OBITUARY - Thomas Lester
Thomas Lester, of Attleborough, was, in January 1841, afflicted with a stiffness in his knee, which brought on a white swelling, and was the cause of his death. On the 20th of September he went to Manchester for assistance, but in vain. The decree was gone forth, "This year thou shalt die." After a great deal of suffering in his body, and still more in his mind, he found himself so ill that he despaired of ever returning home. He sent for my dear mother to attend him, but he still kept getting worse after this. So anxious was he to return home, that he intended to attempt the journey on Tuesday, the 14th of December, but was obliged to abandon it. The God of my father had before this inclined my heart to go to him, and I was at Manchester by the time the letter reached Attleborough. When I arrived he exclaimed, "My dear lad, I hope the Lord has sent you with a word of encouragement to revive my poor dead soul, for I cannot lift my soul up to God either in prayer or praise; how do you account for it?" I replied, "Why, my dear father, if you cannot, yet you long to do it, and he who is faithful has promised, that the desire of the longing soul shall be satisfied, and in his own time he will pour out upon you a spirit of prayer, and the grace of supplication, which he will answer in such a way that you will be glad still to pray and to praise too." He immediately broke out in language like this, "Dear Lord, do be pleased to break into my poor soul, and enable me to hold a few moments' sweet intercourse with thee, so that I may forget my affliction and sorrow, which I own to be just, for my sins are innumerable." The state of his body was such that I thought his dissolution was near; he was very weak and delirious, being scarcely sensible for five minutes together. I will inform you, as briefly as I can, how God, in his providence, opened a way for us to get him home. On Wednesday evening it came into my mind that his cough might be relieved by a medicine I had known to be useful before. "Who can tell," said I to my dear mother, "but it may do him good?" I procured it, the Lord blessed its use, and I trust we were thankful for it. By Thursday at noon it seemed as though his cough was quite gone; his breath was better, his strength renewed, and the hope of returning home to see his children animated his mind. These and other circumstances encouraged us to believe that the Lord was about to give us our desire, and to answer our prayers, in enabling us to return home; indeed we quite believed that it was the Lord's will that we should go, so we began to prepare. I went to inform our dear friend G - our intention; he seemed doubtful of the result; but, when leaving him, he shook my hand and said, "The blessing of the Lord go with you." My heart replied, Amen, and I verily thought it would. I thought of John Warburton leaving William Huntington, and my joy was such that it caused a severe headache. We intended starting by five o'clock next morning. At three o'clock my father prayed the good Lord to pour into my soul a spirit of prayer, but
"Prayer a task and burden seemed;"
for I thought that the blessing anticipated was too great for such an unworthy sinner as I to ask for, as the mouthpiece for a whole family. However, I reached the bible, hoping that God would reveal to us, while reading, whether to go or stay, and, turning to the 11th chapter of Hebrews, I read the first sixteen verses. "O, the wonders of faith! Lord, give us this faith if it be thy blessed will," burst forth from my very soul. I believe this short prayer, with that of my father's, through the merits and intercession of Jesus, found favour in the sight of God. If ever two or three did meet together in Jesus' name to plead for a blessing, I believe we did that morning, and our dear Lord was true to his promise, for he was there, and blessed us with sweet nearness to, and boldness of access at the throne of his heavenly grace; and while seeking for a temporal blessing, our poor souls were so humbled that we acknowledged we deserved nothing but hell, and yet it seemed as though the dear Spirit of God had brought heaven to us by revealing the suitability and sufficiency that there was in Jesus for us, and leading us a little into the blessedness of that text, "He that spared not his own Son, but hath freely given him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" The blood and love of a precious Jesus were what we feasted on for a few moments, and truly we wished then to know no will but his, and willingly did we cry, "If thy presence go not with us, carry us not hence; but, if it be thy blessed will, help us through all our journey, defend us from all danger, and give us hearts of gratitude when at home, to praise thee as our God, and the God of all our mercies." Blessed be his name, he enabled us to do this before we started. 'When I rose from my knees I was quite overcome with the goodness of God to us; and my dear father, clapping his hands, cried with a loud voice, "Now, Lord, lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation; Lord, I can see it; dear Lord, I can see it." After this he said, "My lad, my faith has to be tried to-day." Well, thought I, the trial of his faith is more precious than that of gold; so on we moved, and by five minutes past six were moving by steam, all in the dark. It seemed to be almost too much for him, so much shifting from hand to hand; yet I could not but thank God for helping us so far. My dear mother began now to doubt; but I chided her, saying that it was wrong, for the God who had helped us hitherto would help us to the end of our journey. However, soon began to doubt too, for before it was light my dear father told me he was dying. O you must try to imagine my feelings. I dared not to tell my poor mother, who was at his feet, and who was continually asking me how he was, and what he said, to which I answered, that he was very ill. When light broke in on us, I looked to see whether he breathed at all. His hands and face felt as cold as ice, and his eyes were closed, as I then thought, in death, for I saw no signs of life. I now began to murmur, saying, "Why hast thou caused thy servant to hope in thy word?" when immediately these words came into my mind, "He shall live, and not die, that he may declare the works of the Lord." I looked again, and perceived that my father breathed, which caused my very soul to sing, scores of times over,
"Thy mercy is tender and free, Thy mercy is tender to me."
He soon afterwards revived wonderfully, and charged me never to forget the dealings of God with us in this journey.
