Memoirs of the Life, Time, and Writings
of the Reverend and Learned
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Period XII - From The Notable Breach In My Health, To The Time Of The Closing Of This Account
This notable alteration was the more remarkable, that it came on when I was now going in the forty-ninth year of my age, the seventh septenary: and here I reckon the groaning part of my life, more plainly pointing to my dissolution, to have begun. And whatever groanings I had, in the former part of my life, been witness to by day or by night, it has, in the depth of sovereign wisdom, for my greater trial, been from the preceding April 1724, unto this day, my lot, to be solitary in my closet by night, as well as by day: but good is the will of the Lord; He has done all things well.
The summer thus spent as aforesaid, a weary season to me, at best, as an idle time; being engaged in a course of drinking Moffat-well water, at home, for the gravel, I did, on the last day of August, put pen to paper again, in the beloved work aforesaid on the Hebrew text; not knowing whether I would be able to sit close any more at it or not. But it is but little I have had access to do in it since; however, I desire to be thankful, that I have got the essay on the accentuation done: how the Lord may dispose of me after, I know not; but I desire to be resigned.
Now as the winter came on, my teeth began to be loosened, much pain in them going before; and that season I lost three, whereof two were fore-teeth; which marred my pronunciation in some measure. Nevertheless I was helped closely to ply the work aforesaid: and my plan therein was carried to its height, with exceeding great labour: and when at any time I happened to go to bed, with some difficulty entered into, but not got through, the intenseness of the mind upon it bereaved me of some sleep, which I think did harm.
In the time of our distress in the summer, watchful and kind Providence favoured me with a visit from Mr. J. G., a minister of the Church of Scotland, whom I had but little acquaintance of before: A man well seen in the doctrine of free grace, and to a pitch kind, and disposed to be useful, whereof I have since had signal proof. At that time I shewed him, that I could get nobody to judge of the essay made on the Hebrew accentuation, the performance being upon such an out-of-the-way subject; and that I had some view to Professor Simpson for that end. And he having minded this, and taken occasion in his own country to inform himself, did afterwards write me a letter, giving me notice of Mr. George Gordon, professor of the Oriental languages in the King's College, Aberdeen, as the fittest in our island to judge in such matters. Mr. Wodrow was his informer, being a man of the most extensive correspondence. I had no acquaintance with Mr. Gordon, nor did I know his character, but by my correspondent's letter. I knew not till afterwards that I had it from himself, that he was that Gordon whom Mr. Cross mentions in his preface to the Taghmical Art. But without more ado, I quickly addressed myself to him, by a letter of the 4th December, committing the matter to the Lord.
Meanwhile, after closing my sermons on the covenant of grace, I had pursued my former subject of Christian morality, in the general, from John 15: 14, "Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you;" and Eccles. 9: 10, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it," etc. Then I entered on some particulars, viz. against profane swearing, sinful anger, revenge; and pressed the love of our enemies; the which subjects were ended 27th December.
On the 17th of January 1725, I received a letter from Mr. George Gordon aforesaid, large and friendly, quite beyond anything I could have expected, shewing all readiness to peruse the essay, when it could conveniently be put in his hand. This step of Providence was great in my eyes, looking like a dawning of light, in a case right hopeless, even as to the getting anybody's judgement upon it, that I could rely on, for which my attempts hitherto had been baffled. The date of the letter, being 1st January, was most sweet, when I called to mind, that that very day having spent some time in solemn prayer (as usual on the occasion of the new year), my letter's finding favour with that man, had been much on my heart before the Lord. Whatever be the issue, it is a great mercy to me, to have hope of getting it put in one's hand capable to judge of it.
After carrying on the work aforesaid, through the first twenty chapters of Genesis, I found it necessary to stop; and that in consideration of my frailty, and that the notes were written in short-hand characters, and therefore useless to any but myself. And after seeking the Lord, I began, on the 9th of February, to write all over in mundo, in long hand, desiring to believe that He will give power to the faint, and to them that have no might, He will increase strength.
The notes on the Marrow had now for some time been in a friend's hand at Edinburgh. And in the latter end of that month, there was a proposal made me, for publishing the Marrow with them. Mr. William Wardrobe apothecary there, above mentioned, was the chief undertaker in this. Hereupon I revised the notes again: and having spent some time in prayer for light in that matter, 6th April, and again on the 13th, laid it before the Lord, I was cleared, and determined to give up the copy of the Marrow, as corrected and new-modelled by me, together with the notes thereon, into his hand, to do therein as he should find himself conducted by Providence; and this in consideration that matters are still growing worse in this generation, and the declining is on the increase; for the sake of truth, and of the present and rising generation.
In this month of April, began my wife's entire barring from public ordinances, which lasteth unto this day.
About the middle of May, my son Thomas, who had got about two years' domestic teaching in the Latin tongue, especially by my own and my other son's means, was sent to the grammar-school at Hawick.
Now, after insisting for some time this year on the hiding of the Lord's face, Ps. 30: 7, I entered on "the Son of Man's coming to seek and save the lost," Luke 19: 10, and dwelt thereon till the sermons preparatory for the sacrament of the supper. It was administered 6th June, not without apprehensions, that it might be the last I should have occasion to administer. By that time I had carried on the work foresaid to Gen. 3: 22, I entered on it, and proceeded therein, with a view of death at my back; and was much eased in my mind, when I had brought it that length; judging that the church of God might thereby discern what it was I aimed at, in case I should never have had access to have carried it on further.
Meanwhile great were my trials about this communion. My wife seemed to be in a dying condition for about two weeks before: on the Tuesday immediately before the communion, the surgeon told me, he thought she could not now last long. The want of my teeth made speaking difficult; and I had less strength to speak with, than some time before: and the remaining teeth were become blackish. But the Lord pitied, amidst these and other trying incidents.
Mr. Gordon aforesaid coming to Edinburgh to the summer-session, the essay on the accentuation was, according to our concert, put into his hand about this time.
I preached the action-sermon on the "bruising of the serpent's head," Gen. 3: 15. On the Monday I studied my sermons for the fast on the Wednesday, and that day preached twice in the forenoon; but I had help in the afternoon, though not much to my comfort. I began my studies of the action-sermon on Thursday afternoon, but they went not well with me. I began therefore over again on Friday; but being out of order, through want of sleep, I was forced to give it over, after I had done about the one half. So on Saturday morning I had the other half to study: and, for ought I remember, this was new; being always, one way or other, more timeously provided. I had resolved to preach but about an hour; but the watch for the time proved useless to me: so I preached about an hour and a half in much weakness, and was at length exhausted. I quite forgot to pray after sermon; and never had the least thought of it, till returning into the tent after the first table, I reflected on it: and this did much confound me. The most sensible breathings of the Spirit that I had that day, were in the prayer of consecration, and the giving of thanks after the action; in both which addresses to the throne, the Lord was so with my spirit, that bodily strength was afforded me too. My wife was carried through and preserved, but still in great distress. The weather was louring, yet we had very little disturbance by it. But on Monday, at the dismissing of the congregation, rain came on; and in a little after, there was a violent storm of wind and rain, falling on the Lord's people going to their own homes; of whom many having come from afar, behoved to lodge all night somewhere by the way. It continued that afternoon, and most of the Tuesday. Mr. Wilson suggested to me, that the bruised serpent was raging, and we were in concern for the preservation of the Lord's people by the way. I saw it then, on his suggesting it; and was thereby presently determined in my own mind to continue on that text; which accordingly I did insist on till 12th September. I know the serpent had more ends to serve by that disturbance in the air, than that one of molesting the Lord's people in their way home: it raised the affliction also of a particular person to a height. On the Friday after, I was comforted by a letter I received, showing, that from several it was understood to have been a time of the Lord's presence in a remarkable manner; that it was no wonder the bruised serpent raged; particularly as to one, that it was one of the best days they had ever seen on earth. I have got a lesson to beware of fretting at long prayers by others; it was for that I was checked, by my forgetting to pray at all: and thereby also I have seen the need of dependence on the Lord, in the most ordinary things wherein one would think one can hardly mistake. The business of the journey to Penpont, and this stormy weather aforesaid, with other incidents, incline me to think, that I have but too little noticed Satan's activity in such matters. But glory to Jehovah, who comforteth us in all our tribulations: I have been perplexed, but not in despair.
Mr. Gordon returning to Edinburgh unto the winter-session, and having read the essay on the accentuation, desired an interview. Whereupon I made a stretch, and went thither on the 23rd of November. I was very apprehensive, that I would meet with discouragement from him. Tarrying there about eight days, I had in that time several meetings with him; and we went through his remarks on the essay. He not having given his judgement on the thing in gross, nor like to do it at all, I, ere we should part, was obliged to put on a brow, and downright to ask his judgement of the performance, as to the main. To which he answered, That as to the main we were agreed. I asked him again, Whether he could have freedom to give it his public approbation? and he replied, He not only had freedom to do it, but thought it his duty to do it. Hereupon I was swallowed up in joy and comfort, that the Lord had so far pitied and comforted me. But in that time, and after, I found the borrower to be servant to the lender.
At the same time, my Lord Grange, of his own accord, offered me encouragement in it; and told me, that Mr. Gordon said to him about it, that it looked almost as if it had been done by inspiration. But meeting all three together in his lodging, by appointment, they both agreed, that the essay, or at least an abstract thereof, behoved yet to be done in Latin; and offered nothing for publishing it in English. Their reasons were, that it could not be done in Scotland, nor yet in Holland, correctly, unless it was in Latin; that the thing being so little known in this island, it could not be thought to find buyers in it, being published in English. This new work laid upon me, now when my strength was exhausted, was an occasion of heavy thoughts to me: so after my lifting up, I was cast down again. Thus the weight of apprehended discouragement from Mr. Gordon, which I took from home with me, lay on me all the time I was in town, till the day or so before I came away, that I interrogated him as aforesaid, that it was lightened; and then the weight returned again while I was thinking to return home, and the matter began to move slow again. Nighting at Cardrona, on my way home, on the morrow there was a great storm of snow driving; and I was importuned to stay. I went to the Lord as my Father, for His pity; and had confidence in Him, that He who knew how unable I was to stand before the cold, and what need there was for me to be at home, would pity. So we came away, and still the snow crave on: but by the time ere entered in among the hills, it ceased; so that I never in my life rode that way with greater ease. Howbeit, when we were come over all the hills, and were within two miles of home, it began to drive on again so vehemently, that we could hardly get looked up to discern our way. This was most acceptable and pleasant to me, as an emblem of my lot, viz., difficulties ventured on at the Lord's call, which I know not how to get through; carried through, meanwhile, in the greatest difficulties; and then the clouds returning again after the rain. When I came home, I found J. A.'s child, whom he had got baptised by a curate brought in by him to this parish, had died while I was from home, and was buried that same day, a little before my arrival.
Now for the remaining part of that year, to 12th December, I did, for my ordinary, handle the subject of forsaking the fountain of living waters, and hewing out broken cisterns, etc., from Jer. 2: 13.2
The parish of Selkirk having now for some time been vacant, through the death of Mr. Macghie; and my wife's case allowing my going abroad in the winter, rather than the summer, I went thither, and preached 2nd January 1726. On the morrow after, I visited a sick person without the town; and from thence came to Faldhop in my way home, and visited another; but was taken ill there of a fit of the gravel. Mounting my horse, I rode from thence in great agony to Newhouse, in a cold frosty day: reaching which place with great difficulty, I just fell down; but getting into a bed a while, I recovered some ease. Wherefore I mounted again: but by the way it seized me anew, and in great distress I came into Upper Delorain. There I staid all night, and turned easy again. On the morrow coming homeward, it again seized me, that I was obliged to go to Calcrabank; where recovering after a while, I came home, and it went off. This I reckon to have been owing to the unclearness of the drink I had got in my quarters at Selkirk: the which since that time has made me more cautious; drinking no ale while new, or very old, or muddy. A considerable time after this being at Midgehop, where was a little wench from Newhouse, who had said to them, that at such a time, viz. the foresaid, I came in there drunk; Jane Hope, a well-disposed person, wounded me to the heart, telling me, most simply and imprudently, before not only the wench, as I remember, but another woman whom I was not yet well acquainted with, that the foresaid had said so. Thus was I most unjustly and cruelly wounded, in that place where I had often comforted, and been comforted: but this happened not indeed in the family most comfortable to me. But O! what need of that charity that "thinketh no evil;" and of due caution as to the case and actions of others, not to judge rashly! It is dangerous, as my experience in that matter has taught me. I had, some years before that time, encountered, in Newhouse, with a good man, whom I knew not: him being paralytic in the tongue, and newly come home from a fair, I took to be drunk, so that I could not endure to converse with him, till Walter Bryden, then tenant there, cured me of my misapprehension about the honest man. So He is a jealous God, with whom we have to do. But I cannot but admire the wisdom of that kind Providence, which, after I had complained in that house to the master of it, touching the misrepresentation that had been made of my illness in it, as above said, brought him to my house; where being just to sit down to meat with him, I was seized with another fit of the gravel, and obliged to retire, and groan under it, leaving him and the table. I reckon myself debtor to my God for this beautifully-timed fit, which served to confirm, that I had been injured in the matter of the former.
On 26th March, I finished the work on the first twenty chapters of Genesis. That winter my frailty was great, being quite unable to bear the cold, the blood and spirits deserting my fingers: so that the parish was but once examined for that year, and that after the vernal equinox, save one diet only in the beginning of the winter, and I had several thoughts, that there would be a necessity of my demitting, as unable for the charge. Having read Dr. Cheyne's book on health, I had set myself to regulate my manner of living accordingly, for the cure of the scurvy: so I ate very sparingly at dinner, and took no supper. This course I used, I think, more than a year about this time; going to bed withal about nine, and rising early about four or five; making the time of dinner late in the afternoon, and thereafter doing nothing, until I went to bed again. Thus my work indeed went on, but my body was brought to that low pass. And whereas my head has now shaken, for several years, paralytically; the first time I observed that shaking thereof, was on the Saturday's afternoons, when I shaved myself, in the time I was employed in writing the said manuscript. Afterwards I returned again to my ordinary way of living; seldom succeeding in my projects for health by art, whether with or without the physician's advice.
About this time began my wifeĎs constant confinement to her bed: for whereas formerly she was wont to have some respite in the winter, so as to rise out of her bed, in that season of the year, she has, since the month of March 1726, lain constantly, all the year over, in winter as well as summer, unto this day.
25th April, Monday. - From that 25th of March aforesaid, I have been endeavouring to know what I shall do next, and to lay that matter before the Lord. And this morning, being in Eskdalemoor, where I preached yesterday, in the laigh room in the manse there, having had the matter aforesaid much at heart before the Lord in secret, it fell in order, as being abroad, that I read Ps. 71 in the Hebrew original: and it pleased the Lord so to shine upon the latter part of it particularly, that from ver. 14 to the end, it was made most sweet to me, and encouraging, towards the matter of writing the essay on the accentuation in Latin, and the low circumstances I was, then brought into in respect of bodily weakness.
Accordingly on the Wednesday 27th April, I began to write the essay foresaid in Latin. And as I went on, I read something of Cicero, in my leisure-hours, for the language, and noted in a book some terms and phrases, taken from him, and others; particularly out of Calepin's dictionary, which Providence had in the year 1724 laid to my hand, when I knew not for what use it was designed. And to this collection I had frequent recourse, while I wrote that book; and found it to be of good use to me. I had formerly, upon occasion of appearing in print, done the same as to the English tongue; by which means my style, that I had been careless of before, was now somewhat refined.
But this year, the course of administering the sacrament of our Lord's supper was interrupted, through a disorder in the eldership, and my wife's heavy case, meeting together. Meanwhile, after closing of the former subject, I entered on Christ's titles, Isa. 9: 6, "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of peace," for my ordinary; the which I treated of at large; and then added thereto several sermons on believing the report concerning Him, on Isa. 53: 1, "Who has believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" and concluded these subjects 12th August.
Having plied the writing of the Latin essay on the accentuation through the winter, I finished it on the 17th of March 1727; consisting the first part of 182, the second of 322 pages in quarto. That day was to me, on this account, one joyful day among many heavy and sorrowful ones I have had; and it was my birthday, upon which, not by any art of mine, but providentially, as I went on in my ordinary course, the finishing of that work of my life did fall. It being Friday, I had studied my sermons by eleven o'clock; and having refreshed myself an hour, I finished that work about four o'clock; laid it before the Lord with thanksgiving for life, strength, and heart, graciously given me, for it; sang that latter part of the 71st psalm, given me for my launching out, as being now on the shore; dined with my two daughters, with a kind of little solemnity; and at night in the family sang again that part of the 71st psalm, which I could not get conveniently done after dinner, in respect of a stranger, a widow, being present in the house. She came in while I was finishing my work; and in token of my thankfulness to God for His bounty to me in this matter, I gave her a crown on the Monday when she went away, and three shillings on Saturday to some others in straits. After some time spent on Saturday morning in further thanksgiving, being dissatisfied with some phrases in one or both of the two last paragraphs, I wrote the last leaf over again; and added the Hebrew sentences, as the language of my heart and experience, to the praise of a gracious God.
In the spare time I had till 28th March I sought out and bound up some papers which I incline not to leave behind me; read over the MS. now finished; reformed my closet; took a list of borrowed books with me; and made a catalogue of such of my own books, as I desired to leave for prosecuting the study on the Hebrew Bible, which I have begun, though I know not to whose hand they may fall, but being desirous, that, if it shall please the sovereign Manager, they may be so disposed of and employed; and took some new thoughts of the way of disposing my worldly goods to my children; but the then state of my affairs would not permit the putting them as yet in execution. These things were done, with a design to have no incumbrance from worldly affairs, when the Lord should be pleased to call me home. Meanwhile my wife's furnace was heated. In the thoughts aforesaid of my demission, I had some view of carrying her in to Edinburgh against the winter 1726, and going in thither myself too, for the winter, and to make trial that way: but her indisposition increasing beyond what it had formerly in that season, barred all moving that way: meanwhile He helped us both through, and kept me up better than the winter before.
For my ordinary, I had, on 19th February, entered on the subject of propagating religion to posterity, and discoursing it from Isa. 38: 19, "The living, the living, he shall praise Thee," etc., insisted thereon till 21st May, that I entered on sermons preparatory for the sacrament. About which time, the weather proving exceeding rainy, for about the space of a month, I was brought to a pitch of bodily weakness, though my great task was now off my hand. In this case, at the sacrament, 11th June, my kind and gracious Master managed me as ever a mother would have done a weak child: so that at that time I got a lesson, just to be doing with the strength I have for the time, without asking questions; the which has been of good use to me since. Now the bruised serpent began with a broadside; which was heavy indeed, but made me the rather expect to see the goodness of the Lord in this work an open door, since there were many adversaries. Some of the parish had a horse-race appointed to be just on the Monday before, to which many were invited through the country. I had no notice of it till the immediately preceding Sabbath betwixt sermons; and then told them the surprising indecency of it; got no answer, but that they knew not if it could be got diverted. Hereupon I warned the congregation, that there was a snare laid for them; and the distributing of the tokens, appointed to have been that Sabbath after sermon, was delayed till Thursday the fast-day. The issue was, the manager of that matter seemed to be ashamed, declared he had done it inadvertently. None of the parish answered their invitation but one; a few came from other places; the race was dropped for the time, and they parted civilly. Thus, by the Hearer of Prayer, Satan was outshot in his own bow. He plied another engine. I was wounded and vexed on the Thursday, with Mr. J. M.ís two sermons, on Prov. 28: 13, "He that covereth his sins, shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them, shall have mercy." Wherein he explained repentance in three things: 1. Confession, implying shame; 2. Sorrow; 3. Forsaking. Then he endeavoured to confirm the necessity of repentance in order to remission; held out the fear of hell as what all had reason to entertain, to move them to repent; and harangued against delaying of repentance. The whole was shut up with that, We were not to do this in our own strength, but in the strength of God, and in dependence on Christ, from whom the grace must come. He had not one word of confessing over the head of the great sacrifice, nor of the sin of our nature, nor was faith in Jesus Christ, or remission by His blood, once named, farther than that dependence on Christ above mentioned may be thought to bear; far less faith, as uniting the soul to Christ as the fountain of holiness. I had reason to think it was designed against the doctrine I preach. And thus was I rewarded for my preaching for him, April gone a year; employing him here on the fast before the last communion, which gave me dissatisfaction of the same kind; and employing him again this time, in hope of better things: all which I did, not from private inclination, but from a sincere desire to strengthen his hands in the Lord's work in his parish; being persuaded, that any reputation the Lord has given me, I was bound to lay it out for the furthering His own interest and kingdom. However, kind Providence ordered that I preached in the afternoon, contrary to what he seemed to expect at his coming; and that also was by the same hand kindly guided, some things falling in the way necessary on such an occasion, and on the other hand tenderness used for peace sake. Thus I have seen the strain prevailing among the young divines, whom I have had no other occasion to hear: and some of the people here have discovered their savour and discerning on this occasion; so that out of the eater has come forth meat.
In respect of my bodily weakness, I thought I would provide timely for the sacrament, that I might rest and be refreshed the latter end of the week. So I prepared the fast-day's sermon the week before: but I was otherwise so taken up on Monday, that I could not get the action-sermon begun till Tuesday, nor perfected till Friday morning. And then I had so much prepared, that I knew not how I would be able to deliver it. But then the Lord had given it so, that it was most easily impressed on my memory; and I had it mandated by two o'clock afternoon; a forwardness I do not remember to have been in before. Then I thought I would rest at length: but thereafter I was held so I busy otherwise, that that afternoon I was exhausted; so was I on Saturday's night (what time I was wont to mandate my sermon), that I was able to do nothing. So the first time I could again set myself to go over it again in my mind, was between seven and eight on Sabbath morning, which I did cursorily. And thus was I but just where I used to be formerly at that time. Meanwhile, being put off my ordinary time of going to bed, sleep departed from me in great measure, both Friday and Saturday nights. In this case was I, when to enter on the solemn work of the Sabbath, weaker than ever, toiled and exhausted more than ever. But behold, strength was perfected in weakness; and I was in exercise, four hours together in the tent, and at the table. Only I rested a while in the midst of my sermon, the congregation singing; and then I prayed a few words, and entered on again: I never did it before, but I bless the Lord who gave me that counsel. The Wednesday was very rainy, the Thursday the fast-day was fair. The Friday was rainy, so that several were kept back that would have come from other places: but the whole three days, there was not a drop let fall on us. The Lord's own day was a grim louring day: no sun appeared, if it was not towards night. I stood in that tent the sweetest easiest station that ever I had on the like occasion; it was just to my wish: my Master managed me in that matter, as ever a mother would have done a weak child: (and the remembrance of it, at the writing it here, produces tears of joy and admiration of His goodness). And it was the sweeter, when it made me reflect on a word I had said in secret prayer that morning, in view of my weakness, which in the time I thought was none of the best worded, viz., "Cast a cloud over me, with a little gale of wind." The one was, because I thought I was not able to abide the sun; and the other, that I was not able to bear a dead calm. The Lord was with me in the delivering His word, with grave solid concern, as treating with sinners in the name of God. When I entered on the study of that sermon, I was very peremptory that I should be nothing in it but a voice: and I doubt if ever I was more so for so long a time together. And I did think, and do think still, I am very certain, it was the Lord's own message for that time: and can hardly think but He had something to do with it. I have learned anew to prize my two friends, who preached the gospel with the Master's own countenance. What is the chaff to the corn! Powerful were the prayers that they poured out for my afflicted wife; in whose case I turning quite hopeless some time ago, did myself much harm, and was almost sunk. At the table of the Lord, whithersoever I looked, I could see almost nothing, but sovereignty of a gracious God; when I looked to Christ, and when I looked to myself and relations, particularly to my wife's case. Sovereignty appeared in the person of Christ, the human nature being in Him united to the divine nature; sovereignty appeared in the way of the Father's dealing with Him, in His birth, life, and death: and thus I travelled betwixt the view of sovereignty with respect to Jesus Christ, and the view of it with respect to me and mine, backward and forward; believing my union with Him.
