Memoirs of the Life, Time, and Writings
of the Reverend and Learned
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Letters To And From The Author
No. 6. Letters from the Rev. Mr. Henry Davidson, late Minister of the Gospel at Galashiels, to the Author.
25th March 1728.
VERY DEAR SIR, - Your two letters of the last month's date, breathing so much of a kindly concern, and bearing so many seasonable advices, and relieving grounds of comfort, could not miss to be most acceptable to me, when plunged in the deep: and this should have been acknowledged to you before this, but my indisposition of body being considered, will, I know, sufficiently plead the excuse of my delay.
Dear Sir, When there is a keeping in any measure from a despising of the Lord's chastening, yet I find no small difficulty to bear off from the other rock, a fainting under His rebukes. Faith's views, that it is the Lord, will prove quieting. A right of His sovereignty, wisdom, righteousness, and faithfulness, works up the soul into a holy acquiescence in, and composure under, the eternal decree, now revealed by the event. But, O! how hard to believe a father's love it is with us under trials, especially those of a complicated nature, or that have some entangling especially in them, as it was with the disciples when our Lord came upon the water in a tempestuous night to their relief. They thought He was a spirit; so we look upon God as an enemy, when He comes to sanctify and save. The promise reconciles the roughness of a father's hand with the sweetness of His voice, and love of His heart. He calls to His children, in the darkest night, "It is I, be not afraid." Our disquietments do enter at the door of unbelief: for in every case, however trying, joy and peace accompany believing, and keep measures with it. That heroic grace performs surprising achievements under sharpest trials, as they stand registered in Heb. 11; and whatever our trials are, the strength of the conflict lies betwixt faith and unbelief; and as the balance sways towards the one or the other, so is the situation in other regards. All goes backward, and towards ruin, as unbelief prevails; for it carries its train alongst: and did not our gracious God stem the current from time to time, and be the lifter up of the head, we would infallibly sink beneath the stream: nevertheless, upon the begun recovery of faith, matters are accordingly set at rights. It is in this way that, in the Lord's strength, we are to look out for His kind scattering the clouds, and making us to hear, and to give in to the voice of His rod. It is by faith the soul must be moulded into a serene composure of mind, and a kindly compliance with the Lord's heart weaning methods of providence. It is in this way of believing, that we must take up with God alone for our portion and great all; and seek to have all our losses and wants made up and supplied in Him who has proclaimed Himself God all-sufficient. - D. Sir, yours very affectionately,
(2) Now we know in part.
11th May 1730.
V. Dear Sir, - Yours bearing the resolve about the sacrament came to hand some weeks ago. Difficulties taking rise in holy, wise Providence from your own circumstances, and likewise from those of your ordinary assistants, I make no doubt, have caused various thoughts not a little perplexing to every one of us: I would fain hope, the Lord on our head, as the breaker-up going before, will make the way clear. When we are saying among ourselves, and within ourselves, who shall roll us away the stone? He will possibly show us the stone, though very great, rolled away. The account of your weakness, and your wife's distress, gave me no little pain: infinite wisdom and love make all things work together for good; His ways and thoughts are above ours; in due time, the perplexing riddles shall be fully expounded, and it shall then be seen, what we are now to believe, that our God and guide has not taken one wrong step; and that unquestionably He had a very good reason for whatever He did. We must account that our Lord has ever gone the best way that could have been gone, in all that is past, and we should have no doubting thoughts about what He will do afterwards.
D. Sir, I give you no trouble at present with any account of my circumstances; may I be helped to wait on and not weary; and may His rich blessing make the afflicting rod fruitful. - I remain, V. Dear Sir, Yours affectionately,
(3) The discipline of light and shade.
Galashiels, 30th December 1730.
V. DEAR SIR, - To have owned my receipt of your kind letters, three of them, with Mr. Glass's pamphlet, has been often resolved. The delay has been much owing to bodily disorder, by no means to a want of due respect and gratitude. My long silence after your writing once and again made it appear necessary to me to say so much by way of apology. The whole of our time is divided between summer and winter, heat and cold, night and day, a constant revolution there is of storms and a calm. There is a shining beauty in the conduct of Providence, that we are not always fed with honey, nor yet is our cup always filled with gall and wormwood. There is a wise mixture in our lot of light and shade, as there is in ourselves of flesh and spirit; there is the mixture of anger and love in the trials of the Lord's children, not the anger of an enemy intending ruin and hurt, as flowing from hatred and revenge; but the anger of a father, which is guided by wisdom, and tempered by love, intending the good of His offending child. It is a piece of prerogative-royal, to have the power of life and death, which God reserves to Himself. He only knows when the appointed work is finished; He alone is fit to give the sailing-orders, and assign the time when the sore tossed and shattered vessel shall be laid up in a safe harbour. - Very dear Sir, yours very affectionately,
(4) Love and Death.
Galashiels, 25th February 1732.
VERY DEAR SIR - Your several letters came safe to hand, and were very acceptable. This comes to inform you, that the good old woman my mother went home to her own, the better country, this morning betwixt three and four o'clock. She took her bed upon the Lord's day evening; had a fever pretty high, but retained all her senses to her dying hour. How cruel is our love! how blind and inconsiderate is our affection! we would prefer the small advantages or greater gains we reap from their abode with us, to their entire satisfaction and complete happiness; a very great but common solecism in true friendship we are often guilty of. However frightful and ill-favoured death appear to the eye of sense, it is viewed by faith as the messenger of our heavenly Father; and when the Christian opens its hard cold hands, and looks into them, there are to be found gracious letters full of love, bearing an invitation to come home, a call from the new Jerusalem to come up and see. When death with the one hand covers our eyes, and deprives of the light of the stars, with the other it rends in pieces the vail, and so makes way for our being set immediately under the refreshing beams of the Sun of Righteousness, without the least appearance of a cloud through the long days of eternity. Now that His way is in the sea, and His path in the deep waters, and His footsteps are not known, we must believe loving- kindness in all the mysterious passages of Providence: we shall in due time see a wheel in the wheel, and be taught how to decipher the dark characters; we shall, with an agreeable surprise, perceive an all-wise Providence in all its intricate, oblique, and seemingly-contrary motions, to have been a faithful servant to the divine promise; so that we must say Amen to Heaven's disposals, and cry out in the dark and gloomy night, Hallelujah. I should certainly make an apology for giving you so much trouble, but allow it to be written to the Lord's prisoner of hope with you, as I design it, though the direction bears your name. The fault of its length will, I hope, appear less when taken in that view. My affectionate respects to Mrs. Boston, with yourself, are offered, by him who is, Very dear Sir, yours very affectionately, in the straitest bonds,
NO. 7. Acts act of a letter from Mr. (grant to the Author, dated 8th June 1730.
Sir Richard Ellys.
