THERE is no part of the
duties of a Christian minister that is so much calculated to beget in
the mind serious thoughts and to stir up tender emotions in the soul as
visiting the sick and dying. At least that has been my experience. There
are a number of reasons for this. In the first place, there is the voice
of nature that speaks in tones of sadness to the heart. What I mean by
this is the natural sympathy that almost every creature manifests
towards its fellow in the time of suffering. Even the dumb brute is
moved by seeing its companion in distress. And mankind is not less
feeling than the mute creatures around him. He is a hard man indeed who
can look unmoved into the pale face of the sufferer, who lies upon a bed
of pain, tossing from side to side in the bitterness of extreme anguish.
Another reason for what I speak of is found in our benevolent
affections. God has implanted into almost every one a kindly desire to
alleviate pain and suffering. Few, indeed, are those callous natures
that can contemplate the sickness and pain of any person, and not feel
prompted to acts of kindness, pointing to a restoration to health and
the removal of pain.
The claims of religion may be named as one more reason why visiting the
sick and dying is so serious a matter. Our Christianity enjoins upon us
the duty of relieving the distressed and helping the needy as far as we
are able to do so. And a conscientious desire to do our whole duty is
one of the most efficient prompters to this kind of service. We may do
much good in this way, even though our means may be limited and our
abilities may be small. There are so many ways of showing kindness to
the sick and sorrowing that no one can claim exemption from the
obligation to do something.
And then when we think of what lies beyond the sick bed, and the coffin
and the grave, it seems that the work of assisting and directing and
encouraging those who are about to enter into that unchanging state is
the most important employment that a minister or any other Christian can
be called to engage in.
The most unpleasant work of any that I have ever found in the line of
ministerial duty has been to visit the unsaved sinners in times of
sickness or accident. To live without religion is what a great many are
willing to do. But to die without it there are but few who dare to. Men
and women will live worldly and sinful lives without thought or care.
But if death stares them in the face, the hardest hearts begin to feel ;
and as they stand upon the last shifting sands of time, the bravest
hearts quail and quake in the presence of terrible realities that burst
upon their astonished vision.
Then men who have despised the righteous claims of God and pursued the
way of the transgressor see their mistake and seek for mercy. Then the
man of God is sent for. Then praying people are called in. Then many
promises are given and vows made to God, promises that in nine cases out
of ten are broken and trampled upon in case the sinner is restored to
Sometimes, however, this is not the case, as the following instance will
He Would Not be so Mean.
A young married man was lying very low with malarial fever. His medical
attendant and his friends got very much alarmed. His young wife was
nearly frantic at the prospect of being left a widow, after only a few
months of married life. A consultation of doctors was held. One of the
two new men called in was an old man of large and long experience in the
profession. The conversation was carried on in the sick-room, and the
doctors supposed that the man was asleep. But in this they were
mistaken. The invalid heard all they said at the conclusion of their
deliberations. He was a Universalist and he never had given himself any
uneasiness about the future.
The old doctor was the last to give his opinion. He said at length: “I
can see no grounds for hope. The young man is going to die, and that
before many hours.”
The man himself related the case to me years after. I give his own words
as nearly as I can:
“When the old man said this, 1 do not think L could have been more
astounded it’ the earth had opened at my feet. My Universalism was gone
in a moment. I felt sure that there was a hell, and I thought that I
should be in it in a few short hours. What should I do? Should I now ask
the Lord to save me, after I had done all in my power against him?
Should I seek for mercy now because I could not do any more harm in the
world? Should I desire to go to heaven, when I deserved to be sent to
hell? These thoughts ran through my mind in rapid succession. My
decision was this: I will not add insult to injury. I will not be so
mean as to try and sneak into heaven. I will die and meet the
consequences of a misspent life, but if I feel well I will serve the
lord. He got well, and a short time afterwards was converted. He has
been some years in the Gospel ministry. Hundreds have been saved under
his labours. His decision might not have been a wise one, but who will
say it was not a manly one I I refer to the first part of that decision.