16th July 1727. - The Lord was very signally present at the sacrament celebrated in Maxton this day. I got a lesson of living by faith; in my serving of tables, not knowing what to speak, but finding it given sweetly and liberally in the moments wherein it was needed. The issue of all unto me was, I found my faith much strengthened. Powerful were the prayers there put up for my wife, now in the eighth year of her distress, from May 1720. And for several of these years, she has been free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, remembered no more; being overwhelmed with bodily maladies, her spirits drunk up with terror, by means of her imagination vitiated in a particular point, and harassed with Satan's temptations plied against her at that disadvantage. Meanwhile, in all things else, she remains clear in her judgement, and pointed in her discourse, as before. As she has been all along supported to a wonder; so the Lord has at times given her remarkable visits in her prison, and manifested His love to her soul. And the reality of the grace of God in her, has, by means of her trial, been manifested to conviction. When I came home, she related to me, how that morning I went away, she had been reduced to the utmost extremity; and that which in the imagination thereof was the cause of her terror, really falling out that afternoon, which I very well knew in the time, but had no access to help her, but by lifting up my heart to the Lord on her account; yet she was strengthened to bear it, in such sort as she had particularly desired that day, and had not for several years before reached unto: and how gracious the Lord had been to her on the Saturday, being the morrow after, and the Sabbath; so that she was brought to say in her heart, Who knows but the Lord may yet bring me again to the land of the living! This surprising relation discovering that God had remarkably heard prayer on her behalf, I began to conceive more firm hopes of her deliverance. Now we were, with our broken ship, within sight of the shore; and I was as one stretching forth his arms, crying, help forward, help forward! But behold, in a little time after, the storm rose anew; and the ship was beat back into the main ocean, out of sight of land again.
31st July. - Monday, I fell under a considerable illness, which I took to be the effect of Moffat-well water, having advanced to three chopins of it, being weary of the time the drinking of it took up. On the Thursday's night it came to an extremity, so that death stared me in the face; and the sending for help proposed was delayed, till it should be seen, what the morrow would produce. This was a sharp-edged trial to me. I had been invited to the sacrament at Ear, to be administered 6th August, the very following Sabbath; but, for a testimony against the injury done by the minister of that place here, to the truth of the gospel, refused. Now I feared I would be made the reproach of the foolish, being likely to preach none at all that Sabbath, nor at Galashiels sacrament the following Lord's day, 13th August, if ever to preach more. Thus I was obliged to review that refusal; and found, in the face of extremity, I had done no more in it, but what was necessary for the sake of truth; and desired to lay my credit, and my all, at the Lord's feet. On the morrow my illness abated; but I was unable to study, and was satisfied in an old sermon I thought the Lord had use for. I was helped to deliver it on the Lord's day, and to go about my work as ordinary; which was a mercy exceeding great in my eyes, in that thereby I was not left to be the reproach of the foolish. On the Tuesday after, I studied a little for Galashiels: but it was the Wednesday ere I was quite well; and that day and Thursday I was strengthened to do my work for that place.
12th August Saturday. - I preached this day on Luke 18: 8, "I tell you, He will avenge them speedily." I had, when at Maxton, had an eye to that text for this occasion; but afterwards laid aside thoughts of it. Yet when the time drew near, I was driven back to it. And this strengthened my hopes of my wife's deliverance, as did also my late deliverance.
On the Sabbath morning, minding to read Isa. 53: the 63rd chapter turned up, and I was moved to read it: and the fourth verse thereof, "The day of vengeance is in Mine heart, and the year of My redeemed is come," so harmonising with my text, sweetly surprised me, and raised my hopes very full, as to the deliverance aforesaid drawing near. At the table I had a view of Christ Himself as ALL to me; and going to view particular benefits, as pardon, etc., I was led back to behold Himself as containing all whatsoever. In concern for my children, that word came, "I will be thy God, and the God of thy seed." Mr. Wilson on the Saturday, and at the tables, insisted on believing the gospel; and on Monday again, to good purpose. But that day I had wished in my heart he had handled some other subject. Mr. Hunter preached after him on these words, "He is faithful that has promised;" whereby I was checked, and caused to say in my heart, The foolishness of God is wiser than men; seeing how God did confirm what I did not so much approve. I was so refreshed with that sermon of Mr. Hunter's, that I found my very body in good condition when the work was over.
But after all this, coming home, I found my wife was extraordinary ill, and saw her not for some time. And when I saw her, she told me, that it had been extraordinary ill with her, and that she had tasted of the bitterness of death, what she had not known before. However, this made me not to stagger, as to my hope of her deliverance. In prayer at parting with her, it had been kept quite out of my head, to desire of the Lord a comfortable meeting with her. Adverting to this ere I got out of the room, I stood a little astonished, and thought it not meet to tell her of it at that time. But now from this my hopes were confirmed, in that I thought the Lord's having kept from seeking what He minded not to give, was a ground of hope, that He would give the rest which He helped to seek of Him. When we went to familyworship, Josh. 21 being the ordinary, was read, and verse ult., "There failed not ought of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel: all came to pass," was sweet, and pat to my present circumstances in that matter. And on the morrow, having been carried out in secret prayer to plead with God in the same case, I was anew surprised and comforted, reading in my ordinary in the Hebrew Bible, Gen. 25: 21, "And Isaac intreated the Lord for his wife, - and the Lord was intreated of him."
22nd August, Tuesday. - Saturday's night I was raised out of bed to see my wife in great extremity. Sabbath morning comforting her, and shewing that, notwithstanding of all this, the deliverance might be not a whit the farther off, she bid me speak to her as a dying person. Thereafter in secret being somewhat shaken, and expressing my fears before the Lord, that word given at Eskdalemoor, "Thou wilt comfort me on every side," was brought to me, and was staying. Monday she was better: but this morning I found she had been very ill all this night. Even thus in great measure has it been for many years. Meanwhile I am called to wait on, and not to faint. This affliction has been very heavy to me, bowed me down, and contributed to the bringing me to the low case I am now reduced to: and by it I have been under a providential confinement at home, for some years; which however, in the wisdom of Providence, has tended to the carrying on of my work in my closet. Three things I see clearly designed in it. 1. My correction; wherein God is just, very just, as I very well know. 2. My humiliation this being as a weight hung at me, to balance the honour the Lord has put on me in the matter of the accentuation of the Hebrew Bible. 3. The good of His people; in clearing and comforting them by my public work, occasioned by the Lord's dealing thus with me, according to 2 Cor. 4: 15 and 1: 6.
24th August. - I desired the Lord would clear up this day, being foul, that I might get to Mr. Robert Scot's burial, as a token He would hear in that foresaid. Singing at family-worship Ps. 121 this view of the Bible was given me, namely, that whatever were the particular occasions of the writing it, or any part thereof, I am to look upon it as written for me, as much as if there were not another person in the world; and so is everybody else to whose hand it comes. The day continued bad; but I thought, What, shall I not believe the promise of protection I have been singing? So I went away, hoping it might clear afterwards. But it did not: and it was very bad in our return. Nevertheless I was nothing worsted by the journey. Thus I got the main thing desired, getting to the burial; but not with the ease, and in the way, I would have had it. And perhaps it may even be so, in that weighty case I have so much at heart.
26th August. - My wife being under an impression that her dissolution was near, going to the Lord in the case, that word was seasonably given me, "He is faithful that has promised."
27th August. - Coming in from preaching on Rom. 8: 26, in secret prayer, I had an experience of the help of the Spirit in prayer, which I had been preaching on. And I got a view of the case of the children of God, and my wife's particularly, under melancholy, viz., That our Lord, minding to show the power of His grace in His children combating with Satan, He, by such a touch on their imagination in a particular point, gives Satan a palpable advantage against them, whereby his work may be more easy, than if they here to encounter on even ground: and then He lets the battle go to, and through a secret support and conveyance of strength from Himself to His child, Satan is baffled, and that more shamefully, than if he had wanted that seen advantage of the ground.
2nd September. - I had a letter from Mr. Wilson, whose daughter Marion had been prayed for at Galashiels, putting me in mind of the expression in prayer there used, viz., that the Lord would rebuke that fever; and bearing, that, as he understood, at that very hour the fever left her, and never recurred. This was a confirmation of the subject I was upon there. I remember I was straitened in that prayer, yet there were in that congregation who might be otherwise, and the Lord might help me as their mouth: and I question not but parts of prayer wherein there is straitening, may be accepted.
11th September. - Being in hazard of fainting in my wife's case, it was seasonably suggested to me, that it was surely by the Spirit I was led to carry that message, Luke 18: 8, to the Lord's children; and she and I are the Lord's children too, having an interest in it as well as others. And that passage, Ps. 71: 20, 21, became fresh to me, that I was made confidently to plead it, and expect from it; the Bible being God's word to me in particular, as before remarked.
16th September. - Since the finishing of that essay, I have revised the Fourfold State, which cost me much labour, through what was done to it by Mr. Wightman, and that the printers had destroyed most of the authentic copy. But, by kind Providence, Mr. Wardrobe had taken a copy of it, to the end of the third state, which, though not accurate, was useful to me in this case. I have also put the last hand to some sermons on Phil. 2: 7, "But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:" and they are now sent in to Mr. Macewan: and so I am relieved of a promise I made, namely, to give him some sermons for the press. When that promise was made several years ago, these sermons were not in being, and so could not be in my view. I hope never to make such a promise again, nor to print for printing's sake. And I bless God I am delivered from this by a plain providential call to publish these. Thereafter I began a short explication of the catechism; the occasion whereof was this, Some time ago, there was a motion for Mess. Wilson, Davidson, and I, writing on the catechism, for the preservation of the doctrine. They took their parts assigned them; I declined any part, as having my hands otherwise filled; only they proposed to me the commands. What I perceived in my examinations of those of the younger sort, and in my own family, made me long for that work: but they not being likely to be hasty in it, I fell on this project to satisfy myself in the meantime; but could not get access to fix to it. After the sacrament at Galashiels, I inclined much to fall on that work; but by no means could I in my conscience evite the filling up of the passages of my life, at least as far as the account of the finishing the essay on the accentuation. So I filled it up from the beginning of January 1716 to 9th November 1727; and in doing of it was satisfied, and began to look on it as a sign of that matter of the essay moving to some point. That having been the most busy time of my life, in study and writing, there was but little of that nature recorded. What I have now in view, is that explication of the catechism, the notes on the covenant of grace, and the proceeding in the essay on the Hebrew text, which still as I read the Hebrew Bible, my heart rues upon.
As for the state of my body, all my upper teeth are now come out by the roots, except two in the end of each jaw, and two sideteeth. I have frequent pains of the toothache: can hardly continue close till two o'clock; am afterwards unfit for anything, if it is not to read a little at night. I preach short now, but I think I pray longer than I was wont in public. I have found my weakness, this summer, subservient to my humiliation and self-denial in all my performances; and a kind of check on the lightness of the heart, that youth is ready to go out unto: yet have I found it withal insufficient of itself to that good purpose.
25th September. - Having been this day eight days, after prayer, determined to that work on the catechism, as what would be of present use, I applied myself thereto; and for three days it went on comfortably; so that I was too secure about it on the third night. But that night sleep fled from me, and on the morrow I was left to toil all the day to little purpose or satisfaction. Moreover, I was seized with a violent toothache, and was in great extremity, especially in the night; so that for two nights I could not lay down my head, but behoved to sit in my bed. Thus was I taught dependence on the Lord in this little work; and that both for the exercise of my gift, and for strength of body for it. The third night, being Saturday's, I got quiet sleep, with my head laid down; and on the morrow, access to my Master's work. And I am signally indebted to Him; for that to this day, as far as I remember, I was never kept from preaching one Lord's day. The toothache has stormed my lower teeth so, that I think they are beginning to give way too. This day, Ps. 29: ult., "The Lord will give strength unto His people, the Lord will bless His people with peace," was food for my faith in my wife's case; and I pleaded before the Lord for the accomplishment of it.
2nd October, Monday. - Last week the work on the catechism appeared a more solemn, serious, and weighty work, than at first I took it to be. I bless God that taught me that lesson. The toothache began on Tuesday to return in the other side of the head; which warned me again to seek of the Lord ability for the work; and He pitied. My wife rose out of her bed on Thursday at night, and sat by the fire about an hour and three quarters. It was the more comfortable, that it was the day wherein I had spent some time in prayer for her case, which I have done once every week since the sacrament at Galashiels.
4th October. - Having ordered to settle my younger son's quarters at Edinburgh for the ensuing winter, when he is to go in, I laid that matter over on the Lord; being encouraged therein from the conduct afforded Abraham's servant, Gen. 24: 27, "And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who has not left destitute my master of His mercy and His truth: I being in the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master's brethren." I found this day it was done according to my wish, and that without difficulty. And thereby I felt how experience strengthens faith. However, I clearly perceive a necessity of a blessing from the Lord on that settlement to make it comfortable.
30th October. - Two days ago I had an account, that the sermons on Phil. 2: 7, "The mystery of Christ in the form of a servant," being printed, were going off well.
6th November, Monday. - Last week was a heavy week to me, to the weakening of my very body, through an embargo from the Lord laid on me, in the study of the question concerning Christ's kingly office; the which lies yet untaken off. Tuesday's night we fell to sing Ps. 25: 11-15, which being so close to my case, particularly ver. 14, I so laboured to gripe it, that being withal sore broken, I had begun, ere I was aware, to sing over again the latter part of that verse a second time, "And He His holy covenant will manifest to them." On the morrow morning, reflecting on my past life, this thought heavily went through my heart, viz., That I had been neglected, and broken, and now was fallen down: presently after, I was surprisingly catched, and my case explained, and hope given, reading in my ordinary Ps. 107, particularly vers. 11, 19, 13.
9th November. - Being just on the point of settling my children's portions by assignation, I had yesterday an account of one of my debtors being broken, whereby my measures are quite disconcerted. This day having sent away my son, to use diligence on that head, and to arrest, I did some time after Bit down to my studies, being several ways unfitted for them, and with little hope of success. But it pleased the sovereign Lord to loose the arrestment He had laid on my spirit, and kept on me about fourteen days. This sweet tryst made me very easy as to that secular affair. He has kept up the deliverance till the fittest time of giving it. O the nothingness of the creature, and of gifts, without the Spirit! God has accomplished His word that was my comfort in my affliction. He has manifested the covenant; I am not ashamed. I see now, this is a great work, and that I need to depend on the Lord for strength of body, and for light, for that effect, as in the former.
14th November. - By letters from Edinburgh I find, that a third part of the Latin MS. on the accentuation is amissing; and nine sheets of the copy of the first part. My wife has been for some time worse than before. Considering those things, with the breach made on my substance, I saw myself beset, and upon the trial of my faith, hope, patience, resignation; and therefore aimed at exercising these graces, and I hope not in vain. I am now brought to look and cry to the Lord, for continuance of life, for bodily strength, and light, for the study of the catechism, as in my former of the Hebrew. On Sabbath night, Ps. 32: 7, to the end, sung in the family, was full of light and sweetness to me, "Thou art my hiding-place," etc.
1st December. - Yesterday morning my son going away again to prosecute that business aforesaid, I was obliged to give him all the money I had, save a little; which money should have gone for family-use. I was helped to trust the Lord for provision; and that very night money was unexpectedly brought to my hand, wherewith I was furnished for sending to the market. In the conduct of Providence, at his going first away on that business, I saw how the Lord, who had seen that stroke necessary for me and my family, yet had managed me therein with fatherly pity and tenderness, which made me very easy about the matter.
10th December. - Last week, I was informed, that the third part of the Latin MS. for which I had been in concern before the Lord, was recovered. Also the Lord dealt favourably in my domestic concerns.
18th December. - Last week I had a fit of the gravel, owing to my suffering myself to be tossed with an old temptation, the fountain of much sorrow to me; whereby I perceived Providence was in earnest for subduing my spirit in that point. O to be like a weaned child!
8th January 1728. - Matters appear more hopeless, with respect to my essay on the accentuation, and my wife's case. Only the nine sheets are also found again. I have this season had two experiences of the Lord's bearing me up, in going His errands in the parish, notwithstanding of the cold I am so unable to super. I find the consideration of electing love, and of affliction, as the common lot of God's children, helpful to me for patience under my trials.
15th January. - Last week, being the only week for a good time that I did not catechise, having gone through the parish for the first time, I had two fits of the gravel. So I see I must be doing. I found I reaped some soul-advantage by them, especially the first, having given myself to solemn prayer on Wednesday.
23rd January. - On Friday last I had two fits of the gravel again. I receive no relief in the case, but after sore vomiting. So recovering out of one of them, and going to family-worship, I was exceedingly comforted with the first word sung, Ps. 68: 13, "Though ye have lien among the pots," etc.
29th January. - The gravel still hanging about me, my progress on the catechism is stopped. And now my soul is often saying, "Lord, shall I not have wherewith to feed Thy lambs, to feed Thy sheep!"
12th February. - Still that illness hangs about me. Faith being strengthened, I had last week some comfortable views of the resurrection, being on that question.
5th March. - On the Lord's day, 18th February, I was to enter on the subject of the Lord's hearing of prayer, having been led thereto by my wife's case, and the exercise on my spirit about it; and insisted thereon from the first Sabbath of the preceding August. What I mainly insisted on, was "The Spirit's help in prayer," from Rom. 8: 26, "The Spirit helpeth our infirmities," etc. I had fondly thought, that perhaps the Lord might tryst the deliverance of my wife, with my being on that subject; but that morning I found she had all the night been, and still was, in a high fever; and thus was I met, at my entry on that subject. Yet it staggered me not, considering the usual method of Providence with me. The fever proceeded, with an inflammation that went over her face and head; and such were the turns in her case all that week, and part of the next, that I was made to reel and stagger like one drunk; often seeing the knife at the throat of all the tokens for hope I had. But readily in prayer, when hardest put to it, that came before me, "I will come and heal her;" and my text, Ps. 65: 2, "O Thou that hearest prayer," had a kindly sweetness about it to me. On the Friday morning, when I should have entered on my studies (that being my ordinary study-day), and particularly on that head, That God is the hearer of prayer, and will hear the prayers of His people, I was called to wait on her, now brought to an extremity, and could have no access to study at all that day. This was a sharp trial I lay that night in the folding-bed, in the room where she lay; ordered away an express to Edinburgh, to call home my eldest son; and on the morrow got something scraped together on the head aforesaid, On the Sabbath morning, being heavily affected with the case, I went to prayer, and laid it before the Lord: I desired He would work a deliverance, and would please to allow us a breathing-time for a while, before our sun should set; and I thought I saw, that that prayer was made by the help of His Spirit, laid for acceptance on the intercession of His Son; and begged the outmaking of His word to me. Thereafter taking the Bible, I thought with myself, That is God's word to me, wherein I am to hear from heaven, and receive my answer: so I read in my ordinary, and that was made sweet to me, Isa. 64: 4 and 65: 8, but above all ver. 10, "And Sharon shall be a fold of flocks, and the valley of Achor a place for the herds to lie down in, for My people that have sought Me." I have been thinking, I would tell her for her encouragement, how I had purposely addressed the throne of grace for her case, once every week since the time aforesaid, and was hopeful I would be heard: howbeit I did not tell her. But by that means, that word, "And the valley of Achor - that have sought Me," through the divine blessing, was as oil to my weary bones. As I sought, so I got an opportunity to preach the Lord's word, and particularly the head aforesaid. But never all the time did she, to me, look more like a dying person, than just when I came from that sermon; howbeit I was not thereby staggered. On the Monday came Mr. Wilson, and my son also; and by that time the case appeared more hopeful. Yet such turns were in it now and then, as made me reel and stagger again. Next Friday morning, rising somewhat early for my studies of my sermon; hoping I would now get access thereto, I was called down by the time I had got out of bed. And I having, the night before, expressed great confidence in her case, she desired me to let go some of my confidence with respect to it, telling me what she felt as to the case of her body. This brought me under a great damp, heightened by my falling to study that day, as I could get access, how prayer might be accepted, and yet not granted! By that means an embargo was laid on my spirit, in private and secret, which continued till Sabbath morning; at which time there was a blowing on me. In the time of this damp, I turned to the promise, Rom. 8: 28, to believe that with application whatever should come. She seems now, by the good hand of God, to be returned to her ordinary.
During this additional trial in my wife's case, the Lord was very gracious to her. Before its coming on, she had a secret impression or intimation of a trial abiding her; and this word, Isa. 43: 2, "when thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee," etc., which was given her at her entering many years ago into the long dark valley, was made fresh on her spirit. About the beginning of the week, after falling into the fever, awaking out of sleep in the night, she found herself so very low, that she could hardly have spoke to awaken her daughter lying beside her, but still having the exercise of her judgement. She thought, that looked very like death, and therefore turned her thoughts towards the word; and the foundation of faith was cleared to her from John 3: 16, "God so loved the world," etc. She saw the promise as a boat on a water, free for any sinner to go into; and as a rope fixed on both sides of the water, free to them to take hold of, for their security, to be thereby wafted over; and she was helped to lay hold on it for her security, believing it. Then she thought with herself, O that I had comfort too! And considering, that when the promise comes not in, the sinner may go out unto it, and seek it, she set herself to seek accordingly. That time appeared to her to be a gathering time; and accordingly she set herself to gather promises, and got them abundantly; and she sung in her heart, "To these long desolations, Thy feet lift, do not tarry, for all the ills Thy foes has done within Thy sanctuary." It was as it were said to her, What is thy petition? She found that all that time the body of death had not made its usual molestation; that she as it were looked about for it, saying, What is become of the body of death now? And it was as it were answered, It was in the stocks. She looked about for her melancholy, to see what was become of it; and saw it as it had been a spark of fire under ashes; said within herself, Lord, if I shall be returned to life, and be set again on the gaping waters, I will fall a-doubting, and dishonouring Thee again; and that bolted in on her, "My grace is sufficient for thee."
During the same time, the gravel hanging about me, I rode a little ordinarily every day, on that account. Twice I took horse with the fit on me, and the riding carried it off: I had resolved to settle my affairs anew by testament, and on the Monday after she fell ill I attempted it; but could do nothing to purpose; and hitherto I have had no access to effect it. On the last of February, my MS. on the accentuation was returned, being transcribed; and a letter by Mr. Wilson to Jerviswood was concerted.
On the 8th of March, the fever began to recur with the inflammation, but was mercifully carried by. That word has been much on her spirit, "Be still, and know that I am God:" sometime that, "Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord." And the voice of God to her with respect to her melancholy seemed to be, that she should stand to her post. Whatever be the issue, the Lord has so kindly managed this additional trial, that neither she nor I have been put behind the hand.
14th March. - Since the first of this month, I have been sensibly easier as to my gravel, and in better health than before. Yesterday we kept a congregational fast for the season, and bodily strength was furnished me, to my wonder.
