« PreviousContinue »
When Mr. Simfon, profeffor of divinity in the univerfity of Glafgow, came to be fifted, in a fecond procefs before the Affembly, Anno 1727, for having vented and taught feveral propofitions repugnant to the fupreme Deity of the eternal Son of God, our Author was mightily alarmed thereat, and so took part with thofe who made a laudable oppofition to that pernicious fehéme of doftrine; and alfo teftified against it in feveral of his difcourfes, preached and publifhed at that time.
About the year 1732, when the Church of Scotland became infe&ed with many grofs errors and pernicious doctrines, together with her arbitrary conduct, which gave birth to that memorable event, the SECESSION †, our Author did not at first formally adhere to thefe minifters who were honoured to be the happy intruments of it; yet he joined with those who favoured their tellimony, was of the number of the protefters against any fentence that was paffed against them, and kept communion with them. He did not, for fome years after the Secefon came to be ftated, relinquish communion with the prefent judicatories: but after all means were used to. reclaim them, to no purpofe, and all expectations failing of their fetting about reformation work, he at lait declined them, and formally joined himfelf, (with fome others) to the four Brethren, who had, by this time, formed themselves into a Prefbytery, under the name of TiE ASSOCIATE PRESBYTERY. This body greatly increafed; and were much countenanced by vat multitudes of people, and honoured of the Lord to bring rief to meny oppreffed congregations, and to publifh the ing ortest and interefting doctrines of the everlasting gofpel to any who heard little or nothing of them.
* See Vol. II. p. 466, 477.—Whoever has a mind to fee Mr. Simfon's. pervisions and dangerous fcheme of doctrine, contained both in the first and Second procefs, and its inconfiftency with the fcriptures and our standards, may cunfit the Act and Teftimony, p. 53,--62.
†The grounds on which the Secefiion was ftated, were principally these, viz. the prevailing party's carrying on a courle of defection from our reformed principles, and refuting to be reclaimed; the prevalency of error in doctrine, partiality in difcipline, tyranny in government; reftricting minifterial freedom and faithfulness, in teftifying against their backflidings; oppreffing the heritage of God; impofing finful terms of communion; and inflicting cenfures upon minifters for teftifying against thefe courfes.-The reader may fee a more full account of the commencement of the Seceffion, by confulting fome notes on that fermon, intitled, The Law of God's Houfe, inferted in Vol. V.
The minifters who firft conftituted the Seceffion were, the Rev. Mr. EBEN. ERSKINE, brother to our Author, with Meffis. WILSON, MONCRIEFE, and FISHER.
By this means, our Author had an opportunity at into his hand, in adorable providence, to preach the gospel to muny oppreffed congregations, to diffufe his wholefore doârine more extentively, to bear his Mafter's meflage to greater numbers, and fpread the fame of the bleffed Redeemer among mankind finners; and brought relief to many poifoned with unwholefome doctrine, who were entertained with little or nothing but harangues on the principles of morality.
In the beginning of the year 1742, a very extraordinary commotion took place at Cambullang, and fon.e-other parts in the weft of Scotland, occafioned by Mr. Whitefield's perfonal miniftrations amongst them, and perufing his journals: This affair was looked upon by many, and attefted by not a few, as a work of God, and a remarkable down-pouring of the Spirit. The genuine nature of this work was, however, by many fuf pected; and they affigned their reafons for doing fo, in feveral printed papers publifhed at that time. Among other reafons for questioning this work, this was one, "That it had a direct "tendency to lead off perfons from building their falvation on "Chrift in the word, to build on fomething wrought in them"felves; and to form an imaginary idea of Chrift, as Max, "in the mind; affirming it belonged to, and a greet article of "faving faith." Concerning the above propofition, of affirme ing an imaginary idea of Chrift, AS MAN, was helpful to the faith of his being GOD-MAN, and an effential article of faving faith, our Author wrote an elaborate treatife, intitled Farra NO FANCY; or, a Treatife of Mental Images: a book fingulari ly valuable, for the clear and perfpicuous manner in which he hath handled and established this important point; every way worthy of our Author, and reflected the greatest honour upon him; in regard it hath given the greateft difplay of his abilities, both as a divine and philofopher, and how capable he was to exhauft any point, when he fet himself to it, even in an abftract way of reafoning: a book that effectually filenced all his opponents; and ftands to this day unanswered.
