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A

CHARACTER

OF THE

AUTHOR and his WRITINGS.

I'

T is not the Intention of the Editors of the present Edition of the Rev. Mr. RALPH ERSKINE's Practical Works, in ten volumes octavo, to attempt paffing any fulfome encomiums on the worthy Author, whose praise is already in the churches, or to launch out into any prolix commendation of his elaborate and valuable writings, which are fo univerfally known, read, and esteemed; but to refer the reader, for his fatisfaction relative to thefe, to what is advanced in the following short Account of his Life and Writings: We shall only here obferve, That as he was eminently pious from his youth, had always a conversation becoming the gospel, was endued with every fuitable. qualification for the miniftry, poffeffed of very popular talents, made the distinguishing doctrines of Christianity the chief subjects of his pulpit-themes, and fingularly zealous for the purity of gospel-truth, it is not at all furprising, that he was greatly beloved, much followed by all true Chriftians, and his writings eagerly read by the religious and devout of nomination.

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The SERMONS and POEMS are already fo well known and deservedly admired, both at home and abroad, that it would be fuperfluous to pafs any encomiums on them. Let it fuffice to fay, in the words of that eminent divine, the late Rev. Dr. BRADBURY, in his preface to a collection of Meff. EBENEZER and RALPH ERSKINE'S Sermons, printed at London in 1738. "The Sermons, faith he, have no need of my re

"commendation: the reader will find in them a faith"ful adherence to the defign of the gofpel, a clear "defence of those doctrines that are the pillar and ground of truth, a large compafs of thought, a ftrong force of argument, and a happy flow of "words, which are both judicious and familiar: and they have been greatly bleffed to the edification of many, especially the poor of the flock."

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The fame Dr. Bradbury, fpeaking concerning the poetical compofitions of our Author, obferves, That as poetry has often no more in it than great fwelling words of vanity, distorted images, and monftrous "allufions; fo it is a pleafure to fee the things of "another world delivered without any heathenifh figures and phrafes, but in fuch an adorning as becomes the gofpel of JESUS CHRIST: On this ac"count, Mr. ERSKINE'S Gofpel-Sonnets, are greatly to be esteemed, for the sweetness of the verse, the difpofition of the fubjects, the elegance of the com"pofition, and, above all, for that which animates "the whole, the favour of divine and experimental "knowledge."

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The words of the late juftly celebrated and pious Mr. HERVEY are very fignificant, and truly expreffive of the high efteem he had for Mr. ERSKINE'S Writings. "Was I to read, fays that judicious and elegant "writer, in order to refine my tafte, or improve my

ftile; I would prefer Bishop Atterbury's fermons, "Dr. Bate's works, or Mr. Seed's difcourfes: But, "was I to read with a fingle view to the edification "of my heart, in true faith, folid comfort, and " evangelical holinefs; I would have recourse to "Mr. ERSKINE, and take his volumes for my guide, my companion, and my own familiar friend."

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Hervey's works in fol. p. 346. and Theron and Afp. dial. 16.

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IN

N emitting the writings of great men to the public, it hath been usual to give fome account of their Author, that the reader may, in a fhort compafs of reading, learn fome of the principal lines of their character. Our Author is already fo well known in the churches of Christ, both at home and abroad *, by his excellent and elaborate productions, that faying any thing of him might have been entirely fuperceded: and had it not been, that his writings may fall into the hands of fome at a distance, and in after-ages, who are not, and cannot be fo, well acquainted with him as the prefent, it would have been fuperfluous to have faid any thing concerning him.

THE REV. Mr. RALPH ERSKINE was honourably defcended of very respectable ancestors; his father, the Rev. Mr. HENRY ERSKINE, being one of the thirtythree children of RALPH ERSKINE of Shielfield, a family of confiderable repute and standing in the county of Merfe, and originally defcended from the antient houfe of MAR. Our Author, and his brother, the Rev. Mr. EBENEZER ERSKINE, late Minister of the gospel at Stirling, were two of the children of the faid Rev. Mr. HENRY ERSKINE, who was fometime Minister

The greatest part of our Author's works were at first printed in fingle fermons and fmall tracts, and well relifled; numbers of thefe have gone abroad, and met with a kind reception: yea, fuch regard hath the public put upon them, that several of them have undergone a great many impreffions; and even some of them tranflated into other languages; and we have even feen a few of them printed in Dutch-In the year fixty-four and fixty-five they were collected together, and printed, in a most elegant manner, in two large voJumes in folio, in which there was interfperfed a great many manufcript SerThis handsome Octavo Edition is printed from the elegant folio one, with confiderable amendments.