25th March. - Howbeit, after it, the weather turned very bad; so the Lord has answered us by terrible things in righteousness. I am now near the end of my preaching on the hearing of prayer, but no appearance of my wife's deliverance, the trouble rather increasing; withal I am turned worse as to my own body.- These things have shaken me sore; and now for some time it has been my desire and aim, to be resigned, and to be content to sit still under my cloud the Lord has cast over me. Howbeit, the latter end of last week, the Lord renewed His comforts to my wife's soul, and made her to say, He has well compensated all her seven years' trouble, her soul being carried out with full bent to Jesus Christ in the promise: she saw the Lord her dwelling-place, and tasted the sweetness of His relations, particularly that of a husband: in which case beginning to say, Might she not look for a deliverance? it was laid on her spirit, that she stood more in need of patience and resignation; and therewith a sweet calm went through her soul: particularly she gave me an account, which I have here set down in her name, as follows.
"I have often aimed at embracing the everlasting covenant held forth in the gospel, and saw my welcome thereto; was willing also to betake myself to it, with my whole heart, and often essayed it. My defect still lay in the want of that confidence of faith, that the covenant should be made forthcoming to me, according to my needs, for time and eternity; fear still prevailing, and keeping me as it were standing on loose ground. But on 21st March betwixt two and four o'clock in the morning, on my bed of affliction, it pleased the Lord to stir me up, and help me to essay it again, and to get that gap in some measure filled up. Being deeply convinced of the sin of my nature, and judging it to be the source of my unfixedness, I did, in the first place, make confession of the sin of my nature, life, and practice, being as particular therein as I could reach; especially confessing my predominant sin, and laying my heart open to the omniscient God, to search and try it, in the most retired corners thereof; that if there was any lust or idol that I knew not of, I might be made sensible of the same: and I judged and condemned myself, as deserving nothing but the utmost of God's indignation. Then I looked to the way of salvation held forth in the word of the gospel; beheld Jesus Christ, a Saviour every way suited to my needs, my lost and undone condition. I saw an absolute need of Him, in all His offices; and a glorious fitness in them, and each of them, for my case. So I did, with the whole bent of my soul, embrace the everlasting covenant held forth to me in the word of the gospel of grace; cast myself over on the Lord Jesus Christ, and receive Him in all His offices; take Cod for my God in Him; and, with my whole heart, gave up myself, soul and body, to be the Lord's for ever: my soul going out after Christ in His kingly office, as much as in the rest, for the sanctification of my nature, and subduing of my strong corruptions, without reserve; especially my predominant, which I saw head and shoulders above the rest; being sincerely desirous, in the sight of God, never to entertain peaceably, but, through His covenant-grace, to war against every lust whatsoever, though a right hand, or right eye. And I was in a good measure brought to a confident persuasion, that this foundation of the everlasting covenant, on which I had bottomed my soul for time and eternity, had all things in it needful for me; and that it should be made forthcoming to me, for my several needs for time and eternity, according to His faithful word of promise: pleading, that my failings should not make void this transaction, and that I be allowed to remember it, and renew it, as often as need requires. And having for my exercise a more than ordinary load on my spirit, I did, with all the solemn seriousness I was capable of, beg and request for the Lord's pity and help in that particular; that if He saw it meet He might remove it, but if it must continue, that He would keep me near Himself in it; that His grace may be sufficient for me, and I may be kept from sinking despondency, still believing, in the worst of times, that God is my God in Jesus Christ the Mediator, and will with the temptation give an outgate, or strength to bear it. And with the same solemn seriousness, I begged, that His Spirit, whom I was helped to look to for assistance in this my address, might all along direct, guide, and assist me in my addresses to Him for the supply of my wants, and to aim at and seek my fruit, by sticking to the root Jesus Christ, and not from my sincerity, nor anything else in myself; looking on the Lord Jesus as the head of influences, and as made of God unto me, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; from whence I was led in unto a sweet view of my union and communion with Him."
2nd April. - I have been still seeking to be cleared as aforesaid, three things being before me. 1. Going on in the work on the Hebrew text, which I can find no freedom to enter on at present, considering it as the chief, to make way for which other things are to be dispatched. 2. Going forward on the catechism; as to which, I find I was providentially carried into it without design; and having finished the first part of the catechism, I was stopped after the same manner; and there appears a kind of justice in leaving the rest of it unto my two brethren: it answers not my design for the parish, as to a form of examination, being after the first questions quite too large: and for my children, as much is done in it, as will serve them a good time. I have nevertheless found it to be of valuable use to me since that time: and I bless the Lord, who led me to it, in the manner above related. 3. Writing on the covenant of grace; to which my light doth chiefly open: For (1) These sermons, most of them at least, were indeed studied with a design of more public usefulness. (2) It seems fitter than new study, in respect of my bodily weakness. (3) Great difficulty having appeared as to the modelling of the first part of these notes, some light for getting through the same begins to break, which does in a manner necessitate me to essay this world, ere that go out of my head. I have smarted, as usual in time of my being unfixed to some particular business.
8th April. - Yesterday I ended my sermons on the hearing of prayer; but there is no appearance of my wife's deliverance. As to the frame of my spirit on that trying occasion, it was and is a resoluteness to wait on the Lord, with a contentment and pleasedness too, with what way He shall be pleased to take in it, as that which will be the best. Last week, as I had opportunity, I attempted the settling of my affairs; and I did reach the way of disposing of the Latin essay on the accentuation, and the parcel of my books to be left for prosecuting my beloved study: but as to my other affairs I quite stuck, and could by no means reach the settling of them. Wherefore I cried to the Lord, that He would please either to teach me how to do it, or else carry me off from it, that it might not stand in the way of my proceeding to business. After which, the entanglement still remaining as to these other affairs, it came into my mind to settle the two things cleared; and as to the other, to let things stand much as formerly. So having spent some time in prayer, and thinking on my business of another nature, this day, I am determined to essay writing on the covenant of grace. What determined me was, that proceeding on the catechism seemed to me, as it were, an invading the province of others; and I can have no rational view of an end of my study on the Hebrew text, but what death will make; that this is a very necessary piece of work' for clearing that grand subject much darkened; and I found I had been solicitous, that, in the event of my being prevented by death, Mr. Wilson might put these notes in order for the press. So, notwithstanding of the weakness of the performance as it stands, and inability to study, which are heavy to me, I am convinced I ought, and dare not slight this opportunity to essay it.
15th April. - Having on Tuesday spent some time in prayer for the Lord's presence with me in that work, spreading my notes before the Lord, and pleading for light from the Father of lights, through the Son, by His Spirit, I did, on Wednesday 10th April, begin that work; and found the effect of the application on my body; my head, which long since had begun to shake, being thereby made sensibly to shake more to a degree. Since that time I have not had time and strength both together, to do any more in it: but I desire to be found so doing as the Lord shall enable. My wife returned on Saturday to the little room; which is, in my view, the inner prison. The matter of the restraint on me, as to altering the settlement of my affairs, begins to open. I had little comfort in the gathering of that money; and Providence has now blown upon it being gathered. My great comfort now with respect to it is, I had no anxiety to gather it together. And I hope the Lord is teaching me to live by faith, with respect to my children's provision, and will provide for them another way than I meant.
22nd April. - Last week the Lord was pleased to give strength to make a comfortable progress in my work. My wife also had an intermission of her melancholy, wherein it was removed for the space or one night. And this is the second time, or at most the third, that has fallen out in the course of so many years. This gives some hope. Meanwhile it becomes mighty, the floods lift up their voice.
21st May. - Having been minded to go to Galashiels on the 7th, to concert about the sacrament here, I was the night before disabled by a bruise got by a fall from my horse: and last week being recovered, I went thither, and saw I had missed the one half of my errand if Providence had not given me that stop. About the end of April, I received a letter in Latin, from Mr. John Flint, above designed, concerning the essay on the accentuation, by him also revised: unto the which, tending to discourage, I made a return quickly in the same language. The sacrament was delayed till August, in regard of Mr. Davidson's weakness, and my wife's case. And I think it was of the Lord.
My next ordinary subject was, the slow procedure of Providence against the wicked, from Eccles. 8: 11, "Because sentence against an evil work is not speedily executed, therefore the heart of the children of men is fully set in them to do evil." This was occasioned by the case of the unhappy J. A., of whose guilt of adultery, he being now married, there were strong grounds of suspicion; but there was no bringing of the same to light, notwithstanding all endeavours made that way. Hereon I insisted till 23rd June: after which, by my own struggle in my wife's case, I was led, both abroad and at home, to that text, 2 Cor. 5: 7, "For we walk by faith, not by sight." Then, with an eye to the administering of the sacrament, I entered on Luke 6: 46, "Why call ye Me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?". In this, I was led into the point of the possibility of getting all Christ's commands done acceptably: in the which I had a peculiar satisfaction; observing the usefulness thereof in point of practice to be very great, and reaching a clearer insight into it than I had ever had before.
16th June. - On the Thursday that should have been our fast-day before the sacrament, was the most terrible inbreaking of our brook known in the memory of any alive. It laid much of the glebe under water, and seems to have ruined it; it came down by the end of the house also, and ran into the churchyard. The Sabbath also was a bad day. On the first of March there was an earthquake, but we felt it not in our house. This conduct of Providence was wonderful in my eyes.
25th June. - I have for some time had much ado to keep up confidence in my wife's case, times wherein I looked for peace, no good coming. Last Saturday, being convinced of the necessity of living by faith in it, and of divine aid to recover and maintain my confidence, I was helped by a letter from my friend. But still matters held at an extremity. On Sabbath after, sitting by her bedside, I saw the wonderful wisdom of Providence in the dispensation, darting its rays all around as it were to every point of the compass, and carrying on many different ends; and some of them contrary as east and west point, e.g. humbling and lifting up; some things also having a far look back.
4th July. - Friday being to go to Maxton to the sacrament, before I rose in the morning, I found myself so feeble, that I knew not how to get thither. But the Lord gave me strength, I think, for this purpose; which held out by the way thither, all along while there, and to my return home, better perhaps than for several years before on that occasion. And I cheerfully bestowed it for the end it was given me. That morning ere I went away, I was surprised, in our family-ordinary, with the history of Aeneas, that had kept his bed eight years, Acts 9, the present distressed case of my wife being now eight years complete in May last: and on Saturday morning with the return of Job's captivity, in their ordinary at Maxton, Job 13. These things strengthened hope. On Saturday's night I lost my rest; but was really easy about it, finding the Lord just gives me strength for His work, as He sees meet: and indeed I did not miss that lost rest. The Lord was with me in my work: but the fear of man was a snare to me a little in preaching on Sabbath night, more in prayer, and worst of all at the presbytery-dinner on Tuesday, letting a scripture-phrase unduly used by a brother pass without witnessing against it. This ruined my peace and comfort, to this day not fully recovered.
15th July. - A roll of about sixty persons being prayed for at the communion in Maxton, my brethren and I trysted to meet at the throne of grace on their account, and my wife's among the rest, every Wednesday betwixt seven and eight in the morning, each at his own home, till the week of the communion here. And being this day at that exercise, I was refreshed with that meeting me in my ordinary, Zech. 8: 19, "Thus saith the Lord of hosts, The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts."
5th August. - Being now in a near view of the sacrament, my trials are many: Mr. Davidson's frailty continued; the life of my wife seeming to hang more in doubt than for some time before; and withal Satan has given a broadside in the parish. A couple of fornicators appear before the congregation next Lord's day, being the Sabbath immediately before the sacrament. Perceiving the awful design of Providence to humble me and the congregation thereby, I durst not shift their appearance till after; but put my neck under that yoke, precisely on the view I had of Providence's calling to take on that badge of our shame. I desire still to hope, to be doing, and to submit. If I am never more on earth to get up my back, this I aim at, with an eye to Him for pity.
22nd August. - On the 18th the sacrament was celebrated here. The Lord has showed me the necessity and usefulness of living by faith, being troubled on every side, yet not distressed. Satan has laid at me, my God has tried me with His own hand: but in neither case has He left me comfortless.
Since the latter end of June three fornications have broke out: the first, the man about fifty, who till that time had lived unmarried, with an unstained reputation; and a young woman of seeming singular modesty: the second, a stripling of seventeen, and a woman of thirty at least: the third, the woman a communicant, the man one of the catechumens that waited on the examination kept at the kirk for the younger sort, from January to about Whitsunday. On the other hand, of twenty examined for admission, nineteen were admitted: and I think I was never more satisfied, generally speaking, with those I so examined. All of them came to me orderly before the communion-week, except two, whereof one upon the fast-day, who was therefore examined before the session, resolving to examine no more privately in the communion-week.
The fast was kept on Wednesday; and I neither had nor sought help; but I was helped every way, bodily strength bearing out quite beyond expectation. Seeing how Satan set himself to ruin the Lord's work in my hand, I judged it necessary to struggle the more resolutely; and upon that view, after sermons that day, called in the new communicants or competentees all together, and before the session put them explicitly to consent to the covenant, whereof they desired the seal, proposing to them the questions contained in the tenth paragraph of the paper of admission to the Lord's table above mentioned, to which they consented by bowing their heads, as was expressly agreed upon. I used to take them engaged privately before, but was much satisfied with this. And this method I have since observed. But after this hopeful beginning, that very night awaking uneasy, I found my wife was at an extremity; and I rose, and went to her with a fit of the gravel on me; which increasing, I was presently obliged to leave her, put on my clothes, and took my horse betwixt one and two o'clock in the morning. I took several turns on horseback in great pain; but the riding prevailed not to carry it off. So 1 behoved to take my bed again, and wrestle under it till it went off.
By this means I was in no case on the morrow to pursue my study of the action-sermon begun on Tuesday, having dispatched the fast-day's on the Monday. But on the Friday, though of a long time I have been unfit for study in the afternoons, I was enabled to pursue that study in the afternoon as well as the forenoon, and finish it.
On Friday's night, missing my ordinary bedtime, I lost my sleep: but I rose in the morning, mandated my notes, and was by that means so far set forward.
Saturday's night being set down to family-worship, and the Bible opened, I was suddenly struck with indisposition; and being in hazard of fainting, left it, and retired to my closet. In these trials I was helped to trust in the Lord; and at this nick of time particularly, was very peremptory that I would trust Him come what would. The indisposition went off, I got to the worship, and thereafter went timely to bed, being in no case to apply to business: and my circumstances could bear it.
Having slept well, I rose about five o'clock on Sabbath morning. But a great coldness in my feet and legs seized me, and hung about me that morning, threatening a fit of the gravel. I sat as I had access with my legs over the fire, which I think was useful. But going out to the public work before ten, I neither felt nor minded it more; and found myself very well, when, about three o'clock, I came into the house after the first table. I divided my sermon in two, but had forgot to take anything in my pocket for refreshment: but was carried through without it.
Having refreshed myself a while, I went out, and communicated, and thereafter served another table with sufficient ease and vigour. While I was in the house, I endeavoured to comfort my wife, the Lord's prisoner, and was comforted by her in the Lord's goodness to her at this time: and at the communion-table I was helped to believe, that we should both stand on the shore yet, and sing, notwithstanding our swelling seas.
On Saturday we had wind and rain, beginning and ending almost with the work; on Monday, rain in the time of the work, and after: but the Lord's day was fair and easy; only whereas the place of the tent had been changed for the wind, from the east to the west side for the Lord's day, I found, when I was begun, a wind begin to blow directly in my face, and once or twice I found it blow into my mouth: but it was quickly laid.
I had never so much satisfaction in the household provision: for, it being as I thought quite too much, it was eaten up in serving the necessities of the Lord's people come from afar; so that one of my brethren and I had but fragments to dine upon. The elements also were near run to an end, though in part a greater provision than ever. What occasioned this pleasure in the consumpt was, that the sacrament being at Wilton and Peebles the same day, and the harvest in the low country begun, the provision appeared providential, made by the hand of Him who knew there would be need for it, that we did not think.
The house was throng: but my wife bore up well, till on the Monday she was defeat; yet in measure. One of the servants being laid by of a cholic a while, another came in her room. Some from Edinburgh, losing their way, lodged in the fields on Friday's night; whereof one, at parting, gratefully acknowledged the goodness of God to her soul in bringing her to the place, notwithstanding the difficulties met with. The horse of one from Fife ran away from our house on that night, as if he had been driven. There was no stopping him till he had gone six or seven miles; which occasioned disturbance to the owner, and to our family: however, he was got back. One of our servants having proved most uncomfortable, on Monday we were secured of another.
Thus all along I was cast down with the one hand, and raised up with the other. All things considered, the spite and rage of hell appeared never more clearly engaged against me in my work.
Upon the uncomfortableness of that servant above mentioned, and other occurrences, the world has, this season, appeared to me a most loathsome world, seeing the best as a brier, and sharper than a thorn-hedge. Considering how little we are able to endure one another, I have been made to wonder, how the Lord endures any of us, being all of us so loathsome. I have thought, that as much of the gratefulness of objects seen and heard by us, arises from this, that our eyesight and hearing are not more acute or sharp; even so, much of the comfort of society we have in the world, arises from our not being more fully acquainted. We have had several instances of persons freely taken into our family, to lodge with us freely, some for shorter, some for longer time; but have met with a continued train of ingratitude, one of them after another. There remained only one exception in that case: and now that is gone with the rest. We have no satisfaction in these things now, but in rejecting on the principle which put us on these acts of kindness, and the service they did to the parties in the time. This has been a piece of trial, which, for most of the time I have had a family, sovereign pleasure has carved out for us.
23rd September. - Having preached the action-sermon this year on John 13: 8, "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me," and been led, in my subsequent sermons thereon, to show how Christ washeth sinners, I have been much convinced, that the work of sanctification is a great mystery. Yesterday, the Lord's day, being under some uneasiness, that the doctrine would not be understood, I was made to cry for the Lord's help to make known the mystery: and I hope not without success.
23rd December. - On the 15th I ended my sermons on John 13: 8, "Peter saith unto Him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me." In the progress whereof, as I was unexpectedly led into the consideration of the way of Christ's cleansing sinners, or washing them; so I was in that point favoured with an unordinary assistance from the Father of lights, to my own conviction. And though no doubt my deceitful heart could not receive it, without making some undue motions: yet I know I was all along ashamed of my practical unacquaintedness with the mystery; and sew the discovery was quite beyond my gift with an ordinary assistance. I was helped by Owen on the Spirit, and what I had writ last winter on the catechism, in the question of sanctification. That book of Owen's was laid to my hand, for an use I knew not till I had it. But last week, being to enter on a new subject, and sitting down to my studies on Friday, the Lord withdrew, and I stuck. The bands were kept on me Friday and Saturday forenoon; and then being satisfied to have recourse to old sermons, particularly those on Joel 3: 21, "I will cleanse the blood that I have not cleansed," etc., and having prayed in order to mandate what I was to say therefrom, it came into my mind to look to the text in the original; which done, I found the cleansing there to be legal, that is, avenging the blood; and so that I had mistaken that text when I studied these sermons on it upwards of twenty years ago. So, not daring to give that for the meaning of the Lord's word which I did not believe to be the meaning of it, I was forced to quit it. And my bands were kept on to the end. So I behoved at length to make a shift, and deliver something for sermon on Ezek. 36: 25, "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you," etc., and was not quite deserted in the pulpit. My God, I take it kindly at Thy hand! I acknowledge my holding is of Thee; and that I am nothing, and without Thee can do nothing!
On the 29th, being the Sabbath after that foresaid, I entered on the subject of this world lying in wickedness: the which, from 1 John 5: 19, "The whole world lieth in wickedness," and 2 Cor. 6: 17, "Wherefore come out from among them," I insisted on till the summer following.
1st January 1729. - Awaking in the morning, my heart was filled with thankfulness, for that I had seen the year 1729; and I perceived an honour the Lord puts upon me, in prolonging life. It was a good morning to me; and from that time I was in a particular concern to know more of the other world; of the which, I was convinced, I had very little distinct knowledge. I look for it in the scripture only. It is an awful thought, the case of the soul on its separation.
A little before that, I had received a letter in Latin, from Professor Hamilton, bearing, that he found nothing in the essay on the accentuation contrary to the doctrine of the Reformed churches; and that it was not unworthy of the notice of the learned, in case of publication. These two things I had expressly desired of him, if he could have freedom to testify the same; and according to my desire, he gave me the letter foresaid. And now, towards the end of January, having been endeavouring, as it has often been my exercise, to compose myself to acquiesce in that essay its not seeing the light during the time of my life, by reason of my friendless circumstances in an ill-natured world, I received a letter from a friend at Edinburgh, giving a comfortable account of a very honourable testimony given to it, in conversation, by Mr. John Flint aforesaid. This filled me with thankfulness; but withal I was left to rejoice in this alone, which I found to be of good use.
Toward the end of February, I found myself so extremely weakened, that I could not see how I could be much longer able for my public work, without an assistant. But being immediately after closely engaged, in necessary work, above my ordinary, for the service of my God (drawing the presbytery's instructions to their commissioners about Mr. Simson's affair); as also before that in a congregational fast, at which I continued long; and withal lost my rest the night following: I was, from the beginning thereof, and for some time after, in batter case than for a good time before: being thus taught still to be doing, without asking questions, or with the strength I have, till the Master shall say, Stop. Let the Lord do with me what seems Him good.
This spring-season, especially in and about the month of April, was a time singularly heavy. Flocks were desolated, by an extraordinary drift, on the 24th day of March: there were scarcity of fodder, dearth of victual, general sickness, and frequent deaths; all come in upon the back of an impoverished state of the country. It made me often to reflect on what might be the design of Providence in leading to that text on the fast-day 26th February aforementioned, Ezek. 12: 23, "Say unto them, The days are at hand, and the erect of every vision." That drifty day stopt a burial appointed to have been upon it, at Kirkhop: so that the corpse behoved to be kept till another day. For about three weeks, as my study-day came about, I found myself unfitted for it, through bodily indisposition. All my children, except one, had some touch of illness; and the fever falling to my wife in the spring, came on in the first of that month of April, and continued long. On Tuesday's night, 8th April, being abed, an express came, that Isabel Biggar, a worthy person, seemed to be just a-dying; whereupon I arose, and betook myself to prayer for her, that I might not have sorrow upon sorrow; and was comforted in her case with Ps. 12: 1-4. So I laid myself to rest again, and in the morning was refreshed with the account of her being better, which I took as a sign for good in my wife's case. I have seen of late much of my being a sign to this people, having drunk first of the bitter cup. At that time there was a weighty conjuncture, seeming to point towards the dissolution of my family: My own body was in a weak condition; the Lord had distressed my family, and blown on my worldly substance; withal the eastern gable of the manse, which was built for me from the foundation twenty-one years before, was in hazard of falling; and my glebe lay desolate, without a furrow drawn or to be drawn in it, through the ruins brought upon it by the inbreaking of the brook aforementioned. This conjuncture occasioned thoughts of heart to me. But for some years past I have observed, and to this day do observe it to be a time, wherein the Lord's hand is in a special manner stretched out against His own, in their personal and domestic concerns, their bodies, relations, or substance, or all of them together, thereby filling up the want of the trials, which His people formerly had, by persecution, from the hands of men; and this while I look at home within the parish, and abroad through the land, so far as my acquaintance goes. So that it is evident, that whatever be the issue of these things, judgement is begun at the house of God.
Meanwhile the affair of the unhappy Professor Simson above mentioned, touching his subverting the fundamental doctrines of the necessary existence, independency, and supreme Deity of the Son of God, etc., which had been before several preceding general assemblies, was to be determined by the then ensuing general assembly; and I was chosen to be a member thereof, as I had been in the years 1726 and 1727, which I could not attend, in respect of my domestic circumstances, which now were as bad, if not worse. In this pinching strait, betwixt the public and my private case, I resolved to move as the Lord should be pleased to point out my way.
