Memoirs of the Life, Time, and Writings
of the Reverend and Learned
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Period IX From My Removal To Etterick, To The Oath Of Abjuration Refused
BEING settled here, I soon found I was come from home, and that I was but beginning to be a minister of a parish. As for the people, the natives, generally speaking, were naturally smart, and of an uncommon assurance; self-conceited, and censorious to a pitch, using an indecent freedom both with church and state. There were three parties in the place. One of dissenters, followers of Mr. John Macmillan, a considerable number; who have been all along unto this day a dead weight on my ministry in the place; though not so great now, by far, as in former years. Another was an heritor in the parish, with two elders dependents of his. He himself deserted the ordinances, for about the space of the first ten years, viz. till the affair of Closeburn. One of the elders having heard a little while, went off for altogether to the dissenters. The other, for ought I know, never heard me after I was settled among them. The third was the congregation of my hearers, under the disadvantage of what influence these two parties could have upon them. Their appetite for the ordinances I did not find to be sharpened by the long fast they had got, for about the space of four years. Wherefore, soon perceiving the little value they had for occasions of hearing the gospel, and having called a meeting for business, on a weekday, 19th August, I preached to them, that day, the sense I had of their case, from Isa. 43: 22, "Thou hast been weary of Me, O Israel." I plainly saw, that a brother, who, at the synod which transported me, was overheard to bid let me go, I would get preaching my fill there, was far out. On the contrary, I behoved to bid farewell to a pleasant part of my exercise of that nature before; and to have it miserably slighted and despised, where occasionally I was called to it. And for the Sabbaths' sermons, they were but coldly enough received: but remarkable was the pricking up of ears, when anything relative to the public fell in; which was a wounding observe to me.
To the breeding and cherishing of this disposition among them, several things concurred. There being little knowledge of religion among them, till the time of confusion and persecution; so that John Andison in Gamescleugh told me of a time, when there was not a Bible in the church, but the minister's, his father's, and another's; they drank in the principles of Presbytery in the greatest height, with the principles of Christianity. The dissenters were in great reputation among them, and continually buzzing in their ears something to the disparagement of the church and the ministry. Moreover, the union with England, which they were violently set against, trysted with my settling among them, and brought in an unacceptable change of the state of affairs. And, finally, they lived alone.
A profession of religion generally obtained among them, through the preaching of the persecuted ministers in and about the place. Before the Revolution, they were generally made Presbyterians, praying persons, and several of them, I believe, good Christians. Often I observed, that I had never seen in a country-kirk more Bibles than appeared in ours; nor more persons giving in to the Sabbath's collection for the poor. And indeed they were, and are, very liberal to the poor, both their own, and strangers passing among them; but very unkind to strangers settling among them, and not very benevolent in neighbourhood among themselves. But one thing I was particularly surprised with, viz., the prevalence of the sin of profane swearing; and was amazed to find blessing and cursing proceeding out of the same mouth; praying persons, and praying in their families too, horrid swearers at times: so that by the month of November I behoved to set myself to preach directly against that sin.
The very next day after my preaching from Acts 10: 33, as above related, Mr. Macmillan came to Eskdale, and some of my hearers went to him. This was what I got to begin with. On the morrow after, I went up to S. to see J.L.'s family and others: my design was to endeavour to prevent their perverting others. When I came there, I went first into the house of one of my hearers; and there I was surprised with the news of Mr. Macmillan's being in J.L.'s, and others with him. The old man came in to me. Is. L. came into that house, but never noticed me; but I carried courteously to her, and told her I had a mind to have come and seen them. She told me, I should be welcome. When I went in, J. L. showed not common civility. I was set down among three men, strangers, none of whom I knew. They were S. H.H.H of H., Mr. St. and Mr. Sm. The last I took for Mr. Macmillan, having never seen the man. Being set down, I was resolved to divert disputes, at least a while, with some discourse of practical godliness. Wherefore being asked, "What news?" I said, that news were hard to be got here, the place being so far remote from towns; that it was like Jerusalem, Ps. 125: 2; which brought us at length to the discourse of communion with God; concerning which S. H. gave his opinion, that it consisted in doing the will of God, and keeping His commandments. I told him, that all communion was mutual, and therefore it could not consist in that; and showed, that actual communion with God, which we ordinarily call communion with God, consists in the Lord's letting down the influences of His grace on the soul, and the soul's reacting the same in the exercise of grace. O, says he, that is extraordinary; wherewith I was stunned. I told him it was that without which neither he nor I would be saved. How will you prove that? says he. So I was put to prove it to him. Thereafter he brought in the matter of the separation; told, that he understood I was an enemy to them, and preached against them. I acknowledged, that I judged their way was not of God; and therefore, when it fell in my way, I did preach against it. And understanding that he meant of a note I had at Morbattle sacrament, I desired him to tell me what he heard I had said. He shifted this; and I told it him, viz., that I exhorted those that had met with God at that occasion, to tell to them, that it was so; and that they there upon, according to the spirit of the gospel, should say, "We will go with you, for we hear the Lord is with you." J. L. said if that were true, that the Lord were with you, we would join with you. Mr. St. having no will to make that the determining point, told me, that he knew not but the Lord was with the church of the Jews in time of great corruption. To which I answered, And neither did Christ Himself separate from them in that time; and urged them with that, Luke 4: 16. After other shifts, they were at length brought to that desperate answer, that Christ was the lawmaker, and therefore not imitable by us. The person whom I took for Mr. Macmillan was not like to speak, and therefore I asked for Mr. Macmillan. I staid there with them an hour and a half at least; but saw not Mr. Macmillan. When I was coming away, I desired Mr. St. to tell him, that seeing I had not seen him, he would come to my house and see me; which he undertook to tell him. About six weeks after this rencounter, and my not meeting Mr. Macmillan having made a noise in the country, I heard that John Scot in Langshawburn had said of me, that I was a liar, and he would prove me a liar, for I had never asked for Mr. Macmillan, nor desired him to come to my house. This was at first very troublesome to me. Afterwards I found real joy in my heart, in that I was made partaker of the sufferings of Christ, while I saw a spirit of bitterness possessing some of that party. However, the truth was brought to light after, by the confession of some of that party. Mr. Macmillan was in that house in the time, in an outer chamber; and Adam Linton told me that he was certainly informed, that he caused the lass lock the door, and give him in the key at the door head or foot, whatever was his design in it.
It pleased the Lord, for my further trial, to remove by death, on the 8th September, my son Ebenezer. Before that event, I was much helped of the Lord; I had never more confidence with God in any such case, than in that child's being the Lord's. I had indeed more than ordinarily, in giving him away to the Lord, to be saved by the blood of Jesus Christ. But his death was exceeding afflicting to me, and matter of sharp exercise. To bury his name, was indeed harder than to bury his body; and so much the heavier was it, that I could fall on no scripture-example parallel to it; but I saw a necessity of allowing a latitude to sovereignty. I could not charge myself with rashness, in giving him that name. But one thing was plain as the sun to me, that that day eight days before, my heart was excessively led away from God towards the creature; and I had not visited my pillar so often and seriously as I ought to have done.
November.—I have been much refreshed and encouraged under my discouragements, understanding by some, what others of the parish have told them, of my sermons ripping up their case, and discovering the secrets of their hearts, though, alas! with little visible fruit.
12th November.—I saw M. D. a dissenter, whom I could never see before. I was in the next village, and she was coming thither; but seeing my horse at the door, she went home again. I went to her house, and she came to the door, having, as appeared, no will that I should come in. I asked her what were her scruples. She did not readily answer, but at length abruptly said, "The oath sealed with His blood." Quest. What mean you by that, the covenant, the solemn league and covenant? Ans. They say there was such a thing. Q. And was the covenant sealed with Christ's blood? A. Yes. I showed her her mistake. Q. How many covenants has God made with man? A. Three; the covenant of grace, and the covenant of works. Q. Which of the two covenants was first made? A. The covenant of grace. Q. Who were the parties in the covenant of works? A. The Lord. Q. But with whom did the Lord make it? A. With the body and blood of Christ. Q. How many gods are there? A. Three. Q. How many persons are there in the Godhead? A. Three; the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Q. Which of these was our Redeemer? A. The Father. Q. What or who is Christ? No answer. Q. What state are you in by nature? No answer. Q. How think you to be saved? A. By serving God as well as we can. - I dealt with her as with a petted bairn; but by no means could I obtain so much of her as to be willing to admit converse with her for her instruction.
In January 1708, the fire in the congregation was blown up into a violent flame, upon occasion of my observing a fast, on the 14th of that month, appointed by the civil magistrate. Upon this many of my hearers broke off, and left me; several of whom never returned. There was such a headiness among the people, and the day was so bad, that few came to it. I had no scruple as to the observing of it; though I thought it a grievance and disadvantage that we were come under by the union, and the taking away of the privy council, whereby there was no correspondence betwixt the church and state as to fasts. But considering the temper of the people, I thought, if I should have yielded to them in this, I would teach them to dictate ever after unto me. There came two of a fellowship-meeting unto me the night before; I showed them the proclamation. They professed they had nothing to say against it, but that it came from an ill airth. They were not disposed to receive light; but most unreasonably, amongst reasons of their dissatisfaction, insisted, that (as they said) the ministers were going to get the abjuration-oath. I was led to that scripture for my text, 1 Sam. 4: 13, "Eli's heart trembled for the ark of God:" which came suitably to my circumstances; as I had been led another time, on a week-day in August, to that, "Thou hast been weary of Me, O Israel," when the unexpected practice of the people undervaluing the opportunity, was a confirmation of the doctrine. The Lord's day was eight days thereafter, preaching on Isa. 64: 7, the reproof for this practice natively fell in. But the Lord's day immediately thereafter, it was so stormy, that I had only a few to preach to, in the house. Then I found myself like a bird shaken out of its nest, and was as an owl in the desert. Instead of the converse I, sometime a-day, had with exercised Christians about their own spiritual case, I was engaged in disputes about the public, and about separation, and how to defend the lawfulness and duty of hearing me preach the gospel: and for the most part to no effect. So that many a time it was a terror to me to go out among them; and coming to particular places, I often looked very blunt, finding myself beset with contemners of me and my ministry; who often kept not within the bounds of common civility.
This humour of deserting my ministry, and breaking off from under it, continued from time to time, without any notable stop, till the affair of Closeburn brought it about nine years after. Since that time there has been a remarkable settling among them, in that point: howbeit, even since that time I have had as much of that treatment as will not suffer me to forget where I am. This deserting of my ministry was the more heavy to me, that ordinarily I knew nothing about it from any hand, till after a while, that the parties were gone off, and confirmed in their way; and that few had any consideration of me, in hiring such into their service. This last continues in some measure to this day; though the occasion is not so much now, as before: insomuch that among the first servants my own elder son had, and that by advice or approbation of an elder or elders, was one who would have gone out of the house if I had come into it to visit the family.
Meanwhile Satan raged in stirring up to the sin of uncleanness; so that, by the spring 1709, besides several fornications, there were two adulteries in the parish discovered: and I had heavy work with both. These things often made me look, with a sorrowful heart, on the congregation, as in the case of the church of Corinth, burnt up with the fire of division, and drenched in fleshly abominations.
15th February.—My discouragements increase daily among this people, by reason of the divisive temper inflamed by the late fast, so that there are several of them whose faces I have not seen since that time. My circumstances are extremely heavy: they seem to have little desire for the gospel: the most weighty truths look as nauseous to them; though if anything relating to the public fall in, they use to prick up their ears. Some have never come to the ordinances since I came, being led by mere laziness and profane neglect; besides those that were always dissenters from the Established Church. Those that come, many of them think nothing of staying away several Sabbaths; and when they come, they are generally very uncomfortable. My wonted exercise of conversing with exercised souls is gone; there is no converse but about the division; the practice of godliness is thereby stifled, and burnt up with the fire. The crown is fallen from my head, and I am brought very low! The approaching Sabbath, that sometimes was my delight, is now a terror to me; so that it is my business now, to get my forehead steeled against brass and iron. On Sabbath was fourteen days, I felt the sad effects of giving way to discouragement, and this has put me on my guard. I have sometimes asked myself, whether, if I had known all that has befallen me here, I would have accepted the call, or not? and I cannot say, I durst have refused. Two things are supporting to me: 1. My clearness as to my call from the Lord, which has not been perplexed by all that I have met with, but still remained as a ground of comfort. 2. An amazing conduct of Providence in preaching the word, whereby I am guided in my ordinary to speak to their case. As, particularly, these two last Sabbaths it fell in my ordinary to lecture the 7th and 8th chapters of the Revelation, where I had occasion to speak largely of schism and division, with the effects thereof. And in this very time Mr. Macmillan was preaching in the bounds. And in my ordinary sermons I find the same conduct of Providence.
