Memoirs of the Life, Time, and Writings
of the Reverend and Learned
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Period V From My Removal Into The Bounds Of The Presbytery Of Stirling, To My Return Unto The Merse
Having come into the bounds aforesaid, I took up my lodging with Thomas Brown of Barhill in Ferrytown, with whom I had contracted a particular friendship when I was at Kennet, he being a good man. I was once and again invited to Kennet's family to lodge there, but declined it; a plain evidence of no real inclination to settle in Clackmannan parish. I continued with Thomas Brown while I remained in that country, which was near about a year: and in these days that text had weight with me, "Go not from house to house;" judging that course unworthy of the sacred character.
About the beginning of August, Mr. Wylie1 wrote to the presbytery of Stirling, in name of the presbytery of Dunfermline, desiring them to allow me to come a day or two to them; the which they absolutely refused: and that day, or soon after, I perceived the presbytery had a design on me for Clackmannan. That their refusal I did not take well: but they never asked my inclination, and I had no freedom to urge their letting me go. However, afterward, on a letter from Mr. James Fraser of Brea, minister of Culross, inviting me to assist by preaching at the communion there, on the 21st, I went and preached there accordingly in the churchyard; Mr. Turnbull having allowed, that if there was such a necessity as was alleged in the letter, it could not well be refused. At this time began my acquaintance with the worthy Mr. George Mair, Brea's colleague, whose conversation was afterwards of good use to me, in regard of the spirituality of it, and the insight he had into the doctrine of the gospel. I think, that holy and learned man Brea died not very long after.
On the 14th of August I communicated at Larbert, and was not altogether deserted in it: but I think, as I was walking alone to my lodgings, I got my communion indeed. Two or three days before, I did endeavour to examine myself thus: They that have a sincere desire of union and communion with Christ, have true faith (Matt. 5: 6; 2 Cor. 8: 12): and such are those who, 1. choose and desire Christ, without desire to retain sin; that choose Christ whatever may follow (Heb. 11: 25); 2. that are not carried forth after spiritual good things merely as profitable to themselves, but as things in themselves good and desirable (Ps. 73: 26); 3. who desire a whole Christ, as well for sanctification as justification (1 Cor. 1: 30); 4. who esteem Christ above all (1 Pet. 2: 7); 5. who have a sense of sin pressing the conscience, and serious displeasure with it (Matt. 11: 28); 6. who make suitable endeavours after Christ (Prov. 21: 25). But I (I appeal to God's omniscience) have such a desire. For, 1. I desire Christ without exception of any sin, or the cross: I am content to part with all sin, and take Christ, to follow Him in His strength whithersoever He goes. 2. I desire union and communion with Christ, though there were no hell to punish those who are united to their sins. 3. I desire a whole Christ, and would as fain have sin subdued and mortified, as guilt taken away. 4. I esteem Christ above all: Give me Christ, and take from me what thou wilt. 5. Sin is a burden to me, especially my predominant lust. 6. I endeavour, in some measure, to seek after Christ: Lord, Thou knowest. Therefore I have true faith.
The week after the communion at Culross, my acquaintance with Katharine Brown, now my wife, was carried on to a direct proposal of marriage made to her. She was fifth daughter to Robert Brown of Barhill, in the parish of Culross; her mother, then a widow, and her eldest sister, who had been married to Thomas Brown above mentioned, being dead more than a year before. I had, while I was at Kennet, heard a very savoury report of her; and from the first time that I saw her, which was 3rd March 1697, the day on which I left that country, something stuck with me. A few days after I returned, as said is, she had occasion to come and tarry some time with her brother-in-law. And my health being broken as above mentioned, I was valetudinary, and particularly subject to faintings; with one of which I was seized 3rd June, she being present: but by her advice, whose father had been a practitioner in physic, I used wormwood boiled, and applied to my stomach in linen bags, that month, and was much relieved of these faintings. Howbeit, when they left me, I was seized with a binding at my breast; and for a long time that year I used Lucatellus's balsam by the same advice. What engaged me to her, was her piety, parts, beauty, cheerful disposition fitted to temper mine, and that I reckoned her very fit to see to my health. I never was in a mind to marry before I should be settled: but I judged both the one and the other requisite for my health. But though I made choice of a most worthy woman, I was afterwards obliged to confess, before God, my sin, in that I had not been at more pains to know His mind in the matter before I had proposed it. And howbeit I did frequently that summer lay it before the Lord, and consider it; yet I can never forgive myself, though I hope my God has forgiven me, that I did not set some time or times apart for fasting and prayer for that end, before I made the proposal. But God did chastise my rashness, partly by my finding that process very entangling to me in my vagrant circumstances, partly by suffering perplexing scruples to rise in my mind about it; while yet He did, in the issue of them, convincingly shew the matter to be of Himself, and bound it on my conscience as duty; which cleared, my difficulty was not to get love to her, but rather to bound it.
In the beginning of September I had a letter from Mr. Wylie, desiring me to preach a Sabbath-day, either at Saline or Carnock, or on a week-day at Carnock. In answer to which, I promised to preach a Sabbath-day at Saline if they would procure the day from the presbytery; but declined seeking it for myself.