15th April. - My wife's case continues at an extremity. Yesterday, she having hardly as much life as to speak, I was called to Easter Buccleugh to a sick man. With difficulty I got away; and the Lord was with me there. Coming home, just at the end of the manse, I met an express, calling me to Etterick house. So having just alighted, and seen her, I went thither; and found the man agonising, and he died a little after I came away. This conduct of Providence appeared kind, though trying. On the Sabbath, I think, with difficulty she got told me, that, in her experience, none of the good things the Lord had spoken had failed: yesterday, that she was resolved never to part with Christ: at night, that she was like a bird on the side of a wall, griping with its claws. I have pleaded again, with submission, for a breathing before our sun go down.
Toward the end of that month of April, I received a long letter in Latin, from Mr. Peter Du Pont, minister of the French church at Edinburgh, impugning the essay on the accentuation; which had been put into his hands by advice of Mr. John Flint aforesaid, who declared him the said Mr. Du Pont to be the person in that place most capable to judge in the matter. Thereto I quickly made a return in Latin also. Thus was I exercised, with cold entertainment met with in that matter, at the hands of all the men of note into which the essay fell; Professor Gordon only excepted. But it could make little impression on me to the disadvantage of the thing itself; finding, that none of them but he had studied the subject, nor believed the divine authority of the accentuation.
31st May. - My wife's fever being carried off, I got in unto the assembly, on Tuesday 6th May, being the second week of their meeting: however, I had much difficulty in it, both with respect to her case and my own. By the way, I found Providence dealt favourably with me, in respect of my low circumstances, those with whom I lodged the Monday's night having, unknown to me, provided for my coming. I came just to the beginning of Mr. Simson's weighty affair; which extraordinary case could only have carried me thither in my circumstances. I waited on the assembly punctually, and on the private meeting of those against Simson at the Spread Eagle. Though the major part of the assembly were clear for deposing him, I found it necessary to propose one night to that meeting, what we should do in case it were carried against us? But they seemed not inclined to consult about that. They seemed to me to be inclined to oppose the committing of that affair to a committee, as what might tend to break us. But at length that was the issue in the assembly, to refer it to a committee to bring in an overture about it. This I opposed in the assembly; but was seconded by none but Colonel Erskine. The affair was in agitation whole eight days, managed with as great gravity as ever I was witness to in an assembly. The night before it was determined, being at the private meeting aforesaid, and observing how they were disposed, I stole away with a sorrowful heart, and left them. I went to my chamber, and there alone considered what course I was to take; and on the morning drew up a paper in short hand, to be used or not, as the case should appear to me to require. That morning I had an appointment with Professor Gordon at the Spread Eagle, at eight o'clock: and coming thither at that time, I was conveyed into that very room where the meeting aforesaid was always kept. While I waited there alone, I put the writing foresaid, being a dissent, in mundo, in long hand. And nobody at all coming near me, by the time I was done it was time for me to go to the assembly; and so I went off. Favourable and kind was that Providence, that Mr. Gordon kept not the appointment; as it was remarkable, that I behoved to come to that room for writing that dissent, where also I was left alone. In the assembly, the committee's overture was produced; the putting it to a vote was carefully guarded against, and the affair was brought to a push, by the proposing to the assembly an acquiescing: and though several had declared they were for deposition, yet all seemed, for peace's sake, to acquiesce. Finding I durst not acquiesce, I arose, and said, "I dissent, in my own name, and in name of all that shall adhere to me;" and finding nobody at all to declare their adherence, I added, "and for myself alone, if nobody shall adhere." Whereupon I was gravely accosted by the moderator to bring me off from it. And when he had done speaking, I not being satisfied, had the paper ready; and with an audible voice formally made my dissent, by reading it before them. The tenor thereof follows.
"I dissent, as judging it, inasmuch as it doth not bear a deposition of Mr. Simson from the office of the ministry, of teaching and preaching the gospel of the blessed God, to be no just testimony of this church's indignation against the dishonour done by the said Mr. Simson to our glorious Redeemer, the great God and our Saviour, and what has been found both relevant and proved against him by the two immediately preceding general assemblies; and judging the same also not to be agreeable to the rule of God's word in such cases, nor to the form of process established in this church; to be saddening to the hearts of the generality of the ministers and godly through the land, and not sufficient to dash the hopes of the proud contemners of revealed religion, and the awful and incomprehensible mysteries of the same, both at home and abroad; nor a fit means to bring the said Mr. Simson himself to repentance, whereof as yet he has given no evidence. All which shall be fully manifested to the world, if need be."
Hereupon the moderator spoke to me very pathetically; and I stood, hearing all, gravely, without answering, until he said, "Will you tear out the bowels of your mother?" Whereunto I, being sensibly touched, replied, "That if I had the conviction of that's being the tendency thereof, I would rather take it (the paper I read), and tear it in a thousand pieces." I had also before expressed my continued charity to those of my acquaintance who were for the overture. Then the marking of the dissent was proposed, and I was urged not to insist in that. I said it might be marked, and that I might afterward consider thereof, and there was still room to take it up. This was by good providence over-ruled. At length, by Prof. Hamilton's means, I obtained, that the not insisting on the marking of it for that time, should not preclude my access thereto in a subsequent diet. This was granted, and the matter ended for that time. At that time Mr. Gabriel Wilson, though not a member, craved, and obtained leave to speak, and delivered himself briefly, as follows.
"Moderator, In regard I am persuaded this sentence does not duly serve to glorify God our Saviour, nor to preserve this church upon Him as the foundation; and in regard it is no wise agreeable to the mind of the Church of Scotland, made known to this assembly; and that it will, I am afraid (or I am confident), hasten bringing wrath upon this church, - I therefore declare my testimony against it."
Culfargie also spake something, shewing his dissatisfaction with the assembly's decision: but neither was he a member. As soon as I could, I got to my chamber, to consider of my now difficult situation; and in a little time after was sent for to meet with some ministers. When I came, I found Mr. Hog, and the two Erskines, and, I suppose, some other. They began to speak of their adhering to my dissent. I thought this too precipitant, judging they should first of all have considered what was expedient for me to do in my present situation; and that the proper way for them, not being members, was, in case of my insisting, to declare their adherence after, by a writing under their hand, to be tacked to it in case of publication. So I was going away, that I might consider alone what was proper for me; but was kept; and several other ministers of the party against Mr. Simson came in, with Mr. Charles Erskine, and the Colonel. They began to direct their discourse to me, and some of them spoke with a keenness very uneasy to me. So I was obliged to tell them, that the meeting was not called by me, but I was sent for to it, and came, judging the design thereof to be a friendly consultation of what was to be done by me in my present circumstances; that what I had done, I had not done rashly; and that I was content to overhear what they should discourse among themselves on that point, and afterwards should consider of it, and regulate my conduct as I should find freedom. And then I went off to a side in the room, that they might not direct their discourse to me. So they spoke upon it, and showed they were against my insisting.
Having come to my chamber, I considered my case alone, and on the morrow morning drew up my resolution in another paper, which I determined to read to the assembly. And having caused one intimate to the moderator aforehand the nature of my resolution, that they might take no alarm at my offering to speak again, I did that day, after reading of the minutes, the house being full, crave leave to be heard, with reference to the advice given me yesterday from the chair. Which being granted, I did with an audible voice say, reading, as follows.
"Moderator, I have, according to your desire, considered again my dissenting from the sentence and decision of this Venerable Assembly in the affair of Mr. Simson: and as it was out of no design to break in upon the peace of this church, but for the necessary exoneration of my own conscience, that I did formally declare my dissent in that matter; so I can see no ground to retract it, and therefore am far from retracting the same. Yet, forasmuch as the marking of it in your records, which is the only thing that now remains in that matter, is judged by my Very Reverend Fathers and Brethren of this assembly, to be of dangerous consequence to the peace of this church, which I think myself obliged in conscience to be very tender of, I do not insist for the marking of it in your records: but having the dissent, as I declared it, by me, in writ, from which I read it before this Venerable Assembly; and having also in writing what I have now delivered, I am resolved, through grace, to make such use of the same afterward, as pressing necessity, in any undesirable event, may be judged to require."
Which said, I immediately sat down; and the assembly seemed to be well satisfied.
The conduct of Providence in this matter is wonderful in my eyes. I have seen so much of God in it, in guiding, a poor fool, who in lesser matters uses, by being hurried and straitened as to time, to be put in confusion; and so much beyond what could be the produce of my talents; that I am, in my own eyes, a deep debtor to free grace for it; and am humbled to the dust, admiring sovereign condescension, doing things by me, because He will do them; and putting that honour on me, who for several years have looked on myself as a withered branch cast over the hedge, in respect of public management: and yet He has made the withered branch to bud again. Upon reflection, I have full satisfaction as to the management of this matter, and find that word verified, Prov. 4: 12, "When thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble." Though it was an invidious appearance, in which I was left alone; yet being made out of conscience towards God, it was so ordered by Providence, that it visibly tended to my reputation, both with the one party and the other; whereof several expressions were made me. And the party against Mr. Simson saw the usefulness of it, considering it as a warning of what they are to expect who afterwards may appear for him. I was convinced, that the appearance in the matter of the act against the Marrow, had an influence in this case, on worthy brethren, with respect to me: but, on the other hand, I see as plainly, that God hereby put an honour on that appearance. As I was the alone man of the twelve engaged in that affair, that was a member of this assembly, so I was left alone in this: yet in the end of it, the second day, others found themselves obliged publicly to declare to the assembly their going the same way with me; and so, upon the matter, to adhere. What shall I say? The Lord has both spoken it, and done it: I desire to go softly all my years.
This invidious appearance, which seemed to have an ill aspect on the affair of the essay on the accentuation, had a quite contrary effect; so that, before I came from Edinburgh, the printing of it there, and publishing proposals for that erect, were moved to me, by Mr. James Davidson bookseller, and Robert Fleming printer.
Another case was before the assembly, wherein Prof. Gordon was deeply engaged: but I behoved to vote against his part of the question. I feared the eject of this also with respect to that book: but he afterward showed more readiness to do for me in that matter, than he had done for a considerable time before. And favourable was that Providence that withheld him from keeping the tryst with me above mentioned.
I met with Mr. Du Pont, who was kind and respectful exceedingly, having before received my return to his letter. I applied to Mr. John Flint, for such a testimony to the essay as Prof. Hamilton had given; and received from him a letter in Latin, dated 14th May 1729, bearing, that, under correction of the learned in the Eastern tongues, he judged the essay should be printed; and that he found nothing therein contrary to the fundamental doctrines of the Reformed religion. The innuendo in the word fundamental, was in resentment of what was called the doctrine of the Marrow. I went thereafter to Mr. Flint's house, to have represented to him my observe of the word foresaid; but he was not within: so I saw him not. And some time after, that learned and worthy man departed this life.
Saturday the 17th, being the first free day to me, I had a conversation with Professor Hamilton; who ingenuously declared to me his satisfaction with what we called the deed of gift, and his conviction that the gospel could not be preached without it; and this of his own accord. The same day the making and publishing of proposals for printing the essay on the accentuation, was moved to me. What determined me to hearken to that motion was, that, after the business of the dissent, a gentleman unknown to me, or I to him, bid an acquaintance of mine tell me, that if I had anything to publish, he might have notice, and would be an undertaker. Which being so timed, served much to encourage me in that matter.
Finding Professor Gordon slow in performing his promise, viz. of writing in favour of that essay, either by way of preface or simple testimony to it, or of epistle to me, I had, in consideration of my own frailty, desired of him, that he would in the meantime give me a testimony to it, in as few lines as he pleased; engaging myself to return the same unto him, when he should have at his leisure written as aforesaid: but, to my great mortification, I could not obtain that of him. However, at this time, meeting with him, I desired him now to set himself to perform his promise: the which also he was pleased to shew himself ready to do, seeming inclined to write a preface; the which I was most earnest for. And for that cause, at his desire, he got the MS. along with him to Aberdeen, to be returned in the following November: he got also the essay on the text of Genesis along with him at the same time.
I came home from Edinburgh on Wednesday, 21st May; and found my family, by the mercy of God, no worse than when I left them. I found a cough, and a pain in my back, which had fallen to me in the spring, both of them worse; and I was under great indisposition for about ten days after. By that pain in my back, it was with great difficulty that I could change my sitting posture into an erect one. It had been carried to that height, by means of the extreme long seats we had got at the assembly in Professor Simson's affair. This was a new weight hung at me, under the aforementioned kind appearances of Providence for me. I remember I had something of that nature, after I came home from Edinburgh at the ending of the affair of Closeburn. But having, as soon as I could, applied myself to business, I ended the work on the covenant of grace, consisting of 485 pages in 4to, upon the 14th day of June. Going to prayer, I gave thanks, as I was able, for life and strength allowed me for it; offered it to God through Jesus Christ; begged it might be accepted of Him, brought forth, and employed for the service of my God; preserved and blessed while I live, and when I am dead and gone; withal wondering at the divine condescension, in calling me to preach the gospel, and write.
This summer the easter gable of the manse aforesaid was taken down so far as was judged necessary, and rebuilt. And by this means the course of administering the sacrament in the parish was interrupted this year: the people being withal straitened for victual to maintain their families, that I could not find in my heart to burden them with the strangers resorting to them on such occasions in great numbers. When it was considered in the session, before the summer came on, it was declared, that it would be hard to get as much hay or straw in the parish as to make beds for strangers; which touched me to the heart, on their account.
Having, on 15th June, ended my sermons on this world lying in wickedness, I was inclined to proceed to treat of the other world: but finding the people crushed in their substance, I was desirous also to handle something with relation to such circumstances. And, by the good hand of God, I was led to Mark: 10: 30, "He shall receive an hundred fold now in this time, houses, etc. and in the world to come eternal life." This, answering both any intentions, I entered upon, 22nd June, and for three or four Sabbaths insisted on the first part of the text, with a view to their worldly losses.
29th July. - Last week I was at the sacrament in Galashiels. Mr. Davidson was loaded with bodily indisposition, having that work on his hand. The trial was carried to a height, by rain falling, while he, sore broken, preached the action-sermon. But from the time the action began, it cleared, and continued a good day; and he was furnished both with bodily strength and otherwise. I clearly perceived, that God put an honour upon him by that trial: O that I could perceive at that rate in my own case! On the Monday before, I reached the explication of my text. On the Tuesday I stuck, and could do nothing. But on the Wednesday and Thursday I got forward, and had laid to my hand so much more than I designed, that I cried to the Lord for strength to deliver it, since He had given it: and accordingly I got it abundantly. At the table I saw, that as soon as I should drop the tabernacle of my body, I would be fully satisfied as to the conduct of Providence in the matter of my long trial in my wife's case.
While at Galashiels, I received from Edinburgh a printed specimen of the essay on the accentuation; which I found not well done, as to the Hebrew. However, looking on that essay as thus beginning to move into the world, though afterward it stopt, my courage began to fail: wherefore I was fain to betake myself to the way of trusting in the Lord, for support, under the view of its appearing in the world. But the iron gate in its way was not as yet to be opened.
About the same time I entered on the subject of the other world, upon which I insisted for more than a year, from several texts.
After ending the work on the covenant of grace, filled up more of the passages of my life. Turning my thoughts to what I should fix on next, and only two things of that kind now lying before me, viz., the notes on personal and family fasting, mentioned above, and proceeding in the essay on the Hebrew text, I gave myself to prayer on that head, on Monday morning, 4th August, remembering how I smarted for my rash adventuring on the explication of a part of the catechism: but I was not cleared. On the 5th, I renewed my addresses to God on that head; and was determined to the former, from a conviction of the necessity of a memorial on that subject to be presented to saints and sinners, and that I could not find myself easy to apply to the other work while that lay undone, and that some notice had been lately given me of people's desire that I would publish more of my sermons. I found the notes unsatisfying; but judged the revising of them might be of use to my own posterity, if no further use was to be made thereof. So I begun it that 5th of August.
Toward the end of that month, I had two fits of the gravel; and in the beginning of September, much pain of the toothache. And about the middle of the month last mentioned, I observed, that not only my head shook; but my legs and whole body began to shake also. But death by that time was become somewhat familiar to me. However, at the writing hereof, near about a year after, all that shaking is very moderate.
8th September. - Often has it been my lot, but never more perhaps than yesterday, being the Lord's day, to cover the altar with tears, going to my work with a bowed-down back; being like to sink in the pulpit, through heaviness occasioned by one of my domestics. Wounded by that hand some days before, on Saturday's night there was an addition that carried it much deeper. The pain of the toothache, whereof for some time I have had a touch every night, trysting with that vexation, I lost my rest that night. I see the folly of it now, and that I must be resigned, laying all down at the Lord's feet; that I must let one gripe go after another, and gripe unto God as my God for all. I have often thought of that holy Providence which made Heman, who was a man of great affliction, a singer in the temple-service; and have observed how the Lord has made up to me the want of public persecution, by domestic trials.
Being minded to have gone to Leadhills, 19th August, with Mr. Wilson, to wait on Mr Wightman, for concerting measures about the publishing of the essay on the accentuation, I inclined to have, for my health and refreshment, taken a tour through the country for about ten days: but this last I could not obtain with good-will, which proved a great temptation to me. The journey was providentially balked for altogether, though Mr. Wilson came hither. Meanwhile, that week, I was seized with two fits of the gravel: I returned on the Wednesday from convoying Mr. Wilson homeward again with a severe one of them upon me; took another of them on Saturday's night. The hand of the Lord was eminent in both; the one being owing to drink' the other to meat, unfit for my stomach. Thus both my wife and I were reproved; I for my yielding to the temptation, and she having me at home with little comfort.
Last week, beginning to drive heavily in the work now on my hand, I again and again took my notes, laid them before the Lord, and prayed over them. And it was not in vain.
15th September. - I have lately had a notable help in three things in my case, from three scriptures. One was Jer. 1. 7, rightly read according to the pointing: whence I observed, that it is one of God's methods for His people's correction, that there shall be no convincing of those who wrong them, so as to own a fault. The other was a certain passage in Job 13: and the last in Job 19: By the two last I had a great deal of ease last week: and to this day, 29th November, I find a thorn taken out of my foot by them, which has often been very uneasy.
For two nights past, the toothache has ceased: but the shaking of my head, legs, and, I think, my whole body, makes me somewhat apprehensive of a sudden downfalling in the palsy, which may either carry me off quickly, or make me a heavy time bedfast. But I desire still to be doing, till my God shall bid me cease; leaving these and all other events in His hand, whose are all my ways.
1st October, Wednesday. - On Sabbath last was the sacrament at Maxton. From the time I heard of it, I had desired of the Lord a message for it; but remained unfixed till the time of setting to. I was under great heaviness, through various burdens lying upon me; so that I lost the night's rest, Friday and Saturday was eight days. Whence I was, on the Lord's day, but in ill case for my work; but was honourably carried through. On the Monday therefore I laid aside thoughts of study; only I fixed on my text, Rom 6: 6, "Knowing that our old man is crucified with Him," etc. being, as usual now for some years, led thereto for my own case. On the Tuesday I began to study, but presently stuck; cut out what I had written, and began a second time; but stuck again: it would not do. That was to me a most weary day, being deeply plunged, my burdens lying heavy on me, and God deserting me. So being exhausted, I had thoughts of using old notes. Awaking on the morrow, I found my strength gone. When I was ready, I just sat down, for clearing my conscience to use old notes, to make a third essay: and so cut out again, and began a third time, putting pen to paper with almost no hope at all of proceeding, or being able to reach it. But it pleased the Lord to loose my bands in some measure: so I went on; and was enabled also to do something at night, which now is not usual with me. That night sleep fled from me again. But necessity urging, I fell to my studies again on the morrow; but stuck again, and could not command, what the night before had occurred for explaining our old man's being crucified with Christ. It pleased the Lord to loose me again in some measure, so that I had done all before dinner. And the Lord having thus pitied, I grew easy under my burdens. At Stanton the Lord was very gracious to me. I slept well the two first nights. I cried to Him that He would help me clearly and distinctly to utter the mystery, so as I myself might apprehend it, and the hearers also: for I saw myself in hazard of confusion in it. He graciously heard me, and to my own feeling gave me that request. After serving three tables on the Sabbath, I went away and refreshed myself; returned, and served another. But at the close of the communion-work, I found myself quite exhausted; no strength left, being to preach the afternoon-sermon. I was convinced it was neither meat nor drink that would strengthen me; so I went in to the barn at the end of the town, a few minutes, and there I desired of the Lord strength for His own work; and trusting in Him for it, I got it in an uncommon measure, together with the clearness and distinctness above mentioned. It lasted with me that night after the work. But in bed I awaked out of sleep, pained with a fit of a colic or gravel, and so spent much of the night drinking warm water, and vomiting; but it was indeed gentler than such fits use to be at home.
That moment wherein I shall have drops this tabernacle, has of a considerable time been much in my view, as that wherein the soul shall find either sin left in it without remedy, or totally abolished: therefore, at the table, I endeavoured, among other things, to get faith strengthened with respect to that moment, by the seal of the covenant.
While there, I had a comfortable account of the acceptance and usefulness of the Fourfold State, in remote places, particularly in the highlands; which filled me with thankfulness. Also I found, that others of the Lord's ministers and people have sore trials as well as I; and several of them sorer trials. I would therefore, if I could, sit down more quietly under mine.
I see God puts a great honour on me, and therefore razeth me off mine own bottom, and empties me, that I see, that what He does good with to others, by me, is not mine, but His own: and He will love me to acknowledge it. Lord, I do from my heart acknowledge it, and on the banded knees of my soul!
When, upon my return from Maxton, I began to apply myself to my present business, what lay before me was the direction concerning personal covenanting. This particularly I entered on, and proceeded in, with much fear and trembling. Wherefore I did oft and again take my notes, spread them before the Lord, and pray over them, for light into that matter: and it was not in vain.
About this time, having begun to suspect the business of the publishing of the essay on the accentuation was like to be at a stand, the printer who first moved it to me seeming to have lost his disposition for it, I was confirmed therein by a letter of 15th October, and thereafter by my son, who had seen him. What has moved him, I cannot yet learn. But I was very easy on that event, laying it at the Lord's feet, trusting on Him, that He who brought it to me, will see to it in His own time. And upon this state of that affair, a second tryst with Mr. Wightman was given up by me.
Meanwhile, being in Buccleugh 29th October, at a diet of catechising, Mr. J. G. on his journey to London came to me, and staying all night with me there, made very kind proposals of good offices in London, with respect to that and other performances of mine. This was the more comfortable to me, and bore the more of the signature of divine conduct in my eyes, that it fell out quite unexpectedly at such a nick of time; and that the Lord had made him the means off bringing that essay first of all out of its utter obscurity, by his bringing me acquainted with Mr. Gordon.
On Tuesday, 11th November, I finished the memorial concerning personal and family fasting, begun 5th August, and consisting of 149 pages; and laid it before the Lord for acceptance through Jesus Christ, and a blessing thereupon. Having had a severe cold these two days, and been in a sweat Tuesday's night, I was in doubt whether to keep the appointed diet of catechising at Calcrabank on the Wednesday, or not: but I was determined to go, through one's coming to me that morning from the parish of Yarrow, with a line, to get his child baptised there. So I went off, and my cold was no worse. But being come home again that night, I was seized with a severe fit of the gravel; in which, vomiting up at length some blackish matter, I was deeply impressed with a view of the loathsomeness of this body, bearing the image of the earthly first Adam, and what it must come to by means of death, till it be reduced to dust again; out of which it is to be reformed after the image of the heavenly man, the second Adam, far removed for ever from that corrupt constitution. The day had been very bad; and this season I have not hitherto had one good day on that occasion; but I have had a sort of pleasure and satisfaction in enduring these little hardships, for my Master and His work's sake.