On the 22nd of February this year 1708, the first of the aforementioned adulteries was delated: but the parties were not got convicted, till 14th May. During which time, I was with some elders four times on the spot, at Buccleugh-shiels; the adulteress alleging a rape by an unknown person. One of these times I preached in the house, on Rev. 20: 12, "And the books were opened," having occasion to baptise a child, but in vain as to her. Her brother, who had deserted on account of the fast aforesaid, left the house in time of the sermon; but returning after, caused set down meat to me, and the elders with me, and urged me to eat, the which also the elders urged: but, though we did need it, I peremptorily refused to eat; so the elders ate not either, and the meat was set up again untasted. As I was about to go away, being alone with him, I told him it was religion to me, not to eat there, where I had come with my Master's message, and he had turned his back on it; and that I caused his meat to be set up again, without being tasted, for a testimony: and so I left him. The man returned afterwards, to wait on the ordinances; and some time after, occasionally told me, that that had stuck with him. This is the only instance I remember, of a conviction in that point of deserting the ordinances, made by means of anything said or done by me for that end, where the party was not some way inclining, before, to return.
After the woman was brought to a confession, the adulterer stiffly denied. Dealing with his conscience, I took one of the twins she had brought forth, and holding it before his face, posed him with his being the father of it. Nevertheless he persisted in the denial, though evidently under consternation, his moisture being visibly dried up in the struggle with his conscience. He being removed, I went out and dealt with him privately: and having observed that two of his children he had by his wife, had been removed by death, soon after, or about the time in which, as was alleged, he begot those two adulterous ones, I told him that it seemed to me, God had written his sin in that his punishment. To which he answered, That indeed he himself thought so; and so confessed. Being called in again, he judicially confessed his guilt of adultery with that woman, and that he was the father of her twins.
That spring, being the first I had in the place, the change of the air appeared, on my body's breaking out in sore boils. For great was the cold and moistness of the air in Etterick, in comparison of that at Simprin.
In April I was a member of the General Assembly. And the oath of abjuration being then imposed by law on those in office in the civil government, there were applications made to ministers, by several persons whom it reached, for their judgement in the point of the lawfulness or unlawfulness thereof: and ministers on that occasion coming in to Edinburgh to the assembly, it was earnestly desired that the assembly might consider that matter, and give their resolution of the case. But it was waived, and men were left to their own light. This was heavy to me; and thereupon I could not but observe the justice of the dispensation, whereby about four years after, it was brought to ministers' own doors. While I was yet at Simprin, I had conversed with a minister from Ireland, who had left that country upon his scrupling to take it: and whereas a neighbouring minister in the English border, having missed the time of taking that oath, and therefore shifting to preach in his own congregation till another occasion of it should offer, wrote to me to preach a day for him, I had no freedom to exchange pulpits for a day with him on that occasion, and so declined it. Now it was brought into Scotland by means of the Union, as several other snares have been.
Having hitherto had a sorry habitation in the old manse, it was this summer razed, and a new one built; I and my family, in the meantime, living in the stable and barn; in the former of which were made a chimney and partition. And there, on Wednesday 4th August, about eleven o'clock in the forenoon, was born to me a son, whom, baptised on the 9th day by Mr. John Rutherford, minister of Yarrow, I did, after no small struggle with myself, adventure to call Eben-ezer. But it pleased the Lord, that he also was removed from me, dying on the 1st of October. It fell seasonably in our ordinary, that morning he was born, at family-duties, to sing Ps. 72: 11-14. How to call him, was no small exercise to me. I went to God, and was laid open to His determination in that point. I say it was no small exercise: for when I considered how that, after the death of Ebenezer, my soul had often said to the Lord, How will this loss be made up? and my prayer had still been, that God would give me another pillar to set up, and if He would do so, He would determine me thereto by His call; for I always thought I durst not do it without a particular call thereto; and now that God had so far heard my prayer, in giving me another boy, this seemed to call me to set up my pillar again. On the other hand, it racked me to think, What if he die too? To this, the experience I had at the second winter-sacrament, gave a hopeful answer. Then I remembered how this had been reasoned in my own mind after the death of Ebenezer, and was this same way answered. His mother fell very ill after she was delivered; and my perplexity in this point continued; besides my trouble about her case, which being so very bad, I could not yet send for one to baptise the child. On Friday night, I earnestly entreated of the Lord a token, whereby I might know my duty; and I thought I would take it as a token if his mother recovered; and she did recover on the morrow: and the same day I sent to Yarrow to Mr. Rutherford to come and baptise the child. This recovery, so seasonable, seemed to be speaking, as to the point I was concerned about; yet did my perplexity not remove thereby. Wherefore I asked my own conscience, as before the Lord, whether I durst call him otherwise or not? And I found I durst not, seeing God had so answered my prayers, lest it should be found a mocking of God. Wherefore Eben-ezer I called him; and when I was holding him up, I thought I saw my action was a struggle of faith against sense and the stream of Providence, that had run so cross to me and impetuously here. But the clouds did so return after the rain for a long time after that, that I endeavoured to keep loose gripes of him.
1st October, Friday.—About two hours before day he died. On the Monday after he fell sick, I thought to spend some time in prayer for his case; but it went not well with me at all. Sitting down, I heavily thought with myself, this would not do. Presently I was called on, and he was very ill. I found at that time his case altered just according to my frame. My wife being scarce of milk, I endeavoured to get a nurse in the Merse, when I was at the sacrament of Simprin the latter end of August; but got none; but had hopes of one of two there. That week we should have sent back for that end, was very stormy; so we were diverted, and got one near hand, about seven days before he died. On the Monday before he died, I resolved to spend some time in prayer about his case, which I did in the barn. At first I was very dull, and it was like to go ill with me; but I protested in my heart, that I would not quit it so: and this resoluteness was not without success; for the Lord did indeed loose my bands; and there I renewed my covenant with God, and did solemnly and explicitly covenant for Ebenezer, and in his name accept of the covenant, and of Christ offered in the gospel; and gave him away to the Lord, before angels, and the stones of that house, as witnesses. I cried also for his life, that Ebenezer might live before Him, if it were His will. But when, after that exercise, I came into the house, I found that instead of being better, he was worse. The last two days of his life, the Lord struck him with sore sickness, which at length made me less peremptory for his life. But in the day of distress the solemn covenant was sweet, and my heart was thankful to the Lord that helped me to it. At length the Lord called him away; and while he was drawing his last breaths, he so smiled, that the sight of it made my heart to loup. I have read of other instances of this, but never saw another. On the Tuesday or Wednesday before, his sister fell sick of the measles whereof he died, but she escaped. I believe the Lord sent that, as for further trial, so to moderate our sorrow in his case. That the nurse came was good providence, for by her he was supported in his sickness; and that she was got so near hand, and not from the Merse, seemed a design of mercy. When the child was laid in the coffin, his mother kissed his dust. I only lifted the cloth off his face, looked on it, and covered it again, in confidence of seeing that body rise a glorious body. When the nails were driving, I was moved for that I had not kissed that precious dust, which I believed was united to Jesus Christ, as if I had despised it; and I would fain have caused draw the nail again, but, because of one that was present, I restrained, and violented myself. So far as I remember, I was never so much straitened to know why the Lord contended with me, as in this. I could not say, that I was secure as to his life since he was born. I know many things in my heart and life offensive to the Lord; but to pitch on any one thing, so as to say of it, This is the cause, was what I could not get done. Often in that distress, my soul has said to the Lord, "Thou knowest that I am not wicked." I remember I had a more than ordinary freedom with God, to refuse process according to the covenant of works, but that it should be according to the covenant of grace. But I see most plainly, that sovereignty challenges a latitude, to which I must stoop, and be content to follow the Lord in an untrodden path: and this made me with more ease to bury my second Ebenezer than I could do the first. That scripture was very useful to me, "It was in nay heart to build a house to the Lord." I learned not to cry, How will the loss be made up? But being now in that matter as a weaned child, desired the loss to be made up by the presence of the Lord. I had ground to think, that I had been too peremptory as to his life in seeking it.
Upon public reading of the act of the commission of the General Assembly, against Mr. John Macmillan and Mr. John Macneill, the two preachers of the separation, on the Lord's day, 12th December, I preached a sermon from 1 Cor. 1: 10, "Now I beseech you brethren, that there be no divisions among you," etc. Copies of this sermon, which was directed precisely against the separation, being desired, I having transcribed it, allowed to be given out: and it was of some use for a time. The original notes, and transcript, are both of them in retentis among my notes.
The year 1709 was to me a year remarkable among many. In the latter end of March, the second adultery was delated, and confessed by the adulteress; but the adulterer was not convicted till September following. Meanwhile my circumstances in the parish were brought to a pitch of hopelessness, by the Lord's withdrawing supporters from me; that "I might trust in the living God, who raiseth the dead, and calleth things that are not to be as if they were."
Having, in the preceding August, ordained three elders, the eldership was now seven in number; one of the five above mentioned, as signers of the petition, having soon after my settlement removed out of the parish. The families, in whom was the greatest encouragement I had in the place, from the time of my settling among them, were those of James Brydell tenant in Cossarshill, Walter Bryden in Crosslee, Robert Paterson in Thirlestane, Adam Linton in Midgehop, and James Biggar in Upper Dalgleish. James Bryden aforesaid was a very friendly man; but he soon broke, his substance failing. Walter was a plain, pious, friendly man, and an elder: but he removed out of the parish with his family this year at the Whitsunday. In July I met with the piercing trial of the death of William Biggar, brother to the said James; who having gone along with me to the communion at Penpont, died there. Of which I shall give an account afterwards. He was a most kindly, pious, good man unlike the country, an elder also, and most useful in his office. Moreover, Mr. Paterson aforesaid, a third of my elders, a very friendly man, who by that time, I think, had got good of the gospel, and did much balance the influence of an heritor in the parish at first, and friendly to me, having bought the estate of Drygrange, removed to it with his family about the Martinmas the same year. Thus three of the most valuable of my seven elders were taken from me. Adam Linton foresaid was also an elder, and a good man, and he and his family from the beginning really friendly; and those of them who remain, continue so still: but they had about them a great measure of the harshness of the temper of the country. But James Biggar, an elder, with his family, were the family which was the most comfortable to me as a minister of the gospel. So it was all along and so it continues to this day. May the blessing of God, "whose I am, and whom I serve," rest on them, from generation to generation! May the glorious gospel of His Son catch them early, and maintain its ground in them to the end; of the which I have seen some comfortable instances already! Several of them have, of late years, been carried off by death; but they have been comfortable to me in their life, and in their death too.
By the means aforesaid, and otherwise too, the current of holy Providence was so strong against me, that I had much ado to bear up before it: but still God's calling me to the place remained clear, plain, and unperplexed. Howbeit the Lord pitied. In the end of the year, James, son to Walter Bryden aforesaid, came in his father's room, an elder, and very well filled up his father's room every way. And I lived in a particular friendship with both father and son while they lived.
From the time of my settling here, the great thing I aimed at in my preaching was to impress the people with a sense of their need of Christ, and to bring them to consider the foundations of practical religion. For the which ends, after some time spent in direct preaching the need of Christ, and handling the parable of the wise and foolish builders, some of which sermons are written in shorthand characters, I did, on 9th May 1708, begin an ordinary, the same, for substance, as in the first years of my ministry in Simprin, but prosecuted after another manner. That part of it which contained the doctrine of man's fourfold state, then begun, was ended this year on the 16th of October. The conduct of Providence in leading to a second attempt on that subject, was the more remarkable, considering what the same Providence had designed it for, unknown to and unlooked for by me, till the event discovered itself years after. And the preaching of these sermons of the Fourfold State, through the mercy of God, was not in vain. Thereafter I proceeded in the remaining part of that ordinary, viz., the nature and necessity of holiness.
Meanwhile, on 30th October, I began to preach catechetical doctrine; and I went through the whole catechism, from the beginning to the end; but at several distant times. At that time I proceeded straight forward, till I came to the application of the redemption purchased by Christ; where I stopt.
Twice a-year I catechised the parish, having no diet but one at the church; and once a-year I visited their families. The former was usually begun about the end of October, the latter about the end of April, or beginning of May. This was my ordinary course all along, save that of some few late years; through my wife's extraordinary sickness in the spring, and the decay of my own strength, I have not got the visiting of families performed as before; neither have I hope of it any more, though I still aim at something of that kind yearly. But I bless God, that when I had ability, I was helped to lay it out that way. Thus the winter-season was the time wherein I did most of my work in the parish. Meanwhile that also was the season wherein I did most in my closet. Being twelve miles distant from the presbytery-seat, I attended it not in the winter; but when I attended it, I ordinarily went away and returned the same day, being loath to lose two or three days on it.