About the middle of that month, I received a letter from Mr. Murray, inviting me to Nithsdale; and had thoughts of complying with it. On the 11th, being a national fast-day, I had preached at Clackmannan, the Lord helping me; and that night going to bed, weakened and wearied, I found myself, notwithstanding, able to lie on my back; a posture which for a long time before I could not place myself in, without being in hazard of fainting. Some were much offended at that day's work, others much endeared to me. But about this time the business of my settlement there being still in agitation, and the elders not speaking of it to me, till they might see the matter brought to a bearing, I thought it meet to shed one of them, that it was needless to make a bustle between heritors and elders on my account, in regard, for anything I knew, I should never accept of a call to Clackmannan.
So, on 5th October I went to the presbytery, with an intention to crave my testimonials, in order to leave that country; but ere I got it moved, there was produced and read a letter from Kennet, desiring, that in regard the parish of Clackmannan had a desire for me to be their minister, they would interpose with me not to leave the bounds, and appoint me to preach three Sabbaths at Clackmannan in regard some of the heritors had not heard me. Whereupon the presbytery urged me to stay till the next presbytery-day at least, and appointed me two days at Clackmannan whereto I at length yielded; though it troubled me somewhat after, that I should have consented to preach there on that account.
Having preached the two days at Clackmannan, the elders could not prevail with the heritors to join in a call to me. Mr. Inglis set himself against me particularly, alleging for a reason, that I was young, and but a probationer. It was supposed, that my not bowing in the pulpit, and going with none of them on the Sabbath-nights, rendered me unacceptable: and I do believe, that they and I both agreed, that, in respect of my temper and way, I was not fit for the parish of Clackmannan. However, the said Mr. Inglis, who was a friend of Brea's, told me some time or other, while in that country (I apprehend it has been after this, when Brea was deceased), that there was something in my sermons so like Brea's, that one would have thought I had seen his notes, but that he knew I had no access to them; which last was very true.
By this time I had preached twice at Dollar, then lately become vacant through the removal of the Episcopal incumbent; I [Taeksman of th e estate of Clackmannan and an inclination towards me there was signified by some of them; and thinking about settling in that country, I could scarcely be able to say in mine own heart, where I would desire to settle in it, if it was not in Dollar; and hardly there either. But I went to the presbytery 2nd November fully resolved to have my liberty, thinking to go to Nithsdale. Accordingly I desired their testimonial, shewing that I could stay no longer. Mr. White, being moderator, did long press my stay. which, with all the modesty I could, I declined, representing, that if I continued longer, I behoved to continue all the winter, in respect of the broken state of my health. (I was now using conserve of roses, by the advice aforesaid.) After they had urged me till I was ashamed, two ministers, whereof Mr. Turnbull was one, took me out to converse with me privately. In the meantime a man from Dollar, with much concern, addressed himself to me, that I might not go away, shewing the inclination of that parish toward me; and elders of the other vacant parishes urged me. Finding myself perplexed, and not knowing what to say, I left myself to the presbytery's disposal, and so received their appointments after.
Being thus locked in there again, the tongues of many were let loose on me; and my railing and reflecting, as they called it, came often to my ears. Preaching at Clackmannan on the 27th, some were vexed, and one in a rage went out of the church. When I came home to my lodging, I was much affected that my preaching was so stormed at; and the rather, that I thought I had not the inward support requisite in such a case: but I was comforted at family-worship, singing Ps. 69: 7, and downwards that same week, it was uneasy to me to hear that some concluded I had an inclination for the parish of Clackmannan, from the zeal shown for it by my most intimate acquaintance, thinking they could not have done so without encouragement from me. Upon which I find I made this resection, setting that matter in a due light, viz. "But, Lord, Thou knowest, that it was not my inclination, though in my own thoughts I would not be too peremptory, not knowing how God might call me."
In the month of December, some of the elders of Dollar signified to me their inclination to give me a call, if they could get it done; but withal I had an account of an appointment on me to go to the north; and, on the 27th, came to my hand the commission's letter, requiring me forthwith to go to Angus and Mearns. On the morrow I went to the presbytery, where Mr. John Forrester, one of the ministers of Stirling, keenly urged my going to the north: but I told them I could not go, in respect of the state of my health; and they did not so much as recommend it to me to go. By this I judged, that Providence did not call me to that removal, and the rather that the motion had been made about a call to Dollar. Howbeit, the going to the north was, for a long time after, a sore exercise to me at times, as will be observed afterwards. That same day, the fast of 4th January 1699, being appointed, the land still groaning under dearth and scarcity, year after year, the said Mr. Forrester moved, that it should be recommended to the brethren to deal prudently in their preaching with respect to the causes of the fast, and hinted at some affecting singularity, which I knew very well to be directed against me, but since he named me not, I said nothing on the head. That month also it was observed, that one Alard Fithie in Powside of Clackmannan, who being enraged with my sermons at Clackmannan, 11th September, was wont to go out of the parish after, when I preached in it, was then broken, and obliged to leave the parish, it not being known whither he had fled.
