Page images

and took the resolution of doing all in his power. "Great, indeed," says Mr. Hall, were the grace and support which he enjoyed. He felt sick at breakfast time, and could not eat; but to oblige me he said he would try. About nine o'clock his irons were taken off; and I could not help thinking of this as symbolical of that liberty which soon, when passed beyond this life, he would enjoy for ever in the presence of his Saviour. Jolin immediately proposed to me to kneel down and thank God for what he had done for him; saying, 'I have always before prayed in bed; now I can go on my knees in the proper posture for a sinner.' Oh at this time how deep were his confessions of sin, committed both in thought, word, and deed; his acknowledgment of mercy through Jesus Christ; his expressions of dependence upon Him for grace, to keep him in his fiery trial, and to open for him the kingdom of heaven! When he drank his milk he said, 'Oh God, I thank thee that thou hast been so merciful and good to me, who have been so great a sinner!' His hand was never cold, and his pulse was always regular to the end. I never witnessed one to whom the Lord was pleased to give a stronger faith, which was proved by his conduct to the last. He sat calmly speaking and listening till about half past twelve; when he left the prison, leaning on me and Mr. Gallachin. An immense concourse of people presented itself at the prison gates; and their rush and noise were greater than we expected. The newspaper account says,― He was calm and collected, walked with steadiness, and evinced throughout the most decorous firmness. We could not perceive that he trembled. His mind seemed quite absorbed in religious exercises; and, from all we can learn, there was good and satisfactory evidence that he was a true penitent, and relied on the Divine mercy.' Mr. Durell says, "As he was leaving the gaol he was heard to repeat the CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 338.

fourth verse of the twenty-third Psalm, 'Yea, though I walk,""&c. Mr. Hall continues: "The noise of the people prevented my being heard by Jolin, who walked as firmly as myself: I therefore opened my hymn-book, and pointed out to him the sufficiency of the Redeemer, in one of those hymns which I had previously chosen for his perusal. The hymn chosen was one beginning

"He lives, the great Redeemer lives!
What joy the blest assurance gives!
And now, before his Father, God,
Pleads the full merit of his blood.
In every dark, distressful hour,
When sin and Satan join their power,
Let this dear hope repel the dart,

That Jesus bears us on his heart." He told me, that he did not mind the people, that they were poor worms; that he would endeavour to warn them from the scaffold, for they were standing on the brink of the pit. We mounted the steepest part of the gallows hill. He said, his Saviour had toiled up Calvary with a cross, which he ought to be thankful that he had not to bear; and that Jesus Christ had done this for his sake, whereas he was receiving the due reward for his transgression. This reflection seemed to give new wirgs to his exertions in pressing up the rock, which this place literally is. I think that a worse place of ascent could not have been chosen. When we arrived at the summit, the Greffier read his sentence aloud, and Mr. Gallachin prayed most fervently with him in French. After the prayer, he ascended the platform with Mr. Gallachin and myself, and addressed the people in French, as you will see by the account in the newspaper. But the account is deficient in one most essential point. He urged the people by the love of Christ, whom he had crucified, and whom they were crucifying by their sins." The substance of his warning was on the subject of intemperance, Sabbath-breaking, the neglect of God and of religion; and it was addressed principally to parents and


[ocr errors]

to the young. These warnings he twice delivered; once before, and once after the rope was fastened round his neck. Although I do not accurately remember," Mr. Hall continues, "the words of any of his speeches, I can safely say, that he expressed his conviction that the work which had taken place in his heart had been effected by no power or will of his own, but by a sovereign act of Divine grace. Jolin then read aloud some verses from the Testament, which sufficiently indicate the view which he took both of the nature of his change, and of the source from whence it sprang. They are taken from 1 Pet. i. 3-5: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time. To these verses he was particularly partial. He then spoke to me, and told me that he had full confidence in the sufficiency of the blood of Christ to blot out all his sins; and that He who had loved him so much as to shed his blood for him, and had kept him to that hour stedfast and immoveable, would receive him into glory. When the cap was drawn over his face, I told him not to dread the momentary pain, for soon he would be in the presence of his Saviour. He pressed my hand, and said he was not afraid; for he knew that He would take him unto him self. I told him that I would pray that his sufferings might be short, and went down." Mr. Gallachin then read a part of the Burial Service, until the fatal moment. His sufferings appeared not to be great, and were of brief duration. “Whilst I was in prayer," Mr. Hall adds, "the drop fell, and our poor brother I knew had entered into the pre

sence of his Redeemer. The wo men around me screamed out, 'The Lord have mercy upon his poor soul!' I could not but pray that their souls might find the same mercy. He died without a struggle. I never saw him after I pressed his hand when alive, as I ascended the hill through the crowd, and was spared seeing his mortal remains."

