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teacher in the church. He experienced a good deal of difficulty in composition; he was doubtful of his ability to make useful discourses, and apprehensive that he should never attain to respectability as a preacher; and the more he reflected on the deep and awful responsibility of the Christian ministry, his mind was involved in deeper uneasiness and perplexity. So far from rushing forward into the sacred office as some have done, without fear or solicitude, it required every encouragement on the part of his friends, supported by weighty arguments and motives, to prevail with him to receive license as a preacher of the Gospel.
On this subject he had laid open his mind to his confidential friend Graham, now settled in the West Indies; and the following letter is written in reply:
“ Tortola, Nov. 14, 1776. “ MY DEAREST FRIEND, “ You tell me that I probably shall never hear your declamations : this may be so, but I hope it will not be owing to the impediments you point out, viz. the difficulty you find in the composition of your discourses. Follow my advice, and I'll warrant a speedy removal of them. I recommend to you neither to be too vain, nor too diffident, of your own abilities. Of these extremes, inter utrumque tene, medio tutissimus ibis. The attending to the former will induce you at all times to acknowledge your dependence on Divine aid ; and while you reflect on the latter, you will be stimulated, as a rational agent, in the use of means.
“Your good opinion generally of the parts and abilities of others, makes you diffident of your own. Your aspiring genius ardently desires to equal, if not excel, your contemporaries; while your generosity of heart, and your favourable opinion of others, fetter you with the chains of despondency and imaginary disappointment. The desire of approbation was implanted by God in the soul of man for excellent and laudable purposes,—one of which is obviously intended to stimulate men to make the Divine approbation their chief and ultimate object : beware, therefore, lest this desire should look no farther than the approbation of men. Satan, though not omniscient, nor yet omnipresent, is well acquainted with our weak side, and watches our unguarded moments, and lays his snares accordingly. Perhaps he is apprised, that, by your instrumentality, many may be converted to righteousness, and a great inroad made on his dominions. He is, perhaps, permitted to tempt you with an ardent avidity of human applause, and despondency of ever attaining it. But, my dear Sir, let this be the inscription on your life, Nec aspera terrent. I therefore adjure you to consider these discouragements as temptations, every one of which is an alarm to you to learn your own exercise before you commence to be a leader of others. Your glorious Captain suffered the same treatment when tabernacling with the sons of men ; and does the servant expect better treatment than the master ? Temptation, meditation, and prayer, were the preparation for his public ministry; and this is an excellent school for training all his ambassadors, and is often the acadeny where his most valuable servants acquire the principal part of their education. This informs them that man's science is the culture of his heart.
“ You tell me the office of a clergyman is awful and important. I heartily congratulate you on account of being one who thinks so; for too many rush into that sacred office with less premeditation than I open store, or sit down at my desk. I acknowledge it is awful and important; yet it is honourable, advantageous, and, if faithfully executed, receives an exceeding great though gracious reward. Persevere, therefore, my dearest Sir, in the diligent prosecution of your studies; keep a constant intercourse with Heaven by prayer; and let the awfulness and importance of the ministerial office not intimidate you, but spur you on to double your diligence in preparing you for its faithful discharge : and take this for an encouragement, and as an evidence that the Lord has need of you, that, in the course of his providential dispensations, he has revealed to you that the office of a clergyman is awful and important.
“ The aid of my prayers you may always depend upon, while a serious reflection on the long-suffering patience of God, on the unbounded love of Christ, and the grace of the Holy Spirit, continuing to strive against the corruptions of my own heart, incites my attention to the supreme interests of my dearest friend. “ Yours ever and unfeignedly,
The following letter is from a fellow-student, who, like himself, was now on trial, before the Presbytery, for license. He was afterwards settled at Berwick, where he laboured in a large and prosperous and affectionate congregation, with great faithfulness and acceptability, betwixt thirty and forty years :
“ MY DEAR SIR, “ Your last gave me both pleasure and pain: pleasure, for I longed to hear from you, and wished to know whether you were disengaged from your secular matters ; pain on account of your continued irresolution about accepting of license. All the grounds of your discouragement will, when weighed in the balance of the sanctuary, be found light, and the considerations for your accepting will preponderate. You complain of your powers of composition; and will you not endure want of sleep, and painful study, for Him who for you spent many a cold sleepless night on the side of a mountain ; who for you, you, I say, groaned, thirsted, died? You think you will not be acceptable to the vacancies. It is, I am confident, every person's opinion who knows you, that you will be very acceptable. Try three years of it, and then speak of declining; and will not these three years, in your last moments, appear the best spent in your life? And, as you are young enough, three years are neither here nor there. Granting you should not be very acceptable to the people, since you seem to have the call of God by his servants, go on, and you shall by no means lose your reward. • Your sins are great and aggravated.' Be it so. Though sin abounds like a flood, grace reigning through Christ's righteousness abounds like an ocean. The chief of Saviours is still on a throne of mercy, founded on justice and judgment. You have not the qualifications which make up the character of a young divine, according to the Scriptures. But where is the man that possesses them all in perfection ? and who made you sole judge of your own abilities? A court of Christ pronounces you qualified ; rest in their verdict as to this, lest you be found fighting against God; and this rest need not hinder you from using all means for growing in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
“ You have attempted, as I too have done, to get away from the Lord's work, but Providence has hitherto frustrated all our designs —so that you appear to be shut up to it; and were we to try any more schemes, who knows but we might be baulked in them too? Let me ask, dear Sandy, are you content to be reckoned among the meanest, the poorest, and weakest of his servants ? Is it your supreme desire that Christ should be glorified by your gifts ? Dare you say that God hath given you no suitable furniture for serving him in the Gospel of his Son? If you say so, the Presbytery are liars. Remember what became of the unprofitable servant who hid his Lord's money. Follow the example of the Divine Preacher: 'I must work the work of Him that sent me, while it is day,' said Jesus : 'the night cometh, when no man can work.'
“ Your resolution not to take license at Musselburgh discourages me greatly. Ah! Sandy; can John accept, when you refuse ? - you, who, I dare say, are judged by the Presbytery, and every intelligent person who has heard you, better qualified in every respect for preaching the Gospel. I don't flatter, no: Assentatio, vitiorum adjutrix, ab amicitiâ procul amoveatur. . “I design to go to the next Presbytery; and though I am the chief of sinners, and the weakest of all students in knowledge and utterance, I would fain lay myself down at their feet, to be disposed of as God shall see fit; and should you decline, think how you shall be able to look Jesus in the face, when he calls you to give an account of your stewardship. "The more weak and sinful you are,' says our professor, in a letter to me, ' have the more recourse to Christ; but never dare to flee from him. If you refuse coming to the help of the Lord against the mighty, I have no manner of doubt but the vengeance of God will pursue you : Judges, v. 23.
“I am sorry I cannot come down to Caldron-brae, and accompany you to Musselburgh. It is quite inconvenient for me to get a horse sooner than Monday. May the Lord God and his Spirit accompany you, give his angels charge concerning you, to keep you in all your ways, and preserve you from doing, in yonder town, what you may perhaps reflect upon with anguish of spirit till the last moment of your life!
“ I am, my dearest Sandy,
~ John BLACKHALL." “ Selkirk, April 27, 1779.”
The following letter, from the Professor of Divinity, breathes that tender affection and faithful freedom for which that great and good man was so highly distinguished in all his intercourse with his students :