Memoirs of the Life, Time, and Writings
of the Reverend and Learned
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Period VII From My Ordination, To My Marriage
I returned to Dunse that night. In prayer I had much confidence in God. I found my heart well content with my lot; and the sense of God's calling me to that work, with the promise of His presence: O it satisfies my soul, and my very heart blesseth Him for it; for really it is the doing of the Lord, and wondrous in my eyes. I have a prospect of comfort and success in my labours among that people, and my soul rejoiceth in the Lord. He has enlarged my heart, I will run the way of His commandments. O! my heart is almost fond on God's good dealing with me. By the mercy of my God, I was not disappointed in my prospect. I closed that night with singing Ps. 16: 5, "God is of mine inheritance and cup the portion," etc., to the end, and prayer.
From this time more than two months passed ere I took up my settled abode at Simprin: during which time, my ordinary residence being at Dunse, as before, I applied myself to my work, as I had opportunity.
22nd September.—It was long ere I got a text for the Sabbath. When I got it, my studies went slowly on. On the morrow also my thoughts were very confused, and it went very ill away with me. I comforted myself with the example of Jacob's going at God's command, on his return to his own country, and yet the Lord met him as an enemy: so it went some better with me. Yet while I studied that sermon, my soul was solidly affected with the weight of the work of the ministry. I meditated on the forenoon-sermon with more satisfaction than I studied it. I had desired the people of Simprin to send a horse for me; but it was so long a-coming, that I despaired of its coming at all. This was a piece of exercise to me; for I thought it strange to be thus treated at the very first: so I began to lay my account with trouble, and to be concerned for the salvation of the people, though I should meet with discouragements from them. The horse came, and it was not their fault that it came not sooner. I was bettered by the dispensation. After studying of the preliminary sermons, as above, on Heb. 13: 17, "For they watch for your souls, as they that must give account," I went to God by prayer for His countenance, and for direction toward such things as might be most profitable for that people; and found my soul much strengthened in confidence of the Lord's owning me, by means of that word, "Go — and lo I am with you alway, even to the end of the world." And I was then determined to begin with the book of Psalms for lecture; and for the exercise on the Sabbath-evenings, to explain a question of the catechism.
24th September.—Having allotted the morning entirely for prayer and meditation, some worldly thoughts crept in; yea on a sudden my heart made a contrivance for staying in Simprin, which perhaps it would not easily have fallen on, if I had thought on the business seasonably. But I thought I bought it at the rate of the loss of that liveliness I expected. In the afternoon I somewhat recovered my forenoon's loss. At night, I had an exercise on the first question of the catechism, with some good frame of spirit: and on the morrow after I visited the people, exhorted to secret prayer, and family-worship; and found in all eighty-eight examinable persons. On the Tuesday, returning to Dunse, I received a letter from Mr. Murray, inviting me to the west, and showing great encouragement: but God had now showed me the appointed bounds of my habitation.
28th September.—I never found that word, "Go — and lo I am with you alway," etc., so strengthening to my soul, as since I was a minister.
Having that week, upon weighing of my circumstances, laid down a resolution to delay my marriage till the spring 1701, I was brought into a grievous strait on the Friday's night: finding, that I behoved either to expede it sooner, or not at all. This sent me to God once and again, laying down the whole at His feet: and the sovereign will of God, tempered with good-will to His people, was my stay. But being to preach at Dunse on the Lord's day, and having sought a text for that end once and again, but in vain, I was hereby led unto one, viz. Col. 3: 2, "Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth:" and I gained some advantage in my own case, by the study thereof. That Sabbath, having the first occasion of my administering the sacrament of baptism, I had endeavoured to frame some discourse for it aforehand, but altogether unsuccessfully: howbeit, when the time came, I was sufficiently furnished for that part of my work, though I could not before so much as order the duty of the parent in my own mind, to my own satisfaction. Thereafter, coming home to my chamber, I spent some time in meditation, and much in prayer, which at that time I could not well leave off, which was far from my ordinary. I laid out my case to the Lord, and He turned not away His ear. But that night it was a concerning question to me, how it came to pass, that I could not get above the world, notwithstanding all my endeavours, by meditating, praying, and preaching for that effect, being earnest to have my preaching effectual on my own heart? I thought with myself, how, in the time of such holy exercises, I was somewhat hoised up above it; but afterward, when the trial comes on, I am again just where I was. And I feared it was too much by myself that I wrestled against the world; that I was too legal in my endeavours, and knew not the way of making use of Christ for that great purpose: but I found I was content to learn.
Toward the end of that week, I had a secret check for forgetting my charge, and was desirous to be with them fixedly, praying the Lord would find out means for that end. I found also my heart much quieted, as to the divine disposal of the affair of my marriage; settling it in my mind not to proceed before a proper time. And with respect to my work in my charge, I was determined to begin with preaching to them the doctrine of man's natural state; judging, the sight and sense thereof to be the foundation of all real religion. And minding to take it in parcels, for the more clear discovery thereof, both in the sinfulness and misery of it, I began my study of it, for that Sabbath, on the guilt of Adam's first sin, or original sin imputed. On the Saturday, the precentor professing his sorrow for his offence, was readmitted sessionally. On the Sabbath, being 8th October, entering accordingly on the subject aforesaid, I found things palpably laid to my hand; and together with the exercise on another question of the catechism, I required of some an account of what they had heard, in which I had but little satisfaction.
On the morrow, having visited the sick, and desired some to meet in my chamber on Tuesday's night for prayer and Christian conference, I went to Kersefield, the house of the Lady Moriston, within a mile of Simprin, whither at that time I sometimes resorted. There my soul was made to bless God; for that when I reflected on the frame and disposition of my soul as to my marriage, I found myself freed of many things which before disturbed me, and my mind resting in the Lord. This was the doing of the Lord, and an answer of prayer. On Tuesday's night, returning to Simprin, the meeting aforesaid was held accordingly: in which, after singing of a psalm, I showed them from the word the warrantableness of such exercise, and withal the reasonableness of it for the time; prayed with them; and then two of them prayed. And the Lord giving some measure of His countenance, I was encouraged. The day following I went home.
13th October.—I was much difficulted as to the getting of a text. I prayed, and thought again and again, but could get none, and so on a long time. In the meantime I was much discouraged, saw and confessed my distance from God, the cause of it, and pleaded on the tenor of my commission. At last, thinking on my own unworthiness, I was made to say within myself, "It is of the Lord's mercy I am not consumed." This was the text I was thus led to, and determined after prayer to take. But so few things presented themselves to me, that I feared I would not get two sermons on it. Thus being the same way difficulted 29th September the Lord in His providence sent me a piece of trouble, which led me to a text. An eminent parallel to this I had, when I was led to that text, Ps. 126: 5. On the morrow I received a letter, and by it expected trouble on trouble. I opened it not till after prayer. Opening it, I was freed from that fear; and going on in my feared studies, things were laid to my hand; and my heart blesseth the Lord, who takes such care of me. And considering how these things put me to prayer, I saw them sweet mercies that come as these did, as answers of prayer; and it is much my advantage that the Lord deals thus with me. On the 15th, being the Lord's day, I preached at Edrom on Lam. 3: 22, "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed;" unto which also I was led by my own case, as is above noticed; and I had much of the Lord's assistance therein all the day, and in my prayers more than ordinary.
I went to the synod on the Tuesday. Returning to Simprin on the Thursday, I visited the school on the morrow, and went to Dunse. And having spoke with Langton on the affair of the stipend, I found no great encouragement; but these things moved me not, being under apprehensions of public troubles, which were then very likely to ensue; there being a general ferment then in the spirits of men through the nation, by means of the disaster of Caledonia. At night, upon occasion of discourse concerning the access allowed some unto God in duty, I found myself much excited to seek Him. On the morrow, before I went off to Simprin, being somewhat moved with the shortness of the time I had to study my sermons, I got confidence in God for that effect, by reflecting on former experiences; and in the meantime was quieted in another case which I had been in fear of. Coming to Simprin about two o'clock, I got my studies dispatched accordingly; and on the Sabbath was much helped in the lecture and afternoon-sermon. I had ordered the visiting of the town that day in the time of the public worship, and found afterwards there was some need for it. The evening-exercise was in all respects as before.
Having come on the Friday to Kersefield, on the morrow I studied for the Sabbath, having the help of former notes on the subject. But I then observed, that I had frequently found I had expeded my studies, in as short time, when I wanted, as when I had help of that kind; and that when I wanted, my studies were more sweet, and I saw best into my subject. And that observation has, in my experience, held to this day. At night, being returned to Simprin, towards the time of going to bed, I heard an unsavoury noise of men drinking in a neighbouring house, on the occasion of a wedding in view. After waiting a while, and finding they were not dismissed, I went out; and meeting with the master of the family, showed him the evil of that unseasonable practice. Coming in again, I poured out my soul to God; and their case considered with my own was heavy: my heart was humbled within me, seeing them an unworthy people, and myself an unworthy minister, making an unworthy couple in my eyes. As I went to bed, I had a motion to pass my ordinary I had studied, and to preach on Jas. 4: 7, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you," being to go abroad from them for a time. And having, on the Sabbath morning, consulted God once and again as to that motion, I was reasonably determined to embrace it. So I reviewed my former notes on that text; and having no time to study new sermons, had no scruple to preach them over again. The which also I did; but with less assistance in the forenoon's exercise than the afternoon, excepting in the preface. The custom of prefacing in the entry of the forenoon's work, I did then use; and I reckoned had used from the time I was licensed, if it was not the first day or so I preached; and have retained it all along to this time. Only in planted congregations, where the minister of the place used it not, I think I forebore it. I noted that day, that I still thought, I rarely, if ever, had such freedom of spirit and assistance in preaching, in that country, as I had had in the bounds of the presbytery of Stirling: but, by the mercy of God, that observation did not long hold. In the evening-exercise I went on as before, but got a more satisfying account of the sermons.
On the 30th I set out for Barhill; but was in hazard of my life in Musselburgh water, having ignorantly adventured to ride it when the sea was in. The horse, I think, was quite off his feet, and swam. And there being a piece of a brae on the far side, he leaped up, and I held. In the meantime, with serenity of mind, I lifted up my soul to the Lord, not knowing but it might cost my life. On the morrow, coming to the ferry, the sea was very rough; but having secretly poured out my soul to the Lord, my heart was calmed, and I took boat, and was safe. I was in Clackmannanshire the two first Sabbaths of November. I had determined in my own mind to preach at Clackmannan the first of these two; but on the Saturday morning early, Mr. Mair entreated me by a line, to preach at Culross, in regard he was obliged to go to Edinburgh on a certain emergency; which in these circumstances, though contrary to my inclination, I could not refuse. After dinner I went down to the manse, supposing him to have taken his journey; but he had put it off. Wherefore I endeavoured to make away for Clackmannan; but he would by no means allow me to go, urging the determination of Providence for my stay, by the violence of the weather through wind and rain in the time; withal hinting, that he and others desired my preaching there, on a design to endeavour a call for me to be his colleague, if they could effectuate it. I declared myself, as I always thought, unfit for such a post; but it was not likely that he would get a colleague of his own choosing, who some years after left the place himself, and died minister of Tulliallan. When thus detained contrary to my inclination, I retired to my chamber, and spent some time in prayer, and meditation on my sermon; but was seized with a severe fainting-fit, and had almost fainted away, but that I was eased by vomiting, as usual. On the morrow, 5th November, he preached in the forenoon, and I was helped to hear, but somewhat indisposed; which indisposition it pleased the Lord timely to remove. Howbeit, my legs trembled underneath me as I went into the pulpit in the afternoon; but when I went to prayer, the trembling went off, and I had much freedom of spirit in preaching the word. Most of the remaining time that night I spent alone, and with Mr. Mair, of whose conversation I ever reaped advantage.
On the Monday, some time was spent in his family in prayer, with fasting; of which I had no notice, till about nine or ten o'clock, when I was thinking of returning to Barhill. Being desired, I staid, and joined with him in that exercise. The family being gathered together, he began the work, shewing the causes of it; which were, 1. The afflicting hand of God on his family, particularly on a child of his at Edinburgh; 2. To prepare for a congregational fast at Carnock; 3. To pray God in behalf of his parish. Then I prayed: after which, he, having spoke a little again, prayed also. These prayers continued long; but we had ended about half an hour after twelve o'clock. After which, retiring to our several apartments, we dined about two, having had no breakfast. This was the first example of a family-fast I had ever seen, neither do I remember to have been witness to another without my own family. But I bless God, I saw that, which was the happy occasion of bringing in that part of family-devotion into my family afterward at times.
Some time after this a blustering student informed me, that Mr. Mair taught, that all members of the visible Church have a general right to Christ, and the benefits of the covenant; and that baptism seals absolutely, that is, as I afterwards understood, that baptism seals that right to them all. Both these things were, at that time, as strange to me as they were to my informer. But now I believe, that sinners of mankind indefinitely, within or without the visible Church, have a real right to Christ, and the benefits of the covenant, so as they may warrantably take possession thereof by faith; the which right is contained in the Holy Scriptures as the original charter, and is legally intimated to all that hear the gospel; all which I have elsewhere more fully declared. But as to what concerns baptism, having conversed Mr. Mair on the head, I could not be of his opinion, which I remember he built on that right, at that time not appearing to me neither. And though afterwards, in process of time, the said right did convincingly appear to me; yet I could never be satisfied as to baptism's sealing of it, so as that ordinance might therefore be lawfully administered to all who with us are called members of the visible Church; forasmuch as I look on that sacrament as a seal of the benefits of the covenant in possession, and which the party has a special saving interest in. However, I reckon that worthy man one of the happy instruments of the breaking forth of a more clear discovery of the doctrine of the gospel, in this church, in these latter days thereof.
Returning on the Saturday to Ferrytown, my spirit through grace being in good condition, I preached at Clackmannan on the Lord's day. At Ferrytown I was called to visit a sick man, whom I knew to have been a very profligate person, but found stored with a great deal of ill-grounded confidence. I applied myself to bring him to a sense of his sin and danger; but saw no success thereof. That week I returned from that country to my charge.