Thus ended the course of a young man, whose history stands an example, not only of the awful effects of a bad education, of the wretchedness and the reward of sin, but also of the wonderful grace and mercy of God. Much of what has been narrated may appear almost incredible to some readers; and many especially who are justly suspicious of death-bed repentances, may be led still to doubt how far the work of this young man's conversion wascomplete, and whether, if he had been permitted to live, he would have lived as he has died. If, however, he was really converted in heart to God, the observation which he made himself must be applied to his own case: "The man that is fit to die is fit to live." The same grace which brought him into the fold of Christ would have kept him in all his way; so that the enemy of his soul should not have overpowered him. The grace of God could alone do the work in either case. And there is, as before mentioned, the most remarkable concurrence of testimony as to Jolin's state at the time of his death. Not only Mr. Hall, and Mr. Gallachin, and many others, bear witness to the facts; but the public voice has declared the wonderful change which took place in him. And even one who was not a believer in revelation, but who stood by Jolin on the gallows hill and witnessed his conduct, came to a minister, and acknowledged, that "there must be something in religion to support a man in such a manner; and that he had therefore determined to attend a place of worship, and to bring up his children in the fear of God." Mr. Hall says, "I have never had a doubt on my

mind as to the reality of the change. His conduct in the court; his complete deadness to the things of time and sense, and this even when his friends seemed so anxious to save him from an ignominious death, were so many pleasing testimonies that he was really risen with Christ, and that his affections were set upon things above. God did indeed work mightily in him: though last, he was one of the first. He seemed so convinced of sin, and to have such simple dependence upon the truth and firm foundation of Christ's promises, and he shewed so abundantly that these feelings were not merely talked into his head, that I always returned delighted with my visit to him. I used to pray instantly with him that he might not be deceiving himself, nor be deceived by Satan, or any of us; and I can say, as far as I was capable of judging, that his was a real work of Divine grace." But the testimony of the editor of the Jersey newspaper, while it is beyond all suspicion of enthusiasm, and does not even exhibit the proof of a tolerably distinct view of the real foundation on which Jolin stood, is a most satisfactory testimony of a great and real and important change having taken place in him. He says, "We are not amongst those who would hastily give credence to the genuineness of conversion in the cases of great criminals, or who approve of religious ecstasies in the short interval between the commission of dreadful enormities, and the violent death awarded by law; we do not think it desirable that, while so many good men, after a long life of exemplary piety, approach their last hour with solemn apprehensions, such as have lived in a course of profligate vice should boast of triumphant feelings and peculiar joy on their way to the scaffold, where they are to be suddenly compelled into the presence of their Creator and Divine Judge; but, in the instance before us, we have much satisfaction in believing that a real change of heart had taken place, before a change of

worlds was experienced. In his last days Jolin evinced much solidity of mind on the subject most important to him: his conduct was marked by the most becoming propriety; and if he expressed a confident hope of acceptance before God, it was accompanied with humility, and, as far as man can judge, with sincere sorrow for his offences." The rapid perception of Divine truth, its simple belief, and its consistent maintenance in all the points of his character, are amongst those wonders which only Divine grace can account for. But where the Lord of all power and might is pleased to exercise his Sovereignty, who shall say that the work of many years may not be produced in a few weeks; or, as in the case of the thief upon the cross, in a much shorter time? The case of the thief on the cross is one of which it appears to me that the probabilities before hand, of repentance, were, humanly speaking, not so great; and the evidences are scarcely more complete, except the incidental circumstance of the testimony of our Lord, than in the case of Jolin. They both felt sorrow for their sins, confessed them to men, acknowledged them to God, turned from them, and owned the justice of their condemnation; they both testified their faith: but the thief did this under circumstances in the situation of Christ, which made his adoration of him, and his belief in his kingdom, the most astonishing exercise of this principle; yet did the thief, with his own senses, witness the wonders that appeared at the death of his Saviour, which Jolin did not, and yet he believed (John xx. 15). They both shewed the same humility; nor did they seek for present relief, but for future blessings; they were each zealous in testifying of Christ, both in love to him and for the benefit of their fellow-creatures. I do not know that any mark of true conversion was wanting in Jolin's case. He possessed a faith which was not vague in its object, nor small in its

degree; which lifted him up above the world, and which wrought by love under all the circumstances which came before him. He spoke and acted in the face of every one, as if he had the witness within him. He expressed contrition, not for one sin only, but for all the sins of his life; and he humbly confessed them before God and before men. He went forward always professing his entire dependence upon Divine grace, in a holy, humble, consistent course; and with the cap upon his head, and the rope round his neck, he could say with calmness, that "he was not afraid, for he knew that his Saviour would take him to himself."

