Dying experiences of Mr. John Janeway, the Rev. Edward Payson, and Rev. Samuel Finley, D.D.

MR. JANEWAY was a young man who had just entered the holy ministry when he was called away and exchanged earth for heaven. He was never permitted to preach more than two sermons before his lungs were so affected that he was obliged to cease from his earthly labours. During his last days he was absorbed in the contemplation of Christ and heaven. His meditations, his discourses, his whole deportment made it evident that he was ripening for glory. His faith had grown up to a full assurance, and he often feasted on the rich provisions of God’s house and enjoyed many foretastes of future blessedness. The Lord often called him up to the mount and let him see his glory. In the midst of earthly comforts he longed for death, and his thoughts of the day of judgment were refreshing to him. He would say, “What if the day of judgment were come, even this hour?

[[@Page:437]] I would be glad with all my heart. I should behold such lightnings and hear such thunderings as Israel did at the mount, and I am persuaded my heart would leap for joy. The meditation of that day hath even ravished my soul, and the thoughts of its certainty and nearness are more refreshing to my soul than all earthly comforts. Surely nothing can more revive my spirit than to behold the blessed Jesus, who is the life and joy of my soul.” When he began to sink rapidly under his complaint his soul was so devoutly occupied in the contemplation of Christ and heaven that he almost forgot his pains and sickness. His faith, his love and his joy exceedingly abounded. He would frequently exclaim, “Oh that I could let you know what I feel! Oh that I could show you now what I see! Oh that I could express the thousandth part of that sweetness which I now find in Christ! You would then all think it worth while to make religion your chief business. Oh, my dear friends, you little think what Christ is worth upon a deathbed. I would not now for a world — nay, for a million of worlds — be without Christ and pardon. I would not for a world live any longer, and the very thought of a possibility of recovery makes mc tremble. I do tell you that I so long to be [[@Page:438]] with Christ that I could be content to be cut in pieces and put to the most exquisite tortures, so I might die and be with Christ. Oh how sweet Jesus is! ‘Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.’ Death, do thy worst. Death has lost its terrors. Through grace I can say, Death is nothing to me. I can as easily die as shut my eyes. I long to die — I long to be with Christ.” He charged his friends most earnestly not to pray for his life. “Oh the glory, the unspeakable glory which I behold! — my heart is full — my heart is full. Christ smiles, and I am constrained to smile. Can you find it in your hearts to stop me, now I am going to the complete and eternal enjoyment of Christ? Would you keep me from my crown? The arms of my blessed Saviour are open to receive me. The angels stand ready to carry my soul into his bosom. Oh did you see but what I see, yon would cry out with me, ‘Dear Lord, how long?’ ‘Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.’ ‘Oh why are thy chariot wheels so long in coming?’“ A minister having spoken to him of the joys of heaven, he said, “Sir, I feel something of it. My heart is as full as it can hold in this lower state. I can hold no more. Oh that I could but let you know what I feel! Who am I Lord, who am I, [[@Page:439]] that Lion shouldst be mindful of me? Why me, Lord, why me? and pass by thousands to look on such a wretch as I? Oh what shall I say unto thee, thou Preserver of men? Oh blessed, and for ever blessed, be free grace! Why is it, Lord, that thou shouldest manifest thyself unto me and not to others? ‘Even so, Father, because it seemed good in thy sight.’ Thou wilt have mercy because thou wilt have mercy. And if thou wilt look on such a worm, who can hinder? Who would not love thee, O blessed Father? Oh how sweet and gracious hast thou been to me! Oh that he should have me in his thoughts before the foundation of the world!”