From thence, on the Tuesday after, being 22nd November, I went to Langton, and on the morrow to Dunse; found worldly business very uneasy to me, and ensnaring to my mind; and so it has been with me all along, having neither heart nor hand for it. On the Thursday I went to Lennel, and married a couple of persons; in which action, relying on the Lord, I found I was helped accordingly. Thereafter, meeting with Abbay above mentioned, his foolish talking afforded me heavy reflections, on the unedifying converse of ministers, and my own among others, as one great cause of the unsuccessfulness of the gospel. From thence I came to Kersefield, where on the morrow I found a dissatisfaction with myself, for that I was not more strong in the Lord, but easily brought, on the least temptation, to distrust God. I continued there till the Sabbath morning that I came to Simprin, where the Lord was with me in my work. On the 25th I had gone to prayer, in which I found palpably on my heart the blowings of the Spirit, loosing my bands, and enlarging my heart with ardent desires after Christ; and these two days my mind has been habitually disposed to spiritual discourse, not finding other discourse pleasing to me. But on the morrow, being the Lord's day, I found matters were not right, which was occasioned by my unwatchfulness, having ventured too far on ground slippery to me, wherein though I kept my feet a while, yet I slipt at length. My heart not being lively before, became more dead, with unseasonable thoughts, or rather fancies. The consideration of which did empty me of myself, and made me see it would not be poor I that would work the Lord's work. Yet it pleased the Lord to help me well all this day, from the lecture forwards; for I lectured with a good frame, having light, life, sense, and heart-satisfaction; and had more than ordinary help in the prayer after it. In both sermons I was helped to be serious for the good of the people's souls, somewhat pithy, peremptory, and particular, in the strength of the Lord. Betwixt sermons, walking a little at the end of the kirk, reflecting on the unsuccessfulness of the gospel, and withal on the prayer after the lecture, I thought all that was left us now was some greedy looks and desires after a hidden Christ. After sermons I went to God, and poured out my soul before Him for a blessing on what He had helped to deliver; was owned of Him in all the parts of the evening-exercise, and got a more satisfying account of the sermons than sometimes before.
On the Thursday after was a national thanksgiving to be observed. But being now on the point of taking up house, I went on the Monday to Dunse, where I continued till Wednesday, finding the great disadvantage of an unsettled abode, and more disadvantage of being employed in worldly business. That night I returned to Simprin, where, with no great difficulty, I studied my sermons before I slept, having on the day before, in which I had no opportunity of studying, sought light and furniture from the Lord for His work, and been determined to a text. I was helped through the day. After the public work was over, I had great fear of evil days; and I am almost persuaded that I will see evil days, if God spare me any considerable time; and how to carry rightly through them, is my exercise. But that word, Ps. 36: 9, "With Thee is the fountain of life: in Thy light shall we see light," was sweet and seasonable to my soul. On Tuesday last I met with some printed scruples concerning this thanksgiving. I sought light from the Lord, and they proved no scruples to me; only one of them had some weight with me, which was too scrimp dealing with the Lord, in that we were ordered to pour out prayers that day likewise, because of the great sickness now raging, and the disaster of Caledonia, and that there was not a particular day of fasting for them. This I resolved to testify against; yet when the time came, it was still kept out of my mind, and I was borne off it. It may be it was of God; for it is thought that such a fast at this time would greatly weaken the King's interest in Scotland. N.B.—Thus political views have influenced our church-management all along. The evening-exercise was made that day as on Sabbaths.
Next day, 1st December, I was obliged to go to Churnside fair. Having come to my sister's house, it was against the grain with me to go to the market-place. Seeing the multitude, I thought I could have entered in among them more boldly, if I had been to preach the gospel to them; and I went out forward into the market-place, but immediately retired into a house, and my father did my business. Returning that night to Dunse, I was on Saturday taken up with business, having only so much time left as to go to Simprin, wearied of an unsettled abode, both in respect of its taking me off from the work of my calling, and the trouble thereof otherwise. After prayer I had very much of the divine assistance in studying my sermons, with much satisfaction; and thereafter was helped to pour out my soul before the Lord, feeling the blowings of His Spirit; wherefore I took that occasion to mind the affair of my marriage. On the Sabbath I had the same assistance in delivering the word. And here I find I made the following comfortable reflection, viz., The Lord is indeed good to me; blessed be the name of the Lord; for I have now the same freedom every way, in preaching, as when in the presbytery of Stirling. The evening-exercise, on the question concerning the providence of God, was sweet to me: and in converse after it, it was a pleasure to think and speak of the saints' grounds of encouragement from that head, under trouble, particularly, how it is their God that guides the world; and nothing do they meet with but what comes through their Lord's fingers; how He weighs their troubles to the least grain, that no more falls to their share than they need; and how they have a covenant-right to chastisements, to the Lord's dealing with them as with sons, to be rightly educated, not as servants, whom the master will not strike, but put away at the term.
On the Monday, being now resolved to remove, I went to Dunse to make ready for it. Thence on the morrow I went to Churnside to the presbytery, where one Mr. Watson, a north-countryman, rejected before by the presbytery, was again brought on the field, sore against my heart, perceiving him to be a man of no manner of modesty, nor sense of the weight of the work: but a brother, from his own private motion, had given him a text. He was appointed to deliver his discourse on it that day eight days, at Hutton, before three brethren, whereof I was one. At night I returned to Dunse, where, on the morrow, the pressure I had in the presbyterial affair foresaid, made me look to the Lord for His own helping in the case, and for my direction therein. And such matters have all along, generally, been of great weight with me; judging it always to be a most momentous part of the ministerial charge, the admitting of men to the preaching of the gospel. That night, being 6th December, I went to Simprin for good and all.
On Thursday the 7th, came the wains with the household-furniture from Dunse, my father coming along with them on my horse: so that day I took up house with him, and Alison Trotter my cousin-german, a servant. The manse being in ruins, I settled in an old house in the west end of the town, formerly belonging to Andrew Home, sometime portioner there: and there I dwelt till toward the latter end of the year 1702. Things being put in some order that night and the morrow, as I walked through the floor, seeing myself in my own house, I was but little affected with it, and thought that now I had it anew confirmed, that worldly things are greater in expectation than in fruition. When we were quiet, that word, Ps. 68: 6, "God setteth the solitary in families," which was once very sweet to me when at Rennet, came into my mind. On Saturday, after the morning family - worship, viz. singing, reading, and prayer, having determined to read in the Old Testament in the morning, and in the New at night, I addressed myself to my work for the Sabbath; and, after prayer, did with some difficulty fall on a text, viz. Rom. 1: 23, but I had much of the divine assistance in my studies, and meditating thereon; so that my false heart, taking occasion therefrom to be lifted up, sent me groaning to the Lord, for help against it.
On the Lord's day, being the 10th, I had signal assistance in every part of the public work; howbeit I had seen no commentary on what I lectured: and I preached with light, life, and zeal, man's heart's fulness of all sin by nature; and some strangers seemed to be affected. Coming home, I saw cause to bless the Lord, for His return to me in public ordinances; and went immediately unto my closet, to secret prayer: the which, since that time all along unto this day, has been my ordinary practice. After supper, I spent the time till the evening-exercise, in meditation and prayer, with special respect to my not finding on my own heart such impressions of my own vileness as I ought to have had: yet so much of it I did see, as obliged me to say, "It is of the Lord's mercies that I am not consumed." Moreover I found cause of thankfulness, that I was in some concern that the devil might not pick up the seed sown. In the evening-exercise I again found the deceitfulness of my heart, so as it immediately after sent me unto God, groaning under my mismanagements. I have frequently observed, that as soon as I have begun to complain to the Lord of my spending my strength in vain, I have been made to lay my hands on my mouth, considering how Christ Himself spends more invitations, etc., for nought: and what is vile I, that I should be discouraged on that account? Many times I have feared, that the pride of my heart, too high thoughts of my own pains, weariness, etc., have had a hand in these complaints; and that I have not, as I ought, been purely concerned for the glory of God; and that the command to preach has not sufficiently satisfied me. I have been helped to speak to the people by similitudes; but exacting an account of the sermon from the people, several of them told me the earthly part, but quite forgot the heavenly part; which was very wounding to me; so that I know not how to preach so as they may be profited. I have been made sometimes this night to think, what the Lord means by this signal help He gives me, especially these two last Sabbaths (in respect of which I have been made to notice the return of the Lord's presence to me in His work, as at Clackmannan, or in the presbytery of Stirling, which I feared had been quite gone); sometimes I think, it may be God has some lost sheep to find here, and sometimes I fear, it is only for a testimony. Only I desire to bless the Lord who so helps me, both in studying and preaching: and it makes my soul say, as Job 23: 3, "O that I knew where I might find Him!" for, notwithstanding all God's goodness to me, I cannot attain to such lively exercise of faith, love, and heavenly-mindedness, as some time before.
On the morrow I went to Dunse, to a monthly meeting for prayer, from several parishes; the which had been set up by the worthy Mr. Colden. Here a heaviness and indisposition of body and spirit fell on me, so that I both wandered and wearied in the time of it. Sometimes I faintly got above it, but fell into it again. I thought in the time that I would get on the finger-ends for this; and so it fell out very quickly: for coming from that exercise, I met with a piece of trouble that perplexed and confused me, so that what to do or say I knew not; only I resolved to lay it down before the Lord, being ready to comply with what the Lord would shew to be duty. This was occasioned by a letter from my friend, and I was troubled about putting an end to my marriage with her. It was my unbelief that occasioned my perplexity. In it, my eldest brother was useful to me, encouraging me to trust in God, before whom I laid the case. While I was imparting my uneasiness to him, that word came to me checking me, "When I sent you out, lacked ye any thing?" And on the morrow I was much enlarged in prayer, for light to know my duty therein; and was hopeful that the Lord, who had given light in other things relative thereto, would give light in that point too. Thereafter I went towards Hutton to hear Mr. Watson's discourse, which affair had made me oftener than once to implore the divine conduct. Coming near the place, I was informed that the business was done by others on the day before; that the discourse was much of a piece with his former, and they had given him a new text. Coming home, I was in perplexity about my own affair aforesaid, went to God with it, thought on it, but could not bring the matter to a point: but, by the good hand of God, one of the members of the meeting for prayer, began the exercise that night with singing Ps. 61 from the beginning, "O God — What time my heart is overwhelmed, and in perplexity," etc. Afterwards conversing with my father on my business, I was somewhat eased, perceiving it might be accomplished about August following. And afterward, having occasion to write about it, I went to God for guidance and direction therein, and things seemed to be cleared to me.
12th December.—I have had a desire to set up week-day sermons this long time. And since the synod (at which time I had great apprehensions of evil days, which pressed me to be busy in my time) I resolved to try what encouragement I might meet with in prosecuting it. This night I proposed it to two of the members of the meeting for Christian fellowship; who received the motion with all gladness; and I was desired to begin it next Thursday's night. Upon which immediately I found a great averseness in my own mind to it; thinking withal, that I should have tabled it particularly before the Lord ere I had proposed it. Thus I saw the dreadful deceit of my heart. I pressed my heart with that word, 2 Tim. 4: 2, "Preach the word, be instant in season, out of season:" but it would not do. As I was going out of doors, it was suggested to me, that the Lord had thus punished me for not seeking light as to that particular expressly. While I wrote this, I thought it indeed a temptation of Satan to divert me from this work. (Nota, It seems both were true.) I was helped earnestly to seek light from the Lord in it. On the morrow I went to God again with this business; yet could I not be fully satisfied to undertake that work, so long and so much before desired by me; neither had I anything material to object against it. Wherefore I renewed my suit; and thinking about it, got my heart more satisfied and inclined thereto, urging myself with the Lord's kindness to me in His work, and the necessity of the people's souls. I went to God again with it; and, in fine, the assiduity of faithful ministers, the apostles, and others, preaching both by day and by night, and no doubt sometimes to a small handful, did overcome me: so that I determine to go on, desiring heartily to comply with it. On Thursday the 14th, at night, I began this exercise, having spent the afternoon in catechising. I went about the examination under a sense of my own emptiness and insufficiency; and was well helped while my heart kept right; but in turning to some one or other of its biasses, my help decayed. In the evening-exercise the Lord's presence was such, that I was made to say, "It is good for us to be here." When alone, the mismanaging of the examination, yea and the sermon too, lay heavy on me; and therefore I went to God for pardon of my weakness. And that exercise I kept up all along after, during my continuance in Simprin; and had many a sweet and refreshing hour of it. In the winter-season, our meetings for it were in my house, and in the night; in the summer, they were in the kirk, at the time of the day wherein the men rested from their labour: for the people were servants to Langton. And I believe that, for the same reason, it was only the women whom I catechised at any other time of the day; being solicitous that the master's business might not suffer by me, nor my good be evil spoken of on that account. On the morrow after, having visited the sick, and found how the Lord had laid His rod on my handful, I was thereby convinced, that, had I slighted the motion for the Thursday's sermon, I would have had no peace in so doing. Having come home from this visitation, I reflected on it, and saw what secret averseness was in my heart to it, and how poorly I had managed it. I got a clear sight of the freedom and riches of grace, went by myself, and lamented my emptiness and unworthiness; which when I saw, it gave me a check for an inward itching after more work, whereby I might have a little more stipend. That work was, I think, to have been a catechist in Dunse, the encouragement £100 Scots. I had such an offer, and refused it; yet since that time I had such an itch after it. Last night in reading the latter part of John 6, the Lord held His candle before me, helping me to understand it. This night having consulted some books, and my own heart, on the sinfulness of man's natural state, to see what further of that subject remained to be handled, there occurred only man's death in sin, to which I was determined accordingly. On the Saturday I studied it, but not with my former assistance: but, after having prayed, and found it to be owing to that I was not so much emptied of myself as before, reckoning the subject more easy, I recovered the divine aid, in meditating afterward on what I had prepared.
17th December.—Being the Lord's day, in the morning I was somewhat heavenly, and had some desires after, and delight in the Lord. As I went to the kirk, seeing a student going thither, it was a temptation to me my not having studied my lecture with commentaries, for at that time I had few, or none at all. My frame decayed. Singing after the lecture, an unseasonable thought, a little entertained, did me inexpressible prejudice. In prayer I knew my distemper, had some kind of grief for it; but my heart, I thought, was not softened: and the preaching going away with little pith, I cut it short. Betwixt sermons I went into a barn near by the kirk, much dissatisfied with myself; saw how I had brought on myself that heavy alteration, went to God taking shame to myself, wrestled with Him for pity, laying all oars in the water, especially pleading the covenant, and cried that He would remember it according to His promise, Lev. 26: 40-42. Then going away again with the promise of His presence, we sang the 6th psalm from the beginning, being my case. Having prayed with a deep sense of my own vileness, and the falseness of my heart putting me wrong after God had set me right, I preached at first with some life, till, through the Spirit's blowing more upon me, all my bands were loosed: then I went on with light, life, satisfaction, and concern for their souls; and especially found my heart enlarged to preach the freedom and riches of grace, with a hearty abhorrence of the doctrine detracting from the praise thereof. All went right in some measure that afternoon; and I had rather more than less of my former aid: withal there was some appearance of the word's making impression on some of the hearers. The time being far gone, no psalm was sung after; in which, I think, I did amiss, if it was in my power to have commanded four lines. With the student above referred to, I had sometimes had some scuffles on the Arminian points: he coming in a little after sermons, expressed his satisfaction in opposition to these. After supper, having read something for the question to be handled, the people came to the evening-exercise: and with a sense of my own emptiness and insufficiency for the least duty, I went to God for His aid, seeing how I could not go but as led, nor stand but as holden up; and I was helped. A while after, desiring to note the progress of that day, such was the temper of my evil heart, in consideration whereof the states of innocence and of glory were that night big in my eyes, that I was averse to go to prayer beforehand: but I, finding this, peremptorily resolved, that go I should; and durst not delay it, fearing, from former experience, the growing of that distemper; the which I also did accordingly. Ah for the power and prevalency of unbelief! I think if there were no more in heaven but freedom from this master-devil, it were most desirable. That night I began the catechising of the servant: the which part of family-duty I continued in my family on the Sabbath nights, till of late years, my strength decaying, I almost confined it to the time of the year wherein we have but one sermon.
