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the Presbyterian form of church order, in the parity of office among ministers, and in the union of the churches, and their subordination to each other in matters not of faith but of external regulation, it will be very unsafe for you to come forward either in the Church of Scotland or in the Secession. In regard to the Church of England, you will be expected to express your assent and consent to the whole system of the doctrine and polity of that establishment. It is said, there are many in that church who believe neither her Articles nor the Scriptural authority of her orders, and that it is not expected a young man should trouble himself with nice scruples on these points. But subscription is too serious and awful a matter to be trifled with; and I think too favourably of your moral principles to conceive it needful to dwell on the ruinous consequences of such a relaxed system. Search the Scriptures ; consult the candid and upright tutor whose instructions you are to enjoy ; let your eye be single : and should the conclusion to which your inquiry leads you be different from my views, I shall not respect you the less, but very cheerfully aid and assist you to the utmost of my power. The concern the nearest to my heart is, that your present inquiries, and the measures you may adopt in consequence of them, may be reviewed with approbation, when, like your father, you look back from the high ground of three-score years. A tender conscience is an inestimable treasure.
“ Be assured of it, that if you enter into the ministry with a good conscience, your Father in heaven will supply all your wants. I myself have never had much; yet, like the good Bishop of Cambray, I hope to die poor, but out of debt. Your father's God, if you lean on him, will never leave you nor forsake you.
“ The infant sons of your two elder brothers were baptised on Sabbath. May a better name than mine be named on them! I feel very thankful to my sons for the honour they have done their father. If that promise, Isaiah, xliv. 3–5, be now and afterwards fulfilled, all is well.”
In another letter, he gives him some valuable counsels respecting prayer :
“ I think it would be proper for you to mark down the different parts of prayer as heads, and then, under each place, some of the most apposite Scriptures you can select. Commit them to memory, and accustom yourself to use them in your secret devotions. There is such majesty and sweetness in the language of the Bible, as is not to be expected any where else. The people understand both the thoughts and the language better than any other. The use of what are called elegant and classical expressions and figures in prayer, discovers a mind, if not at play with its subject, certainly not deeply impressed with the awful majesty of God, and the guilt and depravity of the heart of man. Were I dying, I should not approach my God and Saviour in that manner. It has been said, and with too much truth, that the prayers of many fashionable dissenting ministers are mere exhibitions of talent on the part of the minister, and subjects of criticism on the part of the hearer. Hence you hear such indecorous observations as these: What an elegant prayer! what a sublime, philosophical prayer ! There never was a finer compliment paid to any sermon than what a celebrated infidel paid, though he meant it not, to good old John Brown : • That old man preaches as if Jesus Christ was at his elbow.' The thought is more applicable to prayer. It were well could we realise the presence of God in our acts of devotion, and see our own characters in the light in wbich God sees them. In the examples of prayer in the Holy Scriptures, what profound humility, what self-abasement, what earnestness of pleading, are every where discovered ! When our hearts feel the sentiments we express, the tones of the voice will easily conform themselves. It will
be nature speaking naturally, and grace graciously; there will be no need of effort; and you know that affectation, especially in prayer, is deepest deformity, if not something unspeakably worse.”
Previously to his being licensed to preach the Gospel, young Alexander was seized with pain in the chest, and was affected with considerable debility; and this led him to fear that he should never possess a sufficient measure of strength for the labours of the sacred office. His mind also was afflicted with many anxieties and fears respecting his call from God to serve him in the Gospel of his Son; and in this situation he laid open his heart to his father, who wrote him in the spirit of most affectionate sympathy, and set before him every suggestion which could soothe and encourage him.
“ London, Feb. 20, 1818. “ My dear ALEXANDER, “ I cannot convey to you an idea of the deep distress into which your letter of Saturday has cast us. Your dear mother is overcome to weakness. You seem, however, to take the matter much too severely. The elevation of your voice is certainly within your power, and this is the only imperfection in your service. By accustoming yourself, as Demosthenes did, to speak on the beach, and to drown the noise of the waves, you may acquire strength of voice that will fill any Seceding meeting-house in the land. Your timidity also would prevent you from doing justice to your powers of articulation. Go forward with firmness, and there is no cause for fear. You stand well with the Presbytery; and another exhibition, with a little more spirit and life, will restore your mind to its full composure. Your tender hints respecting assistance to me in the evening of my life came so near to my heart, that I dare scarce read over that part of your letter which contains them. It is a measure of comfort which in this mixed state of things, however much I might fondly desire it, I never durst hope for, or give, even to your dear mother, a distant hint of. Go forward in the exercise of David's frame of spirit : • The Lord shall choose for me the lot of mine inheritance.' There is no way of obtaining peace and composure but this.
“ On gravely turning the matter in my mind, and I have scarcely thought of any thing else since the morning that I received your letter, I really see very little cause of discouragement. Your own imagination has given form and substance to a mere phantom. Make yourself master of your subject; try to acquire some higher measure of self-possession; mark in your manuscript the emphatic words, and speak under a strong sense of the Divine presence. Read James, i. 6—8, and God will help you to annihilate your auditory, so far as it can be viewed as an object of fear.
“I need not add, that I shall bear you on my heart before the throne of God day and night, and hope he will graciously listen to a father's supplications on behalf of a beloved son, in so sacred a cause. Nil desperandum, Christo duce. Write that at the top of your sermon. Bring nerve from Him who is the glory of our strength. Ever and most affectionately yours.”
Through the kindness of his God, this accomplished young man regained some measure of strength, and finished the usual trials for license before the Presbytery of Coldstream, with the highest approbation of every member of that court. The intelligence gratified his father exceedingly, while, at the same time, it stirred up his holy solicitude that his beloved son might
rightly divide the word of truth, and be in his own character an example of piety
“ London, April 18, 1818. “ MY DEAR SON, “ Yours of Wednesday has poured a stream of sacred delight over my withered heart, to which, through the influence of anxious fear, it has for a long time been a stranger. There is not a feeling disclosed in your letter which I would, for any earthly good, in the smallest degree lessen or weaken. Your sense of the awful importance of your work, I hope you will ever cherish, and also of your own inability. A flippant, careless ministry is a curse to the Gospel church. The feeling you have will keep you humble, and make you diligent and faithful. It will lead you hourly to the fulness of Christ, from which emanate all our supplies. Lean on him with undivided and child-like confidence. Prepare your discourses with such care, and deliver them with such earnestness, as if all depended, in regard to their success, on yourself; and, meanwhile, lean on the promised presence of the Holy Spirit, fully and entirely, for all the blessed effects of the word on the understanding, the conscience, and the heart. It is this union of labour and dependence which ministers should ardently breathe after. Put as much of your heart into your delivery as you possibly can. While you enlighten the head, let the warmth of your own soul enkindle a correspondent warmth in the souls of your hearers. Beware even of that neatness and elegance which may tempt your hearers to suspect you are at play with your subject, and seeking to secure their approbation, rather than to save their souls. In the preface to the venerable John Brown's System you will find some heart-searching and most valuable hints to young preachers. Read and pray over them. Let not the feeling of inability discourage you. Before the Lord Jesus Christ began his public ministry, his Father visited him with six weeks of