MRS JANE BARTON
RELICT OF THE LATE MR. JOHN BARTON, DISSENTING MINISTER, OF EXETER.
MRS. B. had been favoured with an unusual share of natural health up to August, 1857, when she was attacked with paralysis. She was born of rigid members of the Establishment, and for Many years she was, as she expressed herself; "a complete pharisee," walking, as she supposed, blameless, until she was invited by a friend who had been companion with her in worldly amusements as well as in a false religion, but who was now suffering deeply from exercise of soul, having been convinced of her sinful state by nature, her violation of God's holy law, and having no idea of God's way of pardoning sinners, - to accompany her to a Dissenting chapel. Not liking to refuse her friend, she very reluctantly consented to go. They went to the Tabernacle together, finding their way thither through the back streets, lest any should see them. The sermon preached that night by Mr. Trego, successor of the late dear Henry Tanner, was, in the hand of the Spirit, the means of setting the poor burdened soul at happy liberty, and of convincing Mrs. B., (then Miss Pope,) of her lost condition. The text was, "Never man spake like this man." In relating the circumstance, she would contrast her state with her friend's; that to one, no man ever spake such sweet sounds; to the other, (when the minister spoke of this man speaking as none else could to sinner as well as saint,) it was a killing declaration, for she felt sure that her sentence from his mouth - the man - would be, "I never knew you." From this time she was constrained to relinquish her formal religion, and to seek, by hearing the truth proclaimed, to get healing for her wounded spirit, which she well knew was nowhere to be obtained but in the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ being personally applied by the Spirit of God.
From the time of her hearing Mr. Trego, until after she was taken ill, she might for the most of her life truly be called "a woman of a sorrowful spirit," ardently seeking peace and pardon, but fearing she had no part in the great salvation wrought for poor sinners; though from time to time she had hope she should "yet praise God for the health of his countenance." Never was the first verse of the 42nd Psalm more completely the language of a quickened soul than in this poor panting one. Year after year she was "tempest-tossed and not comforted." But she was never permitted, though sorrowing, to give up seeking him whom, if she found not, she knew she must perish for ever.
A few days after she was taken ill, Friday, Aug. 14th, 1857, I was sitting by her side. She extended her hand, and when taken, she exclaimed, What a vain world this is! I little thought the Lord was weaning me from everything in it, and keeping me in such a state of blindness, that he might now, at this set time, for bless his name, my time is now fully come, reveal himself to me as he does. What a mercy he came to save such a sinner as I am!" I remarked to her, "You have always said you knew Christ has saved his people with a full and everlasting salvation, but that you feared, nay, felt sure, you were not one of them." "Yes, I did," she said, "but it was my blindness hid him from me. I did not go sick enough; I wanted to feel better ere I went to him; but now he enables me to go to him, and cast myself upon him all diseased as I am. He has revealed himself to me as a great, a perfect Physician." I said, "Do you now feel he is your Physician?" "Yes he is mine," she replied. "O how great must have been my blindness not to see Jesus as I now see him. O that he should have had patience with me so many years, and now show me such beauty as I see in him." I asked, "What do you see in him?" She replied, "I see that he is not only a Saviour, not only the Saviour of poor sinners, but I see him Saviour now." Again she repeated, "O my blindness; but though I could not see him, he was the same when I was blind as he is now." "What is he now," I asked her "to you?" She at once, with holy confidence and joy, answered, "Chiefest among ten thousand, and altogether lovely." I said to her, "I knew, my dear mother, we should have to rejoice together before the Lord removed you from this world; for I felt confident, as I always told you, that it would be 'light at eventide,' if not before, and that you would for yourself say, 'This is my God; I have waited for him.'" "Ah," she replied, "you tried, my dear, to comfort me, but you know I always told you I could not take these important things on trust. I have been all my 'life-time subject to bondage through fear of death.' " I said, "You do not mean natural death?" "O no," she answered, "I never did dread that much, and have often wondered at it, as my soul was so overwhelmed with the death I felt there."