Almost Fatally Deceived.
In the early part of my ministry there was a man lived near me who was
dying with consumption. He lost one wife by that flattering disease, so
that he was not ignorant of its deceptive character. He had been
respectably brought up under Methodist influences, so that the claims of
religion were not unknown to him, but like many others he had lived
until middle life without attending to the interests of his soul.
And he was now on the brink of the eternal world— a dying, yet
unconverted man. In visiting him I found that he felt safe, although he
knew that he was dying. His plea was, “God is too merciful to cast me
off.” I could not get him to look at any other aspect of the question.
Not a word that expressed sorrow for the sins of the past. Not one word
about trusting in the Saviour. Nothing about the cleansing blood or the
sanctifying Spirit. He was simply relying on the bare mercy of God,
without any reference to His other attributes. I was not just satisfied.
But as the time passed on he sank lower and lower, yet he kept to that
ground of hope; he seemed perfectly willing and ready to die. At last I
began*to conclude that my doubts were groundless, and what I had looked
upon as a thick cloud was only a thin shadow thrown over his real
condition, by his mode of expressing himself.
One Sunday night I came home from my evening service. As I was about to
retire a message came for me to go and see Mr. M., saying that he was in
a fearful state of mind. I went as fast as I could to the place. When I
went into the room where he was I found a number of people; they were
all weeping, and no wonder. On the bed lay the sufferer, whose bitter
cries for mercy might well have moved the hardest heart. As soon as be
saw me come into the room he cried out, “O, Mr. Hilts, what shall I do?
Here I have been deceiving myself; I thought I was fit to die; that is
all a delusion. I am a dying man and yet unsaved, unsaved ! What will I
do? What will I do?
I sat down by the bedside. He became a little calm. Then I said to him,
“John, I am at a loss what to say to you. If you have not been mistaken
when you have told me that you were prepared to die, this is a
temptation of the enemy. But if you are not prepared to die, this is the
work of the Holy Spirit showing you your danger before it is too late.”
“0,” said he, “this is no temptation; I am not mistaken now. I am dying,
and set in my sins. O, what shall I do?” I talked to him, and read and
prayed with him. When we rose up from prayer he said to me, “This can’t
last long. Don’t leave me until I am either dead or saved.” I said to
him. “I will stay with you as long as you wish. But neither I nor any
one else can do much for 3*ou now. It is a personal matter between 3rou
and 3'our Saviour. Can you not trust him to take away 3rour sins, and
fit you for death?” He answered, “I will try.”
He was for a few moments quite calm, and seemed to be in deep thought.
Then he commenced, as if he were talking to himself. He said, “I am a
sinner; Jesus came to save sinners; I do believe that Jesus will save
me; I believe that he will save me now.” With what intense eagerness did
we catch everuy word. The during man went on, “I believe that He is
saving me now. O, He has saved me. Glory to His name! I am saved! I am
saved!” A happier man I never saw, and a more deeply moved lot of people
I never met than those that stood round that bed that night.
One week from that night I was sent for again in the middle of the
night. When I went into the room and asked him what I could do for him,
he looked up and said, “I do not want anything more here, I am just
going. But I sent for you to tell you once more that Jesus saves me, and
all is well.” He turned over with his face to the wall, and in a few
minutes he was gone. John Mockman lives in a brighter world than this.
There was no Getting Away.
I was once sent for to go and see a man that was thought to be near to
his end. When I came to the place I found a man well up in years. He was
a man of more than ordinary intelligence and culture. He thought he was
going to die. When I commenced to talk with him I soon found that he
knew more than I did. He had any amount of Scripture at his command. He
could state a point and give the proof as readily and clearly as any man
that I had ever met with. But for all this I found it impossible to get
him to realize his condition as an unconverted man about to appear
before his Maker. And yet he knew that he was not prepared to die. He
would acknowledge his faults, but did not seem to see anything like
transgression of God’s laws in them.
He said to me at length: “You see before you a man of a strange
experience. God has often laid His hand upon me and brought me very low.
