Memoirs of the Life, Time, and Writings
of the Reverend and Learned
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Period XI - From The Transportation To Closeburn Refused, To The Notable Breach In My Health, And Alteration In My Constitution
After this affair was over, my wife went from Edinburgh to her own country, to breathe her native air a while for her health, as had been advised in her case. That the air of Etterick did not agree with her, was declared to us: and that was an argument used by the pursuers for the transportation. It was also declared to me, by my dear friend Dr. Trotter, that it would overcome me too at length. But what could we do for relief in the case, in the circumstances above narrated?
But as the effects of the rebellion cured our people of their unnatural fondness for public confusions, so that that disposition never appeared among than since, as before; so the attempt to transport me to Closeburn, did bring them to themselves with respect to me; and made my life among them tolerable. Howbeit, since that time I have not wanted enough to keep me from forgetting where I am.
On 18th September there was, by appointment of our session, a congregational thanksgiving observed, upon the account of the favourable issue of the process aforesaid; which was ground of thankfulness to me, as well as to the parish. But to balance the victory I had obtained, I came home from that struggle with a sore rheumatic pain in my arm, which kept me a considerable time after. On the thanksgiving-day Mr. Henry Davidson, minister of Galashiels, Mr. Gabriel Wilson, and I myself, preached.
Mr. Davidson aforesaid was, by that time, become a third with Mr. Wilson and me, in our bond of strict friendship: a man of great gravity, piety, and tenderness; learned and judicious; well acquainted with books; a great preacher, delivering in a taking manner, masterly thoughts, in an unaffected elevated style; endowed with a gift of prayer, in heavenly oratory, beyond any man that ever I knew; extremely modest, and reserved in his temper; but a kind and affectionate friend. This friendship, most comfortable, and useful as a threefold cord, does by the mercy of God continue inviolated to this day. We have always been so happy as to speak the same thing in public differences.
I had sent in unto Mr. John Flint, one of the ministers of Edinburgh, who had revised the Fourfold State, and was noted for his skill in the Hebrew tongue, two sheets of the performance on Ezekiel, above mentioned. And, being in Edinburgh about the middle of November, he was pleased to tell me, that he judged no great thing could be done by the accents; and advised me to make no bustle about them, as he termed it. On the account of this discouraging event, and other things, I did, on the 23rd of this month, spend some time in prayer. And thinking on that study, the conviction I had, made upon me by the light into some passages of the holy text by means of the accentuation, remained to be such, as that I could not see how I could give over the study thereof. And having begged of God a token for good, I was that same night surprised with a light into Jacob's vow, Gen. 28: 20, 21, 22, "If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on; so that I come again to my father's house in peace: then shall the Lord be my God. And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that Thou shalt give me, I will surely give the tenth unto Thee," new to me, and that arising from the accentuation.
By reason of the many avocations I had now for a good time had, there was little done by me in that study, being of such a nature, as it could not be managed by parts. But a week or two after the October synod, I made some collections on the subject. And the winter being come on, which in these days was the time I spent to my greatest satisfaction, I began, 27th November, to proceed in my book of materials mentioned above, p. 308.
Plying it eagerly thereafter, I was, on 22nd December being the Lord's day, at night, laid under a deep conviction of the woful disposition of my heart, pursuing like fire the study of the accents, so that I could hardly ever get my heart from off them. I went to God, and bewailed my case, cried to get my heart under command with respect to that matter: and I got, from my prayer-bearing God, my heart filled with love to Jesus Christ, and set for Him as the one thing needful. I had by that time, through the good hand of God upon me, made a comfortable progress in that study: but towards the latter end of that week, beginning to make the observations on the majors, I stuck, day after day. At length I resolved, for that cause, to set some time apart for prayer, which necessarily fell to be 1st January 1718. But the said resolution being laid down, I was helped to make some progress ere the appointed day came.
1st January.—I accordingly spent some time in prayer, 1. On the account of my study aforesaid; 2. For the distress of the parish by the storm lying on the ground, etc.: and the Lord was with me. That day, reading 1 Sam. 2 in the original, new light broke out unto me, particularly as to two things, 1st, The abusing of the text by interrogations, where it really bears none, particularly 2 Kings 5: 96, Job 2: 10. and, Some inkling of quite new light into the repetition of the same majors; with some other things: and my soul was filled with joy in the Lord, and I was made to cry out again and again, "What am I!" As to the storm, the Lord seems to refuse to be entreated therein by congregational fasting with prayer: for it was in my mind to have had it done last week; but on the Lord's day, when it might have been appointed, there was a fair thaw; and when the occasion of appointing it for that week was over, the thaw misgave. I designed it again on Tuesday the 7th, and offered to have kept it on the 6th: but I was told the people could not be present, being to flee with their sheep that day and the next.
In February, having been for some time diverted from my beloved study, and, whereas I was then to enter on the minors, being in much confusion, not knowing where to begin my work, I did on the 13th spend some time in prayer, for light, both as to matter and method; which last I was obliged very particularly to seek of the Father of lights. And having essayed it the same day, I found myself in a hopeful way as to both; and that the confidence I had, through grace, had in the Lord, was not in vain.
At that time I was lecturing on Genesis; and being allured by what I met with in the original, studying my lectures, I began that week to translate as I went on. Afterwards I wrote notes too on the translation. This performance, begun at Gen. 37 is carried on to Ex. 35 and to be found among my papers. But this way of doing retarded me in my main study: wherefore finding I had not time for it and other things too, I broke off; and, to the best of my remembrance, left off lecturing on the Old Testament.
25th March.—The interjections and interrogations being then before me, I spent some time in prayer for the divine assistance in my studies, and some distress relating to some in my family: and the Lord was found of me, and quickly gave me help and relief, in all the cases that then lay upon me.
A part of my stipend coming in about that time, I did on the 30th lay by fifty marks thereof for pious uses: and all along since that time, I have kept a private box, making up into it yearly the said sum of fifty marks; laying it in mostly by parcels, and giving out of it, as occasion requires: and I always keep of it in my left-side pocket. The dealing to poor at the house for their food, continues as formerly, without respect to this: only what wool is given them in the summer, since I have none of my own, is bought out of this fund; out of which also our Sabbath's contributions are taken. This course I have found to be profitable to the poor, and affording much ease to myself: for I have thereby been in case, to give considerably on special occasions; and that with more ease to myself, than otherwise I could have had; always looking on that part of my yearly income as not my own, but the Lord's.
After shutting up the doctrine of repentance, in my ordinary, I did, on 27th October 1717, return to the catechism; beginning at the doctrine of the application of the redemption purchased by Christ. And handling these subjects practically, as well as catechetically, at considerable length, I proceeded therein until the sacrament this year, 8th June, at which time I closed my sermons on adoption; only, being just entered on justification, I was by some incident or incidents led off to Num. 32: 23, "Be sure your sin will find you out; " upon which I dwelt a considerable time. A third adultery was about that time, after much pains and toil, discovered; the adulterer being the same man who first filled my hands in that kind, viz. the unhappy J. N. now in the parish of Moffat, as he also was in the time of this last of his adulteries in this parish. Moreover a bastard of — above alluded to, being at nurse in R. fiery peats were found lodged in the thatch of the nurse's house, two nights, but still discovered before any hurt was done. There was a great stir about this, and search made: but it remains to this day a hidden work of darkness. I and others vehemently suspected it to be purely a trick to screen the nurse and her husband from the displeasure of the father; she having become scarce of milk, and the child begun to go back. Meanwhile, it was weighty to me, that the truth of the matter could not be got discovered. In this case, on the fast-day before the sacrament, I read to the congregation the passage relating to the expiation of uncertain murder, Deut. 21: 1-9; and praying, made confession in that matter accordingly. And in fencing the table on the Lord's day, I did particularly declare to be debarred, the author or authors, and accomplices, in that vile action: but when the table came to be filled, the suspected person immediately sat down at it. My case through the whole communion-day did very much answer my case in the family-fast before it. I had now and then some remarkable tenderness, but that for the most part wanting. But a solid concern for the good of souls, with a deliberate choice of God in Christ for my God, being left me, I was not discouraged. In self-examination I had some comfortable views of the grace of God in me, particularly of faith and love. At the table, the Lord let me in into a glorious view of the fulness of the Godhead dwelling bodily in our blessed Redeemer, and so into a view of the fulness of the body broken for me, and exhibited to me in the sacrament; so that my soul feeding on Christ, fed on the glorious attributes and perfections of God.
On the Tuesday after, my helpers Mess. Simson, Wilson, and Davidson, revived the project of publishing the sermons on man's fourfold state, and offered to advance money for that effect. That matter had been laid aside through the removal of my dear friend Dr. Trotter, the first mover, by death; and Providence seemed about this time to be laying the gravestone upon it, by carrying off also Thomas Linton in Chapelhop above mentioned, who, having some time appeared like to fill up Dr. Trotter's room in the matter, was now a-dying. This motion was surprising. I thought, that, should the Lord prosper the work of the accentuation now in hand, that book might prosper after the acceptance thereof. But Mr. Wilson representing this as carving out by one's own wisdom, when we were near to part, impressed me more than anything that had been said. For the way of carnal wisdom, for many years, has been always frightful to me: and that disposition of spirit, which I was conscious to in myself, afforded me a comfortable reflection with respect to my state.
On Monday the 7th of July I had taken a vomit; on the morrow after, physic, and likewise on the Thursday again: and that Thursday's night I was sent for to see Thomas Linton, supposed to be a-dying; which at first view was stemming and confounding, in respect of my bodily hazard. I had thankfully observed, and offered my praises, for that, during the time I was under that course, I had got liberty to keep the house: but this trial came ere all was done. On the Monday afternoon one came to me, desiring me to go and baptise his child, supposed to be a-dying: I, never having administered baptism in a private house without previous intimation to the congregation, refused; and the parent seemed to be much affected with the refusal. This set me to beg the life of that child. Going to God to seek direction upon the express from Chapelhop, I found I durst not sit the call. So I went away that same night, owning my all to be at the Master's disposal, in prosecuting the ministry I had received from Him; and withal, with a certain satisfaction in the Lord's laying trials to my hand. I returned on the morrow, without the least discernible harm to myself; and the parent came again, shewing the child to be better, and to be baptized orderly next Lord's day in the church. And here I must remark, that, through the whole course of my ministry, then eighteen years, never a child died without baptism through my sticking to that principle. Glory to a good God for it.
On Monday, 14th July, the saddest trial of all came. I was awakened that morning, to hear the doleful account of a woman's having murdered herself in Etterick-house; and while I was making ready to go thither, word came that I behoved to go quickly over to Chapelhop, to see Thomas Linton a-dying; and on the Sabbath I had been desired to come down on the Monday to see the goodwife of Andleshop, who also seemed to be going off. So I went off extremely confounded with the dispensation; beheld the woman lying dead by her own hands, so far as is known; then I went to Chapelhop, and came about by Andleshop.
