Archive for the ‘Thomas Boston’ Category

This message was delivered at the Presbytery Conference of the Presbyterian Reformed Church on June 16, 2022. The audio is available here. Special thanks to Susan Abel for her selfless efforts in transcription!

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Isaiah 35:7-10, “And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes. And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”

Revelation 21:1-3, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. Amen, this is the Word of the living God.”

Last month I had the personal privilege of going back to my old stomping grounds—at least, one of them— as a boy. I had not been to Homestead, Florida, just south of Miami, since I was about fourteen years old, not long after my father went to glory. It was a place, notwithstanding the bitterness of the memories of the loss of my father, [that] was overall a time of great delight: many good memories, especially on this particular street. And I am sure my children can tell you, that I would mention the many late nights when we would play a pick-up game of baseball, and take some charcoal and make some bases, and have an awful lot of fun. Well, as we drove up and came into the neighborhood, memories started flooding back—a lot of good memories. And finally I came with my wife to this home, and there it was, largely as I remembered it, although it had a new coat of paint. And much was the same, and much was so very sweet and so very special. I even got to meet the next-door neighbor whom I did remember as a boy (and I got to have a selfie with them!). So it was quite special.


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I once read somewhere that one of the Puritans recognized they were very odd ducks. As I recall, the term was “speckled birds.” Who likes being the outsider, the stranger in a strange land?

Kids can have an especially nasty way of tapping into this instinctual longing for inclusion and reinforcing herd-conformity. As a boy, I distinctly remember a time when a group of my friends and I took a break from our game of street baseball. Somehow it came up in discussion that one boy’s family didn’t observe Christmas. “What!” Replied another. “You don’t observe Christmas? Man, if I didn’t observe Christmas, I’d kill myself!” Oof. Of course, it was adolescent hyperbole; and we were soon back to the diamond. But I must confess, I also was on the shocked side. Not having Christmas? Not having the stockings hung by the chimney with care? Not waking up at dark-thirty to wake up the parents? No giddy, vulture-like descent on the presents? I mean, come on! My quirky friend felt the sting. He was not one of us! He might as well have had three eyes.

Then about seven years later, I swam the Tweed. After my evangelical conversion, I eventually found Calvinism (or Calvinism found me!). And after Calvinism, I found Puritanism; and after Puritanism, I found Presbyterianism. But not just any kind, mind ye! No, I’d say it was full-on “Scottish Old Believer” Presbyterianism. And that, among other things, meant no Christmas. Right. Just like my crestfallen boyhood buddy. Who would have imagined!


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The following passage is worth its weight in gold.  We would expect nothing less from Thomas Boston.

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In what sense Christ is Saviour of the world.  A saviour is a name of honour, and a name of business. It is an honourable thing to save and help the miserable; to be destined, appointed, and called to that employment: but the honourable post has business annexed to it; it will not do without activity, which success is expected to attend, as in the case of a teacher, physician, and the like. Now, one may be a saviour, even as a teacher or physician, of a society, two ways. (1.) In respect of office, as being called to and invested with the office of saving, teaching, or curing that society. And thus one is saviour, teacher, or physician of that society, before ever he save, teach, or cure any of them. In this respect one may be called an official saviour, teacher, or physician. (2.) In respect of the event and success, as actually and eventually saving, teaching, and healing. As the former ariseth from an appointment put upon such a one; this ariseth from the work he manageth in virtue of that appointment. In this respect one may be called an actual and eventual saviour. Thus it is said, Neb. ix. 27. ”  And, according to thy manifold mercies, thou gavest them saviours, who saved them out of the hands of their enemies. This premised, we say,

1. Our Lord Jesus is the actual and eventual Saviour of the elect only, in whose room and stead only he died upon the cross, according to the eternal compact passed between him and the Father, in the covenant of grace, otherwise called the covenant of redemption; for these are not two, but one and the same covenant. Thus the apostle calls him “the Saviour of the body,” Eph. v. 23. that is, of the elect, who make up the body whereof he was appointed the head from eternity, and in whose name he contracted with the Father in the eternal covenant. And he is their Saviour eventually, as actually saving them, Matth. i. 21.  “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins.”  None but these will ever truly employ him as a Saviour, or put their case in his hand : and there are none of them but will certainly employ him sooner or later, Acts xiii. 48. ” As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.” John vi. 37.  “All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me; and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.”

2. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the official Saviour, not of the elect only, but of the world of mankind indefinitely; so our text calls him “Saviour of the world.” Agreeably to which, God in Christ is called “the Saviour of all men,” but with a speciality, “the Saviour of them that believe,” 1 Tim. iv. 10.  The matter lies here: like as a prince, out of regard to his subjects’ welfare, gives a commission to a qualified person to be physician to such a society, a regiment, or the like; and the prince’s commission constitutes him physician of that society ; so that though many of them should never employ him, but call other physicians, yet still there is a relation betwixt him and them ; he is their physician by office; any of them all may come to him if they will, and be healed: So God, looking on the ruined world of mankind, has constituted and appointed Jesus Christ his Son Saviour of the world: he has Heaven’s patent for this office; and wheresoever the gospel comes, this his patent is intimated. Hereby a relation is constituted betwixt him and the world of mankind; he is their Saviour, and they the objects of his administration: so that any of them all may come to him, without money or price, and be saved by him as their own Saviour appointed them by the Father.

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These selections from Boston’s Memoirs come from his ministry in the parish of Ettrick, having accepted that charge in 1707 after his labors in Simprin.  To read the previous post, click here.

Observe the rigors of Boston’s parish ministry.  The strains on his physical constitution in his commitment to parish catechesis remind one of David Brainerd’s hardships with the Delaware Indians.

We also note in these passages a strong sense of ministerial responsibility for the youth.  Several of these ‘diets’ of catechizing were especially for the youth.  Obviously, these were hardly ‘youth groups’ in the modern sense; yet they were gatherings of youth nonetheless.  Also in this pastoral vein we see how Boston’s catechesis often involved practical exhortations.  This wasn’t merely a discipline to inform minds, but to change hearts.

In one instance, Boston distinctly notes that he adjusted his particular practice by observing the useful method of a colleague in the ministry.  This ministerial duty ever needs reassessment and retooling for maximal usefulness, and we should not be ashamed to observe how others do it better than we.

Last, these diets of catechizing appear to have been set for places outside the parish kirk, as in his manse, or throughout the parish at suitable gathering-places.  The man of God, though ‘settled within his bounds,’ is ever itinerant.  He must “preach publicly and from house to house.”   The churchly calling of catechesis engages the mind; but it is worth noting that it first goes to the minds that need engaging!

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“Twice a-year I catechised the parish, having no diet but one at the church; and once a-year I visited their families. The former was usually begun about the end of October, the latter about the end of April, or beginning of May. This was my ordinary course all along, save that of some few late years; through my wife’s extraordinary sickness in the spring, and the decay of my own strength, I have not got the visiting of families performed as before; neither have I hope of it any more, though I still aim at something of that kind yearly.  But I bless God, that when I had ability, I was helped to lay it out that way. Thus the winter-season was the time wherein I did most of my work in the parish.  Meanwhile that also was the season wherein I did most in my closet.  Being twelve miles distant from the presbytery-seat, I attended it not in the winter; but when I attended it, I ordinarily went away and returned the same day, being loath to lose two or three days on it” (227-28).


“On Tuesday, 11th November, I finished the memorial concerning personal and family fasting, begun 5th August, and consisting of 149 pages; and laid it before the Lord for acceptance through Jesus Christ, and a blessing thereupon.  Having had a severe cold these two days, and been in a sweat Tuesday’s night, I was in doubt whether to keep the appointed diet of catechising at Calcrabank on the Wednesday, or not: but I was determined to go, through one’s coming to me that morning from the parish of Yarrow, with a line, to get his child baptized there.  So I went off, and my cold was no worse.  But being come home again that night, I was seized with a severe fit of the gravel; in which, vomiting up at length some blackish matter, I was deeply impressed with a view of the loathsomeness of this body, bearing the image of the earthly first Adam, and what it must come to by means of death, till it be reduced to dust again; out of which it is to be reformed after the image of the heavenly man, the second Adam, far removed for ever from that corrupt constitution.  The day had been very bad; and this season I have not hitherto had one good day on that occasion; but I have had a sort of pleasure and satisfaction in enduring these little hardships, for my Master and His work’s sake” (426-27).