On one occasion, after his brother had been praying with him, his joys became unutterable; lie broke out in such exclamations as these: “Oh, he is come — he is come: how sweet, how glorious, is the blessed Jesus! He is altogether lovely. How shall I speak the thousandth part of his praise? Oh for words to set forth a little part of his excellency! Come, look on a dying man and wonder. Was there ever greater kindness? Were there ever more sensible manifestations of grace? Oh why me, Lord, why me? Surely this is akin to heaven, and if I were never to enjoy [[@Page:440]] more than this, it is more than a sufficient recompense for all that men and devils could inflict. If this be dying, it is sweet. The bed is soft. Christ’s arms and smiles and love surely would turn hell into heaven. Oh that you did but see and feel what I do! Behold a dying man more cheerful than you ever saw a man in health in the midst of his sweetest worldly enjoyment. Oh, sirs, worldly pleasures are poor pitiful, sorry things, when compared with this glory in my soul.” He often exhorted those around him to assist him in his praises. “Oh,” said he, “help me to praise God. Henceforth, through eternity, J have nothing else to do but to love and praise the Lord. I cannot tell what to pray for which is not already given me. I want only one thing, and that is a speedy lift to heaven. I expect no more here. I desire no more — I can bear no more. Oh praise, praise, praise that boundless love which hath wonderfully looked upon my soul, and hath done more for me than for thousands of his children! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name. Oh, my friends, help me, help me, to admire and praise Him who hath done such astonishing wonders for my soul. He hath pardoned all my sins and filled me with [[@Page:441]] his goodness. He hath given me grace and glory, and no good thing hath he withheld from me. All ye mighty angels, help me to praise God. Let everything that hath being help me to praise him. Praise is my work now, and will be my work for ever. Hallelujah! hallelujah! hallelujah 1”

A few hours before his death he had his mother and brothers and sisters called around his bed, when in a most solemn and affecting manner he addressed himself in turn to each and took leave of them. To his mother he offered his thanks for her tender love, and expressed his desire that she might see Christ formed in the hearts of all her children, and meet them all with joy at the day of judgment. Then he took his brothers and sisters in order and offered an appropriate petition for each. He then said, “Oh that none of us may be found among the unconverted in the day of judgment! Oh that we may all appear with our honoured father and dear mother before Christ with joy! Oh that we may live to God hero and live with God hereafter! And now, my dear mother, brothers and sisters, farewell 1” His last words were, “Thy work is done — I have fought a good fight,” etc. “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.” After which he immediately expired.

[[@Page:442]] No man in our country has left behind him a higher character for eminent piety than the E,ev. Edward Payson. His views and exercises when near death will answer well to be placed by the side of those of Mr. John Janeway.

When this faithful pastor found that his end was approaching he felt a strong desire to address some advice to his flock. He therefore had it announced from the pulpit that he would be pleased to see as many of them as could make it convenient to come to his house, and appointed them a time. To them, when assembled, he spake nearly as follows: “It has often been remarked that people who have gone to the other world cannot come back to tell us what they have seen; but I am so near the eternal world that I can see almost as clearly as if I were there; and I see enough to satisfy myself, at least, of the truth of the doctrines which I have preached. I do not know that I should feel at all surer had I been there. It is always interesting to see others in a situation in which we know we must shortly be placed ourselves; and we all know that we must die. And to see a poor creature, when, after an alternation of hopes and fear.s, he finds that his disease is mortal, and death cones to tear him away from everything he [[@Page:443]] loves, and crowds him t< the very verge of the precipice of destruction, and then thrusts him down headlong;: there he is cast into an unknown world; no friend, no Saviour to receive him. Oh how different is this from the state of a man who is prepared to die! He is not obliged to be crowded along, but the other world comes like a great magnet to draw him away from this; and he knows that he is going to enjoy — and not only knows, but begins to taste it — perfect happiness, for ever, forever, and ever. And now God is in this room. I see him, and on how unspeakably lovely and glorious does he appear! — worthy of ten thousand hearts, if we had so many. He is here, and hears me pleading with the creatures that he has made, whom he preserves and loads with blessings, to love him. And how terrible does it appear to me to sin against this God — to set up our wills in opposition to his! It makes my blood run cold to think how miserable I should now be without religion — to lie here and see myself tottering on the verge of destruction! — oh I should be distracted. And when I see my fellow-creatures in this situation, I am in an agony for them, that the} may escape the danger before it be too late. Suppose we should hear the sound of some one [[@Page:444]] pleading earnestly with another, and we should inquire, What is that man pleading for so earnestly? Oh, he is only pleading with a fellow-creature to love his God, his Saviour, his Preserver, his Benefactor. He is only pleading with him not to throw away his immortal soul — not to pull down everlasting wretchedness on his own head. He is only persuading him to avoid eternal misery and accept eternal happiness. ‘Is it possible,’ we should exclaim, ‘that any persuasion can be necessary for this?’ And yet it is necessary. Oh, my friends, do, do love this glorious Being. Do seek for the salvation of your immortal souls. Hear the voice of your dying minister while he entreats you to care for your souls.”