These things, with other incidents, occasioned me much riding; in which I must acknowledge the goodness of God, that brought me out of Simprin, where I had but little occasion of riding, and my health was sore broken. But here I had more exercise of that kind, which no doubt was to my advantage in that point, though now at length my strength is much wasted away. The which has necessarily made an alteration in the course of my management; but the diets of catechising are still in the winter, only I begin now sooner than I was wont; and the winter-nights, that were my best employed times in my closet, I cannot now spend so any more, as before.
10th July.—This year I was at the sacrament in Penpont. When the express came with the letter inviting me, I was indisposed; but retiring and seeking counsel of the Lord, two things seemed to promise that I should go to that place; 1. That being invited to the sacrament at G., 3rd July, Providence hindered me, though very pressing instances were made, partly by bodily indisposition and otherwise; and Penpont being just the Lord's day after, I could not have left the parish two days at once; besides there being thirty-seven miles betwixt the places; 2. The letters not having come the two weeks before, while I was in the Merse, at which time they should have come, if not sooner. On the Wednesday I began to study, and with some difficulty fell on that text, Gen. 28: 17; but it went very ill with me; neither could I alter, though I had frequent thoughts of laying it aside. The vein of it was never opened to me till Thursday betwixt three and four o'clock, and then I studied it that night. But I had no time to study another to preach after the sacrament. On Friday morning, while I was at breakfast, and my horse standing saddled for the journey, W. D. came in and told me, that my horse was all swelled in the counter and side (and my other horse was at Boswell's fair). This surprising dispensation stung me to the heart, being so timed. I knew not what to do. To get forward appeared a great difficulty; and to stay at home upon this, seemed to be to malice a Bible of providence. So I went away, thinking to hire a horse by the way; but too that we had a mind for, both misgave. William Biggar, one of my elders, went alongst with me, the rather that I had been indisposed. My horse served me, so that we came to Penpont that night safely. When I came there, I found there were other two appointed to preach on the Saturday; but Mr. Murray would have me to be a third. I peremptorily refused, and so laid aside thoughts of preaching that day; but withal I was displeased, that I should have been called to come so far, to a place where there was no need, and left my own congregation desolate. On the morrow Mr. Murray pressed me again to preach with the other two; and I yielded; and so went to my chamber to prepare for preaching that day with the other two, Mr. D. and Mr. P. While I was there, I heard some with Mr. Murray in the other room, speaking not very favourably of three preachings. Within a very little I went into that room, upon that occasion, and found Mr. P. there alone, who very freely gave me to understand his mind, and then went away to the tent to begin. Then Mr. Murray and Mr. D. came thither; and I said to Mr. Murray, It is time now we were at a point; pray determine what we are to do. To which he answered, Well, I am content. Very well, said I; and so I went, and cast off my band, and put on my cravat again. This made me very uneasy. I heard sermons, and they were but short; and had I been desired again, I had certainly preached. When we came home, I found this a great temptation; and was sorry I should have come, and left my parish desolate. But it was too far off to help it then. Then they urged me to make the exercise in the kirk, which I very peremptorily refused; and the rather that I had been put to pains before to no purpose; and having had so much vexation, and having been before indisposed ere I came from home, I found my body very weak. However that exercise was as peremptorily Hill upon me, Mr. Murray saying to me, "You must do it." "Well then," said I, "I shall do it." So I retired a little, and then went to the exercise, where, I think, would have been three hundred people in the church. It pleased the Lord to blow upon us, and it was very well with me; and there was indeed an uncommon moving among the people. One told me afterwards, that he never saw the like in that place since he knew it; and told me of some particular persons whose hearts the Lord had touched. After I came out, turning homeward speedily, I saw several people gathered together in the churchyard with some of the ministers, amongst whom there was a man crying under convictions. Mr. Murray's boy came home weeping. When I came home, within a while I heard that William Biggar was sick. To-morrow he continued so, which was afflicting to me. I communicated in a tender melted frame, especially at the first. On the Lord's day night, we began to apprehend that William Biggar was in a dangerous case. He continued ill on Monday, and we were resolved to seek some help for him, and before sermons got one B. to see him. Monday after sermons, as I was going out to see for B. that I might bring him in to W. Biggar, the smith called me to see my horse more swelled than before; and told me, if the swelling in its progress was as quick downwards as it had been hitherto, he was gone. On Tuesday morning W. Biggar grew better; the means being so far blessed, that he got out to and lay down in the garden: but my fears were not removed. In the afternoon he grew worse, and took his bed again; whereupon I resolved to send an express home, though he was not free for it. Accordingly we sent away one on Wednesday. On Thursday death approached fast, and he died that day. His brother saw him alive, but unable to speak. And he was buried on the Friday afternoon. He died in hopes of eternal life, through Jesus Christ. Among his last words were, "Farewell, sun (to the best of my remembrance), moon, and stars; Farewell, dear minister; and Farewell the Bible; " which last words especially made great impression on me. He blessed God, that ever he had seen my face; which was no small comfort to me, especially in these heavy circumstances. Thus the Lord pulled from me a good man, a comfortable fellow-labourer, and a supporter, or rather the supporter of me in my troubles in this place. He was always a friend to ministers, a fast friend to my predecessor, which helped to complete the ruin of his means. Though he was a poor man, yet he had always a brow for a good cause, and was a faithful, useful elder; and as he was very ready to reprove sin, so he had a singular dexterity in the matter of admonition and reproof, to speak a word upon the wheels, so as to convince with a certain sweetness, that it was hard to take his reproofs ill. Much of that time I had a very ill habit of body, and wondered how I was kept up under the burden. It was a complication of griefs — 1. To his poor widow and children; 2. To Mr. Murray and his family, who spared neither trouble nor expense; 3. To me and my family. My part of it was — 1. That he died abroad in my company at a sacrament; 2. The great loss of him as to the Lord's work in the parish, and particularly in his quarter, the most unruly of the parish; 3. He had been one of two witnesses to an instrument I had taken in the case of some teinds due to me, which instrument had not come to my hand extended before we went away. That night I went to Penpont, I said in a jest, "It is like we would be more troublesome ere we go." Alas! little thought I that I was to see it turned to so sad earnest.
19th July.—This day I spent some time in prayer, and thinking on this business. As for the causes of it in general I could be in no strait; but to condescend on particulars has not been easy. So far as I can discern the Lord's mind in it, the great ground of the quarrel was my refusing to preach on the Saturday, though often and earnestly called thereto; in which there was much of my own spirit. Three things do bear me in hand, that this was the true cause of it. 1. Though while I was in Penpont Mr. Murray alleged this was the cause; yet I would not admit it, but rather suspected that I had followed my own inclination in going thither, rather than the Lord's mind; which, upon reflection, I see not how I can charge myself with: but the first time I was convinced of this, was on Saturday after I was come home, out of my own mouth. Telling my wife how matters had gone with me, I happened to say, the text I should have preached on was, "How dreadful is this place!" I would not preach it, but God in His providence preached it over to me. These words left a conviction behind them. 2. Last night in prayer, I was carried out in the view of God's jealousy, and particularly the zeal He has for His worship, and saw how He takes special notice of a fault in or about it. And this is now the third time that I have fallen into this error of late. 3. I have found since the conviction was set in on me on Saturday, that if I were in such circumstances again, I would yield my service to the Lord, that He might do with it what He pleased. And although this may be thought a small thing by such as look on it at a distance; yet considering it was a fault about God's worship, and that the third of that nature within a short time, the conclusion must be made as said is. It is true, I was ready to have preached on Saturday afternoon, yet the old prophet set me off it, that I might be justly punished, because I would not when God would. As for that more than ordinary countenance from the Lord, though I dare not, before a holy God, purge myself altogether of lifting up, yet I can remember no notable uplifting that I had on the back of it. It may be I had had it if I had not got that ballast, especially when I found others had greater thoughts of it than I. There are two difficulties in the way of this conclusion: First, The straitening I had in studying that sermon; but my experience leaves no weight in this: Second, My trouble as to the horse beginning ere I went away. From what I have met with — 1. I have learned, that if the Lord has a mind, He will carry on His work, and no thanks to the instruments; for I took that exercise in hand through a sort of mere force. 2. To be denied to my credit in the Lord's matters. One of the ministers that preached that Saturday, never desired me to do it; the other of them did as good as forbid me, and I had no will to have it said, that I loved to hear myself speak, or that the people would be weary, etc. But now I see that these things are but thin fig-leaves. Lord, my soul is as a weaned child. 3. I think I have thereby obtained some soul-advantage; more heavenliness in the frame of my heart, more contempt of the world, as the widow that is desolate trusteth in God. I have more confidence in God, to which I am helped (with respect to my work in the parish) particularly by that word, Isa. 33: 10, "Now will I rise, saith the Lord, now will I be exalted, now will I lift up Myself;" which was a sweet word to me, on the last Lord's day, in my lecture, which fell to be in that chapter that day, in which I had more than ordinary of the Lord's light and life, though I had very little time to study either it or the sermons. I have thereby obtained more carefulness to walk with God, and to get evidences for heaven; more resolution of spirit for the Lord's work, over the belly of difficulties. For there was more yet in that affliction. I have been much discouraged with respect to my parish a long time, and have had little hand or heart for my work. I take God's dealing thus with me to be designed as a means to make me better content. Now the Lord has driven the business to a great height of hopelessness, by the removal of two of the most comfortable of my elders, I may say of three: Walter Bryden went out of the parish at Whitsunday last; now this stroke, in the removal by death of William Biggar; and Mr. Paterson, a wise, sweet-tempered young man, who by his authority was a ballast in this place to my enemies, is going away against Martinmas next. And I have but four elders behind. And, which is most sad, so rare is an inoffensive walk among us, that it is extremely hard to get others in their room, who would not be a reproach to the office. I know not how much further the Lord may carry it; but I desire to take spirits, and when all is gone to look to the Lord.
Last Lord's day night I had some thoughts as to evidences for heaven, which I resumed this day. 1. I am content to take Christ for my prophet, to be taught by Him what is my duty, that I may comply with it; I am content to know what is my sin, that I may turn from it; and by grace I know something of what it is to make use of Christ as a prophet in this case; and I desire to learn of Him, as the only Master, what is the will of God, and the mystery of renouncing my own wisdom, which I reckon but weakness and folly. 2. I know and am persuaded, that I am a lost creature; that justice must be satisfied; that I am not able to satisfy it, nor no creature for me; that Christ is able, and His death and sufferings are sufficient satisfaction. On this I throw my soul with its full weight; here is my hope and only confidence. My duties, I believe the best of them, would damn me, sink me to the lowest pit, and must needs be washed in that precious blood, and can have no acceptance with God but through His intercession. I desire to have nothing to do with an absolute God, nor to converse with God but only through Christ. I am sensible that I have nothing to commend me to God, nor to Christ, that He may take my cause in hand. If He should damn me, He should do me no wrong. But the cord of love is let out, even the covenant in His blood; I accept of it, and at His command lay hold on it, and venture. This is faith in spite of devils. And my heart is pleased with the glorious device of man's salvation through Christ, carrying all the praise to free grace, and leaving nothing of it to the creature. 3. My soul is content of Him for my king; and though I cannot be free of sin, God Himself knows He would be welcome to make havoc of my lusts, and to make me holy. I know no lust that I would not be content to part with. My will bound hand and foot I desire to lay at His feet; and though it will strive, whether I will or not, I believe whatever God does to me is best done. 4. Though afflictions of themselves can be no evidence of the Lord's love; yet forasmuch as the native product of afflictions and strokes from the hand of the Lord, is to drive the guilty away from the Lord; when I find it is not so with me, but that I am drawn to God by them, made to kiss the rod, and accept of the punishment of my iniquity, to love God more, and to have more confidence in Him, and kindly thoughts of His way, and find my heart more closely cleaving to Him, I cannot but think such an affliction an evidence of love. I have met with many troubles, and the afflictions I have met with have been very remarkable in their circumstances. Often have I seen it, and now once more, verified in my lot, 1 Cor. 4: 9, "For we are made a spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men," etc. Now I am as a weaned child, through grace, in the matter. Let the Lord do what seemeth Him good. (Nota.—I was obliged to leave my horse behind me at Penpont under care, and he died.)