On the Tuesday after, I attempted to spend some time in prayer: but through confusion and heaviness, that work was marred. On Tuesday the 22nd, I spent some time in that exercise, embraced the covenant anew, and addressed the throne of grace, with an eye to the sacrament at Maxton, what to preach on to my own people, the case of another poor woman under trouble of the same nature, and for the Lord's determination as to the point of publishing the book on man's fourfold state, or not. The Lord was with me in some measure. I have had much ado to stand under the thoughts of publishing that book; being tossed betwixt two, namely, the venturing such a mean piece into the world, while many whose books I am not worthy to carry, are silent; and the fear of sitting the call of Providence to it. Thus it has lain so heavy on me, that I have been as tossed on a sea; and sometimes it has almost quite sunk my spirits. And as yet I know not what to do; but desire to wait on the Lord, if He will give me a token of His mind; being conscious to myself of desiring to sacrifice my credit to His call fairly laid before me.
Being at the communion in Maxton, 3rd August, two particular providences were remarkable. 1. Mr. Wilson told me, that in his visiting of the parish before that communion, he had ordinarily that word, "Lay your hand to your heart, and halt no more:" and the Lord led me to that text for that occasion, "How long halt ye between two opinions?", which was countenanced with some influence, especially on the Saturday. 2. Having been quite at a loss what to do as to compliance with the motion for publishing the book aforesaid, and being just waiting for Providence moving, Mr. Wilson's sister told him in my herring, that Mr. Robert Wightman, treasurer of the city of Edinburgh, who unknown to me had been addressed for encouraging it, by Mrs. Schiell, his sister, through Mr. Wilson's means as I think had said, he would do nothing in it till such time as he should see the MS. So I, being just waiting for the moving of Providence in the matter, was natively brought to resolve on sending the copy to him.
By the melancholy event of 14th July I was led to preach on Ps. 147: 11, "The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy." The which, being begun 27th July was ended 31st August. After which I entered on the Saviour's commission, Isa. 61: 1, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; because the Lord hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent Me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;" and insisted thereon till 22nd February in the year following.
Being again engaged, this winter, in the study of the accentuation, and occupied in writing in my book of materials, I stuck. Upon which event, and for other causes, I resolved to spend some time in prayer. A thanksgiving for the good harvest proposed at the synod, did not take. It was proposed to me to observe it however here. But my heart had a secret aversion to it, and I delayed it, to see whether the commission would appoint one or not. These two last Sabbaths I waited for word about it; but none came, nor could I hear what they had done. I saw God was angry with me, and hereby testified His displeasure against my former subtle aversion to it: I therefore on the 3rd of December spent some time in prayer on these accounts. And the Lord was with me. Examining myself for evidences of grace, I found, 1. I was carried out of all confidence in myself to Jesus Christ, on whom my soul relied with confidence, finding I have no other plea before the Lord. I was sensibly brought to this by confession; setting God's mercies to me, and my sins, from my birth, through the several periods of my life, childhood, youth, etc., the one over-against the other, in confession, before the Lord. 2. My conscience bearing me witness, of hating and despising all things in comparison of Christ; being desirous to cleave to Him, and the way of duty, over the belly of all smiles and frowns that would carry me away. 3. A desire of universal and perfect holiness, being conscious my hopes are as earnest for sanctification, as for justification, from Jesus Christ my Lord. What I had most at heart in this exercise, was my study of the accents, the thanksgiving, the case of my absent children, the afflicted in the parish, etc. My daughter Jane about two months ago having gone to Dunse, I had a special concern on my spirit for her. And by her letter I was refreshed, both in that it was well with her soul, and my prayers for her have been heard. I saw myself much indebted to the divine goodness, in that all my children now appear to have a capacity for learning. I had a special concern on my spirit this day, for being helped to die to the glory of God, that, when it comes, I may be full of days, ripe, and content cheerfully to go away. Between the laying down of the resolution for this exercise, and the performance, I saw what way to get over the particular difficulty whereat I stuck in my study of the accents. This is the second time I have found that promise fulfilled in this matter, "Before they call, I will answer," Isa. 65: 24.
21st December.—My wife brought me in mind of a story of one of my daughters which I had forgot, that happened in the beginning of 1712, or some time before that. A poor boy came into the house begging, having such a defect in his speech, that he pronounced the words father and mother, fea and moa: at which my wife and others smiling, desired him to speak over again what he had said. In the meantime the child stood looking on, with the tear in her eye, in great distress; and at length came to her mother, and said, Mother, did God make that laddie? She answered, Yes, my dear. Then she replied, Will He not then be angry at you for laughing at him? for my book says, "He that mocketh the poor, reproacheth his Maker." And the boy being very naked, she was in mighty concern to get old clothes for him.
22nd December.—Having had a particular concern this morning on my heart for grace to the young ones, I spoke affectionately to my little child Thomas, about the state of his soul, and prayed with him. Being risen from prayer, and his mother come in, he burst out a-weeping. Taking him aside, and asking what was the matter, he said, he knew not how to get an interest in Christ. I said he was to seek it, and believe the gospel. He said he knew not how to seek it. He went into the western room thereafter, I being abroad, and being asked, said, he went in to seek an interest in Christ, and to tell Christ he would be His. I note this for an encouragement to hold on to teach and stir them up. I am sorry I have not kept an account of the early movings that were in the rest.
1st January 1719.—I had resolved to keep my time for prayer, the week following, and not to separate myself any manner of way this day. But Providence laid a necessity on me to do it this day. Treasurer Wightman, having glanced the MS. on the Fourfold State, wrote to me, that he found a vein of true Christianity in it, and therefore would contribute to the publication of it; and this requiring an answer, gave me an unlooked-for errand to the throne of grace at this time. He intimated withal, that the style would be nauseous to the polite world, and that no book had yet been written on the depraved state of man, with true spirit and elegancy of expression. This did not much move me; for I do not think that way of writing he is so fond of, is the way the Lord has used much to countenance for the advancing of true Christianity. Meanwhile it left me much undetermined what to do with the MS. Three things especially I had in view in this exercise: 1. My management as to that MS.; 2. The study of the accents; 3. Divine assistance in revising the larger overtures for discipline in this church, laid on me by the synod, and on some other brethren. In the beginning of this secret exercise, the Lord was pleased to countenance me: but after that I drove very heavily, till towards the end, wherein He was pleased to help to freedom and confidence in Himself.
The aforesaid overtures having been long in print, the General Assembly had committed them to synods and presbyteries, to be considered by them, in order that being ripely advised, they might be turned into standing rules. The synod had appointed some few of their number to consider them accordingly; of whom I was one. And, having been almost ever since my entering into the ministry, dissatisfied with several things in our constitution, especially the manner of admitting to the Lord's table, and planting of churches, I embraced that opportunity to endeavour to get such things rectified: and accordingly I did, some time after, apply myself closely to consider of these overtures; and wrote several remarks on them, together with new overtures for admission to the Lord's table, and debarring from it; the which are to be found among my papers. Howbeit, the synod did not call for them. Nevertheless, by order of our presbytery, they were laid before the commission, or their committee appointed to receive such remarks. But the matter was dropped; and, for anything I know, no more insisted on since that time. And I apprehend the malady will be incurable, till the present constitution be violently thrown down.
On the 15th of March I returned to the catechism, entering on the question of sanctification. And from that time I went through the whole that remained of it, till I came to the end thereof, in the spring in the following year. Meanwhile, with these catechetic sermons were joined others directed against formality, from Rom. 2: 28, 29, and profaneness, from 2 Tim. 2: 19, and Rom. 1: 18, ended 8th November in this year.
This was another year remarkable on the account of the abjuration-oath, as the 1712. Towards the latter end of the preceding year, the nonjurors at Edinburgh thought meet, that one should be sent to court, to represent the loyalty and good affection of that party to his Majesty, notwithstanding that they could not take the oath of abjuration imposed by law. And a form of an oath which they could take, was condescended on, with an address for that effect. The said address was handed about to be signed by nonjurors; and withal, money desired of them to bear the charges of this mission. I refused to sign the address, having no clearness for it; and so did also my two friends Mr. Wilson and Mr. Davidson. However, being clear and willing, that our loyalty and good affection to King George should be represented, I gave my money, a guinea as I remember, towards the bearing of the charges for that erect. Mr. William Gusthart, then minister of Crailing, afterwards transported to Edinburgh, was the man whom they sent to court. And upon his return, what money was left, was restored. Their project so far took at court, that the addressees got the oath so as they embraced and took it. And the first day of June was the term appointed by the act for the taking thereof: and that act did withal bar all young men from being licensed or ordained without taking it. So the body of those who formerly had been nonjurors, were carried off into it at that time: and there remained but a few recusants; among whom, through the divine favour, were my two friends and I still. From the year 1712 to this year, the nonjurors made near a third part of our synod; and so we were regarded by our brethren jurors, and were in case to be useful among them; but from this time, the few that remained were quite borne down, and could do little in the synod.
Whatever answer I had given to the above-mentioned letter from Mr. Wightman, about the Fourfold, State, I had afterwards again laid aside thoughts of the project, and required back that part of the copy which was at Edinburgh. But it was refused; and the week before the sacrament, which was administered 7th June, I had another letter from Mr. Wightman aforesaid, bearing, that he had agreed with Mr. James Macewan to print it on his own expenses, and to give me a hundred copies: and for encouragement of the undertaker foresaid, he generously advanced to him a considerable sum of money for a time. After the sacrament was over, I laid the matter before the Lord, as it had been in the letter aforesaid proposed to me; and having considered it, could not see how I could with safety of my conscience refuse compliance with this fair offer, and to let it go out into the world. Accordingly I signified my compliance therewith. My being threatened with silencing on the account of the oath again, as anew exposed now to the lash of the law, had great weight herein with me; as also the providential bringing about the matter in a manner I expected not, when the apparent instruments of it were carried off one after another; and that this point it was brought to when I had again given over thoughts of it.
Meanwhile I had by this time for some years found my strength decaying. And the preceding winter's study had much weakened me; having in March 1718 completed my sixth septenary, being then forty-two years of age.
Now being thus again called to lay my account with suffering on the account of the oath aforesaid, I wrote a paper, intitled, Reasons for refusing the abjuration-oath in its latest form, 1719; the which is in retentis, together with a printed copy thereof incorrectly done. This, a considerable time after, came surprisingly to my hand, not knowing how it came to be published.
As to the sacrament in June, I have little to remark for comfort in my own case. My furnace was hot, partly by reason of the business of the abjuration-oath again, which came on like a thunder-clap; and partly, by the affliction of one of mine. The Lord was pleased to withdraw from me in my studies, so that for the two days, Tuesday and Wednesday, I could do nothing therein satisfyingly: but I behoved to go forward as I could in the explication of the text, on Wednesday's night; and on Friday hammered out a sermon on it, with no gust at all. Howbeit I got some gust of it in meditating on it afterwards; and that was increased in the delivery of it. A madman was so unruly, that I was much confounded in fencing of the tables; recovered somewhat at the table: but when I had done, I was much disturbed and cast down. This, however, the Lord was pleased to make use of, to the further discovery of my sinfulness and emptiness, issuing in a melting of heart, under a sense of my own naughtiness, and the goodness of God, which was the frame of my spirit in communicating. It was a melancholy time the sacrament 1712, the first year of the oath; and this in some measure kept pace with it, tho' not so ill. The reflecting on that made me wonder the less at this. Surely it is to keep me humble and depending.