On another occasion he said, “I find satisfaction in looking at nothing that I have done. I have not fought, but Christ has fought for me. I have not run, but Christ has carried me. I have not worked, but Christ has wrought in me. Christ has done all.” The perfections of God were to him a well-spring of joy, and the promises were breasts of consolation whence his soul drew aliment and comfort. “Oh,” exclaimed he, “the loving-kindness of God! His loving-kindness! This afternoon, while I was meditating, the Lord [[@Page:445]] seemed to pass by and proclaim himself, ‘THE LORD GOD, MERCIFUL AND GRACIOUS.’ Oh how gracious! Try to conceive of that — ‘his loving-kindness,’ as if it were not enough to say kindness, but loving-kindness! What must be the loving-kindness of the Lord, who is himself infinite in love! It seemed as if Christ had said to me, ‘You have often wandered and been impatient of the way by which I have led you; but what do you think of it now?’ And I was cut to the heart when I looked back and saw the goodness by which I had been guided, that I could ever for a moment distrust his love.”

To a minister who called upon him he said that the point in which he believed ministers failed most, and in which he had certainly failed most, was in doing duty professionally and not from the heart. He said also, “I have never valued as I ought the doctrines which I have preached. The system is great and glorious, and is worthy of our utmost efforts to promote it. The interests depending will justify us in our strongest measures. In every respect we may embark our all upon it; it will sustain us.” “I was never fit to say a word to a sinner except when I had a broken heart myself, when I was subdued and melted into [[@Page:446]] penitence, and felt just as if I had received pardon to my own soul, and when my heart was full of tenderness and pity.” He seemed to be greatly affected with a view of the grace of God in saving lost men; and especially that it should be bestowed on one so ill-deserving as himself. “Oh how sovereign! Oh how sovereign! Grace is the only thing that can make us like God. I might be dragged through heaven, earth and hell, and I should still be the same sinful, polluted wretch, unless God himself should renew and cleanse me.”

In conversation with his eldest daughter, being asked whether self-examination was not a very difficult duty for young Christians, “Yes,” he replied, “and for old ones too, because it is displeasing to the pride of the heart, because wandering thoughts are then most apt to intrude, and because of the deceitfulness of the heart. “When a Christian first looks into his heart, he sees nothing but confusion — a heap of sins and very little good mixed up together; and he knows not how to separate them or how to begin self-examination. But let him persevere in his efforts and order will arise out of confusion.” She mentioned to him a passage in the life of Alleine, which led him to [[@Page:447]] say, “We never confess any faults that we really think disgraceful. We complain of our hardness of heart, stupidity, etc., but we never confess envy, covetousness and revenge, or anything that we suppose will lower us in the opinion of others; and this proves that we do not feel ashamed of coldness and stupidity. Jn short, when young Christians make confessions, unless there is an obvious call for it, it commonly proceeds from one of the following motives: either they wish to be thought very humble and to possess great knowledge of their own hearts; or they think it is a fault which others have perceived, and they are willing to have the credit of having discovered and striven against it; or they confess some fault from which they are remarkably free, in order to elicit a compliment.”