Here she was spent; and for a time I left her to recover the exhaustion this conversation produced. When I returned, I told her I had named the joyful news of her deliverance to a friend who had called to inquire for her, and that he had sent a message expressive of thankfulness on her behalf. "O," she replied, "you will hear greater things than these. O, dear Simeon," she exclaimed, well might he say, 'Now let me depart, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.'"
One whom she well knew, and who in times past had passed through the floods of tribulation and temptation she was at this time groaning under, observed to her, "You do not stand alone, for do you not remember?" and repeated some of the exercises of soul which she (her friend) had endured, and with which Mrs. B. was acquainted. "O," she said, "but you were young, and had the hope that the time of deliverance might come; but here was I, upwards of eighty, my foot on the grave, and no hope." Here she wept, to the praise of the mercy she had found."
On awaking on the morning of the 15th, she said, "I have often felt myself like Gad, with a troop, &c. The troop has indeed overcome me again and again, but I did not believe I should overcome at the last, as he did; but I have overcome." "Hear this scripture," she one day very emphatically said, "'I know the thoughts,' &c. (Jer. xxix. 11.) Yes, he knew his thoughts toward me, and he knew they were thoughts of peace; I feared they were thoughts of evil. O what a mercy I was not right."
A friend sending word he hoped to see her on the morrow, I told her, knowing he was in a peculiar state of mind, I hoped, for the encouragement of the friend, she would be able to tell him of the Lord's goodness to her. "If the Lord open my mouth, I will," she said, "but not else; but he will, for I now feel he has formed me to show forth his praise, and I must do it."
At one time she said, "What a great thing it is to be humbled under God's mighty hand. Pride of heart has been my misery. 'The humble shall hear and be glad.' I was not aware it was pride. When God's word said, 'hath no light,' in my pride I felt I must have light before I could trust him. He said, 'Come empty,' but I went with a mite. He said, 'Come as you are,' but I wanted to feel good enough to go to him. O how hath he borne with my pride and ignorance! But O the teaching of the Holy Ghost! He shows the sinner not only what Christ is, but what he is as a sinner. My time," she said, "is now fully come, that after all my grief, I see Christ my all, - all in all." I said to her, "When I was ill some time ago, I little thought, as dear Toplady said, that
'You would first the summit gain,
She replied, "I shall soon gain the summit now, and you will follow instead of going first." Some time after this, seeing her much depressed, I asked the cause. "O," she replied, "the enemy is not out of the camp yet." The following day she was again rejoicing in the Lord, and remarked, "I was not so comfortable yesterday; clouds were between me and Jesus, yet my soul was kept holding fast to the promise, 'He satisfieth the desire of the longing soul;' and I was kept longing."
On receiving a kind message from one who had long behaved unkindly to her, "Only think of his message," she said; "he maketh even my enemies to be at peace with me now; all is peace." To her doctor she said, "I am going home. I always loved my earthly home better than any other place; and if away, I always longed to get back; but now I shall never have to leave the home I go to. I shall be fully satisfied. Christ is all." To Some young friends who surrounded her bed to take their farewell of her, she said, "This is a sinful world; nothing will satisfy either young or old but Jesus' blood and righteousness. May he give you grace to seek him early," giving to each a suitable passage of scripture.
