To the Editor of the Cherokee Phoenix
CREEK PATH, May 17th, 18131 (sic)
Dear Sir: --The present is with us a time of deep affliction. Death has been here, ' has borne away in his icy arms, one of our citizens. He came as a thief, and ere we were aware, had grasped his treasure, and was departing with hurried step.--Do you ask 'who is his victim?' I answer, our amiable friend-Dempsey Fields. Yes, he is gone. 'Our breach is great like the sea, who can heal it?' 'The crown is fallen from our heads. Woe unto us that we have sinned.' He was an Elder of our Church, and by his affectionate disposition, his clear perception of doctrinal truth, and his unfeigned piety, was well qualified for the office. When he was in health, and we had no fear of losing him. Mr. _____ has often remarked, that there were few Elders in the Presbyterian Church, who in point of doctrinal knowledge, were his superior. His opportunities for acquiring an education at school were limited; but he was fond of reading and had stored his mind with such a variety of useful knowledge as to render him intelligent, and agreeable companion. But at the interesting age of 26, his strength has withered, and he is laid in the tomb. He sleeps sweetly by the side of David Brown, and I doubt not their souls are ___fedty praising that Savior who has redeemed them from all evil.
You will wish to know how he died. There was nothing triumphant in his death bed exercises. He rather appeared as a trembling penitent; taking hold of the everlasting covenant, but filled with deep solemnity at the thought of appearing, a disembodied spirit, before the Holy Judge of the Universe. We did not fully believe his case dangerous, until about 15 hours before he died. He had however from his first attack, (about ten days before) serious apprehensions that he should not recover.- While yet able to walk about, he said to me--'I sometimes think I shall never recover from this disease.' 'Are you willing, I said, to leave the world now?' He answered 'there is but one thing that makes me wish to stay. I am in debt. I should have to die in debt.' To several other friends he made the same remark.
It may seem surprising that a young man of his character and occupation should have been thus involved. These debts were chiefly contracted either before he commenced business for himself, or immediately after. They were the result of youthful indiscretion. No doubt, at the time they were contracted, his vivid imagination beheld in prospective, the treasurers of Earth freely flowing into his hand, in such measure as he should desire. But when this illusion vanished, and he found himself unable to satisfy the demands of his creditors, his tender heart was filled with sorrow. Often has he said to me, 'These debts depress my spirits, and fill me with constant pain ' anxiety.' Within the two last years he had paid many of them; and I doubt not had he lived two or three years longer no man would have had need to say to him--'Pay me that thou owest.'
But to return.--Two days before his death, I said to him, has your mind been in a comfortable state since you have been sick?' He replied,'When I look upon myself I have no comfort.' 'Do you not find comfort in Christ?' 'Yes. But how my heart wants purifying. It seems strange that the Holy Ghost can dwell in such a place!' He closed his eyes for a moment, and then said -- 'A sick bed is a poor place to prepare for death.' Then looking at his hand he said, 'how little do we realize when we are well that these will all be decayed.' I proposed reading the Bible to him, and asked him what part I should read.' He answered 'it is all good, but read the hundred and nineteenth Psalm.' I began to read, but his headache and restlessness, were so much increased by the attempt to fix his mind, that I soon closed the book. Another member of the family about the same period enquired if he had any doubts respecting the safety of his state?' He replied, 'I have some-at times.' 'Is your hope for the most part comfortable?' 'Yes.' 'Have you any fear or dread of death itself, ' the pains of death?' 'No- my mind is mostly beyond the grave.' In the morning of the day in which he died, we thought him better, but at eleven o'clock, his disease took a sudden and alarming turn. He seemed agitated. Mr. ____ said, 'are you alarmed Mr. Fields?' He replied with solemn emphasis--'Yes--O yes!' 'Do you not know in whom you have believed?' 'Yes' 'Can you not trust him now?' 'Yes.' Soon after, he raised both hands and exclaimed-'How solemn I feel! O you don't know!' and extending his hand to his mother, said 'you have often felt just as I do now.' In a few moments he sunk into a profound slumber, from which it was difficult to arouse him. He occasionally awoke and complained of a severe pain in his head. Once, as he turned upon his side, a delightful smile overspread his features. I could not resist the belief that this was an expression of the triumph of his soul over all its fears. After this he showed no sign of intelligence, except once answering to the call of his brother by an inarticulate sound.
His quivering lip hung fully down,
His pulse was faint and few;
Then speechless, with a doleful groan,
He bid the world adieu.
His corpse was an interesting object. It was indescribably placid. I generally dread to look at a corpse, and turning away from it with loathing; but I went again and again to look at his, and every time experienced a sensation of pleasure. It seemed to say--'weep not for me. I am sweetly at rest in my Father's house.' So animated was the expression-that I sometimes could hardly resist the impression that he was about to open his lips, and tell of the glory into which he had entered.
Should you think best to insert this letter in the columns of the Phoenix, permit me, Sir, to address a few words to the youthful reader.
Let the death of Dempsey Fields speak loudly to you. Have you a strong constitution? So had he, but this was no security against the ravages of disease. Do you intend to delay repentance till assaulted by sickness? Remember his dying declaration, 'a sick bed is a poor place to prepare for death.'
Again--beware of contracting debts which you may not be able to pay. But for this error of his youth, our dear friend might have died in a clear sunshine of peace. He could leave his wife and two infant children, his parents, his brothers and sisters, the Church, and a large circle of friends, with a cheerful heart; but to leave his creditors unpaid, produced a pang which was perhaps not unfelt even in the hour of death. Remember this, and let 'Owe no man anything' be the motto, with which you begin and end your career.
Youthful Christian--pause--and think! Should you unexpectedly feel the grasp of death, would you not exclaim-'How much my heart needs purifying?' Would not the numerous sins of your heart and life, rush upon you with an overwhelming force?' Would it not be a solemn hour? O then let it be the business of every day to prepare to die;' then, and then only will you be prepared to live to the glory of God.