The Affociate Body, with whom our Author had now con nected himself, were become very numerous, both in ministers and people; and were fpreading their influence to a confiderable distance: the greatest harmony and unanimity fubfifted amongst them, until about the year 1746. when an unbanny debate at last came in among them, concerning the lawfuln f a religious claufe in fome burgefs oaths; which, in the iltue, terminated in a rent and feparation of that respectable body,
Whoever inclines to fee thefe, may confult Mr. Fisher's REVIEW of a Preface to a Narrative of the Extraordinary Work at Kilfyth, &c.-See alfo our Author's Appendix to Fraud and Falfhood difcovered; and his Sermon, intitled, The true Chrift, no new Chrift, in Vol. VII.
to the no fmall grief of the truly religiouly difpofed. Our
WE cannot difmifs this account of our Author, without taking notice of another particular concerning him, which conftitutes a very material branch of his character. He was not only defervedly esteemed, as a judicions DIVINE; but also much refpected as a good POET: And he hath favoured the world with feveral excellent productions of that nature, which have all met with a very favourable reception. His poetical talent was employed chiefly on divine fubje&s; he had no relih and tafte for any other. In his younger years, at his leifure hours, he compofed a piece which is now entitled, GOSPEL-SONNETS; or, Spiritual Songs, in fix parts. The usefulness of this poetical compend of the revealed principles of our holy religion, for promoting the life of faith, comfort and holinefs, will be experienced, it is hoped, by many of the faints of God, to the latelt pofterity.This piece was fo well relished, that it hath undergone a multitude of impreffions; and the demand for it is as great as ever.
About the year 1738, he emitted into the world his Poeti cal Paraphrafe upon the whole book of the SONG of SOLOMON; which indeed is an evangelical comment, done in a strain adapted to the New-Teftament difpenfation, upon that allegorical or figurative part of holy writ.-This performance has likewife been very acceptable, and undergone a variety of editions.
By emitting the above effays, and fome fmaller poems into the world, our Author's abilities, as a poet, came to be established: And he accordingly had feveral recommendations of Synod given him, to employ fome of his vacant hours in turning all the fcripture fongs into common metre, of the fame kind with te pfalms of David. Having complied with this recommendation, he published, in the year 1750, as a fpecimen of the whole,
Such as, The lawfulness of the religious claufe of fome Burgefs oaths af ferted:-Fancy no faith; or, a feafonable warning to Seceders, against the finful conftitution of fome brethren. &c. :-Obfervations on the conduct of the feparating brethren, in two parts:-Fancy ftill no faith;-with feveral other pamphlets.
whole, an intire verfion of the book of the LAMENTATIÓNS, with the fcripture text on the margin, that the reader might fee how clofs he kept to the original. To this piece he fubjoined a two-fold verfion of David's laft words; with a paraphrafe on the first gofpel-promife, and great gofpelmyltery.-Some time after this he published a thort verlion of the SONG OF SOLOMON, adapted to the Pfalm tunes, along with a new edition of his large paraphrafe thereof. To this piece he fubjoined two fhort poems; the firft on the ten plagues of Egypt; and the next on the ten commandments.JOB'S HYMNS made their next appearance in the world, confifting of an hundred fhort poems, on as many felect paffages in that book. This piece was prepared for the prefs by the Author's own hand; but not publifhed till after his deceafe.-The reft of the SCRIPTURE SONGS, in three parts, completed our Author's undertaking. They were tranfcribed from his fhort-hand characters, and revifed by his f, the Rev. Mr. HENRY ERSKINE, late Minifter at FALKIRK; and published fometime after his death.
