Memoirs of the Life, Time, and Writings
of the Reverend and Learned
Back to Contents
Period VIII From My Marriage, Till My Removal To Etterick
At and about the time of my marriage, it pleased the Lord to deal bountifully with my soul. And the Lord's day immediately following I preached at Dunning in Strathern. I was habitually kept right these days, and the Lord was kind to me. I met with a sharp trial after so fair a blink as I had: and while I was musing on the causes of the same, I found myself called to go to secret prayer at a time unexpected; and within a little after, the Lord was graciously pleased to let me find He had heard me, and the dispensation was sweet, coming as an answer of prayer. But when I came to Dunning on the Saturday's night, I found myself wrong, having neither heart nor hand for my work. On the Sabbath morning my indisposition continued, save that at family-prayer my affections were loosed, and I had a deep sense of my own vileness on my spirit. In the forenoon it was neither very ill nor very well; but in the afternoon my bands were freely loosed, and I had light and life from the Lord. I preached on Ps. 18: 46, "The Lord liveth, and blessed be my rock;" the which text I was led to, as my anchor-ground, in my new circumstances through the change of my lot. And that week we came home to Simprin.
Until the 15th of August, the weekly sermon was continued in the kirk; at which time, being intermitted because of the harvest, it was begun again on the 7th of November in the house, and that in the night. And after that manner that exercise was managed during the remaining time of my ministry in that place.
14th November.—This has been a time of many troubles to me, so that I have sometimes wondered what the Lord minded to do with me. Now I had a very sharp one, but was quickly delivered: so on the morrow I spent some time in fasting and prayer, and renewed my covenant with the Lord; and it pleased the Lord to let out something of Himself to me, so that, reflecting on my troubles, I clearly saw the need of them, with a deal of convincing power, and my soul was made to see God's love in them all, and from my heart I was made to say, He had done all things well. The fruit of them is, that I have thereby seen the vanity of all things besides Christ, and that there is no rest but in Him alone, and to desire to be with Him, which is best of all.
In April 1701, my dear father sickened again: and death appearing on its way, the rest of his children were sent for. They being come, he, on Sabbath the 10th of that month, after a sore toss of sickness, especially after sermons, died that night, in the 70th year of his age, having been born in December 1631. This sharp rod the Lord had shaken over my head that time twelve months before, for my warning. However, being laid on, it went to the quick with me. It was a heavy death to me, the shock of which I had much ado to stand. He was a man of a low stature, of a fresh and lively complexion; nimble, strong, and vigorous; active, and given to application in business; one who, in the worst of times, retained his integrity, beyond many; and, in view of death, gave comfortable evidences of eternal life, to be obtained through the Lord Jesus Christ. His body lies interred in the churchyard of Simprin, in the burial-place of the ministers there, whereof I thereby took possession, and soon had more occasion for.
On the 24th of May, about two or three o'clock in the morning, my wife, after long and sore labour, brought forth her first child, a daughter, called Katharine; having, at the holy and just pleasure of the sovereign Former of all things, a double harelip, whereby she was rendered incapable of sucking. My wife, having a great terror of the pains of child-bearing, had beforehand laid her account with death; as she always, I think, did on that occasion thereafter; having, at the same sovereign pleasure, an uncommon share of these pains, the remembrance whereof to this day makes my heart to shrink. When I, understanding her to be delivered, and preserved, was coming towards the chamber to see her; Mrs. Lawson above mentioned meeting me, intimated to me the case of the child: with which my heart was struck, like a bird shot and falling from a tree. Howbeit I bore it gravely; and my afflicted wife carried the trial very Christianly and wisely, after her manner. Thus it pleased my God, to correct me for my sins; to balance my enjoyment; and to teach to acknowledge Him, in the formation of children in the womb. The child being weak, was baptised by Mr. Dawson the same day: and was for a long time watched in the night, through the summer. In that dear child's case, I had a singular experience of tender love melted down in pity; as considering her teeth set on edge through the parent's eating of the sour grape.
After my father's death, his tenement in the Newton of Dunse falling to me, by his disposition thereof in my favour, I thereby became liable to a burden of 1000 merks; whereof l00 had been borrowed money, the rest allotted by him for the portions of two brothers and two sisters; my eldest brother having long before received another tenement for his portion, and discharged my father and his heirs. They having also charged me with an account of his moveables, which I then possessed. or claimed, I took advice about it: and being convinced in my conscience, that their design was quite beside the intention of the dead; and that, in law and justice, I had a charge upon them, more than sufficient to balance the same, I resolved to essay to satisfy these my brothers and sisters, by advancing their money as soon as might be.
In pursuance of which project, I went to Barhill about the harvest; and the child having appeared to grow better at the quarter's end, took my wife along with me. There I received a part of her portion; for which I paid interest to my mother-in-law till the year 1709, at which time she was removed by death: the remains thereof, some time after that, I received, being in Etterick. Put that journey proved a very heavy one, for our trial. By the way thither, my wife swooned at Danskin; which seemed to be occasioned by ram's mutton afforded us there to dinner. She recovering, we accomplished our journey. And being in Inzevair (in the parish of Torryburn, Fifeshire), in her sister's house, on a morning she lying abed after I was risen, dreamed that she saw the child perfect, the natural defect being made up, and extraordinary beautiful. This making impression, as it could hardly miss to do, we returned homeward as soon as conveniently we could. Arriving at Blacks-mill, about eight or nine miles from home, in a little our hearts were pierced with an account, that our dear child was dead and buried. After which, we came home in great heaviness; and found, that that very day, and hour of the day, as near as could be judged, wherein my wife had the dream aforesaid, the child had died. Thus it pleased the Lord, to exercise us with one affliction on the neck of another: and, as I have often experienced, the world's laying their overload above the burden from the holy sovereign hand, so it was afterwards found, that one of our acquaintance had very unjustly spoke to the grief of us whom the Lord had wounded.
Being through the interest of Mr. James Ramsay aforesaid, and other friends, chosen by the synod to be their clerk, I entered on that office, at their meeting in October this year; and continued therein till the close of their meeting in April 1711, at which time I did demit. That work was a matter of great weight on several accounts. When I first took the seat among them, and stood up for to read, being in great confusion, through my natural diffidence and timorousness, I blundered: but recovering myself, with much ado made it out. Upon which occasion, Mr. Ramsay did seasonably express his confidence of me notwithstanding. The oath de fideli administratione I declined: and they were pleased to accept of my promise, to serve them faithfully, and keep their secrets; which I strictly observed. It was a work of great labour and painfulness: even the reading of papers was a business of great toil. In time of their sederunts, I took short minutes of the substance of their actings, which in the interval of diets I extended; the which occasioned my sitting up great part of the night. And their meetings falling in the times of the year wherein I was weakest, I could not have endured, but that they did not last long. After the two first synods, being always desirous to do the business to the best advantage I could reach, I did of my own proper motion ordinarily make a third copy of the minutes; but this at home, at my leisure. Then the synod-book was once a-year to be filled up, for the General Assembly to visit it. I often sat in my seat among them, as one wandering in a wilderness, while I observed the sway of their opinions and reasonings, in order to take up the mind of the court: but, through the divine assistance, I ordinarily took up, and expressed, their affairs, so as to please, and to facilitate their work. And I had a very honourable testimony, in that point, of my Lord Minto, who had been clerk to the council of Scotland, expressed on occasion of his being present at the synod; the which testimony raised in my heart, admiration of the divine condescension, and thankfulness to my God. When I entered on that office, the fees were 14d. a-synod by each minister; afterward they were advanced to five groats: but, in the year 1703, they raised the same to half a dollar, being 29d. And during the time I continued in Simprin, these fees were paid very well. By an account of the gain, by that office, kept for the first five years, I find it was better than £100 Scots communibus annis.
The synod meeting at Jedburgh, on Tuesday 21st April 1702, I was obliged, upon that occasion, to leave my wife, having, I think, passed her reckoning. And by the disposal of holy Providence, for our farther trial, the synod continued sitting even on the Thursday afternoon. They being at length risen, I took horse that evening; and riding all night, got home about the morning-light: where, by the mercy of God, I found my wife still well, though in perplexity. On the Wednesday after, 29th April, about the going down of the sun, she brought forth her first son, John, who was baptised on the 1st day of May, by Mr. John Pow, minister at Lennel. In his appearance our hearts were comforted, after the heavy trial in the case of his sister; finding, that our God would "not chide continually, nor keep His anger for ever." And as he was always a proper child, so he is this day a very stately and pretty man; the which I deem just to remark, to the praise of our merciful and compassionate God, who formerly had afflicted us.
Being invited, I assisted at the communion in Morbattle, in the month of June this year. And here began a particular friendship between the worthy Mr. John Simson, minister there, and me; which lasted till he was removed by death in or about the year 1722. He was a serious good man; a most pathetic, zealous, and popular preacher, and withal substantial in his sermons; having a most ready gift; always concerned to gain souls to Jesus Christ; blessed with a great measure of his Master's countenance; and most acceptable to the people. He had a singular easiness and sweetness of temper, which continued with him to the last. He was, in the end of his days, confined for a long time to his bed; in which time, visiting him, in company with my two friends Messrs. Wilson and Davidson, we found him still lovely and pleasant as before.
The first time I administered the sacrament of the Lord's supper in Simprin, was on the 2nd of August that year; and it was done yearly thereafter, while I continued in that place. At that time it was administered in the kirk, there being sermon also without: but I think that was the only time, except in the winter, that it was not celebrated without doors. The Lord was very gracious to me in that work: and I have a savoury remembrance of my delivering of that my first action-sermon on Ps. 40: 7, "Then said I, Lo I come." Going out in time of serving the tables, and finding the meeting without wanting a minister, I, under the impressions of the Lord's goodness then upon me, stepped into the tent, and preached a while to them extempore, on Deut. 33: 29, "Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency!" etc. Mr. Simson aforesaid was one of my assistants at that time: and we continued our mutual assistance thereafter for ordinary; only it was once interrupted a little, after the year 1709, as will be noticed in the proper place. And many a good day of that nature we had together, especially at Morbattle.
This was the first year of the reign of Queen Anne, the oath of allegiance to whom I took; but did thereafter often desiderate a due impression thereof on my spirit. I endeavoured, while she lived, to keep the sense of it on my heart: but unto this day I never took another, whether of a public or private nature.
Hitherto we lived in the house where I settled when I came to the place: and while there, though I remember not the particular time, I began the evening lecture in my family, on the chapter read in our ordinary, nightly. And that custom I have continued to this day; save in the Sabbath-nights, of late years at least. When at any time there seemed to be some occasion of intermitting it, I chose rather to say a very little, than quite to let it alone; fearing that one intermission thereof, at our ordinary times, might make way for dropping it altogether.
In the end of the year, the winter being begun, we removed into the new manse, built for me from the foundation, and by that time covered: but little of the wright's world within it was then done; but was a-doing through the winter. The ground whereon it was built, being quite new, we were obliged at first to straw the floor of our bed-chamber with shavings, which was afterwards laid with deals. This hardship of entering the new house, we preferred to suffering the inconveniences of the old. Langton's estate going then from hand to hand, it was not without considerable difficulty, and expense too, that I got that house carried on. Afterward I formed a large garden, and built the dike; the which was a work of some time, trouble, and expense too. And herein also was the saying verified, "One soweth, and another reapeth."
In the month of March following, met the first general assembly in the reign of Queen Anne; of the which assembly I was a member. Seafield being the Queen's Commissioner, Mr. George Meldrum was chosen Moderator, as the man who to him would be most acceptable. The asserting of the intrinsic power of the church, was then the great point that some laboured for; but in vain: it was told them by their brethren, They had it, and what then needed the waste of an Act asserting it? The assembly having sat several days, were upon an overture for preventing Protestants marrying with Papists: in the time whereof, a whisper beginning about the throne, and a motion being, I think, made for recommitting the overture, the Commissioner, rising from his seat, instantly dissolved the assembly in her Majesty's name. This having come like a thunder-clap, there were, from all corners of the house, protestations offered against it, and for the intrinsic power of the church; with which I joined. But the Moderator, otherwise a most grave and composed man, being in as much confusion as a schoolboy when beaten, closed with prayer; and got away, together with the clerk, so that nothing was then got marked. This was one of the heaviest days that ever I saw, beholding a vain man trampling on the privileges of Christ's house, and others couching under the burden. And I could not but observe, how Providence rebuked their shifting the Act to assert as above said, and baffled their design in the choice of the Moderator; never a moderator since the Revolution to this day, so far as I can guess, having been so ill treated by a Commissioner. The learned and pious Mr. James Brisbane, late minister of Stirling, a young man at that time as well as I, pulled me down, when offering to join the protesters: and the same very worthy man, many years after, joined not with the representers in the affair of the Marrow; though he had no freedom to go along with the assembly, but was obliged to declare himself in favour of truth, before they should close that affair. And I remember, that with respect to this last case, he, in private conversation, said in his pleasant manner, thereafter, he had so done, but knew not if he would have full satisfaction in it, when got home, and reflecting thereon in his closet. Meanwhile the dissolving of that assembly by Seafield, was the occasion of adjusting that matter betwixt the church and state, and settling it in the manner wherein, I suppose, it has all along since continued, the assembly being first dissolved in the name of Jesus Christ, by the Moderator as their mouth, and in the name of the magistrate by the Commissioner.
