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XI. JOHN GORDON, VISCOUNT KENMUIR.
[This nobleman was born in 1559. He was fortunate in having spent
some time, in his youth, with the famous Mr. Welch of Ayr, during his exile in France. This was most probably the source of his religious impressions; impressions which, though for a time extinguished by the pursuits of worldly ambition in which he mingled, were revived in the season of sickness, and at death were displayed with a power to which the experience of few Christians affords any parallel. The illness of which he died lasted about a fortnight. The whole of his experience during that period, has been recorded. What is here given as his last words, refers to the four days which preceded his death, when his faith was confirmed, and the doubts
and fears previously felt by him, had passed away.] Some consolatory truths being stated to him, which he welcomed and repeated, the pastor who attended him (Mr. Rutherford) perceiving him becoming weaker, said, “ My lord, the marriage feast is drawing near ; make ready the marriage robes; set aside all care of your estate and the world; and give yourself to meditation, prayer, and spiritual conference.”
After that, he was observed to be always upon that exercise ; and when none was near bim, he was overbeard praying; and many times, when to our sense he was sound sleeping, he was at prayer. After a sleep, he called for the pastor, and said, “ I have been troubled in my sleep with this, that being at peace with God, I am not also at peace with men ; and, therefore, send for such a kinsman, (with whom I am not reconciled), as also for such a minister that did before offend me, that I may friend with them;" which was done quickly. When the preacher came, he said, “ I have ground of offence against you, as a natural man, and now I do to you what all men breathing could not have moved me to do, but now because the Holy Spirit commands me, I must obey, and therefore I freely forgive you, as I would wish you to forgive me. You are in an eminent place; walk before God, and be faithful in your calling, and take heed to your steps ; walk in the right road; hold your eye right; for all the world, decline not from holiness, and take example by me." To his cousin he said, • Serve the Lord, and follow not the footsteps of your father-in-law, (he had married the bishop of Galloway's daughter ;) learn to know that you have a soul, for I say to you, the thousandth part of the world knoweth not they have a soul; the world liveth without any Bense of God."
He wished the pastor to sleep in a bed made upon the ground beside him, within the chamber, and urged him against bis call to lie down and sleep, and said, “ You and I have a far journey to go ; make you for it.” Some four nights before bis death, he would drink a cup of wine to the pastor, who answered, “ I receive it, my lord, in hope you shall drink of the pure river of the water of life, proceeding from the throne of God, and from the Lamb ;" and when the cup was in his band, with a smiling countenance, he said, “ I think
I have good cause to drink with a good will to you." After sonie heaviness, the pastor said, “ My lord, I come with news to you." He answered, “ What be they?" The pastor answered, “ Be not afraid of death and judgment, because the process that your Judge had against you is cancelled and rent in pieces, and Jesus Christ hath trampled it under his feet: your dittay is burnt." My lord said, very pithily, with a smile, “O! that is a lucky tale : I will then believe and rejoice, for sure I am that Jesus Christ and I once met, and will he not come again ?” The pastor said, “ My lord, you have gotten the first-fruits of the Spirit,—the earnest,—and Christ will not Joose his earnest : therefore the bargain betwixt Christ and you holdeth.” He asked the pastor, “What is Christ like, that I may know him?” The pastor answered, “ He is like love, and altogether lovely, Cant. v. 6. Love cannot but be known wberesoever it is.” The pastor said, “ My lord, if you had the man Christ in your arms now, would you not thrust him to your heart, howbeit your heart and side be pained with a stitch ?" He answered, “ God knoweth, I would forget my pain, and thrust him into my heart; yea, if I had my heart in the palm of my hand, I would give it him, and think it too unworthy a gift for him." He complained of Jesus Christ's going and coming. " I find," said he, “ my soul drowneth with heaviness : when the Lord cometh, he stayeth not long." The pastor said, “ Wooers dwell not together, but married folks take up house together, and sunder not. Jesus Christ is now wooing, and therefore he feedeth his own with hunger, which is as growing meat, as the sense of his presence.” He said often, “ Son of God, when wilt thou come ? God is not a man that he should change, or as the son of man that he should repent. Those that come to Christ he casteth not away, but raiseth them up at the last day." Still, after peace and full assurance of reconciliation, he cast back his eyes to his sins, and mourned. The pastor discoursed to him of the New Jerusalem, and the glory of our Father's house above, and said, “ What will you think, my lord, when Christ shall dry your watery eyes, and wipe all tears from your face, and lay your head upon his breast, and embrace you in his arms, and kiss you with the kisses of his mouth ?" He said, “I want words to say what I think ; but I know heaven is above the commendation of all earthly men, howbeit they bad the tongues of angels." He was heard to say in his sleep, My well-beloved is mine, and I am his. Being asked if he was sleeping, “ he said he was asleep, but he remembered he was giving a claim to Christ in his sleep."