On the morrow I visited the sick, and spent the afternoon in catechising, and found great ignorance prevailing. On the Tuesday, visiting a sick woman grossly ignorant, after I had laid out before her her wretched state by nature, she told me she had believed all her days. I thereupon sat as astonished for a while, lifted up my eyes to the Lord, and addressed myself to her again for her conviction; howbeit nothing but stupidity appeared. Therefore I saw I had enough ado among my handful. I had another diet of catechising on Wednesday afternoon; and looking to the Lord for help, I got it: and I had some more comfort in them than before. Having inculcated almost on each of them their wretched state by nature, and they frequently attending the means of instruction, there were but few examined that day who did not shew some knowledge of that point. But the discovery I had made of their ignorance of God and of themselves, made me the more satisfied with the smallness of the charge.
On the Thursday, thinking to preach the weekly sermon on 2 Cor. 13: 5, "Examine yourselves," etc., after prayer for light and direction, I was surprised with that word slipping into my mind, Hos. 4: 6, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." And hereto I was, after prayer, rationally determined: and that was the first particular subject I entered on in that exercise. At night the Lord was with me, and I had a pretty frequent auditory. That opportunity of serving the Lord was big in my eyes, and my soul blessed Him for that He had put it in my heart. After this, with joy I saw myself in Simprin, as in my nest, under the covert of Christ's wings. Reading divinity that night, I was caused to lift mine eyes to the Lord, for light into His truths, seeing the emptiness of book-learning without the Spirit.
Next day I visited one of my neighbouring brethren, with whom I found not the affection I wished for. My preaching twice on the Lord's day in the winter was reckoned un-neighbourly, notwithstanding the singular circumstances of my charge, all in one little town, within a few paces from one end to the other; the which, shewing no necessity of making a difference betwixt summer and winter in that point, did put me upon the quarrelled method, and kept me at it while I continued in that place. Returning home, I read a while; and at that time I was reading Witsii Oeconoma foederum, which I had borrowed. To that excellent book I was seasonably led by kind Providence at that time. Having left off reading, and made a review of the day's progress, I saw an end of all perfection, no satisfaction in the creature, all treasured up in Christ alone. I found the hardship of having almost none in the country to tell my mind to, but Mr. Colden, who was then about to leave it, going to Oxnam, where he continues to this day. I had a very heavy heart that night on the account foresaid. I would fain have writ to Mr. Mair, but his speaking of my transportation barred that. But my soul blessed the Lord, that I had Christ to run to: it was the very support of my soul, that God governed the world, and that I might pour out my complaint in His bosom. Accordingly I lay down a-bed with that word, John 5: 22, "The Father has committed all judgement to the Son;" which many a time had been sweet to me.
Saturday the 23rd, the day was far spent ere I fell on a text; which having got at length, being Rom. 7: 9, "I was alive without the law," I went upon with some help from the Lord. At even I was ruffled with some household-furniture procured for, and brought to me, but not agreeable to my mind. Withal I received information, by a letter, of a piece of the blustering student above mentioned, his management with respect to me, which touched me in the quick. I went and unbosomed myself to the Lord; but my discouragement remained, by means of that galling trial. I observed the Lord's kindness in that, in our ordinary, that first met me, John 14: 1, "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me;" and the latter part of the 13th psalm in singing. After the unbosoming aforesaid, I found myself faint, not having dined at my ordinary time: therefore I immediately supped; and my body being strengthened, but my mind still troubled, I went to family-worship, and thereafter to my studies, endeavouring to strengthen myself in the Lord. On the morrow, being the Lord's day, after prayer in the morning I had given way to venue worldly thoughts, which were indeed occasioned by something that concerned my conscience; yet my heart soon went without bounds: so that though a desire to be near Christ remained in me, yet I found an averseness to duty even in the very time of duty. Entering on the public work, my prayer was according to my frame, complaining of a body of death, and an ugly heart, and admiring heaven as a place of rest from sin. I preached that day man's ignorance of his wretched state by nature; and was sure that God called me to preach it, by the voice of the people's necessity, two of whom had told me expressly that week, they had believed all their days. That night I altered the evening-exercise, from explaining a question sermon-wise, to catechising, as more fit to profit the people: and to this I had been determined after seeking a discovery of the Lord's mind therein. The public work being over, my heart was discouraged. some impressions of yesternight's trouble remained. I was grieved at this; said, Why art thou cast down, O my soul? It was answered, Because I have not assurance of God's love. I thought I had the testimony of conscience, but can never get the testimony of the Spirit to put me quite out of doubt. I went to prayer, conversed with God; it was wondrous in mine eyes; my morning averseness was overcome. I was humbled before the Lord, and would fain have been quit of an unbelieving heart. I pleaded the promise, "He that loveth Me, I will manifest myself to him." But I feared my love was not of the right sort, upon that very ground that I suspected Christ manifests Himself to His own otherwise than He has done to me. I put the question to myself, How shall I know whether Christ has manifested Himself to me as to His own or not? Ans. to this purpose, All have not alike manifestations of Him; He takes three only of the disciples up into the mount. Philip says, Lord, shew us the Father; yet Christ tells him, "He that has seen the Son (whom Philip had indeed seen), has seen the Father also." What ejects has the manifestation of Christ had on them that got it? 1. The Psalmist, that saw Him fairer than the children of men, Ps. 14: 2, his heart speaks good of Him. It has been the desire of my heart to commend Christ to others, and I have found my heart bubbling up His commendation. 2. It made him think and say, "Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides Thee." My soul can be satisfied with nothing in heaven or earth, no not with heaven itself, without Him; and I think I could be satisfied with Him alone. 3. It made him say, "Thou didst hide Thy face, and I was troubled." So is it with me. My heart was somewhat lighter, though I was not raised up much from my trouble. At family-exercise my heart was somewhat raised with respect to that trouble, by some passages, John 15. Afterwards we sung the latter part of the 14th psalm; and I very well remember, I thought I could get nothing there for me; yet that word, "You shame the counsel of the poor, because God is his trust," was laid open to me as with a strong hand, it striking at the very root of my particular trouble; and then I saw I had something to answer them that troubled me. My soul blessed God for His word, and for that word in particular, that ever it was put in the Bible. It has loosed my bands, set me to my feet again, and put courage in my heart. My heart rejoiceth in His salvation, and in Himself. One thing is observable in this, that being this day persuaded, that my untender walking was the cause of God's hiding Himself, and that a certain foul step was the cause of this particular trouble, after I was made sensible of it, and lamented it more before the Lord, then, and not till then, the deliverance came. After the above happy outgate, I spent some time in thinking of the Lord's kindness to me, and closed the night, far spent, with singing Ps. 34: 1-11 and reading the Scriptures; observing, meanwhile, that wanting written commentaries, a heavenly frame of spirit, and soul-exercise, whether about temporal or spiritual things, were two excellent commentators: and then praying to my God, who does all things for me, went to bed.
On the Monday my heart was borne up with the word which the night before had set me to my feet again. And for some days, till I fell by my iniquity, that word was sweet and refreshing to me; and to this day I look on it as having a particular interest therein. Having gone to Dunse on business, I had much satisfaction in converse with Mr. Colden: my heart being heavenly, spiritual discourse was pleasant; and on Tuesday morning that Scripture-text, Jer. 17: 6, 7, 8, was sweet to me. Mr. Colden was then pressing to get away out of Dunse, as a charge too heavy for him; and I was in a particular concern for his continuance. At night I went to Langton, where, while Mrs. Dawson and I were talking, the child in her arms suddenly was seized with a violent convulsion-fit, wherewith we were both struck with surprise, and thinking the child like to expire, we went to prayer sometimes as occasion served; for it continued long. I observed in my heart, how vain the world was, and the troubles attending the married state; but little knew I then, that the same woman was to be employed to strike me with a heavy surprise in my own case in that state; which came to pass after. The child's fits continuing, I was obliged to tarry all the next day: and there being a project for a catechist in Dunse, for Mr. Colden's ease, I went to Dunse on the Thursday to forward it. After conversing with him in the first place, I addressed myself without his knowledge to the main agents for the parish, whom, with some difficulty, I got to condescend to an overture for effectuating that project. Thereafter I discoursed Mr. Colden on the main thing, and thought that by what passed our hearts were more glued together.
Thereafter coming home, I thought on my sermon by the way, and soon studied it, after I was come home: but being seized with a weariness, I left off my proper business, though the time was approaching; and even when the people began to convene, I was sitting discoursing with my father about worldly business. Thus, through the just displeasure of a holy jealous God, I fell into a heavy case, wherein for several days I lay. I was that night deprived of His countenance in His work: on the morrow I was averse to duty; religion was to me as a strange thing; and my mind was darkened as to my uptakings of Christ. I dragged myself to my studies on Prov. 8: 11, for Kelso, then vacant. I studied, but with great deadness and darkness, being most unfit to manage the subject of the commendation of Christ, which yet I was led to. On the Saturday I could do no more but look up under the plague of a hard heart, and was sadly checked for my carriage on Thursday night before sermon, which I took to be the procuring cause of all this. In the afternoon I went to Kelso, where, on the Lord's day, I was under apprehensions of the Lord's anger; yet could not my heart be kindly broken, nor could I wrestle with Him for His pity. In the forenoon I had the mercy to speak clearly and distinctly; but it was not right with me. I endeavoured between sermons to confess my sin, and cry for the Lord's help; yet faintly: howbeit it went some better in the afternoon; and to some it appeared a good day: but my guilty conscience kept me from the confidence in the Lord that sometimes I had reached. Late in the night I got a little healing, which I found continuing with me on the Monday morning.
1st January 1700.—Which day having come home, I went on the morrow to the presbytery; where Mr. Watson aforesaid delivered his homily before them. My heart, troubled by occasion of him, was, by means of his prayer, somewhat calmed. But his homily was a mere bawble, therefore rejected by the presbytery, and he dismissed: and herein the brethren were of one accord, excepting Mr. Alexander Lauder, author of the book, intitled, The Ancient Bishops Considered, who in that matter was in the extreme of modesty. I have oftener than once, in such cases, with concern observed the more learned men easiest to please. Whether it be an effect of generosity, arising from their superior genius, and their more thorough conviction of the weakness of human understanding; or of their not applying themselves to notice strictly, and observe; or that the warmest heart is not always joined with the clearest head: however that is, I was much affected with the goodness of God in that matter I had so much had at heart.
Meanwhile I still walked halting, until Friday, 5th January, when, studying a sermon on John 5: 40, things were clearly laid to my hand; whereupon my false heart began to be lifted up: but the Lord turned the chase, and I was made to see my own emptiness and nothingness, and my heart was enlarged in thankfulness, my mind more than ordinarily cleared as to the uptaking of the Lord's word, and my heart heavenly; so that I got the revival I had waited for these several days. But, oh! my joy is mixed with mourning; for I fear I will not get His smiles kept, and His frowns are bitter as death. Reading and singing at the exercise were a little heaven to me; God was a commentator to me. In prayer my heart was melted for my sins, and that as they separated me from God, who was now come again to me. I was afraid to live longer, because of my base heart. Fain would I have been with Christ out of the reach of it, being content to leave all the world. Afterwards God continued to be gracious; but oh! oh! my heart is afraid of a back-cast from Satan, and an evil heart, and my soul is really almost overwhelmed with fears, that matters will not be long thus with me. In the greatest blink of His countenance, I durst not say, It is good for me to be here, viz. in the world. Had I but one wish, it should be, That He would wrap me up in His love, light, and life, while I am here, and take me away to eternity when He pleased, though I would fain do something for Christ here; but my own dishonouring of Him by my unbelief, worldly-mindedness, etc., puts me on the rack. But ere I fell asleep, that which I feared came upon me in some measure. I lost much of my frame. The decay, I thought, began with a wandering thought in prayer. I should conclude it was but a dash, if, upon a review of my heart, I found it not in love with Him, and hatred of myself for my own vileness. In the time of that best frame, I had a clear view of the freedom and riches of grace, as now also in some measure I fear I did not guide right in these fears of losing my frame, which overwhelmed my soul; for I had strange thoughts of the condition of the godly on earth, in respect of the certainty of their sinning still. I know not what to say of myself in this, only I am sure something was wrong. This was the occasion of writing the discourse on the 5th question in my Miscellanies. I fear had I been in Mary's case, I had not guided as she, when Christ said, "Touch me not, Mary, for I am not yet ascended." My cup settled below the brim that same night; and so it was on the morrow: but I had learned to be thankful for what was left me. On the Lord's day I preached at Kelso again, going thither for Mr. Dawson in his family-distress: and I was somewhat assisted to my feeling, especially in the afternoon.
From Kelso I went to Dunse, to see what was become of the affair of the catechist; and I found it quite marred; and more than that, that I was suspected of double-dealing in the matter, the which was expressed by Mrs. Colden. Hereon, I find, I made the following reflection, viz., But the Lord know. that I was innocent. Whether Mr. Colden was willing to have Mr. J. B. above mentioned to be the catechist, or not, I cannot be positive; but the main agent for the parish was not willing to undertake for the money, viz. £100 Scots, to be advanced for that end, unless Mr. B. was the person: so that I reckon the suspicion was, that the project was, on the parish's part and mine too, a contrivance rather in favour of Mr. B. than Mr. Colden; agreeable enough to the suspicious temper of that good man. However my heart was really concerned for his continuance in the country, and therefore was most earnest for his case; hut, to my great grief, removing to Oxnam, he left it a little after.
Coming home on the Tuesday, I visited the sick: and much of that night I spent in my studies; on which also I was intent the day following; and on the Thursday's night had advantage by the sermon.
On Friday the 12th, at night, the wind was so boisterous, and my house in so ill case, that I was obliged to rise out of my bed for help in the case. Lying down again, I observed how that many seek not a shelter for their souls till the storm of wrath is come, and they cannot have it. After all I was obliged to quit my bed, and go to my father's, lest the house should have fallen on me. On the morrow I studied my sermons with some distinctness and clearness; but launching forth into thoughts of some difficulties as yet not removed, my heart was so entangled therewith, that the edge of my spirit was much blunted. On the Lord's day, the 14th, I was in heavy case, being very dead in the forenoon. Betwixt sermons I began to pity the people I was set over, and thought I would never stand in an evil day. Then began I bitterly to reflect on the causes of the Lord's withdrawing, and saw my being too much taken up with the world the cause of it, and my carriage in the interval of Sabbaths; mourned over these things, and cried for His presence; and I found in the afternoon a concern for their souls' good, and my own soul encouraged and strengthened by the sermon. At the family-exercise, reading Acts 16 how cruelly Paul and Silas were treated, my false heart began to stand at that, that it should be one of the articles of the covenant, finding a secret unwillingness to undergo such things for Christ, which was sad to me. Then turning to our ordinary in singing (for then I read ordinarily before we sung), and that was Ps. 22: 27 ad finem, Which was sweet and seasonable to my soul, the Lord helped me to look on these promises as promises to Christ in the covenant Of redemption, whereby the elect's salvation, and their being brought up to the terms of the covenant, are secured. The several "shall’s" there, shall remember, shall worship, etc., O how sweet were they! I was content God should exercise that sovereign power in me, and make me willing; and my soul rejoiced in the promise.