On the 29th, I found that my friend Katharine Brown, who some time before had given a favourable answer to my proposal, had afterwards been much troubled about it, that it was not enough deliberate. Had I taken that way in my own case, which I ought to have done as aforesaid, it is likely I would have put her on the same method, whereby this might have been prevented. But one error in conduct makes way for another.
For about fourteen months after this I kept a large diary, moved thereto by converse with Mr. Mair. In that time I filled up the book I had then begun, and a whole second book, though I wrote in short-hand characters, till 7th July 1699. Several of the passages of that time are from thence transcribed into this account of my life.
1st January 1699.—I had more than an ordinary measure of God's presence and help in preaching. In the morning in secret I was earnest with God for it, but had a temptation to think that God would leave me, which did perplex me sore. When I was coming home from the sermons, Satan fell to afresh again, the contrary way, tempting me to pride. It came three times remarkably on me, and was as often repelled by that word, "What hast thou that thou hast not received?"
During the remaining time that I continued at Ferrytown, I wrote a soliloquy on the art of man-fishing, which was never finished, but is in retentis. The occasion thereof was this, 6th January 1699, reading in secret, my heart was touched with Matt. 4: 19, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." My soul cried out for accomplishing of that to me, and I was very desirous to know how I might follow Christ, so as to become a fisher of men; and for my own instruction in that point, I addressed myself to the consideration of it in that manner. And indeed it was much on my heart in these days, not to preach the wisdom of mine own heart, or produce of my own gifts; but to depend on the Lord for light, that I might, if I could have reached it, been able to say of every word, "Thus saith the Lord." That scribble gives an idea of the then temper of my spirit, and the trying circumstances I then found myself in, being everywhere scared at by some.
21st January.—When I arose this morning, I began to look for something to meditate on, and that word came, Jer. 31: 3, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee." My soul grasped at it; I meditated on it with a heart somewhat elevated; yet I saw much unbelief in my heart, which was my burden. I thought I loved Christ; and then that word, 1 John 4: 19, "We love Him, because He first loved us," came. I saw love began on Christ's side; yet I could not but with doubting assent to the conclusion, that God loved me. I went to prayer, poured out my soul, lamenting over my unbelief, which did then eminently appear and shew itself to me. I was called thereafter to breakfast, but that word, Jer. 31: 3, stuck with me, and yet does; it is sweet as the honeycomb. When I was at prayer, I thought the Lord explained that word to me, "Therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee," that God's drawing me to Himself by the gospel in a loving way, was an evidence and token of His everlasting love. While I meditated on my sermon, that word, Ps. 102: 16, "When the Lord shall build up Zion, He shall appear in His glory," came again to me (for at this time it was much on my heart). I thought on it. My soul was deeply affected under the sense of Christ's withdrawing from ordinances, and my heart groaned under the sense of His absence. My soul longed for the day that the house should be built, and the rubbish taken away. It sent me to prayer. I began to this purpose, Why hast Thou forsaken Thine own house? and it was presently suggested to me, that Christ does as a man that has his house a-building; he comes now and then and sees it, but does not stay, and will not come to dwell in it till it be built up. My heart and soul cried vehemently to the Lord for His return, and the grief of my heart often made my speech to fail. I cried to the Lord as the great Watchman, "What of the night?" this sad night, when the sun goes down at noonday? I was once going to say, Lord, what need I preach? but I durst not bring it out; so I was silent for a time. My soul desired, that either He would come to me in ordinances, or take me to Him in heaven, if it were His will. When I arose from prayer, I could get nothing but still that word, Ps. 102: 16. Lord, hasten the day then. When I went to bed this night, that word came into my mind: "Whom shall I send? Send me." I thought on going to the north, and was content to go any way, north, south, or where-ever. My heart began to wander (I think, falling asleep); and I said in my heart the words of a curse against myself used by rude ungodly people. They came like a flash of lightning, and immediately made my very heart to leap for dread. This, I saw, was one of Satan's fiery darts. Tomorrow morning, being the Lord's day, I found my heart dull; I endeavoured to apply that word, Hos. 14: 5, "I will be as the dew unto Israel;" and was somewhat revived. But in prayer thereafter He covered Himself with a cloud. I cried, that if there were any accursed stuff I knew not of, He would discover it to me; and I had a sad prospect of this day's work. I would have been content of a sickbed, rather than to be carried hence without His presence to the pulpit. Intending to read, I prayed for a word that might revive me; and reading in my ordinary, Matt. 16, my heart moved and leapt, I thought, within me, when I read ver. 8, "O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?" I took it to myself; I saw it was my unbelief, and that I behoved to depend on God, laying all the stress on Him. Afterward I got that word, "When I sent you out, lacked ye any thing?" I poured out my soul when in the manse, and suffered the bell to toll long: and when I was going out, and heard it tolling, I thought, it was now tolling for me to preach, maybe ere the next Sabbath it may toll for me to the grave. This was useful. The Lord was sweetly and powerfully with me through the day. After the lecture we sung part of Ps. 51; the last line of it, at which I stood up, was, "With Thy free Spirit me stay:" I stood up with courage, for I thought the Spirit of God was my stay and in the night when awoke, I was still with God.
