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&c. by means of which, some of the beams of King Jesus shone on my heart, to the darkening of all mundane glory, and to the drawing out of my soul in insatiable breathings after him. And although I would fain hope, he has since from time to time allowed further and clearer views of himself, and his glorious mystery of salvation from sin and wrath by free grace, running in the channel of the Mediator's blood, and of grace reigning through his righteousoess unto eternal life, Rom. v. 21. yet that being among the very first views that he remarkably vouchsafed, it is what I can never altogether forget. Some of the saving fruits and effects of that forementioned sermon of yours upon the Monday, I think the mountains at the back of
brother's house will bear witness to, but oh! many hills and mountains of another kind have I seen in my way since that, and yet grace coming skipping over them. Of late the Lord has brought me into deep waters of affliction, and yet I think he hath made me see some of his wonders in the deep.”
About this time he proposed to attend a sacramental occasion at Libberton, by Edinburgh, being in a burry to get over the Firth of Forth, he neglected his morning secret devotion. In his way between Leith and Edinburgh he met with an object of charity, to whom, without
any solicitation, he gave almis. The poor man seemed much affected with Mr Erskine's benevolence, and sincerely thanked him for his kindness, inzimating he was the more obliged to him as it was unasked ; these words immediately occurred to Mr Erskine, “ I am found of them that sought me not,” Isa. Ixv. I. and while he was musing upon them he thought, what a mercy will it be if the Lord meet with me at Libberton, notwithstanding my neglect of secret duty this morning, this reflection stirred up his soul to wrestle in prayer for the divine presence, which he obtained in a remarkable degree on that occasion.
In his sermons he at times modestly details his Christain expe. rience; “ I think, if my heart deceive me not, the great thing I was helped to seek some time before this solemnity, was not only assistance to ministers, and to myself, so as to be carried through the work, for I thought that would soon come to little account; but I would fain have had a day of power among you the people*."~"I have been led without any design in me, but only as the text was pleasant to my own soul, to speak of the very sum and centre of eco clesiastical government, the Lamb in the midst of the thronet.-I hope I can say, ever since the time I began to think upon this text, John xvi. 13. that now and then the Lord hath breathed upon my soul. It is in the fear of God, to whom I am accountable, i desire to preach the truths of the gospel.” And now, what shall I say
to God, when I go back to my closet, where I was pleading the last week, that he would shew his glory, and draw some of you to himself? Now, if the whole building of your faith were upon the unchangeable Rock, you would see no more cause of doubting, when
** Christ the People's Covenant.
the changeable feeling is gone, than when it is present; and there.. fore I fear it be your fault, as well as mine, that many times we lay too much weight upon that thawing ice, and make sense and feeling the ground of our faith.” We have also his experience in his Gospel Sonnels :
“ And though in words I seem to shew
The fawning poet's style,
I languish in exile.
“ I long to share the happiness
Of that triumphant throng,
“ Sweet was the hour I freedom felt,
To call my Jesus mine,
In pleasures all divine.” The following anecdotes discover his serious devotional feelings. A man was executed for robbery in Dunfermline ; while in prison he was often visited by Mr Erskine, who seriously conversed and prayed with him. Along with the Magistrates he attended him on the scaffold, and addressed both the multitude and the criminal. It is said, when he had finished, he laid his hand on his own breast, using these words ; “ But for restraining or saving grace, I had been brought by this corrupt heart to the same condition as this poor unhappy man.” The late Rev. Mr Shirra of Kirkaldy, was delivering trials for ordi. nation, Mr Erskine, who was present as a member of Presbytery, being asked his opinion of the discourse, answered in a tone and with a look of pleasure, 66 what is that Moderator, I forgot that it was upon trials, I was hearing for the edification of my soul ;" this indeed manifested in a high degree a spiritual frame and temper of mind.