In April following, the synod meeting at Dunse, entered on making an Act, asserting their principles with respect to the established government of the church. Against which, Mr. Alexander Orrock, minister at Hawick, a man of vast parts, and the greatest assurance I ever knew, protested, and left the synod; pretending the same to be a raising of groundless jealousies against the magistrate; though in the meantime the grounds of jealousy were looked on as not small. With him joined Mr. Robert Bell, minister at Cavers, now at Crailling; Mr. Robert Cuningham at Wilton, afterward at Hawick; and Mr. Robert Scot at Roberton. Upon the other hand, I was dissatisfied with the Act, for that it touched not the particular point in which the church was at that time especially aggrieved, namely, her intrinsic power of meeting, and treating, in her judicatories, of her affairs, as necessity might require, for the honour of her Head, and the spiritual welfare of her members. And since, for the said cause, I could not approve of it, and had not so clear access as ordinary to give my vote, I declared this my mind before the synod ere it was put to the vote. Whereupon Mr. Charles Gordon, minister of Ashkirk, a learned and holy man, of uncommon integrity, sometime chosen to be professor of divinity in Aberdeen, though he accepted it not, spoke something in answer thereto, and for the Act, which thereafter was voted, and approved by the rest. But that same night, I think, he sent for me to his quarters, where he lodging together with Mr. William Macghie, minister of Selkirk, we supped together, and were brought acquainted. And this, I believe, was the occasion of the presbytery of Selkirk their setting their eye on me for the parish of Etterick. And I had the comfort of his declaring to me, on his deathbed, some time after my coming to Etterick, the satisfaction he had in having seen Mr. Gabriel Wilson, my friend, and me, settled in their presbytery.
I being only a singular successor, and not heir to my father, was liable to Drummelzier, the superior, in a year's rent of my tenement, for entry, which otherwise would have been but the double of the feu-duty: so, on the 15th of April, I compounded with him for £60 Scots; for which the town-clerk having drawn a bond in the jog-trot style of bonds for borrowed money, I refused to sign it; but drew a bond with my own hand, with the which Drummelzier was satisfied! This I signed accordingly; and relieved, by paying the money, on 14th May, thereafter. Having upon that affair had occasions of conversing with Drummelzier, who was a sober sensible man, I afterward found, he had upon occasions shown himself friendly disposed, in his own way, towards me: particularly, that it being told him, speaking of planting me in Dunse, then vacant, that I was too hot; he thereupon mentioned another place for me, as one as hot as I, viz. Etterick. So early Providence was at work for bringing about my settlement in that place, where I was to spend the most of my strength and days.
Invited by Mr. Gabriel Semple, retaining of his former disposition towards me, I preached at Jedburgh 27th February, forenoon and afternoon. The congregation being convened again, about a quarter of an hour after, he, from the reader's desk, made a short discourse on the fifth command, particularly the duties of husbands and wives. The things he insisted on were indeed common and ordinary; but they were delivered in such a manner, and such power accompanied them, that I was in a manner amazed; and they went out through me, and in through me, so that I said in my heart, "Happy are those that hear thy wisdom." Mr. Gabriel Wilson being then his assistant, but preaching that day at Oxnam, there began at that time an acquaintance betwixt him and me, which by some interviews afterward, and particularly by a meeting at Simprin, advanced to a particular friendship. And after I was settled in Etterick, and he in Maxton, the same grew up into a noted and uncommon strictness, continuing, through the mercy of God, inviolate unto this day.
On 21st March, about two o'clock in the morning, my son Robert was born; and he was baptised on the 26th, by Mr. John Lithgow, minister at Swinton.
As to my ordinary in preaching, occasionally mixed with other subjects, having begun, as said is, the second Sabbath in Simprin after my ordination, I continued preaching man's natural state, until 10th August 1700. At which time I entered on preaching Christ the remedy for man's misery. From which I proceeded, 19th October 1701, to the doctrine of the application of the remedy: in the which, entering 18th February 1702, on the particulars of the ordinary method of the Spirit with sinners in conversion; being sensible of the delicacy of the subject, and desiring to say nothing thereon but what I had digested beforehand, I began writing my sermons at large, and to venture very little on extemporary expression. And this was the occasion of my falling into a habit of writing my sermons at large, which I have since for ordinary continued, as I had access, and could reach it: a yoke which often since that time I would have been glad to have shaken off, but could not get it done. Nevertheless I have been convinced, it was a kind and honourable dispensation of Providence that kept it on me. Howbeit, whereas in my notes at that time, as also before and after unto this day, may be sometimes found Latin, Greek, and perhaps Hebrew, it was not my manner to express them in the pulpit to the people; but in their mother-tongue to express the thing the best way I could. In sermons indeed coram clero, as presbyterial exercises, I used all freedom in that point: but so doing in sermons before the people, in country or town, I ever despised, and had a contempt of, as pedantic, and unbecoming the weight of the sacred mysteries. Meanwhile, having dispatched that subject, I proceeded, 15th November 1702, to the privileges of believers in Christ. And finally, on 14th February 1703, I entered on the believer's duty: wherein, after the general doctrine, coming to particulars, I went through all the ten commands: which done I showed the use of the law to those that are out of Christ; the believer's deliverance and freedom from the law as a covenant; and pressed the regarding thereof, as a rule of life: with which I closed that ordinary of subjects, in the month of April this year 1704.
Withal on the 4th of May following, I began an ordinary of week-days' sermons on the Song of Solomon: in which, I think, I continued till my removal to Etterick; where I had no more access to service of that kind. In that time I went through the 2nd and 3rd chapters of that book, and had entered on the pith: and these afforded us many a sweet hour together. These sermons are in retentis. But I judge I had before that gone through the first chapter in some exercises, without writing any notes.
As to my studies, when I was settled in Simprin, I had very few books; which occasioned my borrowing, as I had access; and moreover, where I wanted to be satisfied in some particular points, obliged me to think of the same, if so I could find out what to rest satisfied in, not having access to consult many authors. And thus my scarcity of books proved a kind disposal of Providence towards me; I, in that method, arriving at a greater distinctness and certainty in these points, than otherwise I could readily have obtained. The chief of these points I wanted to be satisfied in were two; namely, the doctrine of the grace of God in Christ, and the subject of baptism.
As for the doctrine of grace, how the Lord was pleased to give my heart a set toward the preaching of Christ, and how I had several convictions of legality in my own practice, is already narrated. I had heard Sir. Mair often speak of being divorced from the law, dead to it, and the like; but I understood very little of the matter. Howbeit, my thoughts being, after my settlement at Simprin, turned that way, that I might understand somewhat of these things, some light, new to me, seemed to break up from the doctrine of Christ: but then I could not see how to reconcile the same with other things which seemed to be truth too. And I think, that among these first rays of light, was a notion, that the sins of believers in Christ, even while yet not actually repented of, did not make them, being in a state of grace, liable to eternal punishment. And on this head I did, by a letter, consult Mr. Murray in Penpont; but was not thoroughly satisfied with what he advanced upon it. Meanwhile, being still on the scent, as I was sitting one day in a house of Simprin, I espied above the window-head two little old books; which when I had taken down, I found intitled, the one The Marrow of Modern Divinity, the other, Christ's Blood Flowing Freely to Sinners. These I reckon had been brought home from England by the master of the house, a soldier in the time of the civil wars. Finding them to point to the subject I was in particular concern about, I brought them both away. The latter, a book of Saltmarsh's, I relished not; and I think I returned it without reading it quite through. The other, being the first part only of the Marrow, I relished greatly; and having purchased it at length from the owner, kept it from that time to this day; and it is still to be found among my books. I found it to come close to the points I was in quest of, and to show the consistency of these, which I could not reconcile before: so that I rejoiced in it, as a light which the Lord had seasonably struck up to me in my darkness.
What time, precisely, this happened, I cannot tell: but I am very sure that, by the latter end of the year 1700, I had not only seen that book, but digested the doctrine thereof in a tolerable measure; since by that time I was begun to preach it, as I had occasion, abroad. Such opportunities I took, to give way to the then bent of my heart, which I could not so directly satisfy at home, being on the ordinary aforesaid.
The first parcel of books I got added to my small library, was in the year 1702. The which year, in August, Mr. Simson aforesaid being in my closet, and looking at my book-press, smiled: the which, from whatever principle he did it, touched me to the quick, being conscious of my want of a tolerable quantity. Among these were Zanchy's works, and Luther on the Galatians, which I was much taken with: and Providence also laid to my hand, about that time, Beza's Confession of Faith. Most of the books mentioned in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th pages of my catalogue yet in retentis, whose prices are set down with them, were purchased in that year, and the following 1703. And from the year 1704, the catalogue aforesaid goes on orderly, according to the years, generally, wherein the books came to my hand.
Being thus provided, I was in better case to pursue my search, to my further instruction and confirmation. In this manner, I reached, through grace, a distinctness and certainty, as to several points of the doctrine of grace, that I had not before. And what contributed much thereto was, that I purposely studied some points of that nature, for my own satisfaction; and set down my thoughts in writing; particularly these three points, viz. 1. Whether or not the sins of believers, while unrepented of, make them liable to eternal punishment? 2. Whether or not all sins, past, present, and to come, are pardoned together and at once? 3. Whether or not repentance be necessary, in order to the obtaining of the pardon of sin?
Meanwhile, after I was let into the knowledge of the doctrine of grace, as to the state and case of believers in Christ, I was still confused, indistinct, and hampered in it, as to the free, open, and unhampered access of sinners unto Him. And thus, I am sure, it was with me, till the year 1702. How long I continued so thereafter, I know not. But, through the mercy of Cod, I was by the year 1704 let into that point also; and so far confirmed therein, that, on the 9th of July that year, at a communion in Coldinghame, I preached on Matt. 11: 28, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden," etc., then and there giving the true sense of that text, since published in the notes on the Marrow, and prosecuting it accordingly. And by the same time also, I reckon I had the true sense of the parallel texts, Isa. 55: 1, Matt. 9: 12, 13, since that time also published in the notes aforesaid. How I was led thereto, I cannot distinctly tell; but I apprehend I had taken the hint from the Marrow; and I had no great fondness for the doctrine of the conditionality of the covenant of grace.
With relation to the point last named, I remember, that upon a young man's mentioning, in a piece of trial before the presbytery, the conditions of the covenant of grace; I quarrelled it, having no great gust for faith's being called the condition thereof, but abhorring the joining of other conditions with it. Thereupon he was appointed to deliver an exegesis on the question An fortes gratiae sit conditionatum? This the young man, in his exegesis, resolved in the affirmative; though, I think, he held by faith only as the condition. I impugned his thesis, using this argument, viz., "I will be their God, and they shall be my people," is not conditional, but absolute: But this is the covenant: Ergo, The covenant is not conditional. To which Mr. Ramsay aforesaid answered for the young man, That the covenant of grace was indeed a testament, and not, properly speaking, conditional. Herewith I was satisfied, and declared I would not insist, since I had been in earnest: but withal that I thought it was pity, that such an improper way of speaking of faith should be used; since it was not scriptural, was liable to be abused, and ready to lead people into mistakes.
These things, in these days, while I was in the Merse, gave my sermons a certain tincture, which was discerned; though the Marrow, from whence it sprang, continued in utter obscurity: but they were acceptable to the saints; neither did brethren show disgust of them. I conversed occasionally on some of these points with brethren, particularly with Mr. Ramsay, then in Eymouth; and indeed he was still on the other side of the question. We had then some of the same arguments, that afterwards, in the year 1723, were cast up before the synod, in Mr. Wilson's affair: but these disputes marred not our friendship, he being still pleased to call me to assist at the communion with him in Eymouth, though he used not to be with me at Simprin on that occasion. The worthy Mr. Colden also had a difficulty to admit what I advanced on the first question aforesaid: but after some reasoning, he owned there was some weight in that argument, If believers were liable to eternal wrath in the case mentioned, they behoved to be so, either by the law and covenant of works, or by the gospel, and covenant of grace: not the first, for believers are dead to it; not the second, for that it condemns no man.