On the 23rd, reading in secret Matt. 19 and coming to ver. 29, "And every one that has forsaken Moses," etc., I found my heart could give no credit to it. I would fain have believed it, but really could not. I meditated a while on it, with ejaculations to the Lord, till in some measure I overcame. I then went to prayer, where the Lord gave me to see much of my own vileness, and particularly that evil and plague of my heart. I blessed the Lord for sealing ordinances, for then I saw the need of them to confirm faith.
On the 24th came to me one of the elders of Carnock, and showed me a letter they had from the Countess of Kincardine, desiring them to go to the presbytery of Stirling, to get me to preach two or three days with them; and if they and I should be both pleased, she would concur in a call, and Sir Patrick Murray would join with her. But by means, I think, of a sister of my friend's living in their neighbourhood, I had been strongly impressed with a very hard notion of that parish, as a self-conceited people, among whom I would have no success: and tho' I durst not forbid them to proceed, yet I told plainly, that I found my heart was not with them, thinking myself obliged, in justice to them, to declare the matter as it really was. Thus I stood in my own way with respect to that parish: but Providence had designed far better for them, the worthy Mr. James Hog being thereafter settled there, where he continues to this day , faithfully declaring the gospel of God. And there fell to my lot, several years after, a people fully as conceited of themselves as those of Carnock could be.
On the 27th, I wanted to be determined what to preach, even after I had prayed to the Lord for His help; I prayed again, but was nothing cleared; and so was much cast down. I thought of praying again; but, alas! thought I, what need I go to prayer? for I can get no light. I urged my soul to believe, and hope against hope; but I found I could not believe. Thus was my soul troubled. Sometimes I stood, sometimes sat, and sometimes walked: at length I went to my knees; and so I sat a while, but not speaking one word. At length I broke out with that, "How long, O Lord?"—and, pausing a while again, I cried to the Lord to shew me why He contended with me. Whereupon conscience shake plain language to me, and told me my fault of self-seeking in speaking to a man yesterday, and writing to my brother; for which I desired to humble myself before the Lord. In the issue I was determined what to preach. I had many ups and downs that day. This sermon was for Airth; and on the morrow, when I was going there, I observed how I was two several times kept back by storm of weather from that place, and how these two last tinges I have, in my studies for it, been plunged deeply; which made me wonder what might be the matter. But the storm was not yet over: for though the Saturday's night was a good time to my soul, and I think I will scarce ever forget the relish the 21st chapter of John, especially that word, "Children, have ye any meat?" had on my soul, being the ordinary in the family exercise; yet to-morrow morning I was indisposed both in body and spirit. I thought I lay a-bed too long in the morning, and that gave me the first wound. The sweet word aforesaid I did reflect on; but now the sap was gone out of it, as to poor me. The public work was heavy. I had much ado to drive out the glass with the lecture: and so confounded and deserted was I, that I could not sing the psalm with my very voice. I could scarcely pray at all. I had neither light nor life in the first part of the sermon; the little light I had in it went away by degrees, as ever the light of the sun did by a cloud's coming over it, till I thought I should quite have given it over. At that juncture of time, a word was given me to speak, and the gross darkness was dispelled; and this continued till the end. In the afternoon I had some help from the Lord, which I had now learned to prize. As I was going to the afternoon's sermon, I thought the people in that place esteemed me too much, and took that as a part of the cause of this desertion. When I came out to my lodgings, one says to me, You need not shun to come to Airth, you are so well helped to preach there. When, said I, was I so helped? Ans. In the forenoon (for the speaker was not present in the afternoon). The rest said, it was a satisfying day's work to the souls of many. This was astonishing. The same thing I heard of it, next day, from another godly woman. The causes of this desertion I afterwards inquired into; and found, 1. There was something of that former quarrel, because of self-seeking in the particular above said; 2. My sleeping too long in the morning; 3. people of Airth's esteem of me, as noticed above, or to keep me humble; 4. That the Lord might let me see, it is not by might nor by power, but by His own Spirit, that souls are edified; 5. To learn me to be thankful for a little. Several years after this, meeting with the minister of Airth at the assembly, he told me, that by conference with some of his parish before the administration of the sacrament, he found several persons there own me as the instrument that the Lord made use of to do good to their souls.
There was at that time, for the encouragement of probationers preaching in vacancies in that country, on the north side of Forth, a legal allowance of 18 merks a-sabbath, as in the north; the which fell to me in Clackmannan, and I suppose also in Dollar. I had been appointed to preach at Clackmannan on the 8th of January, but was called to go to Airth that day, exchanging my post with another probationer who could not go thither. On that occasion I received a compliment of two dollars at Airth, being the first money I got in that country.
The affair of Dollar was now in agitation. And coming up to the presbytery, 1st February, I found an elder of that parish there, who, it would seem, had been moving for their proceeding to a call, without having his commission in writing; which was appointed to be seen to, in the case of any that should come to the next presbytery from thence. In a private conference I had with him at his desire, he showed me, that Argyle, their superior, had signified his willingness to concur in a call to any whom the parish and presbytery should agree on, and that the call was designed for me: but withal, that eight or ten of their parish had subscribed and sent to Argyle, a paper, bearing their dislike of me: that one John Burn was reckoned an enemy to my settlement there, yet would not sign it, in regard, he said, I was a servant of God. I learned afterwards, that one of the subscribers wished he had quit a joint of his finger, or the like, rather than he had subscribed that paper; as also, that Mr. Forrester had given the foresaid elder but a very indifferent character of me, saying, that now they were going to call a new upstart, one that broke the thetes. This character from that good man was affecting to me; considering that going under such a character, I was so unholy, my corruption prevailed so much over me, and that I was really weak in comparison of others, who took a more smooth way than I durst take in my public performances: and so it convinced me of my need to live more near God.
