Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

this occasion, as before, they were ultimately relieved from their uncomfortable situation by the successful exertions of bishop Wilson.

He still, in his old age, continued the practice of riding off on Sunday to take a share of the duties in some distant parish, without regarding the fatigue of travelling on roads which are described as having been perilous even for horsemen in winter, and for carriages at all times. In April 1739, being then in his seventy-sixth year, he writes thus to his son — "I have been as well as ever I can expect to be at this age; I was obliged last Sunday to preach at Peel [eight miles distant from Bishop's-court,] ride there and back again on a most stormy day: and yet I thank God, I am not the worse for it."

In his seventy-ninth and eightieth years he continued to preach occasionally, as appears from his letters to his son; and in the year 1743, we have an account of his state of health from his own pen, in a letter to his son's wife.

"My Dear Daughter,—I have the pleasure of yours of the 8th of the last month. You put too great a value upon the little favours I can show you. My great aim and desire is that my son and you may make one another so easy, as that it may be a means, through the blessing of God, of lengthening your days to a good old age; and that at last we may all meet in the Paradise of God.

"My eyes, I thank God, are much better, though my sight is a little duller than formerly; but that is what I ought to expect at eighty years.

"You have a share in my prayers every day of my life; and if I am so happy as to find favour with God, I have some reason to hope that my prayers afterwards may be accepted at the Throne of Grace, for our happy meeting, through the merits of the Lord Jesus.

"Oct. 11, 1743. Tho. Sodor And Man."

Even so late as the year 1749, when he was in his 86th year, he had not discontinued taking horse exercise. "I have at last got a horse," he says, "and now and then ride into the fields." Letter, October 11, 1749.

In his 90th year he held an ordination; as he had also done the year before; in his 91st year, he consecrated a chapel at Ramsea; and was still able to meet his clergy at the annual convocation, and to address to them a charge as usual.

The infirmities of old age, however, were taking fast hold upon him. His eyes were growing dim, and his natural force was abated. In June 1751, he wrote thus to the newly-appointed governor of the island :—

"Honoured Governor,—I hope my great age, and the infirmities that attend it, will be some excuse for my forgetting so long to inquire after your health, and settling in your government. I promise to make some amends for that fault, by my daily prayers that God may bless you, and make you a happy instrument of good to this people, and comfort and satisfaction to yourself; this being the duty of, honoured sir, your affectionate friend and humble servant,

Tho. Sodor And Man."

He was old and full of days, and this, combined with the occasional attacks of severe bodily ailment, left him no room to doubt that he would soon be gathered to his people. Nor was it an unwelcome thought. He 'had long been accustomed to contemplate the future world, so far as revelation lifts the veil which rests between it and us; and he rejoiced to have found the new and living way, which would conduct him safely from the grave to immortal glory. While he felt weak in himself, a firm reliance on his Saviour's merits preserved him from any fear of evil in the valley of the shadow of death, and feeling assured that the mercy and goodness of God would follow him for ever, the prospect of the change which awaited him was far from being unpleasing. He could understand St. Paul's willingness rather to be absent from the body, and felt that it was better to depart and be with Christ. A reference to the Sacra Privata will show that these were the settled and familiar thoughts of his mind. Hence he was careful for nothing, and in a very remarkable degree the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, kept his heart and mind. But he always rightly considered that this life was the appointed season in which to prepare for the enjoyment of the society of heaven, and therefore in his prayers he fervently implored the grace of the Spirit of God to make him meet for that rest which remaineth for his people.

His humility was deeply rooted in a conviction of the depravity of human nature, and of its evidences in his own heart. And although the chief aim of his sermons and other writings was to induce all whom his instructions should reach, to give all diligence to add to their faith virtue, arid to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity, yet he never forgot that the glory to be revealed is not of debt but of grace. We might show this by repeated quotations from his writings; but nothing can evince it more clearly than some words which were casually heard as they fell from his lips a short time before his death. He was just coming forth from the retirement of his chamber, expressing the thoughts of a full heart, and unconscious of any listener but God, exclaiming,—" God be merciful to me a sinner—a vile sinner—a miserable sinner I"

As he drew nearer to the confines of the next world, he became more fit to partake of its spiritual enjoyments. A student who resided with him, and watched the gradual decay of nature, observed that God was indeed preparing him for the change, and causing his light to shine more and more unto the perfect day; his benignity became still more remarkable, his conversation more sweet and heavenly, his prayers more frequent and fervent. The same student could often, from his chamber, overhear the bishop making known his requests to God, and repeating portions of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Here was an instance that—

Heaven waits not the last moment; owns her friends
On this Bide death, and points them out to men;
A lecture, silent, but of sovereign power,
To vice confusion, and to virtue peace!

Young.

The immediate cause of bishop Wilson's death was a cold caught by walking in his garden after evening prayers, in very damp weather. And nature held out but a very short time against the assault of the last enemy. His fever being accompanied by delirium, prevented our receiving any of those beautiful and persuasive instructions which are so often learned at the bedside of the dying christian; yet was there a light shining through the cloud which rested upon his mind; for his words betokened that if his mind had wandered from earthly things, it had settled upon heavenly.

His spirit was soon after admitted to the glorious liberty of the sons of God. He died March the 7th, 1755, in the ninety-third year of his age, and the fiftyeighth of his consecration.

One feeling of sorrow pervaded the island on hearing the melancholy tidings of the decease of this generous, excellent, and venerable friend. A concourse, from which few were absent except the sick and infirm, assembled to follow his remains from Bishop's-court to the grave, a distance of two miles; and tears and sighs and tender thoughts did more honour to the departed than the pomp and parade of more costly funerals. The body was borne by the tenants of the estate, and the Rev. Philip Moore preached the funeral sermon.

A plain monument in the church-yard of Kirk-Michael denotes the spot where the mortal remains of this holy man were deposited, surrounded by the ashes of many who, poor perhaps in this world, but rich in faith, were through his means made heirs of the kingdom which God hath promised to them that love him. The following is the inscription.

Sleeping in Jesus,

here lieth the body of

THOMAS WILSON, D. D.

Lord Bishop of this Isle,

who died March the 7th, 1755,

aged 93,

and in the fifty-eighth year of his consecration.

This monument was erected

by his son Thomas Wilson, D. D.

a native of this parish,

who, in obedience to the express commands oi his father,

declines giving him the character he so

justly deserved.

Let this island speak the rest.

« НазадПродовжити »