After I had finished the memorial aforesaid, considering that I lead now no more of that kind of work in view, I gave myself to set matters in order for my departure out of this world. On the 15th, I prepared the errata of the second edition of the Fourfold' State, which was published about that time; and that day eight days, letters for Edinburgh and London, sending to Mr. G. then at London, a copy of the title and index of the Latin essay. And on the 16th, being the Lord's day, I finished my sermons on Mark 10: 30, relating to the other world. And that very night I received a letter for the burial of Mr. Robert Lithgow, minister of Ashkirk, in whose ordination, anno 1711, I had been actor. He was a worthy brother; and though one of the first jurors, yet now for many years kept his integrity in other things. He was a faithful, serious, and moving preacher, having a great insight into the doctrine of the gospel; a judicious, pious man, endowed with an uncommon measure of ingenuity. Every day thereafter, till Friday, my study-day, I was obliged to ride, on occasion of my work in the parish. On Saturday, I wrote the letters already mentioned. I was resolved also to have sent Mr. G., as he had desired, a copy of the Everlasting Espousals, and of the Mystery of Christ in the Form of a Servant: but calling for the former in the house, found one copy was lent away, and another could not be fallen on; which I embraced as a providential stop to the design he had in view, which was to get some person of note there to recommend them, and so to print them over again there; thus to bring me acquainted in England. And having, on the Monday, prepared my sermon for the thanksgiving on Wednesday the 26th, I had no opportunity till this day, 25th November, to review matters since my return from Maxton. The Sabbath day was exceeding bad; so that I could hardly be sure to get the notice of the thanksgiving through the parish timely. But the Lord heard prayer, and pitied, and gave a comfortable day and meeting on Wednesday.
Adam Linton in Brodgerhill, his wife, and son, being all together in great distress, and I being concerned for them both in public and private, I sent them word, that I would willingly visit them, if it might be accepted, they being followers of Mr. Macmillan. But word was returned me, that it could not be accepted on any entreaties. Now Adam himself is deceased. But these people will neither live nor die with us. O my soul, come not thou into their secret in the matter of church-communion! unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united, in point of separation!
In pursuit of my former design, I did, on 27th November, prepare, and on the 28th draw up, a memorial for my wife, in case of her surviving me, concerning the assignation; and some directions relative to my dead body. And that very night the reparations of the manse, which had been begun by the masons, and carried on by the slater, were completed by the wright. The meeting together of so many various events of a different aspect about this time, made a strange conjuncture, confirming, in that I was called to make ready for my removal, and yet still to be doing till my Lord bid me stop. As for the state of my body, my teeth remained in number as before, but less useful. For much of a year, I read my chapters in the morning with preserves; but hitherto have not made ordinary use of them otherwise. However, I think I find my eyes begin to fail sensibly. Nevertheless I have ordinarily this season read something every night; finding myself in better case for it than some years before. Particularly I am reading over the essay on the Hebrew text, to mark the texts of the Pentateuch therein occasionally expounded, if so be that I be allowed to return to that study. And this day, 1st December, I completed the filling up of the passages of my life to that date. Meanwhile, though I have ended my discourse on the text of the world to come, I am entered on another text relative to the same subject, viz. Ps. 26: 9, "Gather not my soul with sinners," intended for the use of the former doctrine.
5th December, Friday. - On Tuesday the 2nd instant I kept a secret fast, in order to my preparation for death. The night before, apprehending I would not be able to go through that work all at once, I resolved to pursue it, though on different days. And having begged of God, that He would raise me up in the morning timely, even about six o'clock, I did accordingly rise long before day. And after my ordinary devotions, addressing myself to that work, in order to a review of my sins, I read some scriptures, two written confessions, one drawn thirty-three years ago, another thirty, both which I have kept in shorthand characters, as also the larger catechism on what is required and forbidden in the Ten Commands; then thought on my ways in the several periods of my life, and in the order of the Ten Commands; by all which means I got a humbling sight of myself. Then bowing my knees before the Lord, I did silently read over the two confessions before Him: which done, I prayed, and made confession of my sins as fully and particularly as I could; and there I got a view of my whole life as one heap of vanity, sin, and foolishness. It appeared a loathsome life in my eyes, so that my very heart said, "I loathe it; I would not live always;" and I loathed myself on the account of it. It cut to the heart to think of it, and cut off desire of returning to it, if that had been possible. But such as I was, I behoved to look again towards His temple. After confession made, minding to renew my acceptance of God's covenant of grace, to write it also, and subscribe it with my hand, I viewed two former ones, the one dated 14th August 1699, the other 25th March 1700, and drew up a new one. The former were drawn according to the more dark views I then had of the covenant of grace; and the substance and intent thereof I believe God did accept, and I adhere to, though I do not desire the form of them to be imitated. The acceptance being written, I went through the whole of it, examining myself upon every point thereof; and finding a particular difficulty in the point of submitting my lot, I had the testimony of my conscience, afterwards to be mentioned, which coming clear before my eyes, eased me. These things, intermixed with prayer, being done, I went, and kneeling at my bedside, did, in prayer, then and there, solemnly, and in express words, according to what I had written with my hand, take hold of God's covenant of grace, for life and salvation to me, with my whole heart, without known guile; and rising up from prayer, I stood, and lifting up my eyes to the Lord, I silently read before Him the acceptance I had written, and subscribed it with my hand.
By this time I found myself so near exhausted, that I resolved not to attempt to proceed to the remaining part of the work for the time. But reflecting on what had passed, I desiderated satisfying impressions of so solemn a work upon my heart; and therefore begged of God, that He would shew me a token for good, as to His accepting of it. In this case, two things were somewhat relieving to me. One was, that God knew the acceptance of His covenant, as above expressed, was the habitual bent of my heart and soul; and apprehending, that the failing of the natural spirits had had some influence in the matter, I was hopeful, I might afterwards come to judge better of that solemn transaction. Another was, that Scripture brought to my remembrance, Judg. 11: 11, "And Jephthah uttered all his words before the Lord in Mizpeh." So I closed the work betwixt three and four o'clock in the afternoon. And it was matter of some wonder and thankfulness to God, that I had been enabled to continue so long in that exercise, though in the time I had taken a few pottage with small drink. But the uneasiness continued, and occasioned some bitterness of spirit; which my merciful Father did afterwards pity, as a father doth his fretting child. That night I burnt the bundle of papers laid by for that end in March 1727, mentioned above, p. 386, adding some others to them: but I had taken out from among them two manuscripts, being yet in doubt what to do with then. I continued to seek a token for good, and on the morrow was abroad at a diet of catechising. I consulted God as to the burning of these papers, and was so clear in it, that I had no freedom to let them survive that night.
On Thursday rising early in the morning, to pursue the work I had begun, I spent that day in it. After my ordinary devotions, addressing myself to that work, I spread the subscribed acceptance of the covenant before the Lord, and (having resumed the confession of my sins) I solemnly adhered to it, and renewed it. And in that confession, I got such a view of each period of my life, by itself, that every one of them singly was humbling to the dust; causing admiration of the divine goodness and long-suffering, that I was not cut off ere I had reached another: not excepting that of childhood, remembering some early sproutings of corrupt nature in me in that period, together with the vanity of the whole; though I was none of those whom men call either vicious or roguish boys. Then proceeding towards the covenant, I stated God's offer and exhibition of the covenant to me, in His own express words; such as, Isa. 55: 3, "I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David." Heb. 8: 10, "This is the covenant - I will put My laws into their mind," etc. Hos. 2: 19, "I will betroth thee unto Me for ever." John 3: 1G, "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son," etc. Rev. 22: 17, "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." These, I pleaded, were His own words, He could not deny: and thereupon I adhered, and solemnly took hold of the same, as before. And then I saw so clearly the matter concluded between God and my soul, that I could plead, and see, that, upon the separation of my soul from my body, my soul should be carried up by angels unto Abraham's bosom, by virtue of the covenant; and my dead body be carried down to the grave in it, and lie there in it, and by virtue of it raised up at the last day, reunited to my soul. And tongue and heart jointly consented, that this my vile body, bearing the image of the first Adam, should be left lifeless, carried to the grave, and become more loathsome there, till it be reduced to dust again: but so that, in virtue of the covenant, it be out of the same dust new framed and fashioned, after the image of the second Adam, like unto His glorious body. Rising up from prayer, filled with joy in believing, I sang with an exulting heart, Ps. 16: 5 to the end, "God is of mine inheritance," etc. Thereafter I set myself to gather some evidences for heaven. And these were as follows.
1. I see that I believe the gospel, with application to myself, and find, that my expectations from it do ultimately resolve themselves on the faithfulness of God in the word of the promise of the gospel.
2. I find my soul acquiesceth in, being well pleased with, the covenant of grace, as God's plan of salvation in Christ: and that I have come into it with heart and good-will; taking my offered place in it in Christ the second Adam, putting down my little name within the compass of His great and glorious name. Whereby I, as a member of the mystical body of the second Adam, am as really intitled to the promise of the covenant of grace, eternal life, made to Him for all His, as I was rendered liable to the penalty of the broken covenant of works, eternal death, in the first Adam.
3. I find my heart so far at odds with sin, that if there were no other hell, but just leaving one in his sin for ever, "He that is filthy, let him be filthy still," my heart would, upon that sentence against me, break in a thousand pieces. And is not this the work of the sanctifying Spirit of Christ in me?
4. I have a hope of heaven, through Jesus Christ: and the Lord knows, it moves me to desire, long, and seek after being made meet for it, in purification from sin.
6. I love the purity of the divine image expressed in the holy law, and every line of it, so far as I discern it; and even there where it strikes against the sin that most easily besets me.
6. I have a measure of confidence, that I will get complete life and salvation: but that confidence is not in the flesh; for, God knows, I am heartily out with myself, with respect to all the periods of my life, any one of which, I see, would undoubtedly ruin me, and that most justly. So I am razed from off my own bottom, and have no confidence of acceptance with God, but in Christ crucified, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.
Lastly, as to that particular matter which it has pleased my God to make the special continued trial of the most part of my life, which has been the most exquisite one to me, and has often threatened to baffle all my evidences for heaven, as being the one thing lacking; I can say, 1. I sincerely desire to be as a weaned child in it, to get above it, to quit it to the Lord, and to take Christ in its room and stead. 2. I have sometimes got above it, from spiritual principles, motives, and ends. 3. Whereas it has often got the mastery over me, and held me down, like a giant on a little child, or a mountain on a worm, I am heartily ashamed thereof before the Lord. And that is one of the main things which have made the course of my past life so notably loathsome unto me, upon the review I have been making of it. And thus it has contributed to empty me, shake me out of myself, and to drive me unto Christ. 4. Notwithstanding all my unbecoming quarrelling with my Lord upon that head, I would lie against my own soul, if I should deny, that I would rather have a cross of His choosing for me, than a crown of my own choosing for myself. The which now is, and was the testimony of my conscience, on Tuesday, when I was examining myself in the point of submitting my lot to Him. 5. And, lastly, I love God in Christ above it, being content to quit it for Him, tho' I cannot hinder the old man to reclaim; and could be satisfied in the enjoyment of God without it, but by no means with it without Him, as sometimes I have clearly perceived, when the trial was like to be removed. Wherefore, since that has been what of all worldly things had most of my heart, and what I thought I could least brook the want of, and yet my heart stands thus disposed towards it, I conclude, that I love God in Christ above all.
These things, intermixed with prayer, being dispatched, I then set myself to prayers and supplications with reference particularly to my removal out of this world. And in these, besides the main thing touching the transportation of my soul, and the resurrection of my body at the last day, I did particularly beg, that, having lived so little to His glory, He would please to give me to die to His glory; that in case of sudden death, which I neither durst nor inclined to deprecate, He, to whom all His works are known from the beginning, would secretly work in me actual preparation for it; and in case of longsome sickness, that He would arm me with patience; that if it were His will, He would continue with me the use of speech; but withal heartily submitting, that in case of losing the power of my tongue, which, from the paralytic state of my body, I am somewhat apprehensive of, my countenance might speak to His glory. In the event of my leaving my wife a widow, and my children fatherless, I left her, and them, each one by name, on my covenanted God, according to the promise, Jer. 49: 11, requesting, that we might all meet together again in the happy part of the other world; and for her, that I might be allowed to see her deliverance; if not, that it may come speedily after my departure, if it be His will. The parish also, in that event, I left on Him, to provide a minister for them. I was concerned also for a blessing on my servants, viz. John Bromfield and Christian Speedin, they having been a great comfort to me, and continuing to be so. Withal I begged grace for the Christian improvement of any time of my life that may be remaining; and the divine determination as to the disposal of the two manuscripts above mentioned. Being to close the work, and daylight failing, I lighted a candle, and sung the 23rd psalm, with some understanding of it, confidence, and cheerfulness. But a particular concern for grace to bear my trial, carried me back to God again, in prayer for that purpose. I met with two scriptures that day, one in a light wherein I had not before observed it, viz. 2 Cor. 5: 12, "Them which glory in appearance (Gr. in the face), and not in heart;" denoting the skin-deep joy of ungodly men, who have none in the recesses of their heart: the other, exceeding strengthening food to faith, namely, the promise of God's making the worm "thresh the mountains, and beat them small," etc., Isa. 41: 14,15,16. Meanwhile the worm there acts only the part of the flail, but in the omnipotent hand it threshes them. O the wonders of grace, a spark of the holy fire drying up the sea of corruption, a worm threshing the mountains! I rejoice in that word, as one that has found great spoil. The continuing of my strength for this exercise, as it has done, was what I did not expect, and is wondrous in my eyes: "I will bless the Lord, who has given me counsel."
8th December, Monday. - This night I had completed the filling up in the passages of my life the last week's progress. 1 have for a considerable time found the consideration of the goodness of the nature of God very strengthening. Last night my wife brought to mind again a remarkable passage in her case, which was this. Two years ago, she having long wanted, sought, and at length got, a clear view of her interest in Christ, was rejoicing in the goodness of God. And the tempter suggested, that nevertheless her particular trouble was not removed, nor were her bodily ailments taken away; and therefore she should take a short cut for her own delivery, now that she was secure for eternity. The which she repelled, saying, She would not do that, for that would be horrid ingratitude to God; but all the days of her appointed time she would wait till her change come: and moreover that the scripture saith, "No murderer has eternal life." Upon which the enemy slunk away as ashamed.
The spare time I had that week, was spent in reforming my closet, and sorting of papers; at which time also I destroyed the assignation made under trust in the year 1712, together with other papers depending thereupon.
Having thus gone as far as I could reach, in matters of that nature, I gave myself to prayer, to seek of the Lord a right way, to which I should next betake myself: for by this time another thing had cast up, in competition with my beloved study, from which I had now been so many years kept off, viz., from the year 1726; and that was, to give a general account of my life. This competition had cost me several thoughts of heart; and in end I was, contrary to my expectation, and much contrary to my inclination, determined unto this last. By which I was, in my own eyes, as one again beat back from the desired harbour, when I was within sight of it, thinking that now I had nothing more to limp me off from the beloved study of the Hebrew text. On the morrow after that exercise, I was confirmed in that determination. Wherefore, in compliance with what I judged to be pointed out to me as my duty, I did without delay put pen to paper for that work, on the next day, being the 15th of December.
Sleep departing from me had for many years, now and then, been my lot; and I was that day in some disorder, from that cause the night before; so that my beginning of that work at that time, was in a manner a resolute thrusting forward unto it, as it has often fallen out with me in such cases. But I never had experienced the departing of it at the rate I did about that time; wherein for fifteen days then beginning, I could not reckon above five whole nights' rest got, whereof three only were sound as ordinary: howbeit I always got some sleep, especially in the morning. By this means the work went on slowly.
29th December. - On Friday last studying my sermon, I had condescended on some marks to distinguish betwixt the godly and ungodly; but, being hurried in the time, I had no ease with respect to them when done, fearing they were not duly considered and balanced. Wherefore at night I just cut out that part of my notes, and began anew. I have always reckoned that to be one of the most difficult parts of preaching, how to steer an even course in these things, so as to guard duly on both sides.
1st January 1730, being Thursday, I spent some time in prayer with fasting, for the work aforesaid, that went on heavily, and for my wife's case. I adhered to the solemn transaction above mentioned, and with some confidence pleaded the witnesses taken thereto; and made supplication for bodily strength, as well as for light, finding the want of the former as well as the latter. And whereas I had before put my lost teeth in a box for conservation, I put another into it that same day. I was for some days thereafter much tried with indisposition, and confusion; whereby an embargo was laid upon me with respect to the work aforesaid: but it pleased the Lord to take off that embargo on Friday the 9th; so that I then became capable to proceed in that work. So does the Lord, in all things, show me my own emptiness; and that without Him I can do nothing.
3rd January. - I found myself fail mightily, in managing the diets of catechising this season; especially the two last diets. Considering the loss sustained by the people, through my inability to speak, and apply to it, it has been very heavy to me. But this day the Lord pitied, and helped me therein again; the which is the more welcome, that now I begin this work also, the catechising of those of the younger sort, which is carried on together with the public catechising of the parish; not daring as yet to ease myself of that accessory piece of my work.
It was but about this time that I had notice of the publication of the second edition of the Fourfold State; and on the morrow after a copy thereof came to my hand, I took and spread it before the Lord, praying for a blessing to be entailed on it, for the conviction and conversion of sinners, and edification of saints, for the time I am in life, and after I shall be in the dust.
Meanwhile there was no motion nor appearance in favour of the essay on the accentuation, from Edinburgh nor from Aberdeen: but that matter lay then dormant. But on the 7th of February came to my hand letters directed to Mr. W. H., merchant in Edinburgh, my correspondent there: one from Prof. Gordon at Aberdeen, into whose hands I had put the essay, in order to his prefacing it, to have been returned in November, as above said; advising, that, in respect of family or personal distress, since the end of August, he had thought very little on the matter; and that he could not tell when he might be able to read or consider anything requiring close application: but the other, from Mr. G. at London, advising, that he had put the title and index of the essay sent him as aforementioned, into the hands of Dr. Ridgley, an Independent minister there, acting as a professor of theology, and Mr. Earns his colleague, training up dissenting students in the languages and liberal arts, and a fellow of the royal society; that they were much pleased with the design; and wished, that as there might be something said by way of preface for the divine authority of the accents, as to which point they themselves were entirely satisfied; so the rules concerning them might be illustrated and exemplified from particular passages of original scripture, to show the usefulness of the essay, for understanding the mind of the Spirit in the original Hebrew; having observed, that Wasmuth and Ledheburius had marred the usefulness of their otherwise valuable works, by contenting themselves with a recital of a heap of rules, without a suitable illustration and exemplification; and further advising, that Mr. Bradbury, a famous dissenting minister there, liked the account he had given him about it; and promised to go with him, on that score, to Dr. Knight and Dr. Waterland, both of the Church of England. It was comfortable to me to find the two dissenters aforesaid speak on the matter like men who had considered it, and the true state thereof as it stands in the world this day. Providence having thus awakened the affair again, yet keeping it still in a state of uncertainty, it was my exercise to be resigned to the Lord, and to be conducted of Himself therein. I wrote to Professor Gordon again, allowing him to keep the MSS. for the end aforesaid, until the time of the meeting of the General Assembly in May this year. I had written also to the worthy Mr. David Anderson, professor of theology in the college of Aberdeen, desiring his revising of both the MSS., viz., that on the accentuation, and that on the text; they being both there for the time.
It had been my manner of a long time, besides the catechising the parish already mentioned, to have diets of catechising those of the younger sort; and they met in the kirk, sometimes in my house. What time I began this course, I do not remember: but I think it has been early; for I learned it from Mr. Charles Gordon, minister of Ashkirk, whom I found so employed in his house when I went at a time to visit him; and he died, at furthest, in the year 1710. By this course I got several young people of both sexes, trained up to a good measure of knowledge; some of whom unto this day are solid and knowing Christians; but it suffered some interruptions. The time I found fittest for it, on their part, was from January to the beginning of May; and the whole youth of the parish, who were disposed, and had access to wait on, came together, and were welcome; as were others also, who inclined to hear. The intimation of their first diet was made from the pulpit; and then from time to time I set, and signified to them, their next diet: ordinarily they met once a-fortnight; sometimes once in twenty days only; sometimes once a-week, as occasion required. Several times these meetings were closed with a warm exhortation to practical religion; the which I sometime used also in the diets of catechising the parish. Thus this accessory work fell in the time when ordinarily I was weakest; and of late years, that my frailty notably increased, I wanted not inclination sometimes to give it over. But that I might the better comport with it, I did some years ago cause make a portable iron grate, in which I had a fire in the kirk to sit at, on these occasions. This year, after I had once and again found myself fail mightily in diets for the parish, through bodily inability, the time of beginning this course was returning; and the Lord pitied and helped again in another diet for the parish. So I was encouraged, and began that course again at the ordinary time, not daring as yet to give it over; and, through the mercy of God, it was yet carried on as usual.
This winter I did more at night than of a long time before, having ordinarily written something, for a while, after six o'clock at night. And on the 17th day of March, I had completed the catechising of the parish for the second time. This was a kind disposal of Providence: for about the same time began a breach of my health, which made me the heaviest spring I had ever felt. And preaching on Eccles. 7: 1, with the event foresaid trysted my entering on the latter part of that text, "The day of death is better than the day of one's birth." This was a comfortable subject: but whereas it could hardly miss to impress me with thoughts, that this might be my last text; yet the experience I had formerly had in the like cases, left but little weight in them. On the Lord's day, the 22nd, after the public worship was over, I betook myself to my bed; and at night, going about familyworship, which was a great pinch to me, we fell to sing Ps. 68: 13, and downwards, "Though ye have lien among the pots," etc., with which I was much comforted, as I had been on a former occasion, noted p. 398. My ailments were many that season. I was pained in my breast-bone, in the fore and hind shoulder, and under the arm-pit on the left side; and was under a very uneasy cough. Withal I had such a continued oppression and lowness of spirits, with difficulty of breathing, as never before; a continual stiffness and weakness in my knees, and weariness all over: so that with great difficulty I got up and down the stairs, mounted the pulpit, got the Sabbath's work managed, yea turned myself on my bed, where I had some touches of exquisite pain in the calf of my legs. And, by a particular dispensation of Providence, the springs of my comfort ran bitterness to me in my low condition: all created refuge failed, and I was solitary, and in great affliction. Withal my wife's fever returned on the 3rd of April; but not so violent as formerly: and that month a pain of the mother kept her many days, which was quite new; and a cholic several days; besides her other ailments.
However, in this my low condition, I was determined, and ventured on Providence, to intimate the sacrament to be celebrated on the 31st of May; being led to that day, purely in compliance with our neighbours in Yarrow, that the administration of that ordinance in the two parishes might not be too close the one upon the other. And that time drawing near, I saw great weight hung upon the design; Mr. Davidson being extremely low; John Currie aforesaid, one of the elders, under the ague; Isabel Biggar in Midghop in a doubtful and dangerous case; her husband William Blaik in the meantime likely to fall under the ague, to whose share a great weight of strangers on such occasions used to fall: moreover, my own wife continuing as formerly, and myself in a weak condition, going upon my stay; the pain in my back, which had fallen to me in the former spring, having returned; but not quite so ill as the former year, by means of my then attendance on the assembly. I desired of the Lord strength for the designed effect, to myself and others; and resolved, through grace, not to quarrel, nor think harshly of my Master, though He should quite lay me by on that occasion. But indeed in the event I found Him very gracious in that matter. And it was remarkable to me, that my kind God and Father, most mercifully tempering the hardships of my lot that season, I had no fit of the gravel, no night-watchings, as some time before I fell ill; and whatever difficulty I had in delivering my sermons, I was never rendered incapable of study on my study-days, as several days before, till the Friday before the communion-week; and finally, whereas the visiting of the sick had often in that season of the year been a weighty burden on me, I had no occasion, from the time I fell ill, to visit one sick person without Etterick-house on the other side of the water, till after the sacrament.