Another time, after sleep, he wakened with exceeding great joy, not long before bis death, saying, “ I have felt an extreme sweetness, a sweet perfume, which so filled my heart, that I was not able to con. tain the same; and as a precious perfume, it diffused itself through the whole rooms about me, with a most delicate and odoriferous smell." The physician desired him to say over the words again, which he did, and said he felt « joy unspeakable and glorious." After a sound sleep, in the dawning, the pastor said, “ My lord, where lay Christ all night? Did not your well beloved lie as a bundle of myrrh betwixt your breasts ?" He answered, “ Nay, not betwixt my breasts, bat betwixt my breasts locked in my heart." He asked, “ When will my heart be loosed, and my tongue untied, that I may express the sweetness of the love of God to my soul ?" and before the pastor answered any thing, he answered himself, “ even when the wind blowetb." Being asked by the pastor, “ If ever be had benefited by the word of God in public, which he had heard preached these many years ;" he answered, “ I never came to your communion, but I was filled with the sense of God, and Christ was powerfully borne in upon my soul, that do my best, I was not able to hold him out; but in he would be, whether I would or not; but oh! oh! my woful outbreakings, for the saints I was inclined to. The devil and temptations took me at such a time, as I could not win by unhurt, but oh l obl strong, strong Jesus ; 0 the depth of the love that would not want me !"
Being asked, “what was his judgment concerning the ceremonies now entered in the kirk of God ?" “ I think," said he, “and am persuaded in my conscience, they are superstitious, idolatrous, and antichristian, and come from hell, and I repute it a mercy, that my eyes shall not see the desolation that shall come upon this poor church. It's plain popery that is coming among you; God help me! God forgive the nobility, for they are either key-cold, or ready to welcome popery; whereas they should resist; and wo be to a dead, timeserving, and profane ministry; they are but a company of dumb dogs.” He called his lady, and a gentleman who was a friend to his lady, and had come a good way to meet him, with the pastor, caused the chamber door to be shut upon all others, and from his bed directed his speech to the gentleman, saying, “ I ever found you kind and honest to me all the time of my life ; therefore, I must now give you a charge, which you shall deliver to all the noblemen you know, and with whom you are acquainted. Tell them all how beavy I have found the weight of the Lord's hand upon me, for not giving testimony to the Lord my God, when I had occasion once in my life at the last parliament. For this foul fault, how fierce have I felt the wrath of the Lord my God! My soul bath raged and roared. I have been grieved to the heart. Tell them that they will be as I am now. Encourage others that stood for the Lord.
Tell them that failed, that, as even they would wish to have mercy when they are as I am now, that they would repent and crave mercy from God. Would to God I had such an occasion again, to testify my love to the Lord! For all the earth, should I not do as I bave done." To a gentleman, a kinsman of his, he said " I love your soul, and I love your body; you are a blessed man if you understand it, because ye may have the blessed means of the word preached beside you; and seeing you are but a tender man of body, I would not have you to drown yourself so much with the interests and troubles of this world, as I did; who knows but ye may be the next man that follows me ? My greatest grief is, that I have not the occasion of good means as you have, and if you yourself make not the right use of the occasions of your means, one day they shall be a witness against you. Alas! take example by me; I was a fool, and lifted up with folly ; and now when I was at the very top, I was taken by the Lord, when I least expected. The Lord hath smitten me ; therefore take example by me, and leave the world and the fasheries of friends timely; tender your soul, and tender your worn body. If I were to live in the world again, I should not vex and trouble myself so much as I did, but should dwell at the Rusco the most part of my life, that I might have the happiness of the exercise of hearing God's word preached, as you have ; good cousin, use the counsel of your pastor."*
To a nobleman, [lord Herries] that was his brother-in-law, he said, “ Mock not at my counsel, my lord. In case you follow the course you are in, you shall never see the face of Jesus Christ. You are deceived with the merchandise of the harlot, that makes the world drunk out of the cup of her fornication. Your soul is built upon a sandy foundation. When you come to my state, you will find no comfort in your religion. You know not what a wrestling I have had, ere I came to this state of comfort; the kingdom of heaven is not got with a skip or a leap, but with much seeking and thrusting." The lord Herries, not liking this discourse, did press to break it off by these words, saying, “ My lord, I thank you kindly. I am content to see your lordship so resolved. If I had known of