As for the subject of baptism; after I was settled among the people of Simprin, and had entered closely on my work, finding some of them grossly ignorant, and hardly teachable in the ordinary way, and casting in my mind what course to take with such, I drew up in writing a little form of catechising in the fundamentals, in short questions and answers, on design to teach it them privately in my house. I do not well remember the progress of that affair; nor do I well know where these questions are; but afterward I used the same, in the case of my little children, in the first place, when they became capable of instruction. Among other such grossly ignorant, there was one, who desiring his child to be baptised, I could not have freedom to grant his desire for some time: neither am I clear, whether, when the child was baptised, it was baptised on a satisfying account of the fundamental principles from him or his wife. Whatever had laid the foundation of such scrupling, I was, by means of such straitening in practice, brought closely to consider that point. And having purposely studied the question, Who have right to baptism, and are to be baptised? I wrote my thoughts thereon also. And being one day in conversation on that head with Mr. William Bird, dissenting minister in Barmoor in England, he presented to me Fulwood's Discourse of the Visible Church, for clearing me. Bringing home the said book with me, I considered it, and wrote also some animadversions on a part of it. From that time I had little fondness for national churches strictly and properly so called, as of equal latitude with the nations, and wished for an amendment of the constitution of our own church, as to the membership thereof.
There were, besides these, other two questions I bestowed some thoughts on, in like manner. The one, Where has sin its lodging-place in the regenerate? the occasion whereof was a discourse with Mr. Mair on that head: but I doubt if I have well understood him in that point. The other, Why the Lord suffers sin to remain in the regenerate? which had its rise from a particular straitening on that head in my own private case, as before narrated.
My thoughts on these several subjects, written for my own satisfaction, I had, by the pith of August this year 1704, all fairly transcribed for conservation, in a book purchased for the purpose, and which I have called The Miscellany Manuscript; and thereby it was filled up to p. 325. But whereas I had, in May 1703, begun exercises on the Confession of Faith, written at large for my own instruction, and the edification of the people, to whom I delivered them for the evening-exercise on Sabbaths for ordinary, that work was continued only to the end of that year 1703. And in the said space of time I went through the first two chapters only. I judge its proving sometimes too strong meat for the people; and its requiring more time and study than my other affairs could well allow, contributed to the breaking me off from that design, that otherwise would have been very profitable to myself for my instruction in the whole system.
I had, on the 3rd of September, in my course of lecturing, proceeded unto the epistle to the Romans. And whereas it was not my ordinary practice to write my lectures; yet having considered that epistle, as the proper fountain from whence the doctrine of justification was to be drawn, I had an earnest desire of insight into it, so far as I could reach: for which cause, having gathered together some commentaries upon it, I studied the doctrinal part thereof, viz. to chap. 12, with that design, and wrote some thoughts thereon, which are in retentis. But sticking too precisely unto the lecturing of a chapter every Lord's day, this did, of course, make them the more superficial; and withal the work was interrupted in the 5th and 7th chapters.
As in the former part of this year, I had got a new parcel of books, so toward the latter end thereof, in October, I got another. This parcel I had bought in England. Ere I got them home, they had stolen away my heart, and I was extremely fond on them. This raised in me a great fear while the lad was gone to fetch them; and it sent me to God; but I had no confidence. The books were taken, and then I saw well that my sin had found me out. This was a piece of trouble to me for two or three days. At length I resolved to lay myself down at God's feet, and to leave caring for the books; which that I might the better do, I applied myself to the work of ministerial visitation of families. Having spent but a forenoon that way, when I came in, it was told me, that the books were in Ladykilk, and I might send for them when I would. Among these books were some of Lightfoot's pieces, the which did especially take with me, in respect of the Jewish learning therein; to which a particular bias seems always to have been hung on me, plainly perceiving the singular usefulness thereof for understanding of the holy Scriptures. While I proceeded in acquainting myself with these, as I had access, I studied his description of the temple, so as I made a draft of the temple and the altar accordingly, which to this day hang in my closet. And though, being an utter stranger to mathematics, I could not represent things in their proper figures, yet that draft, such as it is, so fixed the idea of the temple with me in some measure of distinctness, that it soon became familiar to me, and has since that time been of very great use to me on several occasions.
That winter I visited a woman in Homtoun, who alleged the devil was in her. After I had spoke and prayed with her, I went out; and in the meantime she got out of the bed, and cried with a most horrid cry, without intermission, near a quarter of an hour. Coming in, and finding her in this case, I often desired her but to say, God help me; and she still said, she could not, and cried again. A weaver-lad had prayed with her; she told him the devil had said to her, she could be nothing the better of that good prayer, because it was not her own prayer, but his. To which the young man answered, The devil is a liar; for the prayer was not mine, but the Spirit's. I admired the answer.
Being with E. P. the night before she died, I had no satisfaction in converse with her; which affected me exceedingly. Thereupon I came in to my closet, and set myself to wrestle with God on her account; and then went to her again, and was much comforted in her; so that my spirit was more than ordinarily elevated. She said, she fixed on that word, "Thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to Me, saith the Lord."
In the latter part of the month of December, it pleased the Lord to threaten to remove my wife by death, being violently sick. I was anxious exceedingly, and above measure grieved on that account. She recovered; but God met me in such a manner, that I was most convincingly made to smart for that excess.
After having closed the ordinary of subjects for the Sabbath, as before narrated, I handled some texts for exciting unto exercise to godliness; and, upon a particular occasion from the parish, I treated of divine desertion: a subject which, together with that of communion with God, was, in the early days of my hearing the gospel, much in the mouths of the old experienced ministers, though now much worn out of our practical divinity, through the decay, I doubt, of soul exercise and experience among ministers and people. Afterwards I did, on the 10th of December, enter on the epistle to the church of the Laodiceans, Rev. 3: 14-22, on which I dwelt till 6th May 1706.
Having administered the sacrament of the Lord's supper in the summer-season, yearly, hitherto from the time I began that course, I did, on 28th January 1705, administer it again: and this course of administering it in the winter-season also, was continued from that time, yearly, till I was removed from that place. And thus we had that soul-strengthening ordinance twice a-year from this time. My son Robert was sick before; and I was laying my account with his death, even in the fore-end of that month. It was the first sacrament I gave in the winter-time. I was engaged to that way, for the benefit of the good people in the corner, who through the winter have no occasion of partaking of that solemn ordinance; and I found it was what I could get done. It pleased the Lord to meet me as an enemy in the way. My child died on the Friday, and was buried on Saturday, the preparation-day, after sermon. I was reproached through the country; for, by the instigation of the devil, it was spread through the country, that I would allow none but those of our own parish to communicate, which (as it was said) kept away several persons. These things were very heavy to me and my afflicted wife, who yet was helped to carry the burden very christianly. They were the more affecting, in that I knew some ministers had no good eye upon the project, whereof one particularly helped to spread the report above said. However, all my losses were made up, the work went pleasantly on, the Lord sealed it in the consciences of many godly, with most evident tokens of His good-pleasure, there being very much of God's presence with us at that work. And I observed the impression of it lasted longer on the parish, and the fruits of it were more visible, and in greater measure, than any other I remember we had before. While I had been laying my account with the death of the child in the fore-end of the month, I had wished in my heart, that seeing there was nothing but death for him, it might so fall out, that he might be buried on a Lord's day after sermons, by which means a competent number of people might be gathered together with little trouble and expense. This sin was lively painted out to me in this stroke. We had but one sermon on the Saturday, and another on the Monday, preached by Mr. Colden, the only minister assisting to me: and I think Mr. David Brown, then a probationer, now minister of Selkirk, preached on the Sabbath afternoon. I added some exhortations on the Saturday, and also on the Monday, after the sermon: the which are in retentis in the folio notebook. As the former was ordinary, so the latter, viz. the exhortation on the Monday, I have used for many years, and, I hope, with advantage; having learned it from the example of Mr. Bird, the English minister aforesaid, whom I was wont to be assistant to on such occasions. I never had a gust for gathering together many ministers at compulsions; though, in the meantime, I continued to call two or three in the summer and had two sermons on the Saturdays and Mondays. Soon after my ordination, I got a great disgust of the Monday's dinners, perceiving what snares they were, not only to the families of the respective ministers, but to the guests also. And by this course I was free of both these, providing a moderate entertainment for my few assistants. And now in Etterick, our Monday's dinners are turned to the entertaining especially of strangers, who coming from afar, have real need of a dinner to fit them for their journey homeward again. By occasion of these communions in the winter-season, many of the godly throughout the country were gathered about us; which made these latter years of my ministry in Simprin more especially comfortable: but these halcyon-days of my ministry lasted not long, but were soon at an end.
On Thursday, 1st November, about the evening-twilight, my daughter Jane was born, and she was baptised on the 8th, by Mr. John Dysert minister at Coldinghame. I had gone away that morning unto Preston, to join in a congregational fast there, where Mr. Cohlen, and Mr. Laurence Johnston, minister of Dunse, preached: and coming home at night, I found the child was brought forth; the only one, in bringing forth of whom I shared not of the pangs, according to my capacity. By that child's birth at that time, Providence was laying in for the heavy days we have seen of late years, in my wife's case.
Proceeding in my course of lecturing, 23rd December, unto the epistle to the Galatians, I considered it also as a fountain of the great doctrine of justification; and therefore was in particular concern for understanding thereof. Wherefore, addressing myself to the study of it, I wrote a paraphrase thereon, from the beginning to the end thereof; the which is to be found in the folio note-book aforesaid. And this was all, I think, of that kind, which I did at Simprin.
There it was, that, by the kind conduct of Providence, I was led to, and acquired, the French tongue. What time I began it, I do not remember: only I am sure I had not seen the grammar till after I was removed into the new manse. But by this year 1705, I had read French books, and made some things therein read my own in English. From Mr. Charles Murthland, governor to Moriston, I had got a paper of rules for reading that language; the which I transcribed into a note-book. And from thence it was that I learned the pronunciation. The grammar, and all the books of that kind which I read, except an old one, being borrowed, I was the more careful to transcribe things out of them into my Adversaria, or Common-place book: the which also was my manner with other books too, especially borrowed ones. About that time I framed a part of the folio note-book aforesaid, for recording therein any remarkable exposition of scripture-texts, which should occur to me in reading. My hands having, of later years, been otherwise providentially filled up, I made but small progress therein: but I judge the pursuing of the design, to the filling up of the blanks, might be of very good use.
9th January 1706.—This night I was under great discouragement, and temptation, to give over the weekly sermon, or at least not to be at such pains about it. The temptation arose from the badness of the night (for in the winter it was kept in the night in my own house, and in the summer in the kirk in the daytime); whereupon I concluded, that few would wait upon it. The temptation spread to several other things, as that none of my neighbours did so, etc. Nevertheless the people came very frequent to it; and the Lord struck the bottom out of my discouragement, by giving me more than ordinary of His presence in the sermon; so that I would not for anything have given it over. This has often been my temptation; and thus ordinarily the Lord delivered me out of it.
On the 27th of January, the sacrament was administered again. Before I proposed it to the eldership, I spent some time in secret prayer with fasting, and saw it my duty to insist in that way, though the entry to it had been very hard. The day being condescended on by the session, and Mr. Colden written to, for assistance, but the day not being publicly intimated, my daughter fell very ill of that disease her brother died of last year. This was a heavy exercise to me: what to do, I knew not. Should I go on, and the child die at this time, then said my heart, "What wilt Thou do to Thy great name?" My good will be evil spoken of, which the Lord knows I intended for His glory, and the refreshment of His people in the countryside. It will be thought testified against by the Lord Himself; and it will be said, that what man could not hinder me to do, God would; and so my design will be broken, and I broken by it. On the other hand, thought I, will the neglect of duty preserve my child, or fit me for bearing the loss of her? Again therefore I went to God, by prayer with fasting; and still my cry was, "What wilt Thou do to Thy great name?" At length I was led to think, Why am I thus continually crying, "What wilt Thou do to Thy great name?" cannot God provide for His glory, though I cannot see how, even though my former tragical affliction be reacted? It is my duty, I will venture; let the Lord do what seemeth Him good. So I intimated the diet fourteen days before. And it pleased the Lord, that my child began to recover quickly after, my fears were dispelled, and the Lord did more for me that way than I could have expected in so short a time. I do not remember that ever I gave the sacrament, but I had some trying affliction in my way, either from the congregation, or otherwise, Satan being on my top before or after. I had readily always something to thrust through violently ere I could get at it.
Since December 1704, I have preached on the epistle to the church of the Laodiceans; and at the two last sacraments I changed not my ordinary. At the sacrament in June 1705, the 18th verse, Rev. 3:, fell to be the ordinary, and the action-sermon closed my discourse on that verse. One way and another I was held on the 19th verse, so that the preparation-sermons for the sacrament in January 1706 fell in the ordinary on these words, ver. 20, "If any man open to Me, I will come in to him," and the action-sermon on these, "And will sup with him, and he with Me." I and others of the congregation could not but mark, how those large offers came, in the providence of God, to be so sealed. I remember, when I had been preaching against the delaying of repentance from ver. 19, God preached that over in bulk, and in some particulars, by His providence immediately after. After the sacrament, that fell to be the ordinary, ver. 21, "To him that overcometh," etc., on which verse particularly we had several sweet days. The second Lord's day after the sacrament, one of the best of the parish fell under such a trial as I had been warning them of, about two hours after she went home from the church that day. That day I had resolved to preach short, but could not get it done; those particular heads which came last behoved to be delivered that day; the design whereof I quickly saw by that dispensation, being called that night to see that person.
