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        Mr Hart and the Dying Woman


From a paper sent to MR [George] WHITEFIELD by MR [Joseph] HART of Warminster [England], Feb. 3, 1757.



The following instance of conversion appears, in my judgement, to be so remarkable, that I think it my duty to record it in writing, for the honour of God, and profit of immortal souls:


Yesterday, between the hours of one and two, a poor man of this parish, whose name is James Watts, and to whom, before that moment, I was an entire stranger, came to my house, and entreated me to go and pray with his daughter, who lay at the point of death, assuring me that she was quite sensible, though almost speechless. Immediately I found in my heart a reluctance and unwillingness to comply with his request, which I perceived to arise from hence: that I have often been sent for by hypocrites in times past, for no other purpose but to repeat over a few prayers (as they say) by their bed-side, from which they vainly hoped to receive the same benefits as the blind Papists do from extreme unction. I took that opportunity of talking very seriously to the man about his own soul. He received what I said with apparent meekness of spirit, and told me he had been under some concern about eternal things (and more especially his daughter had) ever since the death of his wife, which happened four or five months ago. He then left me, and I instantly followed him to his house, but O! how great was my astonishment and sympathising anguish of heart when they admitted me into the chamber of the sick woman. Such a scene of distress I never saw before, so solemn, so gloomy, so grievous to behold, that it transcends all powers of description. Her body was emaciated and dried away. Sorrow had drunk up her blood, and her visage was so marred, that she appeared to be of an advanced age, and from whence I really concluded that the man had made some mistake in calling her his daughter; but yet she was no more than twenty-eight years old. Her head lay reclined on a pillow, and on a chair by the bed-side there was an open Testament, into which she looked with a wishful eye. I now addressed myself to her, and asked with much tenderness a question or two concerning her spiritual condition, and in order to know what sense she had of her guilt, I dropt a word now and then concerning the covenant of works, and the woeful state of a soul that launches into eternity without a saving interest in Christ. I evidently saw that her heart was almost broke with despair, and that every syllable I had uttered was like vinegar poured into her wounds.


Her language was extremely affecting. “Oh!” cried she, “what shall I do without a Christ? How can I die without a Christ? Oh! that I had never been born – that I had never seen the light of the world – will not Christ save me – will he not receive my poor soul? Oh! he hath forsook me – Christ has rejected me – Oh! what shall I do – whither shall I fly – How can I ever bear the torments of hell?”


These are some of the expressions she used, and which were uttered with such a dismal tone of voice, such vehemence of elocution, wildness of look, convulsion of the eyes, and distortions of the body as I believe were never yet equalled by any actor on the stage. Indeed, I seemed to myself as if I were conducted to the mouth of hell, and there caused to look in upon its wretched inhabitants. But I must observe by the way that when I first addressed myself to her, her tongue faltered very much, and scarcely anything she said was intelligible, though her bodily gestures showed what she felt – but as her grief swelled higher, her efforts to speak increased proportionably, and what she uttered became more articulate. When I had been in the room about a quarter of an hour, and was satisfied concerning her inward state and condition from the fore-mentioned circumstances, I thought it high time to refresh her wounded spirit, with those healing medicines which the gospel of Jesus Christ affords. Accordingly I selected three comfortable passages of scripture, and recommended them to her immediate attention, viz. “The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which is lost. Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.”     


At the first she seemed not to regard it at all, upon which I asked her if she was not thoroughly sensible that her soul at present was quite in a lost condition; which she having declared in the affirmative, according to her nervous manner of expression – why then, said I, the Scripture assures you, that the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost. I moreover added a remark or two on the freeness of grace, telling her that every privilege and blessing contained in the gospel was at this instant hers, upon her believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, and that there was an efficacy in our Saviour’s blood to wash her guilty soul, and to make it as white as snow. She then raised herself upon the bed, waved her meagre arm from side to side, and seemed by her look and gesture, as if she actually saw the person of her Redeemer with her corporeal eyes, crying out with the uttermost earnestness of desire, “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.” In short, at the first moment until now she resembled one of the distracted inhabitants of Bedlam. But she was not long held in suspense; presently her Beloved hastened to her relief, yea, and on a sudden He came leaping on the mountains and skipping upon the hills – the day broke, the sun arose, and the shadows of the night fled away. As the lightning shineth from the one end of the heavens to the other, so was the coming of the Son of Man. “Oh,” said she, “He is come;” and clapping her hand to her breast, said, “He is come, I find Him here; Jesus Christ has received my soul. Lord lettest now thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation. Oh, the joys that I feel, the joys of heaven itself, such as no tongue can express” – with a few more words that I cannot recollect. She then burst forth into a triumphant hymn of praise, which I was unacquainted with, concerning the spiritual Jerusalem, the blessedness of the saints above, and the certainty of her own admission among that happy number; all which she sung with lively and rapturous emotion, whilst heavenly smiles adorned her countenance, and her very eyes sparkled with undissembled joy. I asked her father and those present if she were accustomed to sing, and they answered no, and were surprised beyond measure. I asked her where she learned that sweet hymn. She said in her little hymn book; but what she meant by that none could inform me. She then sung again, with which we were all so deeply affected, that we were quite drowned in tears. It was then impressed on my soul, that the Lord had made me abundant recompense for the little reproach that had been thrown upon me in the public newspapers last Monday, the thought of which so overwhelmed my faculties, that I almost fainted, and I could not help wishing that every infidel in the land had been present on that occasion, inasmuch as they would have been furnished with an infallible demonstration of the truth and power of the gospel promises, and though they might not have been converted, yet they must have been confuted. After this she insisted on our kneeling down to pray, when I, according to my poor manner, lifted up my feeble voice to the Lord for this marvellous instance of his loving kindness. Upon our rising up, she desired me to give her my hand, and grasping it with both of hers, she astonished us again with another hymn; in which she poured forth her ardent thanksgiving to Christ Jesus for having sent me to be the messenger of glad tidings to her guilty soul, and that I was born to be the instrument of saving many lost sinners, and that now from her example none need to despair. When she had ceased singing, she spoke out again in the raptures of her redeemed soul, saying, “That Christ was her beloved, her shepherd, her Lord and her God – that he had washed her in his blood, and reconciled her to the Father,” &c.