In the latter end of August, I was at the sacrament in Ashkirk. There I preached the sermon, on Saturday, which should have been preached at Penpont. I was helped to deliver it, and I believe it was not without fruit to some. But after sermons I was bowed down under convictions of the want of that fear of God in my spirit, when I delivered it, and was vile in mine own eyes. The Lord's day was a good day to me. Hearing Mr. Gordon speak to his people as under apprehensions of death, and reflecting on how many years, especially since I was a minister, I have spent in preaching of the gospel, it was most bitter to me, to see how much time was gone, and how little I had done for God. From the Saturday after sermons, I had been in earnest for awful impressions of God on my spirit, and I got them; particularly on the Monday, while Mr. Gabriel Wilson preached, my soul, under impressions of the majesty and greatness of God, was melted within me. While he preached on Ps. 116: 9, "I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living," every step of duty he named, gave me a new conviction. So that when I began to speak after him, my soul was so filled with the sense of the majesty of God, and of my own vileness, wherewith my heart was so swollen, that I had much ado in prayer to speak plain, and not to break the words. But in the sermon, I had much tugging and drawing with my heart to keep it right, and wanted not ups and downs in it, sometimes out of case, and sometimes helped, but for the most part unsatisfying to myself. After the work was over, I had a sinking afternoon and night of it, often wishing I had gone away when Mr. Wilson ended, seeing myself a vile minister, good for nothing; and the sense of the difficulties of that work, and of my own mismanagements, lay heavy on me. And on the morrow, as I was by the way, I was indeed like to faint under these impressions. As I was coming through W. moor, I mistook the way, and bogued my horse in the moss beyond R. After much toiling with him in vain, I sat down and cried to the Lord; tried it again, but it would not do; so that I had thoughts of losing him. I cast off my boots and cloak, and went to the town to seek help. The person to whom I spoke knew me not, and so sent me to the field to the mowers. I came to one company, who sent me to another, who were more compassionate. So two or three went away with me to the moss; and those in the town having known me after I was gone, had gone to the horse, who had got up to his feet ere they came. So he was got out of the moss, and I was conducted to the right way. When I came home, I met with another temptation, ere ever I sat down, which was another nail to my heart; the rather sharp, that it was driven by a hand from whence I expected it not: which brought me in mind of a note to that purpose in the latter end of my sermon at Ashkirk, fulfilled in myself, whatever it might be in others. I would fain have had Mr. Wilson staying with me on the Monday's night, for my support; but the Lord would not. With these things, and the wonderful conduct of Providence towards me, I was much broken, and made to go with a bowed-down back, and my health impaired. Some others had no mean thoughts of the work there. Mr. Wilson said, that for the Saturday, had he been to have preached after me, he would not have opened his mouth, but dismissed the people as they were. I bless the Lord, that lets me see my own vileness and nothingness; and that seeing my heart is ready to be vain of little things, He takes such measures to press me down.
11th September.—This day Mr. Macmillan preached at Hopecross, in the confines of this parish. On the 12th of December last, I had preached a sermon precisely against the separation, upon occasion of reading the aforementioned act of the commission from the pulpit. It was by a mistake I was led to read these papers, I mean that act of the commission, at least at that time; for I had a letter from the presbytery-clerk, importing, as I thought, their order; but they had given none about it. However, it was my opinion, that the act should have been read through the presbytery; but I had no mind to have made myself singular. But it was a happy mistake, ordered by the good Providence of God. My lecture fell that day to be on Isa. 5; but I handled only the parable of the vineyard, which was to me another piece of surprising conduct of Providence. It fell to be an exceeding good day, so that our kirk was thronged with our own people and strangers. God helped me to deliver it. Copies of it were desired, and I allowed them to be given out: so copies were handed abroad, not only in the parish, but several other places; and this galled that party, and I am confident served to confirm others. Mr. Macmillan preached within a mile of this parish in February thereafter, and my people did not show their wonted instability. At length this day Mr. Macmillan preached a sermon, on design to confute that sermon of mine, producing the copy of my sermon, and reading parcels of it before the people. Seldom or never before came that man to these bounds, but something was laid to my hand in my ordinary, whereof there is an instance above expressed. But this day there was nothing of that nature; but not without reason, for our kirk that day was so throng, that I really thought some had the rather come out that day, that I might see they were not gone to his meeting.
I understood after, that several who were there were disgusted, and that it had done their cause little service. He left this country, leaving no copy of his sermon behind him; which has been taken notice of by judicious persons. I waited a while, till I should see whether any copy of it appeared or not: at length none appearing, I spoke a little of it in the pulpit, desiring the people to believe what I had taught them, till they should see it confuted by scripture, etc.
In November I met with a surprising mercy. A person that had long been in the wrong to me, in a certain particular, with tears confessed the fault: which did exceedingly raise me in thankfulness to God. This was on the Friday. On the Lord's day night thereafter, musing on it, I found I had met with that mercy before I was prepared for it. It is true, I had often prayed for it; but the sap was squeezed out, by considering that I had not got my heart in that point brought to a submission to the will of God. Upon this account the mercy proved a burden to my spirit, and a great and heavy grief. When I lay down in my bed, my grief increased; my wilful will was a spectacle of horror to me. And, under this conviction, I was so filled with the terror of God, that both flesh and spirit were like to fail and faint away. I endeavoured to flee to, and make use of the blood of Christ for pardon: and though I would have bought that mercy at a very dear rate, yet I was conscious to myself, and protested, that I was not, and would not, be content with that mercy, but with the favour of God and His goodwill with it, and desired to give up my will to the will of God. (Nota.—It was not long ere my patience in this point was put to the trial again: So short-lived are mercies that fall off the tree of Providence ere they be ripe.)
30th December, Friday.-I received a letter from Mrs. M. Home, wherein she says, she is wearying of "this life of a beast;" which made impression on me. The next day, it pleased the Lord to give me a more than ordinary outletting of His Spirit, which I was somewhat helped to improve; the rather that there was at that time in my mind a dissatisfaction about my public work, both as to my preaching and the people's hearing, which I would fain have seen changed to the better. And indeed it was better with me on the Lord's day. And now the Lord was a commentator on the scripture to me, at family-duties. I spent a part of Monday morning in prayer; and by that exercise, and making conscience of preparing for family-duties, I found myself bettered. On the Tuesday I spent some time in fasting and prayer, and renewed my covenant with God; and that week I was kept heavenly for the most part; and till this day.
22nd January 1710.-Though I have had several ups and downs, yet I have at least been kept struggling. And as to this time, I may say, 1. I had never more deep impressions of the life of a beast, being in some sort weary of the necessity of eating, sleeping, etc., with a holy contempt of them, longing to be beyond all these things, and content to part with all my created comforts. I have also felt my soul most sensibly going out in love to God, and seen my soul most plainly taking Christ for my portion, and accepting of the blessed Bridegroom. It has been my exercise how to direct these things in the life of the beast, to the Lord, to refer them to God, so as that they may be a part of the Christian life. But I have made small progress in the practice of it, but have found slips that way bitter. As particularly on Friday morning, I spent so much time in sleep, when I should have been otherwise employed, that it made me go halting all the day; and so much the more, that I had been attacked in prayer with carnality before, which was not duly resisted; and from thence I dated that carnal frame. Thus I found my conscience defiled, and on the morrow after it lay heavy on me. I came from family-prayer that day (viz. Saturday), where I could not get all my mind told before the Lord, unto my closet; whither when I came, the sense of my carnality pressed me so sore, that I could scarcely get out a word for some time. When I got liberty to speak, my soul protested before God and angels, that though I could not shake myself loose of my lusts, Christ should be most welcome to make havoc of them. The letter foresaid trysted with a sermon I had been preaching before, of making God our end, as a necessary requisite in holiness; and so it came seasonably to quicken my thoughts and practice in that point. And I design to preach particularly on referring natural actions to God, for my own and the people's case, as God shall clear my way. I have learned two things by experience in that point. The one is, When the will, on a corrupt principle, that may feed spiritual lusts, is averse to what the body requires, to yield to the body the rather to cross the will, and so to seek to please God, and not ourselves, in or about these things. The other, To ascend from and by them, to that infinite satisfaction that must needs be in the enjoyment of God, leaving these ashes upon the earth, and mounting up from them in a flame of love to the Lord, as pillars of smoke ascending towards heaven. Seeing all perfection in the creature is originally from God, whatever is in the creature must be eminently and infinitely in Him; therefore, if a bit of bread be so sweet, how sweet must God be, that ocean, whereof that in the bread is but a drop!
26th January.-The last week I spent some time in prayer with fasting, with my family, especially for my wife's safe delivery: but with me it went not well; my frame was not fixedly lively. This upon reflection was terrible to me, as a sign for evil; which was the mean of quickening in secret; where I got what I got not with others. And I have observed, that the thing I have been still led to for her, was a life for God. And it was most clear to me this night in particular, that it was not so much her life, as life for God, that I desired; grace to her (as to myself) to live well, more than life. I have been this day also, from the life of the beast, helped to prize the enjoyment of God; and was led into a sweet view of the purity and refinedness of the pleasures in the fountain, and the dregs mixed with those of the streams, that make them humbling and contemptible.
29th January, Sabbath.-On Friday studying my catechetic sermon some surprising thoughts were laid to my hand. My heart swelled with thankfulness, and loathed myself for that there should be so much as a principle of taking any praise to myself in me, though it came not forth into an act. And my soul cried to be emptied of self, that I might be nothing, and the Lord might work all in me. I thought these things were from the Lord, seeing they had that erect on me. On Saturday night I made all ready, that I might employ my time to the best advantage on the Sabbath morning: and I requested, particularly-1. That I might have whom to preach to; for it was a very bad day; 2. An opportunity to preach without distraction, for my wife had some pains; 3. That the Lord would be with me; for the pulpit without Him was a terror. This day was an exceeding pleasant day, and the people came well out. I had no trouble from my wife's case. These things in the morning were a valley of Achor for a door of hope. I gave my self to prayer, and entered to the work in a tender melted frame. I dare not say, that the Lord was not with me; but I had not what I would fain have had. I had several ups and downs in the sermons. I would fain have been at the mark, but the legs would not serve. I found I loved the Lord, and would fain have been there where the executive power will fully answer the will. I know not what the Lord has a mind to do with me, but this good while I have had no ill time of it. 1. I have found frequent flutterings of my soul after the Lord very sensibly. 2. I have found duty very pleasant, and sometimes a pain to give it over. 3. I have found more freedom with God in secret than in family duties, for there I got leave to tell all I thought. 4. I have sometimes a confusion in my head in preaching; I prayed against it particularly this day. I had something of it, but it lasted not, though I was about four hours in constant exercise. But seldom does my body fail in preaching, when my frame is right. 5. I have found the Lord easy to be entreated, and a recovery to be got without long onwaiting. As yesterday I was somewhat carnal, I sought the Lord, but found Him not: I went back again to God, and was set right again. And seldom has it continued ill with me, for some time, from the beginning to the end of duty. 6. On Wednesday last a storm that threatened this parish, already sore distressed, did break. I found myself concerned to get this mercy, both in public and private, and thankful to the Lord when it was come: and why may not I look on it, as the Lord's hearing of my prayers, amongst those of others?
3rd February.-I had met with a temptation that put me out of frame. Afterwards I met with another of the same kind, but sharper; with which I went to God, and it issued in quickening me again. I was turned off the thing that raised my corruptions, and turned in against myself, that I could not get my will to comply with the will of God in this, without fretting, and cheerfully to submit to providence in that particular. It was stinging to think, that whereas I have several evidences for heaven, this one thing is like to blot them all out. I have found a satisfaction in seeing the Lord, by His providence, set me on my trials for my humiliation in other cases; but I think I can never get over this. I wrestled with the Lord to get my will melted down, that at length in this I might be as a weaned child. This cured me in another case, and made me fear the being taken off my trials before some good metal should appear. Last night, while this case lay heavy on me, it fell in our ordinary to sing Ps. 38: 10-13. And this day it met me again very seasonably.
Adoro plenitudinem scripturae.
4th February.-My heart had scarce conceived ere my tongue began to express some regret in the foresaid particular; but through grace my tongue was silenced, ere it had got sense made of what it had begun to say. And it was no small joy to me to see my corrupt self deprived of that satisfaction, and the wilful will balked of its will.
7th February, Tuesday.-This night I had one of the most doleful times I ever had in my life, by reason of the same trial aforesaid. The struggle with my own will was most dreadful, so that I was like to sink under it, and say, There is no hope, while it lay on me as a giant bearing down a little child. I laid down my resolution however always to go to God with it again, as it renewed its desperate attacks on me; and so I did, and found some ease that way: though sometimes both heart and hand were taken from me in this combat, and I was almost swallowed up in despair. I felt the power of the bands of wickedness The first ease I got was, that it was suggested to me in prayer, that it might be God was letting me fall so low before the victory, that I might see it, when it came, entirely due to His grace. In our ordinary that night we sung Ps. 40: where that word, ver. 16, "who seeking Thee abide," etc., was most seasonable and comfortable. At this time I was preaching on Gal. 5: 24, and I had a trial of the difficulty of the work.
9th February, Thursday.-This day, betwixt ten and eleven at night, my wife, after long and sore labour, was delivered of a son, called Thomas, who was baptised on the 15th by Mr. Gabriel Wilson, minister at Maxton. She never recovered with so much difficulty; which seemed to answer to our frame in prayer for that mercy. On the Sabbath after, she was very ill; and just when I was going in to the afternoon sermon she told me she thought she was in a fever. Whereupon I looked to the Lord, and presently found my spirit calmed, in hopes all would be well; and went to my work; and so it was. While I wrote the letter to Mr. Wilson to come and baptize the child, my soul fluttered away to Christ with my child, and I wept for joy of the covenant, that it was for my seed, as well as for myself.
