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attended a religious society which met at East Gordon for fellowship and prayer, in the house of James Spence, an elder of the Secession church; and that, even at this early period, he was marked, both by the aged and the young, for his singularly appropriate and interesting manner of expressing himself in prayer. Our informant also recollects receiving a letter from him about this time, in commendation of such religious societies, “ full of serious thoughts and good advices.”
In 1770, when sixteen years of age, he joined the Secession congregation of Stitchell, of which he continued a member till 1779, when he was licensed to preach the everlasting Gospel. The holy enthusiasm with which, in after-life, he was wont to speak of the sacramental occasions on Stitchell Brae, will be particularly noticed in a subsequent part of the memoir.
The congregation of Stitchell was at that period under the pastoral charge of the Rev. George Coventry, of whom he never spoke but in terms of affectionate veneration and gratitude. To mention, indeed, the name of that most excellent man, is to recall to the minds of all who knew him, every thing in the ministerial character that was pious, kind, peaceable, lovely, and of good report. His conversation, his sermons, his prayers, all breathed the spirit of that Master who was meek and lowly in heart. It seemed to afford him peculiar pleasure to communicate information to the young from his rich stores of knowledge. By the kindly affections of his heart he was given to hospitality, and, being in easy circumstances, his house became the frequent resort of ministers, and of young men during the time of their preparatory course for the sacred office. In this latter class he always took a very deep interest, lending them books, directing their studies, giving them salutary counsel, and in urgent cases administering pecuniary aid. The obscure village where he dwelt acquired importance and interest, as the scene of his pious labours, and works of benevolence and goodness. The writer of these pages, after an interval of thirty-five years, still feels his bosom glow with gratitude for the many profitable and happy days which, during the yearly vacation from college, he was wont to spend in his hospitable mansion, listening to instructions which have proved more beneficial in his future experience of life, than all the books he has had occasion to peruse. He breathed out his soul at Edinburgh, 30th June, 1795, in lively hope of eternal blessedness; his wonted heavenly and placid temper still beaming on his countenance. The habitual tenour of his life formed a commentary on the words of the apostle, whom he greatly resembled in the leading features of his mind,-"God is love; and whosoever dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.”
Before adverting to the course of study requisite to prepare young men for entering on the sacred office, we may remark, that in a national institution for advancing the interests of science and literature, all possible facilities should be given to students of every rank in society, and of every religious denomination ; because a govern
ment increases its own stability in proportion as it augments the happiness of its subjects by the general diffusion of sound and wholesome knowledge. It is, therefore, to be regretted, that the two English Universities, which have acquired such honourable celebrity, should, by the exclusive system on which they are regulated, seal up their precious treasures of instruction from all who are not members of the established church, however deserving as subjects of the state, or eminent for their rank in society. The continuance of this distinction, so injurious to a considerable part of the population, and so invidious and offensive in itself, can only be ascribed to that jealous dislike of innovation, which often. retains the customs of a barbarous age for a long period of years after they have been generally reprobated by every candid and well-informed mind. The Scottish Universities, happily, have, no exclusive test to prevent students, whatever be their religious sentiments, from enjoying every literary and scientific privilege. In consequence of this liberal system, the students for the holy ministry, from the different bodies of dissenters in Scotland, pass through the same course of education as those who are trained up for the national church. This state of things has been of incalculable advantage in elevating the character of the Secession ministers, and, through them, of the Secession church, which constitutes the great and leading body in a state of separation from the national establishment. No church will maintain respectability of character, without a learned
as well as a pious ministry. “ The priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.” He whose office it is to instruct others, should be careful to have his own mind richly stored with knowledge, that as a scribe well instructed in the kingdom of God, he may bring forth out of his treasures things both new and old. Few men would be willing to employ a person without literature and experience as a physician or a judge; and shall it be thought that a man destitute of such qualifications is fitted to explain the most obscure passages of Scripture, solve perplexed cases of conscience, or give such a luminous, convincing statement of an abstruse doctrine of theology, as will satisfy the humble inquirer after truth, and impart peace and consolation to the troubled heart? There have been, we will admit, exceptions to this; but these have been extraordinary cases, which serve only to give greater force to the general maxim. No one, indeed, has been more forward to acknowledge than those highly-gifted individuals themselves, the great disadvantage they have suffered by the deficiency of their early life in literary acquirements. How shall he who is a stranger to the learned languages, unfold the mind of the sacred writers, by analysing the phrases of the original, so necessary, in many instances, for elucidating the meaning, and giving energy to the sentiment? How shall he who is not versed in general knowledge, unravel those subtile and. disingenuous sophisms by which men of corrupt
minds labour to ensnare the simple and uninformed ? or how shall he present such a perspicuous and well-arranged exhibition of divine truth as will enable the simple-hearted Christian to give a reason of the hope that is in him, with meekness and fear? There is no branch of knowledge from which a minister may not derive advantage, and which, if he be a pious man, he will not diligently improve, for furnishing himself with new facilities to unfold the mind of the Spirit in the Holy Scriptures.
The presbyteries of the Secession require attendance at the University for four years before they take a young man on trial, in order to his admission to the study of theology; and he is then subjected to a strict examination regarding his knowledge in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, logic, and natural and moral philosophy. By a late arrangement, the Synod have appointed two theological tutors; the one to give instructions in Biblical literature, and criticism immediately connected with the original languages in which the Scriptures were written; the other to give lectures on the doctrines and duties of theology, and to hear and remark on the discourses which have been prescribed to the students for fitting them to become public teachers. The students are required to attend the first of these professors two sessions of nine weeks; and the second, three sessions of the same period. During the space of five years, which this course occupies, the presbyteries in whose bounds they reside are accustomed to assign certain books for their