your sickness, I had seen you sooner.” Kenmuir answered, “ I pray God give you grace to make good use of your coming. And seeing you are now come, contemn not good counsel, for I have interest in your lordship, and love your soul, and I must exonerate myself, as I will be answerable to God.” To his sister, [lady Herries,] he said, “ Who knows but the words of a dying brother may prevail with a loving sister. Alas! you incline to a rotten religion. Cast away these decayed dregs ; they will not avail you when you are brought to this case as I am. The half of the world are ignorant, and go to hell, and know not that they have a soul. It is a wonder to see any know that they have a soul. Read the Scriptures. They are plain Scottish language to all who desire wisdom from God, and to be led 10 heaven." To a gentleman, his neighbour, he said, “ Your soul is in a dangerous case, but you see it not, and as long as you are in the case you are in, you will never see it. I pray you, as you love the salvation of your soul, leave these courses. You must seek out another way to beaven than you are in, else expect to land in hell. There are small means of instruction to be had, because the most part of the ministry are profane and ignorant; search God's word for the good old way, and search and find all your own ways.” To a gentleman, his cousin, he said, “ You are a young man, and know not well what you are doing. Seek God's direction for wisdom in your affairs, and you shall prosper; and learn to know you have need of God to be your friend.' To another cousin he said, “ David, you are an aged man, and you know not well what an account you have to make ; and if you were in the case I am in, you would endeavour more earnestly to make up your accounts than you do. I know you better than you believe, for you worship God according to men's devices. You believe lies of
• The kinsman here spoken of, was, probably, John Gordon of Cardoness, in the parish of Adwoth ; a man of great piety, and a zealous supporter of the presbyterian faith.
God. Your soul is in a dreadful state ; and till you know the truth, you shall never see your own way aright.' To a young man, bis neighbour, he said, “ Because you are but a young man, beware of temptations and snares; and above all, be careful to keep yourself in the use of means. Resort to good company; and though you be named a puritan, and mocked, yet care not for that, but rejoice and be glad, that they who are scorned and scoffed by this godless and vain world, and nicknamed puritans, would admit you to their society, for I must tell you, when I am at this point as you see me, that I get no comfort to my soul from any second means under heaven, except from those that are branded as puritans. They are the men that can give a word of comfort to a weary soul in due season—and that I have found by experience, since I did lie down here.”
One of his natural sisters he thus addressed : “ My dove, thou art young, and alas ! ignorant of God. I know thy breeding, and upbringing well enough. Seek the Spirit of regeneration. Oh! if thou knew it, and felt the power of the Spirit as I do now. Think not that all is gone, because your brother is dead. Trust in God, and your Father liveth,--and beware of the follies of youth. Give yourself to reading and praying, and to careful hearing of God's word; and take heed whom you hear, and how you hear,—and God be with you."
To a minister (Irving of Parton,*] he said, “ Mr. James it is not holiness enough to be a minister, for you ministers have your own faults, and those more heinous than others. I pray you be more painful in your calling, and take good heed to the flock of God, and know that every soul that perisheth by your negligence, shall be counted to your soul as murdered before God. Think not but such a man as I may at this time give a wise man counsel. Take heed in these dangerous days how you lead the people of God, and take heed to your ministry." To his chaplain, who was then Mr. George Gillespie, he said, “ You have carried yourself discreetly to me, so that I cannot blame you. I hope you will prove an honest man. If I have been at any time harsh to you, forgive me. I would I had taken beed to many of your words. I might have got good by the means God gave me; but I made no use of them.”+
“ Now," continues Kenmure, “ I see that it was God that sent the pastor unto me, because he resolved to stay longer at Irvine. The Lord has now let me see my ways: my soul hath been troubled for them; but my God bath given me comfort, and hath begun to loose my tongue: God be thanked for that which I have got : I look for more : great is the work of mercy that is shown to me; now the love of God is made known to my soul, and I am grieved for my ingratitude against my loving Lord, and that I should have sinned against him who came down from the heaven to the earth for my cause, to die for my sins. The sense of this love borne in upon my heart hatb
• Mr. Irving, soon after this time, inclined to episcopal principles, and took part with bishop Sydserf in his persecution of the presbyterians.
+ Mr. Gillespie was afterwards minister of Wemyss, and subsequently one of the ministers of Edinburgh.