But I have always put Him off with promises of doing better; but in
every case I have broken my pledges. I am like an unruly boy who has
repeatedly offended his father, and has escaped punishment by promises
of future obedience. At length the father’s patience is exhausted. He
takes the lad in hand and there is no more getting away from his strong
grasp and heavy hand. The long-delayed punishment comes at last. So it
is with me. There is no getting away this time.”
He did get off that time. By God’s blessing and medical skill the man
was once more restored to health and lived some time after this. But he
went back into his old ways again. He is dead now; but how he died I am
not able to say. How few there are who faithfully fulfil their sick-bed
She did not Die Then.
When people are given up to die by their friends and physicians there is
a sort of melancholy pleasure in trying to do all that can be done to
make them as comfortable as possible. At such times the kindness of
neighbours and friends is manifested in various ways. Everything is done
that will relieve the pain of body, or give comfort of mind, so far as
it is possible for willing hands and loving hearts to do so.
Prompted by this feeling a man called on me one day to go and administer
the sacrament to a woman who was supposed to be in a dying condition.
She lived on the far side of the circuit, and was a member of the
Church. She was an excellent woman. I was much surprised to learn that
she was given up by two doctors. I had not heard of her sickness till
then. I lost no time in going to see her.
When I got to the house I found Mrs. C. very sick, and the family in
great distress. The children were greatly alarmed by the prospect of
losing one of the best of mothers. Mr. C. was nearly broken-hearted at
the thought of losing a true and faithful and loving wife. A number of
neighbours were there, and they were lamenting about losing a good
neighbour and friend. We proceeded with the administration of the Lord’s
Supper, the husband and some others taking a part in the solemn rite.
During the service the impression was made on my mind that the woman was
not going to die at that time; and in praying for her restoration I felt
confident that the prayer would be answered.
After the room was vacated by all except Mr. C. and myself, I said to
her, “Mrs. C., I feel confident that you are not going to die at this
time.” Her looks changed in an instant. She said, “Do you think so?” I
said, “Yes, I believe that you will be well enough to go to meeting and
hear me preach yet before Conference.” “Well,” she answered, “I am
willing to die if the Lord so orders. But if it be His will that I
should live a few years more, I would like to do so on account of
William and the children.” She did get well, and lived some sixteen
years after that. She saw her children well provided for, and her
husband an honoured and useful man in the Church. Then she peacefully
and joyfully went to her rest. And her children called her blessed.
End of a Wild Career.
One day I was splitting some firewood at the door of the parsonage. My
attention was directed to a man on horseback who was riding toward me at
a rapid rate. When he came up he said to me, “The friend of J. S. wishes
you to come and see him. He is dying.” Here was a very undesirable call.
I knew J. S. to be one of the most wicked young men that I had ever
known. His mother had been left a widow in fair circumstances some years
before. She had a number of boys of which this J. was the eldest. The
mother, like many another good woman, had more heart than head, and more
kindness than firmness. She was just the kind of woman to indulge and
spoil a lot of boys. The softest mothers sometimes send out the hardest
boys. So it was in this case. I had sometimes seen J. walk past the
church on Sunday morning. But I never saw him inside a place of worship.
I had seen him drunk more than a score of times. I had heard the
terrible oaths that came from him. I knew that the doctor had told him
some months before that unless he gave up his dissipation he would die
before the year was out. Knowing all this, is it to be wondered at that
I felt reluctant to go?
I asked the messenger if J. sent for me. He said “No; it was his mother
and his brothers.” His mother was a member of the Church, and his
brothers respectable young men. I could not refuse them.
But what good could I do him? He had lived in sin against God just as
long as he could lift a hand or move a foot. He was dying, not by a
visitation of God, but as the outcome of his own recklessness. In fact,
he was but little less of a suicide than the man who blows his own
brains out or cuts his own throat.