Meanwhile there having come to my hand, about the 27th of March, a letter from Mr. G., desiring a specimen of the essay on the accentuation, I, after consulting God, and thinking thereupon, did, in the following week, make out a specimen thereof in about two sheets of paper, and wrote a return to him. On the Monday morning, after having no occasion from this place, I sent them away to Galashiels, from whence they went to Edinburgh on the morrow, and on the Wednesday were carried off towards London, by one going post thither. Withal the copy of the essay on the text, then at Aberdeen, being desired also, and this intimated there, there was a ship just going from thence to London, with which it was sent away. I could not but notice the conduct of Providence in the speedy dispatch, desiring to wait the issue.
The sacrament was administered on 31st May, as had been appointed: and the Lord made it to me a time of hearing of prayer, and of rolling away one stone of difficulty after another.
The admission of my younger son to the Lord's table, was another piece of difficulty.. Toward the end of the week preceding the communion-week, it became very heavy to me, while no help appeared in the case. I found myself pinched in a special manner, in that my own interest was mixed with the sacred interest; and would have been well content, to have sacrificed my own interest in it, if it had been in my power to have separated the two. For two days I was in particular concern, to see what I could safely do that way; and that the Lord would touch his heart. And in the end of the second day I received a letter from him, which gave me satisfaction. Thus was that stone rolled out of the way.
On the Friday that week, I having much of the Sabbath's sermon left of what had been prepared before, minded to have studied, with the Sabbath's sermons, the fast-day's too. But that morning, after beginning my studies, I became so indisposed, that I was obliged to betake myself to my bed again for a time. And this was the only study-day this season, since I fell ill, that I was unfit and indisposed for study. Howbeit I got something done that day, as also on the Saturday; and on the Monday I finished the fast-day's sermons.
Meanwhile, as my ordinary of the other world was no wise interrupted by this communion, I had been of a considerable time secure as to my text for the action-sermon, designing Isa. 54: 10, "For the mountains shall depart," etc., in view of handling thereon the general conflagration, and perpetuity of the covenant. But on that Sabbath night, consulting the Hebrew original, I found it was not understood of departing by the conflagration, but rather by an earthquake: and so I was deprived of my text, which was a new trial to me. But on the Monday's night I resolved to mandate the fast-day's sermons on the Tuesday, in the first place: the which I did accordingly, and no more; but that I had some thoughts in search for a new text.
Wednesday the fast was kept: and as, in the family-fast in the preceding week, the Lord had pitied, howbeit the prayers lay on myself alone; so that day He was very gracious to me. Having much prepared, I delivered it in three sermons that day; and had great satisfaction in the Lord's helping me to spread out the net of the covenant, from Ps. 1. 5, "Gather My saints together unto Me; those that have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice." But after the sermons, convening the new communicants before the session, to take their explicit consent to the covenant, I was damped and confounded, missing my own son among them. This was a heavy trial; but afterward I found, that it had proceeded of mistake, not of design. The new communicants at this time were far more than ordinary: I hope the word concerning the other world had some influence; but I apprehend, it was thought probable, this might be the last by my means, considering the low case I had been in for some time, and was in. And they had come to me before, for the private examination, very orderly, as that my low case required: the which I took first very kindly at the hand of my compassionate Father, and next at their hand.
Thursday, being determined to Luke 23: 42, "Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom," I entered on the study thereof, and perfected the explication thereof: on the Friday it came to me right easily, and I had finished the whole, much about my ordinary time, that is, before dinner. Meanwhile, Janet Scot, a good woman, who on the Sabbath had received a token from me for the Lord's table (the tokens being usually distributed to the old communicants of the parish the Sabbath before the communion), she had brought forth twins before the due time, was fallen into a fever, and was in danger of her life. Isabel Biggar, a singular Christian, was in a dark, doubtful, and dangerous condition, not knowing when it might come to an extremity; her family at these times having a great weight of strangers; and at this communion they had about sixty. These women's husbands were in ill case too, as to bodily indisposition. John Currie above mentioned, having been seized with the ague in March last, still continued very ill: a flux for some time had been working in my wife's case: and Friday's night, when the strangers began to come, she had a touch of it, which occasioned her thoughts of heart; but there was no more of it from that time. Mr. Davidson came that night, in great weakness, having been obliged to lodge a night by the way: Mr. Wilson came then also; and Mr. Francis Craig, a probationer of singular worth, to take burden on him for Mr. Davidson. And these were my helpers.
On Saturday Mess. Craig and Wilson preached. After distributing the tokens to strangers, at the tent, done as usual immediately after the public worship was over, I convened in the kirk the new communicants absent on the fast-day, and took their explicit consent, as aforesaid, before the session: and among these was my son. From what had happened on the fast-day, I had desired of the Lord, that He would make the people tractable, and cause that things might be done in order: and, I think, it was never so much so as at this communion. I got little sleep these nights; yet not from anxiety, but that I was put out of my ordinary course: for I was easy, trusting in the Lord for all.
Sabbath morning, my soul was humbled within me: and I was in some concern to be, and really was in some measure, nothing in my own eyes. I divided my sermon in two: and the Lord was with me therein, and in the whole of my work; so that I lacked no strength for my work, no not so much as ordinarily when I was in a better state of body; for it failed not in any part thereof. Being sensible of what I was through my weakness liable to, I had desired of the Lord, that He would keep me from forgetting things, in the administration of that ordinance: and, to the praise of His grace, I think, I was never more pointed and distinct in these things. There were some very small drops of rain, in time, I think, of the first sermon: I did therefore, in the prayer before the second sermon, pray for pity in that matter; and rested in the Lord, closing the petition for it with this expression, viz., "But Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven, our Father which art in heaven;" and the Lord graciously heard, so that we had no disturbance that way. This was a mercy the more remarkable to me, that the following Sabbath, which should have been the day for administering that ordinance, if the Lord Himself had not determined otherwise, there was a continued rain with wind. The which made me admire the divine conduct, wish ever to be under it, and never to choose for myself: for it was purely in compliance with the desire of our neighbours in Yarrow, that we took that day, as above noticed. I had solemnly petitioned for strength to Mr. Davidson, for the eject of the Lord's work: he got it so far, that he served two tables, and preached on the Monday.
I had a special concern on my spirit in prayer all along, for the distressed persons above named. And Janet Scot, whose life I had begged, recovered: Isabel Biggar came to me on Monday morning, and told me she was very well. I understood after, that on the fast-day she was ill, but no more till the Wednesday after the sacrament. John Currie was at the Lord's table, and out on Monday too. I found all along a disposition to hang by the petitions for these persons, before the Lord. About the end of Mr. Craig's sermon on Monday, I was told, that Mr. Davidson, who was to preach the other sermon, had retired again into the house. Fearing he had fallen ill, it occasioned me some thoughts of heart: but in that case I was resigned, trusting in the Lord, only concerned that the Lord would discover His mind, as to what was to be done in the feared event, and looking to Him for it. And my heart being brought to this temper, he came out again, and preached a sweet sermon.
Thus the Lord carried on that great work, through many difficulties, and made it a time of hearing of prayer in a very particular manner: and out of weakness we were made strong. So that, considering the kind conduct of Providence in the whole, I was obliged, at the dismissing of the congregation on the Monday, publicly to give my testimony from my experience, to that truth, viz., That "it is better to trust in the Lord, than to put confidence in man."
On the Friday after, I got my text, Cant. 2: ult., "Until the day break, and the shadows flee away," etc., for the Sabbath, 7th June, and entered upon it; and proceeded thereon on the Saturday. After which, being exhausted, I was not able to write some very necessary letters: yet towards night I was enabled thereto, and admired the kind management of Providence therein.
Withal on the Saturday before the communion I received letters from Mr. G. at London, directed to Mr. W. H. foresaid, together with a printed specimen of the essay on the accentuation, made on the MS. specimen I had sent as aforesaid; as also a specimen of new Hebrew types then casting at London. The first of these letters, dated 2nd May, bearing, Mess. Ridgley and Earns their approving of the specimen I had sent; Dr. Bedford, of the Church of England, his approving the design of the work, on his hearing the title-page and index read to him; Dr. Ziegenhagen, a German divine, who, I think, had come over with the Princess, now Queen, his promising to send the specimen to Hall and Bremen; Rabbi hisses Marcus his taking in hand to write four copies thereof, to be sent to Hall, Bremen, Holland, and Leipsic: that the said Rabbi had a liberal education abroad to serve the Jewish interest; and did serve as a priest among them two years, but embraced Christianity about eight years ago; for the which cause being disinherited by his rich father, he is in prison for debt; and that he likes the specimen: And further, that Sir Richard Ellys likes well the Fourfold State, whereof some copies, edit. 2, had been sent to London; and had thanks from an Independent gentleman, who has bought six of them to give in compliments to his friends: and that Mr. H. may venture to send more of them to Mr. Oswald, stationer there. A second, dated 9th May, bearing, That the Rabbi foresaid likes the work still more; that Mr. Palmer printer proposes to print it in English, for that there are in London five hundred who understand Hebrew, not understanding Latin; that Mr. G. expects, that after he has sent a specimen in print, he shall have some general plan sent him, how to commune with Mr. Oswald about printing the work; that Sir Richard Ellys is perhaps one of the greatest scholars in England, and is fond of anything tending to enlighten the purity of the gospel-scheme; and that he bought three of the Fourfold State, a few days before, to give to gentle men of his acquaintance. A third, 12th May, bearing, the sending along a small specimen of the new types cast from Athias's mould, received by me as aforesaid. A fourth, 12th May, bearing, that Sir Richard Ellys desired him to tell me, that his purse shall not be spared, to encourage any work of mine. A fifth, 21st May, bearing, that the said Sir Richard having read the specimen, likes it, and the design of the work; and is disposed to encourage it; that he was to write to two friends in Holland along with the specimen, and to send them withal a copy of the Fourfold State; and that Mr. G. knows not if I can find such another patron in the island, to dedicate the essay to: That Suicerus's Thesaurus Ecclesiasticus, printed at Amsterdam 1728, is dedicated to him, where is to be found a handsome character of him for his learning; and that Mr. G. desires to be sent up to him the English copy of the essay on the accentuation, as also the essay on the first twenty chapters of Genesis, that he may put it in the hands of the said Sir Richard and several others. In these letters also was expressed a desire of several to see the MS. on the covenant of grace.
These things, expressed more strongly in the letters foresaid, a more full abstract whereof is to be found among my papers, looked as if the Lord was in His way to fulfil a passage of the 71st psalm, which was given me as above mentioned. But for a balance hereto I heard on the Monday, that Prof. Gordon was a-dying, I knowing of nothing done by him in the matter by him undertaken. Mr. Hogg being with us on the communion-occasion, I sent along with him the English copy of the essay on the accentuation; who soon after got an occasion of conveying it away to London.
On Thursday, 30th July, having been abroad some four miles or more, and coming home at night, I found there had been an express for me to go to Dalgleish, to visit a dying woman, viz. Jane Hope above mentioned, p. 383; but night coming on, I found I could not go, desired of the Lord the woman's preservation in life; and was easy, finding myself unable for that work. The Lord heard me; and going thither on the morrow, I saw her, was helped to speak to her, and was much satisfied in the divine conduct. This was the first call of that nature I remembered myself ever to have sat, by day or by night: and I thought, that the Lord was, by that occurrence, training me to accommodate myself to my low circumstances of body.
The said Jane recovered; Isabel Beggary doubtful and dangerous case aforesaid cleared, and went off; and Janet Scot aforesaid recovered. Whereupon I was much comforted in the Lord's dealing with me, as to the cases of these three persons; reckoning myself in His debt for the life and welfare of each of them.
3rd August. - No return being ever made by Mr. J. M. minister of E--r, to my letter mentioned p. 391, the breach still continued betwixt us, though kept very quiet on both sides. But, on Saturday, 18th July, I received a letter from him, inviting me to preach with them, on Monday after the sacrament, being the 27th; and withal bearing, that the two sermons he preached here, were composed before he was licensed, especially the last; and that he could not say they were altogether agreeable to his ordinary strain; and that, however fond he had some time ago been of what some reckon fashionable, yet he could now sincerely declare, he is fully persuaded, that those sermons which run in a gospel-strain, are only valuable. Herewith I was so satisfied, that I strongly inclined to answer his demand: the which too early readiness caused, that, going to God with it, I found it not so bound on my conscience from Himself as I could have wished. But having again and again considered and consulted the matter, I signified to him my resolution to answer his demand, if I was able. But on the Monday, being obliged to visit a sick person at Dalgleish, I found myself under an unordinary indisposition after. Nevertheless I attempted to study for the erect foresaid, on the Tuesday; but stuck that day, after twice beginning it. I began it a third time on the Wednesday; but stuck again, being quite unable to manage the text, Isa. 11: 10. Whereupon I gave it over, and wrote to him that I could not be with him; and thereupon was easy, considering both this dispensation, and how it was quite above my strength to preach at home on the Lord's day, and then to ride nine or ten miles, and preach on the Monday again.
The sacrament was administered at Penpont the same day that it was in Eskdalemoor; and thereat assisted my friend Mr. Wilson. The strange conduct of Providence with respect to my two friends or myself assisting at the sacrament in that place, from time to time, is before observed. Never any of us went thither, on that occasion, but we met with something of unordinary trial, about it. That time wherein my journey to and from it was prosperous, the toss in the affair of Closeburn arose out of it. The former time Mr. Wilson was there, he was publicly contradicted by brethren, and obliged to speak to the people, before dismissing of the congregation, in defence of his doctrine he had preached to them. This time he was there, having had a prosperous journey, and comfortable being there, upon his return hither we were comforted; and that strange course of holy Providence seemed so far to be broken off.
In the last week of August I was obliged to visit one sick at Potburn, on the Monday; and on the Tuesday having thoughts of going to Chapelhop, to visit the sick there, I was sent for express to Buccleugh, to see Adam Linton a-dying; and he died that day, while I was with him. I had, on the Wednesday was eight days before, gone to Buccleugh occasionally, knowing nothing of his illness, till I was by the way: but so my God led me, by the way I knew not. On the Wednesday I visited three sick persons at Chapelhop; and on the Thursday went to Adam Linton's burial. This awful dispensation of Providence towards the poor parish, was the more weighty to me, that I saw I was now toward the end of my ordinary subject, viz., the doctrine of the other world; and perceived the voice of Providence thus join the voice of the word. I found myself worsted by this unordinary loss: but I took it kindly at the hand of my gracious God and Father; admiring the divine condescension and goodness, that kept it off in the spring, when I myself was very ill, till that time wherein I was in better condition: for by that time, I think, I had laid aside my staff.
Having, from some time after writing the aforesaid to London in June, been expecting time after time to hear from thence, but still disappointed; which occasioned various thoughts of heart, I received a packet on the 4th of September. Before I opened it, I went to God, to get my heart disposed for whatever might be found the issue; but opening the same, I found there was a deep silence still, both from Aberdeen and from London. Hereupon I went to God again, and kissed the rod, accepting the trying dispensation, as the way He deals with His own; bringing their matters through many difficulties, and causing them to wait on.
That same day I closed my ordinary of the other world; and on the Sabbath after, being the 13th, entered on a new one, viz., the crook in the lot, from Eccles. 7: 133, "Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight which He has made crooked?" To this I was led, by my own case, and the case of several in the parish; and was confirmed in that's being the Lord's message to them, by the providential occurrences of that day.
On Friday 25th September I received a letter from Edinburgh, bearing that as yet there was no word for me from London, but that a letter was expected by the next post; and withal that Prof. Gordon at Aberdeen is dead some time ago. Both of these were trying to me; but especially the latter; nothing, that I know of, being done by him, in what he took in hand, in favour of the essay; but I comforted myself, in that the Lord liveth. In the following week, having an unexpected occasion to Edinburgh, I wrote to Professor Anderson, from whom I have as yet no return unto my first to him above mentioned; that I might know how Prof Gordon left that affair. And expecting at length some account from London that week, I was again disappointed, Mr. Hogg not being in town. Put I received from my eldest son, then occasionally at Edinburgh, a letter wherewith I was very much pleased, as satisfying me in a particular, which had occasioned me some uneasiness. And I took it also as providentially designed to teach me to wait with patience in the matter from London.
The sacrament of the Lord's supper being administered at Maxton, 11th October, I assisted there. The text I preached on was, Isa. 12: 14, 15, "Worm Jacob, - thou shalt thresh the mountains," etc. I began my studies on it on Thursday 1st October, having some thoughts of taking my journey that day eight days, that I might lodge a night by the way, not knowing if I would be able to accomplish the journey in one day. I dispatched the explication of it that day. But entering upon it on the Tuesday after, I could by no means strike the vein of it; howbeit in the time I was helped to trust the Lord, that He would pity: but in the afternoon, when I had given it over, I was under great perplexity through unbelief, notwithstanding of former experience, and the last year's particularly on the same occasion. On the Wednesday having cut out, as usual on such occasions, I was helped to proceed in it satisfyingly; and had bodily strength sufficient for the work, though ordinarily I am that day of the week unable to study, for which cause I usually go abroad on it. On the Thursday I completed my studies. Thus Providence barred my making haste to go away, as I had designed. That night Mr. Murray came from Penpont, to assist also at Maxton. On the Friday we took our journey. But Mr. Murray being seized with the gravel, having with great difficulty made our way to Newburgh, I was obliged to leave him there, and my daughter to attend him. So I went thence all alone, the wind and rain blowing in my face: in bearing of which, for my work's sake, I had a satisfaction. Getting safe, though weary, to Maxton that night, I found Mr. Davidson, being also taken ill that day, was not come up. So there was none for the work, but Mr. Wilson himself and I. But the Lord having thus tried us, pitied, and sent up both on the morrow. And that day Mr. Murray and I preached. On the Sabbath I served three tables, and preached in the afternoon, and was at no time in want of strength. In myself and fellows my text was accomplished.
While at the table I saw and heard the elements distributed, I was thereby helped to a firm faith of my union with Jesus Christ. Monday morning I was greatly comforted by a good woman, whose husband having been seized with a fit of distraction, had, on that account, been remembered in the public prayers at the communion in Galashiels the preceding year. She had then and there spoke to me on that case: and now she told me, that having advised her to roll the case over on the Lord, she was helped so to do; and when she went home, found him restored to his sound mind; which deliverance has continued all along since. The good woman was concerned to be advised how to improve such a mercy. On Wednesday we came to Galashiels, where, awaking out of sleep that night, I found myself at the gates of death, by a sickness that had suddenly seized me. Providence seasonably awoke Mr. Murray, to whom I could hardly speak at all, to call for help; which I received by vomiting; being still in hazard of fainting away, especially when sitting up, and more especially when on my knees, as in my younger years; insomuch that at secret prayer on the Thursday morning I durst not kneel, but sit. Thus the same God who tried my brethren before the solemn work, took trial of me after it was over. It seems to have been owing to my eating of a pear and a half at supper, which by their coldness had oppressed me. We came safe home at night; and on the morrow, convoying Mr. Murray the length of Potburn, I proposed to him to take that part of the catechism to explain which fell, as above said, to Mr. Davidson, now reduced to a pitch of weakness, if so be that work, as above proposed, might yet not be marred: and he has taken it into his consideration, being resolved to seek counsel of the Lord concerning it.
At Maxton I thought I would get the long-expected word at length; but there was none for me: only I heard, that Mr. G. is somewhat embarrassed in his private affairs at London. Meanwhile, on the Monday, there arose in my heart an inclination to publish the treatise on the covenant of grace; the which, I believe, was partly owing to the interest I found I had, beyond what I could have expected, with ministers; and would fain improve to edification, and advancing of the interest of the truth of the gospel. I had this summer put the copy in the hand of my friend Mr. Wilson; who having revised a part of it, and put it in the hand of Mr. Davidson, it was by a mistake returned to me about the middle of August. Wherefore at this time I carried it back to Maxton, to be revised throughout. On the Sabbath after I came home, being the 18th, I received a letter, bearing, that as yet there was no word to me from London. Thus I find myself obliged to shut up this account of my life, without being capable to show the issue and present state of that affair, either at Aberdeen or London. But I do believe, that my God and Father, who of His great mercy brought it to me, will at length cause the iron gates in the way thereof to fly open; and will bring it forth, to His own glory, and the benefit of the church, even though I should never see it, but be laid in the dust ere it come to pass.
[Thus far the author had proceeded both in the general account of his life, and in the passages thereof, on the 22nd of October 1730. and on the 26th of that month, he shut up the account with seven paragraphs more, of a general nature. But as he afterwards continued that account till 13th November 1731, we shall first add that continuation, and there close with the seven paragraphs.]
Having, on the 24th of October, ended the above account, I laid it before the Lord, for acceptance of Him through Christ; begging He would preserve and bless it, and giving thanks for that He had inclined my heart to do it. And that same night I ended also the reading over of it, and the passages of my life; the which I had some time before begun and carried on.
There had come to my house on Saturday's night, 3rd October, three dissenters of the party adhering to Mr. John Hepburn while he lived, with a letter directed to me and my two friends Mr. Wilson and Mr. Davidson, from their correspondence, desiring a meeting with us. The which being, at the communion in Maxton, appointed to be at the manse of Etterick on Tuesday the 27th, there came early that day five of them to me: but, to our great disappointment, Mr. Wilson came not; and Mr. Davidson was not expected, in regard of the broken state of his health. Their design mainly was, to establish a correspondence with such as they considered as the purer part of the corrupt church; and that some way might be fallen on, towards their enjoying the benefit of public ordinances, for they heard us occasionally at communions. I found them to be men having a sense of religion on their own spirits, much affected with their circumstances as destitute of a minister, endowed with a good measure of Christian charity and love, and of a very different temper from that of Mr. Macmillan's followers. I perceived their separation ultimately to resolve into that unwarrantable principle, viz., that joining in communion with the church, in the ordinances of God, is an approbation of the corruptions in her; the very same from which all the rest of the separations do spring; some carrying that principle farther than others, in different degrees. I understood, that the abjuration-oath straitened them, as to addressing the general assemblies any more. I showed a readiness to administer ordinances to them, on testimonials from their ministers; but found, they scrupled to seek them: and I had no freedom to do it on testimonials from their meeting; since I could not in conscience approve of their separation, and had seen and felt so much of the mischief of separating. So we parted on the morrow after; but with great affection, and much heaviness on both sides.
The preface to the above account now being also written, and the examination of the parish interrupted on the occasion foresaid, I did, on Thursday the 29th, spend some time in prayer, laying the two MSS., viz. this and the passages, before the Lord, with thanksgiving, and supplication for preserving and blessing them, and for a right way to betake myself to next.
At the monthly meeting of the session on Monday, 2nd November, I had a dismal view of the case of the generation, finding, by a scandal broke out, how the children of religious parents are degenerated, as a token of approaching judgement. On the morrow I spent some time in prayer, particularly for two causes: 1. Direction as to what I should take in hand; 2. The preservation of my children from snares in this dangerous time of apostasy. Having reviewed myself, made confession, and renewed my acceptance of the covenant, I laid these, and other things, before the Lord, committing my children, and other members of my family, to the protection of the great Shepherd of the sheep. And having considered the matter of my studies, I found, that the work on the Hebrew text was begun already; that God had allowed an occasion of returning to it, of the which there was some time little hope; that nothing did now cast up in competition therewith, even while I looked about to observe; that this has been what I much desired; and that, being an immediate study of the holy Scripture, it is a business in which I may becomingly spend my remaining time, as the Lord shall please to give access; and therefore I concluded, that I was called to address myself thereto, tho' my strength is small, and these things are now much out of my head. Wherefore, that I might just begin, I did that same night put pen to paper; but did nothing to purpose.
