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Dunse, now at Oxnam, he proposed, and persuaded me, to enter on trials before the united presbyteries of Dunfe and Churnfide. Considering the course of Providence, and finding myself by his proposal freed from the former perplexity, which I could no otherwise get over, I yielded. And certainly it was a kind conduct of Providence that led me to pass trials in the place of my nativity ; though, for that very reason, it would seem, that it was my native country, I had no thoughts of passing there : for it was most for my reputation to pass trials where I was known from my childhood; and besides, it was the more convenient for me in my then circumstances, having my father's house to remain in.
Accordingly, on the 23d of March 1697, I being, just the week before, twenty-one years of age complete, Mr Colden went to the prefbytery, sitting at Churnside ; and having proposed their taking me on trials, they appointed me a piece of trial on James i. 5. any
lack “ wisdom, let him alk of God, that giveth to all men li“ berally,” &c. and that to be delivered at their next meeting in Dunfe. The which being reported to me by Mr Colden, I addressed myfelf to that work, kind Providence having, on the Friday after, prepared me a private chamber in my father's house, which had been occupied by another when I came home.
On the ad of April I spent some time in fasting and prayer, for the divine aslistance in what I was called to, and was going about ; and in the time I found myself helped, in prayer, to particular trust and confidence, that God would actually grant what I fought. The presbytery niecting at Dunse on the 6th, I delivered before them a homily on the forefaid text, and was helped of God therein accordingly; and to this day I have a sense of the divine indulgence, determining them to prescribe me that text which was so much suited for my support in the difposition I was in. They appointed me then a common head, De viribus liberi arbitrii circa bonum fpirituale.
I delivered an exegesis on that head, after prayer made, both in Latin, May 11. at Churntide. Much time being spent ere they called for that piece of trial, I went out a little to revise it: but by the time I had come the length of what I reckoned myselí least master of, I was called to deliver it; but withaí, by the kind conduct of Providence, when I was coming on to that part of it, they stopped me. I distributed my thesis on that head, and was appointed to exercise and add next presbytery-day on Jude 15.
On the ift of June they met at Dunse. The day before it was the great fair in that place: but I was earnest with God for his affiftance in the work before me; and was helped of him to seek his help. In the morning before I went to the kirk, I renewed covenant with God in my chamber; and I had much encouragement from the help of the prayers of my godly friends in Clackmannan, who, I trusted, were concerned for me. By a peculiar kind disposal of Providence, when I went to the pulpit, the precentor, who used to keep an ordinary, was not come: so, according to my own desire, I pitched on Pfal. xviii. 25.-29. and precented myself; and was greatly strengthened by the singing thereof. I delivered the exercise and addition on the forefaid text, being well helped of the Lord therein. I have still a peculiar remembrance of that part of that psalm, as occasionally it comes in my way. I admire the indulgence of Providence in that matter; for the precentor should have been finging when I went into the pulpit.
And withal I have often wondered, how, confidering my temper, I got confidence to give out that psalm on that occasion : but the obvious difficulty on that head was then, for any thing I know, hid from mine eyes, which were fixed depending on God alone, according to his word. They appointed me a popular sermon on John i. 16. against their next meeting, with the rest of my trials, if I could get them ready.
At Churnside, June 15. I delivered my popular fermon on the forefaid text, as also a chronological discourse in Latin ; which, with the other discourses aforementioned, are yet in retentis. The same day, all the rest of my trials, viz. in the languages, and catechetics, were taken; the which last are now, and have been for many years, taken first, with more reason. Thus all my trials being expeded, I was that day licensed to preach the gospel, as a probationer for the holy ministry, near about three years from my entering on the study of divinity. And looking on myself as a child of Providence, and considering the manner of my education, I cannot but observe the kind conduct of that Providence in carrying me through sundry ftates of life, and parts of the country, in that Ihort time allotted for me, in the character of a student.
PE. PERIOD IV.
From my being licensed, till I removed into the bounds of the
presbytery of Stirling.
BEing licensed to preach the gospel
, 1. passed two years and three months in the character of a probationer; the first part of the fame in my native country, the second in the bounds of the presbytery of Stirling, and the third in my native country again, where I was settled. These years brought in continued scenes of trial to me; being, through the mercy of God, generally acceptable to the people; but could never fall into the good graces of those who had the stroke in the settling of parishes.
Having, on the 18th of June, studied, and once mandated, the first termon I preached, and having gone to a fellowship-meeting, and upon my return fallen again to work, I was fo confused, that I lay grovelling on the ground for some time in great perplexity, withing I had never undertaken that work. But recovering myself, I betook myself to prayer; and thereafter it came so easily to hand, that I saw the finger of God in it.