I hitched up and went at once. When I got within twenty rods of the
house, I heard the moanings of poor J. When I went into the house I
found a number of people there. All of them were sad, as well they might
be. On a bed in one corner of the room lay a perfect wreck of the once
active and strong young man. At each breath came the short ejaculation,
“0 Lord, 0 Lord.” It was evident that this was not meant for prayer, as
his mind was so beclouded that he was quite insensible to everything
We read a chapter and had prayer. Then I tried to get his attention so
that I might say something to him about his condition. But he seemed to
be entirely oblivious of all surrounding objects. Still his cry at every
breath was, “O Lord, O Lord.” The way this was said made it sound like
the utterances of a soul in anguish, or the bitter outcry of a tortured
spirit as it was just about to sink into that night that knows no
morning. That plaintive cry seemed like the wailing of despair, and it
fell upon the listener’s ear like an appealing and warning voice coming
up from the regions of the lost.
Before another day had dawned upon our world he died. At the hour of
midnight, when the earth was enveloped in its thickest clouds of
darkness, the poor abused and suffering body of J. S. sank into the arms
of death and his soul entered into the spirit world to meet its God and
receive its doom.
Saved at the Eleventh Hour.
On a bright Sabbath morning, in the early summer, I started to my
forenoon appointment. When I had gone about a mile I was overtaken by a
man who came riding after me on horseback. As he came up he said, “I
want you to turn about and come with me.”
I asked what was the matter. He said, “Mrs. B. is very low, and the
doctor says she cannot live twelve hours. She is unconverted. She is in
a pitiable condition, and very much alarmed about her future state. She
sent me to ask you to go and see her.”
This woman lived some distance in the opposite direction from my work,
so that to comply with her request would cause me to disappoint two
The man who came for me was one of my circuit officials. He said, “I
think you had better go. The living can stand to be disappointed better
than the dying. And before the day is gone the poor woman ma}’ be in
I turned and went with him. I had sometimes seen this woman and her
husband at church. They were respectable people. But they, like
thousands in the world, took no interest in a personal salvation. They
lived for this world only. When we got to the place we found the house
full of people. A number of Christian men and women were trying to help
and comfort the penitent sufferer. She was a woman in middle life, with
a fair share of intellect, and some amount of culture. She was suffering
from some kind of inflammation. She was enduring great pain of body, but
her mental distress seemed to be more hard to bear than her physical
sufferings. We prayed, and read, and talked with that poor woman till
four o’clock in the day. Then she came out of the darkness into light,
and out of sadness into joy. Her soul was filled with a heavenly peace
of mind and a joy unspeakable sprang up in her heart. O how she talked
to her husband, and with what earnestness did she pray for the children
she was leaving behind her. Her husband promised her that he would seek
and serve the Lord so that he might meet her in that heaven to which she
now felt that she was going. Whether he kept that pledge or not I do not
know. The woman died that night rejoicing in the hope of a blessed
immortality and eternal life. When I next visited the congregations that
were disappointed that day I explained to them the reason of my absence.
Everybody seemed to be satisfied. Several of the people said to me, “You
did right in going to look after the dying first.”
A Doctor’s Needless Fears.
Sometimes people allow themselves to drift along with the tide of
events, and do not know in what direction they are moving, nor how fast
they are going. Feeling no uneasiness, they take it for granted they are
on the right path. But at length they discover that they have missed the
way, and are travelling in the opposite direction from that they intend.
Then they become alarmed, and they seek again the path from which they
have wandered. They chide themselves for their carelessness, and resolve
to do better in the future.
This was the experience of Mrs. F. in her religious life. She had been
converted and had joined the Church in early life. She lived a
consistent and useful life until she married an unconverted man. They
settled in a distant village. She neglected to take her place in the
Church, and was so far deprived of Christian counsel and encouragement.
For some time things went on smoothly with the young couple. Then a very
severe attack of disease brought Mrs. F. face to face with her real
state. She saw that she had strayed from the fold and wandered away on
the bleak mountains of sin.