Befides these poetical pieces above-mentioned, there were a variety of other fmall poems written, and fome of them publied by our Author; fuch as, Smoaking fpiritualized. Scripture authorities for fubjecting to, and praying for, civil magif trates. With feveral funeral poems, elegies, epithets, &c. upon fome great and celebrated men*.-Thofe who have any appetite for the fubftantial and folid food of the word, to the nourishment of their precious and immortal fouls, and do not want to be starved and decoyed with empty notions and fanciful fights, will readily meet with fuitable and agreeable entertainment in the poetical performances of this reverend Author,. which are re-published at the end of his fermons.
This faithful and laborious fervant of Jefus Chrift, laboured fuccefsfully in the work of the miniftry, and continued publickly useful in his Mafter's work, till within a few days of his departure; for he preached in his own pulpit on Sabbath the 29th of October 1752. As he always had a peculiar regard for the interefting doctrines of the everlafting gofpel; and as his pious foul burnt fervently with a vehement love to our Eleffed Redeemer: fo it would feem, providence fo ordered the matter, that his laft public exercises here below, were suitable to, and preparatory for the celeftial ones. In the latter part
*We are certain our Author wrote an elegiac poem to the memory of Mr. James Cuthbert; with elegies on Meffrs. Alexander Hamilton, Patrick Phlenderlieth, George Mair, James Bathgate, and William Moncrief; with an infcription on the grave-ftone of Mr. Wilfon, and Provost Brown at Perth, and Mr. Balantine at Sanquhar; and epitaphs on Mefirs. Bofton at Etrick, and Hunter at Gatefhall, &c. He wrote alfo two other poems, viz. The forced marriage of Queen ScoTA, on occasion of the union MSS. and Dunfermline's addrefs to King George I. on his acceffion to the throne; printed.
of his life, when not engaged in his ordinary minifterial work, he was employed in compofing his SCRIPTURE SONGS: And may it not with propriety be faid, that this was an agreeable exercife, and highly fuitable, as introductory to finging the fong of Mofes and the Lamb*? The laft fubjects he was directed to handle, feem to be his appending his feal to the whole Chriftian fcheme, and giving his laft teftimony to a religious courfe; drawn from thefe words, "Wisdom's ways are ways of pleafantnefs; and all her paths are peace:" and his firm expectations of a bleffed immortality; from thefe words, "I know that my Redeemer liveth," &c.
When he had finished his Mafter's public work in the world, and been fo fuitably prepared for the heavenly manfions, he was feized, in the end of the forefaid month, viz. October 1750, with a nervous fever, (wherein, nevertheless he enjoyed the exercife of his judgment and fenfes,) which lafted only for a few days, and laft was the happy meffenger of freeing him from the incumbrances of an imbodied state, and leading him to the world of Spirits, and the regions of eternal blifs and felicity; for, on the eight day of the fever, he fell afleep in the Lord, being Monday, Nov. 6th, 1752. in the 68th year of his age, after labouring unweariedly and fuccefsfully in the work of the miniftry, among his flock in Dunfermline, for the fpace of forty-two years †, and went to take poffeffion of the kingdom prepared for him; where he now refides in the country of everlasting happiness, beholding, in righteoufnefs, the face of his glorious and exalted Redeemer, whofe vifits, while in the body, made him glad, whofe battles he had unweariedly fought, whofe caufe he had zealously defended, whofe truths he had strenuously maintained, whofe gospel he had faithfully published, and to whom he had kept his allegiance, as long as he had his abode in these tents of feparation. He now, in the company of angels and archangels, and in concert with the company of faints made perfect, fings the high praifes of the mighty Saviour, whofe love many times. fhed abroad in his foul while here, in his militant ftate, filled him with heavenly raptures.
It would appear he was fome way fenfible, and had fome prefages of his approaching diffolation: for, the very day he had finished thefe SONGS, we are told, he said to his fpoufe, (who had been fometimes before acquainting him, that it was unealy to her to be fo mueh deprived of his company, by his clofe application to study;) he had got his public work, he intended for the prefs, finished; and that the might now expect a little more of his company for fometime, but it would not be long till the fhould be deprived of it altogether.
He was buried in the church-yard of Dunfermline, on Thursday the 9th of the forefaid month. His corple was attended to the place of interment by an inconceivable number of fpectators, deeply and juftly regretting the lofs of fo valuable a minister.