According to the impressions wherewith I was prompted to enter on trials, I began my preaching of the word in a roufing strain; and would fain have set fire to the devil's nest. The first text I preached on, the Sabbath after I was licensed, was Pfal. I. 22.; the second, Matth. vii. 21.; the third on a week-day, Hof. xiii. 13. ; the fourth, Pfal. l. 21; the fifth, Ezek. ix. 4.; the fixth, Prov. xxix. 1.; and the seventh, Matth, iii. 7. Thus I went on for the first two months. But speaking with Mr John Dyfert minister at Coldinghame, of the strain of preaching I had continued in, he said to me to this purpose : But if you were entered on preaching of Christ, you would find it very pleafant. This had an effect on me so far, that immediately I did somewhat change my strain ; where I had occasion to enter on a new text : and then I preached, first, on If. lxi. 1. and next, on 1 Pet. ii. 7. I have oft. en, since that time, remembered that word of Mr Dyfert's, as the first hint given me, by the good land of my God, towards the doctrine of the gospel.
The first Sabbath I preached, being timorous, I had not confidence to look on the people; though I believe I did
not close my eyes : yet, as a pledge of what I was to meet with, an heritor of the parish, on that very fermon, called me afterwards, in contempt, one of Mr Henry Erskine's disciples. In which he spoke truth, as Caiaphas did, that worthy minister of Christ being the first instrument of good to my soul: but the thing he meant was, that I was a railer. The second Sabbath I had more confidence; and the next again more, till very soon I had enough; and was censured as too bold, particularly in meddling with the public fins of the land. The truth is, my God so far pitied my natural weakness, indulging me a while after I first set out to his work, that, whatever fear I was liable to ere I got into the pulpit, yet when once the pulpit-door was closed on me, fear was as it were closed out, and I feared not the face of man when preaching God's word. But indeed that lasted not long, at least after I was a minifter.
Soon after I was licensed, I was peremptorily resolved not to continue in the Merse, though there was appearance of encouragement: and I received a letter from the prefbytery of Stirling, inviting me to their bounds, whither it was my own inclination to go. So, on July 27. I craved of the presbytery an extract of my licence. But they, designing to have me settled in Foulden, would not grant it. By this time I had preached once in that parish, and they were inclined to have me to be their minister; but I was not fond of it. Their Episcopal incumbent had newly removed from them; and when I was to go thither, I foresaw a strait, in allowing his precentor to officiate as fuch to me, without a judicial acknowledgement, whiclı I, not being a minister, could not take. Consulting it with Mr Colden, he would not urge me against my light; but told me, he feared the bailie, being Epifcopal, would take it ill. I resolved to venture on that. So when the precentor came to me, in the Sabbath morning, I told him, I myself would precent; but thewed him no reaton why. This I took to be the most reasonable course in my circumstances, having no authority, Neverthelets the bailie was favourable. Thereafter I preached frequently in that parish while I continued in the country; had many good days in it, the meetings frequent, and people very defirous to hear the word. Meanwhile I still precented there, till about two Sabbaths before I left the country,
by which time the presbytery had confirmed the precentor in his office.
I was still detained in the country by the presbytery, that I might be settled in that parish aforesaid. But that could not be done without my Lord Ross's concurrence. Wherefore the presbytery appointed Mr Colden and Mr Dysert to speak to him at Edinburgh for that effect. And the former, upon his return from Edinburgh, told me, on Sept. 10. that my Lord Ross did not refuse his concurrence ; only he desired me to come to Paisley to see him, that he might go on with the greater clearness : and hereto he withal advised me. But I had no freedom for it. So, Oct. 5. I desired of the presbytery my liberty to leave the country, which I had in vain desired of them three feveral times before. In answer to which, Mr Colden afterwards told me, that the presbytery would let me go, providing I would go to Paisley to see my Lord Rofs. I would have been content to have been providentially led to have preached in my Lord's hearing : but to go to him directly on that purpose, was what I could never digest, though I was dunned with advice for it, and had no body to bear with me in refifting it, but the unhappy Mr J— B-, then living a private man in Dunse. I confidered, that I had done all that lay in my road in the matter, having preached several times in the parish which in the designed event was to have been my charge : they were satisfied, and should have had their Christian right to chute their minifter: I looked on the method proposed, as an interpretative seeking a call for myself;, a symbolising with patronages, and below the dignity of the facred character: and I never durft do any thing in these matters which might predetermine me; but behoved always to leave the inatter open and entire, to lay before the Lord for light, till he should please to determine me by the dircovery
of his mind therein ; and I could not look on the matter of my compliance with the call of Foulden as entire, after I should have done as I was advised.
Wherefore, upon the 13th, I infifted as before, and the prefbytery granted my desire : but withal demanded of me, 1. That I should preach a day at Abbay before I went away; 2. That I should go by Paisley, and see my Lord Rots; 3. That my licence fhould bear, that I thould not, without thcir advice, engage with any pariih. To