In her distress she wanted a minister of her old Church. Being the
nearest one to where she lived, I was sent for. The distance was fifteen
miles; however, I lost no time in going. I was acquainted with the
woman, having been employed to attend her marriage. When I came to her
home I found her indeed very low. She was in great pain of body and in
great distress of mind. I soon concluded that her case required
spiritual remedies more than medical treatment. We had prayer with her,
and just then the doctor came. He lived in the same village that I did;
we were acquainted. I knew that he took but little interest in religion
of any kind, and I had been told that he particularly disliked the
After the doctor had attended to his duties and was ready to start away,
he called me outside; then he said to me, “I want to caution you before
I leave. Be very careful not to excite that woman in any way, as her
life depends on her being kept quiet.” I said to him, “Doctor, I think I
know my business, I was sent for, or I should not be here. The woman is
in great distress of mind, and it seems to me that if you can be trusted
with my penitent you may trust your patient with me. I shall be prudent
but faithful in the discharge of my duty.” After the doctor left me Mrs.
F. requested that five or six of her Christian neighbours should be
invited to come in and hold a prayer-meeting in the evening, as I was to
stay all night in the village. They came in as she wished. I cautioned
them, and also Mrs. F., against any undue excitement in our devotions;
but it was of little use. The well ones did as I told them, but the sick
one got into a perfect agony of spirit for a while. We were all uneasy
for her safety for a short time. Then everything changed. She found
again her lost enjoyment, and with a loud voice she praised the Lord for
restoring to her the joys of His salvation. This continued for an hour,
and then she went into a peaceful slumber, and rested well all night.
Next forenoon the doctor came; when he went into the room he found the
sick woman sitting up in bed talking cheerfully with a neighbour. He
expressed great surprise at the change for the better. The woman was
well in a short time. She insisted upon it that it was the Lord that
cured her, not the doctor.
Fear of Death All Gone.
George Maynarcl was a good man. For thirty years he was a class-leader
in the Methodist Church. When an old man, he was thrown on a bed of
sickness which proved to be unto death. One day I went to sec him, he
referred to his feelings on the subject of death. He said, “I know that
I was converted when I was a young man. For many years I have had the
evidence of my acceptance with God. How is it that I have always had a
dread of death? Can you explain this? Why should I be afraid of that
which I fully believe I am prepared for?”
“Well,” I said, “you know more than I do about many things; but in this,
it seems to me that you are taking too gloomy a view of things. Human
nature instinctively shrinks from death; but by the help of God’s grace,
even the fear of death may be overcome.” “Do you think,” said he, “that
I can get dying grace if I ask for it?”
I said, “Doubtless you will get dying grace when you need it. You know
as well as I do, that the help we get to-day will not meet the wants of
to-morrow, any more than that the bread we cat to-day will satisfy the
hunger of to-morrow. If God gives us grace day by day to live right, we
need not trouble ourselves about dying grace until we need it. Then we
may rest assured we will get it.”
“That is a view of the case that I have not thought of before; but I see
that it is the correct view,” was his answer. About a week after this
conversation I called again to see him. When I went into the room I
noticed a wonderful change in the expression of his countenance. His
face, it seemed to me, shone with a heavenly light, and an angelic smile
rested upon it. As soon as he saw me, he said, “I have been waiting for
you to come; I want to tell you that all my fears are gone, and death to
me now wears the kindly aspect of a friend, instead of the forbidding
look of an enemy. I want to tell you how it was that I got into this
happy frame of mind.
“Two nights ago I lay here alone. My wife was in the other room
attending to her housework. I was thinking about death. What a solemn
thing it is to die. How must the spirit feel when it moves out of the
tenement it has so long inhabited. What will be the soul’s sensations
when it goes out into the untried and unknown state of things and for
the first time looks upon its new surroundings and realizes its changed
“All at once a light darted into my room. I looked up and seemed to see
a shining pathway leading up a gently ascending grade. With my eyes I
followed this shining way until it seemed to be swallowed up by a
brightness that is indescribable. Just there I saw one standing whose
garments looked like glittering gold bestudded with sparkling diamonds.