For some days after this time of soul liberty, the enemy was permitted again to assault her, and the hiding of God's countenance sank her deeply into distress. In vain were reading, prayer, or conversation to her now. She exclaimed, in an agony, "I fear I am but a goat, that I am not a child of God." One reminded her, that a few days before she gloried in the gracious deliverance the Lord had wrought for her. "O," she mournfully answered, "I thought so; but the heart is so deceitful, I fear it was not from the Lord." It was observed, "neither Satan nor a wicked heart could or would unfold the beauties and suitableness of Jesus, or convince you of your utter helplessness, and cause you as an empty, lost sinner, to cast yourself on him." She seemed relieved, and remarked, "O the power of Satan! He causes me to reject God's counsel against myself. Lord, help me to resist him." Next day she suddenly exclaimed, "Bless the Lord, he has again given me an appetite for sheep's food; now read, and talk to me of Jesus and his great salvation." To one she observed, "In the midst of all I have had a hope Of an interest in Christ's prayer, Luke xxii. 32." She was answered, "Then you must have had faith, or the prayer would not suit you." She smiled and seemed happy.
Dec. 2nd. - When one approached her bed, at an early hour in the morning, she said, "I know that my Redeemer liveth. O he is sweet to my soul. I now covet nothing but an increase of the love I feel in my soul. Jesus is worthy of all confidence. I have called thee 'as a woman forsaken' has for a time been my case - forsaken, I mean. Is not Jesus called the Captain of his people's salvation? If there were no enemy, a captain would not be needed." Having heard some express surprise because darkness and distress were again experienced by her after the gracious deliverance she had had, she asked, "Did not the Israelites eat the bitter herbs after they had feasted on the paschal lamb? Why then should I not expect to be exercised after he has shone upon me?" Here she was too exhausted to proceed. When recovered, she continued, "He has shone on me, and bless his name, he is come again."
On hearing of the death of a friend she highly esteemed, and who had left a sweet dying testimony, she said, "I long to be with dear Mr. P., out the same grace which has carried him home will land me safely also. Jesus is the resurrection and the life; I have committed into his hand body and soul.' Lord, now let me depart."
On the afternoon of Dec. 4th, she said, "I thought yesterday, at this time, I was dying, but I had no fear of death, because Jesus has promised me he will be with me, and when he speaks I can believe. Now, whenever I die, I shall not fear death, for it will only be the shadow of death.
Saturday, April 16th, l858. - Having placed her at an open window which faced the country, (so beautiful at this season of the year,) for a little change, I left her. When I returned, I found she had turned from it. One, said, "Why, you are not looking out of the window after all." "O," she said, "I no more want to look out of this window, for since you went down stairs, God has opened the window of heaven, and in his Trinity of Persons has revealed himself to me, God my Father, Jesus my Saviour, and the Holy Ghost my Comforter, yes, and heaven my borne. None but the Holy Spirit could show me what I now see and feel. Like the poor prodigal, I am come to myself, and in my Father's hand is all I need. O what a poor, erring creature I am; I have been so prone to think that God was such a rigid exactor; but those mites I thought to bring are taken from me, and I am fully discharged. What a change do I now experience! O it is quite a translation; light for darkness; 'Light is sown for the righteous,' but the comfort of this has not been mine until now, because I have feared I was not one of them." When at one time she was expressing sorrow of heart because she felt so dead, so far off, one who had well known her path of trial, as well as witnessed the evident and saving grace and goodness of God to her, said, "I could not say so to many, but to you I can, that though you are now so distressed with the clouds and darkness which hide the Lord from you, I would not fear entering the presence of God and a solemn eternity for you; and this I would not say for worlds to comfort you falsely; I would not deceive you." "O! " was then her only reply, sighing. But now she adverted to the remarks I then made, and said how the confidence I had expressed of her state distressed her; she added, "I know it was spoken in sincerity and love, but I thought, O, she is only a creature; could she see me as I see myself she would not be so deceived. But bless the Lord I now enjoy the peace, the light, and comfort I then had no hope of realising."
Speaking of Mr. T.'s visits, who had kindly visited her constantly, she said, "O how it used to pain me to hear him pray for me as a child of God, but now I could join him. O my Father, none but thy Holy Spirit could have witnessed in my soul my adoption as thy child." She continued in this strain until so spent with bodily weakness she was forced to cease.