On the Sabbath-night, after the public work was over, Mr. Colden, my assistant, gave me the news of a call to the parish of Etterick for me. The same was shortly after brought before our presbytery; who, finding it to be a mere presbyterial call, tanquam jure devoluto, without concurrence of the parish, referred the affair of the transmitting thereof unto the synod, which was to meet in March.
4th March.—My health being broken, and thinking to go to Dunse to speak with Dr. Trotter about it, after I had once and again gone to God by prayer, to see what was my duty, I did see it was my duty to go that day. And being just ready to go away, my wife, out of tenderness to me, dealt with me to stay at home for that day, and I yielded. Then I fell on writing up the synod-book, to be ready for the general assembly. Having written some of it, I fell into two blunders, such as I never fell into while I had written that book. Beginning the third page, I fell into a worse error; so that I was forced to lay it aside. At first I thought my indisposition was the cause of this; but at length I saw as clearly as the light, that it was the punishment of my mocking God, in that I had sought to know my duty, God had discovered it, and after all I laid it aside. But after all I was made to bless God for these errors. And when I was helped to see my sin, and take with the punishment of my iniquity, then, though not till then, saw I how to get them amended. It was the Lord's goodness that they fell to be where they were.
My health being broken as aforesaid, I took advice about it. And this was not the first time that it had been so with me, even since my marriage. Some former year I had gone to Berwick, to consult upon that account Dr. Alexander Home, who, in the former part of the time I was at Simprin, was our ordinary: and shewing him, that I feared a consumption, he freely told me, that I had reason for it; and gave his advice. He was a plain man, good-natured, religiously disposed, ready to do good, and sparing no pains for that end; easy to all, and would never take a farthing from me. My wife having, by his advice, cut out her hair, and washed her head every morning with cold water, got pretty clear of the pain of her head, for about the space of a year: but at length spurning the remedy, it recurred, and went on periodically as formerly. By this time Dr. John Trotter at Dunse was our ordinary. From him I got a receipt for a diet-drink, dated 7th March 1706, consisting of antiscorbutics: the which I used for many years, though now the disease has much overcome me, maugre all opposition made to it, by that and the like means.
Some time before this, there had been an acquaintance begun between the said Dr. Trotter and me, which arrived at a particular friendship; and, towards the latter end of the time I was in Simprin, became most strict and intimate: and so it continued until his death, about the year 1717.
He was second son to Alexander Trotter of Cattlesheill, and married Mrs. Julian Home, sister to the Laird of Kimmerghame, a grave, virtuous, and pious gentlewoman. By her he had several children, but all dead by that time, except his daughter Elizabeth, a pleasant and promising girl. She also died of a lingering disease, some little time after his own death: by which means his substance went to his elder brother. He was a grave man, truly religious, acting from a principle of conscience towards God, temperate to a pitch, concerned for the spiritual good of others, particularly his relations; useful by his advice and converse, not only to the bodies, but to the souls of his patients; skilful in his business; and more ready, than ever I knew another, to shew to such as he judged capable, the rationale of his practice in physic: withal he was ready to do good to all, but especially to those of the household of faith. He had something severe in his temper, but was nevertheless a most affectionate and useful friend, whose memory is exceeding dear to me. He not only laid out himself, and that always freely, for my health, and that of my family, both at Simprin and in Etterick, but, upon my removal from the former to the latter, proposed my looking out a piece of land in Etterick for him to buy, that we might still live together: the which, though it did not take effect, was a sign of singular friendship. To him it was owing, that I ever thought of writing the Fourfold State. I have a piece of gold of his, which I received after his death as a token, and keep wrapt up in a letter of his to me. Besides, there were about 50 merks received for a token to my two eldest children, and about £3 sterling for the two youngest. But by this time I have had occasion to give all of them, except my youngest son, their parts thereof, and much more.
The synod meeting at Dunse 19th March there was no motion about the affair of Etterick, the whole presbytery of Selkirk being absent, through mistake of the diet: but there was laid before them a competition of calls for the parish of Kelso; the one to Mr. Andrew Mitchell, minister at Manner, given by the Earl of Roxturgh, other heritors, and several inhabitants of the parish of Kelso; the other to me, by some other of the heritors, the elders, and other inhabitants of the parish aforesaid. That was a business which I think I neither hoped nor feared. The synod waived determining in the competition, but recommended to the parties to agree to one of the ministers called; and if that could not be obtained, to some third person. Meanwhile my health was so broken, that I looked rather like one to be transported into the other world, than into another parish.
At the first meeting of our presbytery alter the synod, none of the presbytery of Selkirk appearing, at our instance the call to Etterick was declared fallen from. At the following meeting one did appear to pursue it; but his commission was so informal, that it was not sustained. Only our presbytery declared, that, if they would ask the synod's advice at their meeting in October, they would not reclaim. Thus Providence staved off the commencing of that process, while it stood upon a footing on which it could never have been rendered effectual.
About the beginning of May, I was vehemently importuned to assist at Ednam sacrament. I could get no clearness to yield, in regard of the stumbling I thought it might give to those of the Earl of Roxburgh's party in Kelso; fearing it might be looked on as a fomenting of the division in that parish. However, I yielded to go thither on the Thursday, and preach that day, if no better might be. There I was, by their importunity, put on a most violent rack. However, Providence diverted them from urging me to preach that day, on a design to engage me to assist the following days. And after I came, I was more averse from preaching that day than before I came. The more I heard the sermons, the greater were my inclinations to be at that sacrament; the more I prayed, the less I saw it to be my duty: wherefore being fully cleared, I was peremptory for going home. And by the Lord's unexpected providing instruments there, and His dealing with me at home, I saw more and more it was of the Lord. I never yet lost (so far as I remember) by that which some account niceness, in not going to sacraments, when I thought I was called to stay at home. And this has oftener than once been my trial, and ground of reflections on me to others, who looked on it with an evil eye.
23rd June.—This day being very warm, I was helped to pray to the Lord to keep the hearers from sleeping. I was heard, so as I could not but observe it. In the prayer before the afternoon's sermon I was helped more than ordinary, and in the sermon there appeared a more than ordinary frame on the people; which when I perceived to abide with them, and that my frame was like to go away from me, I left off. The subject was, that no unworthiness, sinfulness, etc., could be a just hinderance of the soul's coming to Christ. When the Lord minds a mercy to a people, He helps them beforehand to pray for it.
At the meeting of the synod in October, the presbytery of Selkirk, having got a more firm footing for the affair of Etterick than their presbyterial call, appeared, and gave in a petition to the synod about it. And together with them appeared, and concurred, the Laird of Elliston, an heritor of that parish; Walter Bryden, an elder, tenant in Crosslee; and William Linton, tenant in Cossarshill; and these two latter, by commission from several inhabitants of the said parish. Likewise a petition for the said parish to the presbytery, signed by five elders, and several masters of families, craving the presbytery would prosecute their call to me, testifying their concurrence, and promising all subjection to me in the Lord, was given in, and read. Hereupon the synod ordered our presbytery to deliver the call to me, and to transmit the reasons of transportation to me and the parish of Simprin; and appointed some of their own number to meet with our presbytery, as assistants in the affair, on the second Tuesday of December.
The matter being thus brought close home on me, I, considering myself to be an utter stranger to that place and people, having never seen them, judged it altogether necessary to visit them, as is said above, before the said diet of the presbytery, with the assistants. Accordingly I went to Etterick, accompanied by my dear friend Dr. Trotter. I preached there on a Lord's day, 3rd November, but in bonds, though the Doctor said he observed no such thing. Even in secret prayer, from the time I left the Merse, I was sadly dried up, at least till the work was over on the Lord's day, except a little on the Lord's day morning. In fine, I judged I met with no such entertainment from the people, as could signify any earnest desire in them to have me to be their minister. So we left them on Monday morning. On Tuesday about ten o'clock we came to Charterhall, where I was surprised with the news of a fast through the two presbyteries. Not knowing well what to do, Providence led me straight home, having some thoughts of taking another day for our congregation. As I was coming by the end of Swinton loch, that word Ezra 8: 21, "Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava," etc., came into my mind; and I had some thoughts on it, as a text for the fast, which was about the Union, the parliament being then sitting upon it. When I came home, contrary to my expectation, the people were in the church, Mr. Mair preaching. So I went immediately into the church, and preached on the aforementioned text in the afternoon, wondering how the Lord had led me in the way I knew not. I was never so willing to be transported to any place as to Etterick; particularly I apprehended it might be better with me as to my own soul's case there than at Simprin. But men's thoughts are vanity. I am now afraid of that transportation. My soul trembles to think of it, and my freedom in prayer about it is, to protest against it before the Lord, unless He command me to go; which does not yet appear.
Our presbytery forgot to transmit the call and reasons, and to summon us, in due time, to the diet appointed by the synod; but recovering themselves, they appointed a new diet, viz. 19th December. On the 10th and 11th of that month, came on such a violent storm of snow, that I concluded there would no pursuers be present. And comparing this occurrence with the course of Providence all along in the affair, I began to think (but too hastily making a judgement therein), that God had thereby sealed His design, that I was not to be minister of Etterick. Wherefore, before I went to the presbytery that day, looking on the affair as in a sort already determined, I could not be very serious for light therein; but coming up to the place, I found myself disappointed; two ministers, and two elders of the parish, pursuers, being there. Sir William Cockburn appeared for Simprin. And the affair was issued that day in a reference to the synod in March.
31st December.—The affair of Etterick having occasioned various thoughts of heart to me at several times, I set myself to view the several steps of Providence in it on both sides. Upon the one hand I observe, 1. That Mr. H. having come with the call to our presbytery, in February or March last, he staid all night in my house; but I was from home. And the call was found to be a bare presbyterial call, without concurrence of heritors, elders, or parish. 2. But the presbytery having referred the affair of the transmitting of the call and reasons to the synod in March, the whole presbytery of Selkirk, through a mistake of the diet, was absent from the synod, so there was nothing done in it; and at our next presbytery after, none of the presbytery of Selkirk appearing, at our instance the call was declared to be deserted and fallen from. 3. The next presbytery after, Mr. B. appears; but his commission was so informal that it was not sustained; only our presbytery declared, that if the presbytery of Selkirk would ask the synod's advice in this affair, against October next, they would not reclaim. 4. The presbytery of Selkirk having so managed their business at the October synod, that the synod ordered the call and reasons to be transmitted, and appointed a committee of their number to meet with our presbytery the first Tuesday of this instant, to determine in that affair; our presbytery forgot to transmit the call, and reasons of transportation, and to summon us in due time. 5. Being an utter stranger to that people but by report, I thought it duty to go there and preach, before I would hazard the determination: but the letter I sent to Mr. M. to warn the people of my coming, came not to his hand till the Saturday that I was in Etterick. 6. My entertainment there was not promising, and I was straitened, as above narrated. 7. Our presbytery having appointed a new diet, viz. 12th December, I got the reasons of transportation, which seemed to me so weak, as that it looked like a particular design of Providence, and an infatuation; 8. I went out of Simprin pulpit towards Etterick; for that day I went away, I lectured and baptised, and presently took my horse; and (so to call it) I returned from Etterick to the pulpit of Simprin as above related. 9. Thursday, 12th December, the day anew appointed for the meeting of the presbytery and assistants for determining that affair, was a bad day; a violent storm of snow having come on, on the Tuesday and Wednesday before (whereas the diet appointed by the synod was excellent weather), so that it could scarce be thought that either pursuers or assistants would come; and on the Wednesday's night, finding none of them come, I began to conclude, that none of them would appear; and so that, by such a train of providences, the Lord had sealed His design of my not going to Etterick to be minister there. Wherefore, on the morrow, before I went away to the presbytery, I could scarcely pray seriously about it for light in it, seeing the affair as it were already determined.