Being to preach, 5th February, at Alloa, on Zech. 13 ult., I was somewhat shaken in my mind about my call to preach it; the doctrine thereon being almost only for exercised souls: but going to family-duty, which the landlord performed, he sung Ps. 111 by which, especially ver. 2—4, I was cleared in this point, instructed, and comforted; and was also cleared somewhat by the chapter read. But that which did fully confirm me, was a word brought to me by the way, "When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." So that I was assured I was called to preach that doctrine there. That word foresaid was very applicable to my case: for on the Thursday before I had a very sharp exercise, and a sad struggle. The matter was this.
Awakening a long time ere daylight, I found my dream had been sinful. At first I was rather amazed affected with it, being overwhelmed with sleepiness to lie waking, and think on it sometimes, and thought to pray in my bed: but, while thus minded, the temptation I had while asleep, set on me when awake; and sleep prevailed so, that I had almost given myself up to it: and while I was thus slumbering, I said twice or thrice within myself, with a terror from God on my soul, What if I be damned before I awake? After this, my soul was under so great terror from the Lord, that my very heart began to fail; and I wanted not thoughts of expiring just there where I was. Yet I cast up ejaculations to the Lord, put on my clothes, and lighted a candle, groaning under the sense of guilt. While I walked up and down, that word, 1 John 1: 7, "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin," came into my mind, and did somewhat fasten my sinking soul. I then went to prayer, confessed, and poured out my soul before Him, and that with some confidence of mercy. Then I feared that confidence was not well got, and was afraid God should give me up to hardness of heart, which plague I feared as death, and cried that the Lord would not plague me with that, which was terrible as hell to my soul. I made use of that promise, Prov. 28: 13, "He that confesseth and forsaketh, shall find mercy," and gripped it as spoke by the God of truth. But my soul began again to sink and despond. I wrestled against it; cried to the Lord, that He would not be terrible to me, etc., till I got up again somewhat. When I arose from my knees, I walked up and down with ejaculations, striving to grip to that foresaid promise, and I thought it was faith whereby I did so. I made much use of that promise, thought it was God's word, and that God would not deny His own word. The causes of the Lord's leaving me I found to be, 1. My coldrife prayers the preceding night; 2. Some guilt the day before not yet mourned over, viz. a blasphemous thought that went through my soul at the blessing before the exercise. 3. I was even thinking last night while a-bed, what victory I had got over that which so overtook me; so that it seems I was too secure. The ejects of this tragedy were, that I saw my own vileness, and felt what it was to be near giving over hope: but thanks be to God that giveth me the victory through the Lord Jesus Christ. I love the Lord, my soul loves Him for His wonderful mercy towards me, supporting me, hearing my prayers, and helping me to grip a promise. But how will I get through the world? Happy are they that are in heaven. I made much use, in that sad hour, of the covenant. namely, my engaging my with Him at Culross, Tulliallan, and under the tree in Kennet orchard. After this the language of my soul was, "My feet had almost slips, but Thy mercy held me up;" while I proposed the question again to my soul, How will I get through the world? and that word came, Cant. 8: 5, "I raised thee up under the apple-tree;" and that, Ps. 22: 8, "He trusted in the Lord, that He would deliver him;" and I sang Ps. 73: 21 to the end, but with a weak body. That word was sweet to me, "Go thy way, thy faith has made thee whole." Satan set again on me with the same; but I cried to the Lord, and he fled. When I went in to the morning - exercise (which the landlord always performed), he gave out Ps. 138: 6, which was very confirming to my soul, especially ver. 8; it answered my question foresaid. He read 2 Cor. 7, whereby I was instructed, comforted, and edified, so as I saw a special hand of God in his reading that chapter, and singing that psalm. When I came away, these words were to me sweeter than honey. I could have put the Bible in my heart, and was helped to believe, etc. On the 13th, arising from prayer in a dead frame, and having endeavoured to descend into myself, I thought I saw my heart like a clear pool. I thought I knew there were many things there to humble me, but I could not at all see them. At last I remembered my miscarriage this day, in not giving testimony against one profaning the name of Christ by a vain obsecration. Whereupon going to prayer, and reading the Lord's word, I recovered my frame. I remember, on this occasion, that being in company with Brea, a gentleman said to him, "For God's sake do so and so;" and he replied, "Nay, I will do it for your sake." The day before I preached in Airth, and reflecting on the last time I was there, that word came, "He will not chide continually," etc., and was sweetly verified in my after experience.