Great was the stumbling and offence of the people in the Forest and Teviotdale, on the account of the oath, in its new, as well as in its old shape; but the combination among the ministers was now become strong, and the few recusants were treated as aliens by their brethren. The people being in a ferment, there was desired a meeting of our presbytery with the presbytery of Jedburgh at Bawick, to confer with the people, in order to bring them to peace, and to hear the word from those with whom they were offended. To this meeting I went, with a sincere desire to contribute my endeavours towards the desired peace. But appearing among them, they, to my great surprise, did by their vote force me into the chair, contrary to all right and reason; the moderator of the presbytery of Jedburgh being ex officio moderator of that meeting, since it was a meeting of that presbytery within their own bounds, to which our presbytery had been invited. But the design, proceeding from their jealousy, was, that I might not have access to speak much in the affair: and indeed they made the seat most uneasy to me; and carrying things with a high hand, nothing was done for healing of the breach betwixt them and the people. But they appointed a committee of their number, to meet at Lilliesleaf in our bounds, for a new conference with the people. When they met there, they tacked about, and without any ceremony set another in the chair, though I, as moderator of their constituent judicatory, was their moderator ex officio. But I made not the least hint to reclaim. They minded then, that I should have access to speak: and out of conscience towards God, I did all I could towards accommodating the matter betwixt them and the people; and the best was made of it that circumstances would allow, a peace being patched up. After all was over, I told their leading men the sense I had of their manner of treating me at both meetings; but that I had resolved to be what they pleased, for reaching the end: upon which they owned, I had acted as a good man and a Christian. Meanwhile, in the harvest-season, orders came from court to prosecute the nonjurors: but the execution was put off.
When I think on my refusing to sign the address for the oath, which the addressees got granted them, accompanied with barring all young men from being licensed or ordained without taking it, I am thankful from the heart, I was kept from putting my hand to that unhallowed business.
About the beginning of August, I began and transcribed what remained of the Eternal State, and ended all 24th October. This was the second time I had wrote over that book. And about the middle of November, thirteen of the printed sheets came to my hand, the press having advanced to the head of regeneration. I spent therefore the 24th of November in prayer, for a blessing to be entailed on that book, not only in the time of my life, but after my death; as also for the divine assistance in my study of the accentuation, which I was then to fall upon again; for the ease of the church, my family, and particularly the children at Edinburgh, and the congregation. And I came away with confidence in a prayer-hearing God.
It was but a little after this, that having closed that exercise, and sit down to dinner, an express from Edinburgh arrived, calling me thither; for that my daughter Jane was dangerously sick of a high fever, and roving. This surprising alarm touched me to the quick. Presently the cause was manifest. I had taken her and her brother John to Edinburgh, and left her uneasy with the cold, as he also was; and just at my coming home on the 14th, being attacked with a certain temptation, which often has been ruining to me, I was thereby carried quite off my feet; my heart in the meantime fearing my dear children, whom I had left, might smart for this. It was ground of comfort, that the Lord had begun early to deal with her soul; and, by good providence, about an hour ere the express came, I had cast my eye on the passage of 21st December 1718, above, p. 337. At five o'clock I took my horse, and journeyed all the night. Many thoughts about her went through my heart like arrows, while I was by the way: but still I held firm by this, that whatever the Lord should do in her case, it would be well done, it would be best done, and my soul would approve it as such. And the faith of this was my anchor. I considered all my children; and, if any of them was to be removed by death, I was satisfied it should be her, though she has had a very particular room in my affection: for I looked on her as the fittest for that change. At Peebles, the passage concerning Peter's wife's mother coming before me in prayer, I was helped to pray that God would rebuke the fever. Betwixt eight and nine next morning I arrived in Edinburgh; and having asked if she was alive, my trembling heart was eased with the answer, that she was better; and I found it was so when I saw her. I continued in Edinburgh from that Wednesday till the Friday was eight days after, 4th December; and she was still better. During that time, I was willingly employed in private houses, in the Lord's work, since the melancholy work of burying my daughter, which I had feared, was taken out of my hand. She had got out of the bed six days before I left her. This was a great mercy in my eyes; and I was often made to thank my God, for the kind rebuke He had given me; for while He smote with the one hand, He embraced with the other. It was kindness, that the alarm found me as I had been employed that day. John Currie was to have gone to the Merse that day, and I thought he had been gone; but Providence had stopped him, that he might go with me. There being a sick man in the Crosslie, I thought it best to visit him as I passed, notwithstanding my haste, and the occasion of it; and God moved the heart of one of the servants there to guide us over the hills: the night being so dark, that, going up the hill, I could not discern the horse that rode before me, I caused one put on his shoulder a white linen cloth for that end; but to no purpose. The waters were up; but we got another guide through Yarrow: and thereafter the two procured us another, who guided us to the Paddoch Slacks. We got on our way without mistaking it, but that we were somewhat puzzled to find the road through two brooks.
On Tuesday, 8th December, I spent some time in prayer, singing of mercy and judgement, and for my daughter, the book, the accentuation, etc. One thing more occurred to me, thinking on the trial, that I had not made a more solemn business of the children's going away, by setting some time apart for prayer on that account, either in the family, or by myself; and that I had not put the children themselves to it: and on Jane's going to Dunse, I had a check for the same omission. Meanwhile, ever since I came home, I had been wrestling, with the temptation aforesaid renewed: so that that day I saw myself standing on the ice, and my flesh trembling for fear of God, and I was afraid of His judgements.
On Friday, 11th December, what I feared came on me, receiving a letter that Jane was taken ill of the small pox, and that they had broken out on Tuesday the 8th. The account not being very bad, I staid, and preached on the Lord's day, and went off after sermon. On that morning, such a damp took me in prayer, that I could neither pray for her recovery nor salvation; which made me ready to conclude she was dead. It continued in the public prayers, till the last one after the sermon, wherein my bonds were loosed to pray for her; which sent me away with hope. I got to Edinburgh on Monday by four o'clock. Her pox were many, and of a dangerous kind. On the Thursday, the pox being, about their height, she fell feverish. Fears of her death came then to an extremity; and while I was thus hardly bestead, awful impressions of the sovereign God sitting on His throne in the heavens, having the matter in His hand wholly, to turn it what way He pleased, were seasonably, by His grace, fixed on my spirit, commanding me silently to wait the issue. And that word, Ps. 85: 12, "The lord shall give that which is good," was the word I was led to for resting in, during the long time of her illness. When the worst was past on the Monday after, new straits arose, and I was plunged in difficulties: but deliverances came, which were sweet as the answers of particular petitions to the Lord. I was employed there in private houses, not without countenance from the Lord. I left my daughter in a hopeful way of recovery, but weak, 31st December, and came home on the morrow, the first day of the new year. And the 5th, being Tuesday, I spent some time in secret prayer for my daughter's case, and several other causes, particularly the accentuation and the book; renewed the covenant as usual at such times; and was let in to the application of the Redeemer's blood. I would fain hope this quarrel is not to be pursued farther.
The first week of my being in Edinburgh this second time, new orders came down for prosecuting the nonjurors. And Mr. John Flint, and Mr. William Miller, two of the ministers of the town, formerly nonjurors, but now takers of the oath, having visited us in our distress, told me at parting, that they were just going to the President of the court of Session, to endeavour to divert the storm ready to break out.
Mrs. Balderstone, to whose prayers I recommended my study of the accentuation, with the rest of my case, was a daughter of Mr. Henry Erskine's, formerly mentioned, whom I account my father in Christ, and a person eminent for piety, Christian experience, and communion with God.
9th January 1720.—My son Thomas, going in seven, having discovered something of his case to his mother, I did, at her motion, converse with him thereon, and found him sensible of the stirring of corruption in his heart. He told me, he was troubled with ill thoughts; that he would not tell them, for that he could not do it, but with a grieved heart; that he resisted them, by saying over questions of the catechism, and reading (adding, Sometimes I read whether I will or no; meaning, his going over the belly of his averseness to it), and sometimes by saying to them, Go away. He told me further, that God did not hear his prayers; and that for that sometimes he forgot his prayers at night: that He wondered why God made the devil, for he tempted men; and that he thought it was to destroy liars: that he found his heart fain on some things, when he got them first; but he prayed to God to take away that fairness. I informed, instructed, and directed him, in the whole case, the best I could.
20th January.—On the 9th, I received letters, showing, that orders for prosecuting the nonjurors were again come from court. This was the third time since June preceding. The first orders for that erect came in harvest; the second, that week I went last to Edinburgh; and now the news of this last came with the account of my daughter's recovery. They were now put in the hands of sheriffs, magistrates of burghs, etc., and I waited the issue. And for that cause I spent some time in prayer this day (with other particulars, and particularly the accentuation); and embracing the covenant anew, laid myself for time and eternity on God in Christ, with an eye to the trials before me; and, with the same view, laid over my wife, children, and servants, that may be with me in my trial, on the same God; and also the poor parish. And now let the Lord do what seemeth Him good. Howbeit, this storm, which so often appeared on the point of breaking forth, has been, through the mercy of God, averted unto this day.
By the disposal of that holy Providence which all along has kindly and wisely balanced my worldly affairs, tho' my tenement in Dunse had been profitable to me while I was at Simprin, yet after my removal to Etterick, it afforded me little profit and much trouble. For which cause, I had sold it to my brother John: but he dying, that bargain flew up. But, about this time, it was sold for good and all to John Dunse there; my eldest son, when major, ratifying the sale, on the occasion above mentioned.
In the spring-season this year, I was greatly indisposed and weakened, sometimes fearing when I lay down at night, I should not rise in the morning. Great also was the distress of the parish, and my toil by that means. Having ended my sermons on the catechism 3rd April; on the 10th I entered, by the call of providence, on Ps. 90: 12, "So teach us to number our days," etc. And on the 27th we kept a congregational fast for the great sickness and mortality. There was not one of my family, save myself only, that had not been one way or other laid by, for a time, during that period of general sickness.
But the 10th day of May this year, was a day remarkable above many to me and my family; being that wherein my wife was seized with that heavy trouble, which has kept her all along since that time unto this day, in extreme distress: her imagination being vitiated in a particular point; and that improved and wrought upon, by the grand adversary, to her great disquietment: the which has been still accompanied with bodily infirmities and maladies, exceeding great and numerous. Nevertheless, in that complication of trials, the Lord has been pleased, not only to make His mighty power appear in preserving her life, as a spark of fire in an ocean, but to make His grace in her shine forth more bright than before.