Residing in the bounds of the Presbytery of Dunfermline, he was licensed by them to preach the gospel, June 8, 1709. In the station of a probationer he continued not long, having received an unanimous call from the parish of Dunfermline, to be colleague with the Rev. Mr Buchanan. His friend the Rev. Mr Cuthbert presiding, he was ordained there, August 1711. Though Mr Erskine's natural and acquired abilities were very considerable, he endeavoured to make all his learning subservient to his theological studies. He was sensible his ministry was a work of great labour, and therefore exercised himself in a course of unwearied study. . He carefully searched the scriptures, and had ever at hand the best commentators on the Bible. This desire of improvement continued to the last, and he was never seemingly more happy, than when without interruption he enjoyed himself in his study. In the character of a minister, he determined not to know any thing, save Christ and him crucified. He was truly evangelical, strongly opposing the legal doctrine, which threatened in his time to come in like a flood. We have instances of this in the
following words : “ It is possible, some serious persons make a cove. Dant with God, and think they do it with all their heart, and in the strength of promised grace, but then their dependence is more upon their covenant they made with God, than upon the covenant made with Christ, more upon their promises made to God, than upon God's promise to them through Christ; and so, upon every failure, they plunge themselves into a mire of discouragement, disorder, and confusion. Legal ways of covenanting have been the ruin of many souls; as the old covenant is a broken covenant, so all legal covenants, influenced by the old legal spirit, will be broken covenants ; they are a bed too short for any to stretch himself upon, and a covering too narrow to wrap 'himself in.” From 1 Cor. xv. 56. he infers, “ The dangerous and damnable influence of legal doctrine, that tends to keep sinners under the law; for thus they are under the power of sin. The text says, “ The strength of sin is the law.” The legal strain, under covert of zeal for the law, hath a native tendency to mar true holiness, and all acceptable obedience to the law, insomuch that the greatest legalist is the greatest Antinomian, or enemy to the law.”—“ If I have obtained any favour and grace from the Lord, to be faithful to the souls of people in my ministerial station, I must testify and declare to you all that hear me, in the awful name and authority of the great and eternal God, who will call you and me to answer for what we do, before his dreadful tribunal, that whoever think to stand in judgment, upon the rotten foundation of any legal righteousness, good works, duties, or performapces of their own, they shall as surely perish in their righteousness, as ever any of the damned in hell perished in their sins; because this righteousness of yours is but a sinful righteousness, and there is no salvation but by a , perfect righteousness*."--" It is a sign of an evening time, when candidates for the ministry, and many who are actually invested with the ministerial function, though tinctured with loose and legal principles, set up for a new modish way of preaching, with flourishing harangues, without studying to preach Christ, and the great substantial truths of the gospel, but rather speculative and lifeless morality.”
He particularly details several legal doctrines and practices, and condemos them. “ In vain do men, in their legal endeavours, set their duties against their sins, as if these could take them away, for it is only the Lamb that taketh away the sin of the world. In vain do they set their works against the wrath of God, it is Jesus that deDivereth from the wrath to come. Yea, in vain do men set the strength of Christ against the righteousness of Christ, which they do, when they get strength and enlargement from him to pray and perform this and the other duty, then they make that a ground of their being justified. From this legal spirit it is, that men confound assistance with acceptance, and think themselves accepted because assisted; but men may be assisted to do miracles in Christ's name, and yet never be accepted, Matth. vii. 22. The ground of acceptance is only in the Beloved. From this also it is, that men confound the
Sermon on commencement of saying blessings.
marks of faith with the grounds of faith, and so they think they have no ground of believing, while they want the evidences of faith ; and withal from this proceeds confounding the qualities of covenanters, with the condition of the covenant of grace. From the same source we confound terms of life with njeans." He also laments, that some preach sermons of works and obedience to the law, and only at the conclusion give a caution :--Good people, mind there is no merit in all this, all your strength to do is from Christ.