My former letters to our worthy and dear friend Mr. Hogg, will give you a tolerable account of that rare gentleman Sir Richard Ellys, and of your obligations to him; tho' I own it is much above me to give either his character, or express how much you are obliged to him. But I cannot help saying, that I do sincerely think, that there is ground of many thanksgivings to sovereign grace, that we have in our island a gentleman of his rank (being one of the first for birth and estate in England), and one of the ablest scholars in it, who, I hope and am persuaded, is such a pleasant scholar in Christ's school, and is let in to the wonders and glories of free grace, and whose soul thirsts after further and further discoveries of the purity and beauty of the gospel. He has many a time warmed my heart, to hear him speak of that subject. He speaks indeed of grace like one that has seen its glory, felt its power, and tasted its sweetness. There is one amongst many lovely accounts he was pleased to communicate to me, which I am satisfied will be pleasing to you, viz., that when he was a bigoted Arminian, God was pleased to give an old gentlewoman, of an understanding entirely weak as to everything but free grace and the mystery of Christ, an uncommon concern about him, at whose notions of Christ and grace he was wont to laugh. However, a sovereign and gracious God made this weak woman conquer this Goliath, and teach this Rabbi. O! with what respect he talks of her memory! and O! what a glorious demonstration does he reckon such a one of the reality of divine teaching, who knows nothing of the world, has weak understanding of all the concerns of human life, but knows more of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven than thousands of scholars, nay, and thousands of divines! She died full of the faith and hopes, that God would take care of him, and keep him by His power through faith to salvation. Your Fourfold State has engaged his heart to you: he has made presents of it to several of his friends, and made another great man, Sir John Philips, purchase it, who says, free grace is his Bible, and admires your book, reads it daily himself, and makes all his family read it. This gentleman, Sir Richard assures me, is a man of great worth, and has a great concern about the declining of religion, and has a noble public spirit for doing good.
No. 8. Letters front the Author to his Correspondent in, Edinburgh.
(1) The Marrow: Religion in common life.
25th September 1721.
D. SIR, - I received yours with the inclosed letter and paper; the which last, when I had considered, I found my heart disposed to bless the Lord, who had given you counsel wisely to manage this important affair. I had got the contrary paper before, which had come also from your hand; by the reading of which I was much confirmed in what we have done; but withal perceiving so little regard to truth (I mean not only gospel truths, but truth and ingenuity in conversation), I am made to think they can have little hope from that airth, whose lot it is to fall into such hands. But I should account myself happy to get garments kept clean, whatever the Lord may see meet otherwise to do; and I hope that through the supply of the Spirit, and the prayers of the godly, whose eyes are opened in this matter, it may be our mercy to find pity in the eyes of the Lord, to be carried cleanly through, which the Lord knows is that which I mainly desire. I heard nothing of the meeting you speak of, till I read it in yours; but I think I cannot be at it, nor do I think Mr. Wilson will, and perhaps not Mr. D. neither, who is now in Nithsdale. As matters appear to me now (whatever I might by conference be brought to), I do not think it proper, that anything which is not to be publicly owned as the common deed of the whole, should undergo so solemn a trial; and if it was mine own case, I would expect more of a half, if not of a fourth part, their perusing the same privately in their closets, than of the whole men together. As for myself, I hope our Dr. B. to whom the Lord has given a quick wit, and a clear apprehension, needs not be very solicitous about the matter of getting our thoughts of it. I long to see it, but in such a manner as will be common to all; and heartily wish that no time may be lost, that can be gained. You are still remembered by me in my most solemn addresses; and the true reason why I have not written to you for some time is, that my strength I find to be much abated; but work is laid to my hand, upon which all I have is laid out. So that when an occasion of conveying letters does offer, I am much out of case for writing; that time being to me the Saturday's night readily, because of our occasions on the Monday. I must now have some breathingtime wherein to do nothing, otherwise I must be quite laid aside; and any little thing I have to do costs me much application; but I bless the Lord for anything He gives me upon diligence and application, and desire to be thankful to my bountiful God, who gives me for digging what others would find as it were lying above the ground. The best way that I know for keeping up religion in a hurry of business, is, to look on the business as a duty of the eighth command of our Sovereign Lord, Creator, and Redeemer; and so going about it in compliance with His will, who has allotted to every man their station, and determined the duties of it; to make application to Him ordinarily in your stated addresses to the throne of grace, for wisdom to guide your affairs with discretion, and for the success of them according to His promises thereanent; and actually to go about them in dependence on the Lord. Thus, while you served your lawful purposes in the world, you would serve the Lord Christ; the which I put you in remembrance of, albeit you know, and I doubt not aim at the same. From the little experience that I have had of the management of worldly affairs, I can say there is communion with God to be had in the way of that management. Sweet lessons of dependence, experience of the accomplishment of promises, and even kind rebukes for heart-sins, sweeter than the world's smiles. Esau's face with no traits of malice and revenge in it, was but a worldly good thing; yet Jacob saw it as though he had seen the face of God; for Jacob read the answer of his prayers, and the success of his dependence on the Lord, upon the face of that little-worth man. My wife kindly remembers you, and desires to be remembered by you, as does V. D. - Sir, yours, etc.
28th December 1721.
V. D. SIR, - If that project wherein my good friend would have had me concerned (for my advantage I'm sure), do miscarry, it is but of a piece with other tokens of the Lord's anger against us: and I know that when he was in greatest concern for advancing that and other projects, he still showed himself under apprehensions of impending public judgements: and we are already under a signally heavy one, in respect of the present state of our church-affairs, which has a very terrible aspect That burning mountain cast into the sea, Rev. 8: 8, makes sometimes awful impressions on my heart; but I hope still God will arise, and have mercy on our Zion yet, though He may cause us, in the first place, to pass under the rod. I know some would reckon themselves not obliged to believe me in what I have said of the burning mountain, alleging I have contributed to the setting of it on fire: the truth is, Scotland's sins, and mine among the rest, have done it; especially the sin of not improving the glorious gospel we have so many years enjoyed; and I doubt not if the Lord were returned to us as in former days, He will write shame on the faces of us altogether; and my heart cries, Why tarry the wheels of His chariot? But I reckon it in the meantime the safest course to endeavour to hold at a distance from causes of farther declining. Grace be with you, and with your yoke-fellow, whom my wife kindly remembers. May you be helped to live as heirs of the grace of life, and as followers of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. I am, with the greatest respect, Dr. Sir, yours, etc.
(3) His Wife's sad case.
8th August 1724.
D. SIR, - There is no appearance of the dissolution of the cloud that for several years now has been over my wife. We have made a new essay this season in the use of means for her help: but all hitherto serves for nothing, but to discover that vain is the help of man in the case. She has not wanted seasonable supports from a higher hand; and when several coals were by wise and holy Providence cast in together into our furnace, she who behoved to be waited on and served before, was even helped to wait on, and be very helpful to others in distress; and then the clouds returned after the rain, and now she comes little out of the bed at all. But all is necessary, and He is infinitely wise who has the managing of all in His hand. It is a very sweet view of affliction, to view it as the discipline of the covenant; and so it is indeed; and nothing else to the children of our Father's family. In that respect it is medicinal; it shines with many gracious purposes about it; and, end as it will, one may have the confidence of faith, that it shall end well. And O how happy would we be if we could always maintain the confidence of faith! The soul in that cave would be like that babe in the shipwrecked woman's arms on the plank, smiling amidst the waves, unconcerned with the hazard. I desire to remember, and be remembered by you. I am, with cordial respects to yours, etc.