Now, the Marrow of Modern Divinity, part 1, being as aforesaid reprinted at Edinburgh, anno 1718, with a preface by Mr. James Hog minister of Carnock, a man of great learning and singular piety and tenderness, there had been a mighty stir made about it, especially in Fife, where, for several years before, a contest had been agitated, touching the covenant of grace, whether it is absolute or conditional. So that Mr. Hog found himself obliged to publish an explication of passages excepted against in the Marrow; the which was printed early in the year 1719. Thereafter several pamphlets went abroad on that subject, the same year; as for some years after also. And Mr. James Haddow, principal of the college of St. Andrews, did, in his sermon before the synod of Fife, 7th April 1719, attack the book foresaid: the which sermon was printed at the desire of that synod, under the title of The record of God, and duty of faith therein required. This humour going on, the Marrow was complained of to the general assembly that year. And thereupon they appointed their commission to take care, that the purity of doctrine might be preserved, and to call before them any authors or recommenders of books or pamphlets containing any doctrine not agreeable to the Confession of Faith. At the same time complaint was also made to them, on Professor Simson's printed answers to Mr. Webster's libel against him, to which the Professor continued to refer in his teaching: but that matter was dropped, and the motion for inquiring thereinto repelled. The commission of that assembly accordingly appointed a committee of their number for the effect foresaid; who sufficiently showed their zeal, but all upon one side, namely, to preserve the doctrine from the mixture of Antinomianism, which the hue and cry was now raised about. That committee divided themselves into two; whereof the one sat at St. Andrews, and prepared excerpts out of the challenged books and prints, and sent their remarks to the other, who met at Edinburgh. Before these last, about the beginning of April this year, were called to answer for themselves, Mr. James Hog foresaid, Mr. Alexander Hamilton minister, at Airth, afterward transported to Stirling, Mr. James Brisbane at Stirling, and Mr. John Warden at Gargunnock; all of them noted preachers of the doctrine of free grace, and withal nonjurors too. These brethren were examined severally and apart, by the committee. Mr. Hog being called, the first query proposed to him was, Whether he owned himself author of the preface to the last edition of the Marrow of Modern Divinity? To which he answered affirmatively; and, moreover, told them, that that book, whereof he knew nothing before, came most unexpectedly to his hand, and he read it over as soon as he could; that he had no thoughts of the reprinting of it, but complied with the motion thereto, after the project had been laid by others; that at the earnest desire of some who managed the business, be wrote the preface; that the Lord had blessed the reading of the book to many excellent persons of diverse ranks; and that he knew an eminent divine, then in glory (whom I judge to have been Mr. Fraser of Brea, minister at Culross), who left it in record, that the reading an old edition thereof, was the first notable means blessed of the Lord, for giving him some clearness of impression concerning the gospel; and that for his own part he owned, that he had received more light about some important concerns of the glorious gospel, by perusing that book, than by other human writings which Providence had brought into his hands. This account of that matter I have taken out of a MS. narrative of what passed in that committee, done by Mr. Hog himself.
This run of affairs quickly issued in the general assembly's condemning of the Marrow of Modern Divinity, by their act of the date 20th May 1720. And three days before, viz. 17th May, it pleased the Lord to call home to Himself, by death, the great Mr. James Webster before mentioned; a man eminent in maintaining the purity of the doctrine of the gospel, a nonjurant to the last breath, and in or about the last time he was in the judicatory, where the matter of the Marrow was considered, expressed his concern that they would beware of condemning it. My friend Mr. Wilson was a member of that assembly, but abhorred that their act, which he and others nevertheless could not stop. Upon which occasion he some time after wrote the letter, intitled, A letter to a gentleman at Edinburgh, a ruling elder of the church of Scotland, concerning the proceedings of the last general assembly, with reference unto doctrine chiefly: the which was published the year following, and was wont to be called The London letter.
12th June.—The sacrament being administered here, I was in great fear as to my holding out, by reason of bodily weakness: yet I was not only strengthened to preach an hour and a half, but to go through the rest of the work with competent ability, with a solid seriousness all along; and, to my wonder, found myself after all less weary than I formerly used to be. My wife was under great weakness, and in a hazardous condition; but was also carried through beyond expectation. It was a refreshing time to many of the people of God here gathered together, and a savoury work all along. While my son John was at the table, I had such a concern for him, as ever a travailing woman for the bringing forth of her child. At the table I had several particular suits, namely, about my wife's weakness, Jane's going again to Edinburgh, the book in the press, my study of the accents, Mrs. Balderstone's son abroad, and how to be carried through in defence of the truth of the gospel, the doctrine of free grace, which had got a stroke by the aforementioned act of assembly; judging, that, as matters were now going, I might be called also to an account for some things in the Fourfold State, if once published.
After handling of occasional subjects relative to the sacrament, before and after, I entered, 10th July, on the communion of saints as one bread, from 1 Cor. 10: 17, "For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one breed." The which subject I studied with particular care and considerable earnestness, as a very important point; and dwelt thereon till 30th October.
B. S. told me, that the first sermon she got any good of, was that on the Sabbath afternoon at Morbattle, on these words, "Where is the God of Elijah?" and that before that time, having no knowledge of me so much as by face, but hearing her sister speak of me, she could not endure my name, but had a particular aversion to me beyond any minister. This is a pretty odd phenomenon.
30th August. - I went to Edinburgh on account of the book. Having read the sheets once and again, which the printer had sent out to me, I was greatly confounded to see the book pitifully mangled, being full of typographical errors; and, besides, Mr. Wightman had so altered it in many places, that he had quite marred it. I had now put the most material errata in order for the press, and resolved to reprint several leaves: for in July the book was near printed off, and they had sent to me for the titlepage and preface. Thus I was on this pitiful occasion necessitated to go in to Edinburgh, leaving my wife in great distress, her trouble being now come to an extremity: and my two dear friends Mr. Wilson and Mr. Davidson, went along with me. When we came in, one new difficulty came on the back of another: Mr. Macewan, the printer, was at Glasgow; the corrector could not be found for some time; Mr. Wightman had set the press a-going to reprint the first three sheets, with his corrections: in the meantime the authentic copy could not be got, most of it being destroyed by the printers after they had done with it. I stopt the press quickly, till they should get new orders from me. I saw a part of Mr. Wightman's preface, wherein I found him recommending the modish style; though some time before I had expressly wrote to him, not to do it, for that it was fast coming in, while what is a thousand times better is going out proportionably, as is usual in a declining time of the church. He had also again altered the title-page. But in midst of wrath the Lord remembered mercy. I was by kind Providence directed to Mr. William Hogg, merchant, to devolve the management of this perplexed affair on, with the printers: and few men could have bestowed so much time and pains on it as he did. Ever since that time I have had his friendship most beneficial to me, he all along since sparing neither pains nor expense, to manage for me the affairs which have in my late years lain nearest my heart. May the Lord reward to him and his, that his labour of love, in those things wherein the honour of God, and my comfort, were so much concerned. With him, dipping into the business, a long time was spent, in preparing eleven leaves to be reprinted, nine of which, I think, Mr. Wightman's meddling had occasioned; and on considering the errata to be printed. Resolving not to be imposed upon more, I went to Mr. Wightman, and modestly dealt with him, to forbear the reprinting of the three first sheets; to let alone recommending the modish style; and recovered my own title-page. I recovered also of the authentic copy from p. 315 thereof, which is to lie found among my papers. I dropped one of his unhappy corrections to him, speaking a little on it, with which he seemed to be stunned. His preface new modelled he promised to send me ere it should be printed. We soon saw the beautiful conduct of Providence, in carrying Mr. Macewan to Glasgow at that time, and directing to Mr. Hogg; for that matter could not have been managed betwixt the former and us to the advantage it may be betwixt them two now. And the time of our coming in appeared to have been directed by the wisdom of Him who leads the blind in the way they knew not; the printers having, just the day before, begun to set for reprinting the foresaid three sheets, which if done had been a most unhappy step.
7th September. - This day I spent some time in prayer, about my wife's case, the case of the book, and the assembly's act condemning the Marrow. As to the first, I had recommended it to the concern of Mrs. Balderstone, before the Lord. But as to the last, I am afraid the Lord honour me not to bear testimony for Him in the cause of His truth. (Nota. - But blessed be Jehovah, I have been disappointed in these fears.) The case of the book is an amazing and awful dispensation. Mr. Wightman had desired liberty to smooth some expressions in it, as, for horribly, to read too much: I gave it him freely, and withal that he might delete whole sentences. This was all that passed betwixt him and me on that head; and indeed it was too much. But I never once dreamed, that he would have extended that liberty at the rate he has done. It was well he had not gone through the whole, but that a good deal in the former and latter part of the book had escaped: but he had used so much freedom with it, from the head, Of man's utter inability, to that Of the resurrection inclusive, as created me a deal of vexation, and new labour. And, so far as I yet understand, the cause of the Lord's punishing me in this manner, was my base cowardice, and having men's persons in admiration; so as, after I had brought it by study and prayer to the case it was in, I let it fall into another hand, with so little caution, as to allow any alterations to be made therein, without first seeing them, and being convinced of the necessity or expediency of them. These things were particularly engraven to me, on that, whereas I had put on the title-page of the book, as the very language of my heart, 1 Cor. 4: 10, "We are fools for Christ's sake," he without any ceremony had blotted it out; and I being urged to set my name to the book, which really from the beginning I designed not to do, could not then do it for a new reason, namely, That they had so mangled it: and from my own conviction I dropped that scripture, forasmuch as I saw I had declined to be a fool for Christ's sake, in that point; and therefore the Lord had made me a greater fool than I needed to have been. (Nota. - But O the wisdom and foreknowledge of God! This has been of good use to me since that time, to cure me of these weaknesses, and to resolve to see with my own eyes in such matters, whatever be other men's character for piety, or learning, or both. And I hope thro' grace it shall be useful to me, in these matters, while I live. I have seen more into men, and how much they are to be ceased from, since that time, than ever I was able to see all my life before. And considering what a scene of life the Lord has led me out to, since that time, and is continuing with me to this day, 5th September 1727, I do with profound reverence adore that infinite wisdom and goodness which laid on me that heavy trial, and on the bended knees of my soul return Him thanks for every step or part of it, even the blackest. Annex.) Continuing in this exercise only, from six to about eleven, my spirits were exhausted.
The act of assembly condemning the Marrow was, by concert, brought before our presbytery; Mr. George Byres, minister of Lessudden, a judicious, plain, good man, being, as I remember, employed to move it. And it was by our presbytery laid before the October synod, that they might consider of it. It was put on me to show what was offensive therein; to which was joined also what was offensive in their act for preaching catechetical doctrine. I felt the consideration of the assembly’s authority a great weight on me; and I had almost no help at all, but by Mr. Wilson. So, instead of getting the synod to seek redress of these things from the assembly, we were borne down. And the truth is, the cause was but weakly managed: I fear the Lord has not yet given a spirit for contending with this declining generation. My uneasiness on the account of the management of that affair, deprived me of much of that night's rest. Wherefore, on the morrow, catching the occasion of bringing in that affair again, I exonered my conscience with less ceremony and more freedom, than had been used the day before. I cannot but notice the dispensation of Providence, in that I was called to make this invidious appearance, at the very time my book was coming forth: but I rested on that holy Providence, which, doubtless on a becoming design, had kept in that book, till that time of darkening the doctrine of free grace, and would not allow it to appear before.
As my two friends and I were on our way returning from that synod, Mr. Wilson moved, that a letter should be written to Mr. James Hog above mentioned; shewing what had passed in that judicatory, on the affair foresaid, and our readiness to concur with others, to seek redress therein, of the assembly itself immediately. And at their desire, I afterwards wrote a letter accordingly.