I endeavoured on the Monday, not without some success, to keep my heart in a heavenly disposition; spent the morning in my chamber, the forenoon in catechising, the afternoon in business, and visiting a sick man at night, with help from the Lord. Thereafter earnestly plying my books, I found my heart much bettered, my confidence in the Lord more strengthened, the world less valuable in my eyes, and my soul free of the temptations that otherwise I was liable to. And on the Tuesday morning, when I arose, my soul began to soar aloft in thoughts of the morning of the resurrection. And after earnest prayer, I betook myself to my studies again, as soon as I could. Experience of this kind hath been one thing, which all along, and especially in later years, hath recommended close study to me, and in a manner bound it upon me, as being that on which much of my peace and comfort depended. The victual being then dear, the payment of my stipend had been shifted, and was like to have been with-held for a season from me. But when thus I was least anxious about the matter, I understood that orders were given for doing me justice. And here I cannot but observe, that matters of the world go best with me when I am least anxious about them. I examined my heart how it stood affected with this, and found it was not lifted up: but I was grieved I could not be more thankful for it; for I was persuaded that it was the doing of the Lord. I went to give God thanks for it, and to beg a thankful heart; and it was not without some success. Visiting a sick man, the Lord bare in on my heart what I spoke to him, and made me see the reality of it. Having gone to G., while I was there, my eyes were somewhat dazzled with the world's vanity. So poor and foolish am I, and in thy sight a beast, O Lord!
That afternoon I went to Kersefield, having sought of God strength to carry right in all companies: and by the help I had to season converse there, I was more encouraged to venture on company. And there also I spent some time in reading. On Thursday, having studied my sermon, my heart longed to be at the work; and it fared with me accordingly in prayer: but, by a temptation laid to me in the very time of that exercise, I lost all, and the sermon went heavily on. That same night, the factor visiting me, paid the little money payable by Langton, and showed me I was to have all the victual due as soon as it could be got ready for me. The stipend of Simprin was paid partly in grain and partly in money; and there was likewise a proportionable allowance for communion-elements. This was the half-year's stipend, crop 1699, which afterwards I received accordingly. And it was near as much worth as any, and more worth than some whole year's stipend after, on account of the advanced price upon grain at that time. The which put me, I believe, in better circumstances than I was expecting, or could foresee; kind and watchful Providence then, as always, balancing my affairs, according to the design thereof.
I read not only on the Friday, but some part of Saturday forenoon; which I am surprised to find: but it seems I smarted for that keenness, such indisposition of body and mind seizing me after, that I was quite unfit for my study for the Sabbath. At length I came to myself; saw, and lamented before the Lord, my sin: and He turned my heart back again. So, after dinner, I began and completed my sermons, in a good frame. But in the morning of the Lord's day, being the 21st, I found it much abated; and I could not recover it, till near the time of going to church. That day I perceived, that, through the corruption of my own heart, the smallness of my auditory was to my disadvantage; knowing by experience, while a probationer, the sight of a multitude was of use to drive me out of myself. Therefore I endeavoured to be impressed with a sense of the weight of the Lord's work in itself, to compensate that loss: and I had the divine assistance that day accordingly. Even in the lecture I endeavoured to level the word to their consciences, and had advantage by that method. Betwixt sermons, considering how I was helped to plainness and faithfulness in some measure, I saw, in the meanwhile, clearly, my inability to stand before a holy God, to give an account thereof; and the need of Christ's imputed righteousness to cover the sins of my public capacity as a preacher. Thus it was also in my coming home from the afternoon-sermon, in which my assistance had been augmented, acknowledging the justice of God, if He should eternally exclude me from His presence. But it was heavy to me, that there was no appearance of success.
On the morrow I went to Robert Fairbairn's in Woodside, and visited a sick person; who told me of two things he took for the causes of the Lord's controversy. 1. His being very cold and overly in his duties before his sickness seized him. 2. His unthankfulness to God for what measure of bounty towards his soul he had received, his being so much in complaints of God's hiding His face, though since he would have been glad of that which he was then unthankful for. There I was refreshed with a heavenly society, the excellent ones of that part of the earth, tho' they lived then on borrowed meals, an Episcopal incumbent possessing their kirk of Polwurth. Returning on Tuesday, I spent the time in reading, till the meeting for prayer; where, from what I discerned among them, I pressed the study of the power of godliness, and concern for the public. But at that time the appearance of the unsuccessfulness of my preaching and private conference was such that I was ready to conclude, I had ate my white bread in my youth; that the Lord did more good by me as a probationer, than, as yet, as a minister. Next morning I spent closely in my chamber, till eleven o'clock, that I went to Lennel, where I had some edifying converse with Mr. Pow, a grave, peaceable, and judicious man. At night, returning home, I applied myself again to reading.
Lying a-bed after my ordinary time, Thursday morning 25th January, I found it, as always almost, prejudicial to me. When I went to duty, O what a weariness was it to me! Howbeit I found thereafter great dissatisfaction with myself in my own mind, and a nail in my conscience, by that means. But in the afternoon, by prayer, and studying my sermon, I recovered, and was that night much helped to preach with life, strength, zeal, and solidity. But as I was going to begin, a temptation of the nature of that wherewith I had been foiled the preceding Thursday's night, was laid to me; which nevertheless I, like a burnt child dreading fire, did escape, being unable to answer it, and satisfy myself, resolving through the Lord's strength to be in my duty, and grip the promises. Reading Witsius De oeconomia foederum, concerning the love of God and that of ourselves, differencing acts of obedience, and putting these things home to my own conscience, I found I desired to be like God, come of me what will. Retiring after sermon to my closet, the Lord was with me in prayer. And now His kindness made sin appear to me exceeding sinful, and myself hateful to myself. Reading next day the evangelical Witsius, on glorification, I found my soul raised to an admiration of the free grace and love of God to man, I thought even to man though he had continued in innocency, there being such a vast disproportion betwixt the highest pitch of obedience and the glory that is to be revealed, withal wondering how man should be par tanto honori (oneri) ferendo, seeing a necessity of supernatural strength for earthen vessels, their being kept from bursting, while so filled to the brim: "No man can see My face, and live." On the morrow, being Saturday, at prayer, my soul (even Christ the soul of my soul) made me as the chariots of Amminadib: He touched my heart with a live coal, and set it in a flame of love and desires towards Him: so I wrestled for Himself. Christ with anything would have satisfied me; nothing without Christ could do it. This kept me above the world, led me to a text, Job 23: 3, and helped me to understand my lecture, John 20: 11 et seqq., for I had no commentary. The temptation above mentioned, concerning the eventual necessity or certainty of saints sinning, setting on me again, I still got it shifted, resolving to grip the promise. This I think was well done, in these circumstances, Matt. 15: 24, 25. However, some time after, I set myself to consider that point, for my own satisfaction; and, according to a laudable and profitable custom I then had, in cases of particular difficulty to me, committed my thoughts thereon to writing: and they are to be found among the Miscellanies, quest. 5, "Why the Lord suffers sin to remain in the regenerate?"
The following part of that week, I plied my studies, and my frame continued. The next day I preached at Lennel the one half of the day, on the aforementioned text. I thought I would be shut; but when I found the wind blow, I thought I would not draw down my sails hastily; for He made me say, "It is good to be here." The afternoon I preached at home, finding my body wearied; but being posted on to more work, I went to God in a few words, with more than ordinary confidence and stayedness of mind, earnestly pleading the promises of His covenant. I had written but the heads of my sermon, began with a preface, knowing of little to say; but God wrapped me up in it; I had no more to do but speak. O it was sweet, sweet! Far more sweet is the Lord Himself. It continued with me in the sermon. O He is good, He is good to a vile nothing, yea worse than nothing! O to trust Him! I found by both these sermons solid love to Christ in my heart. He was not wanting to me in the evening-exercise; He was a commentator to me; while I was singing His praises, He showed me the sweetness of His name, while I discoursed on it, "the Lord Jesus Christ." Every letter of it was written in gold. But before that exercise I had a temptation, which had almost mastered me, till I went to God with it.
On Monday the 29th, one came and offered me £60 Scots in loan; which I yielded to take, on condition I might keep it two years. On the morrow I found myself, by too much sleep, unfitted for work and service; and withal was inwardly checked for not having visited the families again, before that time. At night, at the meeting for prayer, I got a little revival again which I think I slept away in the Wednesday morning, whereof I have had several sad experiences. Howbeit, that day I visited some families. My method in visitation was this: I made a particular application of my doctrine in the pulpit to the family, exhorted them to lay these things to heart, viz. their natural state, and their need of Christ; exhorted them to secret prayer, supposing they kept family-worship; urged their relative duties, etc.; prayed with them, and made the master of the family to pray. (Note, I think this last might have been as well forborne.) Tho' there was little religion among them, there was more than I expected; and perhaps my labour was not altogether in vain in the Lord. But my frame not being good, I left that work the sooner, and betook myself to my studies.
1st February.—Having gone wrong again, I was a while stupid and unconcerned, till I thought more deeply on the guilt, and then I found my confidence with God much marred, and rather a going away from Him under the stings of conscience, than drawing nigh to Him. At last I went to prayer, and laid out my case before the Lord; yet was I very little quieted. I went and saw a sick man, and, by converse with him, I attained some advantage, and got my heart calmed and bettered, by speaking to the commendation of Christ as the best portion. I am amazed at the baseness of my heart, that can keep so short while right, and am many times afraid my religion is of the wrong stamp. But that which supports me is, that in a calm mood I find myself somewhat emptied of myself, admiring the riches of free grace if ever the Lord shew me mercy, and justifying Him if I perish; flowing from the hatred I bear to myself for these things. And how gladly I would be conformed to the image of Christ, Lord, Thou knowest. I observed this day myself much the worse, 1. Of not observing fixed meditation when I lie down, and when I rise, so duly as some time before; 2. Not preparing my heart more conscientiously for family-exercise; 3. Sleeping too much sometimes; 4. Beginning so soon in the Monday morning to meddle with any secular business. And I find I am the better, 1. Of spiritual converse with my people; 2. Of plying my studies closely. Going home, I went to prayer; and my averseness to come into the presence of God, wherewith I had teen seized under conscience of guilt, was taken away; and the Lord loosed some of my bands. On the morrow, having visited some families, I found I had not that power and life in going about that duty that was to be desired. And although I have endeavoured to amend the first three of the aforementioned things, which I noted myself to be worsted by, resolving in the Lord's strength to go on, and endeavoured all that day to watch my heart; yet it is no wonder I go halting, to learn me to know what a bitter thing it is to be so ungrateful to the Lord. Besides, I am sure I have been too legal in these things, and have not, as I ought, believed. The following time I spent in preparing the weekly sermon, and recording the heads of discourse at the two immediately preceding meetings for prayer, in a book. Taking some time to prepare my heart, by prayer and meditation, for preaching, there was somewhat of a breathing on my dry bones: and then did my distance from God, ingratitude to Him, and wearying of duties, especially secret and private, like darts strike through my liver: yet found I much hypocrisy in my heart. I set myself to guard against the rock I had split on before. However, my confidence in God was very small; and according thereto was the measure of countenance I had in the sermon. But it was good He did not leave me altogether to my own weight. A conviction I then had of my loss, by beginning so soon on the Monday mornings to write letters; or meddle with any secular affairs, prompted me to desire to spend that morning in prayer and meditation, with respect to the Sabbath's work. And by that time also I had thoughts of preaching one of the diets of the Lord's day, on a text different from my ordinary.
On the morrow, 2nd February, I was fastened to my studies till the evening, mixing them with prayer. At which time, having been at some pains to prepare my heart, and beg the divine presence, I went and visited some families; but with little satisfaction. So returning with a sorrowful heart, I poured out my complaint before the Lord. But still it lay heavy on my spirit, having withal a sense of my utter insufficiency for that piece of my work. I found it hard, yea, without a supernatural power, impossible, to bring people to a sense of their need of Christ. Meanwhile I was convinced of the justice of the divine procedure with me in that matter, and of my legal way of managing duty. I saw then also a secret averseness of heart to that work, which, when I was a probationer, I thought I would have gladly embraced an occasion of. Considering that night the state of the public, I thought all ranks of persons, ministers as well as others, were out of the way. And that same night I learned, that the Lord had directed to hit the sores of some at the preceding weekly sermon, so that they thought some had told me: 1 in the which I perceived the divine conduct.
On Saturday, the 3rd, it was long ere I could fall on a text for Churnside, where I was to preach. And when I was fixed in that point, my studies thereon went on heavily, insomuch that having made but little progress therein, I behoved to go away towards that place. At night, being there, my studies succeeded better with me; and I was enlarged in my meditations thereon. On the Lord's day, I was more helped in preaching than in prayer; wherein I found myself under a great restraint. When alone, I was not so confused in my uptakings of Christ and religion, as in some other times of desertion. Yea, according to my doctrine that day, no less than Christ could satisfy me: I saw His supereminent excellency, and the emptiness of all things besides Him; and my soul was in some sort lifted up in the ways of the Lord. But how to reconcile that with the restraint upon me in prayer, I knew not. But certainly there may be an enlargement in affection, where then is a straitening in words, Ps. 6:3 and 77:4; Rom. 8:26. On the Tuesday I visited at Lintlaws a godly friend, then a widow, who shewed me how helpful the sermon at Edrom, 15th October 1699, on Lam. 3: 22 had been to her in her afflicted state; which called to my mind that word, "Who will hearken and hear for the time to come?" Isa. 42: 23. After this I returned to the presbytery at Churnside, where at the preceding diet, upon occasion of requiring a probationer's subscription, I had observed that the formula we of that presbytery had to subscribe was a very unfit one, being that which was calculated by the assembly for those of the Episcopal way who were to be received into ministerial communion. This was then seconded by Mr. James Ramsay, who further proposed that there should be a new formula made. And indeed, in presbyterial management of matters of the greatest weight, Mr. Ramsay and I seldom differed in those days: but at this diet, the motion was so opposed by some, that nothing was concluded. However, I declared, how I thought the formula abovesaid, which we had signed, might be prejudicial to the interest of the church in after times.