In one hand he held a robe that was whiter than snow and a crown that
was brighter than the noonday sun. With the other hand he pointed to
these as he looked at me and smiled. That look and that smile sent a
thrill to every fibre of my body and touched every faculty and
sensibility of my soul. My shouts of praise brought my wife to enquire
what had taken place. The vision vanished, but not the joy. My soul has
been in an ecstasy ever since. There is not left a single shadow of the
fear of death.” He never lost this happy frame of mind until the last.
He died within a week after he related this to me. He was a man of
sterling character and beloved by all who knew him.
A Mother’s Last Conversation.
Among the names whose memory I cannot but cherish is that of Mrs. Ann
Gilroy. I first made the acquaintance of her and her family on the
Teeswater mission in the year 1858. Some years later she lived in
Kincardine when I was stationed there.
We were having a good revival in our church. Mrs. Gilroy and her family
all took more or less interest in the meetings. When she could not
attend, her son, who lived at home, and three daughters were generally
at the services.
One night, on account of not feeling well, she stayed at home. The rest
of the family went to meeting. During the evening some one made the
statement that “a true Christian is prepared for death at any time. That
to such a sudden death simply means sudden glory.” Jacob Gilroy noticed
this statement. He thought it was an extravagant saying.
When he went home his mother was still sitting by the stove waiting for
him and his sisters to come. After the girls retired, mother and son sat
up for a while talking about family matters. After they talked some time
and were about to retire, the son said, “Mother, are you too tired to
tell me one thing that I would like to know before you go to rest?”
“What is it?” she said. “Well, it is this: to-night it was said in the
meeting that ‘ true Christians are always ready to die. That to them
sudden death is sudden glory. Now, mother, you have been a Christian
ever since I can remember, and I believe that if there are any good
people in the world you are one of them. Tell me, now, if you knew that
you would die before morning would you not be frightened?” She stood for
a short time as if in deep thought, and then said, “I do not think that
I would be at all alarmed if I knew that I should die to-night. Why
should I be afraid to go to my home in my Father’s house? Good night.”
She never spoke again. In the morning she was found in her bed entirely
speechless and motionless, though still alive. Before night she was
dead. Some time after this the young man was in the city of
Philadelphia. He had been to a revival meeting and got very happy. He
came home to his boarding house, sat on a chair and fell off it, and was
dead before his room-mate could get to him. So that both mother and son
died unexpectedly. And we hope and believe that both proved by a happy
experience that to the Christian “ sudden death is sudden glory.”
A Night of Sorrow.
One of the most touching events that I have known occurred in one of the
new settlements a few years after I entered the ministry.
Typhoid fever was prevailing in the neighbourhood and many were dying of
it. There was a family that lived in the bush by themselves. The man
took the fever and was lying very low. No one entered the house except
the doctor. One night the man died. His wife found herself alone with
her dead husband and her two small children, who, all unconscious of
trouble, were sleeping in their little cot. The woman’s parents lived
about three-fourths of a mile off, through a dense piece of woods and
over a large stream of water. The stillness of the house and the
lonesomeness of the place at length overcame the poor woman’s fortitude
and courage. She picked up her two children and ran as fast as she could
till she came to the creek. In her confused haste she forgot all about
the footbridge over it; she waded through it.
She went to her father’s door. Through fear of the fever her own parents
refused to let her into the house. Then she made her way back to her
home as best she could. When she came there she dared not go inside. She
sat down on the doorstep with her two little ones in her arms. Next
morning when the doctor came he found her still sitting there, soundly
sleeping, forgetful of the terrible ordeal through which she had passed.
Two men went and carried the dead man out and a few others took and
A Mistaken Doctor.
I once knew a boy in his teens who was stricken down with typhoid fever.
The medical man who attended him was taken down with the same disease
just when the boy was at the worst. He sent twenty-two miles for another
doctor to come and see himself and his patients.
This strange doctor visited the sick boy, and left orders to give him a
certain amount of brandy every hour. The lad kept sinking until he could
not be got to swallow the liquor or anything else. I was present when he
made his last call (until he called for his pay). He was told that the
brandy had not been given, for the simple reason that the patient could
not be made to take it. He got angry and scolded the attendants a good
deal; then he went away, saying the boy would not live two hours.