(4) The furnace of affliction.
DR. SIR, - YOU will excuse me when I have told you, that since I saw you, I have been in the furnace of affliction through the rod of a kind and gracious God on myself and family. My eldest daughter had a fever when you was here last; and on the morrow after you went off, my other daughter took her bed also by a fever; after her my youngest son; another boy of the family being in the meantime indisposed. While thus severals were together in sickness, but my eldest daughter beginning to recover, I myself was, on a Lord's day after sermons, suddenly seized with a violent illness, which afterwards I knew to be a fit of the gravel, before that time unknown to me. It was sharp, but the time was kindly shortened, for I got up again on the Wednesday: neither did I agonise all that time, but was favoured with intermissions: but I had one fit of six or seven hours' continuance. Meanwhile my distressed wife was helped to get from her bed, and to go between me and the children, and to be useful to both. Our ship seemed to be hard at the shore, in mine and the children's recovery, when behold a wave came, and drove back the shattered vessel again. My eldest son and our servant-woman being taken ill on one day, and his fever the most dangerous of all, the woman's fever abated on the 6th, my son's not till the 13th, my second daughter's on the 11th. My eldest son is now recovering, tho' slowly, and all are well again; except my distressed wife, whose chastisements are new every morning. I have given you this particular account, as making no doubt of your sympathy, and that you will join with us in the deliverance wrought for us, and in seeking pity and help in the continued affliction, and grace rightly to improve both the one and the other. The Lord was very gracious according to His word, and I felt Him to be the lifter up of mine head, while carried through the deep waters; and my soul blesseth His holy name for this dispensation in this trial, in which He made me inwardly to rejoice when nothing of that kind appeared about me. O that I could praise and trust Him! He is a skilful pilot, and one might be very easy in doubtful events, trusting and relying on Him, believing that what is good He will give. I am, etc.
(5) Prosperity and Providence.
14th December 1724.
Dr. Sir, - I rejoice to hear of the success of your affairs; which you take as you ought from Him who keeps the balance of trade, as well as of crowns and of kingdoms, in His own hand. O but the management of the kingdom of grace must be a great thing! and our Mediator must be well furnished for the managing of it! since the vast and extensive kingdom of Providence is put in His hand as a subordinate, there to be administrate in a subserviency to the kingdom of grace, and to carry on the glorious purposes thereof. He sits enthroned in Zion; and as Zion's King His power reaches through the whole earth, the seas, heaven, and hell! All power is given Him everywhere. His subjects in Zion are but few, but the whole world is rolled hither and thither for that little kingdom. For their sakes He sent to Babylon, and brought down the Chaldeans, whose cry is in the ships: for it the Babylonian, Persian, Grecian, and Roman monarchies, were brought down. O, Sir, continue to follow your business in the actual faith of this and as, when there is a prosperous turn in it, you willingly give it under your hand, you are the Mediator's debtor for it; so when there comes about an awkward-line turn at any time, labour to believe the same hand does it for the best; for this reason, that He never does anything but what is best done; which will one day be demonstrated beyond contradiction. As for the discourses on the covenant of grace, I have long ago ended that subject; but I am so engaged otherwise, that I cannot take it in hand for some time, to be counted by years, for ought I yet see; and my years now appear to me in a manner more than formerly uncertain; and I would fain do, as the Lord is pleased to enable, what I conceive might be of greatest usefulness, as long as life is continued with strength. I am, Dr. Sir, etc.
(6) Cast down, but not destroyed.
25th April 1726.
D. Sir, — I understood by yours, that your wife continues in her ordinary tender condition: may it be sanctified by grace to her and to you. The different states of persons, in respect of health and infirmity, is a piece of sovereign disposal, which the afflicted are to reverence and adore. Our Lord Himself was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with griefs; and if we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him. The heaviest burden of affliction is but light in respect of the weight of glory we have in hope; and the affliction that is of such continuance as the party has forgot prosperity, is but for a moment, being compared with the eternity of that weight which faith has the view of.
My wife has now kept her bed these five weeks; and, together with her ordinary distress, she has had a fever, with a great inflammation, which began in her face, and went up over her head: but He who delivered in six troubles has delivered in that seventh also, and it is gone off; but she is very weak. My youngest daughter was frequently ill this winter, but since the return of the spring, and warmer weather, she is better. The rest are as ordinary. From about the time of the equinox, when the weather became warmer, the blood and spirits deserting my fingers, has not been so uneasy and frequent as before. I have now for some time stirred about on my work in the parish, which I could not manage in the winter as formerly; and still, as I have time, I am furnished with so much strength as to go about my closet-work. But my weakness is nevertheless so felt as occasions thoughts of heart. This is an account of our hospital; but sometimes the voice of melody, of joy, and praise, is heard among us. We are cast down, but not destroyed; perplexed, but not in despair; and are aiming at resignation. This morning the latter part of the 71st psalm was very sweet to me. I was abroad in our neighbour parish on the south hand, at ten miles' distance from this, preaching yesterday. I have not been so far abroad since I was at Selkirk in the winter; and I had not gone to that place neither at this time, had it not been to shew good-will to the strengthening of the hands of the minister of the place, which is a parish that has been sore broken with division; but to do anything to purpose in such a case, sad experience teacheth me is very difficult. It may be wished for; but how shall it be effected, till another spirit be poured upon both ministers and people ? I am, etc.
(7) Suffer the little children.
21st May 1726.
D. Sir, - I had yours, with the much affecting account of your loss of a dear child. I travelled that gloomy road six times, and learned, that God has other use for children than our comfort; an use far more honourable and happy for them: and the parents often come to see it afterwards, that it is peculiar kindness to the dear babes they were so early carried off. It likewise serves to let in to the sweetness of that word in particular, "I will be thy God, and the God of thy seed." While parents are taken up for the eternal salvation of their dying little ones, and look about to see what the word says with relation to the case, O do not grudge the freedom the Lord has used with you, in pitching upon a precious thing of yours for Himself, and accordingly taking it away. Both of you have offered your all to the Lord: and though, when it comes to the pinch, the heart is ready to misgive; yet in calm blood I am persuaded you will stand to the bargain, and cheek yourselves for any semblance of rueing. The next time you see your child, you will see him shining white in glory, having been washed "in the blood of the Lamb," who was an infant, a child, a boy, a youth, as well as a grown man, because He came a Saviour of infants, little children, etc., as well as of persons come at age. Perhaps his cries are not yet out of your and his mother's ears; but then you will see him capable of managing his harp as well as the saint that died an hundred years ago. Ah! ah! why are we thus not fully satisfied and acquiescing in the wise management of the great Counsellor, who puts clouds and darkness round Him, bidding us follow at His back through the cloud, promising an eternal uninterrupted sunshine on the other side. "Lord, increase our faith," is a petition we need to be oft putting up. But I hope the Lord has taught you and your spouse resignation to the will of Him who does all things well. But I find it is a difficult lesson to learn: the flesh still spurns and rises against the rod. And O how difficult is it to get our "hows" and "whys" crucified, and to resolve all into, and rest satisfied in, infinite wisdom tempered with covenant-love! Our affliction is returned to an extremity, and the storm has blown hard now for some time: but the Lord sits over the flood; and though it seems to be without all order, yet certainly there is an order in it, though imperceptible to our eyes, and the several drops keep their ranks according to the word of command. I am, with the most endeared respects, etc.
