Sophia Williams Diary: June-September 1817

[Sunday] June 1st 1817

I have this day been priviledged with going up to the house of my God, after being confined to my habitation seven weeks by severe affliction – during the greater part of this time I was laying on my bed in violent pain and to all human appearance fast going the way of all flesh – truly there seemed but a step between me and death. Blessed be God, He interposed when all human help, all that medical skill could devise, and all that the sympathy of friendship and relationship could effect seemed of little avail. He checked the progress of the disorder. He blessed the means used, and he has in a measure restored me again. Oh that my future life may proclaim my gratitude to my Almighty deliverer. My mind was very differently exercised during this long affliction – at first Death appeared to me a very ugly terrific monster, I fondly clave to Life – afterwards I felt more composed in the prospect of his approach and was enabled to hope in that Saviour who has taken away the sting of Death and encouraged his people to commit the keeping of their Souls to him. Sometimes I feared, and perhaps Satan had a hand in it, that I had very grievously offended God and that “he had in anger shut up all his tender mercies” and “shut out my prayer.” At other times I believed that in faithfulness he had afflicted me, yea in mercy, intending my profit thereby. I could say “I will bear the indignation of the Lord for I have sinned against him.”

“His strokes are fewer than my crimes

And lighter than my guilt.”

It becomes me however to enquire, what was the mind of the Lord in this affliction – “He does not afflict willingly or grieve the Children of men there is a needs be for it” and though I cannot determine for what particular sins the Lord chastised me, may I learn to hate sin in general more and more not only as the procuring cause of pain and sorrow but as that which God hates, which is abhorrent to the holiness of his nature, and which he can never look on with approbation. I feel that I deserve death yea eternal death. Oh what do I owe to that distinguishing Grace that pointed me to the refuge from the wrath to come to a bleeding suffering Saviour whose precious blood cleanses from all Sin – who is a merciful high Priest and sympathises with his people in all their sufferings. My earthly tabernacle has received a severe shock – perhaps even now it may soon fall – Oh that I may be enabled to keep death continually in view, so that I may be habitually prepared. I am much emaciated Oh may I daily call to mind that perhaps I shall soon be food for worms this will tend to keep me humble and elevate my thoughts to that blissful world where

“Array’d in glorious grace

Shall these vile bodies shine.”

I am greatly indebted to my friends for their kindness, attention and sympathy, above all for their prayers may the Lord reward them an hundred fold. I am a poor insignificant unworthy being and yet I have friends who I believe love me and who are willing to overlook my faults and bear with my infirmities. I must trace this up to the source from whence I derive all my other mercies even a good and gracious God. It is He who gives me friends – Oh may he keep me from being unworthy of them.

August [1817]

Blessed be God in whose hands are the issues of life and death. I feel quite recovered from my late illness – my frame seems renovated and I desire to praise the Lord as the health of my countenance and my God – I am now exercised with trials of a different kind, relative sufferings – am called to witness the decay of a tender, a beloved Father who has been ill a long time and now grows worse apace. He seems very anxious for life, that he might be spared a little longer and oh that it would please God to hear our earnest cries on his behalf and spare him a little longer. My anticipations are often gloomy, but still I would not murmur against God – When Father and Mother forsake me may he take me up.

[Thursday] September 18th 1817

On this day my beloved Father left this Vale of tears, and entered I firmly believe into his heavenly rest – And is he gone, and shall I no more behold his pleasant countenance, nor hear his instructive voice? Alas no, Death, that cruel spoiler, hath taken him away and I am left to mourn his loss, I am left in the Wilderness, and never felt so desolate, so solitary, so bereaved before; the guide of my youth, my counsellor, my chief earthly stay is taken from me. I feel an “aching void” which nothing of a worldly kind can fill up – but hush my murmuring spirit, it is the Lord that hath done it, and I dare not repine at his righteous will. May I be enabled to follow my dear Father as he followed Christ and if it is the will of God may I soon join him in the realms of endless bliss – his death was the most impressive scene I ever witnessed. Oh how did he recommend the religion of Jesus in his dying moments! how anxious he was that we might all profit by his death – though naturally timid and rather backward in talking on religious subjects – yet towards [the] last and amidst great bodily sufferings he would talk of little else. It was the delightful theme of his conversation from morning to night. I bless God for the honorable testimony he was enabled to bear to the value of real religion – what should I do without it now said he – It is no delusion it can support me though the Grim Messenger stares me in the face – his desire of life was for a long time very strong, and he felt much in prospect of the pangs of death. I do not fear the consequences of death he would say but I fear the article of death – Blessed be God this was all taken away he could say come Lord Jesus come quickly – his last words were “Into thy hands I commit my spirit” – happy Soul thou art now enjoying the light of Gods countenance in perfection – thou art wiser than the wisest, happier than the happiest, and purer than the holiest Saint on earth – thy Sun shall no more go down nor thy moon withdraw itself – the Lord is thine everlasting light and the days of thy mourning are all ended – our loss is great indeed but thy gain is far greater – May my Fathers God be my God – may he support me under this heavy stroke, and console my wounded spirit – and heal my bleeding heart. Oh that my Mother may be spared and comforted – and oh that my dear Brother Henry may live before thee.[1]