Meanwhile I understood that the book would be published the week after the synod's meeting, if not before. And considering, that I have made several steps in the study of the accentuation of the Hebrew text; and that my health was much impaired last spring, and I know not what may be the issue, I have resolved to begin to write an essay on that subject, though my materials are not so fully gathered as were necessary; because the former part of my collection of materials is such as nobody but myself can rectify, range into order, and fill up to my mind, being what first occurred when I entered that thicket; though the latter part, and still the nearer to the end, is more distinct and perfect. For which causes I spent some time in prayer, 26th October, viz., for the Lord's blessing to go out with the Fourfold State, and for His presence with me, and blessing in the essay now to be made. The Lord helped to cry to Him in both these: and for some time I spread the Hebrew Bible, and my written materials, before the Lord in prayer, crying to the Father of lights, my Father, over them, for light, life, strength, time, and conduct, into all truth; the which practice I found useful to my upstirring. And upon that word, Matt. 21: 22, "And all things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive," I was helped to confidence of being heard in both these things. At night I attempted to begin to write, wrote the title of chap. 1, but could do no more. On the morrow's night I essayed it again, wrote the first paragraph, but was diverted.
It has pleased the Lord to recover my wife from that extremity she was brought to. She was taken violently ill of her headache four days, which being superadded to her other troubles, seemed to threaten death: but from thence was, and began, her recovery, and no other way that I could perceive. Thus in the eveningtime it was light; and not by might, nor by power, etc. But I would fain hope these have yet a further look.
3rd November. - This was the first free day I had to bestow on the essay upon the accentuation: and there was a third beginning of it, the former being laid aside. But whether it was precisely on that day, or not, it was begun, has already escaped me. However, I may reckon it so, the first chapter being entirely new. So hard was it for me, once to get entered on it: withal other temptations were hanging about me in that time. And a bound copy of the Fourfold State having on the 6th come to my hand, I did, on the morrow after, spread it before the Lord in prayer, for His blessing to go out with it, and to be entailed on it, while I live, and when I am gone; and that it might be accepted. And indeed I think God has heard these prayers: and ofttimes, when I have considered the acceptance that book met with, notwithstanding the disadvantages wherewith it was attended, I could not but impute it to an over-ruling hand of kind Providence, that would needs have it so. On the Tuesday I sent my son to Edinburgh, to wind up that whole business. He returned on Monday the 14th, with the good account of the business comfortably brought to an end, and that the book was going off well; which sent me to God with thanksgiving for His holy conduct of that affair, and His wise and merciful dealing in it.
Now after some time I received from Mr. Ralph Erskine minister of Dunfermline, and son to the worthy Mr. Henry Erskine above mentioned, an answer of the letter aforesaid sent to Mr. James Hog; and then a return from Mr. Hog himself, bearing their readiness to concur in seeking redress of the injury done to truth by the act of assembly foresaid. And I did, on 2nd January 1721, spend some time in prayer, for my own private case, perceiving the danger of my health and life in the ensuing spring; for divine direction with respect to these motions about the said act of the assembly 1720; and for the divine assistance in the essay on the accentuation, which I was now engaged in. Thereafter, on the 8th, I entered, for my ordinary, on preaching of Christ directly, from Prov. 8: 35, 36, "For whoso findeth me, findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord. But he that sinneth against me, wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me, love death." Upon which I insisted for a considerable time.
In pursuance of the motions foresaid relating to the assembly's act, there was sent from the brethren above mentioned, a draught of a representation to the assembly: with which draught my two friends and I not being satisfied, I at their desire made another. This was conveyed to the brethren aforesaid; and a meeting was appointed to be at Edinburgh, in the latter end of February, to consider of that important matter. Both these draughts are to be found among my papers; the one indorsed, Copy of a representation to be given in to the assembly 1721; the other, Thee original draught of the representation given in to the assembly 1721.
On 1st February I spent some time in prayer, for the same causes as before, and the divine guidance to my son at Edinburgh: in which I had much ado to fix my feet; for at this time there is such a current carrying the young generation to folly, as, I think, I never observed before, and seems to be ominous. As also with respect to my daughter's going to Edinburgh, remembering the dispensation of Providence last year in her case.
14th February, Tuesday. - Last Lord's day there was a roll of seven sick persons in the parish prayed for, whereof there was one in Crosslie, another in Falhop, another in Dalgleish. Considering it would take me a day for each of these, I designed Monday for Crosslie, Tuesday for Falhop, and Wednesday for Dalgleish: in the meantime it was a storm of lying snow. The consideration of this toil, and of so much time to be cut off from my beloved work in my closet, raised in my corrupt heart a secret grudge. I had dispatched the Monday's work as said is; and this day going towards Falhop, I understood at Cossarshill the person was removed by death. Returning by Etterick-house, I visited the sick there, and then went towards Dalgleish; but by the way I was told, that the sick person there was removed also that morning. This struck me to the heart, as shewing the anger of a holy jealous God against me, for the secret grudge aforesaid; and that as He needed none of my service, so He would have none of it that way: for which I flee to the Redeemer's blood, desiring grace to take this lesson; and hereafter cheerfully to be ready at my Master's call. I visited one at Craigyford, another at Deephopgreen, and so returned home. The person at Falhop I had visited oftener than once; but knew nothing of the person at Dalgleish his being sick, till he was prayed for on the Lord's day.
About the latter end of February I went in to Edinburgh, to the meeting above mentioned. And here began a plunge into public affairs, which so filled my head and hands, that now the proceeding in the essay on the accentuation was laid aside; insomuch that, excepting a little done in it in the April following, I made no more progress therein for a long time.
There met then, in the house of Mr William Wardrobe, apothecary in Edinburgh, Mr. James Kid, minister at Queensferry, Mr. Ebenezer Erskine at Portmoak, his brother Mr. Ralph aforesaid, Mr. James Wardlaw at Dunfermline, Mr. William Wilson at Perth, Mr. James Bathgate at Orwell, my two friends, and I. The first meeting was spent mostly in prayer; and the Lord was with us at that and other following ones. We went through the act of assembly in order, shewing what was in it stumbling to us, and conferring thereon. In these meetings two things were observable. One was, that no debate was kept upon selfish motives, but each one was ready to yield to scripture and reason, by whomsoever advanced. Another, that when we stuck, and could not get forward, but were in hazard of falling asunder, Providence still interposed seasonably, causing something to be cast up, which cleared our way, and joined us. And it was agreed, that there should be a representation to the assembly about it; the forming whereof was committed to Mr. Ebenezer Erskine, with whom our draught was lodged for that effect; and the revising of it when formed, was committed to the brethren in that country. And another meeting was appointed to be in the latter end of March, in the same place.
From this meeting, Mr. Wilson at Perth, and Mr. Ebenezer Erskine, were absent. Mr. Sethrum, minister at Glladsmnir, was with us at one or two diets, but staid not. Mr. Hog's absence was thought expedient by some of ourselves, because of his particular interest; he having writ the preface to the Marrow. Mess. Hamilton at Airth, Brisbane and Muir at Stirling, and Warden at Gargunnock, though invited, came not, to our great discouragement. Then the draught of the representation sent from us in the south, after several alterations and additions made thereon, was signed by all there presents. And the next meeting was appointed to be the first night of the assembly's meeting in May; and it was designed for prayer: but in regard of my circumstances, I was allowed not to come in till the Monday after the assembly's sitting down.
The first night of the assembly the meeting was in the same house again, accordingly: and Providence so ordering that I was chosen a member of that assembly, I met with them. Mr. James Hog, whose absence hitherto had been judged expedient, in regard of his prefacing the Marrow, did join us. Moreover, there came in to us a goodly company of brethren, with whose appearance I was much encouraged. But, behold! they turned our meeting, designed for prayer, into a meeting for disputing, jangling, and breaking our measures: in the which, the main agent was Mr. John Warden above mentioned; and next, Mr. Moncrieff of Culfargie. Two things they mainly insisted on, besides picking quarrels with the representation. One was, a conference with the leading men before anything should be done: the other, that all should not subscribe, but only some few, the rest being reserved for managing, judging, and voting in the assembly. This last none of us who had already subscribed could go into. I was brought to yield to the first, together with Mr. Bathgate, on condition that the time of giving in our representation should not be cut off. But when it came about to my two friends, they smelling the unfair design that I had no dread of, that was stopped, as not to be yielded to. It was good Providence, that their unfair dealing could not blind us all, else we had in all appearance been ensnared and mired. Thus the whole weary night was spent, till daylight, that they left us in much worse case than they found us. Thus left of our new friends, it was proposed by Mr. Kid to drop the things quarrelled by them in the representation; among which was an entire head, viz., that of the fear of hell: and this, that our brethren might be obliged to stand by us in the assembly. In this step, unhappily gone into, we took the way of carnal policy; and I liked it not, but could not oppose it, because I had drawn the paper. However, our politics, in the just judgement of God, failed us. The representation being transcribed accordingly, was signed by the twelve brethren, as in the printed copy, and was that same day, in the afternoon, given in by us to the committee of bills, Mr. Kid presenting it, being a man of singular boldness. This haste was made, to prevent our being teased anew, as the night before. Mr. John Bonar, who lodged in Mr. Wardrobe's, where we had our meetings, after signing it with us, went away home: and I do not remember his appearing with us afterwards, if it was not once, at which time he was called home by an express. Mr. John Williamson of Inveresk made his first appearance amongst us at signing of this last draught; but was very useful after, being a man of a clear head, a ready wit, and very forward. Mr. William Hunter at Lilliesleaf signed it in the church, just before it was presented. It was not then read, but promised to be read at their next meeting. We understood afterward, that Principal Haddow, the spring of that black act of assembly, was in his way to the committee of bills, to bring in some motion about that act, it would seem for explaining it, etc., but that hearing the tabling of the representation had prevented him, he was disappointed, and forbore. Next diet it was read; and at another diet we were to receive their deliverance thereon. The committee for overtures had it under their consideration; and it was resolved, that unless we desired a conference, it should be transmitted to the assembly quamprimum. They came in great numbers from the committee of overtures to the bills, and made a terrible company against us. They who would have appeared our friends fell upon us, urged us to desire a conference, told us that otherwise it was resolved to transmit it to the assembly quamprimum, and what the consequences would then be. The matter was so managed to put us in fear: but they prevailed not to fright us from what we had, not rashly, but after much serious inquiry and deliberation, resolved upon. On Monday the assembly met, and determined in the matter of a call; as also on Tuesday, but did no business, only appointed the choosing of the commission, the King's commissioner being indisposed. On Wednesday we expected, as we had done the day before, that our representation would have come before them: but behold, that day the assembly, in regard of the commissioner's indisposition, was dissolved, after they had referred our representation, without reading it, to the commission. Howbeit, the commissioner was present in the assembly both that day and the preceding, and without his presence they did no business. No man spoke a word against the dissolution; but all was carried on in profound peace. Thus our brethren, who reserved their appearing for truth to their management in the assembly, and would not join us in the representation, had all occasion of saying one word in the assembly about it, cut off.