We reached home, and Mr. B—, a bosom friend, came to see him, and my father, laid hold of his hand with both of his, and exclaimed, "My dear friend, I have lived twenty years since I saw you last." He meant apparently so from the sufferings of his body and mind. When he was laid on his own bed, his poor tongue was at liberty to speak forth the praises of his covenant-keeping and wonder-working God; and it was good to be there. He begged Mr. B— to offer up a solemn thanksgiving to God for his unmerited goodness and mercy to him and his family, in sparing them, and bringing him so far alive, in such a state of affliction, to see his family once more, according to his soul's desire. This display of God's goodness he could not help talking about, as the work of his covenant Father, to all who surrounded him; and no wonder, for he had believed for some weeks that the Lord had a miracle to work for him before he died. The following words often escaped his lips :
" Wonders of grace to God belong, Repeat his mercies in my song."
Saturday morning was ushered in with a truly grateful heart to the God of all his mercies, but the day proved one of great suffering indeed, insomuch that he hardly knew how to bear it; neither was he so comfortable in his mind at night, and seemed more peevish than ever he had been during the whole of his affliction, but soon afterwards he was made to smart for it, and was very sorry he had been so impatient. He asked his friend B— to pray that the Lord would apply one drop of atoning blood to his soul. Mr. B— was led by the Spirit to beg that my father might be spared till the next day. Truly the Lord heard and answered his prayer, for he was spared, and, through the divine teaching of the blessed Spirit, was enabled to tell of what great things God had done for his soul.
We really thought on Lord's day morning that he would be soon at rest. Death seemed to have nearly finished his work; but on his again recovering a little he said, "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that I shall see him for myself; and not for another. I do now feel Christ precious to my soul. He is the 'chief among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely.'" In the afternoon he much revived, and on a friend asking him how he was, he said with a strong voice, "Why, I am as well as tongue can tell, for I know He loved me, and gave himself for me." To another who asked him a similar question he said, "Why, I am a poor sinner, saved by grace." At another time he said, "O what an astonishing mercy it is that the great God should set his love on me, for 'he hath loved me with an everlasting love, and with loving-kindness hath he drawn me.'" At one time he sprang up in his bed with seeming surprise, while joy beamed in his eyes, and a sweet serenity sat on his brow, and said, "What an astonishing thing it is, is it not? that God the Father should set his love upon me in election, and set me apart, from all eternity, as a vessel of mercy; that God the Son, in the same spirit of love, should agree to take all my sin, guilt, misery, and woe, and die on the cross to make a sacrifice for my sins, to redeem one from the curse of that holy law which I have broken, and which he has fulfilled for me, yea, magnified it and made it honourable; and that the same sovereign and discriminating love should be manifested by the Spirit, in quickening my dead soul to see my lost and ruined condition, and then enabling me to cry for mercy, and to wrestle for pardon and for an application of atoning blood. O wonder of wonders, that he should lead me to see in my dear Jesus a suitability and sufficiency for all my needs, and then supply all my needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus,' and that he should clothe me with that righteousness which is wrought out and brought in as an everlasting righteousness to clothe my poor naked soul; Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered, and the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.' O what a salvation I it is all grace from first to last, all grace, and I can see my interest in it, and in that covenant which is ordered in all things and sure.'" When Mr. B— was leaving him at night, he took hold of his hand, and said with much sincerity, My dear friend, we have lived in faith, hope, and love; we now part in faith, hope, and love; and we shall die in faith, hope, and love; but I think I shall never see your face any more in the flesh." To one of whom he had no hope that he was a changed character he spoke much, and was very faithful, saying, "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked." Once he looked round on all who were about him, and said with much solemnity, "Were all the infidels in the world, and all the powers of' darkness, and all the devils in hell to deny the existence of God, I could defy them all; for I know there is a God - a God of justice, a God of mercy, a God of love, and he loves me, and my soul is full of love to him." But, to pass over ten times more than can be related, the Lord was pleased to spare him, and, for wise purpose, to permit Satan to buffet him.
On Monday night, he told Mr. B— that what he had said on the Lord's day night might be the effect of a wild imagination, a delusion; "for," said he, "they gave me wine, you know, and the devil can preach." Mr. B— replied, "My dear friend Lester, the devil will never preach on such a subject as you dwelt upon, the love of Christ, and his atoning blood." "Well," he said, "the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation." Mr. B. said, "I am sure he will deliver you." About ten o'clock, he was struck by the cold hand of death while he was asleep. It waked him, and he asked us who stood by, whether we knew what that shake was; but we had perceived nothing. "O," said he, "it was like electrifying me; but it has left me without pain." We were not aware at the time that this was death, but it proved to be so. During the night, or rather Tuesday morning, he said but little, though he was much harassed by Satan. He repeatedly cried out, "What can be done? what can be done?" and, clasping round my neck, he seemed to demand an answer, saying, "Tom, what can be done?" I replied, "My dear father, the Lord can and will deliver you; for your dear Lord was tempted in all points like unto you, that he might be able to succour them that are tempted, and he is able to succour you, and he will not allow you to be tempted above that which you are able to bear," adding, that Satan was a liar and the father of lies. But the set time was not yet come. Between seven and eight o'clock, he sprang upright in bed, almost without help, and exclaimed, "And what can be done now that I am up? I am distracted for want of a Saviour." It appears that the Lord hid his face for a short time, when Satan tempted the dear man to believe that the Lord had forsaken him, and that he was lost for want of a Saviour. He was now driven to the borders of despair, saying, "Let me lie down and die in confusion." His speech was stopped till just before he expired, when my poor dear mother asked him how he was, and whether he was happy; to which he replied, "I am happy," and in a few minutes sweetly fell asleep in Jesus, In the sixty-third year of his age, about ten o'clock in the morning of the 21st December, 1841.
[We have been compelled greatly to curtail and alter the above, as it was Written in so roundabout a manner. - Eds.]