Having returned home that night, I spent the next day mostly in reading, frequently looking upward to heaven; but still thought I was made to go halting, for my ingratitude for the divine kindness on the Sabbath was eight days before. But at night, going to bed, I was helped to pour out my complaint into His bosom. On Thursday morning, the 8th, my frame continued; but I unhappily betook myself to reading, putting off my studies till the afternoon; at which time company coming in, I had very little time for study. I preached and prayed that night in bands, and so was justly chastised for my unseasonable reading. The Saturday I spent entirely in my studies, which went not ill with me; and I found there was no ground for the uneasy apprehension above mentioned. Upon that occasion I observed, what I have in several instances since that time observed also, viz., That it was easier for me not to be lifted up with worldly things going according to my wish, than to keep right under cross dispensations. But upon weighing of that matter, I judge the observation must respect the first brush or commencement of prosperity or adversity, not the continued train or course of the same; and that my natural temper hangs the bias that way.
11th February.—This morning, being the Lord's day, I got my heart in some measure to self-emptiness, and greedy looks to Christ. I had much of the Lord's help. The lecture on Ps. 16 was sweet to me. Betwixt sermons I feared I had not got my heart to a deep set of satisfaction in Christ alone, and contempt of the world; and therefore it was my desire to get such grace in the afternoon. O! that 147th psalm from the beginning, which we sung before the afternoon-sermon, was sweet. I got a commentary especially on that, "Who the dispers'd of Israel doth gather into one." I thought I saw how believers were like poor straggling sheep in a wilderness; but the great Shepherd would come, and gather them all to Himself into heaven, ere long. It is good for all, especially ministers, to be emptied of themselves, and to have Christ and the good of souls before their eyes. Simprin! O blessed be He for His kindness at Simprin. If I could believe, there would be no fear of me here. When I came home, upon reflection I found much to mourn for in myself and the people. The people came to the exercise; and whatever part I have in Christ, I am sure I took much delight to speak to His commendation, and my heart loved Him. I have been pressing self-examination; and I think I will see what I can say to that, Ps. 16. My heart being in love with Him for Himself, and desiring Him above all, my heart says, "Preserve me, O Lord, for in Thee do I put my trust." I know I am surrounded with evils on every hand. I cannot save myself; and though I know no other Saviour but Christ, I find it still somewhat difficult to fasten my feet on the promise. (Here, just here, I was put to a stand.) I cannot believe, thought I; and so descending to myself, I could not think Christ loved me, and found a secret desire in my heart to leave this work: but, thought I, what am I doing? that is not the first question (O the deceit of Satan!); I will try whether I have these evidences of faith or not that are set down there. I thought, when I began this, I had faith. 1. "O my soul,—Thou art my Lord." Now I have taken Christ for my Lord, and that without any known reserve, Lord, Thou knowest. And now again, with my whole heart, O Lord, I am content to take Thee still, and that for Thyself as well as Thy benefits. 2. "My goodness," etc. Though under a temptation (and such temptations have come on me sometimes like lightning, as this very night, at which my heart started) I begin to think something of my silly essays at duty; yet otherwise I find I renounce all my own righteousness, and acknowledge God would be no debtor to me, but justly might damn me, though I should burn quick for Him. But what if that be merely from an enlightened conscience? I doubt if that will make men renounce their own righteousness, Matt. 5: 3. Though an enlightened conscience may let men see the equity of God's judgements against sinners, even themselves; yet I am sure it cannot make men approve of the law of God, Rom. 8: 7 and 7: 23; Ps. 1: 2. But so it is, my soul approves the whole law of God in all its parts, threatenings as well as promises, Ps. 119: 128, 172. 3. "To the saints"—. I have little experience of this; I have little to give; yet I can willingly, upon the command of God, give what I may to any, and far more would I to poor saints: but I am sure, I would if I could help any of them nearer Christ, and I rejoice in their spiritual and temporal welfare. They are the "excellent" in my esteem, "I delight" in their society (at least I desire to do it) when they are most heavenly; and the Lord knows grace commends any, more to me, than anything else whatsoever. 4. "Their sorrows," etc. I believe and approve it, though it should be exemplified in myself. Of all "portions" I desire none other but Him; I am content to take Christ for all, and think Him a goodly, complete, and satisfactory "heritage." And many times my soul blesseth God, that has "given me counsel" to make that choice. Be "moved" as I will, I resolve to grip to Him, and cleave to Him for ever. And the Lord knows it is the desire of my heart to keep my eye always on Him, and in my preaching this day He was "before me," to bring myself and others near Him. I cannot find much heart-joy, but only my heart rejoiceth to use "my glory" to speak His commendation. And I think I could venture "my flesh" and spirit both on His mercy. And God knows, Christ is the "soul," the life, the sap, and marrow of anything I have or expect. I would fain hope He will "shew me the path of life." I believe that at His face is "fulness of joy," for I have sometimes had great joy in some blinks of it: and that "at His right hand are pleasures for evermore." And O that my soul would be content to be there, to be satisfied with His likeness, Lord, Thou knowest. After this I went to prayer, wherein I was helped to cleave to Christ; and protested, that I would resolutely adhere to Him, as my Lord, howsoever He might be pleased to dispose of His joy and comforts; it being enough to me to be brought unto Himself, though by the brink of hell.
Agreeable to the desire above mentioned, I spent the Monday's morning in prayer and meditation, not without some countenance from the Lord. And that day I had the following reflection on it, viz., Would to God I may be helped to hold on, for I have found the benefit of it this whole day: if my poor flock should be the better of it too, how sweet would it be to me! And now, by the mercy of God, from that time all along to this day, it has been my ordinary course to spend some time in the Monday morning, in secret extraordinary prayer, according to the apostle's example, 2 Cor. 12: 8, "For this thing I besought the Lord thrice." In which one needs not question, but there has been a great variety both as to management and success: but it is long since become in a manner natural to me now, being hardly interrupted at any time when at home, but on some unordinary emergent. On the morrow, after my secret devotions, a friend coming in to me, wearied me with discourse of worldly business, which was a pain to me: the which he perceiving, did desist from it. After reading Carte's Meditations, I saw much of book-vanity, and found myself more disposed to seek and long for Christ's teaching by His Spirit. Withal I saw myself reproved, for my slackness in pursuing after the knowledge of Christ. At the meeting for prayer, I observed how Providence ordered the reading of Mal. 4 and singing of Ps. 102: 16, giving light into what was to be the subject of discourse that night.
Wednesday the 14th I spent mostly at Kersefield, and was helped to edifying converse with delight. Coming home at night, I spent the remaining time mostly in reading. Upon my calling to mind, and finding out a letter from an exercised Christian gentlewoman, concerning her spiritual condition (it was one Mrs. Janet Bruce, whom I had been acquainted with at Airth), I was checked for not having answered it before that time; the which had been occasioned through my not knowing where the answer might find her; and was resolved to amend that fault. On Thursday, what spare time I had was spent in preparing my sermon. And it was well ordered; for towards the evening I was necessarily engaged in company; so that I got only a little space for prayer, before the sermon. And at the beginning of the work I was like to have been worsted by means of the worldly business I had been engaged in: but the Lord appearing for my help, the work became easy and sweet to my soul. Thereafter, having retired a little for prayer, as ordinary, I spent some time in profitable converse with two of the people. Then, after seeking the Lord's mind once and again, I wrote to the person aforementioned, according to the impression I had of her case; hoping that, though I knew not certainly how it was, He who directed me to speak, would also direct to write.
Friday forenoon was, after prayer for direction, spent in writing another letter of that nature, to Helen Hamilton, now Mrs. Johnston, in Alloa: and there are few letters of any kind to this day, unto the writing whereof I do not address myself in that manner. I was helped to take up and speak to her case, with some measure of light, she having imparted it to me in writing. And I rejoiced to be thus employed by strangers in work of which kind I had little at home. At parting with a student that night, I recommended to him the study of the knowledge of Christ, the gospel, and power of godliness; as I had done more generally in our converse. Upon which occasion I had the following reflection, viz. O what pity is it to see men quick and curious in the intrigues of nature, yet ignorant of Christ! Upon occasion of enlargement in secret prayer that night, I saw the unreasonableness of the conceit of merit, as if a beggar should think he should therefore have an alms, because he can cry for it, or has a hand to put forth to receive it. I have observed this day, and yesterday especially, that I was more remiss in family-duties than in secret; and I think it is occasioned by remissness in preparation for them. It was a sweet reflection to consider, that I am not now so much under the molestations of a particular corruption as sometimes before. I think, that my being taken up more with the proper work of my calling has been helpful in this. But quickly after Satan fell to his old trade, and snarled like a dog at my heels, and it did me good. I was grieved to see myself fall so far short of likeness to the purity of the divine image, which my soul loved. So that afterward my soul went out in love-flames to the Advocate with the Father.
17th February.—Having been for some time seeking light from the Lord as to preaching on different subjects in one day, I was cleared this day; and my ordinary being "Man's Natural State," it was for the other subject still in my eye to exalt Christ, and preach His love, and desire of communion with His people, and that from that text, Cant. 7: 11, "Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field," etc. But after I had studied with ease my forenoon-sermon on my ordinary, being to enter on the other, when I read the text, and saw the connection, I found I had mistaken the spouse's words to Christ for His to her. This gave me a sore dash, fearing that my light that I sometimes get be but delusion; yet my heart remained fixed on the subject: but still I had great hankering after these words, though I durst not willingly wrest the Lord's work. In the meantime was that word, "Arise, my love," etc., Cant. 2: 50: O. brought to me; but the hankering after the other remained. I went to God with it, laying myself open to His beck, and thereafter was cleared to that, "Rise up, my love," etc., and my heart weaned from the other. I wanted not objections within myself against it, saying, To whom shall I preach it? whom have I that understands it? I had these answers: 1. I knew not but there might be some others that would; 2. Maybe hearing these things might melt some heart; 3. Understand it or not who will, it is my duty to exalt Christ, and the riches of His grace. That which more cleared me to that word was, that, after prayer, I found a deal of power and life with it on my own heart, raising my love to Christ. But at my studies I found it hard to believe what I was meditating on, concerning the love of Christ; so that it sent me to God against it, and I find still I have but a struggling with unbelief. I have this day found my heart bettered by a more conscientious preparing my heart for family-worship.
Sabbath, 18th February, this morning I spent in prayer and meditation; found my heart much concerned for success, and a firm belief of the word in my own heart; yet my vigour was in decay ere I went out. It is strange there is scarcely one Sabbath morning wherein I have not deadness to wrestle with, either when I arise, or ere I go out. In the preaching the Lord loosed all my bands. Betwixt sermons I was helped to see, that I had believed my doctrine, and I did believe it; and I thought it a token the Lord would help me to believe my afternoon-doctrine; and my soul longed to be in the church again to preach Christ; and I was helped to speak. But O! still I found it difficult firmly to believe. In time of sermon I sent up some ejaculations for it. When I came home, I found indeed my soul receiving Christ heartily, leaning on Him, laying all the stress of my salvation on Christ crucified. As to the particular things in His sufferings mentioned in the sermon, I had a kind of assent to them; but it had little power with it. I could get no further than to lean on a crucified Christ. I found also I could not believe (i.e. seeingly be persuaded of) the greatness of Christ's love to believers. It is a most difficult task. But who can comprehend it? O that my soul could apprehend it. When I look on Christ's love particularly terminated on Abraham, Paul, etc., it was more easy to observe it. (Note.—Here is a poring on some worth in the creature to commend it to Christ.) At the exercise I got so little satisfaction of my people, that I scarcely got a word of the law-sermon, and very little of the gospel-sermon. This gave me a deep wound; and the unsuccessfulness of the gospel has been and is very heavy to me. Some think me happy because I have so few people, and these not unruly; some think otherwise, because of the meanness of the post and stipend: but none of these move me, but that I am like to spend my strength in vain. Lord, thou knowest it was my duty to preach what I preached this day. I was confirmed in it at the morning-exercise from Ps. 40: 10. It was not the least weight that lay on me this morning, that I have none (if I may say it (I fear it is so) but G. G.) to give me help by their prayers. (N.B.—Ere they and I parted, glory to the power of grace, I durst neither say nor think this.) Being to go to family-exercise I went to prayer, and came away with my soul knit to Christ, all made up of desires and wants. My father went about the exercise, and he mistaking our ordinary, sung Ps. 12 from the beginning. O it was sweet to me, it answered my case, being conscious to myself of my concern for others, which I feared might cut my days, exhausting my spirits. That word ver. 2 especially had life and power with it, in answer to that case. I saw God could preserve me, and would, if it should be for His glory and my good; and if my body should be at a loss, I should get it compensated another way. Now I bless the Lord, this day, 4th March 1730, that I have not been beguiled. The Scriptures are really God's word.
Monday 19th February I wanted not the blowings of the Spirit in my secret exercise this morning, which I began this day se'ennight. I have already found the benefit of spending the Monday morning in prayer and meditation. While R. N. was at prayer this day, I had an unseasonable good thought, for which the Lord might condemn me; but I will see if I can outshoot the devil in his own bow. Two worldly businesses had prospered beyond expectation. My soul blessed God for the same, with a holy contempt of them, looking up to Christ, and observing, that still the world goes best with me when I am least anxious about it. Soon after I received a gift, which, though no great one, did greatly confirm me in that observe. Having spent the forenoon mostly in reading, towards the evening, after prayer, I went and visited some families; and the Lord was not wanting to me therein. On the Tuesday I betook myself to my studies till dinner: then till near night I was in converse, and my frame continued in some measure. But being, that night, one way or other diverted, that I entered into the meeting for prayer without seeking the Lord beforehand, which I afterward was sure was my sin, I lost my frame. Thereafter I found my heart more earthly disposed than before. Next day, going abroad about business, I got one discouragement after another, which I was scarce able to stand under. O to be out of the world, thought I, as I have been sometimes. But I had no pith to overcome them. I found another business had gone right, which I was sometime troubled about; but wo is me that it overtook me in this frame. So do spiritual decays suck the sap out of mercies. On Thursday the 22nd I sought of God a text; and got one clearly, both for myself and the people, viz. Hos. 6: 4, "Your goodness is as a morning-cloud," etc. I got also a heavy heart from the doleful laxness I perceived in a minister, who had come to my house from a wedding-house in the town, where he had been waiting on his mistress. The indecency of this in a minister gave me great offence, which I took the freedom gravely to represent to him. And though I was much inferior to him in age, he took it well: but otherwise I had little satisfaction in his way. Comparing my present frame with the frame of others, I saw God had got little service of any of us. When he was gone, I sobbed out my case to the Lord; but was sadly clogged with corruption, and great darkness, being filled with dampish sadness and unbelieving heaviness, seeing no satisfaction in anything of the world, and yet could not get my heart poised up to Christ, for the dead weight that was at it. In this frame I went to the sermon, and was affected with my own case, and that of the people; with whom I was in earnest, yet still under great darkness. Wherefore I looked to the Lord, and I had some help of that word, Isa. 1. 10. And while I was thus taken up, the world turned again with me, and I met with a favourable providence in temporals, that came very seasonably. By the above word and providence, I got my heart somewhat elevated again. And by what I had seen and observed that day, I perceived, that God had well ordered my lot, in the place where I was, as most meet for me. The following day, being the 23rd, was spent mostly in writing letters: and what was most of a secular nature therein, was the most wearisome, and went on slowly; and what was spiritual was more pleasant, and proceeded in with more enlargement of heart. A business had misgiven, after several attempts. I set myself to a holy indifference, tried it again, and it succeeded. So does the Lord train me to live above the world. After this my mind went a-wavering after a thousand vanities, and spurned all calling back. Next morning, being Saturday, my body and spirit were both in ill case: nevertheless after prayer I fell to my studies, and recovered both ways; and by meditation on the love of Christ, I got love to Him, confidence in Him, and contempt of the world, with a soul-satisfaction in Him. And so frequent has that way of the Lord's carrying on my worldly business according to my frame, been with me, that as soon as I begin to be anxious about a business, I conclude it will go wrong; and when I am helped to a holy carelessness about it, I am apt to expect success. I had then, of a considerable time, found my body exceedingly weakened with studying my sermons: and that day I stressed myself less; and inclined to think, it would be every way better for me, if I could study less, and pray and prepare my heart more: the which course I did then purpose to try. The Lord's day was a heavy day to me. I spent the morning in prayer and meditation; but I had not so much as a lively desire after Christ, and this I could not overcome by all my faint lifeless prayers. I found, it had been better to have been occupied in thinking of what I was to deliver; for the earthly thoughts that mixed with my other meditations, helped to mar my frame; and I was also under bodily indisposition. Yet in singing Ps. 89: 25, and downwards, I thought my heart was led solidly to see my own case, and God's unchangeableness as a sure anchor of faith, and so was helped to believe. But it lasted not. I became melancholy; so that I see, if there were no more but interest obliging me to live near God, I am a great fool to let my heart aside; for never can I have any content, but when helped to walk with God.