3rd January.—I found myself fail mightily, in managing the diets of catechising this season; especially the two last diets. Considering the loss sustained by the people, through my inability to speak, and apply to it, it has been very heavy to me.  But this day the Lord pitied, and helped me therein again; the which is the more welcome, that now I begin this work also, the catechising of those of the younger sort, which is carried on together with the public catechising of the parish; not daring as yet to ease myself of that accessory piece of my work” (435-36).


“It had been my manner of a long time, besides the catechising of the parish already mentioned, to have diets of catechising those of the younger sort; and they met in the kirk, sometimes in my house. What time I began this course I do not remember, but I think it has been early; for I learnt it from Mr. Charles Gordon minister of Askirk, whom I found so employed in his house when I went at a time to visit him; and he died, at furthest, in the year 1710.  By this course I got several young people of both sexes, trained up to a good measure of knowledge; some of whom unto this day are solid and knowing Christians; but it suffered some interruptions. The time I found fittest for it on their part, was from January to the beginning of May; and the whole youth of the parish, who were disposed, and had access to wait on, came together and were welcome; as were others also, who inclined to hear. The intimation of their first diet was made from the pulpit; and then from time to time I set and signified to them their next diet; ordinarily they met once a fourtnight; sometimes once in 20 days only; sometimes once a week, as occasion required.  Several times these meetings were closed with warm exhortation to practical religion; the which I sometime used also in the diets of catechising the parish.  Thus this accessory work fell in the time when ordinarily I was weakest; and of late years that my frailty notably increased, I wanted not inclination sometimes to give it over.  But that I might the better comport with it, I did some years ago cause make a portable iron grate, in which I had a fire in the kirk to sit at on these occasions.  This year, after I had once and again found my self fail mightily in diets for the parish, thro’ bodily inability, the time of beginning this course was returning; and the Lord pitied and helped again in another diet for the parish.  So I was encouraged, and began that course again at the ordinary time, not daring as yet to give it over; and thro’ the mercy of God, it was got carried on as usual.

“This winter I did more at night than of a long time before, having ordinarily written something, for a while, after six o’clock at night. And on the 17th day of March, I had completed the catechising of the parish for the second time. This was a kind disposal of Providence: for about the same time began a breach of my health, which made me the heaviest spring I had ever felt” (437-38).


“It pleased the Lord, for my trial, to make the entry on that work difficult; and the progress has, through several interruptions, been small to the writing hereof; whatever He minds to do about it. On the morrow I catechised at Buccleugh. I continued about three hours in that exercise without my spirits or strength failing ; which is the more sweet, and filled my heart with thankfulness, that in the morning I had, in consideration of my weakness, prayed for pity. I was minded next day to have spent some time in prayer for assistance in the aforesaid work: but being called out of my bed that night, to visit a sick person supposed to be a-dying, I found in the morning that I was not in case for it. So I applied myself to writing of letters, which at length I was obliged also to give over. Being seized with a colic, I behoved to take my bed that night: and rising on the Friday, I was obliged to take bed again, where I was fixed till the Saturday morning. Then the pain was removed; but I was unfit for business, save writing of letters. But though the Lord’s day was so bad that few came to church, it was a good day to me, in delivering the Lord’s word, weak and crazy as I was. I admired the indulgence of my gracious Master, in timing the trial so as not to mar my public work; and in that I had as much studied the preceding week, as fully served that Sabbath; so that as I was not able, so I did not need to study. He is a good Master to me: and I kissed that rod” (452).