“ Christ'is not preach'd in truth, but in disguise,
If his bright glory half obscured lies,
Than Christ, Redeemer both from sin and hell.” His practice was the reverse of this: He exhibits it in the following lines :
The gospel preacher then, with holy skill,
We therein find even sinners unconvinc'd.”-GOSPEL SONNETS. He was instant in season and out of season, in all the parts of his ministerial work, and gave himself wholly to it, exhorting the people under his charge from house to house, examining them publicly on the principles of religion, visiting the sick when called, and preaching the gospel, in which he had a very pleasant and edifying gift. He preached by turns with his colleague every Sabbath and Thursday through the year; and afterwards, when he joined the Secession, and had no colleague, he officiated alone, both on Sabbath and weekdays. He delivered few extemporary productions, his sermons were generally the fruit of study and application, even to bis old age. For the most part he wrote all, and kept close to his notes, except when the Lord was pleased to carry in on his mind some apposite enlargement, to wbich he cheerfully gave way, as coming from him who has the tongue of the learned, and knows how to speak a word in season to the weary. His gift of preaching was both instructive and searching; few outshone him in the nervous and convincing manner whereby he confirmed the truth of the doctrines he taught, and fewer still in the warm and pathetic addresses, in which he enforced the faith himself says,
and practice of them. He peculiarly excelled in the ample and free offers of salvation he made to his hearers, and the captivating and alluring methods he used for gaining their compliance, or their receiving and resting on Christ alone for salvation, as thus fully and freely exhibited to them in the gospel. Those who carefully read Mr Erskine's works, will see that he possessed an eminent gift in making accurate distinctions in theology, and a peculiar unction, particularly in his applications; in both these he seems to have excelled his brother Ebenezer. On all which accounts, he was justly esteemed, and much followed, as one of the most popular and edifying preachers in his day. During his ministry, sacramental solemnities at Dunfermline were much crowded, great numbers of people from several parts of the kingdoin resorting to them ; and the Lord was pleased to bless his ordinary ministrations, and several of these communions, with sig. nal evidences of his gracious presence and influence, to the comfortable experience of many. The late Mr Brown of Haddington, in his last days, being engaged in conversation with a brother, Dunfermline was mentioned, upon which he said, that with pleasure he recollected the time when he went over the hills of Cleish, from Gairney Bridge, (where he was teacher), to hear that great man of God, Mr Ralph Erskine, " whose sermons," said he, “ I thought were brought honie by the Spirit of God to my heart; at these times I thought I met with the God of Bethel, and saw him face to face.” Mr Erskine
66 I got my ministry from the Lord ; and however unworthy I have been of it, yet I dare not deny that many, many times he hath owned me in it, and appended many seals to it from time to time."
His conversation was holy and blameless, warm and affectionate, spiritual and edifying. In all things he acted as one who had experienced the grace of God that bringeth salvation. He was much honoured by the most high in his public ministrations, in answering the doubts and solving the perplexing cases of exercised souls, with instances of which his works abound. He conversed much with those exercised to godliness, and by this means, as well as by his own experience, he came to be well acquainted with the various exercises of the Lord's people. He took great pleasure in being serviceable to them; however mean their circumstances were, the rich in faith were to him the excellent ones of the earth. He ever had a mighty zeal for the Redeemer's interest, and rejoiced to hear of the conquests of his grace, both at home and abroad. In the beginning of his ministry, the Presbytery of Dunfermline was distinguished for able, holy, and zealous ministers,-Messrs Cuthbert and Mair, at Culross ; Plenderleith, at Saline; Hog, at Carnock ; Logan, at Torry. burn; Charteris, at Inverkeithing; Bathgate, at Orwell; Gib, at Cleish. With these he lived in the kindest intimacy, and corresponded with them on sacramental occasions; as also with Messrs Hamilton of Airth, Brisbane of Stirling, Kid of Queensferry, Currie of Kinglassie, Seathrum of Gladsmuir, and his brother of Portmoak,fron other Presbyteries.
In 1716, and afterwards, a contest 'was agitated, particularly in