On the 19th I preached at Dollar, where, on the Saturday's night, it was shown me, that some there had little liking of me. because of my severe preaching; and James Kirk, an elder, told me of Paul's catching men with guile; signifying, that some of the heritors, when desired to subscribe a commission as aforesaid, said they would hear me again before they did it; and therefore he wished they might not be angered any more, for that the elders had enough ado with them already. I told him my resolution to speak what God should give me, without feud or favour; and could not but observe that special Providence, which, after this conference, ordered our singing at family-worship the two last verses of Ps. 27 and our reading Matt. 10 where, in this case, I was instructed, forewarned, and comforted. But thereafter I was baited with a temptation to fainting in the matter, and my courage damped. And here lay my snare, that, being at this time in fear of a mission to the north, which I had a great aversion to, I was afraid the people of Dollar might be quite scared at my freedom in delivering the word, and so that mission might take place. This was a heavy exercise to me that night. I prayed, read, meditated, struggled, urged my heart with these Scriptures, Matt. 10: 39, Prov. 28: 21, Acts 17: 26, hard put to it, but still in hope the Lord would not leave me to "transgress for a piece of bread." But as I was putting off my clothes for bed, my text I was to preach on came into my mind, John 1: 11, "He came to His own, and His own received Him not." This enlivened my heart with zeal and courage to speak without sparing in His cause. But next morning the temptation was renewed; and I had never seen my own weakness in that point so much as I saw it then. Nevertheless I was still in hope, that God would not suffer me to yield, but would help to speak freely the word He should give me. After all this, as I was going down to the kirk, John Blackwood, another good man, and an elder, put me in mind, to be sure to hold off from reflections as far as I could; for the which I reprimanded him. In the issue the Lord gave me freedom to preach His word, whatever was to become of me; and my soul found cause to bless the Lord, that that temptation had not prevailed to render me unfaithful in His work.
That Sabbath-night I catched cold in my head while I sat at family-worship, by an open window, which I apprehend I had not observed. It issued in a suppuration in my left ear, and was for many days a grievous trouble to me. On the Saturday's night after, my pain being very violent, I had a weary night of it; but being to preach in Clackmannan, I ventured in the morning to cause ring the bell, the pain being somewhat assuaged, and finding it would be a grievous affliction to me to have a silent Sabbath, the Lord's word being the joy and rejoicing of my heart. In the issue I felt no pain in preaching, but was strengthened both in body and spirit for my work. But I had a weary night of it again.
On the 22nd those of the parish of Dollar craved of the presbytery a minister to moderate in a call; but they delayed it till their next meeting at Alloa, 1st March. That day they delayed it again, till they should get an answer of a letter they were to write to Argyle; and Mr. White told me, there was some mention of another young man whom that noble person minded for Dollar. On the 15th, as I was going to the presbytery, Mr. Turnbull told me, that Argyle had returned an answer to their letter, and therein told them of the young man he designed for the parish, but took no notice of me. By the presbytery's minutes that day, I understood their letter had been to take off some misrepresentations made of me to him.
The meeting of the commission of the general assembly was now near; and Argyle's letter aforesaid trysting therewith, seemed to be a providential inclosing of me for the north; which occasioned me great heaviness. On the morrow the Lord comforted me, by giving me light into that word, "That stone is made head corner-stone which builders did despise;" thinking, that if Christ was despised by the builders, no wonder I should be so too; and that however I was despised by them, God might do great things for me, and by me. At this time the trouble in my ear was but going off, so that it kept me near a month. I wonder that I do not find that I took it for a rebuke of my listening so far to that temptation to fainting aforementioned.
20th March.—Being on my way to Edinburgh to the commission, I was by storm stopped at the North Ferry that night. Then and there were two words brought to me: the one Zech. 4: 6, the other, Dan. 1: 15, "At the end of ten days, their countenances appeared fairer, and fatter in flesh, than all the children which did eat the portion of the King's meat." This also was made sweet and strengthening to my soul: and I enjoyed a great calm and serenity of mind, which, by the mercy of God, lasted all along with me, till on the 23rd I was freed from the mission to the north, which for a long time before had occasioned me much perplexity. I had resolved to attend the presbytery, to get them to speak for me to the commission; but was hindered by the boil in my ear; and minding to make up that with a letter to one of the presbytery, it was miscarried; and this was the reason of my going to the commission. As I was blessing the Lord with my soul for the serenity arising from the consideration of the aforesaid Scriptures, Satan set on me with a fulsome temptation, as if God had dealt so with me for my preaching so yesterday. I presently noticed it, prayed, and protested against it, and disowned it; and took a look of my black feet, particularly as they appeared that day. The main stress of the business, as to the mission, was at a committee, where I had no acquaintance but one, who was none of my best friends. Having been advised before to cut out my hair, for my health, at that time I got a wig; and thereafter wore one all along; till after my coming to Ettrick, finding it troublesome when going abroad, I laid it aside, and betook me again to my own hair; which to this day I wear.
Upon my return to the Ferrytown, considering that Dollar, the only place in that country where I could have desired to settle, was now blocked up, I was in a strait how to dispose of myself next, knowing of nothing, but to go to Nithsdale, which I had no great inclination to. In that case was useful to me that word, which used to come slipping in, as it were, into my mind, Ps. 71: 20, "Thou, Lord, who great adversities, and sore, to me didst show, shalt quicken, and bring me again, from depths of earth below;" and on the 31st, together with it, that text, 2 Cor. 4: 8, "Perplexed, but not in despair;" and Ps. 55: 22, "Cast thy burden on the Lord, and He will sustain thee."