“On Tuesday, 1st December, I spent some time in prayer, with fasting, chiefly for two causes—1. The work on the Hebrew text; and therein I found a pinching sense of need carrying me to that exercise, my hope of success being in the Lord alone; 2. For my younger son, who the day before had gone towards Edinburgh, to attend the school of divinity only. I reviewed my whole life, made confession, and renewed my acceptance of the covenant, as that time twelve months before: and then I made my supplications on these accounts and some other, particularly the affair at London as to the MSS., concerning which there was still a deep silence; and came away with hope, rolling them on the Lord. On the morrow I catechised at Calcrabank. I had a singular satisfaction in that little journey, while I observed how Providence taught me, trying me and delivering me. It being a very hard frost, it was dangerous riding; and my horses being both away to Edinburgh with my son, I was mounted on a beast that would hardly stir under me. At the second ford above Hopehouse, I was quite stopped, the ford being frozen, and the horse not able to make the brae where the water was open.  Alighting therefore to take the hillside, the bridle slipped off, and my horse got away homeward, and I pursued.  But kind Providence had a well-inclined lad coming down on the other side of the water, who coming through to my help, catched unhorse, led him on, and I walked on foot once and again.  Coming home, I was cast under night; but the lad staid, and came along with me, and led my horse again, while I walked with some uneasiness, by means of my boots, and otherwise.  Meanwhile it was some moonlight: and I had a pleasure in that trial, beholding how my God took notice of me, even in my little matters, and how He balanced them for me!  ‘Lord, what is man that Thou takest knowledge of him! or the son of man, that Thou makest account of him!’ After all, having only got two falls, perfectly harmless, while walking, I came home safe; and found not the least ill effect of this adventure, save some weariness in my legs on the morrow after.  And I got what I could spend of the next day, on the beloved study: but still Providence kept me on trial, as to time for it” (453).

“But holy Providence had designed a piece of new trial for me that I was not aware of.  When I came home from Maxton, I was told one had advised blistering, and putting a pea in my leg, for my sore knee, and had left me a blistering plaister for that end.  The plaister was applied on the Friday’s night.  On the Sabbath night the pea was put in; and thro’ pain I slept none that night.  The pain continuing, the pea was taken out again on the Tuesday; and on the morrow after, I had my first diet of catechising at Chapplehop. After taking away the pea the hole quickly closed; but there grew upon it a hard callous substance and withal the leg was inflamed. This created thoughts of heart, and the sore knee was forgotten.  On the Monday after I wrote for a surgeon; who returned me answer, he apprehended no danger and sent me an ointment to apply.  Expecting some benefit by the ointment, I wrote him on the morrow, he needed not to come till again called.  But finding the ointment quite ineffectual as to the substance aforesaid, I was sorry I had prevented his coming up…”

“Meanwhile the catechising of the parish was interrupted  and I sat in the pulpit when I preached.  But my soul rejoiced to observe, how my gracious God and Master still timed the hardest of my trouble, so as it had been designed, that it should be over before the Sabbath should return.  But with this trouble of my leg there was joined sore eyes, occasioned by my sitting in the bed writing, in the sunlight, on the Tuesday before the surgeon came: so that, for some nights, leg and eyes were to be buckled up with their respective applications at once; and one night a dint of the toothache joined them.  The callous substance was got away by degrees; and on 7th November at night, what day I had intimated from the pulpit a diet of catechising again, the sore appeared closed” (469-71).

“I observed the diet of catechising aforesaid: but the day was so very bad that few came to it, being at Kirkhop.  The week following I had another at Buccleugh. Considering my frailty, the season, and how Providence had, by the above-mentioned trial, carried me by the time I thought fittest for the utmost corners of the parish, I laid the matter before the Lord.  And rising early in the morning, I got a good seasonable day, visited a sick man by the way, had a full allowance of strength for my work of catechising, without failing of my spirits, and got home again with daylight. This merciful conduct of Providence was big in my eyes” (472).

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Thomas Boston wrote in his Memoirs that he had been troubled ever since beginning his ministry “with several things in our constitution [of the Church of Scotland], especially the manner of admitting to the Lord’s table, and planting of churches” (338).  Being appointed to a committee to review such matters, Boston took the opportunity to redress these problems.  The following is an overture from his pen, entitled “Of admission to the Lord’s table, and debarring from it,” contained as an appendix in his Memoirs (487-88).  While there are many contextual disconnects with our modern circumstances, there is much instructive here for the admission of new members and the role of catechesis in the process. 