It pleased the Lord, for my trial, to make the entry on that work difficult; and the progress has, through several interruptions, been small to the writing hereof; whatever He minds to do about it. On the morrow I catechised at Buccleugh. I continued about three hours in that exercise without my spirits or strength failing; which is the more sweet, and filled my heart with thankfulness, that in the morning I had, in consideration of my weakness, prayed for pity. I was minded next day to have spent some time in prayer for assistance in the aforesaid work: but being called out of my bed that night, to visit a sick person supposed to be a-dying, I found in the morning that I was not in case for it. So I applied myself to writing of letters, which at length I was obliged also to give over. Being seized with a colic, I behoved to take my bed that night: and rising on the Friday, I was obliged to take bed again, where I was fixed till the Saturday morning. Then the pain was removed; but I was unfit for business, save writing of letters. But though the Lord's day was so bad that few came to church, it was a good day to me, in delivering the Lord's word, weak and crazy as I was. I admired the indulgence of my gracious Master, in timing the trial so as not to mar my public work; and in that I had as much studied the preceding week, as fully served that Sabbath; so that as I was not able, so I did not need to study. He is a good Master to me: and I loused that rod. In the prayers of Monday, 9th November, I spread the Hebrew Bible before Him, and cried to the Father, that for the sake of His Son, He would by the Spirit shine on it unto me, give light into and discover His mind in the word; that He would give me life, health, strength, time, and inclination, to the study, and a blessing thereon; that He would teach me how to manage that work, and would pity me as to sleep, having been somewhat bereaved of sleep since I was determined to that work. And that week I made an entrance upon it, meeting in the threshold with a particular difficulty like to break down my hopes of proceeding; and falling under indisposition, by means of a misty night, in coming over the hills from Chapelhop; and being hampered as to time. But I was encouraged again, surmounting the difficulty, and the indisposition going off.
16th November, Monday. - I understand, that two sick persons I had been concerned for before the Lord, were relieved from their distress; and was thankful, and concerned for grace to them to improve the deliverance. And I had a view of the merciful nature of God, from His requiring a merciful disposition in men one towards another, Ps. 41; encouraging to be concerned for others in such cases. I am now going to visit other two, for whom I have hope of pity. (Nota. - It pleased the Lord to pity them accordingly.)
On the morrow I went from Upper Dalgleish, where I was catechising, to Eskdalemoor, and visited the minister there, out of conscience towards God, to cherish the disposition he appeared to be in, as above recorded; and that out of regard to the welfare of the interest of the gospel in the country. And this journey, as I was helped to depend on the Lord with respect to it, so it was made a comfortable journey to me, going thither and returning; and that by a vicissitude of smiles of Providence, and trials.
30th November, Monday. - On Wednesday last I spent some time with John Currie, above mentioned, at his desire, in giving thanks for his recovery of the long illness under the ague. And the Lord's hearing of prayer for him, and others, last summer, was sweet in reflecting thereon. Hitherto I have been strengthened in the diets of catechising. That week a member of the family having unmercifully treated a beast, to the disturbing of the whole family, was seasonably rebuked for it, by the Lord's own word falling to be read in the family-ordinary, Prov. 12: 10, "A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast," etc.
On Tuesday, 1st December, I spent some time in prayer, with fasting, chiefly for two causes - 1. The work on the Hebrew text; and therein I found a pinching sense of need carrying me to that exercise, my hope of success being in the Lord alone; 2. For my younger son, who the day before had gone towards Edinburgh, to attend the school of divinity only. I reviewed my whole life, made confession, and renewed my acceptance of the covenant, as that time twelve months before: and then I made my supplications on these accounts and some other, particularly the affair at London as to the MSS., concerning which there was still a deep silence; and came away with hope, rolling them on the Lord. On the morrow I catechised at Calcrabank. I had a singular satisfaction in that little journey, while I observed how Providence taught me, trying me and delivering me. It being a very hard frost, it was dangerous riding; and my horses being both away to Edinburgh with my son, I was mounted on a beast that would hardly stir under me. At the second ford above Hopohouse, I was quite stopped, the ford being frozen, and the horse not able to make the brae where the water was open. Alighting therefore to take the hillside, the bridle slipped on, and my horse got away homeward, and I pursued. But kind Providence had a well-inclined lad coming down on the other side of the water, who coming through to my help, catched my horse, led him on, and I walked on foot once and again. Coming home, I was cast under night; but the lad staid, and came along with me, and led my horse again, while I walked with some uneasiness, by means of my boots, and otherwise. Meanwhile it was some moonlight: and I had a pleasure in that trial, beholding how my God took notice of me, even in my little matters, and how He balanced them for me! "Lord, what is man that Thou takest knowledge of him! or the son of man, that Thou makest account of him!" After all, having only got two falls, perfectly harmless, while walking, I came home safe; and found not the least ill effect of this adventure, save some weariness in my legs on the morrow after. And I got what I could spend of the next day, on the beloved study: but still Providence kept me on trial, as to time for it.
But now the Lord remembered me, as to the affair at London, which for my trial had been so long buried in absolute silence as to me, even for the space of five months and upwards. And on the following day, 4th December, came to my hand a letter from Mr. G. to Mr. Hogg, of the date 20th November 1730, London, bearing, That my letter was delivered to Sir Richard Ellys: That he received the letter obligingly; could not then give answer, being immediately going out of town; had been little in town that season, partly by his being building a house on a new purchase he has made, partly being abroad with his lady for her health; so that he had seen him but once these three months: That at that time he regretted to him, it had not been in his power, with the hurry he had been in that season, to give me a return; but showed a disposition to send me a compliment as a token of his regard for me: That he had not yet got accounts from Holland, nor Dr. Ziegenhagen from Bremen and Hall, about the specimen received in all those parts: as also, that Dr. Waterland has been still in the country; and Mr. Abraham Taylor so much in it, that he had not seen him; that he is a great man, and owns the divine authority of the accents: And further, That Dr. Hay, our countryman, a clergyman of the Church of England, though he is for the novelty of the points, yet values the work, and owns he has been instructed by reading both the one and the other MS.; that he has sometimes engaged to lay out himself to get some of the ablest of their church to write a preface to it, recommending it; that the author has made him a present of the Fourfold State; that he has urged the author to wait on the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Bishops of Durham and London, in order to their encouraging of it; and had it not been for their titles they must have, he had ere now been introduced to them for that effect: and, finally, desiring that I would send him a title for the translation, with a view of printing a new specimen of both, with proposals, if possibly he can find encouragement; promising to write me, how soon he should get Sir Richard's answer.
On the first reading of that letter, all I could do, was to lift my eyes to the Lord, that He would mould my heart into such a frame and disposition as might be agreeable to it. But upon further considering of it, I was thankful for it; yet still seeing the necessity of dependence on the Lord to be continued, with respect to that matter: and I could not but observe, that, on the Monday after, being the 7th, having begun a narration of that letter, and abstract of the same, before I could have access to finish the same, we sang in our ordinary at family-worship the last part of the psalm which I have a particular expectation from, as above hinted, to wit, Pa. 71: 20, to the end, "Thou, Lord, who great adversities," etc.; the which I did with heart and good will, having now had time to think more of the matter, and see further into the import and aspect of that letter.
To that letter I made a large return. I prepared also, and sent therewith, a title-page for the essay on the text.
But before the said return had reached him, there came to my hand on the 27th, being the Lord's day, a letter from him, dated London, 10th December, bearing, That Sir Richard Ellys having sent for him, communicated Mr. Gowan abovesaid his return to the above-mentioned letter concerning the specimen; of the which, taken down in writing by Mr. G. from Sir Richard's mouth dictating the same, the tenor follows. "The specimen of the Hebrew accentuation has been carefully read and examined, by the ablest judges of that sort of learning that I know; I mean, by Fir. Schultens and Mr. Gronovius: both of them think, the author has given surprising instances of the usefulness of the accents to settle the meaning of the text; and on supposition that the rest of the work is equal to this sketch, it will upon the whole be the best book that has been written on the subject, and deserves to be made public." The said letter further bare, That Sir Richard talked several things very warm, as to his concern for me and that work, and was for its being handsomely printed, having had both the MSS. by him for some time: That he gave him ten guineas to be transmitted to me, as an acknowledgement of his sincere regard and esteem for me, and as a pledge of doing all in his power to encourage any work of mine; with salutations, and an excuse for his not writing as yet; and that he longs to see the MS. on the covenant of grace; and has as warm a way of talking of the gospel, and of the absolute need of divine saving teaching, to see its glory, and comply with its noble design, as any that ever the author was in company with: That Mr. Laraque, a French minister, an acquaintance of Sir Richard's, coming in, and hearing the story talked over to him, promised to procure twenty-five subscriptions from his relations and acquaintance abroad: That the Earl of Hay had promised to be a subscriber: And that it would be difficult to keep the charges, etc., of the two parts of the work distinct, as I had proposed; but that the printer might make the exactest calculation as to both, still keeping in view the printing both together, and one subscription for all.
Upon the reading of that letter, I was somewhat as before in the case of the preceding one; the slowness of my natural temper having had a very discernible effect, on these occasions. But in the morning of the next day, I had a good time of it: seeing then, how my God was a faithful promise-keeping God to me; had begun to fulfil more of the latter part of the 71st psalm to me; and given me at length what He had long delayed, but by providential notices and pledges had bid me wait on for: and giving thanks for His faithfulness and bounty: withal perceiving, I as really needed His hand, to suit my heart to what the thing done required of me, as I needed it to do it for me. I remembered, that on the Friday's morning before (as I think) the petitions with reference to that affair, arose in my heart like water from a spring, which even then upon reflection made me to hope. And that morning above mentioned, being 28th December, I had something of the same nature in prayer for Sir Richard Ellys, that word being brought me, Prov. 11: 25, "He that watereth, shall be watered also himself." The signature of a divine hand, on the raising up of him to befriend me, and in such a manner as he has done in various respects, did indeed appear with a glaring evidence. Janet Scot above mentioned being much in the like case as before the communion; considering I had the same God to go to, and the same Mediator still, I renewed the petitions in her behalf: and ere long after, I heard the Lord had pitied her. And Providence now appearing to be in motion, according to the words contained in Ps. 71:, I was hopeful, my wife's turn expected therein, would come about at length. That afternoon I received the ten guineas above mentioned, by the hand of the bearer who the day before had brought me the letter.
Together with the said letter I received another, from my Lord Grange, directed to Mr. Hogg, desiring him to acquaint me, concerning a book, intitled, Biblia Hebraica accentuata; sive, Codices Hebraci, accentuum radiis collustrati, ultra his mille specimina, etc.: opera et curie M. Georgii Christoph. Pashsellii, Lipsiae 1729; where and how I might get it, if I desired it; and showing, that if, after seeing of it, I desired to communicate thoughts with the author, perhaps a way might be fallen on for that effect. Hereby it seemed to me, that Providence was at this time at work to disuse that light, making it to arise from very distant quarters; the more to be regarded, that there were never perhaps so formidable attacks made against revealed religion in Christian countries, as at this day.
What spare time I had that week, was entirely spent on letters. What part of Tuesday I was able so to employ, was spent in scrolling a letter to Sir Richard Ellys; and yet I was not able so to effect it: my God thus humbling me, and teaching me my dependence, and what a mere nothing I am without Him. Howbeit, taking a diet of catechising on the morrow, I wrote my letter to Sir Richard on the Thursday, 31st December, a copy whereof is in retentis; and also begun a very long letter to Mr. G.
On Friday, 1st January 1731, entered, in pursuance of my former subject, on a new text, 1 Pet. 5: 6, "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time." And I was let into the meaning of being "under the mighty hand of God," new to me; namely, that it mainly points at that inferiority to, and dependence on, others, which God has appointed for men's trial, now in this world; the which is to be wholly taken away at the end of time. When I had almost ended my studies, there arrived from Selkirk an express with letters from Edinburgh and London. One of these was from Sir Richard Ellys, dated 16th December 1730.
These letters did, leisurely, as before, fill me with comfort and thankfulness. The friendliness, openness, and savouriness of Sir Richard's were really surprising, notwithstanding all the favour he had shown me before: and I could not miss to admire and adore that hand of God, which had given his heart such a touch, upon that design; and which also had first set, again excited, and still keeps, Mr. G. in motion therein. That night, thinking to proceed in my begun answer to Mr. G. my strength would not serve: so I was obliged to lay it aside. Nevertheless I behoved to write two short letters, to go off on the morrow early: in one of which I desired my friend Mr. Wilson forthwith to transmit the MS. on the covenant of grace, then with him, to Mr. Hogg at Edinburgh, to be by him sent off to London, to be shown to Sir Richard: as to which I know not, at writing hereof, what is done by him; but I have committed it to the Lord.
On Saturday's morning, being the 2nd, perceiving myself overcharged with necessary business, I prayed for strength for it, trusted I would get it; and accordingly I did get it. And with that strength afforded me in hunc effectum, I dispatched all I had to do that day, both as to my public and private work, though it kept me late that night. I wrote that day another letter to Sir Richard; and a letter to Mrs. Balderstone; and several others. I had a good tune of it, on the Lord's day morning, in prayer, particularly in praying for Sir Richard Ellys. But for all the sweet morning I thus had, that I might know what a poor depending thing I was, I had no gust nor feeling in the public ordinances, lecture or preaching, that day: but I comforted myself, in that my Lord Christ is to the fore, and He changes not.
On the morrow our session met, and I had access to the Lord in prayer, and felt the power of "His hand put in by the hole of the door." And that night I saw it necessary, solemnly to address the throne of grace, for carrying on that work now again set in motion. Accordingly, on Tuesday the 5th, I spent some time in prayer on that account, as also for assistance in the work on the Hebrew text, again entered on some time ago, and for the divine pity with respect to my case in the ensuing spring.
Becoming faint, I took a refreshment: but withal it pleased the Lord all along to withdraw, so that I had no sense nor feeling in that work, which was carried on heavily, in my usual method. At length, thinking I was like to lose that day's work, I resolved to believe over the belly of sense; and resolutely laid my petitions on these heads, for Mr G., my wife, and Mr. Henry Davidson, before the Lord, in the name of Jesus Christ; professing, that I did not at all look for the acceptance of my person, performances, or petitions, upon the account of anything about me, which was but variable; but for the sake of Christ only, who, whatever I was, remained still the same: and therefore had confidence, they should be accepted, for His sake, over the belly of my want of sense. And I found much benefit in this course.
On the morrow there came to my hand a letter, shewing that Mr. Du-Pont, who had urged me to write to M. Maurice, professor of theology at Geneva, impatiently expected a letter for him. The accentuation, so far as I could understand, being of little reputation in those parts, I was not fond of the toil of that writing, whence I could have so little expectation. But upon that repeated call thereto, I addressed myself to it; and on the Monday and Tuesday, the Lord helping me, I made out a specimen, of two sheets, for him. On the Thursday with some difficulty I carried the scrolling of my letter some length: but at night applying thereto again, I was so worsted thereby, that on the morrow, my study-day, I was quite out of case, tho' I got through with difficulty. In the matter of this letter I had much ado to believe and wrestle against anxiety, which on the Friday's night being like to rob me of my rest, I turned to my knees on my bed, made supplication for sleep, and got it. On the Saturday I dispatched that letter, which being in Latin is in retentis; as also several others. And on the Monday morning they were conveyed away. According to my faith, so it was with me: I had much ado to believe and trust the Lord in that matter; and I had much ado to get it accomplished.
On the last of January came to my hand a letter from G. G. whereby I understood his brother Mr. John was to return home, in the latter end of February, or beginning of March; while as yet I knew nothing done effectual in my affair. But therewith came Ledhebhurius's book on the accents; by the preface whereof I understood the disappointments he had been exercised with, as to the publishing of it. Upon this and other incidents, I was made to betake myself anew to my God, and in the name of Christ to lay my several requests very particularly before Him; the which I was helped to do with confidence. And thus was I set anew to hang on about the Lord's own hand.
But having unhappily suffered the monthly meeting of the session, which should have been kept the first Monday of February, to drop, that I might have more time for my beloved study, which I had almost all along that far been hampered in, I found myself disappointed. Acknowledging my sin, and resolving to keep that meeting on the second Monday, I got that week both strength and time for that study, in a measure, I think, I had not till then obtained. And on the Saturday, after much weariness, came to my hand several letters, whereof one from Hall in Saxony, directed to Mr. Ziegenhagen above mentioned.
The sight hereof with the rest, sent me to the Lord, that He might manage my heart as the matter might require. And afterward reading it, I was almost made to break out in tears of joy at the goodness of God towards poor me. I had therewith a letter from Mr. G. of the date 17th January 1731, in which was no word of his returning, but recommending to me to write both to Dr. Ziegenhagen and Dr. Michaelis, and bearing his having as yet got no account of the reception of my papers from Sir John Philips and the prelates, Sir Richard being out of town, and (the author) not having seen Sir John. The morrow after, finding that the treatise on the covenant, which I had committed to the Lord, was arrived safe at London, I found myself moved solemnly to return Him thanks for that, committing it again to Him, and praying He would honour Himself by it; and herein the Lord was with me in a special manner.
Having on the Monday, 8th February, held the session, as resolved, I applied myself that week, as I had access, to prepare a letter for Dr. Michaelis, wishing to have the same over that week. But I was so straitened therein, that having finished the scrolling of it not till Saturday at eleven o'clock, I had laid my account not to have that business dispatched till the beginning of the following week. But going downstairs at the time foresaid, I was surprised to hear of an occasion to Edinburgh on the Monday. Whereupon finding myself sore pressed, and already outwearied, I made my supplication unto God; then dispatched in the first place my work for the Sabbath, and immediately thereafter applied myself to writing that letter. After dinner I took my horse, and spent some time in riding for my health, and for strength; at half six went to my closet again; and a friend having gifted me some bottles of white wine, I took a glass of it, some time after, for the same causes aforesaid; and by eleven o'clock at night had all dispatched, viz., a letter to Dr. Michaelis, another to Dr. Hagen, both in Latin, a third to Mr. G., and other two to other persons. Through this closeness of application I lost much of the night's rest, not being able to command sleep, as usual with me in such cases. But on the morrow, being the Lord's day, I had full strength for my work; only, heaven was made more sweet to me, as a rest from toil and labour. On the Monday I was obliged to visit a sick person at Buccleugh. This conduct of Providence was admirably sweet. The Lord tried me, and brought to me my purpose, in His way, though not in mine. Had I known sooner of the occasion to Edinburgh, I could have done no more than I was doing; but it would have rendered me more uneasy: so it was kindly kept up from me till the due time, though human inadvertency was the means Providence made use of for that end. And as I desired, so I got, strength in hunc effectum, when I saw what lay upon me. And O what kindness I saw in the necessity laid on me to ride seven miles on the Monday. I was heartily pleased to see how my God ordered my labour, my rests, and my motions, wishing ever to be under no other conduct. But upon the neck of this, Satan laid a train for me: and I was catched, and defiled; but was washed again in the Redeemer's blood.
Thereafter the presbyterial exercise and addition lying on me, I set myself, as I had access, to study the same. And being helped through grace to trust the Lord, I was most comfortably carried through the study thereof. So that on Tuesday, 23rd February, I had access, with much thankfulness, to my kind Father, to return to my beloved study, which I had been broke off from by the arrival of the letters foresaid.
On 1st March I went to Selkirk, where on the morrow I delivered the discourse aforesaid to an unexpectedly frequent auditory. Looking on this as probably the last of the kind I might have occasion to deliver, I had been concerned, that the Lord would give it me with a relish: and the relish that I sought, I got, according to His great mercy, even to the filling of my heart with satisfaction, as in the study of it. And, with thankfulness to my gracious Father, I returned in the Thursday's night, with a humbling view of my unprofitableness in conversation, and a conviction, as usual, that my obscure and retired life is really best for me. Being through weariness unfit for study on the morrow, I had no need, having enough provided beforehand. But while abroad, one of the remaining comforts of my life endured a shock, that had some time before been a-working: the which was very affecting, seeing how the Lord was drawing one comfort from me after another.
On the Monday and Tuesday after, I was obliged to ride to the utmost corners of the parish to visit sick persons; and on the two following days applied myself, as I was able, to my private business; but recovered not till Friday my study-day. And hereby I perceived, how little I had to expect from riding in the way of cure. On the 28th I closed my ordinary, of humiliation, having been comfortably assisted. About this time, in several instances of mothers and children, moved to pray for them, I was graciously heard, and my soul filled with praise on that score. Moreover having, on occasion of the late occurrences relating to the MSS. observed from time to time a certain run of temper prevailing, I was let into this view of human nature, not much adverted to before, viz., That whereas there are two parts of sympathy, namely, weeping with them that weep, and rejoicing with them that rejoice, human nature is far more ready to go into the former than into the latter, from a certain undue care for one's self, and a jealousy of others, which in the former there is not so much place or occasion for.
Having for a considerable time in the spring taken thought about administering the sacrament, finding myself straitened with Mr. Davidson's growing indisposition, whereby he was laid aside from preaching, I often laid the matter before the Lord. And, after many thoughts, I was so far resolved to call Mr. Macgarroch to my assistance on that occasion, that on 13th April, being catechising at Etterick-house, I told my resolution to one there. The reason moving me thereto, was indeed to consult the good of the country, after I should be gone, if so be that man might be pliable. But coming home, just as I alighted, one of his parish, who had been at my house, was drawing his horse to go away. Him I asked concerning that brother; and he told me he was just the day before gone for Ireland. Herewith I was struck, perceiving the divine hand so eminent in my encounter with the man, which a minute or two's delay would have prevented. Thin made me cast about again in my thoughts: and on the morrow I gave myself to prayer, on that head particularly; and at length soon resolved to hold on as before, without moving another way, judging Providence to point me thereto; and leaving it to the Lord to provide for the country in His own way after my removal. So I wrote to Mr. Wilson and Mr. Davidson on the 14th, and to Mr. Craig on the 17th.
On Monday 7th June, having kept the house two weeks, to attend the new communicants coming to me in order to their admission, I rode out a mile, but with great pain in my knee. Being come back the length of the glebe, much moved herewith, in respect of what might happen in being called to visit the sick, I tried hanging my leg out of the stirrup; and riding so with pretty much ease, I was encouraged again with respect to the event foresaid. I rode out again in the same posture on the morrow; and continued that way for some time after, as I had occasion.
Thus I was become lame, the scurvy having fallen down into my knee, at the time above mentioned. And I was put from kneeling; at prayer either standing upright, or prostrating myself on a bed. But now the pain I formerly had in my back, which came to me in the spring, and towards the autumnal equinox, went on, and came no more. But this seemed to have taken its place, the humour now landing in my knee, which formerly had annoyed my back.
