“And Israel strenghened himself, and sat up on the bed.”—Genesis 48:2
This was an interesting moment in the life, or rather the death, of the patriarch, and may serve, my soul, to shew what ought to be the conduct of the believer in his last expiring hours. The imagination can hardly conceive any situation equally momentous, in every point of view, both as it concerns a faithful God, a man’s own heart, and the church the dying saint is going to leave behind. What can form a more lovely sight than a dying saint, sitting up in the bed, (if the Lord permits the opportunity) and recounting, as Jacob did, the gracious dealings of the Lord, all the way along the path of pilgrimage – “The God which fed me,” said Jacob,” all my life long unto this day: the angel (and who was this but Jesus?) which redeemed me from all evil. “Pause, my soul. Anticipate such a day. Figure to thyself thy friends around thee, and thou thyself strengthened, just to sit up in the bed, to take an everlasting farewell. What hast thou to relate? What hast thou treasured up of God’s dealings with thee, to sweeten death in the recital, to bless God in the just acknowledgment, and to leave behind thee a testimony to others of the truth, as it is in Jesus? My soul, what canst thou speak of? What canst thou tell of thy God, thy Jesus? Hast thou known enough of him to commit thyself into his Almighty hands, with an assurance of salvation? Pause! Didst thou not in the act of faith, long since, venture thyself upon Jesus for the whole of thy everlasting welfare? Didst thou not from a perfect conviction of thy need of Jesus, and from as perfect a conviction of the power and grace of Jesus to save thee – didst thou not make a full and complete surrender of thyself, and with the most perfect approbation of this blessed plan of God’s mercy in Christ, to be saved wholly by him, and wholly in his own way, and wholly to his own glory? And as such, art thou now afraid, or art thou now shrinking back, when come within sight almost of Jesus’s arms to receive thee? Oh, no! blessed be God, this last act of committing thy soul is not as great an act of faith as the first was; for since that time thou hast had thousands of evidences, and thousands of tokens in love and faithfulness, that thy God is true. Sit up then, my soul, and do as the dying patriarch did; recount to all around thee thy confidence in the Son of God, who “hath loved thee, and given himself for thee.” Cry out, as he did, “I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord.” And as this will be the last opportunity of speaking a word for God, testify of his faithfulness, and encourage all that behold you to be seeking after an interest in Jesus, from seeing how sweetly you close a life of faith before you begin a life of glory, in blessing God, though with dying lips, that the last notes which you utter here below, may be only the momentary interruption to the same subject in the first of your everlasting song – “To him that hath loved you, and washed you, from your sins in his blood.”
Robert Hawker (1753-1827) was an Anglican (High-Calvinist) preacher who served as Vicar of Charles Church, Plymouth. John Hazelton wrote of him:
“The prominent features…in Robert Hawker's testimony…was the Person of Christ….Dr. Hawker delighted to speak of his Lord as "My most glorious Christ.” What anxious heart but finds at times in the perusal of the doctor's writings a measure of relief, a softening, and a mellowing? an almost imperceptible yet secret and constraining power in leading out of self and off from the misery and bondage of the flesh into a contemplation of the Person and preciousness of Christ as "the chiefest among ten thousand and the altogether lovely." Christ and Him crucified was emphatically the burden of his song and the keynote of his ministry. He preached his last sermon in Charles Church on March 18th, 1827, and on April 6th he died, after being six years curate and forty-three years vicar of the parish. On the last day of his life he repeated a part of Ephesians 1, from the 6th to the 12th verses, and as he proceeded he enlarged on the verses, but dwelt more fully on these words: "To the praise of His glory Who first trusted in Christ." He paused and asked, "Who first trusted in Christ?" And then made this answer: "It was God the Father Who first trusted in Christ."