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” 1. Admission to the Lord’s table, and debarring from it, being acts of church discipline and government in a particular congregation, belong to the session of the congregation, and are not to be exercised by any minister or elder by themselves, nor any society of ministers and elders in an extrajudicial capacity.

” 2. Besides the ordinary examinations in parishes, it is meet there be diets of examination particularly for non-communicants, and specially those of the younger sort. And for this end, that once every year at least, especially before the celebration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in the congregation, ministers, from the pulpit, exhort and stir up non-communicants to serious godliness, and the use of the means of knowledge; and intimate to all such as desire to be prepared to partake of that ordinance, that they give in their names to him, and wait on the diets of catechising to be appointed for such.

” 3. The names of such as offer themselves to be instructed, in order to their being admitted to the Lord’s table, are to be kept in a roll separate from that of the whole congregation, and to be brought into the session, and read before them; that it may be recommended to all the brethren, to have a particular eye on the inrolled, each especially on those of his own district; to excite, admonish, and exhort them, to a walk becoming the gospel, and the high privilege they are aspiring to.

“4. When a non-communicant removes out of one parish into another, it were fit that he produce sufficient testimonials from the place of his former abode, before he be inrolled amongst those who have offered themselves to be instructed as above said, in the congregation to which he comes.

” 5. When one desires to be admitted to the Lord’s table, he is in due time to intimate his desire to the session, that they may maturely consider of it. But it were fit, that the party should in the first place acquaint the minister with his purpose; who, if he finds he has not made a competent proficiency by the pains taken on him, in the examinations of non-communicants, or otherwise, may advise him yet to forbear for a time.

” 6. The session entering on this affair, a strict inquiry is to be made among the members, particularly at the elder or elders of the district which the party belongs to, concerning his life and conversation; whether he be guilty of any scandal; owns, submits to, and ordinarily attends, the ordinances of Christ, the public and private worship of God; if he be of a pious and sober deportment, and reputed to be a worshipper of God in secret; and if he be the head of a family, whether he worships God in his family.

” 7. If nothing be found on that part to hinder his admission to the Lord’s table, the session convening, on a set day, in the place of public worship, and the doors being open, that all the communicants, and those who have offered themselves to he instructed as ahove said, may have access, if they please, he is, in face of session, to give proof of his knowledge of the principles of the Christian religion, and particularly of the nature, use, and ends, of the ordinance of the supper, by making a confession of his faith, either in the way of a continued discourse, or by answering questions thereupon proposed by the minister.

” 8. And here special consideration is to be had of some who are known to be serious, and willing to learn, yet are weak ; namely, that the questions be proposed to them, so as they may be answered by Yes, or No; or that the truth and error be both laid before them, and they asked, which of them they believe.

” 9. The trial being ended, the session is to judge, whether the party be endowed with competent knowledge of the principles of the Christian religion, or not.

” 10. And if they be satisfied in this also, the party is to be put explicitly to consent to the covenant (whereof he desires the seal), to be the Lord’s, live unto Him, and serve Him all the days of his life, by answering expressly the following (or the like) questions. 1. Do you believe the doctrine of the Shorter Catechism of this church, so far as you understand the same, to be the true doctrine agreeable to the holy Scriptures, and resolve, through grace, to live and die in the profession of the same?  2. Do you consent to take God in Christ to be your God, the Father to be your Father, the Son to be your Saviour, and the Holy Ghost to be your Sanctifier; and that, renouncing the devil, the world, and the flesh, you be the Lord’s for ever?  3. Do you consent to receive Christ as He is offered in the gospel, for your prophet, priest, and king; giving up yourself to Him, to be led and guided by His word and Spirit; looking for salvation only through the obedience and death of Jesus Christ, who was crucified without the gates of Jerusalem; promising, in His strength, to endeavour to lead a holy life, to forsake every known sin, and to comply with every known duty?  4. Lastly, Do you promise to subject yourself to exhortation, admonition, and rebuke, and the discipline of the church, in case (which God forbid) you fall into any scandalous sin?

“11. The party having professed, consented, and promised, as above said, is to be admitted to the table of the Lord, by a sentence of the session; which is to be recorded in their register, and an extract thereof allowed to be given him, when called for.

” 12. It were fit, that the names of all those who, from time to time, are admitted to the Lord’s table, be inrolled in a bound book belonging to the session.