15th February.-This night I had four particular suits before the throne of grace. And within a few days after, as to one of them, some persons, who, being stirred up by an enemy to me, had created me very much trouble in a particular business, came and agreed with me; so the Lord made my enemies stumble and fall in their measures against me: and
O but that mercy was sweet! An only child of a dear friend having been sick, I heard of her recovery. As to a nurse for my child, the Lord answered by that which was better, giving milk to my wife. As to the fourth, I thought it had been answered too; but it failed, and I was set to wait on again.
By this time the friendship betwixt the aforementioned Mr. Wilson and me had arrived at an uncommon height and strictness. That friendship has indeed been one of the greatest comforts of my life: he being a man of great piety, tenderness, and learning, with a vast compass of reading; a painful minister; a plain preacher, but deep in his thought, especially of later years, and growing remarkably unto this day in insight into the holy scriptures; zealous and faithful to a pitch; having more of the spirit of the old Presbyterians than any other minister I know; for the which cause he has been, and is in the eyes of many, like a speckled bird; but withal a most affectionate, constant, and useful friend; a seasonable and wise adviser in a pinch; often employed of God signally and seasonably, to comfort and bear me up, when I needed it extremely; insomuch that I have often been convinced, he could not have gone the length that way that he went, if it had not been through a particular disposal of providence indulging my weakness, particularly in this and the following period, wherein I was in a special manner, from within and from without, at once sore bowed down. Whatever odds there was in some respects betwixt him and me, there was still a certain cast of temper by which I found him to be my other self; (and though we have passed, especially since the year 1712, through several steps, at which many chief friends have been separated; yet, through the divine mercy, we still stuck close, speaking the same thing; the sense whereof has often obliged us to give thanks unto God expressly on that account). He was extremely modest; but, once touched with the weight of a matter, very forward and keen, fearing the face of no man: on the other hand, I was slow and timorous. In the which mixture, whereby he served as a spur to me, and I as a bridle to him, I have often admired the wise conduct of Providence that matched us together. But now, alas! he is left alone for me, in public struggles, I being through frailty laid aside from appearing at synods; with which I was indeed disgusted ere I left them; and very seldom now appearing in the presbytery. Mr. Davidson, minister of Galashiels, who afterwards came to be a third in this friendship, is now also through his frailty laid aside from much of his helpfulness to him in these cases. However, the friendship remains inviolate, and will, I hope, till death: Ps. 94: 11, "The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity."
9th April.-The last week I was at the synod; and seeing all things like to go wrong with the church, I had great desire to be kept straight in God's way. I was not so well provided for my work this day as ordinary, but it went rather better than ordinary with me. I was much affected to think how I would get silent Sabbaths spent, and what reflections such a case might produce.
I think I can say now, that the thing which was once so hard for me to submit unto, the Lord has been pleased to make more easy, and give me some victory over it now, more than these two months: "Blessed be the Lord, who teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight."
I proceeded on the subject of the nature and necessity of holiness, from the time aforesaid, and therewith ended the ordinary above mentioned, on 28th May this year. After which I addressed myself to preach sermons preparatory for the sacrament of the supper (from 1 Cor. 11: 23, and Jer. 1. 4, 5).
And on 16th July I administered that ordinance. This was the first time I administered it in Etterick: but from that time it has been done yearly, for ordinary, all along, the few interruptions thereof hitherto made (viz. 1717, 1726, and 1729), being occasioned by the affliction of my family of late years, and other incidents. I thought myself obliged to deal with every communicant personally, but had little encouragement to the work from the parish; but I behoved to try all means. I was very much discouraged while I set to that work; but the nearer it came, I was the more carried above discouragement. While I visited the parish, I found I had not been altogether useless here, and particularly that the sermons on the fourfold state of man had done some good.
Seldom do delays prove advantageous. God had more of His own, so far as I could discern, to feed here, the last year, than this, three of the most comfortable families in it having removed at Whitsunday last. The sermons on the Lord's day before, seemed to have weight, and I found my soul pressed particularly to follow that day's work with prayer. As for the work itself, it was much more comfortable than I expected, and there seemed to be some blowings of the Spirit with it. I never saw a congregation more remarkably fixed and grave than they were on the Lord's day. On the Thursday was eight days before, in the family-fast, the Lord helped us to pray, and seek His presence. I had palpable assistance in studying the actionsermon on Luke 14: 23, "Compel them to come in" and though being much hurried on the Saturday, I found myself quite out of case, and had little hope of it when going to the work, yet verily the Lord was with me in that sermon. It was once my regret, that the national fasts and our congregational one should have fallen both on one day; and I had expectations of two ministers' help that day, but got none at all. God ordered both well to my conviction. However it was, some communicated with us, who had either never or not these twenty years communicated; and I had some ground to think that by that sermon the bands of some were loosed. In all there were but about fifty-seven persons of our own parish communicants; few indeed, but yet more than I expected amongst them. The Saturday was very rainy, which put us in confusion for the following day; but God disappointed my fears, and gave a pleasant day till towards the end of the afternoon-sermon. The rain returned on Monday. That was wondrous in my eyes. I afterwards revised the action-sermon, with a view to publish it in the Fourfold State; but gave over that purpose. Meanwhile the divisions made the number of communicants but small. See Appendix, No. 1.
Thereafter I insisted for some time on a subject suitable to the communion-work we had been employed in (viz. Jer. 1. 5). And this was all along my manner before and after communions. That being done, I did, on 3rd September, enter, for an ordinary, on Mark 10: 21, 22, "One thing thou lackest," etc. And hereto I was led for the ease of my own soul, and spent thereon what remained of the year.
On the Friday after the sacrament, I received a letter, desiring me to come and visit one who had been a dissenter, but had come in at the sacrament, and communicated with us, now very sick, and desirous to see me. From the letter, I imagined that she was under remorse for her complying so far with us; which seemed to me to be a dreadful attempt of the devil against the ordinances in this parish: however, I went away with boldness to see her; and by the good hand of God found it was quite contrariwise; for she told me, that she was under the Lord's chastisement for her deserting the ordinances so long; that it began with her in the church on the fast-day, which was her first return to the ordinances; and that she was then so pressed, that she had much ado to keep herself from either running out, or crying out, in time of sermon. This was no small comfort to me, that God had so far vindicated His own cause. This brings me in mind of the passage narrated above, p. 221.
29th September.-Having been under a great trial from that particular, of which before, I was so broke with the sin and misery flowing from it, that I loathed life, and would have been content to have been away, and left all, to have been freed from the sin and misery of the case. This sat down on my spirit on the Lord's day, the 13th of August. The next Sabbath I was at the sacrament at Selkirk. That was to me a sweet ordinance beyond many. But, behold, there arose again quickly after a dreadful storm of temptation from the same quarter. So I preached my experience next Lord's day on that text, Job 7: 16, "I loathe it, I would not live alway." I gave myself to secret fasting and prayer on the Wednesday thereafter, being the 30th of August. My case still continuing heavy, it led me to that portion of scripture, Mark 10: 21, as above mentioned. After much sad tossing, I did this day spend some time in secret prayer with fasting, to seek of the Lord a right way. On the Lord's day before, I had been preaching directions how to get over the one thing lacking; and this day I set myself solemnly to practise them for my particular case. After a while I laboured to take up my real case as nicely as I could: for I considered, that unto the trials God lays in men's way, they often add much of their own, which makes them far more bulky and weighty than otherwise they are in very deed; and here I was convinced, that I had laid too much of my own, suffering some things to sink into my spirit, which were not so much to be regarded. Thus having as it were removed the rubbish I had laid upon the stone which was to be lifted up, I went through these directions: First, Labouring to see the evil of it; Secondly, Setting myself in a way of believing against it: 1. Endeavouring to be emptied of myself in point of confidence in myself, with respect to the victory over it; 2. Taking Christ for it: And, 1st, Taking Himself instead of it; 2ndly, Taking Him in all His offices for it; as a Prophet; a Priest, in His merit and intercession; and as a King, with particular respect to that one thing; 3rdly, Believing the promises suited to that case. The third direction was my present work, fasting and prayer. And, lastly, I resolved through grace to watch. In a special manner I did that day solemnly renounce, and give over into the hands of the Lord, that thing, and take Christ in the stead of it; so making the exchange, resolving to take what He should please to give me of my desire, but to quarrel no more with the Lord upon the head, but to be as a weaned child.
2nd October.-Immediately on the back of that exercise my temptation was renewed, which gave me much ado; but yesterday, being the Lord's day, I found that out of the eater meat was brought to me. The honour of all the saints, Ps. 145, with respect to the desired victory over my lusts, was sweet to me; and that of the afflictions and consolations of ministers being for people's sake, 2 Cor. 1: 6 (both falling in our ordinary in the family), was sweet and seasonable. My soul longed to be free of sin, and was really in love with Christ; He was the desire of my soul, which longed for Him: and when I considered my one thing lacking, I was well content to part with it for Him, and to seek my soul's rest in Himself. Much had I laboured to get the crook in my lot made straight; but it would not do; yea I was often made worse by seeking to even it. This I took up as the wrong way, but saw the necessity of bowing my heart to it. This day I had much satisfaction in the resignation and exchange made in this matter, and found my heart so loosed from the bonds of my corruption, that the hand of the Lord appeared eminently in it.
6th October.-I have seen that under temptation I have magnified my trial, so that now it appears much less than sometimes it did. The Lord has driven the mists from about it, that made it look bigger than it was. And this I take to be the effect of Christ's executing His prophetical office in me, as I gave myself to Him as a Prophet in that matter particularly. And this day reflecting on the Lord's dealing with me, I found my soul purged from guilt, and helped to serve the Lord; whereas I could not serve Him before, while my conscience was defiled in that matter. I found my corruption laid low, in comparison of what it had been before. And thus Christ exercised His priestly and kingly offices over me. Upon this occasion I have been much inclined to cry to the Lord for the light of His Spirit wherewith to read the scriptures; and I have found that I am heard.
8th October.-My heart has been looking back toward its old bias, which was heavy to me: but I observed my heart said, that the full enjoyment of it without Christ would not satisfy, but Christ without it would satisfy. I found sensible strength this day, from considering that fulness of satisfaction that is to be had in God Himself, for which I have made the resignation. I had an answer of prayer also brought to my hand just before I went out to the church, the lack of which was like to have been a temptation to me. The Lord continues to make me read the scriptures with more than ordinary insight into them. (N.B.- I think I never had so much of a continued insight into the word as I had this winter, which made it no ill time to me.) "He that overcometh, shall inherit all things," was a sweet word to me.
22nd October.-Last week at the synod, I was surprised with an unusual temptation, which meeting me, struck me with terror, and filled me with confusion, having a native tendency to heighten my great trial. Wherefore seeing how I was beset, and what danger I was in, I set myself the more kindly to bear my trial, and in that respect was bettered by that temptation. Being very apprehensive of the evil that might ensue upon this, I did, after much fluctuating in my mind, not knowing what to do, resolve to go to a certain place to prevent the ill I feared; and accordingly went to a friendat the time indisposed. When I came thither, in the simplicity of my heart I was going to tell him my design to go elsewhere, but delayed it a while; and then I fell very sick, and was obliged to go to bed, where, through indisposition of body and thoughtfulness of heart, I had a weary night. I saw I could not go whither I had designed. About four o'clock in the morning, while I lay and could not sleep, I could not see how the evil I feared could be prevented, seeing my design was broke; nor wherefore Providence had brought me to where I was. But at length I really believed that God had done both for the best; and where sense failed, faith helped me out; and this gave me great ease. On the morrow, being still indisposed, I came homeward. The next day, while on m
way home, matters were made so clear to me as to the conduct of Providence, that my soul blessed Him for that seasonable sickness, and keeping my design entirely secret. This I desire to mark as one of the most signal marks of the Lord's tender care over me. At that time there was a reproof given me, on account of a boy that kept the school here, that sometimes he was not called in to the family-exercise out of the school. I judged the matter was such, seeing the school was public, kept in the kirk, and the reproof given with such an ill air, that I could not take it well off the hand that reached it; but it let me in to more than that, that that boy appeared to me the messenger of the Lord sent to tell me my faults, so as I could have under that notion hugged him in my bosom. And that I got for going so far. So I came home rejoicing in the Lord's kindness to me in these dispensations.
23rd October.-This night was a sweet night to me, being let into the view of the 6th chapter of the epistle to the Galatians, and loving the Lord and holiness. It has been my wonder, that the faith of heaven should not more wean my heart from the world.
