Premonitions of Death
Genesis 48:21-22
And Israel said to Joseph, Behold, I die: but God shall be with you, and bring you again to the land of your fathers.…

The first symptom of approaching death with some, is the strong presentiment that they are about to die. Oganan, the mathematician, while in apparent health, rejected pupils from the feeling that he was on the eve of resting from his labours; and he expired soon after, of an apoplectic stroke. Fletcher, the divine, had a dream which shadowed out his impending dissolution, and believing it to be the merciful warning of Heaven, he sent for a sculptor and ordered his tomb. "Begin your work forthwith," he said at parting; "there is no time to lose." And unless the artist had obeyed the admonition, death would have proved the quicker workman of the two. Mozart wrote his Requiem under the conviction that the monument he was raising to his genius, would, by the power of association, prove a universal monument to his remains. When life was fleeting very fast, he called for the score, and musing over it, said, "Did I not tell you truly that it was for myself that I composed this death chant." Another great artist in a different department, convinced that his hand was about to lose its cunning, chose a subject emblematical of the coming event. His friends inquired the nature of his next design; and Hogarth replied, "The end of all things." "In that case," rejoined one, "there will be an end of the painter." What was uttered in jest was answered in earnest, with a solemn look and heavy sigh: "There will," he said; "and the sooner my work is done the better." He commenced next day, laboured upon it with unremitting diligence, and when he had given it the last touch, seized his pallet, broke it in pieces and said: "I have finished." The print was published in March under the title of "Finis"; and in October, the curious eyes which saw the manners in the face were closed in the dust. Our ancestors, who, prone to look in the air for causes which were to be found upon the earth, attributed these intimations to various supernatural agencies. John Hunter solved the mystery, if so it can be called, in a single sentence. "We sometimes," he says, "feel within ourselves that we shall not live; for the living powers become weak, and the nerves communicate the intelligence to the brain." His own case has often been quoted among the marvels of which he offered this rational explanation. He intimated, on leaving home, that if a discussion which awaited him at the hospital took an angry turn, it would prove his death. A colleague gave him the lie; the coarse word verified the prophecy, and he expired almost immediately, in an adjoining room. There was everything to lament in the circumstance, but nothing at which to wonder, except that any person could show such disrespect to the great genius, a single year of whose existence was worth the united lives of his opponents. Hunter, in uttering the prediction, had only to take counsel in his own experience, without the intervention of invisible spirits. He had long laboured under a disease of the heart, and he felt the disorder had reached the point at which any sharp agitation would bring on the crisis. Circumstances, which at another time would excite no attention, are accepted as an omen when health is failing. The order for the Requiem with Mozart, the dream with Fletcher, turned the current of their thoughts to the grave. Foote, prior to his departure for the continent, stood contemplating the picture of a brother author, and exclaimed, his eyes full of tears, "Poor Weston!" In the same dejected tone he added, after a pause, "soon others shall say, Poor Foote! "And to the surprise of his friends, a few days proved the justice of his prognostication. The expectation of the event had a share in producing it, for a slight shock completes the destruction of prostrate energies. The case of Wolsey was singular. The morning before he died, he asked Cavendish the hour, and was answered "past eight." "Eight of the clock!" replied Wolsey, "that cannot be; eight of the clock, nay, nay, it cannot be eight of the clock, for by eight of the clock shall you lose your master." The day he miscalculated, the hour came true; on the following morning, as the clock struck eight, his troubled spirit passed from life. Cavendish and the bystanders, thought he must have had a revelation of the time of his death; and from the way in which the fact had taken possession of his mind, we suspect that he relied on astrological prediction, which had the credit of a revelation in his own esteem. Persons in health have died from the expectation of dying. It was common for those who perished by violence to summon their destroyers to appear, within a stated time, before the tribunal of their God; and we have many perfectly attested instances in which, through fear and remorse, the perpetrators withered under the curse, and died. Pestilence does not kill with the rapidity of terror. The profligate abbess of a convent, the Princess Gonzaga of Cleves, and Guise, the profligate Archbishop of Rheims, took it into their heads, for a jest, to visit one of the nuns by night, and exhort her as a person who was visibly dying. While in the performance of this heartless scheme, they whispered to each other, "She is departing." She departed in earnest. Her vigour, instead of detecting the trick, sank beneath the alarm; and the profane pair discovered, in the midst of their sport, that they were making merry with a corpse.

(T. Walker.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Israel said unto Joseph, Behold, I die: but God shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers.

WEB: Israel said to Joseph, "Behold, I am dying, but God will be with you, and bring you again to the land of your fathers.

Peace in Death
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