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of the gospel at Cornwal, afterwards at Chirnfide*; a man eminent in his day, and justly distinguished for his piety, and firm attachment to Prefbyterian principles: For his ftedfaft adherence to which, he was fubjected to many confiderable hardships in the latter part of the last century, during the perfecuting period of Charles II. and James VII †.

The Author, of the following fermons, was born at Monilaws, in the county of Northumberland, on Sabbath the 15th of March, 1685, at three o'clock in the afternoon; and baptized at Chirnfide on the 5th of April, faid year, by the Reverend Mr. William Violand.

-He gave pretty early proofs of a great genius and fine fancy; and feveral inftances of a pious difpofition and a folid way of reflecting on matters. On this account he was, by his parents, early deftined for the holy miniftry, who refolved to give him a regular and liberal education, in order to qualify him for that important office.

When he had acquired a competent measure of Grammar, and other introductory parts of education, he went to the university of Edinburgh, to complete his ftudies; 'where he went through the ordinary courfes of philofophy and divinity with fuccefs; and made a confiderable progrefs in all the different branches of useful literature: for, he foon became a fine Grecian, an excellent Logician, and an accomplished Philofopher. But after having acquired fuch a competent measure of knowledge, in thefe various branches of erudition, he gave himself up to the study of theology, his darling and beloved topic; in which he made great progress, as his productions therein do abundantly evidence.

Having experienced the grace of God himself, he thought it his duty to give himself up to the great work of the miniftry, that he might be a happy inftrument of bringing others to know these things which he found and experienced to be of the utmost importance. He was abundantly fenfible this was a work of great labour

Cornwal is in the fhire of Northumberland; Chirnfide lies about five miles from Berwick upon Tweed, in the Scotch fide.

† See the continuation of Calamy's life of Baxter, p 681.

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and diligence; and therefore gave himself up to a courfe of unwearied study. He was never more delighted 5 than when he could apply himself to the increase of valuable knowledge, without being interrupted: this defire after improvement continued to the laft; and he was never seemingly better, than when he thus enjoyed himself.

The ordinary course of philofophical and theological ftudies being gone through, at the college of Edinburgh, with fuccefs; he was, in the providence of God, called forth to appear in a public character; and being well reported of, by all who knew him, for a converfation becoming the gofpel, he was accordingly taken upon trials by the Prefbytery of Dunfermline: and having finifhed the ufual pieces of trial affigned him, to the entire fatisfaction of the prefbytery, he was by them licensed to preach, as a probationer, the everlasting gofpel, on the 8th of June, 1709. In which capacity he exercised the talents which the Lord had graciously conferred on him, within the bounds of the faid Prefbytery, both in vacancies and fettled congregration, to the great fatisfaction of his hearers, both minifters and people, as his certificate from that Prefbytery, dated April 4th, 1711. exprefly bears.-In this ftation of life he did not long remain: Providence foon opened a door for him; and he got an unanimous call, from the parishioners of Dunfermline, on the 1ft of May 1711.. to exercise his ministerial talents and abilities amongst them; which call was approven of by the Prefbytery, on the day following, as regularly proceeded in. He went through the ufual pieces of trial, for ordination, prescribed by the Presbytery, with approbation: and thereupon they fet him apart to the office of the holy miniftry, in the collegiate charge of Dunfermline, on August 7th, 1711.

For feveral years, prior to his appearing in a public character, he was a close student in the various branches of literature, and had made confiderable progrefs therein. Few were endowed with a greater ftretch of judgment, and a penetrating difpofition of mind; this, joined with a lively invention, and a tenacious memory, enabled him to make great refearches after truth, and VOL. I. A

eafily

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