4th November.-A woman who had fallen into fornication told me, that the Lord began to deal with her soul, while she was young, and that for several years she continued serious; but for five years before her fall, she was under a plain decay; that she never awaked till the child was one night overlaid, and found dead in the morning. She saith that in the time of her travail she was no more concerned than that, pointing to a form or seat.
9th December.-This night I was in bad case. I find it is not easy to me to carry right, either with or without the cross. While I was walking up and down my closet in heaviness, my little daughter Jane, whom I had laid in the bed, suddenly raising up herself, said, she would tell me a note: and thus delivered herself.-Mary Magdalen went to the sepulchre.-She went back again with them to the sepulchre; but they would not believe that Christ was risen, till Mary Magdalen met Him; and He said to her, "Tell My brethren, they are My brethren yet." This she pronounced with a certain air of sweetness. It took me by the heart: "His brethren yet" (thought I); and may I think that Christ will own me as one of His brethren yet? It was to me as life from the dead.
As for my studies: From my settling in Etterick, I gave myself to reading, as I was disposed and had access; making some excerpts out of the books I read. I began the book of the passages of my life, which before had been kept in the two manuscripts above mentioned, and some other papers. My son John was begun to learn the Latin tongue, 16th February 1708, and had domestic teaching till the year 1712; for which cause I had several young men in that time for teachers; but often the burden lay on myself. And there was no legal school in the parish, till of late, when none of my children needed it. I read some of the books of Antonia Bourignon, for understanding her principles, which made a considerable noise at that time; and making some excerpts out of them I left a column blank for animadversions thereon; which I, finding no occasion for after, did never make. I began lecturing in Etterick where I left off in Simprin; and proceeding to the book of the Revelation, I wrote some lectures thereon, from the 4th chapter, but in short-hand characters. The same I did on some chapters of Isaiah afterwards.
This was the happy year wherein I was first master of a Hebrew Bible, and began the study of it. About the time of my coming out of the Merse to Etterick, I borrowed a piece of the Hebrew Bible, containing the books of Samuel and Kings; and having got that, I went on accordingly in the study of the holy tongue. For which cause I did this year purchase Athias's Hebrew Bible, of the second edition, having been long time lured and put off with the hopes of a gift of Arrius Montanus from an acquaintance in the Merse; the which were not like to be accomplished, and in end were frustrated. Thus provided, I plied the Hebrew original close, with great delight; and all along since, it has continued to be my darling study. But I knew nothing then of the accentuation. Howbeit, I took some notes of the import of the Hebrew words with much pleasure. I had got another parcel of books in the year 1706, the chief of which was Turrettine's works, in four volumes 4to, wherewith I was not altogether unacquainted before; and, in the 1707, before I went to Etterick, I purchased Pool's Annotations, having had no entire commentary on the whole Bible before that, except the English Annotations, edit. 1, purchased in 1704. But from the time I left Simprin, I set myself no more to purchase parcels of books as before; but got some particular books now and then, as I found myself disposed for them.
About the end of this year, my friend Mr. Wilson and I began an epistolary communication, whereby we might have the benefit, each of the other's reading and study, for our mutual improvement. And then I wrote the Meditation on the day of expiation and feast of tabernacles, to be found in the miscellany manuscript, p. 325-332. About this time also I did, for my diversion, compose a kind of a poem on friendship, in an enigmatical or allegorical strain, consisting of some sheets; a part of which, it seems, I had sent him by that time. (But last winter, 1729, I committed it to the flames, with anything else of that kind done by myself.)
8th February 1711.—There was a great storm of snow on the ground; and our parish, with many others, about two years before, having been almost broke with such a storm, it lay near my heart; and therefore I moved for a congregational fast on that occasion; which the elders fell in with, being called together betwixt sermons; and in the afternoon it was intimated, to be observed on the Wednesday thereafter. I was helped in my secret prayers on this occasion, which made me to hope. On the morrow, the weather began to be so easy, that I thought our fast was like to be turned into a thanksgiving. But that lasted not; so that I think it was never more violent than on the fast-day. And the Lord was with us in praying, and in preaching too on Joel 1: 18, "How do the beasts groan," etc. The Lord graciously heard our prayers. The morrow after was no ill day; but on the Friday the thaw freely came by a west wind, without rain. So the Lord's day was a thanksgiving - day to us. I preached on Ps. 147: 12, 18, "Praise the Lord.—He sendeth out His word, and melteth them." This day, with the day of the first communion, were the most joyful days I ever saw in Etterick. The hand of the Lord appeared in it to me, and to others likewise; though our congregation made but very little bulk this day, after the Lord had done so great things for them. Lord, lay it not to their charge. Some afterward told me, that they had but one day's meat for their flocks when the storm brake. They were generally designed, on the Monday after, to have gone to seek pasture in other places; but in time of the storm they professed they knew not well whither to go; those places where they were wont to go to in a strait, having enough ado to serve themselves. About this time as I was lecturing on the Proverbs, I took some notes of the import of the Hebrew words, to chap. 15, to be found in a 4to notebook.
On Friday, 8th June, about three in the morning, my daughter Alison was born; and was baptised on Wednesday the 13th, by Mr. John Laurie, minister of Eskdalemoor.
The epistolary communication aforesaid betwixt Mr. Wilson and me, was carried on till towards the end of this year, at which time Providence began to lay other work to hand. His letters to me of that kind are in retentis: but I have no copy of mine to him. Only, what is preserved in the Miscellany manuscript from p. 333 to p. 349, on Eccles. 10: 15, on Conservation, and on Garments, was written on that occasion.
For my ordinary, I dwelt on the solemn call to faith, and gospel-obedience, Matt. 11: 28, 29, 30, from 14th January this year, till 26th August. And then to commend Christ to the souls of the people, I did, on 2nd September, enter upon Phil. 3: and went through the first twelve verses thereof in order, which continued, I think, till May 1713.
11th Aug.—After a long time of freedom from a temptation that had often worsted me, it began again about a month ago, and made fearful havoc on my case. It was no little time ere I began so much as to think, that this was a taking up what I had before so solemnly renounced; but still I found myself fettered, and could not shake off my bonds. On the 7th instant I set apart some time for fasting and prayer, eating only a little bear-bread; but matters went not well with me. It burst out on me as a breach in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly in an instant, when one is labouring to keep and prop it up. This day I fell to that work again: but considering that my head was the worse of fasting before, I ate as ordinary. In the very time, I met with a new temptation akin to the grand trial, which was like to baffle me; but I was helped to struggle against it. I meditated, and read over that of 29th September last year; and there saw I had taken Christ instead of that which I had renounced. The renunciation indeed was still in my view; but though within this short while I had often read over that, my taking of Christ instead of it was never in my eyes. My eyes were held that I could not see it. But then I took up the case, and was like Hagar having the well that was near her shown her, when the child was laid by for death. I saw it was in vain to attempt to empty the heart of what is its carnal choice, unless I got it filled with something better than what I was to take from it. And thus my bonds were loosed, and I made the exchange over again in a solemn manner. And then my soul in some measure rested in the Lord, and I cane away rejoicing in Him. Joshua's laying an ambush against Ai, that small city, whereas the walls of great Jericho fell down at the sound of rams' horns, let me see how holy guile must be used in the spiritual combat. And I found by experience, the import of selling all for Christ, whereby the scripture expresseth the great transaction betwixt the Lord and a soul. For he that selleth, though he part with what is his, yet he gets that in its room which to him is better than what he gives away; and so lives on the thing he receives, instead of what he parts with.
On the last Lord's day of October, I was assisting Mr. James Ramsay in the celebration of the Lord's supper at Kelso; and the synod being to meet there ten days after, having demitted my office of clerkship at the April synod before, I could not go home, but went to the Merse, to Dunse. There Dr. Trotter taking me out to the fields, surprised me with a motion to print some of my sermons, shewing that I should not want encouragement. I had spent two days seeking something wherewith to go to Kelso, but could command nothing: so upon that account, and not knowing what otherwise I might be called to, I took old notes with me, and among others those on man's fourfold state. Upon the Doctor's urging his proposal, I made mention of these, as what seemed most suitable, if anything of that nature were to be done. On his desire, I left them with him. On the morrow, ere I came off, Mr. Willis pursued the Doctor's motion. At the synod, speaking of it to Mr. Wilson, he declared, that he minded to have proposed it to me himself, and was sorry he was prevented. When I came home, there was a letter for me from Mr. B. for a loan of some of my sermons. A while after, the Doctor and Mr. Willis having read the papers, sent pressing letters to put me on to that work. All which obliged me to serious thoughts on the matter.
30th November.—Some things this night observed and considered (after prayer) with respect to the publishing of the sermons. 1. With respect to our parish. 1st, I have many that will not hear me preach, and so have no access to be useful to them that way, they being dissenters; yet I have ground to think that they would read my sermons. 2ndly, There are several that make no conscience of ordinary attendance on the public ordinances, and so have heard but few of these sermons. 3rdly, There are some who cannot get attended punctually, and to whom silent Sabbaths are a grief; and it is hoped they might be welcome to those, especially at such times. 2. With respect to my friends in the Merse. As the Lord was pleased to own me while there, making me serviceable, not only to my own parish, but to many of the godly in the country; so copies of my sermons, since I came from them, have been desired and got by several there; which shows the interest I have in their affections, and promises a kindly reception. 3. With respect to myself. 1st, I am very little serviceable with reference to public management, being exceeding defective in ecclesiastical prudence; and very little useful in converse, being naturally silent; but the Lord has given me a pulpit-gift, not unacceptable; and who knows what He may do by me that way? 2ndly, Though sometimes I wrote as little of my sermons as many others, yet these nine years at least last by past, I have been led into a way of close study, and writing largely. I have ofttimes wished to have that yoke off my neck, but still Providence held it on me; and though I have several times been designed for public places, yet I have still been shut up where I had time for study. 3rdly, The Lord has often made me a wonder to myself, and to say from my heart, What am I? and whence is this? while He has helped me to preach, blessed my sermons, and given me from thence such an interest in the affections of the godly. And I will never forget, through grace, the surprising goodness of God to me, in clerking to the synod; which was so done to satisfaction, that, the Lord knows, it was such a surprise to me, that to this day (having now given it over) I do but believe it on the testimony of others. That work was taken off my hand at the last synod, while this was proposed to be put into it. 4thly, I have a weary task of my work in this parish, the Lord's message in my mouth meeting with such bad entertainment: what if the Lord should make up this another way? 4. With respect to the sermons themselves. 1st, The universal usefulness of the subjects, not treated of in that method by any that I know. 2ndly, As I had an uneasiness till I got through them, to my parish, in regard of the great weight of the subjects; so it would be no small comfort to me, to have them still speaking to them. 3rdly, Providence has ordered that I have been now twice on these subjects, then in a different method; once at Simprin, and once here. 4thly, These very sermons, I know, were useful to some when preached: I have had express acknowledgements of their efficacy, particularly that of the corruption of nature, the mystical union, and the eternal state. Lastly, The steps of Providence in that business: The providential carrying of these sermons to Dunse, at that time; at the synod Mr. Wilson's declaring to me, that he minded to have proposed it, and my being freed of the clerk's office; and Mr. B's letter meeting me when I came home. Further,
20th November.—Though these steps of Providence seemed to have something in them, yet I could never get the matter closely laid to heart; nor did it go beyond far-out thoughts of it till Saturday last; though I had a pressing letter to pursue the motion, from him who first made it. That day I had done studying my sermons for the Lord's day, and had been well helped of the Lord therein; and then that business came close home on my spirit, so as the matter was laid before the Lord with weight and deep concern. At night I got three very pressing letters, in pursuance of the proposal; and the Doctor's particularly did nail my heart; so that, considering the weight of the enterprise, his way of pressing it, my own unfitness for it, and my unholiness in a special manner, it made my heart to quake, and my legs to tremble. - 23rd November. — When most carnal, I have found myself most averse to that work; when most serious and spiritual, most pliable to it.
The sermons in which I have said I had been well helped, were on Phil. 3: 3., I had begun that chapter some time before; and when I viewed the importance of that verse in particular, I was minded not lightly to pass it over: for that cause I purchased a book of Manton's sermons, where he had some on that text. Thus provided, I set to work on the first clause; "Worshipping God in spirit;" but I was miserably straitened and confused in it. I therefore sent the book away, glad to be quit of it: and it came well to hand with me after that; as will appear by inspecting of the papers, and comparing inference 2,3 from the doctrine from that clause, and downwards, with what goes before. And that help continued through the whole of the sermons on that verse from that time forward, though sometimes less than at other times: so that I judge them to be the best body of sermons I ever studied before or since. 18th September 1714. — The help I had in them had an encouraging influence on me to that work, they being trysted with it, and begun 21st October 1711, and ended 23rd March 1712.
