The Last Gift…

Written by Stephen Higginson Tyng (1800 –1885)

 

Early in my ministry, I was once called to visit a dying lady…

 

13b Joshua Johnson (American artist, 1763–1824) Sarah Ogden GustinIt was in the city of Philadelphia, of an English family. She and her husband were in a boarding house there. I spent much time with her, knelt often in prayer with her, and with great delight.

Her husband was an Atheist, an English Atheist a cold-hearted English Atheist There is no such being beside him on the face of the globe. That was her husband. On the day in which that sweet Christian woman died she put her hand under the pillow and pulled out a little beautiful well-worn English Bible. She brought out that sweet little Bible, worn and thumbed and moistened with tears.

She called her husband, and he came; and she said, “Do you know this little book?” and he answered, “It is your Bible.” Replied she, “It is my Bible; it has been everything to me. It has converted, strengthened, cheered, and saved me. Now I am going to Him that gave it to me, and I shall want it no more; open your hands” –and she put it in between his hands and pressed his two hands together.

“My dear husband, do you know what I am doing?”  “Yes, dear; you are giving me your Bible.”  “No, darling, I am giving you your Bible, and God has sent me to give you this sweet book before I die. I put it in your hands; now put it in your bosom –will you keep it there? Will you read it for me?” “I will, my dear.”

I placed this dear lady, dead, in the tomb behind my church. But it was not perhaps more than three weeks afterward that big Englishman came to my study weeping profusely.  “0h, my friend,” said he, “my friend, I have found what she meant ” I have found what she meant!” “It is my Bible!  Oh, it is my Bible; every word in it was written for me. I read it over day by day; I read it over night by night; I bless God it is my Bible.  Will you take me into your church where she was?”  “With all my heart” -and that proud, worldly, hostile man, hating this blessed Bible, came, with no arguments, with no objection, with no difficulties suggested, with no questions to unravel, but binding it upon his heart of memory and love. It was God’s message of direct salvation to his soul. It was as if there were not another Bible in Philadelphia, and an angel from heaven had brought to him this very Bible.”

Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Stephen Higginson Tyng (March 1, 1800 – September 3, 1885), was an Episcopal Church evangelical preacher in New York City. He recognized that a new urban ministry was needed in parts of the city with growing numbers of immigrants. He instituted social service programs as well as altering church interiors to make people feel more welcome.

Born March 1, 1800, in Newburyport, Massachusetts, and a graduate of Harvard University in 1817, Tyng had a strong conversion experience that led him to leave business to pursue the ministry. With Bishop Griswold as his advisor, Tyng studied theology, and ultimately, married the Bishop’s daughter, Anne. The degree of D.D. was conferred upon him by Jefferson College in 1832, and by Harvard in 1851.

Tyng was considered to be one of the most notable preachers of the time, and leader in the evangelical wing of the Episcopal Church. Tyng was the rector at Church of the Epiphany, Philadelphia, before relocating to New York City in 1845. He was pastor of St. George’s Episcopal Church for 33 years from 1845 through 1878. Initially St. George’s was affiliated with Trinity Church and located in Lower Manhattan at Beekman and Cliff Streets, near Wall Street. Tyng converted J.P. Morgan to the faith who in turn helped build a new church on East 16th Street and Rutherford Place, facing Stuyvesant Square in New York. Under Tyng, the new St. George served the rich and the poor together, with 2,000 children in its Sunday School, and funds raised and sent to four churches in Africa and a school in Moravi.

[ A NOTE TO MY READERS AS TO THE PURPOSE OF THESE STORIES:  Recently, I have written about Christians who before us have suffered great persecution and/or died in the cause of Christ.

I do not do this because I have less regard for theology than I once had, or that I now scorn the importance of those doctrines which were once given unto the saints.  Nor, do I wish to lessen those scriptures which are they that do testify of Christ. And even more importantly, I do not wish to glorify man; so there is no need to sensationalize or even to make significant the facts of their deaths or of their persecution. For in one sense, that is truly not what is important.   

Rather, I wish to make alive their faith, to make alive their living faith which was their living testimony unto Christ Jesus.  They were not all great Christians.  Many of those that I read and write about had significant flaws, some morally and some theologically… But all had found “The Christ.”  And they each had witnessed to, and testified of that living Christ which takes away the sins of the world.

Having done all, these Christians stood, and their stories still stand today, demonstrating to us and pointing to us their Lord, both with their teachings, but more importantly, with their lives. And therein lies the power… They were totally committed. 

As you look around yourself, do you see that type of commitment?  As you look deep within yourself, do you see yourself standing in their shoes?  Can you say, with grace, “If called, there go I?”  As you look around your church, can you sense, as a member, an increasing importance of who we are in Christ Jesus, or do you see an increasing importance of who we are in the world?  From your vantage point, which seems to be most important?

Never before has the Christian Church been assaulted on so many fronts.  Never before, has it faced so many enemies from without and enemies from within.  One shudders at the sound of all the axes being laid to the roots of our Christian heritage, and we ask ourselves, “When Christ comes will he find faith on the earth?”  To this question, I am deeply stirred with a sense of urgency.

Today, I call to you wherever you are, find your commitment, find your passion, find who you really are –in Christ!  Resolve in yourself right now, to make Him and his cause, the purpose for your highest commitment, and the reason for your deepest passion.  I can tell you, that you will never be sorry.

As apostates and apostasy continues in the church, I seek new ways of pointing others to Jesus. In this new project, to which at this time I am now committed, I will strive mightily to point to our blessed Savior through the fingers and lives of those Christians who have once lived and died for Christ, and whose voices and anthems, I believe, now blend with the others from the church triumphant, and with the angels and cherubim as they circle around the throne of the Living God; “To whom be glory forever.  Amen.”  –MWP]