Robert Kemp, a noted professor of the stricter side, in the parish of Airth, had, on 10th March, asked me, if a certain elder had spoke to me about their calling me to be their minister: the which I having answered in the negative, he told me there was such a motion; and that if the elders would not move in it, they would present a supplication to the presbytery for that effect. But having, on 16th April, preached the last sermon I had there, on the morrow after, that elder, William Colvan in Powside, did signify their design to call me. I told him very seriously, that such an attempt would be needless: the thoughts of it were indeed terrible to me, being very sensible of my unfitness for such a post. But there was no probability of that project's taking erect, my friends being, part of them, not acceptable to the presbytery; and a certain person of eminence there, upon hearing sometime that I was to preach there, had cursed me: at the report whereof coming to me, I thought upon, and saw the use of, that word, Matt. 5: 11, "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you," etc. That Sabbath at Airth, I found, 1. That in the morning, especially in prayer before I went to the kirk, I was tempted to think I had been rash in a certain business, not yet accomplished. I slighted the temptation, knowing it to be a device of Satan to mar me of what I was about. I thought it no time then to consider, whether it was really so or not, it being a thing that could not be quickly cleared. 2. That in the forenoon I had light, but little life; in the afternoon I had both, and some things useful and seasonable were laid to my hand. 3. That I was helped betwixt sermons and in the afternoon, to live by faith; and I had a serenity of mind, and contentment of heart, flowing from dependence on the Lord.
Being resolved to part with the presbytery of Stirling in a little time, I had also got over the perplexity by the strait aforesaid, how to dispose of myself next, resigning the matter freely to the Lord; till on 20th April it began to recur. I considered then the two words given me at the North Ferry, viz. Zech. 4: 6 and Dan. 1: 11, that the former was accomplished already, in the manner of my deliverance from the northern mission, and hoping the latter would be accomplished too in its time. And that very day, in the afternoon, I received a letter from my father, desiring me, on the account of private affairs, to come home. Hereby the Lord Himself did seasonably mark out to me my way, in the which He has by this time fulfilled that word also unto me.
About this time began a second alteration in the strain of my preaching, which by degrees, though with much difficulty in the way thereof, ripened into a more clear uptaking of the doctrine of the gospel; which by the mercy of God I arrived at, after my settlement in Simprin. Having been at Barhill on the 11th, I heard at Culross a week-day's sermon, on the excellency of Christ, from Phil. 3: 8, by Mr. Mair; and thereafter was entertained by him with edifying discourse suitable thereto. Upon the back of this, I sometimes thought I had preached but too little of Christ, which I would have been content to have reformed. On the 18th I went to God, and begged an answer of some suits I had had long depending before the throne of grace; which were especially two. The one was, That I might see Christ by a spiritual illumination, with more fulness of the evidence requisite to believing on Him, according to that word, John 6: 40, "That every one which sees the Son, and believeth on Him;" to a particular notice of which passage, I had, some time or other, been led by Mr. Mair's means also. The other was, That I might be helped to live, by faith, above the world. On the morrow after, as I arose, I thought on these words, Ps. 105: 13, 14, 15; and the view of the Lord's concern about His people, in all their removes, was sweet. After which, going to prayer, the Lord was with me in it. My soul went out in love to Christ, followed hard after Him, and I saw much content, delight, and sweet in Him. The issue hereof was, that I found myself somewhat helped to believe; the which, though it carried me not so far above the world as I would fain have been, yet it rendered the world in some sort contemptible in mine eyes; and I found my heart desirous to preach Christ's fulness, His being "all, and in all."
