Monday, October 24, 2011

Christian Perfection, the Second Change

Mon 24 Oct 1774: I set out for Northamptonshire and received a particular account of one that eminently adorned the gospel:
            1. Susannah Spencer was born at Whittlebury in the year 1742. When she was young, she contracted a very general acquaintance and was exceedingly beloved by them, having an agreeable person, a good understanding, and much sweetness of temper. And being modest and decent in her whole behaviour, she seemed, like others, to think she had religion enough.
            2. In 1760 Thomas Grover came down and preached several times at Whittlebury and at Towcester. She went to hear him but with a fixed resolution ‘not to be catched’, as she called it. But her resolution was vain. In a sermon she heard at Towcester, she was cut to the heart. Her convictions grew deeper and deeper from that time for about a year. She was then hearing him preach but felt her heart as hard as the nether millstone. Yet at the love-feast which followed, it was suddenly broke in pieces, and she was all melted into tears by those words applied to her inmost soul in an inexpressible manner:
                        My God is reconciled;
                                    His pard’ning voice I hear!
                        He owns me for his child;
                                    I can no longer fear.
            3. The day following, being exercised with strong temptation, she gave up her confidence. But the next night, wrestling with God in prayer, she received it again with double evidence. And though afterwards she frequently felt some doubts, yet it never continued long; but she had, in general, a clear abiding sense of the pardoning love of God.
            4. From that time, she walked steadily and closely with God and was a pattern to all around her. She was particularly exact in reproving sin and lost no opportunity of doing it. In her whole conversation she was remarkably lively, and yet gentle towards all men. Her natural temper indeed was passionate, but the grace of God left scarce any traces of it.
            5. From the very time of her justification, she clearly saw the necessity of being wholly sanctified and found an unspeakable hunger and thirst after the full image of God. And in the year 1772, God answered her desire. The second change was wrought in as strong and distinct a manner as the first had been. Yet she was apt to fall into unprofitable reasonings, by which her evidence was so clouded that she could not affirm she was saved from sin, though neither could she deny it. But her whole life bore witness to the work which God had wrought in her heart. She was as a mother in Israel, helping those that were weak, and tenderly concerned for all, while she sunk deeper into the love of God and found more and more of the mind that was in Christ.
            6. In the summer 1773, she took cold by lying in a damp bed. This threw her into a violent fever, which not only brought her very low but fixed a deep cough upon her lungs, which no medicine could remove. It quite wore her down, especially when there was added the loss of both her sisters and her mother, who were all taken away within a little time of each other. She had likewise a continual cross from her father and was at the same time tried by the falsehood of those friends in whom she confided, and whom she tenderly loved. The following year, 1774, she had a presage of her death, in consequence of which she was continually exhorting the young women, Betty Padbury in particular, to fill up her place when God should remove her from them.
            7. In the beginning of winter, I understood that, weak as she was, she had not proper nourishment, being unable to procure it for herself and having no one to procure it for her. So I took that charge upon myself. I worked with her in the day (for she would work as long as she could move her fingers), lay with her every night, and took care that she should want nothing which was convenient for her.
            8. For some time, her disorder seemed at a stand, growing neither better nor worse. But in spring, after she had taken a quantity of the bark, she was abundantly worse. Her cough continually increased, and her strength swiftly decayed, so that before Easter she was obliged to take to her bed. And having now a near prospect of death, she mightily rejoiced in the thought, earnestly longing for the welcome moment—only still with that reserve, ‘Not as I will, but as thou wilt.’
            9. Mr. Harper (the preacher) took several opportunities of asking her many questions. She answered them all with readiness and plainness, to his entire satisfaction. She told him abundance of temptations which she underwent from time to time, but still witnessed that the blood of Christ had cleansed her from all sin. She often said to us,
                        The race we all are running now!
                                    And if I first attain,
                        Ye too your willing heads shall bow;
                                    Ye shall the conquest gain!
            10. Commonly when I came into her room, I was not able to speak for a time. She would then say, ‘Why do not you speak? Why do not you encourage me? I shall love you better when we meet in heaven for the help you give me now.’
            11. In the last week or two, she was not able to speak many words at a time; but as she could, with her feeble, dying voice, she exhorted us to go forward. Yet one day, some of her former companions coming in, her spirit seemed to revive, and she spoke to them, to our great surprise, for near an hour together. They seemed deeply affected, and it was some time before the impression wore off.
            12. Her father now frequently came, sat by her bedside, and expressed tender affection, weeping much and saying he should now be quite alone and have no one left to whom he could speak. She spoke to him without reserve. He received every word and has never forgotten it since.
            13. A few days before she died, after we had been praying with her, we observed she was in tears and asked the reason. She said, ‘I feel my heart knit to you, in a manner I cannot express. And I was thinking if we love one another now, how will our love be enlarged when we meet in heaven! And the thought was too much for me to bear: it quite overcame me.’
            14. On Friday, she seemed to be just upon the wing; we thought she was going almost every moment. So she continued till Tuesday. We were unwilling to part with her but, seeing the pain she was in, could not wish it should continue and so gave her up to God. I sat up with her that night, and the next day, June 7, she fell asleep.

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