On the Thursday we were called before the commission; and Mr. Hog not being ready at the call, and Mr. Bonar gone away home, it was my lot to appear first in that cause. The eleven brethren being sisted before them, our representation was read: after which Mr. Hog spoke a little. Then followed a flood of speeches, about the number of thirteen, by which we were run down, no man standing by us. And among these speakers was Mr. John Warden aforesaid, a man well seen in the doctrine of free grace, but of some vanity of temper. Mr. Hog offered to answer in the time, but a hearing was refused; so they went on without interruption. Thus the cause and we were run down, and the audience impressed, which seemed to be the design of this management. After this we were allowed to speak, before we should remove: and the Moderator desired me to speak; which, lifting up my heart to the Lord, I did for a little; but was quickly answered. Other brethren spoke also; and particularly Mr. Williamson was happily guided to tell them, that we had heard such a multitude of speeches against us, that it was not possible to remember them, so as to answer them; but that we would recollect, and afterwards answer. We being removed, they appointed a numerous committee to consider of that affair, to meet on Friday. That day we were called before them; and at that time, to the best of my remembrance, a motion being made to purge the house, it was said to have proceeded from us; which being denied by us, after some jangling, they agreed to have the doors thrown open; which was effected through my friend Mr. Wilson's means chiefly. And kind Providence so ordered it, that the career they were on the day before, was, through the divine mercy, stopped to conviction, at that and the following meetings. Particularly Mr. Williamson did, in a point in debate, fairly lay Mr. Allan Logan, minister of Culross: and I was encouraged by the success of an encounter with Principal Daddow. We were warned to attend them again on the Monday at ten o'clock: but nobody came then to call us, till about twelve, a minister came to tell us, we were to attend against two. We waited on till betwixt six and seven after noon, that some of us went away; and afterwards we heard we were to wait on upon the morrow. Thus we spent that day: they had difficulty in agreeing as to their own management. On the Tuesday we were again before them, and on the Wednesday before the commission: at which time we were warned to attend the commission in August, and the sub-committee the day before the meeting of the commission, and betwixt and that time, if called.
The beauty of Providence, in this matter, shines in my eyes. The Lord laid us very low at our first appearance, on the Thursday, before the commission, that we might see, that it was not to be done by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord: but afterwards He raised us up, that our adversaries could no more triumph over us. Many times the appearance before the assembly had been a terror to me, and broke my sleep ere it came: but the Lord was with me in the appearance we made, and that terror evanished at length; so that, to my own wonder, I was helped to speak without fear: "It shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak," Matt. 10: 19. Expertus credo. I have learned to beware of men, and that all men are liars; but God is a promise-keeping God.
At the April synod, Mr. Wilson being in the chair, I was left alone to bear the shock, and was run down at an unusual rate about a fast; which being appointed by the church, I had observed; but in a few weeks was appointed to be observed again, by the King's proclamation, for the very same cause, without the least notice of what the church had already done in it. This I and others observed not. Returning home, I then said in my heart, "O that I had a place in the wilderness!" etc., Jer. 9: 2.
11th June.-The sacrament was administered here. I and some others in this church were now become a wonder to many; and God tried me at that occasion, but was very gracious to me, and saved me from the reproach of men. On Thursday Mr. Wilson came, but not Mr. Davidson, of whom I had made no doubt: so that I preached that day with Mr. Wilson, with much help from the Lord, having been seasonably led the day before, by foreseeing Providence, to have my thoughts that way. Mr. Simson, one of my three helpers, being under sickness, I had invited Mr. Kid; but on the Saturday I received a letter, shewing him also to be kept back by the Lord's afflicting hand. So the work lay on my two friends, who preached that day, and myself. The communicants appearing, by the tokens, to be near a third part more than usually before, double tables were set, whereas before we had used only a single one. Saturday's night and Sabbath morning were great rains; so that awaking early on the Sabbath, and beholding the waters swollen, and the rain falling, threatening to bar those on the other side, my soul said, "What wilt Thou do unto Thy great name!" For now many eyes were on us; and should the people, gathered from places at many miles' distance, have been so disappointed, I thought it would be interpreted Heaven's sentence against them and us. I was helped to submission, and to see and adore holy becoming designs of Providence, if it should be so; and to be easy, believing God would do what is best. But He sent down, and delivered us from the reproach of men, gave us sweet days of the gospel, and not one shower all the time of the work, Sabbath or Monday; but for a great part of that time, spread His black clouds over us, with some intermixed sunshine. That threatening Sabbath morning kept the usual Sabbath-day's multitude away from us; so that there was no great difference betwixt the Sabbath meeting and those of the other days. The wind of divine assistance in the sermon blew upon me, fell, and rose again. The Lord was with my brethren. I preached also on the Monday with them; so spoke none at dismissing of the congregation, which I am never wont to omit. I thought I saw in the conduct of Providence at this communion, as in an emblem, what is, and is like to be, our case: the multitude carried off from us; the most tender of the godly and Zion's mourners cleaving to us; protection allowed us as to the storm hanging over our heads from the church; with a blink now and then, and perhaps another communion allowed me here. I had a signal instance of the answer of prayer in my wife's case; who being in deep distress of a long time, it seemed to come to a great height the week before, that I was put to cry that the Lord would at least heave up the cloud, so as it might not deprive her of partaking at His table. In this I was heard; and she attained to so much composure, that she was not only not barred from it, but gave a very Christian account of the actings of her soul in the case; which was the doing of the Lord, and wondrous in my eyes.
On the 10th of July, a motion was so made to me by my two friends to write notes on the Marrow, that I was obliged seriously to think of it. At length having spent some time in prayer, purposely for discovering the Lord's mind therein, I was determined to essay it, on this consideration, that, as matters now stand, the gospel-doctrine has got a root-stroke by the condemning of that book; and that whatever else be done for retrieving it, it will be but to little purpose, while that book lies among the pots, people being stumbled and frighted at it. And this day I began that work, being obliged to lay aside thoughts of other business, viz., the preparing of the Fourfold State for a second edition, and the publishing of some sermons; both which I am engaged to do to Mr. Macewan; and my great work on the accentuation.
Having plied that work two weeks, on the Saturday's night of the second, awaking out of sleep, I was taken extremely ill of a kind of heart-swooning, a most vehement heat and sweat being felt by me, my wife nevertheless testifying me to be cold as dead in the time. While in my extremity death stared me in the face, the doctrine of the Marrow concerning the gift and grant, and that scripture, 1 John 5: 11, "And this is the record, that God has given to us eternal life; and this life is in His Son," accordingly understood, That God has given unto us mankind-sinners (and to me in particular) eternal life, etc., whereby it is lawful for me to take possession of it as my own, was the sweet and comfortable prop of my soul, believing it, and claiming accordingly. The erects of that illness hung about me for some time: so that I had much ado to preach the two Lord's days after it, before the communion at Galashiels, 1st August. There I was very ill on the Saturday, and had much ado to get through the preaching. I was better on the Lord's day, and the Lord was with my spirit, and signally owned the whole work. On the Monday afternoon we went in to the commission, Mr. Wilson and I having been both brought within sight of death, threatening that we should not have access to appear in that cause again: and both about the same time, he by a fall from his horse, I as aforesaid. Thus the Lord dealt with us as with His own, and gave us a sight of death, to cause us to take heed how we manage in His matters. The Lord's staying my soul in the sight of death on that foundation of faith above said, controverted at this time in our present struggle, was, and is, very confirming. We waited on three days; were never but once called before the committee, on the Wednesday, to tell us that the committee bad prepared an overture about our affair, to be laid before the commission; and on the Thursday before the commission, to tell us that the commission had prepared an overture about it, to be transmitted to the assembly; and we were appointed to wait on in November again. We were still deserted by all, not one offering to join us. My courage for appearing before them, and reasoning, was low at this time; for there was little or nothing to do with it.
On the 22nd of August I spent some time in prayer, for the case of my own soul, and a multiplicity of business laid to my hand, while in the meantime my strength was much decayed; yet desiring to be found so doing. That business then was, the writing notes on the Marrow; the preparing of the Fourfold State for a second edition, which Mr. Macewan, the publisher, did demand; the preparing some sermons for the press, desired also by the same person, and which I had some way yielded to; and above all, the essay, on the accentuation, the proceeding wherein my heart trembled to think of being deprived of an opportunity for; all which require a great deal of time, and strength too. I laid my soul over on my Lord Christ, and desired to go on in my work as I was able, that if the Lord should take me away in the midst of it, I might be found so doing. (But now I thank my gracious God, that, however trying the prospect I then had thereof was, in respect of the state of my health, I have by this time  got through all that business for the service of my God, and more too, which has cast up since that time.)
I was now led, for my ordinary, to treat of the two covenants, which lasted a long time. I began on the covenant of works, 27th August this year: and handling it at large, from several texts, I insisted thereon till May in the following year. I studied it with considerable earnestness and application; being prompted thereto, as to the close consideration of the other covenant too afterwards, by the state the doctrine in this church was then arrived at.
My friend Mr. Wilson having been moderator of the April synod, at which I was run down, he, as in the chair, having little access to help, preached before them in October a faithful and excellent sermon; at which they took fire. And immediately they commenced a process against him, on the account of that his sermon; which ended not till the general assembly 1723 put an end to it. The sermon is extant in print, intitled, The Artist, to be judged of by posterity: and was before four synods, as many committees of the synod, before the commission, and at length came before the general assembly; as one may see in the preface to it, done, I think, by Mr. Kid. It may easily be guessed, what a loss both these affairs meeting together at once would occasion. And indeed we were by this time become still more strangers to our brethren, and as aliens; and saw, that our mothers had borne us men of contention. Besides what concerned the doctrine, there were in these days many occasions of difference in the matter of national fasts; the appointments for which sent from England, bare evident marks of little honour had for our church; such as the appointing of them to be observed: on some of their superstitious days, and particularly on Fridays, contrary to all reason that could be drawn but from their superstition. These often occasioned us much uneasiness, and different practices from our brethren, most of them at least: but I am not ripe in the history of that affair' which has been of a long course. However, for some time national fasts have been very rare. There was also introduced from England, into some of our civil courts, the corrupt custom of swearing upon the book; which being laid before our synod, occasioned some debate before this time: but we could prevail nothing in that matter with them, towards moving for redress. But my friend Mr. Wilson exposed it, in his "New Mode of Swearing, tactis et deosculatis evangeliis," printed anno 1719.
In the month of November, we appeared again before the commission. There we were told, we were to answer certain queries to be given us in writing by them. And having gone away together to consult, what were best to be done in that matter, I was clear, that whatever should be the consequences, we should receive and answer them. What determined me to this was, that I thought we were to lay our account with parting with our brethren, as being cast out by them; and, in that event, it would be safest, both for the cause of truth, and our own reputation. This was agreed to, and the queries were received with a protestation. And thus they turned the cannon directly against us.
While I was thus engaged in public trials, I met with a breaking disappointment in the case of my son John, whom I had designed for the holy ministry. Being, in that view, concerned to have given him a suitable education in every necessary branch of literature, I took care to have him taught at the college, Humanity, Greek, Hebrew, Mathematics, as well as Philosophy; and allowed him for that end a course of five years there. But that course being ended this year, he would not once enter on the study of Theology, which I had designed him for. But, after some struggle with him, all in vain, I behoved to advance him money, for betaking himself to the employment of a sheep-master. This disappointment lay with a particular weight upon me, when my strength failing more, I greatly needed help: but all expectation of help from him was cut off, especially when I saw his comrade Mr. George Byres, son to Mr. George above mentioned, in case to help his father, still vigorous, and fit for his own business. But, O! the admirable conduct of Providence, challenging an entire resignation! The said Mr. George Byres, elder, is now removed by death: and I am yet spared, doing my work, though in much weakness.