This issued in my being determined, on the 21st, to that text, Matt. 13: 45, 46, unto which I addressed myself, after bemoaning, before the Lord, my ignorance of Christ, and begging the revealing of Him to me; being convinced I was but a child in that matter, yet seeing it my duty to preach Him. Having entered upon it, I saw it a very full text; but going on in it, I found myself dry and barren upon it; which left me much dejected, seeing I could not preach Christ, and beholding much of my ignorance of Him. On the morrow I got more light, ease, and insight into the excellency of Christ, from the Lord. And reading in my ordinary thereafter, I fell on that Col. 4: 3, 4, which afforded me this instruction, That whereas I had been discouraged, for that I could not preach Christ, I saw it indeed a mystery; and such a one as the great apostle found a need of the prayers of the saints, that he might be enabled to preach it. I saw the preaching of Christ to be the most difficult thing; for that though the whole world is full of wonders, yet here are depths beyond all. I was to preach in Clackmannan, where most were for me to be their minister, and some that had the greatest power were against me, as it ordinarily fared with me in the places where I used to preach. On the Saturday's afternoon there comes a letter to my hand, desiring me to give the one half of the day to one Mr. J. G. whom those that were against me had an eye upon. The letter I received contentedly, granted the desire of it, and blessed the Lord for it. In these circumstances, seeing what hazard I was in of an evil eye, I committed my heart to the Lord, that I might be helped to carry evenly. I cried to the Lord for it. and got that word, "My grace shall be sufficient for thee." Sabbath morning I found in myself a great desire to love Christ, and to be concerned solely for His glory; and prayed to that effect, not without some success. He got the forenoon, for so it was desired by them. I was helped to join in prayer, was much edified both by his lecture and sermon, and I sung with a sweet frame after sermon: yet in the time I was thrice assaulted with the temptation I feared; but looking up to the Lord, got it repulsed in some measure; and found my soul desirous that people should get good, soul-good, of what was very seriously, pathetically, and judiciously said to us by the godly young man. Betwixt sermons I got a sight of my own emptiness, and then prayed and preached in the afternoon with very much help from the Lord. Yet, for all that, I wanted not some levity of spirit; which poison my heart sucked out of that sweet flower. When I came home, my heart was in a manner enraged against my heart on this account, and I confessed it before the Lord, abhorring myself, appealing to God's omniscience, that I would fain have had it otherwise, and would have been heartily content to have sold my own credit in the matter for the glory of Christ. As I was complaining that Satan had winnowed me, and brought forth much filthy stuff out of my heart, notwithstanding all my prayers, it came into my mind, how Christ said to Peter, "Simon, Satan has desired to have thee, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not;" and yet Peter denied Him, even with oaths, on a very silly temptation. This was comfortable. There were four things suggested to me in the morning, as antidotes against the temptation; whereof this was one, That I was conscious to myself of my being unwilling to engage with such a post, in regard of my unfitness for it, though they were all willing. In the evening, while I sat musing on what I had been preaching, viz. That the soul that has got a true discovery of Christ will be satisfied with Him alone, I proposed the question to myself, Art thou content of Christ alone? Would thou be satisfied with Christ as thy portion, tho' there were no hell to be saved from? and my soul answered, Yes. I asked myself further, Supposing that, wouldst thou be content of Him, though likewise thou shouldst lose credit and reputation, and meet with trouble for His sake? My soul answered, Yes. Such is my hatred of sin, and my love to Christ. This was the last sermon I preached in that place, for I was going out of that country; and neither of us two was the person God designed for the place.
On the 30th I preached at Dollar. The work being closed, thinking with myself, while yet in the pulpit, that might be the last of my preaching there, as it indeed proved to be, with my eyes lifted up towards heaven, I looked unto the Lord, comforting myself, that I had declared to that people the whole counsel of God, as He had given it me; the which was sweeter to me than their stipend would have been, got by following some advices given me as above mentioned. I lodged in the house of Simon Drysdale, who regretted the presbytery's untenderness in their case; and on the morrow came to me James Kirk, with other three of the elders, who showed their concern on the account of my departure, still regretting the presbytery's slipping the occasion that was in their hands, and shewing that their two neighbouring ministers, on the west and east, were and had been their enemies in the design. The same week Mr. Turnbull told me, that the presbytery might, and, if they would take his advice, should go on, withal complaining somewhat of them in the matter; so that by him, as well as the people, the blame of the marring of that settlement, so far, was laid at their door. Perhaps the trouble they had by Mr. Mair, in Airth, on the strict side, made them the more wary as to me, though I never entertained separating principles.
I had the comfort of the testimony of judicious Christians, that my work in that country, and particularly in that parish, was not in vain in the Lord; and found from several persons, that the Lord had made the word in my mouth to reach their own case, and to be a discerner of the thoughts of their hearts. The same which, it seems, fell out in the case of some others, who knew not so well how the word was directed; whereof a judicious Christian gave me this instance, namely, that discoursing with a certain man in Dollar, whom he knew to be of a violent disposition against Presbyterian preachers, and expected accordingly to find ruffled by the sermons on the fastday; he, on the contrary, found him to shew a liking of me, especially by reason of these sermons, for that they had let him see things to be sin, which he never thought before had been so. Moreover, he said, I had great skill, and told things strangely, even some things which he thought nobody knew, and that he wondered who could tell me; and that if William (his son I suppose) had been any way abroad, he would have thought he had told me. His wife signified, that some of the parish said, I had more wit than my own. These things were encouraging to me, as they discovered the character of the Lord's word in my preaching, namely, that it is "a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
3rd May.—The presbytery granted me testimonials, I promising to satisfy them if they should write for me, probable grounds of encouragement appearing: and they appointed a minister to preach at Dollar on the Sabbath was twenty days, and, on the Tuesday following, to moderate in a call there. On the 5th I took my journey, having had an affecting parting with several Christian friends: and truly it was no small part of my grief, if not the greatest, to leave some serious souls, whom God had made me an instrument of good to, and to whose prayers I doubt not but I was obliged. I came that day to Barhill, where, upon some event or other I cannot now find, I thought I saw an end of all perfection, and that nothing was satisfying without Christ. I think it has been, that having my friend to part with, added to the weight on me in leaving that country. However it was, the impression lasted with me many days thereafter. On the morrow I went to Edinburgh, and the day following got home to Dunse; which, when I saw it, was terrible unto me, my inclination not being towards that country; but thither the Lord led me unto the bounds of any habitation before appointed.
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