“13. And how often soever that ordinance be administered in a congregation, the aforesaid roll of those who have at any time been admitted, is always to be read over distinctly, in presence of the session, some competent time before, and the members required to declare, if they know anything against the life and conversation of any of them.

“14. If anything be objected, the session is to order private exhortation or admonition, or sist the accused before them, as they shall see ground, and find the matter to require. And this is to be so managed, as that the accused be sisted, as aforesaid, on report concerning the private exhortation or admonition made, before the time of the administration of the sacrament. But those who have once been orderly admitted, are at no time after to be denied the privilege they were admitted to, except in the case of scandal; for which they are to be debarred by the session, till they have removed the scandal, according to the discipline of the church: Which done, they are restored to their former church-state.”

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Here are selections from Boston’s personal journal in which he recounts his catechizing efforts throughout his regular, parish ministry.  This installment takes us from Boston’s first labor in the parish of Simprin to his second and last at Ettrick.  Observe the diverse settings and audiences of his catechizing, its bearing on church membership and the sacraments, as well as Boston’s pastoral sensitivity and adaptability to the needs of the people.  Note also how Boston deplored ignorance of Gospel ‘fundamentals’ and so regarded catechizing as a sine qua non in making authentic Christians (that is, in evangelization).

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“12th December.—I have had a desire to set up week-day sermons this long time. And since the synod (at which time I had great apprehensions of evil days, which pressed me to be busy in my time) I resolved to try what encouragement I might meet with in prosecuting it. This night I proposed it to two of the members of the meeting for Christian fellowship; who received the motion with all gladness; and I wa3 desired to begin it next Thursday’s night. Upon which immediately I found a great averseness in my own mind to it; thinking withal, that I should have tabled it particularly before the Lord ere I had proposed it. Thus I saw the dreadful deceit of my heart. I pressed my heart with that word, 2 Tim. iv. 2, ” Preach the word, be instant in season, out of season:” but it would not do. As I was going out of doors, it was suggested to me, that the Lord had thus punished me for not seeking light as to that particular expressly. While I wrote this, I thought it indeed a temptation of Satan to divert me from this work. (Nota, It seems both were true.) I was helped earnestly to seek light from the Lord in it. On the morrow I went to God again with this business ; yet could I not be fully satisfied to undertake that work, so long and so much before desired by me; neither had I anything material to object against it. Wherefore I renewed my suit; and thinking about it, got my heart more satisfied and inclined thereto, urging myself with the Lord’s kindness to me in His work, and the necessity of the people’s souls. I went to God again with it; and, in fine, the assiduity of faithful ministers, the apostles, and others, preaching both by day and by night, and no doubt sometimes to a small handful, did overcome me : so that I determine to go on, desiring heartily to comply with it. On Thursday the 14th, at night, I began this exercise, having spent the afternoon in catechising. I went about the examination under a sense of my own emptiness and insufficiency; and was well helped while my heart kept right; but in turning to some one or other of its biasses, my help decayed. In the evening-exercise the Lord’s presence was such, that I was made to say, ” It is good for us to be here.” When alone, the mismanaging of the examination, yea and the sermon too, lay heavy on me; and therefore I went to God for pardon of my weakness. And that exercise I kept up all along after, during my continuance in Simprin ; and had many a sweet and refreshing hour of it. In the winter-season, our meetings for it were in my house, and in the night; in the summer, they were in the kirk, at the time of the day wherein the men rested from their labour: for the people were servants to Langton. And I believe that, for the same reason, it was only the women whom I catechised at any other time of the day ; being solicitous that the master’s business might not suffer by me, nor my good be evil spoken of on that account. On the morrow after, having visited the sick, and found how the Lord had laid His rod on my handful, I was thereby convinced, that, had I slighted the motion for the Thursday’s sermon, I would have had no peace in so doing. Having come home from this visitation, I reflected on it, and saw what secret averseness was in my heart to it, and how poorly I had managed it. I got a clear sight of the freedom and riches of grace, went by myself, and lamented my emptiness and unworthiness; which when I saw, it gave me a check for an inward itching after more work, whereby I might have a little more stipend. That work was, I think, to have been a catechist in Dunse, the encouragement £100 Scots. I had such an offer, and refused it; yet since that time I had such an itch after it. Last night in reading the latter part of John vi. the Lord held His candle before me, helping me to understand it. This night having consulted some books, and my own heart, on the sinfulness of man’s natural state, to see what further of that subject remained to be handled, there occurred only man’s death in sin, to which I was determined accordingly. On the Saturday I studied it, but not with my former assistance: but, after having prayed, and found it to be owing to that I was not so much emptied of myself as before, reckoning the subject more easy, I recovered the divine aid, in meditating afterward on what I had prepared” (109-110).