But when I went to the presbytery, within a little of the town, I was surprised with the news of the pursuers being there; and there I found two ministers of the presbytery, and two elders of the parish. Two papers were shown me, when I alighted, importing the heritors falling from their opposition. The business was by that meeting referred to the synod in March. When I came home, I had several reflections seeming to favour the design of Etterick; and as to some of them, I was made to wonder how my eyes had been held that I could not see them before. They are as follows. 1. That was a surprising turn of Providence, when I went to the presbytery, expecting none of the pursuers there, that came so quickly after I had thought God had sealed His pleasure in it, and put the topstone on the providences crossing. I remember, while I was making that conclusion, I was withheld from making it peremptory, by that word, Jas. 5: 11, "— have seen the end of the Lord." 2. It was told me, that the unanimity of the presbytery in that call was very remarkable; some of them that had other views and engagements to act for others, laying them by, for this. 3. Thus far it has been carried over difficulties, particularly the people, refusing their concurrence, who have now with the elders (last summer) given in a petition to the presbytery, bearing their calling me to be their minister, and promising to submit to my ministry: and the heritors none of them appearing to oppose; only one appeared to pursue it, and that only at the synod. 4. The Lord did signally bind me up from going to Whittinghame, whereas I am informed there was a design of a call for me: and I was led to preach the sermon at Etterick that was designed for Whittinghame; the suitableness whereof I was fully convinced of. 5. Some time before the presbytery-day I grew uneasy in my mind, for that I had never preached designedly some particular duties to my people; which things I thought I might dispatch in the space of two or three months; so I resolved, without delay, to fall about them, and have begun already. 6. The desolation of that parish, ever since I saw it, has had great weight on me: and I am convinced I should have more opportunity to do service for God there than here; but success is the Lord's. 7. Concerning those providences that seemed to cross the design of Etterick, it was a strange thing, that the whole presbytery should have mistaken the diet of the synod, and that when they had such business before it. But had they been present, the business doubtless would have been tabled: if in that case the synod had refused to transmit the call, the business would have been crushed in the bud; had they ordered the transmitting of it, no doubt the presbytery had continued me in Simprin, it being contrary both to their light and mine, to transport on a mere presbyterial call. The same is to be said of Mr. B.'s informal commission; for at that time the business stood only on that weak foot; whereas by these lets the business never came under a judicial cognisance tending to a determination, till it got the people's call as a firmer foot to stand upon. As to our presbytery's forgetting the synod's diet, I can only remark one thing, that the coming to prosecute the call at that time when they came, was a greater evidence of their affection to me than had they come then, when, according to the synod's appointment, the business should have been discussed. The miscarrying of the letter to Mr. M. seems to have been subservient to the cold entertainment I thought I met with there. As to which in particular I have remarked, 1. That it was very necessary for me to take off that disposition of spirit, whereby I was too easy in my own mind as to that business: and it set me where I had often desired to be, even afraid of that transportation. 2. I find I have made the very same remark, as to the inclinations of the people of Simprin, the first time I preached in it, the business being then set on foot. As to my straitening, I find also I have remarked concerning my first preaching in Simprin, that what account to give of that day's work, I knew not very well.
4th January 1707, Monday.—This day I went towards Oxnam, to take Mr. Colden's advice about the business of Etterick. As I was going away from home, I began to be very perplexed about that business, and, by the way to Stitchill, the dispensations crossing that affair, seemed so big in my eyes, that I thought it was not the Lord's mind that I should be transported thither. And that night I could not pray about it, any other way than that God would avert it. On the morrow Mr. G., Mr. K., and I went to Oxnam, and found that Mr. Colden was at Edinburgh. Thus was I disappointed. I minded also to have taken his advice, whether to give the wintersacrament at the ordinary time, or delay it. This disappointment determined me to do it at the ordinary time. As to Etterick, I looked on that disappointment as a dispensation confirming the conclusion, that God designed me not for that place. When I came home, I found, that, seeing I had missed my mark at Oxnam, it was necessary to set some time apart for seeking of the Lord Himself His mind in it; for now again the cross providences had not such a determining aspect as before.
This I did on Saturday, 9th January, having studied my sermons the day before. The upshot of it, with respect to that particular (for I had also the public affairs and the sacrament in view also), was, that in some measure I could say, that "my countenance was no more sad," the Lord calmed my spirit, which before was perplexed, and helped me to believe, that He would clear me in that matter in due time, and to depend on Him for the same; and that word, "He that believeth, shall not make haste," was helpful to me. The Lord helped me to lay it before and upon Him, especially towards the close of that exercise: so that it was a blessed disappointment at Oxnam; for by that means I was driven to the fountain of light.
19th January.—This day being to speak something with respect to the public, I prayed particularly, that God would guide tongue and heart. On reflection, I must say, He is the hearer of prayer; for my heart and tongue were guided in that particular, far better than my pen in my notes.
Three things make me hope, that the Lord will clear me in the business of Etterick, and bring it to a happy conclusion: 1. The calming of my spirit after prayer, 1 Sam. 1: 18. 2. Several that have interest with God, are concerned to cry for light to me at the throne of grace, Jas. 5: 16. 3. I am willing to go or stay, as the Lord shall give the word, Ps. 32: 8, 9, and 21: 9, and, as often before, upon this matter, so this night I was helped with some boldness to protest before the Lord, that I must be caused to walk in His way, Ps. 25: 8, Ezek. 36. The occasion of these thoughts was, that about two or three days ago I received a letter from Mr. M., touching that affair, another from Mr. B., in name of the presbytery of Selkirk, desiring me to go to Etterick again. This I could not yield to; because, 1. The main thing they desired it for was, that I might be satisfied as to the inclinations of the people; but unless other things did it, I could not have it that way, in regard I had signified my dissatisfaction with their carriage towards me: 2. I thought it would make my own people and them also mistake me.
25th January.—My servant yesterday went to D. with bear. We waited long for his coming home, but he came not, and we were afraid he had filled himself drunk. When we were going to bed, and he not come, we were afraid he had either perished, or was lying by the way unable to help himself. I minded to set some time apart for fasting and prayer in my family, as was ordinary before sacraments; and this determined me to this day. So it was observed for these three causes especially: 1. The sacraments; 2. The state of public affairs; 3. The business of Etterick. This day, when we arose, and found he was not come, we resolved to wait till eight o'clock, and then send one to seek him, if he came not ere then. 1 went to my closet in great distress, as all my family was; and while I was begging a blessing on the scripture I was to read, I earnestly prayed the Lord would calm my spirit, and help me to depend on Him. The Lord answered me presently, and so I fell on to read. And when I had read about ten or eleven verses, my son came to the door, and told me the lad was come. This helped me to pray, wondering at the Lord's goodness. Our fears in one part had good ground; for so it was with him. The family met, and the Lord was with us, and filled us with goodness and with thankfulness. I observed here, 1. That the devil was driving on the old trade of raging about the time of the sacrament, as he uses to do. But he was outshot in his own bow: for, 2. This affliction was a vast help to me and my family, to the work we were going about; it put us in another frame than readily we would otherwise have been in. 3. I learned the necessity of taking more care about the unhappy lad's soul than I had done. 4. That a depending frame is a pledge of the mercy desired. And this lesson came seasonably to me at this time, with respect to the business of Etterick, for light wherein I am helped to depend. 5. My wife expected workmen to have come yesterday, and the family-fast was to have been next week; but God hindered them, and the disappointment determined us to this week, as the other dispensation to this day, which we could not have got done if they had come.
2nd February.—The sacrament was celebrated. I had great difficulty to get a text. On Wednesday I began to study the text I preached on, but was obliged to give it over. On the Friday I begun it anew, and hammered out my sermon on it that day. The confluence of people was extraordinary; so that I behoved to send for more wine, and set up another table on Saturday's night. It was thought my present circumstances contributed to it. When I began the work on the Lord's day, I was much discouraged by reason of the confusion and disturbance, occasioned by the unusual throng, and by reason I could observe few of my own handful among them. I had no straitening in my preaching, nor any other part of the work. Something of a more than ordinary frame was on myself and the people, in the first prayer. The work at the tables was signally owned of God. Some professed, they were in hazard of disturbing the world, by crying out at the first and second tables. I understand by many, that there was something of an unordinary frame among the people in the byre. While I was communicating, one that was near me seemed to me not to have taken the bread; I gave her a sign while she seemed to be meditating, and found she had taken it. This discomposed me: I saw it had been a temptation, and that my business then was to have been taken up about my own case. Being brought to the pinch, I wrestled to get to my feet again, fleeing to the blood exhibited, and set myself to present duty. Let this be a lesson to me. At night in my closet, partly desiderating the impressions of communicating on my spirit, as was due; partly reflecting on that disorder at first by the throng, having never seen any here before, I was discouraged, and poured out my complaint before the Lord, was sore weighted and bowed down; my eyes, meanwhile, being withheld from seeing what glorious power of God appeared at that work. Blessed be the Lord, it was good ballast. And I have received something of what I then desiderated. On the Monday Mr. Colden preached a sweet sermon, with much tenderness. I knew not whether to speak after him or not; but found at length, though I desire not to speak after him, that yet I durst not forbear. And so, with the Lord's help, I spoke a word to all, to strangers, and, with more than ordinary vigour and concern on my soul, a word to my own people.
9th February.—This morning the Lord was pleased to blow on me more than ordinary; and with thankfulness my soul acknowledged the goodness of God, in that ever He sent me to Simprin, gave me a less charge than others, provided for me here, gave me the blessed occasions of sacraments, and has made unworthy me some way useful to several of His people. This day was a good day, and I hope a day of power. (Nota.— If ever I preached in my life, it was that day.) I preached on 2 Cor. 11: 2, "I have espoused you to one husband." Towards the latter end of the afternoon-sermon, I desired them to remember, that I had espoused them to Christ, showed them in some particulars what had been done that way, and then called the heavens and the earth, the angels, the stones and timber of the church and byre, and the people themselves, to witness that they were espoused. These things were delivered with a change of my voice, speaking mostly lower than before, but with more than ordinary weight and gravity. Having made that solemn attestation, my spirit just slipped off into prayer, that the Lord would preserve them till the day of the Lord, etc., in which I continued a little while. The like I never did. In that prayer, my voice, that before was low, and when extended uneasy, turned very high; and I prayed with as much easiness of my voice as ever in my life. I was a wonder to myself, and a strange moving was upon the people. It was observable, as that easiness began with the prayer, it continued while, in a few words, I exhorted them to endeavour to keep chaste; and then it left me, which was ere I had altogether done with the sermon. Afterward I had a temptation to be lifted up. It was quickly crushed in the bud, but not by me. I had a secret dissatisfaction that arose in my heart as to the managing of that work. In the fervour of my affections I had expressed a word wrong. This, whatever be of it, had weight enough then to hold me down, if not to press me too far. (Nota.—All this passed, as I remember, betwixt the pulpit and the garden-door next to the house.) But immediately after I came in, going to my closet as ordinary, at prayer there, it pleased the Lord to shoot an arrow of wrath suddenly into my soul, which pierced my soul and body both; so that a great weakness, and an exceeding great heat, went through my body in a moment. It lasted not long; but I think, if it had lasted a while longer, I had been a most miserable spectacle. When it came on, at first I was tempted to rise from prayer, and flee from the presence of the Lord, and had much ado to resist; but God in mercy determined me to another way, even to flee under the covert of the blood of Christ, that only shelter from the terror of God, and that even to those that had crucified Him: and so I held by these scriptures, 1 John 1: 7; Heb. 9: 14. These drops of wrath came in on me, with a conviction of guilt darted into my spirit, viz. that, in that prayer aforesaid, I had not suitable affections to that petition, "Even so come, Lord Jesus, come quickly," which was the last petition in it. And in a most composed temper of mind, reflecting on it, I see clearly, that God left me in that, and that that petition was the product of my own spirit. This let me see, that my best duties behove to be washed in the blood of the Lamb, else they, even they will damn me. After dinner, singing with my family a part of Isa. 35:1 that word, ver. 8, "And an high way shall be there, — though fools, shall not err therein," was very sweet to me, with respect to the business of Etterick. I went up immediately to my closet, and meditating, I again got a broad sight of the filthiness of my best duties, and the absolute need of their being washed in the blood of Christ; saw myself most unworthy to touch the vessels of the Lord; and that I might roll myself in the dust, when the glorious gospel was to be preached. This helped me to pray. I have sometimes swished for some drops of wrath, to awaken me out of a secure frame; but I found one drop, one arrow, intolerable. Who knows the power of His wrath? Tongue cannot express it. O precious Christ! O precious blood. Horror and despair had swallowed me up, had it not been that blood, the blood of God. I observe now, that, according to my design formerly laid down, I was to have preached on watching this day; but the Lord withheld me, and led me to this text; as also that the Lord gave a spirit of prayer in the private fast before the sacrament, and this morning also. These were tokens of good. But the Lord has been at pains to hide pride from my eyes. O that I never saw it more.
10th February.—This morning coming, in prayer, to the business of Etterick, I thought I saw myself beset with promises, Isa. 35: 8, Prov. 3: 6, Ps. 25: 9, and 32: 8, 9, and 107: ult., and my soul was raised to a dependence on the Lord. At night, fear and darkness seized on me again, being in company; but by prayer I was raised up again to dependence. There is no keeping foot without new supplies from the Lord.
