網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

At the time of his settlement, the manse, or parsonage house, was in ruins. Till a new one should be erected, he found it necessary to board in a decent family in the parish. This circumstance contributed to enable him afterwards to make those active exertions, not strictly professional, by which he was to improve his own condition, and to extend his usefulness as a member of society. With almost undivided attention, he devoted this early period of his life to the acquisition of useful knowledge, to the discharge of public city, and to the culture and improvement of his own heart and character. In that department of the service of our church which is called lecturing, the result of his researches and reflections was given in unpremeditated lan. guage, suggested during the progress of delivery. But for many years, his sermons were generally composed and mảndated with care.

As his memory was uncommonly strong and retentive, he never had occasion to exhibit his manuscript in the pulpit, or even to avail himself of a compend or abridgment in the form of notes. Whether dis, discourses read or pronçunced are to be preferred, is a question which has been agiiated keenly both by critics and by the body of ordinary hearers. But the question admits not of 'solution, since all men do not possess the same faculties in the same degrce. They whose diffidence is invincible, or who, 'without an expence of time and labour incompatible with other duties, cannot prçach without the aid of paper, are not repre! ensible for having recourse to this expedientá. But where therc exists no defect or decay of the necessary powers, it must be allowed, that; by the opposite practice, a public speaker may render himself more acceptable and more iin, pressive. The ends of all eloquence are to convince or to persuade. These ends , no man at the bar, in the senate, or in any popular assembly, expects to attain by a cool recitation of manuscripts, brought into view, It is with men also, that the pulpit orator has to do, and therefore he cannot reasonably hope, that, by opposite means, his purpose is to be accomplished. In so far as he undertakes to inform the understanding, the prac

tice admitted in the churches of this kingdom may be resorted to with 'advantage. But if he would awaken the affections and determine the conduct; if he would rouse' the secure, and strike terror into the guilty conscience"; if he would stiinulate the slothful, and soothe into peace the mourner in Zion, his eloquence must assume a higher and more empassioned tone."

!! Such was that of our youthful messenger of grace and truth. : What he delivered came froin the heart, and seemed to come from it. While he was in the habit of writing regular. ly, scarcely a topic of the Christian system, whether it related to faith or to practice, was left untouched.: By this early diligence, he accumulated treasures, from which he could afterwards bring forth at pleaşure things both new and old. Nor did his application to study interfere with the execution of the plan that he had adopted for performing the more private pastoral duties. From the earliest to the latest days of his ministry, he was regular and assiduous in visiting the families committed to his care, in catechising the young and

the aged, in superintending and examining the schools of the district, in investigating the intellectual and moral attainments of those who desired admission to sealing ordinances, in counselling and reproving the thoughtless and unwary, and in pouring the balm of consolation into the hearts of the afflicted and the dying

When he had fully established his reputation, the university of Edinburgh, without any solicitation on his part, unanimously conferred on him the degree of Doctor in Divinity, June 12. 1786.

The ecclesiastical establishment, to which he belonged, presented a favourable field for the exercise and display of his talents. The constitution of the church of Scotland assigns to every individual of the sacred order, the same series of pastoral labour, the same rank in society, the same measure of legislative, judicial, and executive authority. At the æra of the Reformation, it assumed this republican form. In turbulent times it had been repeatedly assailed by the arm of power, or corrupted by the

inovating spirit of faction. But in 1688, the claims of the country to the restoration of presbytery were distinctly recognised by the Revolution settlement; and, in 1707, the articles of Union between the two kingdoms, into which this island had till then been devided, declared the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of this church to be fixed and unalterable.

To speculative men it may perhaps appear, that, to render her thus independent of the state, was to erect an imperium in imperio, and to reverse that order which, in other countries, is supposed essential to the existence of government and civil society. But the subject has been brought to the test of experience; and the alarms of theory have been quieted by the irresistible evidence of fact.. Precluded from exorbitant measures of wealth or power, and associated with laymen as constituent members of all the ecclesiastical courts, the clergy of this church are effectually restrained from being formidable in their stations. Blessed with the fostering care of the sovereigns who have successively

« 上一頁繼續 »