(8) Why tarry the wheels of His chariot?
6th August 1726.
Dear Sir, - As to the matter of the sacrament not celebrated here this season, some things falling out in our session did put me off from aiming at it in our usual time; which I was otherwise of thoughts of as ordinary; but when it was so determined to pass the diet, the extreme distress of my wife did perfectly confirm me in it. We have had a heavy summer of it in that respect; which yet continues. We exceedingly need the prayers of our friends; and know, that several do carry our afflicted case before the Lord; and hope, that He will at length incline His ear to hear, though the afflicted cries, "Why are His chariot-wheels so long in coming?" It seems we are not yet sufficiently humbled, and ripe for deliverance. May the Lord Himself send forth humbling influences, and so prepare our hearts, and cause His ear to hear. For my own part, I am much as when you saw me; the Lord still affording me strength to go on in the work I was then engaged in; and am not without hopes, that He will carry me through it.
It would be comfortable to hear of a favourable turn in your wife's afflicted case; but whatever be in that, the time will come, when the Lord's children, prisoners of affliction and iron, as the words of the Holy Ghost are, Ps. 107: 10, will be as light, free, and easy, as if never an iron had been on their legs, and afflictions on their spirits, nor a prison-door closed on them, if the sun, that is making post-haste, had made a few rounds more. I am, etc.
(9) The Sacrament: Companions in trial: The teaching of adversity.
5th June 1727.
V. D. Sir, - The bearer comes for the wine, and will take the same quantity as usual; tho' I apprehend our throng here will not be so great as some time heretofore, the same ordinance being to be celebrate the same day in two places in the neighbourhood, from whence people use to come hither. The bruised serpent, who ordinarily is not idle among us at such a time, has given us a broadside at this time; but I hope our Lord will see to His own honour. I remember the word, "A great door, and effectual is opened; and there are many enemies."
Our letters show us to be companions in tribulation; and I hope we shall be companions in victory, everlasting victory. Let us leave it to our Lord how to carry us through the world; His own glory is at stake, seeing, by His grace, we have committed ourselves to Him. He is a skilful pilot; and His skill appears best in guiding the ship among the rocks and shelves. The natural effect of affliction on a sinner is, to drive him away from God; but we must consider affliction as an ordinance of God, and the discipline of the covenant, having a promise annexed to it; and believe the promise; and so the bitter pill, taken by faith in the vehicle of the promise, will lose its natural efficacy, and have its instituted one. If your affairs are in confusion, it is not your riotous living, nor carelessness about them, that has brought them to that pass, but the over-ruling providence of God, and so it is not your sin, but your affliction; and you have many a time laid your substance, and your all, at the Lord's feet, never to break with Him on any such head, nor any whatsoever. And now word is sent to you about some of it from heaven, as was sent to the owner of the ass, saying, "The Lord has need of him;" i.e. He has use for it for His own glorious purposes. And He can make you an ornament to the gospel in the confused state of your affairs, as well as when they went on more prosperously. My heart is feelingly touched with your dear wife's case; but ere all be done, she shall be nothing behind the hand with her Lord, for all she suffers at His will and pleasure. The broad blessing of the covenant be on you and her, and your seed. Pray for us. I am, etc.
P.S. - O! what think ye? will He not come to the feast!
(10) Deep unto deep.
22nd July 1727.
V. D. Sir, - I had yours of the 11th instant, and was concerned to understand by it, the increasing of your wife's distress, and the additional trial of the seizing of the ship at Cadiz. Here's work for faith, to see and believe that He into whose hands the Father has committed all judgement, does, in a consistency with His love to our souls, make deep call unto deep, and manages all to work together for our good. This is too fine a thread to be perceived by the eye of sense; but by the help of the glass of the word, it may be seen satisfyingly, and believed. Jacob and Job are two very plain instances of saints meeting with a train of crosses, one upon the neck of another, as if Providence had designed to run them aground, and break them in pieces; and yet we see also the end of the Lord in these cases, that it was quite otherwise. I have had use for consulting these instances often; and the first particularly has been very staying to me. I cannot but with tender affection observe your care of my affairs, in midst of your plunges; and it is with some difficulty, in that respect, that I can lay them to your hand. However, you may consider, that what of that nature is done, it is for a companion in tribulation, etc. I am, with tender respects, very D. Sir, yours most affectionately.
My wife continues as formerly; but the prayers at M--n I found she had remarkably reaped the benefit of; for which we desire to praise, and thereby be encouraged to hope.
(11) The mortifying of the flesh.
27th January 1728.
V. D. Sir, - The last letter I had from you gave a very affecting account of the increase of your wife's indisposition, of the trial of your affairs continuing without any prospect as yet of an issue. When the storm is hard where two seas meet, great is the hazard of fainting; but patience must have her perfect work. These things are designed, I believe, by a holy wise God, not against you, but against the unrenewed part in you, called in scripture the flesh, which is not to be amended, but to be mortified gradually till it die out in the close of the spiritual warfare; at which time the new creature will be perfected, and the image of God, that is never on the whole soul, will wholly occupy every part of the soul, through full and perfecting supplies of grace from Christ the Head, not communicate during the course of this life. Then will be fully seen the beauty of these perplexing dispensations, the necessity of them, and every one of them, which is now to be believed, but not to be clearly seen, by reason of the remains of darkness that is to be found together with the light of grace in the mind. Be we so happy as to take part with the spirit against the flesh in this war; and though this last complaint under great hardships put upon it, let us secretly rejoice, that the Lord is at such pains to advance mortification in us, that we may be still aiming to be as weaned children, and look upon your afflictions as what the Lord is laying on, to conform you to the image of His Son, whereof suffering and holiness are joint parts. If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him. These things I aim at to stay my own heart with them in the afflicted lot He has pleased to carve out for me, and have found some advantage thereby in my case, wherein the waters break in at several hands at once too. My wife's case has made notable advances this season, in point of growing weakness; and the gravel has come heavily on me, in so much that the two last weeks I had two sore fits of it each week, and still it hangs about me. I am, D. Sir, yours, etc.
(12) The diverse conveyance of trial.
13th April 1728.