13th January 1712.—Having a month or five weeks ago spent some time in prayer for light in this matter, I considered those things before noted which seemed to me to look favourably towards the design: but the only step I was cleared to take at that time, was, to send the papers to Mr. Colden and Mr. Wilson, for their advice, and help of their prayers: and this day they were returned to me, with letters. In the meantime I received a letter, 15th December, from one concerned, wherein he seemed to me to remit somewhat of his zeal for that work; whereby the weight seemed to be wholly devolved on myself. This created thoughts of heart; but the upshot of it was to go on, if otherwise the Lord should clear the matter. And whereas I had been desired to cause call for the papers about ten days after they were sent away, they came not week after week; which seemed to me to presage their burial; so that my thoughts of that work were much laid aside. The issue of this was, that, with submission to Providence, I was resolved to lay it by; yet with sorrow of heart that I should not have the opportunity to be useful, which sometimes seemed promising. The letters that came with the papers advised me to proceed, and with earnestness sufficient: and the night before they came to my hand, I heard my eldest brother was a-dying; which served to tell me, what need there was to do with all my might whatsoever my hand found to do.
16th January.—I spent most of this day in prayer and meditation, for light in this matter: and after all I found, that I had rational grounds to oblige me to make an essay; but could not find such a lively sense of the call of God thereto as I desired. I observed, that the papers being kept up so long after I was made to wait for their return, was of a piece with the Lord's ordinary way with me, to bring matters first very low before they rise. One told me, she observed that these sermons had more influence on the people of their neighbourhood, than any before or since. I found myself this night convinced, that they might be useful to many, in regard of the room the Lord has given me in people's affections: and this went nearest to the raising in my heart such a lively sense of the command or call of God, as might help me to believe, that He would be with me in the work; which is the thing I want; for with respect thereto, I believe that the way of the Lord is strength to the upright. I have read Durham on that head over and over, for light as to the Lord's call, not without some advantage.
19th January.—Yesterday and this day fourteen days, being both these days utterly indisposed for study, there was as much left of what was studied for the Sabbaths preceding respective as served; unto which I could make no addition. So that although the Lord was pleased to continue His help all along from the time I parted with that book, as before said, yet thus was I made to see, that He had lock and key of my gifts still. This night I was convinced, that God will have me more holy, before I get through this business; and therefore I see, that it is my business to labour in the first place to get my own case bettered, by renewing my repentance.
22nd January. Last night this was fixed on my heart, as the only way how to get clearly through; and it answers to a confounding sense of my own unholiness, as well as weakness for writing, which I was struck with at the reading of the Doctor's letters: therefore this day I gave myself to prayer and meditation. I found last night that it was no easy thing to part with sin; and this morning the first impression on my spirit was that of my utter inability to put away sin. And I think I never had a more solid and serious sense of the absolute need of Christ for sanctification than this day. I saw it was as easy for a rock to raise itself, as for me to raise my heart from sin to holiness. I endeavoured to search myself, renew my repentance, and make confession; and solemnly laid over on the Lord Jesus Christ all my sins which I knew, and all that I knew not, that His obedience, death, and sufferings, may bear the weight of them for ever. And having further examined myself, I renewed my covenant with God, taking God in Christ for my God, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ for my Father, the Son for my Redeemer, and the Holy Ghost for my Sanctifier; even that one God in three persons, who is in Christ reconciling the world to Himself: taking Christ Himself for my Head and Husband; renouncing my own wisdom, and taking Him for my Prophet, to learn of Him, and receive from Him, the light of life; renouncing my own righteousness, and laying the whole stress of my soul on His merits and righteousness, and taking Him for my Intercessor and Advocate; renouncing all my idols, and taking Him for my King, and Head of influence for sanctification to my soul: resolving, in His strength, henceforth to hang on Him for sanctification, to watch and more narrowly to observe providences, and the way of His dealing with me. Personal holiness was the great thing in my view. After this I set myself to cry to the Lord, in respect of the public, the case of the congregation, and my family. Towards the close of the day, I began to take thought particularly of the matter in hand, and set myself to examine myself as to the singleness of my intentions. I considered, that if I were led by base ends, it behoved to be either worldly profit, or a name. As for profit, my conscience bare me witness, that I would be content to be a loser, so that they might be serviceable: and as to a name, though at the bar of the law I dare not plead Not guilty, yet at the bar of the gospel I can appeal to God, that it is not a name to myself, but the honour of God that sways with me: and that on these grounds: 1. I do not, nor can I, expect a name amongst the men of name. 2. The Lord knows I could be content to lose name and credit amongst them, so that the sermons were useful to some poor souls. 3. I am conscious to myself, that I durst not engage in such a business without an eye to the Lord for help; which I could not have for getting myself a name, either amongst the learned or unlearned. And upon the ground of my respect to God's honour, I find in myself a disposition to look to Himself for His help. Thus I seemed insensibly to slip into what I was in quest of, viz., A sense of the command of God, such as might be a foundation of confidence in the Lord for help in the matter. That sense of my aiming at God's honour, and thereupon the disposition to look to Him for help, was followed with that word, "Him that honoureth Me I will honour:" but I saw little to my purpose in that word. So it cost thoughts of heart, seeking some word of God that I might found upon in this point, viz., That having such rational grounds for the thing itself, and being conscious of the singleness of my heart therein, I might look for God's help in it. I turned to my ordinary, and there met with Ps. 44: 5, 6; which though it was of use to me, yet did not seem to answer the point. Afterward that word, 1 Sam. 2: 30, returned with a new light about it, appearing pat to my case. I saw that promise particularly directed to priests in the exercise of their office; and that the honour there meant is walking before the Lord in the discharge of their office: and my soul desired no more, but what is in the compass of that word. It melted my heart, and I said I would believe it. If I had had the word a-framing for my case, I would have desired no more in the matter secured to me, than walking before the Lord, as a child before his father. After this, minding to read over what I had marked from the beginning about this business, together with the letters relative thereto, I went to God by prayer, for help to make a clear judgement upon the whole. Thereafter I read, first my own remarks, and then the letters, so far as they related to that affair. Mr. Colden's letter was the last; and among the last words of that part of it, were these following, viz., "Let respect to duty, and the salvation of perishing souls, sway you." That word, "perishing souls," nailed my heart; and it burst out, and answered, "Then let me be a fool for perishing souls." And now for perishing souls I dare not but try that work, come of me what will. Sense of duty has now the heels of my inclination. Let the Lord do what seemeth Him good as to the use of them, whether they be published or not. Blessed be the Lord, that has thus heard my prayer, and cleared me to put pen to paper.
24th January.—This day I minded to have put pen to paper in that work; but last night a temptation was laid in to me, and increased this day, so that I could not pursue my resolution. I saw the necessity of praying, "Lead us not into temptation;" was convinced that I had let down my watch, and one evil still made way for another.
27th January.—This night the consideration of the temptation wherewith I have been baffled was most stinging, being so very quickly after my solemn covenanting with God. I was made to groan out my case, by reason of a body of sin and death. One thing has still been my temptation, and my heart said, "Any way let me be delivered (only in mercy), though by cold death." I had been preaching, that the gracious soul could be content with Christ alone. And it was some stay to my heart, that I knew the time when I had been content without such a thing; and when I seemed to have it, was not content with it, nor would be; it could not fill up His room.
29th January.—Last night I was concerned to get my soul's case bettered; for I saw Satan was busy with me now, having this work in hand. I found great difficulty in believing my welcome to the blood of Christ, after I had been so baffled by temptation, and that so quickly after covenanting with God, and making use of that blood. Verily the way of the covenant of grace is not the way of nature. But by the tenor of the covenant, Heb. 8: 10, 12, my faith of this was raised. And this morning I found my soul sweetly composed, believing that the covenant of Tuesday last yet stands; and was inclined to put pen to paper without delay, the rather that it might be a mean of personal holiness to myself.
3rd February.—Accordingly that day, Tuesday the 29th of January, after prayer, and getting my heart composed to a dependence on the Lord, I began to write these sermons, and did something therein; but the temptation recurred, and was laid to me violently, till Thursday's night very late. On the Wednesday I was quite laid aside with it, deeply melancholy, and unfit for everything. In which case, in the afternoon, I went up the brook to a solitary place, prayed, and sung Ps. 107: 8, and downwards; and came home pretty well recovered, violently and resolutely plucking up my spirit; and though the temptation lasted, it no more got me down to that degree. On the Thursday I proceeded in writing; and in the very time I got a new assault, but resisted it, and went on. At night, going on in the work, there was a new assault; which so discomposed me, that I was obliged to lay it aside, and betake myself to a study requiring less thought. Thus Satan has made a strange bustle against this work; and tho' my misbehaviour under it is matter of mourning, yet considering the issue of it, in its effect on my heart, I cannot think on the dispensation, but my soul blesses God therein. The effect was very necessary to fit me for the work in hand; and indeed, so far as I remember, I never felt it so easy to keep up.
This morning my heart began to swell with vanity; but God corrected it, by His leaving me in confusion there where I thought I was best buckled. O the deceit of my heart! O the goodness of God that has so quickly checked my folly! Praises to Him for it.
This day eight days before day, I was sent for to see a certain young man thought to be a-dying. He confidently gave out that he was just a-dying; that when he was in Edinburgh last, he thought he would never see it more, and so had been preparing for death. He was confident of his eternal welfare; and spoke so much, that I could scarcely get a sentence spoken to an end; and he disturbed me mightily in prayer with his speaking. I thought it looked not very like the work of the Spirit, and therefore set myself to try his evidences; and therefore set myself to try his evidences; and though he was not ready to produce them, yet when he did, I could not but acknowledge what he said to be good evidence; for indeed he is a knowing and religious young man. In all that flood of words, there was not one word to the commendation of the ordinances, though it would have been most seasonable from a dying man, especially in regard of the deserters that were there. When I spoke something of the Lord's feeding His people in ordinances, he spoke nothing to the commendation of the word (though he was wont diligently to attend); but said only, it was only the Spirit that could make it do good either to the preachers or hearers. And I durst not put the question to him, concerning his own entertainment in the ordinances, because of the deserters that were about. This was very heavy to me. I judge there was something of vapours in the case. From that time he recovered, being quickly better after I saw him. Another case I had of the same nature in a young woman, a little after I came to this parish, who was very confident of her state, and that with a sort of rejoicing; though, upon further acquaintance after, I could not discern anything that might be a foundation for such great things. I desire not to be peremptory in the particular cases; but I see the need ministers have not to be too credulous, but to try.
5th February.—This day I plainly saw the temptation aforesaid confirming my call to this work, when I considered how quickly Satan flew in the face of it, and how by the same means God had been fitting me for it, clearing, as it were, the ground to lay the foundation.
6th February.—This day I found I had unfitted myself for my work; and it pleased the Lord to withdraw from me in it until I was humbled, and then His help returned. And my soul blesseth Him that thus corrects me while about that work.
9th March.—I find my work very difficult, being hitherto little else but a new study; only the Lord liberally recompenseth my toils, so that I am well satisfied with the product of the blessing of God on my pains. I am appointed to go to the general assembly, and that against my will, in regard of the work that is on my hand; but am satisfied in the providence of God, which has a secret design, which, I hope, I will see.
12th March.—On the 10th instant I was very much discouraged as to that work, finding the authentic copy so bare and empty, that I could not but attribute it to a special providence, that the ministers who read them could ever have advised to revise them. I spent this morning in prayer, especially for direction and assistance in that work, and was helped to lay it over on the Lord.
Yesterday being in distress about the weaning of the child, I went to God with that matter; and coming downstairs presently after, I found the difficulty by the good providence of God removed, by the recovery of the nurse's husband, whose sickness had formed that difficulty.