In March 1722, we appeared again before the commission, and our answers to their queries were then given in. They are extant in print, with the protestation above mentioned prefixed to them. These answers were, as I remember, begun by Mr. Ebenezer Erskine; but much extended and perfected by my friend Mr. Wilson: where his vast compass of reading, with his great collection of books, were of singular use, and successfully employed.
In May we appeared before the General Assembly, where the affair was at length brought to an end, by their act 21st May 1722, which may be consulted: and we were admonished and rebuked. Easily foreseeing what would be the issue, in the assembly's determination of the affair, I drew a protestation while I was yet at home, and carried along with me. And the admonition and rebuke being received with all gravity, the said protestation, subscribed by us all, was given in by the hand of Mr. Kid; and instruments taken thereon in due form. But the assembly would not read it, but quickly closed the sederunt. The said protestation is also extant in print. I received the rebuke and admonition as an ornament put upon me, being for the cause of truth. This affair was brought to the issue foresaid in the afternoon-session of that day: and their meeting for that black work being appointed to be at three o'clock that day, there came on, a little before the hour, a most dreadful storm of thunder and hail, by means whereof their meeting was for a considerable time hindered. In the time thereof, I came down, with some others of our number, from the Westbow-head, to the chamber where we attended till called; and that almost running, the street being in a manner desolate. I well remember, with what serenity of mind, and comfort of heart, I heard the thunder of that day, the most terrible thunder-clap being just about three o'clock. It made impression on many, as Heaven's testimony against their deed they were then about to do: though in this it is not for me to determine.
Thus ended that weighty affair, by means whereof I received another sensible increase of light into the doctrine of grace; especially as to the gift and grant made of Christ unto sinners of mankind, and as to the nature of faith. In which last, my friend Mr. Wilson was the most clear and distinct: and my clearness and distinctness therein I owe to him, as the mean of conveying it unto me. He has since that time travelled in that subject, with peculiar concern and industry, to great advantage; and is the man, of all I know, fittest to write upon it. Moreover, that struggle has been, through the mercy of God, turned to the great advantage of truth in our church, both among some ministers and people; having obliged both to think of these things, and inquire into them, more closely and nicely than before: insomuch that it has been owned, that few public differences have had such good effects. Meanwhile it is not to be doubted, but others have, on that occasion, been carried further to the side of legalism, than they were before; and that through the prevalence of their passions and prejudices: the gospel of Christ is by this time, with many, especially of the younger sort of divines, exchanged for rationalism. So that I believe the light and the darkness are both come to a pitch, that they were before far from in this church; of the which posterity may see a miserable and a glorious issue.
Having ended my sermons on the covenant of works, 6th May, I did on 1st July enter on the covenant of grace, the which ordinary, meeting with occasional interruptions, and being pursued from several texts, lasted near about two years.
In the beginning of the month last mentioned, I finished the notes on the Marrow of Modern Divinity; which afterwards in the year 1726 were printed with the Marrow itself; in the which, out of regard to the authority of the church, that yet in that matter I durst not obey, I took to myself the name of PHILALETHES IRENAEUS, as bearing my real and sincere design therein, viz. truth and peace. In compiling of these notes, I had in view what was advanced against the Marrow in the several prints extant at that time, and which had come to my hand; especially Principal Haddow's Antinomianism of the Marrow of Modern Divinity detected; but naming nobody. The unacquaintedness with these prints, may occasion posterity's judging several of the notes quite needless: but at that time many had been at much pains to find knots in a rush.
The sacrament of our Lord's supper was this year celebrated on the 19th of August. On the fast-day, being a presbyterial fast too, I had no help. But the Lord laid liberally to my hand, and I came easily by the several texts to be insisted on the Sabbath before the fast-day, and the communion-day. After the fast-day I was seized with the toothache, which I was not acquainted with before. It broke my rest on the Friday's night: and from the Saturday all along there was a train of trying incidents and temptations came on me; so that I lost much of the Saturday's night's rest too. On the Lord's day my toothache was mercifully removed; and I was all along helped to trust God in that matter. As for my case, I was carried through, in heaviness, with some pleasant blinks and gales now and then; and the Lord was with my two helpers, for I had no more.
9th September. - I assisted at the sacrament in Yarrow. The matter being laid before the Lord, the light calling me to go thither for the service of our common Master, made me put the knife to the throat of my own inclinations. Great was the uneasiness among many in this parish on that account; beyond what I really expected. As for the work itself, I endeavoured to eye the ordinance as the ordinance of God; and indeed in my personal duty of communicating, etc., and my public ministration there (except serving the table), it was well with me. The Lord was with me; and what I met with there, both in public, private, and secret, leaves yet a savoury impression on me. Particularly I had a plain answer of prayer, for assistance in the duty of public prayer.
On the Wednesday after I came from Yarrow, I spent some time in prayer, for direction as to what I should next take in hand. The notes on the Marrow were finished in the beginning of July last. My doubt now was, whether to revise some notes concerning family and personal fasting and humiliation, or to proceed in the essay on the accentuation, which last was laid aside, by reason of the affair of the Marrow, some time in February 1721, excepting that a little was done therein the April following. I could not get clearness to fall on the former, and therefore necessarily fell in with the latter, as what was already begun. So I put pen to paper again in that work 12th September.
At the communion-table in Maxton, 14th October, having upon my spirit a particular concern for the salvation of my family, and the case of my children; I think I was helped to believe, with particular application, the great promise, "I will be thy God, and the God of thy seed;" and am verily persuaded it will be well with them at length.
It was with much fear and trembling that I entered at first on the subject of the covenant of grace; and being, after some interruption, to return thereto, I did, from a sense of my great unacquaintedness with the mystery, on 25th October, being the day before my study-day, spend some time in prayer, for the Lord's manifesting His covenant to me, and for some other causes. And soon after that, I saw, the Lord had been graciously pleased to hear me; and He gave me some sweet views of the mystery. And the truth is, that, notwithstanding of what light into the doctrine of grace I had by the divine favour reached, at several distant periods above marked, I was still all along dark and confused in my notions of that covenant, until I entered on it at this time to preach it; and in the progress therein, things were, by the good hand of my God upon me, gradually cleared unto me, endeavouring to study it, with the utmost application, in dependence on the Lord for light thereinto.
10th February 1723. - I entered on Ps. 15 and for a considerable time dwelt on vers. 1 and 2, judging it meet to intersperse the doctrine of the covenant of grace with that kind of subjects; that I might jointly teach the people the doctrine of grace and Christian morality.
The general assembly, in the month of May this year, put an end to the process against Mr. Wilson, on the account of his synodical sermon aforesaid. It came before them by a reference from our synod; who being bent to find error in the sermon, were, in the schoolhouse of Kelso, upon the very point of giving the stroke, but with great difficulty were got to stop. In the morning before the reference there was a meeting of a few, whether as a committee of the synod, or a private meeting for conference, which I rather suspect, I cannot be positive. There proposals were made for ending the affair: and I made them one, tending to peace, without prejudice to truth; which, though coldly received, yet all hopes of its taking were not cut off, till we came to the synod. But being read there, Mr. James Ramsay, minister of Kelso, fired upon it; and, as I remember, offered to dissent in case it should pass: and, on the contrary, he proposed a severe decision; against which I was resolved to dissent, in case of its being gone into. So the synod, perceiving the affair would go before the general assembly, which way soever they should take, agreed to refer it to them, as it stood before them still entire. At the general assembly, where the proceeding was more wary, Mr. Wilson came off honourably; not one error being fixed on his sermon, notwithstanding all the clamour had been made against it. For his peculiar zeal and faithfulness, his brethren had shot at him particularly; but his bow abode in strength. And the truth is, he was never till that his trial known to them; but it set him in a clear light, and exceedingly raised his reputation. The publishing of his trial has been much desired. I was comforted, in seeing the affair brought to such an issue. Howbeit, by my going in to Edinburgh to the assembly on that account, my proceeding in the essay on the accentuation was again interrupted.
On 9th June I administered the sacrament of the supper. I was much hurried by means of my necessary absence from the parish, in May, on account of Mr. Wilson's affair. My wife was in great distress, and I had no help on the fast-day: but kind Providence made my work easy; So that I got the fast-day's sermons on the Monday, and the action-sermon on Thursday and Friday. On the Friday's night, by reason of the scurvy struck out on me, I slept little; on the Saturday's night none at all; which made me very heavy on Sabbath morning. But I remember my great concern was for the efficacy of the word. God mercifully helped me; so that I minded not my want of sleep during my work, till it was over. Thus my troubles and trials increased; but the hand that laid them on, helped. My wife with much difficulty got out to the table. It was at and after that communion the sermons were preached, which since that time have been published, under the title of The Mystery of Christ in the Form of a Servant. The notion of Christ's state of servitude, there advanced and improved, I had been led unto by my study on the covenant of grace.
On the 30th, I entered on the subject of the good fight of faith; being led thereto by my wife's case, and indeed much for her cause. And this was not ended till 20th October.
14th July. - Mr. Henry Davidson and I were at the sacrament in Penpont. It was the second time to him, and but the third to me, though often desired. It was very much against my inclination to go thither, ever since the first time in the year 1709; but I could not evite it, though I left my wife in great distress. The conduct of holy Providence has been very strange and mysterious, with respect to my going to that place all along. All the three times the Lord was with me remarkably in my work there, especially on the Saturday the first time, and on the Sabbath afternoon the two last times. Old notes have still been most blessed, in my case, in that place. The first time I had but one sermon studied for it, and it was not delivered at all there. The second time I had two sermons studied, but one of them was new studied out of old notes; and that was it the Lord made most sweet both to them and me. This last time we had kept a presbyterial fast on the Wednesday before we went thither, on account of a drought altogether extraordinary: and the rain came on that Sabbath we were at Penpont. Several other presbyteries kept it that same week, and the Lord heard prayer. Foreseeing what I thus had to do, having two free days the week before, I attempted to prepare for Penpont; but by no means could get anything for it. Next week I had no time to prepare for it. I was brought to desire of God a message for that place, old or new as He pleased: and I was determined to use old sermons, and fully satisfied and easy therein, as I use not to be in such a case. My trials on all the three occasions of going thither have been remarkable. The first time, the elder that went with me died there, and I lost my horse, as above narrated. The second time, I remember no notable thing that befel me there: but out of my being there at that time rose the business of Closeburn, which was a very considerable trial to me. While I was busy about the notes on the Marrow, Mr. Davidson went in my room; and the Lord was with him. But within a mile of Moffat, his horse was some way wounded in the foot, that he went into Moffat bleeding all along; and with difficulty enough he got to Penpont. He was so late a-returning next week, that I was in great pain about him, and thinking of going or sending to see what was the matter. This was occasioned by his horse's illness. At this time, just as we were got into Moffat water, I discerned my horse crooking. Alighting, I ript his feet, but could see nothing but a hurt on his heel, which seemed to be an old one, altogether unknown to me. Mr. Davidson fell ill of the gravel at Craigsbeck. But we made forward, lost our way in the hills beyond Moffat, going through mosses, etc., till in our greatest extremity, not knowing what hand to turn to, by kind Providence we saw a lad who set us on the way. Under night we lost the way again; but at length got to a house, where we were provided of a guide. My horse went crooking all along to Penpont. I industriously forbare to speak anything of my horse that night, and on the morrow I spoke of him to a servant only: and the servant having taken him away some miles in the morning, told me he saw nothing ailed him. When we came off on Tuesday, my horse was perfectly right; but no sooner did Mr. Davidson begin to move with his, but two persons standing behind observed his horse to crook, and told him of it. Yet in a little the crook left him; and we arrived safe at Etterick that night, with much thankfulness to the Lord. On the morrow Mr. Davidson went home, and fell ill of the gravel: and I was indisposed always till the Thursday was eight days after, by which time I had completed my studies for the sacrament at Maxton, to which I went off on the morrow: but notwithstanding of my toil, and a little of a sore throat I got there, I was very well after I came home. If there is anything in this matter to be attributed to the agency of evil spirits, or not, I cannot say; but be it as it will, I know that nothing can fall out without the supreme management of my Father; and from His hand I take it, as a deep of holy Providence.
