy in a better life, when all tears “shall be wiped away from all eyes ; and we may “ be refreshed with his company, without danger " of separation any more.
Such consolation does “ this Scripture afford us: and if we are not too “selfish in our affections, we may be further com“ forted by considering, that though we for the
present are losers, yet he whose absence we “ lament is infinitely the gainer; and it is no 66 small satisfaction to think that those whom we “ love are happy. Blessed are the dead that die “ in the Lord,' saith the Spirit ; ‘for they rest from “ their labours.' And well might he, whom we
deplore, take up the words of the Apostle, and
say, 'to me to die is gain ;' for like our blessed “ Lord, in whose steps he trod, he was a man of
sorrows, and acquainted with grief; he drank
deep of that cup of affliction, which is more or « less the lot of us all : but now has exchanged a “ life of labour and sorrow for a state of peace and “ rest. As it behoved the master, so did it the