V. D. Sir, - It is long now since we had an occasion to the town. We have had a very threatening season, and the effects of the Lord's anger are found in the country, both on the sown ground, and on the flocks. And I see the Lord's own children, in common calamity, miss not their leal share; so that all falls alike to all in respect of the matter. But O the difference that there is in the manner of conveyance! The two covenants are very different channels of conveyance; and it is the work of faith to perceive the coming of trials in the way of the covenant of grace, wherein the heaviest things bring down blessings with them. It has been something relieving to me of late, in consideration of the Lord's hand, gone out against me, and many of my dear friends in Christ, that whereas it is now a time of the church's peace; and others that went before us in the way of the Lord to the kingdom, through much tribulation, some suffering the spoiling of their goods, some long and tedious imprisonments, some the loss of their relations, lives, etc., and all these were needful to purify and make them white in giving evidence of their love to the Lord; the Lord is making up that want to us another way, bringing about to us, by His own immediate hand, or by the hands of naughty men, the same things on the matter as He did formerly by the hand of persecutors. Now it is His to make choice of the manner of our trial; it is our part to take it as they did; and our work shall be rewarded, even our suffering work. My wife is brought through the additional storm; and it pleased the great manager not to carry her back again into the main sea at the time I last wrote to you. She is now returned to her ordinary, which is great and continued trial; but of late the Lord has been pleased to make His refreshing visits to her soul somewhat more frequent than formerly. I long to hear how it is with your wife, the prisoner of Jesus Christ with you: they will both hear at length, "Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity." And I am, V. D. Sir, yours affectionately.
(13) The mystery of sanctification.
5th October 1728.
V. D. Sir, - I am in health, through the goodness of God, enabled to pursue my public work, and to do some little thing in my closet. I should be glad to hear of some relaxation continuing in your wife's case, and of some outgate in your affairs. Afflictions are appointed means of sanctification, which, I am persuaded, is as great a mystery as our justification is; the work of the Spirit carrying it on by several means, all of them concurring to the effect, is a great depth. We see, the forming and nourishing of the natural body is a thing we perceive very little as to the way how it is brought about: what wonder that we can so little comprehend the forming and nourishing of the new creature? which should move us to endeavour to live by faith, believing what we see not, and to yield ourselves willingly, without disputing, unto the Spirit's method with us, though some of the means may be in their own nature pinching. The promoting the growth of the new creature, requires the bearing down and subduing the old man; and to this effect, even sharp and long trials, all have enough ado. May we be aiming at this temper of spirit I am, V. D. Sir, yours, etc.
(14) In the furnace and on the steps.
19th April 1729.
V. D. Sir, - I see by yours, that your wife continues sickly, and that your affair with that man is not like to have any comfortable issue. But, in the meantime, Providence supports. I have, of a considerable time, observed, that Providence has been directing particular strokes against the most serious godly of my acquaintance; but it has here, of late, made such steps of that kind on the bodies and substance of those in whom I had most comfort, whereof some removed by death, that I think judgement is begun at the house of God, as a sign of more to follow. For my own part, I am kept close in the furnace; and the receipt of your letters last week, came very seasonably for some refreshment to me in the course of Providence. My wife has had a fever again, since the beginning of this month, and an unusual sinking of the spirit is brought in by it. I was comforted this day, reading, in my ordinary, the Queen of Sheba's admiring particularly Solomon's ascent by which he went up to the house of the Lord: he was a type of Christ. We hear, while here, the report of the ascent by which Christ brings His people to the temple above: when we see it in the word indeed by faith, we say, it becomes His wisdom; but when we look into it with our eyes, there are so many turnings and windings in it, so many black steps, we know not what to make of it many times. But O! to think of the view that will be got of it in Immanuel's own land. We will be rapt into admiration of that ascent, and see the beauty of every step thereof, etc. I am, with great regard for you and yours, V. D. Sir, etc.
(15) This body of humiliation.
22nd November 1729.
D. Sir, - My daughter gives but a sorry account of your wife's health. These bodies of ours, that bear the image of the first Adam, are pieces of wretched matter; and must be more so, till they be reduced to dust, of which they were originally framed. But we must comfort ourselves in the believing expectation of the new-fashioning of than, after the image of the second Adam, the Lord from heaven; in which fashion they will be incorruptible, glorious, powerful, and spiritual bodies. It is observed, that bodies, the higher they are lifted up towards heaven, they become less ponderous, the lighter: this may help to some notion of the spiritualness of our raised bodies, when all relation betwixt them and this cursed earth is dissolved, and we are in heaven. I am, Dear Sir, yours affectionately, etc.
(16) The heart: A letter of condolence.
21st November 1730.
V. D. Sir, - I had yours, with the melancholy news I was fearing, and wish I could bear a part of your burden, which, I doubt not, presseth sore. It will be your wisdom to consider it as the work of God, your God, in Christ; being persuaded, that according to the measure of that persuasion, so will the Christian carriage under the rod be. O, what kind of hearts do they imagine themselves to have, that can think to employ them for one moment of the creature, farther than they can fill them farther with a God in Christ, as their God, in its room and stead! By any experience I have had, I judge the heart of man to be such a hungry, craving, and griping thing, that it will part with nothing, but for what it takes to be as good, or better than what it gives up with; so that the gospel-offer, by faith embraced, and the benefit thereof claimed, must, of necessity, be the most sovereign remedy against the heart's hankering after the withdrawn comforts of the creature. I was sensibly gladdened with your Christian conduct, in going out on the Saturday and Sabbath; and bless the Lord who gave you counsel. It is a desirable thing to see Christians walking by the rules of Christianity in their greatest trials. Mr. Davidson has had no access yet to communicate your letter to me; but what you show me sufficiently seals the character she bore in mine eyes; and will, I hope, alleviate your affliction; since, without controversy, that mourning that is only for ourselves must, with considering persons, be the most supportable. My wife was much affected with your trial. Grace be with you and the child. I am, etc.
(17) God managements: Attempts to bring a famous scholar to Scotland.
8th December 173t.
V. D. Sir, - I have yours of 26th October, together with Sir Richard Ellys's letter to you, the copy of the letter from Keydan, together with my notice on three texts, therewith transmitted.
I am much satisfied that I can gather from yours, that your affair is in a hopeful situation; and I hope, that by the hand into which it is committed, it will be carried on. Only believe that God will do the best: and being conscious to yourself of your desire not to manage, but to be managed by the Great Leader, pray hold off, and refuse to admit fears of being left to your own management: for however rational, well-grounded, and but just in a sort, these may appear to you from your sins, assure yourself they are the fruit of unbelief, and measuring God's ways by our own; and if you yield to them, you are in a fair way to bring on you that which you feared. To believe over the belly of felt foolishness, that God will be as good as His word, is most acceptable to Him, and most for our interest; though the difficulty thereof, in practice, is great; whereby it appears the more to be of God, and a trial and proof of faith. I speak the more confidently of this, that sometimes I have seen in such circumstances I could not have known where to have fixed my feet, had not the doctrine of free grace pointed out to me a sure ground; and I would pity them from my heart that would look on this as a dangerous course, and tending to make one careless and untender. I have your further account of the affair of transporting Gronovius to Edinburgh, which is a favour to me. I wish it may succeed, whether he be of my mind with respect to the points or not. Were the Hebrew language itself brought amongst us into greater reputation, people would perhaps hear the points before they would condemn them. If he has vented anything to the prejudice of their divine authority, it is likely it will be improven to lessen the credit of my essay industriously. It is an ill-natured world. I forgot to tell you in the due place, that I do not forget, but have a hearty concern in the matter of your obtaining a partner in trade; that you might be delivered from that overwhelming engagement in business you have so long been immersed in; and yet, after all, it must be owned, that one is well employed in the work the Sovereign Manager shapes out for him, be the kind and measure of it what it will, and therefore dare not but advise to protest, that it be not taken off, till He who laid it on take it off with His own hand. Happy are they who are impressed with a terror of choosing for themselves, and hold it for a principle, that He shall choose out the lot of our inheritance for us. We are here as ordinary; and, remembering your son, I am, in straitest bonds, V. D. Sir, yours affectionately, etc.