She called for a Bible. I directed her to the 23d and 27th Psalms. She read them out with such a volubility of tongue and eagerness of spirit, as if she did even eat the words, plainly showing that her soul feasted on the delicious manna. She frequently paused as she went along, to tell us that she claimed the privileges therein recorded; and when she had done, she laid down the book, saying, “It is all mine.” She then desired that her neighbours might be called in, to rejoice with her, saying, the lost sheep was found, and she would tell them what great things the Lord had done for her soul, and, what is a most amazing circumstance, every thing she now uttered was in verse, in the measure of eight and six syllables, which sung to the same tune as before, and into these lines she introduced many of her neighbour’s names, with an account of what she intended to say to some of them in particular, and all this with an entire freedom and readiness as was inconsistent with premeditation, and could not cost her a thought; and it is remarkable, that one of the neighbour’s names was a woman with whom she had no acquaintance, but a woman that, in my opinion, is the most eminent Christian for divine wisdom, ardent zeal, undaunted courage, deep humility and tender affection that I ever conversed with, and who for this reason bears a greater burden of reproach than all the rest of the believers in the parish besides. Whilst her father, in persuance of her request, was gone to call in the neighbours, she exhorted them who were present, especially a young girl, with great earnestness, to mind the concerns of their immortal souls, on which occasion she denounced the terrors of the Lord to the unbelieving and disobedient, and gave them a description of the solemnity of judgement, which, partly in prose and partly in verse, was taken from the 25th of Matthew. She spake of the torments of the damned in a manner exceedingly awful, solemn, and majestic. What they felt I know not; but to me it was quite awful, and perhaps I never had before so lively an idea of that last and most tremendous scene. Her nervous expressions, dismal tone, look, air, and gesture, bespoke her the trumpet of inexorable justice. When Mrs T–– entered the room, she looked at her with a wistful countenance, and said, “Come in thou blessed of the Lord.” Others came in presently after, but she did not say much, her spirits and strength being quite exhausted. As I saw her so weak and fatigued, I advised her to compose herself to sleep, and withdrew. I returned to her in the evening, and found some believers in the room. She immediately said to me and Mrs T., as before, “Come in thou blessed of the Lord.”


I asked her how she was, and she answered with a most harmonious voice, O angels wait around my bed; and added something more concerning the goodness of the Lord, who had sent to her by me, &c. Upon inquiry, I found she had slept almost the whole afternoon, not having closed her eyes the former night, and had been talking about heavenly things to those that were present, to their unspeakable amazement; but she was not quite so lively now, having again lost much of her strength. Feb 4th, I saw her to-day. She was in great bodily pain, and so extremely weak, as not to speak many words at a time; but her heavenly looks and triumphant smiles showed that her hope was still full of immortality; and I found that the continual burden of her lips during my absence had been either, “My eyes have seen thy salvation,” or else, “Come Lord Jesus, come quickly.” I asked her if she still found the Lord to be her God. She could not answer, being almost suffocated with phlegm in her throat; but she cast a look so languishingly sweet, as if, with Stephen, she beheld the blessed Jesus standing on the shore of eternity to receive her departing soul.


On Sunday morning, February the 6th, she fell asleep in the Lord. Glory be to thee, O Lord Most High!




“HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS OF ACCOUNTS OF REVIVAL, compiled by the Rev. John Gillies, D.D., 1754. Published by The Banner of Truth Trust, 1981. pp 526-528.