On Monday the 26th, I essayed my ordinary exercise: but both body and mind were under heaviness and indisposition; which on the morrow continued; and in that time I found a great aversion to duty, yea even to reading of divinity, the gust I being lost. Wednesday afternoon, the bodily indisposition increased; and therewith the prospect of my difficulties created me some uneasiness. Thereafter I was in such disorder, that I forced on a vomit, begun of itself. The bodily indisposition continued; but by that little twinge my spirit was somewhat bettered, having got a little revival; and I was comforted in reading the marks of faith in Craighead's sermons. Thus it continued on the Thursday, in which I did nothing but prepare my sermon: in delivering whereof I had some light, and a little life; and durst not but bless the Lord for what I had, however little. I received a letter from Mr. Murray, shewing the untender carriage of some ministers in Nithsdale; which was very wounding to me, and seemed, with other things, to write death to the generation.
Sabbath, 3rd March.—The two days before I had a twilight frame; it being neither day nor night with me. I had not so much ado to strive with the world as before sometimes; nor did my soul go forth habitually after Christ with any tolerable vigour. But this morning I was quite lifeless when I arose; became afterwards sensible of my case, but could get no recovery. I was so bound up in one prayer, that I could not say one word, but either mentally or vocally groan out that, "Lord have mercy on me." Afterwards came in some worldly thoughts, that gave me the other backset. When I went to the church, we sung Ps. 69: 13-16. My own case gave me light into it. Then I went to prayer; and my body and spirit were both like to faint, so that I had not ability to speak out; and thus continued a while. At last the Lord cast a live-coal into my dead heart, and quite changed me both in body and mind; and with light and life I lectured and preached also. This continued in the afternoon, and at the evening-exercise too, where Ps. 91: 14 and downwards was very sweet and strengthening, and as a sconce against mine enemies. Yet afterwards I had a violent temptation to unbelief in a particular point, which I had, designedly for myself, touched in my sermon. This was so strong, that I could not master it, for all my preaching about it. I laid it out before the Lord before I went to bed, and while there wrestled against it, though with little success.
On the morrow, having too soon entertained thoughts of a business, though indeed charitable, I was unfitted for my proper work. I visited a minister that day; when I came away, my spirit sunk. I saw how others, whom yet I dare not in some things imitate, knew more of religion, were more lifted up in the ways of the Lord, than I; yea, while I am quite in the dark, I preach, and must preach, what many others (beside whom I would think myself unworthy to open my mouth) do pass. This racked my spirit, considering how little of Christ I knew; how I am habitually cast down, and cannot win to get my heart lifted up in the ways of the Lord. I saw Simprin, and thought it was the fittest place for me; fearing I may be, even in it, a cumberer of the ground. When I came home, I poured out my soul to the Lord, seeing myself of all men most miserable, and not fit to be seen in this world. But the Lord still hid His face. I was a wonder to myself, and thought I may be a wonder to the world, and that religion supers by me, while people may think I am a melancholy fool, with some singular fancies, closed up in this place. Next day my heaviness continued and increased, though in the morning I was helped to cry with some earnestness for a blink of His countenance, but I found it not. I went unto and returned from the presbytery in heaviness; but, that day, our owning, by subscription, the divine right of the government of the church, was carried. When I came home, I became downright melancholy, insomuch that, at the meeting for prayer, my head was so confused, that it was in some measure vertiginous, and my imagination troubled: whence it came to pass, that some intermissions were caused in my singing the Lord's praises. However, conscience of duty urging, I adventured to speak on the question proposed to be discoursed; and thereafter I became more serene. Many a heavy and melancholy day have I had, through various causes and occasions, which holy providence has laid before me: but I do not remember that I had ever before that time been so affected, except once, when I was a boy; at which time I know of no rational ground it proceeded upon: nor can I remember one instance since, wherein it acted so mechanically, to such a pitch; if it is not the passage at Kelso, 23rd April 1712, to be related of that date. On Wednesday it was not so severe: but there remained a great heaviness, together with a pain in my back, from the riding the day before, though I was distant from the presbytery-seat but five miles. For this cause I lay much on my bed that day, sometimes walking out, to help myself by means of conversation, which I found useful. No religion was left me now, but a sorrowful looking up to the Lord, whom I had provoked to withdraw. On the Thursday my exercises were very uncertain: I was still faint and languishing in religious duties, found my body unfit for much study; yet had solid hopes of the divine assistance in my sermon; the which also I got, with a good deal of serenity of mind. But indeed it was best with me, when in that exercise. On the morrow, the whole day being spent at Kersefield, when I came home, I could nevertheless find no vigour in my spirit. On Saturday morning I got a rousing stroke, by an apprehension of my father's death, who was indisposed: thereafter my bands were all loosed in prayer; and then I studied my sermon; and my love to Christ, and concern for the good of the people, were raised somewhat. But the heavy disposition of my body was still a clog to me. My prayers for my father were heard. In the morning of the Lord's day, I took some thoughts of my notes, the rather to keep my heart steadfast, lest by loose meditations altogether it should not so well be held fixed, but beguile me, as sometimes before. When I went away to the kirk, I endeavoured to propose to myself the good of the people, and encouraged myself in the Lord. In the preface my vigour was small, the relics of my old frame still hanging about me: but thereafter I was helped in all. I preached mostly from experience, in the afternoon; and it was sweet. When I came home, I was grieved at the heart for my mismanagement of duty, especially some motions to be lifted up on the account of my assistance, though, when I consider things, being sensible of my own weakness, I would be ashamed to open my mouth before many preachers. I had been for some time solicitous how to manage the visiting of families; the masters of families being workmen, and so can scarcely be found in the daytime in their houses; but at prayer, the day before, as I suppose, it slips into my mind, that I should take the Sabbath afternoons for it, and this when I was not praying about this particular. Afterwards, though the motion, as so timed, was unseasonable, yet on reasonable grounds I thought I would embrace it. But such was the deceit of my heart, and so forward was I, that, without ever once laying it before the Lord in prayer, I made intimation, there would be no public exercise that night: so, when I was to go out for that eject at night, and was praying for the Lord's help, I was severely checked for this my rash determination, and confessed it before the Lord. But seeing all other doors now closed up, I thought it my duty for this time, and the Lord was pleased to be with me in the work. But ere long, viz. Monday 11th March, Satan cast me down. I confessed and mourned, but afterwards guilt lay so heavy on me, that I could have no confidence to pray for the people. After that my heart hardened, and I had no freedom in spirit for prayer. Then did my soul sink, and I found no place of standing, as one forgotten, yea and cast off of God, whose spot is not the spot of God's people. And thus I continued very long, sinking and going down. I went to the family-duties, and desired my father to perform them; and I, as a poor malefactor, sung my own doom, Ps. 52: 6 and downwards, approving the justice of God. Retiring, I got leave to pour out my soul before the Lord, and was somewhat eased; and so thereafter endeavoured to hope against hope, sometimes sinking, sometimes swimming. That day I went to Dunse, in great distress of spirit, to see Mr. Colden, with whom I could use some freedom with respect to my case. Being there, in Mr. Colden's house, and there meeting with some of the godly people of Polwarth, my mouth, according to my then heavy case, was filled with complaints in converse with them. This Mr. Colden did wisely signify to me to be unsafe, in respect of the discouragement it might occasion to them, considering my station and character. Howbeit the particular cause of my heaviness I discovered not to them, nor to him neither: but from that distress I was not recovered till the 25th of the foresaid month of March: at which time I was mercifully set to my feet again; though in a little time the clouds returned after the rain.
26th March.—Having had a good day yesterday, I was like to lose all again this day, and had a struggle that way. I retired, and pleaded with the Lord as my covenanted God in such manner, as pinching want makes men resolute; and was kept up.
28th March.—This day being a fast-day, the Lord was very gracious to me. It was sweet to consider what measure of solidity and firmness in believing, the Lord had given me as to what I had been preaching, and how He had given me several of those suits I had before Him on Monday last the 25th. I had a great deal of confidence in prayer this night; for God is my covenanted God. O! my soul was filled with joy and peace in believing; and I thought I had a feast. Afterwards great fears of temptation seized me, lest Satan should steal a dint of me; wherefore I communed with myself out of the Scriptures, and got answers to all the reasons of my fears, till my heart was calmed, and strengthened in the Lord. When I had passed the difficult step safely, my mouth was filled with praises; and I saw myself infinitely indebted to free grace, that should thus give such answers of prayer, for I had earnestly prayed against it. O that was a sweet word to me on Monday's night, "I will give her the valley of Achor for a door of hope," and yet is so.
3rd April.—Being in great distress, I wrote a letter to Mr. Colden, the only minister in the country to whom I could unbosom myself: but the letter was brought back, he not being at home; and so I was disappointed. The said letter is as follows:—"It is like you will be desirous to know how it stands with me now, considering the case I was in when I saw you last. I can indeed give you but a very sorry account of matters. I am a man who, I thinks have few, if any marrows in the world. I am often at that with it, that I know not what to think of myself, or of my state; (it is only to yourself that I unbosom my poor self, and verily my need presseth me). All that week when I saw you, my sad case continued, till the next,—being estranged from the life of God. So this day fourteen days it pleased the Lord to send—a sharp rod—, and I behoved to lay my hand on my mouth, and take with the punishment of mine iniquity; yet remained I like a man half asleep, still going to rise up, but falling down again—; which was dreadful to me, considering what pains the Lord had taken on me. So on Monday was eight days I used some means more than bare ordinary, for casting out the devil, which that affliction could not cast out—; and it pleased the Lord (as I thought) to blow upon me—; and such speedy and surprising answer of prayer I got, and such outmaking of (especially) one particular promise, that I was fully confirmed in the matter of the Lord's accepting me, and taking me within the bond of the covenant. And this lasted sweetly the three following days. But going abroad on Friday, rejoicing in the Lord (it was to make a visit), I so mismanaged matters, that I came home drooping—; and the Lord so left me, as that my strength against corruption was gone, and distrust of God trampled me under foot. After some time I thought I got up resolutely again, and endeavoured to encourage myself in the Lord; but Satan soon after got in upon my weak side;—which I think will ruin me, that spurns all means.—And thus was I cast down again: and now my vigour and life, if ever I had any, is gone; and I am fit for nothing, though I must be doing. It is strangely racking to me to observe, how that before some solemn approach to God, or immediately after I have attained (as I think) to some nearness to God, Satan gets victory over me. I many times fear my spot is not the spot of God's people: and though I would fain retake use of some former experiences, yet I am dreadfully afraid that the Lord suffers me to fall at such times, to undeceive me as to these things. I shall not trouble you more, though I have many things that are not easy to me. I intreat, if you can have any liberty with the Lord on my account, remember me." Some time ago I could not easily have closed a verbal discourse, or a letter, without something to the commendation of Christ; but, alas! it is not so now! But my heart desires that others may enjoy much of Him, though I be still holden back; and that He may be glorified, come of me what will.
How far I followed my above-mentioned purpose, of retrenching my painfulness in study, I cannot determine: but I well remember, that, that season, still finding my strength exhausted on the Saturdays' nights, I resolved to study my sermons on the Friday. The which course being begun, and the advantage thereof soon perceived, I have since that time kept all along to this day; bating occasional interruptions; which, when they happened, were painful, in respect of my being so habituated to studying that day. So I spent the Saturday in other studies, as I found convenient; till night, that I mandated my sermons, and prepared my lecture, leaving the review thereof only to the Sabbath-morning. This was all along my ordinary course as to my sermons; but of late years I have been wont to leave the preparing of the lecture to the Sabbath morning; and since I became unfit for study after dinner, through increase of my weakness, I mandated my sermons in the forenoon of the Saturday.
On the 4th of April we began to meet in the kirk, at or about the ordinary time of the day for sermon, for the weekly sermon, which hitherto had been kept in the house, and that in the night.
On the Lord's day after, and Monday morning, I got a revival. I cannot but specially notice, that while it was well with me, Satan was very active; but afterward he let me alone as to a particular temptation. It seems he has not thought it worth his pains to toss the empty traveller.
11th April, the Thursday before Lennel communion.—I had been admonishing one of my parish some days before, and shewing a difficulty of admitting him to the Lord's table: he turned very angry, and wished he had broken his neck.— Stepping a dike, he hurt his back so as this day he was not able to go to the fast, nay not to turn himself on his bed.
15th April.—Having been at Edrom yesterday, I came to Dunse this day, minding to go from thence to Kelso to the synod to-morrow with Mr. Colden. But when I came, he was going away, and I could not go with him so soon. So I went home that night; for which I knew little reason till I came home, being blindly led to it. But when I came home, my father was very sick, and that dangerously, as was supposed: but I had no apprehensions of his death. So I went not to the synod. On Wednesday he grew better, and I grew secure, and corruption began to work; and leaving him pretty well, I went out a little, but was called for to him in haste. When I came in, he could scarcely speak to me, he was so ill. My heart was like to fail, seeing the son had ate the sour grapes, and the father's teeth were set on edge. After discoursing to him as a dying man, I went to prayer; and at length won to get some hold of the covenant for my support. I sent for my brothers and sisters, looking on him as a dying man, endeavouring submission in the meantime; which I attained to in some measure this day and the morrow after, at which time he began to grow better: but I endeavoured to be on my guard. Had he been removed at this time, I had been involved in great difficulties: but I got above them in some measure, trusting in the Lord; but earnestly prayed for his recovery, and had much quiet of heart in the Lord. It pleased the Lord to hear me. And still I see the advantage of submission to the will of God. While I spoke to him about his evidences for heaven, my heart was somewhat satisfied in what he told me. By the good hand of God it fell in our ordinary to sing Ps. 71 in time of his sickness; particularly, on Wednesday night, it was from vers. 16 to 20.