“17th December. . . That night I began the catechising of the servant; the which part of family duty I continued in my family on the Sabbath nights, till of late years my strength decaying, I almost confined it to the time of the year wherein we have but one sermon.

On the morrow I visited the sick, and spent the afternoon in catechising, and found great ignorance prevailing. On the Tuesday, visiting a sick woman grossly ignorant, after I had laid out before her her wretched state by nature, she told me she had believed all her days. I thereupon sat as astonished for a while, lifted up my eyes to the Lord, and addressed myself to her again for her conviction; howbeit nothing but stupidity appeared. Therefore I saw I had enough ado among my handful. I had another diet of catechising on Wednesday afternoon; and looking to the Lord for help, I got it: and I had some more comfort in them than before. Having inculcated almost on each of them their wretched state by nature, and they frequently attending the means of instruction, there were but few examined that day who did not shew some knowledge of that point. But the discovery I had made of their ignorance of God and of themselves, made me the more satisfied with the smallness of the charge”(111-114).

“Saturday the 23rd… On the morrow, being the Lord’s day, after prayer in the morning I had given way to some worldly thoughts, which were indeed occasioned by something that concerned my conscience; yet my heart soon went without bounds: so that though a desire to be near Christ remained in me, yet I found an averseness to duty even in the very time of duty. Entering on the public work, my prayer was according to my frame, complaining of a body of death, and an ugly heart, and admiring heaven as a place of rest from sin. I preached that day man’s ignorance of his wretched state by nature; and was sure that God called me to preach it, by the voice of the people’s necessity, two of whom had told me expressly that week, they had believed all their days. That night I altered the evening-exercise, from explaining a question sermon-wise, to catechising, as more fit to profit the people: and to this I had been determined after seeking a discovery of the Lord’s mind therein” (114).


“[15th January] I endeavoured on the Monday, not without some success, to keep my heart in a heavenly disposition; spent the morning in my chamber, the forenoon in catechising, the afternoon in business, and visiting a sick man at night, with help from the Lord. Thereafter earnestly plying my books, I found my heart much bettered, my confidence in the Lord more strengthened, the world less valuable in my eyes, and my soul free of the temptations that otherwise I was liable to” (120).


“As for the subject of baptism; after I was settled among the people of Simprin, and had entered closely on my work, finding some of them grossly ignorant, and hardly teachable in the ordinary way, and casting in my mind what course to take with such, I drew up in writing a little form of catechising in the fundamentals, in short questions and answers, on design to teach it them privately in my house. I do not well remember the progress of that affair; nor do I well know where these questions are; but afterward I used the same, in the case of my little children, in the first place, when they became capable of instruction. Among other such grossly ignorant, there was one, who desiring his child to be baptized, I could not have freedom to grant his desire for some time: neither am I clear, whether, when the child was baptized, it was baptized on a satisfying account of the fundamental principles from him or his wife. Whatever had laid the foundation of such scrupling, I was, by means of such straitening in practice, brought closely to consider that point. And having purposely studied the question, Who have right to baptism, and are to be baptized? I wrote my thoughts thereon also. And being one day in conversation on that head with Mr. William Bird, dissenting minister in Barmoor in England, he presented to me Fulwood’s Discourse of the Visible Church, for clearing me. Bringing home the said book with me, I considered it, and wrote also some animadversions on a part of it. From that time I had little fondness for national churches strictly and properly so called, as of equal latitude with the nations, and wished for an amendment of the constitution of our own church, as to the membership thereof” (171-172).

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