The sacrament was administered 13th June, quite beyond my expectation, having laid my account with the first Sabbath of that month. But from that event, together with the former of 13th April, I thought God had something comfortable to bring out in that matter; and I rejoiced that the Lord Himself led, and left me to follow. He carried on the work with much of His countenance to His servants, and refreshment to His people; and that in the way that by His Providence He Himself had determined. The distributing of the tokens was most orderly: and as external decency in management, with favour in the weather, were sought of the Lord, we got the same to a pitch. My children were kept up in health for the time. Isabel Biggar was healed on the fast-day at night: but Rachel Grieve's daughter continued ill; only in the time she was easier than after. It happened that there was but one single person at the last table. Mr. Wilson was gone away, and Mr. Davidson declined serving it. Whereupon I addressed myself to the work. I showed the people, that our Lord Christ received every one that came to Him; that the action was one continued action, and not then closed; and so proceeded as usual, without any variation. The tokens distributed to communicants were about 777; the collection on the three days £77, 13s. 4d. Scots. There were about nine score strangers in Midgehop; four score of them William Blaik, husband of Isabel Biggar aforesaid, entertained, having before baken for them half a boll of meal for bread, bought 4s. 10d. sterling worth of wheat bread, and killed three lambs, etc., made thirty beds. And I believe their neighbour, Robert Biggar, Isabel's brother, would be much the same. This I record once for all, for a swatch of the hospitality of the parish: for God has given this people a largeness of heart, to communicate of their substance, on these, and other occasions also. And my heart has long been on that occasion particularly concerned for a blessing on their substance; with such a natural emotion, as if they had been begotten of my body. Those within a mile of the church still had the far greater weight on solemn occasions.
Being just settled to business in my closet, on Tuesday, 22nd June, I was called to see Rachel Grieve's child aforesaid, in Ramsaycleugh, a-dying: and before I could get away, I was called to see a woman, a communicant, a-dying too. The child was just expired when I got to the place. From thence I went to Glenkury to the woman, whom I found in a most dangerous condition, all means proving ineffectual. Thus the Lord seemed to refuse to be intreated: and I thought that woman was gone too. Wherefore I went back on the Thursday, judging she could not last at that rate: but when I came thither, I found her sitting at the fire, pretty well recovered; and they thought themselves out, that they had not prevented my trouble of this new visit. But I rejoiced, and gave thanks: and when I came home, I saw that God had hindered them; to check me for my so soon giving over hopes of His hearing of prayer. I took the rebuke kindly; and it was useful to me in another case. For whereas I had put up petitions, for the prospering of the affairs of the people, who on the late occasion had honoured Him with their substance; but understood that since that time some of them had got but a sorry market, I hereby saw more into the method of Providence, and believed that God would notwithstanding make out His word, and they should not lose their reward. The first four days of that week, lame as I was, I was obliged to be on horseback, thankful to God that I was able, and was not laid by from that piece of service. But supping ordinarily at that time on a glass of mum, and a piece of wheatbread, it was humbling to me; and a point of submission to the will of God, who had made it necessary for me to be at such pains about the body, and that I could not put it off with as little choice as sometimes before. On the Monday morning after, having had some comfortable account and view of the fruits of the Lord's work in my hand, and being withal led into some admiration of the glorious mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God, I had a comfortable while in my bed, while I could not sleep: and it came to my remembrance, that before I came to Etterick, one concerned for me had that view of it, that if I went, it should be for the good of a young generation: now the then young generation is the old now, in several of whom I have comfort.
About the 7th of July, my knee became worse than ever, the pain having in the night gone to an extremity; with the which trysted a letter, inviting me to the communion at Galashiels, to be on the 1st of August. In the morning I took the letter, and spread it before the Lord, crying for pity. And thereafter my knee returned to its ordinary, the great pain having abated by degrees. That time I was let into a strengthening view of the fulness of a God in Christ, whereby I perceived, that whatever were the communications of divine love, to others more than to me, there was still the same room for me as if there were not another object of it in all the world. And this continued to be of great use to me.
The work at Galashiels lying wholly on my two friends and me, and Mr. Craig, probationer, I was led for my subject to 2 Cor. 12: 9, "For my strength is made perfect in weakness." I made my way thither on the Friday, but with much difficulty; not from pain or sickness, but mere weakness to sit the horse. Howbeit I had abundant strength given me for my work there, preached Saturday and Sabbath afternoon, and served five tables: and the Lord was with me in my public and private work in my chamber, and at the table helped me to believe in Him as my God. On the Saturday there was, I think, some thunder before we went out: but between two and three o'clock, when I had begun my sermon, it returned, and went to a great pitch. Upon the back of the second or third clap, I said to the people, "The God of glory thundereth; He will give His people strength and bless them with peace." So I went on undisturbed, the fire every now and then flashing in my eyes. The people sat gravely and decently, without any disturbance discerned by me, perceiving nothing of that nature among them, more than the drawing of their clothes about them, as in the case of rain. In time of the prayer after sermon, the thunder went to a prodigious height, that I could not miss the imagination of being struck down in a moment; but through grace was kept undisturbed in my work. In time of singing the psalms, while I looked for Mr. Davidson to come up, to speak to the people, as usual, I was told he could not come: so I addressed myself to officiate for him. But whereas there had been but little rain before, there came such a mighty pouring out of rain, that I was obliged to dispatch quickly. Then we distributed the tokens, the papers meanwhile being damnified with the rain, while they were produced and read. Having done the work without, when I came into the house, Mr. Davidson was lying grovelling and groaning on his chamberfloor, under a most exquisite fit of the gravel: and after sitting some time with him, who in his extremity declared himself under a Father's hand, I left him as I found him. The pain going off, he was sick through the night, and rose not soon. So I had laid my account to officiate for him before the action; but said nothing, waiting to see how Providence would move. But, after all, he went out betwixt nine and ten, preached a sweet sermon, and did his other work, without the least vestige of his illness about him in it; speaking with as much vigour as ever, I think, I heard him at any time when at his best: so that the multitude seemed in no uneasiness at all to hear. This was a wonderful stroke of Providence, carrying matters to such an extremity, and then bringing to such a comfortable issue. But that was the full-sea mark as to him, since which time to the day of the writing hereof, more than a quarter of a year after, so far as I know, he has not had a return of his usual pains, but a turn to the better, and seems to be in a way of recovery. On the Sabbath morning we heard of two persons, in the neighbouring parish of Stow, slain by the thunder; and afterwards of a third: the which made it the more signal mercy, that there was no breach made on the multitude, either in the place, or going to their places of abode. Long was the roll of the sick and distressed which was read. In prayer I found sensible help of the Lord, to go through the several kinds, and petitions for them laid to my hand. This was the prayer after the afternoon-sermon, on the Lord's day.
Some time after, standing without, and seeing a tree tossed with a violent wind, which caused the withering leaves to fall on, that otherwise in a little would have dropt off of themselves, I received instruction as to heavy trials trysting with a declining state.
On the 3rd of September I had, by a letter, an account of an apparent beginning of Mr. Davidson's deliverance and recovery. And being on the 5th to begin lecturing on the Song of Solomon, considering the growing infidelity and profaneness of the day, I was moved to preach on the first verse thereof, to vindicate the divine authority and spirituality of it, etc., before I should enter on explaining it. I was much satisfied in the divine conduct in that matter, several persons of some distinction falling to hear that day, beyond what was ordinary with us, it being the first Sabbath after Tushilaw's return from his travels.
Having had some expectation, that, as in some former years, I would become somewhat better in health about the autumnal equinox; instead thereof, I became sensibly worse: the knee particularly swelled more, and the leg became weaker; so that I was fain to betake myself to my staff again, as in the beginning of that trouble. This turn as to my body, gave me a rational view of what might be expected from the spring-shock added thereto, in case of my seeing the spring: and I had some comfortable prospect of the weary's getting to rest.
William Blaik's family, who had a train of trials since the sacrament, was tossed in a sea of trouble for a long time from the beginning of August, he, his wife, and three children, all fixed to sickbeds together. They were attended by a neighbour, a weak woman, who declared she had not of a long time had so much health as was afforded her during the time of her attendance. After a long trial of several turns, the Hearer of prayer brought all safe through: and at length, at their desire, thanks were returned in the congregation for their recovery, as prayers bad been put up there for them.
Considering the continued silence as to the MSS. relating to the Hebrew, and thence perceiving that they do not take at London, this did sometimes put me almost out of conceit with them myself; but yet the value for them revived again with me, when I cast my eyes on the discoveries made by that study. However, I came to be in good measure weaned in the matter, only had some difficulty, as to the calling them home peremptorily, being afraid of not allowing Providence full scope in the business; and wanting only to be cleared as to my duty in that point. But the MS. on the covenant was again written for.
The sacrament of the Lord's supper was administered at Maxton, 3rd October. Looking on it as possibly the last such occasion I might have there, I was determined to John 1: 29, "Behold the Lamb of God," etc., that I might make another offer of Christ to sinners; my sermons of that nature abroad having for some time been fitted to the case of serious persons exercised. Being to go off on Thursday, that by reason of my weakness I might take two days for the journey, I began my study of that text on the Monday. But on the Tuesday I quite stuck therein, and could not proceed; which made it a heavy day. Having earnestly begged of the Lord, that He would give me a message, whether old or new, as He saw meet; lying a-bed at night, that word came to me, Prov. 9: 12, "If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself," etc., an old text. Finding the agreeableness hereof to the public circumstances of the land, and to my own private circumstances, as a concluding word, I was that night much eased, and on the morrow fully determined thereto; as I was also to Gen. 6: 9, "Noah was - perfect in his generations;" recommending integrity in a declining generation unto all, and particularly to the younger sort. I was earnest for the blowings of the Spirit; and the Lord was with me in delivering these two words, which in my own eyes, and in the eyes, I believe, of some others too, looked like farewell-sermons, whatever be the issue. But daylight failing on the Lord's day at night, and not being able to command the lines of the psalm I was minded to have given out, there was no psalm sung; the which I heartily was sorry for afterward. During that time I was pitied also in my private work.
As we were coming away homeward from Maxton, Mr. Wilson put into my hand a printed paper of the commission of the general assembly 1660, intitled, The great sin and chief guiltiness of Scotland, in the contempt of the gospel, designed to be reprinted; desiring me to write a preface to it. This I utterly refused, and that in earnest; knowing, nothing particularly about the matter, and judging him more fit to manage things of that nature. However, he obliged me to keep it, to read it at my leisure, and show what I observed in it. Getting home on Wednesday, as I lay a-bed that night, I read the paper above mentioned; and I was thereby, through the blessing of God on it, convinced, instructed, directed, comforted, and recovered; and particularly helped towards a right use-making of sacraments received. And the impression it made was, through grace, lasting. On the morrow, finding I had several occasional things laid to my hand to do, and knowing myself liable to an unfitness for action after travel, I chose to transcribe in mundo something of what was written on Gen. 23, that being the thing which the bent of my spirit lying mainly toward, I judged best to bring me in case for applying, to work in my closet.
But holy Providence had designed a piece of new trial for me, that I was not aware of. When I came home from Maxton, I was told, that one had advised blistering, and putting a pea in my leg, for my sore knee, and had left me a blistering-plaister for that end. The plaister was applied on the Friday's night. On the Sabbath night the pea was put in; and through pain I slept none that night. The pain continuing, the pea was taken out again on the Tuesday; and on the morrow after, I had my first diet of catechising at Chapelhop. After taking away the pea, the hole quickly closed; but there grew upon it a hard callous substance, and withal the leg was inflamed. This created thoughts of heart, and the sore knee was forgotten. On the Monday after I wrote for a surgeon; who returned me answer, that he apprehended no danger, and sent me an ointment to apply. Expecting some benefit by the ointment, I wrote him on the morrow, that he needed not come till again called. But finding the ointment quite ineffectual as to the substance aforesaid, I was sorry I had prevented his coming up.
On the Monday there had come to my door a begging cripple, who seeing me without, begged of me a book of my own composing. I told him I had none but single copies, except of the Fourfold State, value 4s. sterling: and he insisted not for one of them. I gave him something out of my pocket; but he told me, he would rather have had a book. Surprised with this unusual request from such a sort of person, after he was gone away I called him back, and told him, I would think of a book for him, bidding him call some other time. Thinking on this matter, and taking it for a call from the Lord Himself, I resolved to give him a copy of the Fourfold State, not knowing but God might have something to do with it, by that means, among the vagrant poor. So on Monday, 18th October, while I was sitting with my sore leg in my closet, he came back; and calling him up to me, I gave him the book, taking him engaged not to show from whom he had it, but to read it occasionally among his fellows, and was concerned for a blessing on it. This afforded me a satisfaction far beyond what money could have done: and before that, on occasion of giving of them away, I had a satisfying view of that as the very best I could make of them, having got two dozen of them, and sold one half dozen of them, few being then left.
From the time I read the aforementioned paper, I was so taken with it, that I cried earnestly again and again unto the Lord, that He would vouchsafe to put the honour on me to be instrumental, in the way desired, towards its public usefulness; and on the Wednesday and Thursday, while I sat in my bed, by reason of my leg, the Lord gave me something by way of recommendation of it. Herein my soul rejoiced. And by the time that I was near the close of it, on the Thursday, the surgeon came. And I was the more comforted, in that I saw the Lord had sent him, having got the contrary word, as above said. He opened the side of the callous substance with the point of his scissors; then pulled it up with pincers, which I was helped to bear; and what was raised of it, he clipped away: but near a third part of it remained, which he apprehended was not then ripe. And thus I was more comforted.
The hand of God was eminent in bringing this trial on me. I was not seeking cure of my knee by medicine, or any such way, having, from a continued tract of experience, little or no hope at all that way; but I was put upon it by those concerned for my welfare. Providence, by a repeated incident, frowned on it from the beginning; which I saw, and created me thoughts of heart. There was hardly a step of the management of the pea, wherein there was not an error committed, afterward discerned by the effects. This not being fairly acknowledged, and duly regretted, while my leg appeared to be in danger, ruffled my spirit; but it was calmed, ere Providence set on the way of help by a surgeon; who, when he came, discovered one false step more, viz., that the pea had been put in the belly of the muscle, not between two muscles.
About that time I observed, on a particular emergent, what I had often observed before, the necessity and advantage of a principle of justice and reason, and acting therein, in cases where softer principles have no ground left them to stand on.
Meanwhile the catechising of the parish was interrupted; and I sat in the pulpit when I preached. But my soul rejoiced to observe, how my gracious God and Master still timed the hardest of my trouble, so as it had been designed, that it should be over before the Sabbath should return. But with this trouble of my leg there was joined sore eyes, occasioned by my sitting in the bed writing, in the sunlight, on the Tuesday before the surgeon came: so that, for some nights, leg and eyes were to be buckled up with their respective applications at once; and one night a dint of the toothache joined them. The callous substance was got away by degrees; and on 7th November at night, what day I had intimated from the pulpit a diet of catechising again, the sore appeared closed.
That week the transcribing what I had written on Gen. 23 being ended, that I might afterward proceed as I should have access, I set myself to fill up the passages and account of my life from where I had left off, 9th January. While I was going on in that, there came to my hand on Saturday, 13th November, a letter from Mr. Hogg, bearing, his writing once more to Mr. G. and intreating his friends at Lonelon to get the MS. on the covenant from him; and proposing to me to review the notes on the Crook in the Lot, for publication, and advising of a motion to call me to Jedburgh, which he had heard; and withal obscurely hinting something of carrying me to a more healthy air, out of Etterick. As for the proposal of new work for me, I found myself content to be employed whatever way the Lord Himself should point out. As to that relating to Jedburgh, I neither hoped nor feared it, considering my circumstances. But the last did touch me very near, being, ignorant of the particular, or what might be of it: I considered how matters were, in all outward appearance, making towards my transportation to the grave; and having a terror of making a stumble near the end of my journey, I cried from the bottom of my heart, "Wilt not Thou who hast saved me from death, keep my feet from falling?" I could not but observe the mercy, that I was not quite forgotten and overlooked in the world: but I found the weight of the thought of parting with the parish of Etterick, otherwise than by death, or civil violence, unless I saw them comfortably provided.
I observed the diet of catechising aforesaid: but the day was so very bad that few came to it, being at Kirkhop. The week following I had another at Buccleugh. Considering my frailty, the season, and how Providence had, by the above-mentioned trial, carried me by the time I thought fittest for the utmost corners of the parish, I laid the matter before the Lord. And rising early in the morning, I got a good seasonable day, visited a sick man by the way, had a full allowance of strength for my work of catechising, without failing of my spirits, and got home again with daylight. This merciful conduct of Providence was big in my eyes.
That week I finished filling up thus far; my eyes being now somewhat better, and the sore in the leg almost whole; but the knee always swelled, and the leg swelling somewhat in the day, and falling again in the night, the lameness continuing, and the staff still needed, and used. On the foregoing Sabbath I stood lecturing; but delivered the sermon sitting. But from the time I fell under the sore leg, I was freed from an oppression of my spirits in the morning, as to such a degree thereof as I laboured under before that time. "He doth all things well."
[Thus far the author proceeded in his narrative in November 1731, without resuming the subject; owing, no doubt, to his growing frailty. We now, for a conclusion, add the several paragraphs formerly omitted, and reserved till now.]
And now, as for the state of my body, it was never very strong; yet, considering my manner of life, there seems to have been something in my constitution, borna stamina vitae, that has worn pretty well. A sharp cold, if withal it was dry, was agreeable to me, making me more vigorous than at other times. I had a very strong voice, till the notable breach in my health. I cannot say that ever I took very well with riding; but I could have supped better, after sitting all day in my closet, than after coming home from the presbytery at Selkirk. I remember not to have had, all my life, any formed sickness but twice; once when I had the small pox; and none at all since I was a boy. However, I have often been, since that time, in apparent danger of death, and under languishing indisposition; and could hardly have thought to have seen so many years, as I have now by the mercy of God passed: but was never to this day, that I remember, kept from preaching through indisposition; which, with my utmost thankfulness, I desire to record, to the praise of free grace. I took very little care of my diet, ate whatsoever was laid to my hand; only for many years very little salmon, being frighted from it by the effects it had on me in my youth, having unwarily mixed milk with it in my stomach: and this, as to my diet, till of late years, that I began notably to decline. I do not remember myself ever to have been sensibly the better of medicine, except the wormwood mentioned, p. 44. I have now much given over the use of it; and do not bind up myself so strait, even in point of diet, as for some time after the notable breach in my health. My eyes do yet serve me pretty well; only I have, about a year or two, read my chapters in the morning with preserves: for many years I have used to wash my eyes, opening them in the water, which I conceive may have been profitable. But it is now long since I had teeth, wherewith duly to get my meat chewed; and there are at this time fifteen of them, and a piece of one, laid up in a box, for conservation till the due time of disposing of them otherwise. Many years ago, I found the spring-season weakening to me, even when I was in Simprin.
But the last spring  was the heaviest that ever I saw. As the summer went on, I became more easy: but still a lowness of spirits seized me, and I ran out like a watch, after six o'clock at night; whereby it came to pass, that I had much ado, ofttimes, to be in case for the evening-worship in the family. Since the autumnal equinox , I think I have been better, even in that point. I had also a great difficulty in passing urine; but that also of late seemed to become more easy. I have slept well since the time I fell ill in March last . In October I was brought to the gates of death, in Galashiels, by a sudden illness seizing me there in the night, as narrated above, p. 449. At present, I am, by the mercy of God, pretty well; having some hope, I may yet, through His favour, have some access to return to my beloved study of the sacred Hebrew text.
That cast of temper, whereby I was naturally slow, timorous, and diffident, but eager in pursuit when once engaged, as it early discovered itself, so, I think, it has spread itself all along, through the whole of my course. It has been a spring of much uneasiness to me, in the course of my life; in that I was thereby naturally fond, where I loved. Yet I cannot but observe, that my God has made a valuable use of it; especially in my studies, combating special difficulties therein, till surmounted by His favour. Agreeable unto it, I was not of a quick apprehension; but had a gift of application: and things being once discovered, I was no more wavering in them. I was addicted to silence, rather than to talking. I was no good spokesman, but very unready even in common conversation; and in disputes especially at a loss, when engaged with persons of great assurance: the disadvantage of which last I often found in Etterick, where an uncommon assurance reigned. The touching of my spirit, so as to set me above fear, the moving of my affections, and being once well dipped into the matter, were necessary to give me an easy exercise of my faculties, in these and other extempore performances. My talent lay in doing things by a close application, with pains and labour. I had a tolerable faculty at drawing of papers; yet no faculty at dictating, but behoved to have the pen in my own hand: and even in that case it would often have been a while ere I could enter on. Accordingly, as for my sermons, it was often hard for me to fix on a text; the which has ofttimes been more wasting and weakening to me, than the study of my sermon thereon. I studied my sermons with the pen in my hand, my matter coming to me as I wrote, and the bread increasing in the breaking of it: if at any time I walked, it was occasioned by my sticking. Meanwhile, it would frequently have been long ere I got the vein of my subject struck: but then I could not be easy, unless I thought I had hit it. Thence it was, I often tore out what I had written, and began anew again; but ordinarily I found this turned to my greatest comfort and satisfaction, in end falling upon the vein. Hence it was not my manner, to shift from text to text; but to insist long on an ordinary; the closing of which at length I readily found to relish as much, with myself, and the serious godly, as the other parts preceding.
Thus also I was much addicted to peace, and averse to controversy; though, once engaged therein, I was set to go through with it. I had no great difficulty to retain a due honour and charity for my brethren differing from me in opinion and practice: but then I was in no great hazard neither, of being swayed by them, to depart from what I judged truth or duty. Withal it was easy to me, to yield to them in things wherein I found not myself in conscience bound up. Whatever precipitant steps I have made in the course of my life, which I desire to be humbled for, rashness in conduct was not my weak side. But since the Lord, by His grace, brought me to consider things, it was much my exercise to discern sin and duty in particular cases; being afraid to venture on things, until I should see myself called thereto: but when the matter was cleared to me, I generally stuck fast by it, being as much afraid to desert the way which I took to be pointed out to me. And this I sincerely judge to have been the spring of that course of conduct upon which Mr. James Ramsay above mentioned did, before the commission anno 1717, in my hearing, give me the following character, viz., That if I thought myself right, there would be no diverting of me by any means.
I never had the art of making rich; nor could I ever heartily apply myself to the managing of secular affairs. Even the secular way of managing the discipline of the church, was so unacceptable to me, that I had no heart to dip in the public church-management. What appearances I made at any time in these matters, were not readily in that way. I had a certain averseness to the being laid under any notable obligation to others, and so was not fond of gifts, especially in the case of any whom I had to deal with as a minister. And Providence so ordered, that I had little trial of that kind. I easily perceived that in that case "the borrower is servant to the lender."
As to the parish, there are few now alive that subscribed my call: nor are there, that I know, above two of the congregation of my hearers, paying rent this day, that were so doing, when I came among them twenty-three years ago (viz. from 1st May 1707, to 24th October 1730). They are by far more polished in their manners, than at that time; and much more tractable, and easy to me: and fewer scandals fall out among them. The old dissenters continue immovable: but their increasing is ceased. There is still a handful of serious Christians among them, as there has been all along: and I have often observed, that as some such, from time to time, have been one way or other carried away, there came others in their stead; and whatever the Lord laid to my hand to preach on unto them, I used not to be straitened on their account; judging I would be understood, on any subject I was led to treat of. The late sickness is now, by the mercy of God, abated.
And thus have I given some account of the days of my vanity, being this 24th of October 1730, 54 years, 7 months, and 1 week old. Upon the whole, I bless my God in Jesus Christ, that ever He made me a Christian, and took an early dealing with my soul; that ever He made me a minister of the gospel, and gave me some insight into the doctrine of His grace; and that ever He gave me the blessed Bible, and brought me acquainted with the originals, and especially with the Hebrew text. The world has all along been a stepdame to me; and wheresoever I would have attempted to nestle in it, there was a thorn of uneasiness laid for me. Man is born crying, lives complaining, and dies disappointed from that quarter. "All is vanity and vexation of spirit. - I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord."
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