After he was gone, Mr. Hacking, the boy’s father, said to me, “I have a
great notion to try the water cure, and put William in wet sheets. What
would you do if you were in my place?” I said, “I am not prepared to
give any advice in the matter. You heard what the doctor said. From all
appearances, I am afraid that his predictions will be verified. So far
as the boy is concerned, I do not think that it makes much difference
what you do, or what you don’t do. I fear he is past being benefited by
The preparations for using the wet sheets commenced at once. I left
them, fearing that the boy would die as soon as they undertook to move
him. He had been in a stupor for some days, and was seemingly
unconscious of everything about him; but the result of the effort on the
part of Mr. H. and family was marvellous. All night they continued their
work. Next morning early I went to the house expecting to find the boy
dead; but he was still living, and when I looked at him, I could see
that he was unmistakably better. That boy got well, and is living yet.
The doctor afterwards sued for a very exorbitant fee, and I was called
as a witness in the case. The judge allowed him just half the amount
asked for, and he paid the cost, the amount having been offered to him,
but he refused it.
Deaths By Accident.
When people die, the shock to the surviving friends is not so great as
when they are killed by what is called accident. In the one case there
is time for the friends to prepare for what they look upon as
inevitable. In the other case the suddenness of the unexpected event
gives a more crushing aspect to the bereavement.
During my ministry I have been called upon to perform the funeral rites
for nine persons who were accidentally killed; six of them were killed
by trees and limbs, one at a raising, and two in wells. To particularize
all of these would occupy too much space. I will briefly refer to three
Died in a Well.
James Mullen lived in a house built on one of those “gravel hills” so
common in some parts of the country. He started to dig a well near the
house, and on the side of the hill; he was in the well which had been
dug to the depth of eighteen feet, and “curbed” with plank and
scantling. His father and his wife were working the windlass one
afternoon; all at onee the curbing gave way at the top of the first
length of scantling, and the whole thing collapsed. The planks came
together a few feet above Mullen’s head, thus saving him from being
instantly crushed to death by the tons of gravel that burst into the
well from all sides. As soon as the first shock was over he called to
those above to tell them he was not dead, but said he was badly hurt,
and partly covered up with earth. The alarm was given, and men began to
come from all directions to assist in trying to get the poor man out.
They commenced to dig down to him from the top. Every blow they struck
only sent more of the dry gravel sifting down upon the man below. Some
fifty men were there; all night long they toiled, but all in vain to
save his life. Once they got so near him he took a cup of water from
them between the planks, then a fresh lot of dirt fell in and shut up
all the openings. Somewhere about ten o’clock in the morning he called
to one of his neighbours and said, “Tell me the honest truth. Is there
any chance to get me out alive. The dirt is up to my chin; I cannot move
so much as a finger; one more shaking down of the gravel will bury me
all up. Can you get me out?”
The friend said to him, “James, you must look to your God for help; we
are doing all in our power, and will do so; but I greatly fear no human
help can reach you in time to save your life.”
Shortly after he spoke again, saying, “The dirt is covering me up;” that
was his last word.
When he was at length got out, one of his legs was broken; that was all
the serious hurt that could be found upon the body. A great concourse of
people attended his funeral; I spoke to them out of an upstairs window,
that being the most suitable place from which to address the multitude.
I saw James Mullen’s wife a few years ago; she was still a widow, though
now past middle age.
He Read His Own Funeral Text.
People who have always lived on the front have but little idea what life
in the backwoods means. The deprivations of the early settlers are far
from being appreciated by those who have never been without schools, and
churches, and mills, and stores, and neighbours; and never is the want
of these so severely felt as in the time of trouble and bereavement. A
number of years ago a family by the name of Col beck moved into the
north part of the township of Luther. They were Methodists; but now they
found themselves away from the means of grace in the public worship of
God. They instituted a system of worship of their own. The whole family
would take a part in reading at family devotions. One morning the lesson
read was the fifteenth chapter of Jeremiah. The youngest son, a young
man, read the last verse, which reads as follows: “And I will deliver
thee out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem thee out of the
hand of the terrible.” That was the last thing he ever read.