12th February.—Concerning that business, which lies very near my heart, and so much the more as the time of its determination draws near, I have further remarked, 1. That Providence has been at pains to keep me out of the way of the parties, that I might not consult with them. 2. When the call came first to our presbytery, my health was sore broken: I looked rather like a man to be transported to eternity, than to another parish. 3. While I was at Etterick, my wife had so little liberty in prayer about that business, that when she saw me first, which was in the church presently after I came home, she was able to guess my entertainment. (N.B.—I must do this justice to my wife, once for all, to say, that as to my leaving of her country, and not settling there, and as to my settling in Simprin, which were before she was my wife, but not before we were engaged, she interposed not; and as to this transportation, she meddled as little; but in all the three was silent to the Lord, and laid open to follow what God would point out to be my duty.) And C. Wood told me, that the business at first seemed very clear to her, but afterwards grew dark. 4. There was a most remarkable difference betwixt the secret and family fast before the presbytery, and the secret and family fast last observed. In the former two there was nothing but tugging and heartlessness; in both the latter, there was something of the spirit of prayer. 5. After that exercise on the 9th of January was over, having prayed that the Lord would help me to take up His mind in His dispensations, I thought on the things recorded above, 31st December, p. 184 et seqq. And that day, viz. 9th January, the balance was, in my apprehension, cast on the side of Etterick. 6. I thought Mr. Colden should have staid the Monday night after the sacrament, that I might consult him in that affair; but he went away. Only he told me, that he thought it God's goodness that I was sent to Simprin; but that he was now clearer than ever that I should go away: but he spoke not of Etterick to me, but Ayton and Jedburgh. Many a time has God inhibited that man to help me; but if he had not been more useful to me than others, I had not been so ready to idolise and make an oracle of him, whom my heart will ever love. The last Lord's day another went away, and spoke not with me; but I reverenced the providence of God drying up the streams, to lead me to the fountain. 7. What aspect the Lord's countenance at the sacrament, the exhortation on the Monday, and the last Lord's day's work, have on this affair, the event will make certain. As to the last of these, it was said by Christian Wood, who was with us that day, that it seemed to her from that work, that either I was near an end of preaching for altogether, or near the end of my preaching in Simprin. 8. I think it a strange conjuncture, that at this time so great offence is taken at me by my two nearest neighbours, and other two in whom I trusted, without any just ground that I know of. One of them, Mr. P. I used to boast of; that whatever different sentiments we were sometimes of, we still kept from taking offence at one another: but I was surprised, a day or two ago, to hear that it is not so now. 9. About two years ago, when there was no word of any transportation for me, so far as I remember, I had a dream, that I was transported somewhere; and in my dream I was under great remorse of conscience; for that I thought the love of the world had prevailed with me in it. When I awoke, I thought myself thrice happy, that it was but a dream, and that I was still at Simprin. The use I made of it then was, that it might be a warning to me, to take heed to myself, if ever a transportation should offer. 10. That day I went to Etterick I lectured here on Ps. 122:, insisting mostly on the latter part, vers. 6-9. That day I came home, that word came into my mind, Ezra 8: 21, and I preached on it, though I little thought to have preached any that day. 11. What may be the event I know not: but it has sent me oftener to God than otherwise I would have gone, and my own case has been thereby bettered. C. Wood told me, that when the business was first set on foot, being very much concerned about it, she was brought at length to lay her hand on her mouth, and thought she had this answer, that if I went there, it should be for the good of a young generation. But she said the business grew darker to her afterwards, yet she still thought I behoved to go there. These things she told me after I came home from Etterick.
16th February.—Last night lying down to rest on my bed, I posed my conscience with that question, Whether or not, after all I have thought and seen, I durst peremptorily refuse to go to Etterick? And I thought I durst not. This did much quiet my heart, knowing that the determination is to be made by the synod. The dream I had long ago, has occasioned fears to me very often; and therefore have I asked my own soul, whether the world sways me in this business? And I dare not say it does. And in this inquiry, it was clearing to me, that I am conscious to myself, that if never so great worldly advantages had been proposed to me at the presbytery, 12th December, I durst not have yielded to it, seeing no more of God in it than I saw at that time. But because my heart is a depth of secret wickedness, I have several times this last week prayed with respect to that particular point, that God would search me and try me. And I think I dare say before the Lord, I was sincere in it, really desirous to know if that wicked way was in me in that matter. I am sometimes helped to depend on and trust God, for guidance in this matter; but I am often assaulted with fears of being left. And what then should I think of that dependence so often brangled? This has been my case often within this short time. But this morning, at family-exercise, when it was not in my mind, I met with a passage in our ordinary, Jer. 39, which was cleared to me, so as I saw an answer to my case. The passage was that, ver. 17, "Thou shalt not be given into the hand of the men of whom thou art AFRAID. 18. For thy life shall be for a prey unto thee, BECAUSE thou hast PUT THY TRUST IN ME." Afraid (I thought), and yet delivered, BECAUSE he put his trust in the Lord! Wonderful, that God will overlook His people's weakness, and deliver them, even because of that trust mixed with so much fear! That because was wonderful in my eyes. This answered my case so patly, that I was much cleared by it. C. Wood was here this day, being the Lord's day, minded to go home; but the Lord hindered her by bodily indisposition. She told me the business was plain to her, that to Etterick I must go. I was anxious the last time she was here, that I might have understood how that matter seemed to go with her; but she going away, I laid by that anxiety, and God brought this notice unexpectedly to my hand.
18th February.—This morning I arose early, and retired to spend some time in prayer, especially about the business of Etterick. Last night in prayer, once and again, for help to that work, my soul was elevated: but the third time I was sore dried up. This morning I had some tugging with my heart a while; at length I got earnest and solid desires after the Lord. And I remember, I pleaded much on the Lord's having given me these desires, that seeing He had made then, He would f11 them. Afterwards that frame was lost, and I could say little, but cry, that the Lord would loose the prisoner. While I was at that work, a letter comes which I behoved immediately to answer; and then Mr. M. came. This was about ten o'clock. So I was taken off. Howbeit, in company, the sad thoughts of this heavy turn in my frame, and the Lord's deserting me, stood before me. I stole away a while to my closet, and thought and prayed. At night the society for Christian fellowship met. And I observed, that this business, which has fallen out of their prayers for some time, came in again this night. R. Aitchison prayed first, a man in whom I think is the spirit of prayer. I took notice, that his prayer about it was just as his prayers were this time twelvemonth, when that business was set on foot first by the call. He prayed for light to me, that God would prosper my work if I be to stay with them; and that if I go, God may be with me, and loose their affections from me. So prayed he at first. But before the presbytery on 12th December, there was an astonishing boldness and freedom with the Lord among them in that matter, in him especially, which seemed to me prophetic. Wonderful, wonderful, is the conduct of Providence! This desertion with the outgate seemed to me to clear me in another case about this business. On the Lord's day morning, as said is, I was set on my feet by that word, Jer. 39: 17, 18; but at night I began to stagger again, upon the consideration of my bodily indisposition. It seemed to be coming on as last year; and I thought, that if it should be thus with me at the synod, whatever other things might point out to me, I feared this would leave me in the lurch: for if matters, on the one hand, look so as to bid me yield, this indisposition, on the other hand, speak strongly against it; seeing it would appear unfair towards that parish for me to yield to take the charge of them under such bodily indisposition. (Nota.—That which was feared was a consumption.) But hereby, in sad experience, I learned not to shift that which otherwise appears duty, upon the account of bodily weakness and indisposition, but to be at the Lord's disposal, and hold even on the way, trusting Him for strength for His own service. After family-worship, I came to my closet again, and fell to work. And at that time, after prayer, I read over the above account of the dispensations of Providence in that business, and in the sight of the Lord, as I could, communed with my own heart concerning the two foresaid questions, and was answered as above said.
24th February, Monday.—On Saturday last I gave myself for a while to prayer, especially with respect to the business of Etterick, and I found my heart ready for prayer, and desirous of it, having laid no restraint on myself as to time or continuance in that exercise. This I did, because the last day I found my heart impatient sometimes under the view of continuing closely for such a time. This day also I spent some time in prayer, and thinking on that business, in order to come to a fixed resolution an d determination as to what is my duty. The time of the synod's meeting being now very near, obliged me to set this time apart for the end foresaid. Wherefore, after serious applications to the throne of grace, for light, and determination of duty from the Lord, I took a view of those things noted 31st December, and as to the presbyterial call.
I remember how yesterday I had a lamentable account, how the devil had set up his trophies against the sacrament, in Dunse market on Wednesday last, one of this parish (W. T.), and he a communicant, being so drunk, that he could not hold his feet, but fell, and broke his face, in the open street. This created me thoughts of heart, even with respect to this business, and made me stagger not a little; but examining, whether it might be consistent with the Lord's design of removing me, and my submitting to this transportation, I was cleared by that passage, Acts 20: 29, 30.
At length I came to this conclusion, that seeing all the dispensations seeming to cross the design of Etterick (excepting one) may be in some measure accounted for, and appear not inconsistent with the Lord's design of sending me there, and that the most remarkable of these made plainly for it; seeing that by a train of cross providences, Providence made it grow darker and darker, and then suddenly and unexpectedly made such a turn in it; seeing it has been brought this length through several difficulties, and the Lord seemed to open two doors for my removal at one time, and then shut one of them again, and with that I designed for the one sent me to the other; seeing the dispensations of Providence, and the frame of my own, and that of the hearts of others with respect to that matter before the presbytery, 12th December, did in some sort keep pace with the event of that day, and both being now altered, go in another course; seeing the Lord chased me away to Himself to seek counsel, kept me from consulting with men, and has so graciously condescended to give me seasonable clearing of particular cases in that affair; and the way I have been directed to in my preaching here since the presbytery-day, for ordinary changing a text every day or two, which was not my usual way, and the work at the sacrament, and particularly that on the Lord's day thereafter, seem to have such a determining aspect; seeing the Lord has removed the hinderance arising from the consideration of the state of my health, partly by making it better, and partly, yea chiefly, by shewing me that I ought net to lay so much stress on it, as is above narrated; and seeing, upon the whole, I am convinced, that if I had no charge, I would by these things be determined to embrace that call; therefore I am resolved (rebus stantibus et nunc) to submit to the synod, and leave it to their determination.
And forasmuch as these dispensations of Providence, as observed and applied, look scripture-like, and this resolution has not been easily obtained by me, having had many ups and downs in this business; seeing the Lord showed me on the 9th of January, that he that believeth maketh no haste, and I was content to wait, and was quieted in prayer, and helped to depend on the Lord, while as yet I knew not what hand to turn me to; and I have found, for ordinary, when I sought light in this affair, my first care was still for Christ Himself, esteeming Himself far above light, etc., and now at last I have won at this resolution, in the use of means for clearness, so that I was afraid this day to harp any more on that string, lest I should with Balaam tempt God; and seeing, upon the attaining of that clearness as to my duty, my soul has been made thankful to the Lord for His goodness and condescendence to me in this matter, I must and will conclude, that this resolution is of God: and having examined myself again as to the world's influence, I dare say, and said it, before the Lord, that (in His strength) ten thousand worlds should never have engaged me.
After all, I saw my case in Ps. 40: 1-5, and I behoved to sing it; and so I did with a thankful heart, from vers. 1 to 9. And blessed be God for Christ; thanks to the Lord for His unspeakable gift. I bless Him, that the effect of all this is to make me prize Christ; and therefore, when I thought I had done, I was obliged to go back again, and, as I was able, to bless God for Christ; and O that I may have the advantage of an eternity to praise Him in!
2 7th February.—A violent fit as of the gravel beginning with my wife, I designed to go to prayer on that account: but immediately she was better; and therefore I prayed, and with her gave thanks for the receipt of what we were thinking to seek. My heart was enlarged under a sense of the Lord's goodness. And this new mercy revived the grateful sense of the Lord's kindness that I have of late met with in the hearing of prayers. This night the two societies met together for prayer, concerning the business of my transportation. One of the western society going to read, asked me where he should read; I said he might read where he pleased, thinking he would choose some place suitable to the occasion. And so one tells him, our ordinary in the eastern society (which met weekly at my house) was Gen. 12. So he begins, and reads, "Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land," etc. This was very surprising to me, being so pat to my case. Thus was that work begun. As for their prayers, they were as I noted before, p. 195.
2nd March.—I preached on the observing of providences, from Ps. 107: ult.; and I observe how the Lord led me to it, through several difficulties, drying up to me another subject I thought to have been on. I was afraid to venture on this subject, not knowing how to manage it; but the Lord was pleased to lay to my hand liberally, for all the scrimpness I feared.
3rd March.—Latter end of the last week, I began to have some passing fears, that the business of Etterick might misgive at the synod; but last night they became exceeding great and pressing, so that I lay down with such a weight of them, that I had much ado to bear up against them. The precise point on which they rolled, was this, viz. That in case it should misgive, it would brangle me terribly as to my own soul's case, raze foundations, turn all I had got in quest of light in the matter, into delusion; and so, in that event, I would not know any more how to discover the mind of God in a particular case. No wonder then this was most heavy, and perplexing, and racking, as indeed it was, threatening a stroke at the very root of my soul. Only I thought, if I was wrong, I would be content to be undeceived; seeing I was yet in the land of the living, and might yet be set right. This day I had a grateful sense of the Lord's goodness to me, and of His gracious condescension, in that He had been pleased to let me see my duty clearly now eight days ago; and that He did not keep up His light from me till the very nick of time of the determination of the business. O! the wisdom and foreknowledge of God, in letting in these fears, like a flood, on my soul! I do with profoundest humility, and thankfulness, admire and adore that wisdom and foreknowledge, when I look back on the heavy task I then was to have, and now have had, in that place; under the which, nothing could have borne me up, but the clearness of my call, from the Lord Himself, unto it; and that flood of fears has since made that clearness, like a wall of adamant, in the face of many a storm and tempest I have met with in that place.