His solicitude for the welfare of his people was so great that though he had given them one solemn address, he was not contented with that, but sent for particular classes of them. On one day he had the young men of the congregation assembled around him, when he delivered to them a peculiarly solemn, tender and appropriate exhortation. He also sent an affectionate valedictory address to the association of ministers with which he [[@Page:448]] had been connected. The substance of it was a hearty assurance of the ardent love with which he remembered them even in death — an exhortation to love one another with a pure heart fervently — to love their work — to be diligent in it — to expect success and to bear up under discouragements — to be faithful unto death, and to look for their reward in heaven.

While speaking of the rapturous views which he had of heaven, he was asked if it did not appear like the clear light of vision rather than that of faith. He said, “I don’t know; it is too much for the poor eyes of my soul to bear; they are almost blinded with the excessive brightness. All I want is to be a mirror, to reflect some of those rays to those around me.” “My soul, instead of growing weaker and more languishing, as my body does, seems to be endued with an angel’s energies, and to be ready to break from the body and join those around the throne.” When asked whether it was now incredible to him that the martyrs should rejoice in the flames and on the rack, “No,” said he, “I can easily believe it. I have suffered twenty times as much as I could in being burnt at the stake, while my joy in God so abounded as to render mv sufferings not only tolerable, but [[@Page:449]] welcome. The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

At another time he said, “God is now literally my all in all. While he is present with me no event can in the least diminish my happiness; and were the whole world at my feet, trying to minister to my comfort, it could not add one drop to the cup.” “It seems as if the promise to wipe away all tears is already accomplished as it relates to tears of sorrow. I have no tears to shed now but tears of love, and joy, and thankfulness.” Shortly before his decease he was heard to break forth in a soliloquy, of which the following is a specimen: “What an assemblage of motives to holiness does the gospel present! I am a Christian; what then? I am a redeemed sinner — a pardoned rebel — all through grace and by the most wonderful means which infinite wisdom could devise. I am a Christian; what then? Why I am a temple of God, and surely I ought to be pure and holy. I am a Christian; what then? Why I am a child of God, and ought to be filled with filial love and reverence, joy and gratitude. I am a Christian; what then? Why I am a disciple of Christ, and must imitate Him who was meek and lowly of heart, [[@Page:450]] and pleased not himself. I am a Christian; what then? Why I am an heir of heaven, and hastening on to the abodes of the blessed.” “It seems as if my soul had found a pair of new wings, and was so eager to try them that in her fluttering she would rend the fine network of the body to pieces.” He had the choir to come in and sing for him, and chose the hymn, “Rise my soul,” etc.; soon after which he expired, October 21, 1827.

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. Oh how faithful are the promises of God! Oh that I could see him as I have seen him before, in his [[@Page:451]] 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 unworthiness: 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. Oh that I could be filled with the [[@Page:452]] fulness of God! — that fullness 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, but 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 light.’“

One said to him, “You are more cheerful and vigorous, sir.” “Yes, I rise or fall as eternal life seems nearer or farther off.” It being remarked that he always used the appellation, “Dear Lord,” in his prayers, he answered, “Oh he is very dear, very precious indeed. 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 [[@Page:453]] 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, “Oh 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, “Oh I shall triumph over every foe — the Lord hath given me the victory. Now I know that it [[@Page:454]] is impossible that faith should not triumph over earth and hell, I exult, I triumph. Oh 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. Oh that it were to-night! 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 fulness of the Mediator. I see the love of Jesus. Oh to be dissolved and to be with him! I long to be clothed with [[@Page:455]] 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 Milberry (or [[@Page:456]] Arch) and Third streets, by the side of his dear friend, the Rev. Gilbert Tennent. From this resting-place their dust and bones were removed to the burying-ground on Arch street, when the church was removed. Mrs. Finley survived her husband many years, the latter part of which time she was entirely blind, but bore the affliction with meek and cheerful submission.