He and his brother went out to the fallow to chop. Before noon a limb
fell out of a tree and struck him, He never spoke nor moved.
I being the nearest Methodist minister, was sent for to attend his
funeral. At the time I lived on the sixth line of Garafraxa. I had to go
about twenty miles to get to the place.
When I came there it was the wish of the mother that the last verse that
her boy had ever read should be his funeral text. I could not refuse
her, though it allowed me no time for preparation. There were two or
three married children settled around the old people. From what I saw of
them I took them to be an excellent family. One of the Colbecks is in
our ministry, and a member of the Guelph Conference.
Choke-damp Killed Them.
Two dead men in one old well are not often seen in this country. Such a
thing is enough to cause a sensation in any locality. In the vicinity of
the Black Horse Corners in Kinloss this scene was witnessed a few years
Two well-diggers undertook to clear out an old well and dig it deeper.
They went to the place to commence work. They prepared a windlass. One
of them was to go down and do the work in the well, and the other was to
work the windlass. When the man in the tub got about half way to the
bottom he fell over out of the tub and went to the bottom, where he lay
so still his companion thought that he had fainted, or else he was in a
Help was called for. A number of men were on hand in a short time. But
the question was, Who would volunteer to go down and bring up the body
of the man whom every one now believed to be dead.
At length an old farmer, named Brownscome, who lived on the adjoining
lot, offered to go if none of the younger men would do so. He had them
to tie a rope tightly around him under his arms. They commenced slowly
to let him down. When he reached the point where the other had fallen
out of the tub, he seemed to wilt like a scorched leaf, and, slipping
out of the rope, he fell to the bottom as lifeless as a lump of lead.
Then it became evident that there was something in the well more than
the common air. On applying a test it was ascertained that the well was
half full of gas of the most deadly kind. The bodies were taken out by
long iron rods with hooks on the ends of them. Mr. Brownscome was an
Englishman. He was one of the class-leaders on the Kincardine Circuit.
He was an excellent man, but his life was thrown away for want of a
little forethought, for if the well had been tested sooner he might have
been saved. We buried his remains at Kincardine Cemetery.
IIow great to him would be the sudden change. One moment surrounded by a
group of anxious neighbours; the next moment among the angels and the
spirits of just men made perfect. No doubt, to him sudden death was
sudden glory. the next day. There was no help for it—we must face the
storm. As we were about starting Mrs. Hodgins said to me, “You must not
freeze Mr. Simpson on that cold road. Y"ou have been over it so often
that you have got used to it.” I replied that he had only one to look
after, while I had two—myself and horse.
We started out about 10 a.m., and of all the days that I have ever
experienced that was one of the worst. When we got about half way I
asked Mr. Simpson if he was cold. He said he was not, and we went on. As
we came nearer the lake the storm seemed more severe. We both got cold,
and concluded to stop at the house of Henry Daniels and warm, but when
we came to his gate it was entirely snowed up. Then we thought to go on
and stop at William Purdy’s on the next side line, but the snow was so
blinding that we passed that without seeing it. We concluded that we
were a lone: while in reaching the side line, but when we found where we
were it was inside the corporation of Kincardine and almost home.
Next morning when I met Simpson I could not keep my face straight while
I looked at him. His face had the most comical appearance of anything
that I had seen of the kind. Wherever the frozen snow had touched, it
had left a mark. His face looked as though some one had taken the skin
of an Indian and cut it into round pieces ranging from five to fifty
cents in size, and stuck them on in grand confusion all over it from top
to bottom. When I had laughed at him for a while, he asked me if I had
looked into the glass yet since we came home. When I did so I found that
I had been making merry at my own likeness, for my face was about as
spotted as his. I had been doing what people often do, namely, criticise
in others what is most like in themselves. Some of the people said that
we were queer looking specimens of clerical dignity and official