[Saturday] Septr 20th [1817]

Oh what a bustle and confusion does death make in a house. Instead of sitting down quietly and meditating on this stroke of the Almighty, and this sad effect of the fall of Man – I am busied in giving orders for Mourning Apparel – and provisions for those who are to carry the Body of my beloved Father to his long home – Mournful duties, distressing avocations – Oh for a stronger faith, and more submission to the will of God.

[Monday] 22d [September 1817]

How soon does Death change the countenance, that form which so lately was so pleasing, so wholesome, that countenance which bespoke benignity and kindness, is now becoming loathsome, and I am anxious to ‘bury my dead out of my sight” – Oh Death thou cruel spoiler, how hast thou marred the fair Creation of God – But thy triumphs are but short, the Son of God hath conquered thee.

[Wednesday] Septr 24th 1817

This day we committed the mortal remains of my beloved, respected Father to the silent Tomb – that house appointed for all the living – Oh what poignant Grief did I feel whilst seeing the Coffin let down into the Grave, the body to become the food of Worms, and in time to mingle with the Clods of the Valley. I almost wished to be interred with him, that I might not have day after day to feel and lament his loss – but hush my disquieted Spirit – away my Soul from this gloomy scene, raise thy thoughts to that blissful place where the eternal Spirit, released from its fleshly tabernacle, is enjoying happiness that thou hast no conception of in the “Bosom of its father and its God.” Carry thy views forward to the Resurrection Morn when the body of thy departed Parent shall be raised incorruptible and flourish in immortal beauty.

“These lively hopes we owe

To Jesus’s dying love.”

The funeral was plain and respectable, and the tears rolling down the checks of many of the Spectators testified how much he was esteemed and beloved. Mr Cooper of Trowbridge and Mr Ward of Melksham who were two of the Pall Bearers, engaged in the service. Mr Cooper spoke over the Grave exceedingly well though I am not fond of funeral Eulogies yet I was pleased to hear him bear his testimony to the worthy character of my dear Father, to his unaffected humility, his holy deportment and his conscientious profession of religion – his modesty often prevented his appearing before Men in his true Character – but his heavenly Father who seeth in secret will one day reward him openly – Mr Wards prayer was full of consolation – how earnestly did both pray that our Fathers God might be our God – The good Lord send gracious answers of peace to our wounded minds.

[Sunday] 28th [September 1817]

This afternoon Mr Edminson preached a funeral Sermon for my dear departed Father. The text was 31 Psalms 5th verse “Into thy hands I commit my Spirit,” words chosen by my Mother for the solemn purpose and the last words the dear man ever uttered. Yes he could he did commit his departing Spirit into the hands of that all sufficient Saviour on whom he had believed and who he was persuaded was able to keep that which he had committed to Him till the great day. The Meeting was much crowded, many came from a distance to show their last token of respect. The Sermon was solemn and appropriate, and our Minister for once deviated a little from his usual track, and said a little of the deceased. Oh that many may be stimulated and encouraged by his example to seek the Saviour whilst health and strength is afforded them. My dear Father sought the Lord in his youth when about 19 years of age, and he never repented seeking him so early, his only source of sorrow was that he had not walked with God more steadily and done more for him. The best of Christians feel that they come short here. His death is a great loss to the Church of God in Bratton, he was a useful member and filled the Office of a Deacon well. It is a great loss to his family. Oh what sad changes will it occasion, and it is a loss to the World, for he was useful in educating youth, to be able to fill up various situations in life, and by his pleasing persuasive example, “allured to brighter Worlds, and led the way.”[2] May the Lord sanctify his removal, overrule it for good, and raise up many more such characters to be light of this wicked World. And Oh my Soul it becomes thee to enquire hast thou any evidence that thou art travelling the path in which he walked, art thou following him as he followed Christ.


[1] Cf. Mary Steele’s letter to Mary Scott just after the death of William Steele IV in 1785 for some similar sentiments, though certainly less emotional. For the text of that letter, click here.

[2]Sophia's brother.