(18) He is all and in all.
30th December 1731.
V. D. Sir, - Yours of 16th I received; which refreshed my bowels, and opened my mouth to return thanks unto God, who had condescended to make my last of use to you, and kept you in a way with respect to your affair, which cannot miss of a happy issue, go as it will. I think I never saw more than about this time, how absolutely nothing the creature is in point of action and usefulness to us in itself, and how God is all; the former nothing, but just as He touches it for motion, and resting moveless like a stone when He moves it not; and therefore would fain learn to overlook all, and look to Him as my party in all things, finding this view of matters mightily staying and quieting to the heart, and a promoter of faith and hope. Wherefore let us aim at this, rolling ourselves securely and confidently over on Him, whether we see or see not whither He is like to carry us: "For He careth for us." Let us exercise patience to wait the end of the Lord; and as sure as the Bible is the word of God, we will see there was nothing in the conduct of Providence, about us and our matters, that should have been out, and nothing out that should have been in. O! He does all things well: no hazard of singing this triumph before the victory. I find myself obliged to essay what you moved to me, whatever the Lord minds to do with me in it; and whether I am to see the end of it or not, I desire to be found so doing. I know there is solid comfort in that, "Thou didst well that it was in thine heart." You will know somewhat of the disposition of my heart by the premises, with respect to the situation of my affair at London. I think I may, if the Lord will, need so requiring, write Sir Richard Ellys, and in February, or before, if I find my letter to Mr. G. successless. Take kindly your concern about my son. We continue here much as ordinary. My love to your son. I am, in the straitest bonds, V. D. Sir, yours, etc.
(19) The first gliff the worst: The naked cross: Christ needed as prophet in our daily practice: Wonders in the deeps.
9th March 1732.
My V, D. Sir, - It was on Friday the 3rd instant that yours of the 1st came to my hand. That of the 18th and 24th of February coming on the Sabbath thereafter, being the 5th, I had withal, on the Tuesday before, got an uncertain word of the ill situation of your affairs, which, by reason of what you had shown me before, did seem very probable. But while I was altogether uncertain of the state of your affairs, in my concern for you before the Lord you still appeared to me smiling; so that getting the letter of the 1st instant, it did so answer the continuing idea of you, that I declare, though the situation of your affairs was very affecting, I behoved to lay that letter before the Lord, and solemnly give Him thanks for it; and afterwards receiving that of the 18th February, wherein you was under the damp, I could not but observe that kind and wise Providence, that kept it up till I had got the former of that date; and reckon it up among the many happy well-ordered disappointments I have met with. It is ordinary with the Lord's people falling into trouble, as it is with a person wading a deep and cold water; who is, upon his first entering it, struck to the heart; but the first gliff, as we call it, is the worst. In this point the world's frowns and smiles do readily agree: appearing at some distance, or in the first encounter, they show ordinarily greater than afterward they are found really to be. Hence our fears of the one, as well as hopes from the other, are readily carried beyond the just bounds; and Satan presently falls a-fishing in the drumly waters, stirs them assiduously, to make them more drumly and awful like. Many a time have I thought a great point gained, when one gets a view of his naked cross and trial; for it is hard to get a sight of it without a ponderous cover on it, partly of our own, and partly of Satan's making: and therefore I am convinced there is great need of making use of Christ as a prophet under our troubles, that by His light shining into our souls, we may see what that cross or trouble is precisely which He has laid before us, to take up and bear, that we may set ourselves to bear that and no more. And I am very sure that at this rate crosses and trials lose a great deal of their weight. What but the art of hell, used in a disturbed mind, would bring in the wounding of the interests of religion, by the pass your affairs were brought to, the opening of the mouths of the wicked shaming the faces of the godly, etc.? Everybody knew you to be a sober man, a man of unordinary application to your business. The occasion of the confusion of your affairs, arising from others at a distance from you, would not be hid. And nobody is so ignorant of the state of human affairs, but they know the wealthiest, fairest, and most diligent traders, may be broken to pieces by providential incidents, or the treachery of false men with whom they may have dealings. However, glad am I it has pleased the Lord to confound that temptation, and to satisfy you perfectly on that head. But, my Dr. Sir, take heed, and be on your guard against other devices of that kind; lest, if you suffer your feet to be intangled therewith, it may not be so easy to be extricated therefrom: and therefore I cannot cease to put you in remembrance, that as you employ Jesus Christ in His priestly office, for the removal of guilt, and address Him as your king for strength to bear your trial, so you are still to be eyeing Him in His prophetical office for light to give you just views of it. I see our Lord, the great Prophet, has come to you already in your darkness. I perceive the Interpreter, one among a thousand, was with you in a particular manner on Monday 20th February. He was in these two hours exercising His prophetical office in you. He was letting you see your trial in its just colours, not putting colours on it; for He is the Amen, the faithful and true witness; and therefore, though it do not always appear in these colours to you, that is the native hue of it, and the fault is in your eyes when it appears otherwise. He was taking you by the arms, and teaching you to go; and that you will employ Him for His light, as well as His strength, in time to come; that if He comes not to you, you will go to Him; and if a promise be not laid to your hand, you will go out and fetch in one; and welcome. The blessed Bible is a richly-loaden tree of that kind of fruit. Sometimes His people has no more ado, but to take of the fruit falling into their lap; but that is only a piece of indulgence that they sometimes meet with; the ordinary way is to look up to the tree, and reach out the hand of faith, perhaps, with no little difficulty, and pluck the fruit; and O but a sharp trial makes the promise sweet! Witness your experience of the two last verses of Ps. 133. Sir, you are in a plunge; but, I make no question, He that sits at the Father's right hand, having all judgement committed to Him, will bring you out of it; and the day will come, when you will say from leisurely observation, He has done all things well. Yea, Sir, look for seeing God's wonders in the deeps, and He will not disappoint you. However, if you were through this trial, you will not be at the end of trials, lesser or greater, till you be in the better country; only this is a deep step, a deep water; but "the Lord Jesus is the lifter up of mine head," you must say with David, Ps. 3. That psalm has appeared of late to me, to bear an instance of as strong a faith as readily appears in the whole book of Psalms, considering its firmness, and the circumstances there described: only it must be owned, the terror of God on his soul, with which nothing is to be laid in the balance, was indeed wanting in it. But O how piercing was that, that the common saying on that melancholy occasion was, "There is no help in God for him," (say the Jews) who stole the ewe and killed the shepherd (Bathsheba and Uriah)! the very thing God was pursuing him for. I was so affected with your friend's manner of entertaining your trial, that I was obliged to give God thanks for it; and since that time, my heart blesses that person as acting like a Christian; and doubt not, but if that mind continue, as I hope it will, it will have a plentiful reward of free grace: but will own myself quite mistaken, if ever the change on that head prove a gainful one at balancing accounts. The news of Mr. Archibald Stowart's death and burial was stunning. It is an awful dispensation of a wrathful aspect to this generation. Oh! what does it speak, that such a promising instrument is laid aside at this time a-day. But the Lord's ways are not ours, nor His thoughts as our thoughts. We must be silent to Him.