Nov. 4th. - On seeing her in great pain of body, I began to cite, "Though after my skin worms destroy this body," here she took up the portion, and emphatically said, "'yet in my flesh shall I see God;' yes, and for myself too; mine eye shall see him, and not another; another's won't do for me; I see him myself."
For some time previous to her death the conflict she had with the powers of darkness was distressing. "Leave me, let me alone," she would say, when seeing her agony I endeavoured to lead her mind to the faithfulness of God to her in former tribulation. Two nights previous to her departure she called me to her, her agonising countenance piercing my very soul. In a tone of distress none can describe, she inquired, "Where is my poor soul going?" I replied, "To that rest you have so longed for and pined after; to the arms of Jesus, where you shall no more be tempted by him whom the God of peace is about to trample under your feet for ever." "O," she said, "I wish it were only a temptation; but I am lost. If I were God's child, he would not let me suffer in my poor soul like this." I quoted, "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." "Scourge a son," she said, and seemed to ruminate on it. I continued, "What son is he whom the Father chasteneth not? and if ye be without chastisement - " Here she said again, "Let me alone." With a lacerated heart I withdrew from her. Toward morning I perceived such a change in her countenance as rejoiced my spirit. On going to her she said in a peaceful, happy tone, "I think death is very near." Between hope and fear as to how she might receive it, I said,
"Jesus can make a dying bed-"
She took it up, and with countenance and voice most sweet, she finished the verse, and observed, it was on the breast of Jesus John rested; adding, "I long to rest on him who is the true rest of his people. Jesus is my rest now. I long to go home." Feeling grateful to our faithful God for the evident light she was favoured with, I said, "My dear mother, I do think the cloud is dispersing." She quickly replied, "I did not know that it was the enemy that so harassed my poor soul yesterday; but it was his last attack. He is conquered. I am going to Jesus. Come, dear Lord Jesus, and fetch me to thyself." This was repeated frequently throughout the day, adding, "Come; O how long he is."
When she was exulting in the prospect of her happy change, I quoted,
"The God shines gracious through the man."
"No," said she, with voice most sweet, "no, not gracious now, glorious through the man. Mind," she added, "it is through the man, through the man." When, the night before her final deliverance, she was in such deep anguish, I said to her, "If, my dear mother, you should be too weak to converse with me again, will you, if the Lord shines on you, (I felt sure he would,) look earnestly at me, and express what you feel, if it is only a word, to cheer me?" "Yes, my dear," she replied, "if the Lord shines on me, I will; but no, he won't. If he does, I will tell you gladly, and will not deceive you." When the cloud had passed, she took my hand, gazed earnestly at me, and said, "Happy. All light. Jesus, Jesus mine. He is coming to fetch me. I hope I shall not get impatient. Is it wrong to want to go now?" I said, "You must wait his time, but it is quite scriptural for you to pray him to come." "Come, come, then, precious Jesus! Precious Jesus, come quickly!" "Amen," I said. "Amen, amen," she added.
Some hours after her soul was set at liberty, Mr. T., who had visited, sympathised, and prayed with her throughout her illness, came in. Mr. T. had had a long knowledge of her, and was acquainted with the deep sorrows of her poor tempest-tossed soul, yet always felt assured she was a vessel chosen of God. When she saw him, (she was now dying,) she extended her hand, and said, "Happy, happy at last!" Her end was now drawing near. She asked, "Is this death? Is this dying?" She was told it was. In the early part of her last night, she asked, "Is it not a narrow sea to cross to the heavenly Canaan?" "Yes," she was answered. She said, "This will be a wonderful night." She now became unable to articulate clearly; but a word at a time was uttered: "In the Lamb - throne - happy - Jesus - 0 come." The last audible word was, "Christ." She afterwards lay a few hours, and then, Nov. 10th, 1858, sweetly slept in his embrace whom she had so longed to see, and is now in her mansion for her prepared from all eternity. Hallelujah! She was aged 84.
Exeter, N 1858.