24th April.—This day I saw more of my own nothingness, and that Christ must be all for me, or there is no hope; and I feel His covenant my only support. Blessed be the day I renewed it last, for it has been very seasonable to me many times since.
5th May, being the Lord's day.—Having been at Barhill, after I came to Edinburgh there were great rains, so that I was afraid the waters would not let me see Simprin on the Lord's day; but I thought it my duty to adventure, if by any means I could reach home. So I came from Edinburgh yesterday after nine of the clock, and came home that night. And this day I was very much owned of God in my work, and nothing more wearied by my journey. O but I saw the way of duty crossing people's ease, a safe way.
The week following I grew secure. I wanted not many checks for my spiritual sloth, so as horror has taken hold on me, under apprehensions of some stroke to come for this: yet was I as a drunken man, incapable to put himself out of the way of the cart-wheels. I also had some slashes of a frame, but passing. On the Lord's day morning, worldly thoughts were as birdlime to my feet; but preaching about the general judgement, I saw the Lord in His glory, and got a sight of my own vileness: and after sermons, under that impression, secret sins, sins of the heart, were very heavy. And I may say I had no power to bring the subscribed covenant out of my trunk, though sometimes I had resolutions that way.
26th May.—Sabbath, being to preach at Greenlaw, my heart in the morning was in frame; which decayed again; but I was revived by hearing some things, that filled my heart with zeal. (N.B.—I think it has been some things ill.] O then I thought preaching would have come ready by hand to me. Yet when I went to the pulpit, I was to seek. But in prayer I got my heart lively and composed again; and had light and life there.
2nd June.—I found this day I had much more liberty in prayer than preaching. After the work was over, while in my closet, it pleased the Lord palpably to put in His hand at the hole of the door, and move my heart towards Him; and a strange melting there was on my heart, while a neighbour family was singing the Lord's praises. So I found this night another relish in God's word than ordinary, particularly Ps. 89: 9-13. Being to spend some time in prayer to-morrow, I intreated the Lord would keep me for what He had given me, and I was free of tormenting fears of losing it.
5th June.—Studying a sermon for the fast before the communion at Fogo, I had exceeding much of God's countenance in it; I had much light from the Lord, and the matter had weight on my own spirit. On the morrow I preached it; and though I had some tenderness in the morning, it was not so savoury to me in preaching as in studying. I found myself the worse of being hastened in the delivery.
9th June, Lord's day.—When I was yesterday studying the sermons I preached this day, I could have no satisfaction in them; but could not make them better. I reviewed them this morning, but with as little; and thought they would not do. I went to the church with such thoughts as my present circumstances brought to hand, endeavouring to plead the covenant. I prefaced with some liberty on Ps. 65: 1, but afterwards I had such liberty in prayer, such clear conceptions of things in the lecture, with such a facility of expressing myself plainly in it, and this in the preaching too, that I was indeed a wonder to myself. It was most palpably the doing of the Lord, and is wondrous in my eyes. This continued in the afternoon. Only I thought I had more soul-advantage by the gospel-sermon than the law-sermon. I was never more convinced of the influences of the Spirit on men's gifts, and of the necessity of the same. It is so palpable to me, that it was the Spirit of the Lord, that I cannot doubt it; for I see it is He that makes one differ in gifts from another, and makes a man differ from himself. And so do I find my soul convinced of it, that I am helped to give the glory entirely (I think) unto Him, seeing still my own emptiness; for all which my soul blesseth the Lord.
15th June.—This day, or yesternight, my frame being somewhat above the world, and wearied of a body of sin and death, I thought I would get a feast to-morrow in preaching, being to shew what comfort a child of God had from the doctrine of Christ's coming. But this night my proud heart was so raised upon a business, that I was put all wrong; and so finding what temptations I behoved to have, and how foully I come off, I would again have been content to have left all, to have been out of the reach of these things. On the Sabbath morning the temptation was renewed, and came from the same hand; which so prevailed to discompose me, that it made me go halting all the day. But all these things do still more commend to me being with Christ, which I see is best of all. I ordained three elders this day; and when ordaining them I was on a sudden, in the very act, turned out of my ordinary frame, my soul melted, and possessed with the dread of that holy God, by a new light shining into my mind.
23rd June.—I preached at Eymouth. I had extreme difficulty to get a text. When I got it, I had much darkness and straitening; but got a sermon wrestled out at length. In delivering it, the Lord withdrew still; and in the forenoon I was straitened even in respect of words. Mr. Colden has often told me, that he could never get help to preach in that place. And I have often felt it straitening there. But the Lord had good ground of controversy with me, for I had not got my heart kept with God through that week as sometimes. (N.B.—I had sometimes after that, especially one time, in that place, help from the Lord.) I have observed, that sometimes, when it has been ill with me, and particularly at this time, I have observed it, that I have been best when in company, grieving to see others wrong as well as myself, and would fain have had service done to God by others, though I could do none. As also within these two months, I have found I have been more free from temptation when in company than when alone.
28th June.—I observed, that for some days I had more freedom still in secret than in family prayer. Sometimes I have observed the quite contrary.
7th July.—I preached at Edrom. I had something of God in studying these sermons. I was much helped in the first prayer; but in other parts of the forenoon's exercise, though I got what to say, yet I had not such clear uptakings of things, nor that weight on my spirit that I would have had. This made me to cry betwixt sermons; and in time of singing my heart was much affected, and cried for God, the living God, and was helped to pray: but in the preaching I had much struggling for the power of God on my own spirit; yet much darkness and confusion remained, till I came to the application, at which I found myself raised above myself, my soul affected and concerned, and as it were wrapt up in preaching, as it was also in prayer.
13th July.—I have been now for some days habitually kept right; and while it has been so, I have still had a deal of satisfaction in reading and singing in our ordinary for family-duties. So I shall once more set my seal to it, that a heavenly frame is the best commentator on Scripture; and being to preach at Kelso to-morrow, I had great light into my lecture, on which I had no commentary. My soul has been made frequently, this and the last week, to bless the Lord for something of good that seems to follow my ministry; in that I see some are, at least outwardly, bettered, and all the families, for anything the elders or I can see, have God's worship in them, and I would fain hope some of them are in the way to Christ.
On Wednesday the 17th of July, I, going on twenty-five years of my age, married Katharine Brown, formerly mentioned, going on twenty-seven, as born 3rd February 1674, and baptised the 22nd; Providence having seen it meet for me to order the odds to be on her side. I shall here relate some things concerning that business. The first time I saw my wife was on 3rd March 1697, that very day that I left that country. Whenever I saw her, a thought struck through my heart, about her being my wife; and that time, both she and I were in great distress. We had no converse about anything; only I asked her how her sister was: and that was all. 23rd May 1698 she had occasion to come to a place where I was. Whenever I heard she was come, I had a great desire to see her; Which I curbed for a while, and afterwards went and saw her; and this was the second time; and at this time our acquaintance was made. 24th August, that year, after the matter had been laid before the Lord, and often considered, I proposed it. Her piety discerned by myself, and attested amply by others, her parts, humour, etc., engaged me to her. After which proposal, reflecting, I found myself as solid and composed, my mind as calm and serene as ever, and looked on it as a token for good. On the morrow, I proposed what trouble I might look for as a preacher of the gospel; what she might lay her account therewith, if minded to comply with my proposal. Thereafter, by converse with her, I was more and more confirmed in the thoughts of her piety, etc. On the 9th of January 1699, while I was praying about that business of my marriage, that word was brought to me, "Delight thyself in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart;" Ps. 37: 4; as was that word, Rom. 8: 28, "All things shall work together for good to them that love the Lord," while praying about my going to the north, which was an exercise to me at that time; and I was helped to grip the promise. 30th January, being to write to her, I went to God, and was helped with life and some confidence to implore His guidance as to the main thing, and as to the letter in particular. When I arose up, remembering what crosses some wives have proved to ministers, this sent me back to God again. Afterward I fain would have had something to have confirmed me in the Lord's hearing of me; but I thought I would take God's helping me to cry to Him as a sign of that.
On the 1st of February, I observed, that when I am most heavenly in the frame of my heart, my love to her is least shaken, and I am most satisfied in my choice; and that when I am most carnal and earthly, it is otherwise. And, on the 8th, that temptation from the world was very severe, and I found it no easy matter to get over it, though it is my grief. Wherefore in deep seriousness I proposed that question to myself, Darest thou give over that business? I thought on it, and that word, Prov 31: 30. "Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised." I went to the Lord with it, earnestly desiring light from Him; and that word came to me in prayer, and I turned it into a prayer, Matt. 6: 33, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all other things shall be added unto you." And the Lord gave me a clear commentary on that place, with respect to that business, which I can better think than express. The Lord made me clearly see, that I had first sought the kingdom of heaven; for, as I appealed to the Lord's omniscience, unless I had discerned the sparkles of grace in her, and had thought her acquainted with religion, I durst not have proposed such a thing to her. So I concluded I durst not; but would follow it as my duty, hoping other things should be added. Next day, finding my heart lifted up above the world, I took that nick of time to examine myself on the head foresaid, and my heart said, Now I am well content.
On the 16th of April, this morning, especially in prayer, before I went to the church, I was tempted to think I had been rash in my choice: which temptation I slighted, knowing it to be a deceit of Satan, to wear me off what I was about. I thought it no time then for me to consider whether or not, and so rejected it; but it cost me struggling. However, its unseasonable importunity discovered the cloven foot.
26th April.—I was about this time going to leave that country; and having been out in a garden with her, and conveyed her into the house thereafter, I went back to the same place; it was in Barhill in the orchard; and there I had a sweet while of converse with God in prayer, in a sweet hungering frame. My soul was much satisfied in the Lord; and in that place, I will say, I met with God, and there He spoke with me. We were together about three or four days at this time; and the upshot of all was, that I was made often to bless God that ever I was acquainted with her. I understood several things at this and other times, that in this matter she had acted as a Christian, and as under influence of light from the Lord.
26th May.—-I was now tossed with scruples and doubts as to my marriage. I thought on it, but found no outgate. I went to God, particularly for light in that matter, which was now overclouded, and earnestly begged it. I found in prayer my heart going out in love to Christ, etc.
5th June.—After I had been writing to her, that word, Ps. 138: ult., "The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me," came with such power as dispelled these doubts; and I was helped to believe that God would order things for my good in that matter. On the 12th I examined the light I had got in that point, and had help of Durham on conscience. And I found my light in that matter, 1. was from the word, and pressed me to the thing, as agreeable to the word, and carried me on to it as duty towards God; 2. It had another kind of authority and stateliness with it than light affection, or passions; it overpowered my worldly-mindedness, discontent, etc., and this very remarkably. And my heart bears me witness, that it had influence on me to humble and abase me in the sight of God. Whence it appears, that it was my duty before; and if then, now too, seeing no new thing has occurred. Whatever affection I have to her, if my heart deceive me not, I would sacrifice my inclinations to the command of God.
22nd February 1700.—There was a considerable time I had not heard from my friend, which bred me much perplexity: but the Lord took that way to rebuke me for my mismanagements. He drew me by it nearer Himself, and put me to a holy submission. And the effect of it was, I was more confirmed in the business; and when I was weaned, and brought to stoop to Providence, He showed me that the fears were groundless.
25th March.—I had been for some time before this, and was still, under a very dead and drowsy frame of spirit. I was sore racked with various thoughts, and had a sharp exercise of it that night, and next day especially. I therefore resolved, against Monday, to set some time apart for fasting and prayer, that I might get that devil cast out of my heart. So the Sabbath passed, and I walked halting; my case being so after sermon, that if my head had been to have been struck off, I could not have given it a name. 1. The removal then of that spiritual indisposition was the chief cause of that exercise; 2. Victory over sin; 3. Preparation for the then ensuing public fast, and particularly that I might get clear uptakings of what I was to preach; 4. Success in my ministry; lastly, that I might attain to habitual cheerfulness in the Lord. So I spent some time this day in prayer for these things. The Lord in the morning began to blow upon my soul, and continued so to do through the rest of the day I was at that work: and with all willingness of soul I renewed and subscribed a personal covenant with God. And as of myself, so of my friend, I made a solemn resignation to the Lord. And towards the close of that exercise, I earnestly prayed, that if it were His will, I might have a token of His reception of both. My heart was calmed and strengthened in the Lord, and my mind made heavenly. I closed the whole with singing Ps. 116: 7, and downwards, and then went down and took a refreshment. The tenor of the personal covenant I then renewed and subscribed is as follows.
"I, MR. THOMAS BOSTON, minister of God's word at Simprin: Forasmuch as I am in some measure sensible of my grievous, horrid, and frequent backslidings from the Lord, since the last time I covenanted with God; and in particular, having been for some time habitually in a dead and sleepy frame, for which cause (among others mentioned elsewhere) I set this day apart for fasting and prayer; and finding myself called to renew my covenant with God, the rather to obtain the ends of this day's exercise, and to get my soul more confirmed in the Lord, for wading through the difficulties betwixt me and heaven, in prayer I did, and now (giving it under my hand) I do, adhere to all my former covenants with, and engagements to be the Lord Jesus Christ's, particularly that written and subscribed covenant of the date 14th August 1699; and do now, with all my heart and soul, solemnly resign and give up myself, and all my bodily and spiritual concerns, unto Christ; taking Him with heart and soul upon those very terms, and no other, upon which He is offered in the gospel; resolving, and hereby engaging, in His strength, to cleave to Him and His truths, so long as I live, whatever be the hazard. Likeas I have, and hereby do, solemnly give up and resign K. B. to the same Lord Christ, that I have given myself to be His for ever. And this before the Lord, the searcher of hearts, I do with all willingness subscribe, the 25th day of March 1700 years. T. B."
26th March.—I think I had never more persuasion of God's accepting my renewing of covenant than that yesterday. I rejoice I have done it, when I think on it; and I am persuaded God has accepted it; for I have had covenanted strength since, as well as the token aforesaid. That word was sweet to me in my ordinary last night, Isa. 54: 6, "The Lord has called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God."