5th September. - The writing of the essay on the accentuation of the Hebrew Bible, interrupted by my going to the assembly in May, being again entered to on the 6th of August, was ended this day, being Thursday, and laid before the Lord with thanksgiving.
10th September: - This day I spent some time in thanksgiving to the Lord, upon the account of the mercy of that book now ended; and prayer, for a blessing on it, and that the Lord may find out means, whereby it may become of public use, for advancing of scripture-knowledge; and for some other particulars in my circumstances, particularly with respect to my wife's affliction, etc. I had a heart-melting view of the conduct of holy Providence towards poor me, from my childhood even until now. O! how am I deeply indebted to a gracious God preventing me with kindness, and working about me for ends I knew nothing of in the time! I have had much sweetness in the original text: and it made me this day to think, how inconceivably sweet must the personal Original of the original text be! how sweet to see, by the light of glory, the glory of God in the face of Jesus! When I got Cross's Taghmical Art from Mr. Macghie, I knew nothing of the matter: but the Lord gave me some sweet discoveries, by means of the accentuation, when He had so led me to notice it. Holy and wise was that Providence, by which I in vain tried to understand and digest in order Mr. Cross's system; and that kept Wasmuth from me till I was begun to write; and that I had nothing of his character nor his books from anybody: and Pfeiffer I had not till the year 1720. By this means I was kept free of being preoccupied and impressed by anybody's authority; I was led to trust nothing but as I saw it with my own eyes. While I was making my collections of materials, which I did by reading attentively and observing the sacred text, they made me many errands to the throne of grace, finding myself travelling as in a pathless way, especially in making the observations; and being often as in a thicket, where when I had set down one foot, I knew not where to set down another. But God, the Father of lights, is in my experience the hearer of prayer. Ofttimes was I afraid, that death should have prevented me: but glory to His name for life continued, for time and opportunity for study allowed, for strength to make use of that time, and for a blessing on my endeavours therewith made. It is the doing of the Lord, and it is wondrous in my eyes, that He has hid these things from many truly wise, and has revealed them to a babe: and I still find the sense of this humbles my soul within me, before Him; as being thereby made a great debtor: and it fills my heart with love to Himself. I see there is one thing wanting in it, which I desire to wait on the Lord for, if so be He may be pleased to discover it to me, namely, the reason of double accentuation, which I have not yet been able to reach to my satisfaction. Whatever other wants there be in that essay, towards the perfecting of the knowledge of that subject, this is a palpable one.
Having now of a long time had a great desire, to translate the Hebrew text agreeable to the accentuation, or sacred stigmatology, I spent some time in prayer, 30th October, for direction and assistance in that work; and on the morrow after I began it. Having dipt into that work, it proved at length quite another thing than I at first designed. Herein I was employed that winter, and the spring following; wherein, having carried it to the 15th chapter of Genesis, translating, and writing notes on the translation, I left it in April 1724; at which time my daughter Alison was taken ill of a fever. That was but small progress made in so long a time: but afterwards it was much less. For my plan was, by degrees brought on, still more difficult and laborious; and was but carried to its height on the 18th and 19th chapters: and this, in the regress on it, nude me much new work, towards the beginning of the book. One will hardly have a just notion of the huge toil in tossing lexicons and the Hebrew concordance, for finding out the formal significations of the Hebrew words, set down in the literal translation, without one make trial of it himself. But the more hard anything was to reach, I had usually the greatest satisfaction and pleasure in it when discovered; and was on the whole abundantly rewarded.
On the 7th of June the sacrament was celebrated. I had had much weary work from the family of J. A., he having repeated his abominations, and another of that family having fallen into fornication. Mrs. A., spouse to the said J., had much ado to bear my proceedings in these odious cases; but her husband being a peaceable man, things were kept in tolerable case betwixt them and me. But he dying in February this year, she of a long time after came not to the church. Having come at length, some time before the sacrament, she on the fast-day, I think, desired of me a token to partake. Now a woman had gone out of the family, and absconded, being famed to be with child; and another had deposed, that she told to Mrs. A. that she thought the party foresaid was with child, the deponent and she being fellow-servants, and lying in one bed together. This relating to the time before the absconding; I did, upon the occasion of demanding the token aforesaid, lay this matter before her: whereupon she, taking it heinously, came not to the sacrament, and all along to this day has turned her back on the public ordinances in the church. I have dealt with her again and again; her children also have dealt with her, to return: but all in vain. She remains wilful, and goes nowhere on the Lord's day; but some few times has appeared at Mr. Macmillan's meetings, which now are very rare in the country. To this she has added, not to come into our house for so many years, to visit my wife in her long distress. This is a piece of malignity which one must lay his account with, in following duty.
At this sacrament having only my two helpers, and my wife's case being at a great extremity, I have it to notice to the praise of free grace, that the Lord however made it a very comfortable work, and orderly: yea a special care of the divine Providence was about it. Mr. Wilson the week before had a fit of the ague, and not coming up on Friday's night, I had laid my account to preach on the Saturday: and when he came up on the Saturday, I had given orders about sending for Mr. G. providentially at Cavers; but no more was done in that. I was helped to trust the Lord for carrying on His own work, and had not much uneasiness that way: hereto contributed my remembering that I myself fell indisposed on Wednesday, but was mercifully recovered, so as, on the morrow, I went about the whole fast-day's work alone, comfortably. Mr. Davidson that week was threatened with a fit of the gravel, but mercy stopt it. He was taken ill of a headache, about the latter end of the Sabbath work forenoon here: it left him when he went out to preach the afternoon-sermon. In a word, nothing was lacking, neither strength of body, nor what was necessary for edifying the body of Christ. My wife being all the time in great distress fixed to her bed, and a great throng in the house; yet things were managed with discretion and order. However, her case was evidently worsted by the weight of people's coming in to visit her. But to Him I give thanks who has happily carried through this work: for my wife was not without thoughts, that it might be the time of her departure: and on Tuesday, ere the ministers went away, she seemed indeed to be at the point of death; so that not only they, but a neighbour, were called to be witnesses to the issue. The frame of my spirit, on the Saturday and Sabbath morning, I found to be flat: but now for some time that my bodily strength is sensibly decayed, I have in some measure learned to trust in the Lord more, though my pains in secret duties are less than sometimes they have been, when my strength would bear more. And my trust was not in vain. At the table, even about the time of distributing the bread, my false heart was unseasonably carried off to a thought, which was stunning and stumbling: but pressed with the sense of need, I was thereby stirred up to the exercise of faith on Christ, for the sanctification of my unholy nature. But O that hereby I might learn to watch!
This summer 1724 has been the most trying time that ever my family had since we were a family. I had made some alterations in the house before the sacrament, turning the barn into a kitchen, the hall into a cellar, and so making two low bedrooms, which we had not before. The design we had in view, was chiefly my wife's case, in her heaviness, requiring the little room; and then to have more room for strangers at the sacrament; for which cause a new bed was made, and set up in the low room. But Providence had a design in it unknown to us, namely, that it might be a convenient sickbed room; and for that use it was for more than two months.
On Lord's day, 14th June, I closed my subject of the covenant of grace: my notes thereon being written so largely, that, in transcribing them since for the press, I needed rather, for the most part, to contract, than to add and enlarge.
On the following Sabbath, the 21st, having come in from the sermons, and sat down to dinner, I fell indisposed; endured the time of dinner; but while we were singing as usual (I think the psalm was Ps. 107: 2:3, and downwards), after it my trouble came to a height, and I went off, with much ado, to my closet, where a prodigious vomiting and exquisite pain seized me, which afterwards I knew to be a fit of the gravel, which I had never been acquainted with before. It kept me till the Wednesday thereafter; though not always agonising. It was told me, that one fit of the agony lasted about five hours, another about seven hours. In the meantime of my trouble, my wife, whom all had enough ado to wait on before, was helped to go up and down stairs, betwixt me and the children, then sick, and to be helpful to both. When all were recovered, I was thinking on a day for a family-thanksgiving; but was some way diverted from it: but that day, or the morrow after, the clouds returned after the rain: my son John fell sick, and at the same time our servant-woman. His case was of all the most dangerous. The fever took no turn in the daughters till the eleventh day, in the sons till the thirteenth; but in the servant-woman on the sixth. Thus was the summer spent; but no breach was made on us. They all came out of their fevers insensibly, without a distinct crisis; but my eldest son was very long a-recovering, even till about the middle of August. Towards the end of that month, we had a day of family-thanksgiving; the whole family, except the man-servant, having been under the rod.
I was sensibly helped to the exercise of faith in the time of our first distress; and had a sweet view of the Lord Jesus as administrator of the covenant, being a skilful pilot to carry us through the deep waters; which view was kept before me all along, after we were entered into them. My personal trouble was turned to my advantage. It was sore indeed; but kind Providence made it short, and timed it so happily, that my public work was not interrupted by it. I saw therein a palpable difference between groaning and grudging. For while in my agony I could not help groaning and crying, so that I was heard at a distance; yet my heart, sensible that I had had much health, was made by grace to say, Welcome, welcome; and kissed the rod, for the sake of Him who groaned and died on the cross for me; and I was even made to weep for joy in His dying love to me. The foundation of faith, that "whosoever believeth, shall not perish, but have everlasting life," John 3: 16, was my anchorground. I had a satisfaction, in that while the rod was going about, my kind God had not forgotten me, but given me my share. But I had a greater difficulty to believe, upon the turning back of our broken ship into the deeps, after we were brought within sight of land. But one day, as I was going into the pulpit, in the time of our first distress, the congregation was singing Ps. 128: ver. 3, to the end, "Thy children like to oliveplants about thy table round," etc. That came seasonably to me, and was of great use to me all along thereafter. At length I got my wife and children so planted about my table; and, on the family-thanksgiving, I told them how useful that psalm had been to me in the day of our distress; and so I sung it with them. And there is something more in that psalm, that I have some expectation of still.
Meanwhile this shock by the gravel quite broke and shattered my frame and altered my constitution; so that thereafter I was no more as I had been formerly.
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