The synod having met, and the affair come before them, I was, on the 6th of March, by their sentence, transported from Simprin to Etterick. On the 4th I went to Kelso to the synod; and was scarcely well set down in the church, when Mr. H. C. a member of the presbytery of Selkirk, told me, that Sir Francis Scot did not take it well, that the presbytery would needs use their jus devolutum; but that he would consent to the calling of me, if they would fall from their call. He asked me what I thought of it. I told him, that, for my part, they might do in that business as they pleased. The first ease I got was on Wednesday morning; when, after some time spent in prayer, the Lord opened my eyes, and let me see how He had in His providence been pointing out to me my way to Etterick; and I found I durst not shift duty for the difficulty in the way. After dinner that day, having procured to myself a little time alone, I set myself to prayer; the rather that I thought my business might come in that afternoon; and being yet somewhat uneasy and troubled as before, after prayer I resolved to read the scripture; but that I might not make a fortune-book of the Bible, I expressly resolved I would read in my ordinary; and though my case should not be touched there, I would wait on God. It fell to be 1 Pet. 1 where I met with that passage, ver. 6, 7, "Tho' now for a season (if need be) ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations, that the trial of your faith being," etc. This was seasonable and refreshful to my poor soul. But I was called away (by reason of my ordinary office, being synod-clerk) before I got the whole chapter read. It pleased the Lord to bear it off for that diet: only I was almost no sooner set down at the table in the church, but Mr. A. D. told me, he had Sir Francis Scot's letter, that he would make no noise about my settlement in Etterick. On the morrow, by which time I was fully cleared to hold by my former resolution, laid down Monday was eight days, having in secret laid my all down at Christ's feet, I went away, and was transported. It was a melancholy time, while parties were removed, and some of the honest men of Simprin were weeping near by me, being hopeless, which was a heavy sight to me, who dearly loved them. Immediately after the sentence, "Transport," I was confounded, and troubled with many fears; and the ease I got, was by reflecting on those fears that I was oppressed with last Lord's day at night, and considering what a dreadful case my soul would have been in, if, after such indications of the mind of God, it had misgiven. When I came out of the church I met with Mr. Colden, who told me he was sorry I was to go out of the Merse. And I remember it was against his will that I settled in Simprin; he would have had me to Teviotdale. Then J. E. met with me, and discouraged me, and told me, I would not come to Kelso, but got to Etterick. I remember he did just so to me at Kelso, that night before I went away to my marriage. But I had no cause to repent either of the two, my settlement at Simprin, or my marriage. The use I made of these things, was to look for trouble, and expect throughbearing. I came home that day. As I was by the way, I had a great calmness and serenity of mind from the Lord; all was well; and when I came home, the Lord was very gracious to me in prayer; and in that prayer I had great liberty to plead with God for my wife's safety, and had a sort of impression that the child in her belly was a boy, and the name to be Ebenezer, which, for a memorial of the Lord's kindness to me, I promised, in case it should be so that it was a boy. Hitherto I have had kept up on my spirit, a plain sense of the Lord's calling me to Etterick. And my soul has been much enlarged in thankfulness for the Lord's kindness, in guiding me with His eye set upon me.
The synod, in their act of transportation, out of kindness to me, recommended it to the presbytery of Selkirk to use all tenderness to me; and in case I should meet with such grievances at Etterick as I might be unable to bear, that they should give and grant to me what might ease me of the same: and the moderator, in name of the synod, promised the same unto me. In that act, the synod likewise provided, that I should not (on account of the ruinous state of the manse at Etterick) be obliged to remove my family, till such time as there was a sufficient manse provided for me there.
I judged it expedient and favourable, to have such provisions for my ease, in the act foresaid. But having once taken the charge of that parish, I had no freedom to make use of that touching the manse, but behoved to transport my family to the place, and to bear the inconvenience of our lodging there for the time. And though my grievances there soon came to be exceeding great, and hardly supportable to me; yet such was the sense of the command and call of God upon me to that place, that I durst never presume to seek ease and relief, by the provision made about it: so that, under all my sinking burdens there, I never moved any such thing to presbytery or synod, but resolved to wait till He who set me there should call me also away from it.
9th Search, Sabbath.—This morning I found there was a sad change upon me: my frame was gone, my spirit straitened, every way unfit for the work of the day; and therewith came on a great darkness as to my call to Etterick; and an uneasiness has been on my spirit most of this day, with respect to my going to that place to be minister to that people, the sense of my call thereto being withheld and hid from me mostly till night. The reason of this sad alteration I found to be my miscarriage yesternight; for Mr. A. M. coming up to me at night, I gave too much way to carnal mirth and laughter, till I forgot my work, and out of woful self-confidence would not withdraw from him to go to my studies. It was no time for me to be so merry, when my poor people were so sad. And had I taken time last night for study, I had had more time for prayer this day. So all went wrong with me together this morning: my frame was gone, darkness as to my call from God seized me, my son fell sick, and Mr. Miln too; so that whereas he should have lectured for me, he told me, when we were at breakfast, he could not do it: so I behoved to fall on studying a lecture then. Thus did the Lord point out my sin, sending me to study at that time, who would not study when I should have done it. This I never saw till just now that I was writing this day's progress. But just when I was going out to the kirk, Mr. M. arose, and told me he would lecture; and so the Lord justly put me to needless pains, because I would not be at needful pains. This remark also did but just now occur to me at the writing of this: which is indeed a fulfilling of scripture.
This day's sermons were as suitable to our case as if I had sought a text just for our present circumstances. There were three mysteries of Providence: 1. People's walking contrary to God, and yet Providence shining warmly on them; 2. Astonishing strokes lighting on those that are most dear to God; 3. Astonishing afflictions meeting the Lord's people in the way of duty. (See sermon on Ps. 107: ult.) All which I thought to have delivered the last Lord's day; but God reserved them for this day, to begin it with as to me. What may be the design, I know not.
At night, after a fruitless attempt or two, I recovered somewhat; and at the family-exercise, singing that word, Ps. 119: 143, "Trouble and anguish have me found,—Yet in my trouble my delight Thy just commandments be," I found it was very suitable to my case, and helpful to me. From that trouble, besides what is obvious, I have learned, 1. That if I will keep up the sense of my call from God, I must live near Him; 2. That my transportation is of God, seeing it looks up in the light, and these fears and doubts only in the dark; and consequently, 3. That God works by contrary means, making darkness the means of further light, as I have now found it. From that word meeting me at the exercise in the family, observe, 1. An exercised case is a good help to the judgement, for understanding the scripture; 2. It is a noble help to the memory: no doubt I have often read that word, but I think I will not so easily forget it again. (Nota.—The narration in this paragraph has been too superficially set down, and I find such impressions may much wear off through time. I think the case has been this: That after prayer I somewhat recovered the sense of my call to Etterick; which increasing, did comfort me, tho' I walked halting under a sense of the miscarriages the night before: and thus meeting with that scripture, I understood it thus (so far as I can remember), that trouble had taken hold on him, and also anguish of spirit, because of mismanagements in his way; but even under both outward trouble and anguish of spirit,—it was the delight and comfort of his soul, that he was, in the main, found in the way of commanded duty. And this seems no improbable interpretation, being confirmed by ver. 144, where he says, "Give me understanding," viz. a practical understanding of them, that I may both know duty, and get the way of duty kept, "and I shall live," to wit, comfortably, though he knew he could manage no duty so, but some blots would be in his conduct: 26th January 1710.)
13th March—As I was walking through the town, that word was comforting and supporting to me, "He that believeth, shall not make haste," compared with that, "He that believeth, shall not be ashamed." I knew I was helped to believe, and not to make haste; and therefore I concluded, I shall not be ashamed. At night I met with a trial. R. A. talking with me of what had happened at the synod, told me, that Mr. Ker said, with the tear in his eye, to him, "Sir, ye are unaccountably robbed of your minister." This did sting me to the very heart. So walking up and down, with the dart in my liver, that word, Acts 21: 13, "What mean ye to weep, and to break my heart?" etc., came into my mind: and at first it appeared very clear to me, and gave me ease; but the life and light of it afterwards wore away. On the morrow I gave myself to prayer. 1. For the more lively revival of the sense of my call to Etterick; 2. To know whether I should go to see Sir Francis Scot, who was patron of that parish, till patronages were abolished by law; 3. Concerning the time of my admission; and, 4. My wife's case. As to the first, the Lord was pleased to clear that passage, Acts 21, again to me with additions, ver. 4.—"Disciples,—who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem." Ver 12. "—We and they—besought him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep, and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." And it was seasonably suggested to me, that when I was going to settle at Simprin, it was very perplexing to me, to think that I had been, and might be more useful as a probationer, than as minister of Simprin; and yet I have seen cause to bless God for what use He has made of me there. This was very useful to me in this matter, in respect of the strait some were in, by reason of my being some way useful in this country. These things struck at the bottom of my present uneasiness. Yesterday I received advice of two brethren, concerning the management of the visit to Sir Francis Scot. I remarked this day, how the Lord had helped me to pray, that they might be directed to advise me right; and they advised me in a point which I did not foresee, but was very necessary, and the missing whereof might have done harm. And now my uneasiness is gone, and I can plead, that the Lord has sent me thither. And, even in the time of this uneasiness, I could freely pray, notwithstanding, that the Lord would be with me there.
17th March.—This day having an occasion to see an extract out of the presbytery-book of Selkirk, bearing, that Mr. Hugh Craig having delivered the presbytery's letters to Sir Francis Scot, he seemed not averse to Mr. Boston's being settled minister at Etterick, with which Mr. William Scot and Drummelzier complied: That the said Sir Francis told him, that he had written to Tushilaw to object against the serving of Mr. Boston's edict; but now, after second thoughts, would write contrary orders; and promised to cause repair the kirk, and build the manse and office-houses, as good and convenient to dwell in, as any country-manse in the bounds. I noticed the date of this, and found it to be of the 5th of December. Now the diet appointed by the synod, and forgot by our presbytery, was on the 3rd of December; so that this mistake of our presbytery gave them that material advantage to their cause, which I could not but notice as a particular design of Providence.
20th or 21st March.—I went to see Janet Currie, who for some time has been sick; and this day she told me, but not before, though I saw her before on a sickbed, that it was trouble of mind that made her so. Yet she kept up the particular from me, till I guessed it to be blasphemous thoughts. I spoke to her case as the Lord was pleased to help, and particularly desired that she might not be idle, but work with her hands. She came to my house on the morrow, and was abroad last Lord's day, being better.
30th March.—Now it appears what was the Lord's design by this 9th March parag. 3. Troubles have come very thick on me. Isabel Ridpath, the best of my servants, is like to be taken from me, when I am to go to a strange place. On Tuesday last, there came an officer of the army, and another man with a sheriff's warrant, to take my servant-lad for a thief, to carry him to Flanders. Some time before, I durst not send the lad abroad, lest he should have been pressed; and almost every night since, we have been afraid of attempts on our house by these men. My wife and my son were the worse of the fright that this occasioned, while searching the house for the lad. Two lads I had an eye on for servants, I am disappointed of, one after another. I have been distressed sore in my body with the haemorrhoids; so that yesterday I was forced to give over my studies, and take my bed; and this day to study in my bed.
Yet in wrath God has remembered mercy. The lad being at Nisbet mill on the Monday, they watched to catch him by the way as he was coming home. But he was providentially carried off the eastern, which is the ordinary road, and came the western way. The pursuers, by a mistake, were sent first to Langton; so that ere they came hither, he was gone out of the house; and one of them spoke to him, but knew him not. As for my bodily trouble, it hindered me not from my public work, though it recurred after. (Nota.—I have preached the gospel now about twelve years and a half, and have had but a tender body; yet the Lord has been so gracious to me, that (so far as I can remember) my indisposition never kept me from my public work of preaching on the Lord's day, but, one way or another, I have got it done; as once, when under a flux at Simprin, I preached in the house wrapped up in a blanket under my gown, and several Lord's days, while scarce able to speak above my breath. Only about a year before I came out of Simprin, I was obliged to give over the Sabbath-night's lecture, by reason of bodily weakness, which would not allow me to undertake it.) Since I began the epistle to the Hebrews, I was never so unprepared to lecture, and never lectured on it with so much satisfaction to myself. That trouble on Tuesday came upon me in that very moment when my heart was excessively carried away from God towards the creature. The instrument of that trouble I saw on Wednesday, and he was ashamed of it. I found it was a pique founded on an imprudent action of the lad. That very same day he was (as I was informed) fined in £50 Scots for striking of a man till he fell down as dead.
1st April.—Having been at prayers in my closet, and helped to pray that God would turn the hearts of the heritors of Etterick to me, I came down, and presently received a letter, which gave an account of Sir Francis Scot's disposition towards me, wherein was nothing discouraging.