23rd April.—My father, in the time of his sickness, had (as he had also before) urged me to put an end to that business. and then I found I was inclined not to delay it long. And another thing came immediately after, which obliged me to be at a point in that matter. This day I set myself to spend some time in seeking light from the Lord in that point. I prayed twice, but was in no good case, and so could not fall on what I aimed at. I tried it again, and after a while I got my feet fastened; the Spirit did blow on me, and the matter was laid out before the Lord; and my conscience told me, that I did sincerely desire God's determination in the case; which desire I saw as the sun at noonday. The upshot of all was, to follow the conduct of Providence. On the morrow, having gone to God with it again in particular, and after considering the business, I found reasons weighty for not delaying it much longer. I also found I was in better case for expediting it than I had thought, being then made sensible of a mistake. Providence, even in the review at this distance, I plainly see to have been, at that time, clearly pointing and conducting me, by several steps thereof, unto it. Accordingly, on Monday the 29th, I went away to visit my friend; and, following the conduct of Providence, we determined the business to the middle of July; and so I returned cheerfully, and ever after was well satisfied as to the determination of the time.
24th May.—At night, before family-exercise, I was somewhat cast down and troubled by reason of some remaining difficulties in the accomplishing of my business. At prayer I took occasion to bewail this; and so it was, that my soul seeing more of the vanity of the world, and longing for heaven, I found my soul blessing God for troubles in the world; for I well saw, that otherwise I would have been saying, "It is good for me to be here." Blessed be the Lord for that word which we sung, Ps. 85: ult, "What is good the Lord will give." I think I can believe it, though I see it not. Lord help my unbelief. 28th and 29th May I was taken up in business relative thereto, and was helped to manage matters with an eye to God, and my heart was lifted up in admiration of divine conduct, making mountains molehills.
3rd June.—Having purposed to spend some time this day in prayer, with fasting, with respect especially to my marriage, I rose early this morning; and though I found much of yesterday's frame continuing, yet wanted I not some secret heart averseness to that work. After prayer, I considered what I was to plead for. And, first, As to my marriage, 1. That the Lord would clear up duty more and more, that we may go on under a sense of God's command; 2. That He would pardon mismanagements in the oncarrying of it; 3. That He would give us a suitable frame for such a weighty business, and particularly in the time of it; 4. Conjugal love and concord; 5. Contentment as to our choice, and with our lot in the world; 6. That we may be spiritually useful to one another, and particularly with respect to a time of trouble for the gospel; 7. That we may give loose to one another, ready to part on a call; and that God would provide things necessary for our through-bearing; lastly, That I may be spared with her a while; and if I be taken away, she may not be left destitute, but God may be her tutor. Secondly, Victory over corruption. Thirdly, Success in my ministry. Lastly, Preparation for the fast at Fogo. These things I earnestly sought of the Lord; and, as I went on, I won very near God, attaining to familiarity and confidence with the Lord; so that I was made to bless the day I set about this work. My heart and flesh were all aloft towards Christ. After I had come from that exercise, in the afternoon I received a letter from her, wherein she showed me some piece of exercise she was under, and the prevalency of unbelief with her, with something importing fears of approaching death. This did somewhat amuse me, and made me wonder what might be the language of it to me. I had prayed for a token of the Lord's accepting this service, and this seemed not to be such. But, on further consideration, I found I had no great reason to complain, but rather to bless the Lord, who made her careful of her salvation, and exercised with her own heart at such a juncture. And I had liberty with the Lord on her account. As for the fears of approaching death, it is like God has sent it to ballast me, and keep me watchful; and I am the Lord's, let Him do what seemeth Him good. I found my heart last week, and at this time, more clear in the sight of the world's vanity, and going more after being with Christ, which I see is best of all, than a good while before. Her case and my own sent me sometimes to God. But at night I grew so very apprehensive of her death, that my ballast was like to sink me. I strove to encourage myself, but nothing would effectually do. But I saw the cause of it. And on the morrow morning so was it with me, still I sunk, when I thought on it; so easily was I overcome after such kind dealing. It sent me again and again to the Lord. (N. B.—See how Providence filled up what I had most unaccountably forgot in the causes above mentioned: for what reason can be given, that when I had made it one of my errands to God, that I might be spared with her, that I should not also with that been concerned that she might be spared with me?) I behoved to go to the presbytery; and I won but so far above it, as to let it be only ballast to my heart, and to make me watchful, and prepare for whatever should come. And so it proved very useful to me this day both abroad and at home. And so was it the next day while studying the sermon for Fogo.
8th June.—I minded to declare my purpose to two of the elders, and went to God on that head; but was very dull in my frame; but one of them could not be got. So I delayed to this day, at which time it was better with me. So that I came to them with confidence in God, leaning on and getting use made of that word which God said to me before I came to Simprin, "The eternal God shall be thy refuge," etc. And I could not but observe the Lord's putting a stop to it till I was in this case.
13th June.—Thursday, I met with a severe stroke. On the Monday afternoon and Tuesday I had fallen secure again; had only some awakening gliffs, and sad experience of the instability of my heart; which lay so heavy on me on Tuesday's night, that I would have been content to have quitted all, to have been out of the reach of a woful heart, and to have had a dying-day instead of a marriage-day. On Wednesday, it was once better; but ere that day was gone, my vigour spiritual was gone. This morning I had little freedom in prayer. I preached the weekly sermon with an overly superficial moving of affections. After the sermon a while, I went out to the garden, and there was a spit sticking in the wall of the house, with the small end of it outmost. I rushed inadvertently my face on it, and the wound I got was about a straw-breadth beneath the eye. I was stupefied with it, and knew not but it had gone into the eyeball. It swelled to a great bigness, and covered a great part of my eye. I was afraid of losing my eye. It sent me to the Lord, confessing my sin, and taking with the punishment of mine iniquity; and I got a patient, quiet, submissive, and contented frame under the rod, endeavouring to trust God come what would. Great mercy it was that it was not a straw-breadth higher; for then it would have digged out my eye. I endeavoured to sit loose to my friend, and all created enjoyments, which I thought God called for by that rod. On the morrow the thoughts of my falling off so frequently to provoke the Lord, and so bringing one rod after another on myself, made heaven very desirable to me. And noticing the way of Providence with me, I kissed this rod, for there was a deal of kindness in it.
23rd June.—I preached at Eymouth, under great withdrawings of the Spirit, as before narrated. This business has been a snare to me since it came so near a period. If I had not guided better before, I could have had little comfort in it. God is my witness, that it has been and is my grief, that in my thoughts of it I cannot be more heavenly; and that I cannot more vigorously look to God with respect to it. If this day eight days, when I am to be proclaimed, be such a day as this, I think I will be wounded with the arrows of the Almighty: for that it should be so at this juncture is a double misery.
28th June.—Wherefore I spent some time this day in prayer, with respect to my marriage mainly; was solidly affected with it, and helped to believe; and have hitherto felt my spirit bettered thereby, keeping somewhat more closely with God than before. Yesterday I had a view of my need of Christ, and the supplies of His grace; and had much inward satisfaction flowing from the sense of my soul's nearness to God, and my heart's being kept in some measure with God. And this day the thoughts of that business were a spur to duty.
30th June.—This day was a good day. I got my heart earnest for God's presence, and I wanted neither light nor life in my work. And finishing a particular subject that day, my soul was affected and melted with the people's case.
9th July.—This day I found myself under a great decay again; but discoursing with a good lad, he had occasion to speak of these two scriptures, "Truly God is good to Israel," upon which I seemed to have a sight of the Lord's goodness; and that, "If Thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence;" which had such an impression on me, that upon it I had some revival. But by my carelessness it slipped away, and great darkness and hardness of heart succeeded. A while after these seemed to be going away: but neither was that right guided; and then I was carried quite off my feet. On the morrow especially, I saw my confidence with God was quite marred, and sin lay heavy on soul and conscience. And though I spent a good part of the day, the weary day, in fasting and prayer, the Lord would not hear me, neither could I win to any meltedness of heart: only I had tormenting light without life. Afterwards Mr. G. R. came; but I was indisposed both in body and mind, heavy and melancholy, unfit for anything whatsoever. Yet at length, while I lifted up my dejected eyes to the Lord, and we conversed about the measure of humiliation requisite in a sinner before he can come to Christ, concerning self-condemnation, etc., I found I spoke only what I felt. So in the very time while we thus walked up and down, and discoursed, the Lord loosed the poor prisoner; my heart loosed, and my bands were taken off: And I observed my body grew better, when the cure was begun in my soul. Afterwards I went to God, poured out my soul before Him like water, with grief for sin, and confidence of his mercy. And then I was helped to wrestle in earnest with God for His presence to be with me with respect to my business. By the Lord's dealing thus severely with me, I had a sight of the excellency of Christ; and when I won near God, O but my soul prized Christ as the Mediator, and way to the Father; and my heart was in love with the doctrine of the gospel, even free grace. I spent some time thereafter in the fields meditating, with a deep sense of my own vileness. On the morrow I had real struggling ere I could get my heart right, but not without success. I saw nothing desirable in the world but Christ and ordinances. And I had much of the felt presence of God in preaching my sermon (it being Thursday). Thereafter, in secret, I found my confidence in the Lord was enlarged, as to what is before me, and otherwise; and my soul was affected with a sense of my misery and nothingness: but blessed be the Lord for His kindness to vile me.
11th July.—Towards night I met with a sweet seasonable providence, which enlarged my heart in thankfulness to God, encouraging me in the business before me, and making me set up another Ebenezer. Thereafter meditating in the fields, I was filled with joy in the Lord, and my heart was glad, while I had discoveries of Christ made to my soul, and was helped to see His sufficiency, and to believe. So that my soul was filled with praises and admiration of the Lord's kindness to poor me at this juncture, notwithstanding my woful backslidings from Him before. () The doctrine of the gospel, and revelation of Christ, is sweet to my soul. I have had felt strength against corruption this day.
12th July, Saturday.—This day I was to go to Kelso, from whence I was to go straight to Culross. And I found the Lord was with me, and helped me to wrestle with Him for His presence to my marriage, and to-morrow's work. The testimony of my conscience witnessing to me, that I had acknowledged God in this my way, was a sweet help to me, to believe my steps should be directed by Him. I found a more than ordinary concern on my heart for my charge, and their case touched my heart very nearly. I came away in the strength of the Lord; and the serenity of my mind that I enjoyed at this time was sweet to me.
14th July.—This morning when I awoke I was with God, and my soul had confidence in the Lord; yet ere I went to the church, some wandering thoughts rushed in and marred my ease; so that in the first prayer I was much deserted, and very faint both in body and mind. But being thus emptied of myself, the Lord filled my sails in all the other parts of the day's work. And betwixt sermons I had such felt strength from the Lord, that I admired and rejoiced in His love; for He really set me on my high places; and His love at this juncture was wondrous in my eyes. So in His strength I went away again, and we sung Ps. 138: 5, and downwards. I sung it with an uplifted heart, and light from the Lord: and for the 5th verse, "Yea in the righteous ways of God," etc., though I saw little in it when I gave out the psalm, yet when sung, O how sweet, confirming, and soul-strengthening was it to me, even with respect to my business! for I saw it was the way of commanded duty. For the whole of it, I thought, if I had been at the penning of that part of that psalm which we sung, for my present case, I would not have altered one word of it. I preached and prayed with great light and life from the lord. At night my heart was glad, and my glory rejoiced to speak of Christ. And thus was it with me when honest J. E. came in to me, with whom I conversed with an uplifted heart. When we were going to part, I told him of what was before me; but he was an instrument of discouragement to me, by means of my own corruption. The good man said particularly, If you acknowledge God in your ways, etc. This seemed to me said with such an air of jealousy, that my proud heart murmured at it; which was after matter of mourning to me. Thereafter I found my strength abated; but I gave myself to prayer, and wrestling with God for His presence to go with me. As I was filling a pipe, and my heart was discouraged in that I found not God with me as before, I gave a glance to the Bible lying open on the table before me, and met with that word, Isa. 40: 97, "Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgement is passed over from my God?" and finding it so speaking, I read on to the end of the chapter, where all was most seasonable, and suited to my case. So I went away immediately to the Lord with it, cried to Him, and got strength to believe, that seeing I waited on God, my strength should be renewed.
17th July.—I came yesterday to Barhill in the strength of the Lord, leaning on that promise, Isa. 40: ult, "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength: they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not be faint;" and that was all I had. This day in the afternoon I withdrew from company, and sought the Lord in secret: and afterwards, before the minister came, I went to prayer with the family and relations present, particularly for the Lord's blessing with respect to the marriage; and was much helped of the Lord. Mr. Mair having come, went alone into a room, and staid some time; and I went into another alone, and spent the time in prayer: and then the Lord was kind to my soul; He drew near to me, and said to me, Fear not; and I came forth in the strength of the Lord. The action was gone about most sweetly by Mr. Mair. The Lord directed him to most seasonable and pertinent exhortations, and they came with power and life. Of a truth God owned it, and it was sweet both to Him and us. As for my part, my heart being touched with the finger of God, was sensibly going forth in love to Christ, and admiration of Him, to my great comfort and satisfaction. So we were married betwixt eight and nine o'clock at night. Immediately after I withdrew into the room where I was before, and went to God (it was the upper western room), and there the Lord filled my heart with joy in Himself unspeakable, and loaded me with loving-kindness, truth, and faithfulness. Verily He made me renew my strength, and gave it me with palpable increase. Verily the Lord did great things for me at that juncture as ever; and my soul was made to rejoice in Him.
Thus was I by all-wise Providence yoked with my wife, with whom I have now, , by the mercy of God, lived thirty years complete: A woman of great worth, whom I therefore passionately loved, and inwardly honoured: A stately, beautiful, and comely personage, truly pious, and fearing the Lord; of an evenly temper, patient in our common tribulations, and under her personal distresses: A woman of bright natural parts, an uncommon stock of prudence; of a quick and lively apprehension, in things she applied herself to; great presence of mind in surprising incidents; sagacious and acute in discerning the qualities of persons, and therefore not easily imposed upon; modest and grave in her deportment, but naturally cheerful; wise and arable in conversation, having a good faculty at speaking, and expressing herself with assurance; endowed with a singular dexterity in dictating of letters; being a pattern of frugality, and wise management of household-affairs, therefore entirely committed to her; well fitted for, and careful of, the virtuous education of her children; remarkably useful to the country-side, both in the Merse and in the Forest, through her skill in physic and surgery, which, in many instances, a peculiar blessing appeared to be commanded upon from heaven; and, finally, a crown to me in my public station and appearances. During the time we have lived together hitherto, we have passed through a sea of trouble, as yet not seeing the shore but afar off: I have sometimes been likely to be removed from her: she having had little continued health, except the first six weeks, her death had oftentimes stared us in the face, and hundreds of arrows have pierced my heart on that score; and sometimes I have gone with a trembling heart to the pulpit, laying my account with being called out of it, to see her expire. And now for the third part of the time we have lived together, namely, ten years complete, she has been under a particular racking distress; and, for several of these years, fixed to her bed; in the which furnace, the grace of God in her has been brightened, her parts continued to a wonder, and her beauty, which formerly was wont, upon her recoveries, to leave no vestige of the illness she had been under, does as yet now and then shew some vestiges of itself.
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