That the state of your own affairs did not keep you from proceeding in mine, is a rare token of a rare kind of friendship. It will not be unacceptable to me to hear of the matters being determined, with the joint advice of Mr. W. and yourself, without hearing further from me. My infirmity increases apace. The leg, still painful, is now almost useless; so that I know not if I get downstairs again, without being carried, till I be provided with two stilts. My wife, I hear, is somewhat feverish to-day. The presence of Him who dwelt in the bush while it burned, be with you! I am, in the straitest bonds, my V. D. Sir, yours affectionately, etc.
(20) Communion with God in Providences.
23rd March 1732.
My V. D. Sir, - The use of the providential distress in your affairs, and its influence relative to your other business, I doubt not, you will see in due time to be an event, both in the kind of it, and the timing of it, becoming the divine wisdom and goodness, and that God acts like Himself. Esau and his posterity, who had their lot by common Providence, were soon and easily settled in the land of Edom; but Jacob and his, whose lot was to be brought about in the way of accomplishing of a promise of the covenant, met with many rubs in their way, and some of them such as seemed to render it quite hopeless. Your present circumstances put you in much need of direction from the Lord, as you remark. But, dear Sir, is it not a great privilege to be allowed to come to the great Counsellor in all our straits? and you may go to Him with your greater and your smaller matters; for all is comprehended in the word, Prov. 3: 6; both the precept and promise takes in all. You are neither to look for impressions, nor anything else of that kind, whatever indulgence the Lord makes to some of His people in some circumstances: but lay you the matter before the Lord, and yourself open to the divine determination, and believe the promise of direction, with application to your own case, firmly trusting that He will be as good as His word, Prov. 3: 6, Ps. 25: 9 and 32: 8, to you: and then, depending on the promise of Heaven's directions, set yourself as a Christian man to perceive what in the circumstances appears reasonable to be done; to the clearing whereof, observation of concurring dispensations of Providence notably contributes, that being in many cases the finger of God pointing out our way. In this way of management, there is a real communion with God to be had in providences as in ordinances, Ps. 107. ult.
You have here my whole day's work. I am at my ne plus ultra, my distress being considerable, whereof there is some account in the inclosed. The eternal God be your refuge, and underneath the everlasting arms; may He be eyes, and all to you in the wilderness! Kindly remembering your son, I am, in the straitest bonds, V. D. Sir, yours most affectionately, etc.
P.S. - I have got Mr. Du Pont's letter. I am sorry Prof. Mauritius had not vouchsafed a few lines to me for the many sheets I sent him. The Lord has for my trial restrained him, and I take it kindly off that hand; but I keep foot in the main under the several pieces of that treatment: Quam si dura silex aut stet cautes.
No. 9. Letter from the Author to the Reverend Mr. James Cog, minister of the gospel at Carnock.
Staggering through stress: a letter of help and comfort.
24th November 1727.
R. and V. D. Sir, - Yours of the 22nd September came to my hand 28th October, and I have taken this very first occasion to make you a return, that I may shew the cordial sympathy I have with you in your afflicted lot, and may not put you to a tiresome waiting for anything that can come from me to you, from whom I would rather hear, than speak to in such matters. I could not but think, that the very writing of your letter to me, behoved, through the divine blessing accompanying it, to be of use to you in your affliction for your comfort. Sure I am it was an apt mean; though the most fit means can of themselves effect nothing, but only as they are blown upon by the Spirit, and so rendered effectual to their ends. The account you give of the situation of matters with you with respect to the way, as it has a comfortable distinctness in it, without anything of the confusion you speak of discernible to me; so it carries such an agreeableness to the way-marks set up by the Spirit, the Leader in the way, to be seen standing for the direction of travellers in the Scripture of truth, that you have ground from the word to take the comfort of your being in the way, in spite of hell, and consequently of your coming assuredly to the end of the journey in a happy sort, since the great Leader drops none by the way, but perfects what He has begun, and never leaves nor forsakes the work of His own hands, nor those in whom it is wrought. I think I need not insist to add to what you have advanced from the Scripture on that head. What pincheth you, seems to be the blowing of the wind in your face, particularly the rising of storms and tempests upon you, so that sometimes you lose sight, are blown aside, yea, blown down and foundered. But, D. Sir, if you were beyond these, you would not be a traveller, but one got home from your travels; you would not be in, or by the way, but come to the end of it. It is the glory of the man who is the Father's fellow, to be "an hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest," Isa. 32: 2, to be a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, when the blast of the terrible ones is a storm against the wall. When should that glory of His be, if these tempests and storms did not rise, if the terrible ones did not get leave to blow sometimes furiously, like a storm against the wall? If then our Lord Jesus, whose strength is made perfect in weakness, sees meet to take away your ease for a time, to make of it a stepping stone to His own glory, where you hear the Lord has need of it, you will straightway send it. I verily think, that when a poor believer is engaged in a combat with the powers of darkness, our Lord Jesus has an occasion of signalising His victory over the bruised serpent next to that which He had on the cross. It is true, that staggering, even on that place, is to be lamented as a sinful weakness; but, I think, all the travellers and combatants will be found to have been staggerers through stress, though that gives them not their denomination from their believing. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, yet we hear very much of his impatience too. Peter remained with an unfailing faith when he was sifted, yet he was shamefully foundered. Even Abraham, though in that instance, Rom. 4, he staggered not; yet in another case he did, Gen. 12. It and downwards: and in that same instance Sarah, who was a type of the church, as Abraham was of Christ, staggered; and fell foully, but recovered, Gen. 18. In this last faith had but one single word, "My lord," and unbelief had all the rest of the speech; and yet the Spirit of God makes honourable mention of that one word in the New Testament, 1 Pet. 3: 6; drawing a vail over the rest. I own that temptations within, and troubles from without, trysting together, make a very heavy case; yet it is scriptural too, that without be fightings, and within be fears. You have been particularly honoured of God to contend for the faith; and it is no wonder Satan's malice prompt him to dispute it with you immediately: and the wisdom of the God of truth appears in permitting it to be so, to teach dependence on Himself in managing the contending otherwise. The strong champion of truth, Luther, found himself hardly bestead in the several conflicts within his own breast. I desire to maintain a cordial sympathy with you in all your trials; being yours very affectionately.
No. 10. A letter from an eminent Dissenting Minister in Essex, to the Author's Grandson.
[As this letter contains a minute and circumstantial narrative of Mr. Boston's appearance before the General Assembly in Prof. Simson's process, and records some circumstances omitted in the Memoirs, it justly deserves a place here.]
26th March 1776.
