A Saint Goes Home: Account of Henry Jessey’s Death

The accounts of the deaths of God’s people have always been moving. Here we learn how this good man, Henry Jessey, faced the last enemy. May God help us to imitate his faith.

On Nov. 27, 1661, he was seized, and kept in the messenger’s hands, but released by the privy council, after a month’s wrongful restraint. Aug. 30, 1662, he was again apprehended (upon misinformation) and secured six months in the messenger’s house, till by an order of council he was again released, on Feb. 20 following. About 5 or 6 months after his release, he fell into his last sickness, but neither he nor they that were about him apprehended his death to be so near as it really was. However, the good man fell presently to the trimming of his lamp, as diligently as if God had expressly told him. He spent his last days and nights in searching his heart, humbling his soul, extolling free grace, and exhorting all about him to keep close to God, to persevere in the faith, and prepare for trials: adding for encouragement, the long experience he had had of the goodness of the Lord in all times and conditions. The last evening but one before his departure, having a mind to walk, he was led about the room, and often repeated this expression, “God is good: he doth not lead me whither I would not, as he did Peter: good is the Lord to me.” Being soon tired, he sat down on his bed, and one who sat by him said, “They among whom you have laboured can witness, that you have been a faithful servant of Christ, making his glory your utmost end, for the good of their souls”; But he replied, “Say no more of that; exalt God, exalt God”; He spent the first part of his last night in blessing God, and singing praises to his name, and fell asleep about eleven o’clock. Waking again between 2 and 3, he fell into a wonderful strain of abasing himself, and admiring the love of God, “that he should choose the vilest, the unworthiest, and the basest,” which last word he repeated many times, and then cried out, “Oh the unspeakable love of God, that he should reach me when I could not reach him!” And when the cordial ordered for that night was brought, he said, “Trouble me not, upon your peril; trouble me not.” He was then as if he had seen some glorious vision, or had been in a rapture. He was mindful also in this his last night of those who were his daily care, viz. the widows and fatherless, whom he spake of with pity, in a low lamenting voice, and the bystanders judged he was praying for them. Then he desired one present to pray with him, during which time he was still, and seemed afterwards much refreshed. He repeated Joel ii. 28. and bid them turn to several other texts that he mentioned; and as he lay, he often called out, “more julep,” meaning more scriptures; for he drank in much consolation from the exceeding great and precious promises therein contained, and continued to his last gasp praising God. The last words he was heard to speak were these: “He counted me worthy.” And when the sound of his words ceased, his lips were observed still to move, and he seemed to be inwardly adoring that God whom in his health he served, feared and praised, and made his boast of continually; whose law he preached, and whose goodness he proclaimed. He died Sept. 4, 1663, aged 63, lamented by persons of different persuasions, several thousands of whom attended his funeral from Woodmonger’s Hall, Duke’s Place.

His Epitaph

Post varios casus, et per dispendia vitae
Plurima, devictis hostibus, ille jacet.
Sub tumulo, invictus victor, sub pace triumphans
Praemia virtutis possidet ille suae
Cymba fides, remique preces, suspira venti
Cum quibus Elysiis per Styga fertur agris.

Thus Translated:

From Storms of Danger, and from seas of grief
Safe Landed, Jessey finds a blest relief,
The grave’s soft bed his sacred dust contains,
And with its God the soul in bliss remains.
Faith was his bark, incessant prayers his oars,
And hope his gale; that from these mortal shores
Through death’s rough wave to heaven his spirit bore,
T’enjoy his triumph, and to sigh no more.

Mr. Obadiah. Wills, who wrote with great warmth against his particular opinions, speaks of him in the following terms: —”That man of God, Mr. Jessey, an anti-paedobaptist of long standing; as holy I conceive as any; of good learning, and a very tender conscience; of an healing and uniting spirit— I wish there were more such anti-paedobaptists as he. He was so great a scripturist, that if one began to rehearse any passage, he could go on with it, and name the book, chapter, and verse where it might be found. [The original languages of the Old and New Testament were as familiar to him as his mother tongue.]