But it may still be said, How do we know that Jolin was sincere in all that he said, or that he was not under delusion in what he felt? To this argument, I have endeavoured to reply already, not only by pointing out the undeviating course of a converted state in which he was observed by so many witnesses to walk, but by endeavouring to unfold and to exhibit the secret workings of his mind. Here we must leave the case, till the last great day: at the same time, I cannot but think that a disbelief of such evidence is not reasonable, is not in conformity with scriptural doctrine and example, and is scarcely consistent with the charity with which we are taught to judge one another. In the meanwhile, let us learn from this history, some of the lessons which it is calculated to teach. The first of these is, that of encouragement in such cases as that of Jolin. I am fully aware of the trial which a first repentance in a prison, under the alarm of death, presents to a minister. He is unwilling to trust in it, both because he has been so often deceived in the relapse of those who have recovered, and because he finds that men in general are putting off their own repentance, encouraged by cases such as this, hoping that they themselves may have the same opportunity at some future time. The

folly of men in putting off the work of religion, is only to be accounted for on the knowledge of the natural corruption of the heart, and its tendency to evil, and not to good. But as one of the Puritans has observed, speaking of the rescue of the thief on the cross, "The perverseness of our nature may be seen by this, in that this one (case of the thief) serveth us to looseness of life, in hope of the like: whereas we might better reason, that is but one, and that extraordinary; and besides this one, there is not one more in all the Bible, and that for this one that sped, a thousand thousands have missed and what folly it is to put ourselves in a way in which so many have miscarried; to put ourselves in the hand of that physician that hath murdered so many, going clean against our own sense and reason! whereas in other cases we always lean to that which is most ordinary, and conclude not the spring from one swallow. It is as if a man should spur his ass till he speak, because Balaam's ass did once speak, so grossly hath the devil bewitched us.' But whether men deceive themselves, and deceive their minister, it is plainly his duty to proceed to go with becoming care, but to go in the remembrance of God's almighty power to turn the heart, and animated by the remembrance of instances such as this which has been recorded. The state of prisoners is one which calls, as it has in general received, the peculiar commiseration of our countrymen. Men are often to be found there, in Jolin's depraved state of mind. The prison is almost their first restingplace in a course of ignorance and sin and misery. The visitor may often discover the man, as Mr. Pinel did Jolin, without hope for this world or the next, and may lead him to discoveries of what perhaps never passed before his eyes, even in the example of others. At all. events, circumstances of trial and affliction are those which God has appeared the most often to direct

as the means by which man is brought to submit to his law; and imprisonment, or affliction, or a situation of severe illness may perhaps be new to a man; and this may be the opportunity which it may please God to use for his conversion. The event is always in the hand of him who directs the heart. But under all circumstances we work under the direction of the Almighty, and with his promise that our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.

But a second lesson is that of the sovereignty of Divine grace. This was frequently acknowledged, as it was continually felt, by Jolin. He perceived it in all the remarkable circumstances of his life;-in his various escapes from death, in his final allotment, in the events which . occurred in the prison, and whilst all this mercy was poured upon him, he could trace nothing in himself which deserved any such remembrance at God's hand. Why was he called, and not his father, was one of the points which first struck his attention on the visit of his friends. But to those around him, some other points were perhaps more obvious than even to himself. The manner in which he was enabled to receive the truths of the Gospel presented one of these, and none more remarkably exhibited the power of God. The gift of spiritual understanding, the willing heart, the formation of the new creature, were all points which could only be reconciled in his own mind, and that of others, by a reference to Him who is found of them that sought him not, and who worketh in his people to will and to do of his good pleasure. "Oh the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding


A third lesson to learn from this history is, the means by which it pleased God to open this young man's mind; and this I may venture

to affirm was the Holy Scriptures. It was the simple exhibition of the fifty-first Psalm which seemed first to expose his own real state to him. It was the promises of the New Testament, and the types of the Old, which seemed to give him his first clear notion of faith, which conveyed to his mind the way of pardon, and established him in humble trust upon his Saviour. The Scripture, afterward, it may be truly affirmed, was his meditation day and night. It became a lamp unto his feet, and a light unto his path; a treasure more to be desired than gold, yea, than much fine gold, sweeter also than honey and the honey comb*.

A fourth lesson from this history is, the benefit of education. Here was a young man little likely to make use of any such possession for his profit, yet to what account did it turn! In his worst times he was enabled to read the word of God; and in his imprisonment, the blessing of his previous learning was incalculable. In his last exhortations on the scaffold, he pressed upon his auditors the advantages of attendance upon a Sunday-school and the public means of instruction. It is impossible to say how long, and in what degrees, the preparatory work of religion had, by means of his education, been going on in Jolin's mind. But information had been given, a desire for instruction had been implanted, the wretchedness of a sinful course had been felt,

The importance of Scripture will have appeared in this case, not only in its own wonderful and unequalled clearness, but in the means which it presented of bringing subjects before his mind, with an energy which fixed them on his thoughts, and made them like goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies. The texts brought before him were so many distinct important propositions, so many different objects upon which to rest his attention; and they proved themselves as seed cast into a good soil. He heard, and marked, and learned, and inwardly digested these truths, and by the blessing of God, without which they would have been a dead letter, they instructed him in making his calling and election sure.

« PreviousContinue »