19th April.—Having been at Edinburgh, Sir Francis Scot told me, that he was resolved to protest against my call. This day I spent some time in prayer with fasting, for my wife's safe delivery, and concerning the business of Etterick. I found I was for either of these two, to wit, that either God would divert the heritors from opposing, or give me grace to bear up under it, and countenance me in my work; so I laid hold on these promises, Prov. 16: 7, 2 Cor. 12: 9, Ps. 37: 5. I found I was very unfit to manage matters there, and under the disadvantage of being far from neighbours with whom I might advise. But it has always been my support in that case, that I had God to go to as a counsellor; and this was the only ground of my confidence; therefore I got hold of that, Ps. 147: 11, and 91: 11. While I was at Edinburgh, there was another attempt to take my servant by the foresaid person, assisted with some dragoons: they had him; but he was rescued by some of the people of the town. The fright was troublesome to my wife. But upon the sight of her trouble, Isabel Ridpath, a pious and active servant, who was about to give her over, resolved that day to give her no more trouble, but gave over her marriage that night; and so by one trouble she was freed from another.
20th April, Sabbath.—I was resolved on a family-fast on Monday. Christian Wood was with us this day, but could not stay. At parting I told her my design, and desired her help, though at a distance. The causes were the same as of the secret exercise before. She went away: but God sent her back; for her brother had gone away with the horse, and would not wait on her. So on the morrow we spent some time in prayer for the causes foresaid. It was a good time, the Lord gave us His countenance, and we were helped to seek. After the work was over, and we were come to dinner, we had not sat down at the table, when word came that the foresaid officer was seen at Ssvintonhill, and that armed men were lying in the westerloan, for the lad. We blessed the Lord that had restrained them, and prayed for more restraint to them; but saw none of them.
23rd April, Wednesday.—Last night I was helped to lay the Monday's prayers before the Lord, and to be concerned for them; and this morning, about seven o'clock, my wife was delivered. There was a surprising cluster of mercies here. 1. I awaked about five o'clock, and found she had her pains; and ere I got to prayer, that word sweetly rolled in my mind, Judg. 13: 23, "If the Lord were pleased to kill us, He would not have received a burnt-offering at our hand;" and it filled me with hopes. 2. Her reckoning was to 27th April; the presbytery of Selkirk had appointed my admission to be at Etterick the 29th of April; which, when I got notice of it, was very astonishing to me, considering that I had told them by a letter, that I could not be from home at or about that time. Seeing it was so, we resolved to attend the conduct of Providence. 3. From what I wrote to the presbytery, I designed they should gather from it, that it would be most convenient for me to be admitted this week: they mistook my meaning; but it was a happy mistake. 4. My wife was more quickly delivered than ever before; and the midwife had been sick, which made us afraid; but she was better; and had it not been so, we had got none at all. 5. My heart leaped for joy, hearing it was a boy, and so Ebenezer. He was baptised by Mr. Pow on the Lord's day after, being the 27th. 6. And all this came about as a quick answer of prayer. O! we saw our Lord loading us with mercies. I had been desired to be at Selkirk to-morrow; was desirous to know my duty; had not freedom for it; but hoped God would clear my way in that, and this did it; and so I went not.
28th April.—One came from Edrom, while I was studying my sermons for my own parish, and told me I was appointed by the presbytery to preach there Lord's day next. I was very averse to it, and humorously I refused it. I went to God with it, but got no light. At length I laid by my humour, and laid myself at the Lord's feet, resolving to go over the belly of my inclinations, if God should appear to call me; and thus went to God again with it. And thereupon I found an unclearness to leave my own congregation: which was something extraordinary; for though I did not use lightly to leave our own congregation, yet the disproportion of it to all others in the bounds, when I had otherwise a fair call, used to determine me to leave it. Rising from prayer with this unclearness on my spirit, Mr. B. came and told me, that one was just arrived from Churnside, and said, that Mr. Wilson was to preach there, so that Mr. M. might preach at Edrom. Mr. M. preached at Edrom, and I at home; and our kirk was very throng. This was wonderful in my eyes, and came seasonably as a pledge of further mercies.
On the first day of May I was admitted minister of Etterick: A day remarkable to after ages, as the day in which the Union of Scotland and England commenced, according to the articles thereof agreed upon by the two parliaments. And on that very account I had frequent occasion to remember it; the spirits of the people of that place being embittered on that event against the ministers of the church; which was an occasion of much heaviness to me, though I never was for the Union, but always against it from the beginning unto this day. When the edict was returned, Whitslead, and another heritor, with John Caldwell, and William Nicol, gave in a protestation to the presbytery against my call. So the Lord guided me well, keeping me at home that day. When I came to Crosslee, it was told me, there was one in Thirlestane from Sir Francis Scot, to protest against my admission. I was thereupon the rather inclined to go forward to Thirlestane; where I found him, one that had been in the class with me at the college. When I went to my chamber, Mr. Paterson told me his errand: and I was very pensive. When I was going to bed, I overheard him say to Mr. Paterson, "Have you told him, that he will neither get meat nor lodging here? I will get up early, and close the church-doors." Though I was uneasy before, yet then, even by that, I grew easy; from thence concluding, that the business would be stopped at least for that day. On the morrow morning I dealt so with two of the brethren that came thither before the rest, that I had almost gained them to consent to the delaying of the admission; the rather that Sir Francis Scot had promised to give me a new call with the rest of the heritors: only I wanted not thoughts, that if once my neck were out of the yoke, it should never come under it again; which was the effect of my weakness and indeliberation. So we went to the church; I scarcely doubting, but I would come home as I went away. I struggled against the admission, before the presbytery being convened in the mass; but they would by no means yield to the delay. Being sadly racked, I went into a room, and sought the Lord; but my trouble remained, and what to do I knew not. At length the Lord put it in my heart, to be content, and resolved to meet with difficulties and opposition; and upon this, presently my heart was calmed, and I was clear to be admitted. So Mr. B. protested before the presbytery in the manse in Sir Francis Scot's name. And I was admitted that day.
This struggle that I made against the admission was of good use to me; for thereby I found favour with Sir Francis, as I did immediately after my admission with Mr. B., who promised faithfully to relate the matter as it stood to his constituent, promising all favour he could do me in that matter. Sir Francis Scot's protestation was to have come out to the presbytery at Selkirk some time before, and was sent by an express; but the express came not till the day after the presbytery. On the Sabbath after, I preached to the people of Etterick on 1 Sam. 7: 12, "Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Eben-ezer, saying, Hitherto has the Lord helped us." And thereafter I returned home to Simprin.
This month (I think) we had a family-thanksgiving, wherein the Lord was very gracious to us, and our hearts were enlarged with the remembrance of the Lord's hearing our prayers at the last family-fast, and with His present goodness. And it being better than ordinary with me, this exercise was sweetly concluded with solemn blessing of my family.
26th Judy.—I had found much favour with some of the best note in the country, who undertook to speak to those that were my enemies, to induce them to favour me. I was thankful to the Lord; but my heart protested I would not trust in princes.
16th June.—Having gone back to Etterick about the latter end of May, not thinking quickly to transport my family, I was, while there, determined to hasten it, and had fixed the time. When I came home, I was surprised to hear, that the presbytery had declared my church vacant, tho' the act transporting me, obliged me not to dwell at Etterick till the manse was repaired. My heart was thankful to the Lord, who had led me in the way I knew not, though it was hard measure from them. From the time that I ended my sermons on the epistle to the church of the Laodiceans, I had gone through several Miscellany subjects; particularly a cluster of them, in the last half-year of my ministry there. There I had just elided, on the last Sabbath save one before my removal. And this day I preached, out of one of the barn-doors, to a great multitude of people, my farewell-sermon, on John 7: 37, "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink." And as the Lord was with me in that place during my ministry there, so He left me not then, but was with me at that close of it, and much of God's power appeared in it. On the Tuesday we came away, and arrived at Etterick on the Thursday thereafter. Thus I parted with a people whose hearts were knit to me, and mine to them; nothing but the sense of God's command that took me there, making me to part with them. The three or four last years of my ministry there were much blessed, and very comfortable to me; not in respect of my own handful only, who were ordinarily but about ninety examinable persons, but others of the countryside.
During the time of my ministry in Simprin, I had frequent occasions of assisting at sacraments; insomuch that I observed, for some years I was still abroad three Sabbaths together, on such occasions, at one time; besides other occasions, which allowed some intermission. Meanwhile I never liked to be even so employed, but where there was need: and if I found none, I would either not have gone, or else returned home to my own charge; and that upon this principle, that though it was a small charge, yet it was my charge; and that I was not to look to be useful, according to the number of those I spoke to, but according to the call of God to speak unto them, whether many or few. And I never, that I know, had occasion to rue that part of my conduct. I remember, I once came home, and left the communion at Fogo, on that principle: and I got a feast in the pulpit of Simprin, in the evening-exercise, on the 23rd psalm, as I think. And upon occasion of my being urged on that head, that it would be more for my own edification to be present at such a solemnity, I was brought to take notice, that according to the scripture, 1 Cor. 14: 4, 5, one is to prefer the edification of the church to his own private edification.
Now by means of my going so much abroad to sacraments, and having that ordinance twice a-year at home, I had frequent occasion of converse with persons exercised about their own spiritual case; the which was a great help to my heart, to be It was to such a conversation with a gentlewoman as the means, that I owed the sermon preached at Swinton, Sabbath afternoon, 28th July 1706, being the day of the communion there. The text being Lam. 3: 49, 50, "Mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not, without any intermission: till the Lord look down, and behold from heaven;" the sermon not only had more than ordinary weight on the people, but two ministers present made feeling acknowledgements of it. But the sweet scene of these days was quickly after turned into a gloomy one.
As I behoved to have some Hebrew for my trials, both former and latter, so in Simprin I made some progress in the study thereof. Having always an inclination towards it, I believe I did several times, while there, attempt it; but with little success, having only an old Psalter and Pagnin's Lexicon, that had been gifted to me by Andrew Elliot, my comrade at the college, till in the year 1704 I got Buxtorf's Epitome grammat. and his Lexicon. After which time, I reckon, I did with much difficulty make my way through the Psalter. And, by some notes I have on the Psalms; I find I began it again, having Bethner's Lyra in loan. But still my study of it was confined to the Psalter.
Upon whatever occasion I understood there was any motion for, or eye to, the removing me out of that place to another, I was helped of God to be scrupulously wary, that I might do nothing towards the advancing of the same; being always persuaded, that my safety, welfare, and comfort, depended on my being found in the way, which the Lord Himself should call me to go. The stipend was indeed small; and toward the latter end, the victual was cheap to a degree: but then my house-rents in Dense, and the emoluments of the synod-clerk's office, were considerable towards the maintenance of the family. And in these days several came about us, and particularly some students continued with us at times; so that we ate not our morsel alone. But whatever was our manner, when we were alone, or only with those we counted not strangers, I observed that when occasionally we had company otherwise, things honest in the sight of men were readily, by the kind disposal of Providence, laid to hand. And during the time of my continuance in that place, I knew little of anxiety for the provision of my family after me. And I am very sure, it was not a more liberal maintenance, but a sense of the divine call, that moved me to leave Simprin, and come to Etterick.
Thus passed the first and most comfortable years of my ministry in Simprin, as in a field which the Lord had blessed. Removing from thence with my family, as I have related above, on Tuesday 17th June, we came, on Thursday the 19th, unto Etterick; where, through the mercy of God, I have continued unto this day. On the first Lord's day after the transportation of my family, being 22nd June, I preached on Acts 10: 33, "Now are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God."
EXTRACT FROM THE RECORDS OF THE KIRK-SESSION OF THE
PARISH OF SIMPRIN.
The parish summoned to answer the reasons of Transportation, etc.
1st December 1706.—Session 157. After prayer. Lecture, 2 Tim. 2. Sermon on John 16: 33.—Sedt.
Collected . . . £0 5s. 6d.
"A petition for the parish of Etterick, in pursuance of the call to Mr. Thomas Boston to be minister of Etterick being produced and read before the last Synod, and the Synod having thereupon ordered the call to be given to Mr. Boston, and the reasons of transportation to be transmitted to him and this parish of Simprin, and having appointed some of their brethren to meet with the presbytery of Churnside to judge and determine in that affair, and the presbytery having at their last meeting delivered the call to Mr. Boston and the reasons of transportation to John Leigh Elder, the parish was this day summoned to appear before the presbytery of Churnside with the assistants, at Churnside, the twelfth day of December current, to answer the reasons of transportation abovesaid. A meeting was appointed for drawing up answers to the said reasons for transportation, and ordered that notice be given to the parish that they may attend to give their assistance in that affair. And the minister undertook to write to Sir William Cockburn, tacksman of the estate of Langton, and to Captain Cockburn, son of the deceased Sir Archibald Cockburn of Langton, to give them notice of the summons, and to desire them to attend the presbytery the foresaid day. And the session closed with prayer."
Back to Contents