23rd, April.—Last week our synod met. I have been busy about these sermons since I began that work, and before the synod had eleven sheets prepared. My health has to my wonder been preserved; save that in March, by bleeding and purging (which continued near ten days after I took the physic), I was much weakened, which obliged me for some little time to lay it aside. Having been moderator of the October synod, and being to preach before them in April, I was minded, from the sweetness I had found in the study of the holy Scripture in the Hebrew original, to have taken for my text, Ezra 7: 10, "For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgements;" and this in order to stir up my brethren to a due value for the study of the holy Scriptures, especially in the originals, and to holiness and tenderness of life, etc. But the lamentable alteration in the state of public affairs and state of the church, brought in about this time by the Act imposing the oath of abjuration on ministers, by which I saw the ruin of this church contrived, obliged me to lay aside that design, and suit my synod-sermon to what I judged such a critical juncture required. And so I was determined to Matt. 28: ult., "Lo, I am with you to the end of the world." The sermon is in retentis. I spent some time in secret for preparation ere I entered upon it. It came to my hand pretty well. On the Saturday before I went to the synod, being to preach at Galashiels, then vacant, my family was in great distress; my wife miscarried, Thomas was very sick, John was to go to Selkirk with me, none of the other two were well; so that I was in a great strait to leave them that day: but the Lord helped, and melted my soul in confidence in Himself ere I went off. But being indisposed in body and spirit too on the morrow, I had scarcely ever a more heavy Sabbath. On Monday night, after I came to Kelso, I had about two hours of easiness; but when I went to bed, I was so oppressed with melancholy, and fears of preaching before the synod, that I slept none at all the whole night: but still as I closed my eyes, my heart was as it were struck through with a dart, so that it was a most miserable uneasy night. I arose about half six in the morning, and was busy till eight. Then I thought to lie down for an hour's sleep; but instead of sleeping, I grew worse; soul, body, and spirit, all disordered; so that I thought I could preach none that day. In my distress I would needs have a certain minister sent for, that he might preach in my stead; but he absolutely refused. Wherefore I behoved to adventure: and though in delivering of the sermon I had some fear, yet, through the goodness of God, it had no bad effects on me in it; for I was solidly serious in the whole. I am ashamed of the whole of this; my natural bashfulness and diffidence has often done me much harm. Melancholy is an enemy to gifts and grace, a great friend to unbelief, as I have often found in my experience: but nothing in it touches me more than my folly and imprudence in sending for that minister; for it was too much to the dishonour of God, who has often been good to me, that some bosom-friends saw me in that case; but the other could not but be a disadvantage to the cause of God, in the weighty point of the oath, in which that person and I quickly appeared of different judgements. This day I set myself to pray and think about the oath; and it remains to be to me a heavy trial. The state of public affairs makes me afraid, that the business of the sermons be marred; which puts me now to beg of God, that He would carry on that work over the belly of the difficulties. This day also one who came to my house last summer in deep distress and melancholy, having by the blessing of God recovered, went away, but somewhat dissatisfied. Since her recovery, she has been somewhat uneasy to us, and seemed very unconcerned in the distress of our family. Another certain person did not carry right. I had a very sorry account of a third. All the three were much esteemed by me for their piety. These things together made me think that I had seen an end of all perfection. And though I think they were all gracious persons, and dare not think, far less speak, harshly as to the state of any of them, considering my corrupt self; yet I think I will never admire women's religion so very much as I have done. I do judge their passions are apt to make their religion look greater than indeed it is, being naturally easy to be impressed.
27th May.—When I came home from the synod, my son Thomas was still sick; on the last of April he died; was buried 1st May; and on the morrow I went to Edinburgh to the general assembly. Never was the death of a child so useless to me, being put out of order by a temptation. The prospect of evil times alleviated the case of his death; but the disorder of my own spirit woefully marred the kindly good effect it might have had. Satan watches to prevent the good of afflictions: much need is there to watch against him.
In the assembly, the lawfulness of the oath of abjuration was debated pro and con, in a committee of the whole house, betwixt the scruplers and the clear brethren. All I had thereby was, that the principles on which the answers to the objections were founded, seemed to me of such latitude, that by them almost any oath might pass. The parties were (at that time, as I think) at the very point of splitting; till Sir. William Carstairs, principal of the college of Edinburgh, and clear for the oath, interposed and prevented the rupture: for the which cause I did always thereafter honour him in my heart. For all that I heard advanced to clear the difficulties about it, I still continued a scrupler; and therefore, a little before I came away home, the Act imposing the oath being printed, and offered to me at the door of the assembly-house, I bought it, on purpose to know exactly the penalty I was like to underlie.
Being come home, I did this day spend some time in prayer for light from the Lord about that oath. And thereafter entering on to read the prints I had on it, in order to form a judgement about it, I immediately fell on the act, whereby it was first of all framed and imposed; and finding thereby the declared intent of the oath to be, to preserve the act inviolable on which the security of the Church of England depends, I was surprised and astonished; and, upon that shocking discovery, my heart was turned to loathe that oath which I had before scrupled.
From thence, what spare time I had from visiting of the parish, I spent in considering the oath, until 17th June that our synod met pro re nata; I having, by advice of brethren, members of the assembly for our synod, called them together. And by the foresaid time of their meeting, I had written my thoughts on the oath, being reasons against it, on about two sheets of paper; the which are in retentis.
There the oath was disputed throughout; the unclear impugning, and the clear brethren defending it. But as the declared intent of the oath above mentioned, did not at all cast up in the reasonings of the general assembly, which could not have missed, if it had been then known to the scruplers; so, as far as I could understand, it was known to no brother of the synod, clear or unclear, before I took the act aforesaid along with me to that their meeting. They seemed to be struck with it, when it was cast up in the synod; but Mr. James Ramsay aforesaid, made an answer to it, distinguishing between the Church of England as a Protestant church, and as a church having such a government and worship; and admitting the intent of the oath in the first sense, but not in the second. This was truly stumbling to me, but served to confirm me against the oath. The conduct of Providence determining me to procure the act as above said, was wondrous in my eyes. The Lord was pleased to hear my prayers, in helping me, with some measure of freedom, to debate that business at the synod, together with others. I was silenced, though not satisfied, by an answer to the first argument (namely, the swearing of principles), taken from the national covenant; for on that occasion it was much improved by those that used not before to meddle much with it. It seemed plain to me, that the clear brethren were at a loss in the rest, and truly foundered in that of the declared intent of the oath, which a certain person proposed, having before desired the act from me; from whence he understood I had it. Though they seemed to be struck with it, yet they gave answers to it; which much confirmed me, when I plainly saw that some were resolute to answer, when (it seemed to me) they hardly knew what to answer. I had from that time a particular regard for Mr. John Gowdie, minister at Earlston, a grave and learned man, upon the account of his candour and ingenuity, though joined with principles very contrary to mine: he owned, that the ministers, in the year 1648, would not have taken that oath, according to their principles. (And in this regard to that brother, I had been, since that time, all along confirmed; and even in the assembly 1729, in Professor Simson's affair; the man dealing plainly and candidly, according to his light; though in such matters, of a more public nature, he and I were still on opposite sides of the question. He is this year, 1730, transported to Edinburgh.) I was much comforted and encouraged in the kind conduct of Providence about me at that meeting. I desired still to hang about the Lord's hand for further light in that matter: and I durst not say to any, what I would do in the matter.
In the visiting of the parish, I was extremely discouraged. The ministry of this church is like to die unlamented. I have no sympathy from any of my people, or next to none. All were clear against the oath, and they were in no care that way, but that I kept honest, and others. That was all their doubt in the matter. Nay, I found some scrupling to take the sacrament; saying, How could they, when against Lammas the ministers would, may be, take the oath? (N.B.—In the house of one of these scruplers, there was stolen flesh found some time thereafter; and her husband being disgraced, they left the parish.)
I found myself in great danger by melancholy, and was more broken that way than ever; and unless God would help, there was no help from any other quarter. On Saturday we spent some time in prayer, with an eye to the then state of public affairs, and the sacrament. I had a weary morning of it, till the Lord refreshed me in some measure towards the latter end of my secret prayers.
20th June.—This day the sacrament was celebrated here. On the Friday before, being my day for study, I had as great a pressure by my cross as ever before. I was thereby confounded, and unfitted for anything. However, I got through my studies, such as they were, on Isa. 44: 5. On the Lord's day I obliged one to preach before me (which is not my ordinary), that the people might get something; I being confounded and broken. Upon the whole of that work, as to myself, I thought the Lord had cast a cloud over me; and I was well satisfied, judging that God had honoured me very much before; and if He should now bury me, ere I were dead, and continue that vail over me, I was content, hoping I might creep into heaven at some back door. And the reflection on this ease of my heart, while I lay among the dust of the Lord's feet, was my feast, for that time.
Some time before the sacrament, being under conviction of guilt, I found my soul bound up, and my heart hardened; till I looked to the blood of Jesus Christ, and turned to see God in Christ; and thereupon my heart was loosed and melted.
21st October.—Our synod met. Being resolved not to take the oath, I took advice at Edinburgh, when I was at the commission (to which when I was going, I was in hazard of being drowned in a hole by the highwayside, for great rains had fallen; I was pulled out by one that was with me), how to dispose of my effects, if by any means I might keep them from becoming a prey to the government; rigid execution of the law being expected by both parties, clear and unclear. But the executing of the project was delayed till the synod. At this meeting, the brethren clear for the oath, had concerted measures for bringing such as should refuse it under an engagement not to speak against the takers of it. I was resolved to be very tender that way, and so have been all along to this day; looking on the exposing of them as a hindrance to the success of the gospel: for which cause I have suffered at the hands of the people. But withal I was absolutely against binding up myself in the matter, by consenting to any act for that end; and therefore declared against it accordingly. And, on purpose to break it, I proposed, that since the clear brethren demanded that engagement of us unclear, on the one hand, they should, on the other hand, engage, that they would not join with the magistrate against us. And this broke the contrivance to all intents and purposes: for they could neither think meet to come under such an engagement to us, nor could they have confidence to insist in their project upon their shifting it. Thus the Lord honoured me to mar this insnaring contrivance; which gave me ground to hope, that, notwithstanding my personal guilt and unholiness, the Lord would help me to be faithful, and some way useful in the time of trial. As I came home, I was made sweetly to observe, what pains the Lord had been pleased then to take to reconcile me to the cross, and to sweeten it to me, in a pleasant mixture of disappointments, straits, and outgates, in the management of my affairs: for when I came to Kelso, I found the measures before laid down for that effect, all broken; which much perplexed me: but on that occasion I was set on other measures thought to be more sure. I saw myself there a friendless creature; which made me solemnly take God for my friend, and lay my business over upon Him; and it succeeded. I had business with several persons, as I came homeward; and they were all made favourable to me; yet still in a vicissitude of disappointments or temptations; so that it was all the way, as it were, one step down and another up. Having been disappointed of meeting with a person I had business with, and that twice successively, I was thinking (as I rode on my way), that although such disappointments were but small things, yet being ruled by Providence, they certainly had a design; namely, to try men's patience, and waiting on the Lord; which my soul desired to do. In the very time these thoughts were going through my heart, the boy that was with me asked a woman, where such a one dwelt, a friend of that person's whom I wanted. She told him; but withal added, that if we were seeking such a man, he was in that house, to which she belonged. So we met. This small thing thus timed, was big in my eyes. I came home with a heart reconciled, in some measure, to the cross of Christ.
By all parties nothing was expected, but a rigid execution of a very severe law, laying non-compliers with it, besides other incapacities, under an exorbitant fine of £500 sterling; which was more than all the stipend that had ever since I was a minister come into my hand, by that time did amount to. However, I found myself obliged to go on in preaching the gospel at my peril, to fulfil the ministry I had received of the Lord. Herein I was confirmed and encouraged, by a declared resolution to that purpose, of a meeting of several brethren at Edinburgh, in the time, I think, of the commission in August. These straitening circumstances obliged me to denude myself of all my worldly goods; that they might not fall into the hands of the government, when I should fall under the lash of the law. For this cause I disponed my tenement in Dunse in favour of my eldest son, and expeded that matter; so that it being sold several years after, he was obliged, being major, to sign the papers. I also made an assignation of my other goods and gear to John Currie, who came with me my servant to this country, and was then, I think, my precentor. (This paper I destroyed, only the last winter, 1729.) In these things the due forms of law were observed, not without trouble and expense.
Meanwhile, during all this reeling and confusion, I had no encouragement or sympathy, or next to none, as formerly observed, from the parish; which was a great load above my burden. They seemed only to wait to see what proof of honesty would be given, or contrariwise. And their woful jealousy, and their looking so lightly on the matter, was a mighty discouragement to me. However, had they been as much for, as they were against, the oath, I durst never have, whatever had been the hazard, taken it, according to any light in which it did ever appear to me unto this day. But the truth is, the extreme hardship I was under from them, did much alleviate the prospect of the government's forcing me away from them, even to confinement and banishment, and this for several years after, wherein there was some appearance of these things. But now, for several years, expectation of relief that way has been blocked up; and the Lord has seen meet to take trial of me in another, more private way.
On 26th October I preached my last sermon, which, as matters then stood in law, I could preach under the protection of the government. My text fell, in my ordinary, to be Phil. 3: 8, "My Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things." And in my notes on that text, are to be found a few things, which, in the close of that day's work, I said on that trying occasion.
Tuesday the 28th, being the last day, according to the law, for taking of the oath, I spent some part of it in secret with the Lord, endeavouring to renew my repentance, and my covenant with the Lord. I had now, since the synod or assembly, lost all heart and hand as to proceeding in the sermons designed for the press; and having finished the subjects of the states of innocence and nature, had laid the project aside. But this day the inclination to go on with that work returned with that, that now I saw I behoved to be a fool for Christ in the matter of the oath, and so I might be in the matter of these sermons too. And withal, whereas I had foreseen a peculiar difficulty as to the managing of the sermons on the state of grace, it was given me to see how to get over that difficulty, and that by casting my thoughts into a shorter and more natural method than before; which never came into my head before that day.
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