My Very Dear Sir, - Since the receipt of your last, I have been thinking of what I hinted to you, relating to the appearance your worthy grandfather made at the Assembly 1729, when Professor Simson's affair was concluded. I could have wished, indeed, that the account I wrote of it to Mr. Davidson had been preserved: for I wrote it immediately after it happened, when it was fresh in my memory, and had made great impression on me; for it was the most solemn and affecting scene I ever was witness to before any judicatory. It is not to be supposed, that now, at the distance of near forty-seven years, I can remember every particular; but, to the best of my remembrance, when the Act was read, and the Moderator asked, if the Assembly acquiesced in it; there was profound silence all over the house for the space of a minute or so; and then your grandfather rose, and spoke to this effect: "Moderator, I find myself laid under a necessity of declaring my dissent from this decision of the Assembly, as I think the censure inflicted by it on Professor Simson, is not adequate to the offence he has given, as to the points of doctrine that have been proved he taught the students under his care, and have been found relevant to infer censure. I cannot help thinking, Sir, that the cause of Jesus Christ, as to the great and essential point of His supreme Deity, has been at the bar of this Assembly requiring justice; and, as I am shortly to answer at His bar for all I do or say, I dare not give my assent to the decision of this Act: on the contrary, I find myself obliged on this occasion to offer a protest against it; and therefore, in my own name, and in the name of all that shall adhere to me, and if none here will (and when he pronounced these words, he looked round the house with an air of majesty and importance that I shall never forget), for myself alone, I crave leave to enter my protest against the decision of this Act."
The Moderator, who was himself a very solemn grave man, seemed to be much moved, and addressed him thus: "Brother, I hope, in this matter, where you see such an appearance of unanimity, you will not do anything that may have a tendency to rent and divide this church, and tear out the bowels of your mother?" Answer: "Rather, Sir, than what I am now offering should have that effect, I would wish that I and my protest should be buried under a mountain. There are many in this Assembly whom I never saw in the face before, nor know; but such of them as I know, and differ from me in this matter, I not only have the utmost charity for them notwithstanding, but I could willingly sit at their feet and learn Christ. However, I cannot see there should be any danger of a breach in this church on this occasion to permit one member who is grieved and gravelled by this decision, to enter his protest against it." Reply: "Second thoughts, Sir, are always best: May not Mr. Boston, before he insists on this, lay the matter before the throne of grace, and consult praying ministers and Christians, and attend to their counsel and advice, before you come to a positive determination as to this your protest?" - Had the Moderator thought ever so long on something that would weigh with Mr. Boston in such a case, he could not have fallen on anything that would sooner have done it than this: for he immediately, in a submissive manner, said, he would take it under further consideration, providing the matter was left open to him to enter his protest at any subsequent meeting of the Assembly: and so the matter ended at that sederunt. - I was present that same evening, where there were several ministers and elders, members of the Assembly, who met with Mr. Boston; who all advised his not insisting of his protest at that time, providing it was left open for him to do it at any future occasion, if this decision of the Assembly was attended with such consequences as he was afraid of. And when the minutes of the Assembly were read next sederunt, this was declared, and acquiesced in; and so the matter ended.
This I can well remember was reckoned at that time one of the strongest bars in the way of Mr. Simson's ever being restored to the privilege of teaching and preaching any more: and even his warmest friends never attempted it; because he was hereby secured in his salary, which the sentence of deposition would have deprived him of. Thus what was then called mercy to the man, mixed perhaps with a little worldly policy, put an end to the most important point, in respect of doctrine and discipline, that ever came before any judicatory of the Church of Scotland, or I hope ever will come again.
I am, my very dear Sir, your affectionate friend, and brother in the work and bonds of the gospel, etc.
No. 11. The Boston Bicentenary.
Simprin was the scene of an interesting and unique service on Sabbath 24th September 1899. It was the bicentenary of Thomas Boston's ordination to the ministry.
In arranging for the Boston bicentenary service what was aimed at was, that if possible the memorial service should be in the open air and on the very spot where, two centuries before, so honoured a servant of the Saviour had been solemnly set aside for the service of the Church.
It was considered fitting to make it a joint service, conducted by representatives of that broken Presbyterianism which two hundred years ago was represented by a United Church. Accordingly, ministers representative of the three great sections of Presbyterianism in Scotland were selected and invited to deliver addresses. The neglected state of the venerable little God's Acre at Simprin called for first attention, and the meeting in prospect seemed a worthy occasion to justify the effort to erect a mural tablet to the memory of Mr. Boston. This tablet in after years would with silent voice tell the men of the place as well as the casual passer-by that so holy and gifted a minister of Christ had begun to labour there on 21st September 1699, and that almost eight years of his most useful life were passed in that quiet and obscure Scottish hamlet. It order to ensure the greatest profit to the hearers, as well as to add a feature of interest to the proceedings, the following simple arrangements were made: The praise list, with one exception, was entirely from the metrical version of the Scottish Psalter, while the tunes used were those then in common use among our forefathers. Further, the speakers were respectfully invited to unite in the effort to set as complete a picture, in miniature, of the life and times of Thomas Boston before the meeting, as the time at their disposal and the character of the service would admit of. Accordingly the state of religion in Mr. Boston's day was the subject entrusted to the capable hands of the first speaker, the Rev. G. W. Sprott, D.D., North Berwick. This statement, clearly and briefly made, prepared the meeting for what the Rev. J. E. Wilson, D.D., Barclay Free Church, Edinburgh, had to say on the subject, "Boston in his inner life (as far as that can be got at) and in his pastoral labours." In retrospect no fitter choice of speaker could have been made. The only part remaining to be discussed was that which added the note of completion to the story, viz., Boston's influence on his own times and since. This important subject - the summing up, as it were, of what had gone before - had the good fortune to be dealt with by the Rev. David S. Cairns, nephew of the late Principal Cairns, and at present labouring as United Presbyterian minister at Ayton. At the close of the proceedings it was arranged that the tablet should be unveiled. It is gratifying to be able to state that these arrangements, as indicated, were carried through satisfactorily and to the letter. Unfortunately, the weather, during the latter part of the service, occasioned some little discomfort, which, however, seemed to be cheerfully borne by the large assembly of from twelve to fifteen hundred persons.
The tablet, which is of Aberdeen grey granite and lettered in gold, bears the following inscription:—
TO THE GLORY OF GOD
AND IN MEMORY OF
THE REV. THOMAS BOSTON. A.M.
BORN AT DUNS, 17. MARCH 1676.
ORDAINED TO PASTORAL CHARGE
OF SIMPRIN SEPT. 21. 1699.
TRANSLATED TO ETTRICK MAY 1. 1707.
DIED AT ETTRICK MAY 20. 1732.
AGED 56 YEARS.
"SIMPRIN! O BLESSED BE HE FOR HIS KINDNESS AT SIMPRIN."
"A FIELD WHICH THE LORD HAD BLESSED."
It may not be out of place to add that the expenses incurred in connection with the renovation of the churchyard, the erection of the mural tablet, and the memorial service, amounted to £20, 5s. 11d., and that towards this expense a few friends, admirers of Boston, contributed £18, 12s. The deficit was met by a collection at the termination of the service on 24th September, which amounted to £7, 17s. 3d. The balance was distributed among the local poor.
D. D. F. Macdonald, M.A.,
Minister of Swinton and Simprin.
9th October l899.
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