MEMOIR OF THOMAS UPSHER
THOMAS UPSHER was born in the parish of Lexden, borough of Colchester, and county of Essex, in the sixth month 1672. He was educated in the profession of a Presbyterian, and was seriously inclined from his youth, often seeking the Lord for the good of his soul, and diligently reading the holy Scriptures. About the fifteenth year of his age, he left the Presbyterians and joined the people called general Baptists, and was zealous in that way, becoming a preacher in much esteem among them. But it pleased the Lord more effectually to visit his soul, by the light of Christ Jesus, unto which he turned in living faith, and came to see the emptiness of his former profession and talk of religion, without the saving knowledge of God and our Lord Jesus Christ, which is only attained through the revelation of his Spirit. He was about twenty years of age when he was convinced of the blessed Truth as held by the people called Quakers, and embracing it in the love thereof, he continued a diligent participant of their meetings for the worship of Almighty God, waiting upon Him in retirement of spirit and true silence for his teaching and counsel. At length, it pleased the Lord to bestow on him a gift in the ministry of the gospel, which he received in great humility, speaking a few words among his brethren, in much fear and tenderness, to the comfort and refreshment of many. God, in tender mercy, increased his gift, so that he became an able and experienced minister of the gospel, turning many from darkness unto the light of Christ Jesus; in which service he traveled in most parts of England, and also in Ireland.
In the time of health he was concerned to remember death and spoke of it; and when taken sick remarked, "I do not expect to live long in this world,; I have been preparing for a better. I do not desire to live on my own account—I long more and more to be at home with my God; yet I would not be of those who desired the reward before the work is done. There is nothing here which invites my stay, but if God has any further service for me in this world, I am given up to his will."
In a letter to a particular friend, written in the time of his sickness, he thus expresses himself,
When I consider the many changes which we and ours and all we have in this world, are subject to, it seems a sufficient antidote against the individual love of [temporal things ;] and it appears to me, that it is the want of due thoughtfulness which makes many so much engaged in them, as almost wholly to frustrate those religious endeavors which are necessary in order to make sure our eternal interest.
It is now a long time since I have enjoyed one day of perfect health as heretofore. I consider it as a preparatory summons from this frail state of being; and I thank God, I am not altogether unmindful of my duty, in setting my house in order against the time shall come when I must die. I hope to live in a far better state, and there to join all the generations of the just that are gone before, and shall hereafter follow.
Several friends being with him, he spoke to them of his death, and desired they might bear him witness, saying: "My dependence, hope and trust is in the Lord Jesus Christ alone,—I do not value myself upon any qualification or endowment received, but lay all down as at the feet of Jesus, and am as nothing before him."
About two days after this, though weak in body, he was carried in a coach to the burial of a Friend at Ipswich; and although he seemed very unfit for the service of the day, there being many people assembled, yet the Lord was pleased to strengthen and qualify him to declare the word of Truth and life, in the demonstration and power of the Spirit, by which the people were much affected, and friends who knew his weakness, admired the love and goodness of God to him. He appeared stronger after the meeting than before, and continued better for a few days, but his disorder returned again, and he was enabled to be very patient under extreme pain, which was so great, he said no tongue could express it. Yet he desired to be resigned, and the Lord favored him with resignation, faith and patience, through all.
To a friend who came to visit him, he said, " In all likelihood, I am now about to take my last leave of you all, and I pray God from my heart to bless you." Being desired to send for another physician, he answered, " No—I am satisfied if God had been pleased to say amen to means, there has been sufficient used for my recovery; and therefore I shall have my eye to the Lord only for help." At another time, he said, "My tongue is not able to express what I feel of the love and goodness of God, now when I have most need of it;—the saying used by that plain, despised people [the Quakers] is very true, that, Life is better than words. There is one thing I cannot find out, why the Lord should so abound in his love and mercy to me, who am so unworthy of the least of his mercies.
There was great refreshment felt many times in sitting by him in silence; and on a first-day morning several Friends being in his chamber, he desired they might wait upon the Lord together, and the Lord was pleased to open his mouth to praise and magnify his holy name. He spoke of the blessed estate of the faithful, at the sight of which, he was filled with heavenly joy, praising the Lord to the comfort of those present—and saying, " О that I might declare of the wonders of the Lord, which I have seen in the deeps—but I am resigned to his will.”
Speaking of his pains and exercises, he said they were very great; but added, "The Lord is very good to me, and bears up my spirit in the midst of them all." Taking leave of some friends who visited him, he exhorted them so to live that he and they might meet in the mansions of eternal rest—and desired his dear love to Friends every where, saying, 'They are near to my life—I have true unity with them in spirit." At a meeting in his chamber about two weeks before his death, the state of the church and many precious gospel truths were opened to him, and in a heavenly frame of spirit he spoke of the wonderful wisdom, love and goodness of God, exhorting Friends to be more faithful and diligent in His blessed cause and service.
A few days before his close, feeling himself a little revived, he went to meeting and there was engaged in fervent prayer, praising the Lord in a true sense of his mercy and goodness. His distemper returning with increased severity, he felt his end drawing near, and remarked, " I desire to die in great humiliation and to commit my spirit into the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ." When death approached he was in a heavenly frame of mind, and said, " The Lord, in the riches of his mercy, will keep all them that trust in him, under all their trials." He peacefully departed this life the 10th of the eighth month, 1704, aged thirty-two years.