« הקודםהמשך »
gers, and had occasion to observe many striking instances, in which the most seasonable relief was unexpectedly administered. The manner of his departure was singularly edifying. Being seized with a fever, and aware that his end was approaching, he called for his children, and addressed them with an air of heavenly authority. Of nine that were then living, six were present. As a dying man, and a dying father, he bore his testimony to the superior excellence of the ways of God; told them that the advantages of serious religion infinitely outweigh all the difficulties that can possibly attend it; assured them that as he had never repented, so more especially then, he did not repent of any hardships he had endured in his Master's service, and expressed his full persuasion that he was going to the kingdom of heaven, and that if they were followers of his faith and patience, he and they should ere long have a joyful meeting there. After this, in the most solemn and impressive manner, he charged and engaged them, one by one, to be faithful servants to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and his own God in Christ, and to keep his way, as ever they would look him in the face in the great day of judgment. And, in fine, having blessed them, and committed his beloved wife and them to the care of Providence, he commended his spirit into the hands of his redeeming God and Father. He was interred in the church-yard of Chirnside; and a Latin epitaph, with a translation subjoined, composed by the Rev. John Dysert of Coldingham, representing chiefly the incorruptible integrity and unshaken resolution which adorned his character, was engraven on his tombstone. The stone was renewed by his sons, Ebenezer and Ralph, when they made a visit to that part of the country, upwards of thirty or forty years after their father's death. A few years ago, too, an estimable inhabitant of Chirnside, observing that this stone was greatly defaced, much to his credit, put himself to the trouble of repairing it. It will gratify the pious reader also to learn, that, in consequence of the laudable exertions of the same individual, and a few others, both of the clergy and laity, an elegant monument, about twenty feet high, closely adjoining the original stone, and bearing an appropriate inscription, has been erected by subscription this same year 1825, to the memory of the Rev. Henry Erskine, as a venerable sufferer in the cause of truth.
Mr. Ebenezer's mother, MARGARET Halcro, a native of Ork. ney, was not unworthy of such a husband. According to communications lately received by one of her descendants from Robert Nicolson, Esq., Kirkwall, it appears that she was a greatgrand-daughter of Harry Halcro, of that ilk, and Lady Barbara Stewart, that Harry Halcro was a lineal descendant of Halcro, Prince of Denmark; and that Lady Barbara was the youngest daughter of Robert, Earl of Orkney, son of James V. But Margaret Halcro possessed a far higher distinction than the blood of nobles or kings can impart-sincere and decided piety. The Certificate she received at the time of her leaving Orkney, an exact copy of which has been found in one of Mr. Ralph Er
skine's manuscripts, is much to her credit.* Amidst the many privations and distresses to which she and her large family, along with her conscientious husband, were subjected,
during the unhappy reigns of Charles II. and his brother James II., she adorned her profession by Christian magnanimity and patience. The evening of her life was spent chiefly at Portmoak, where she experienced from Ebenezer and his amiable partner every kind attention that could flow from the purest gratitude and the most affectionate reverence. · Having survived her husband nearly thirty years, she died there with a hope “full of immortality, January 14th, 1725, in the seventy-eighth year of her age. Mer remains were deposited in the chapel ground of Scotlandwell, a village in the parish of Portmoak, where a suitable Latin inscription, somewhat defaced, is still to be seen on a stone, which her sons Ebenezer and Ralph erected in memory of a valuable and much loved mother
Mr. Erskine of Chirnside, was twice married; and, by each of his partners he had several children. To the first family belonged Philip, who, having conformed to the Church of England, became Rector of Knaresdale in the county of Northumberland: Also, a daughter, who was born in the year 1653, gave her hand to a Mr. Balderston of Edinburgh, and died at an advanced age, October 19th, 1738. The Rev. Mr. Boston makes frequent mention in his Memoirs, of this Mrs, Balderston, as an eminent Christian and esteemed friend, whose prayers on his behalf he particularly requested. The eldest of the second family, (viz. Margaret Halcro's,) of whom we have any account, was Henry, a student of Medicine, who died at Chirnside, the 9th July, 1696, in the twentieth year of his age, and exactly a month before his father.
EBENEZER ERSKINE, the proper subject of this Memoir, was born on the 22nd of June, 1680, nearly five years before his brother Ralph. The place of his birth was probably Dryburgh; where the part of the house which was occupied by his father and
* It is expressed in the following terms:
“At the Kirk of Evie, May 27, 1666. “To all and sundry into whose hands these presents shall come, be it known that the bearer hereof, Margaret Halcro, lawful daughter to the deceased Hugh Halcro, in the isle of Weir, and Margaret Stewart his spouse, hath lived in the parish of Evie from her infancy, in good fame and report; is a discreet, godly young woman, and, to our certain knowledge, free of all scandal, reproach, or blame. As, also, that she is descended, of her father, of the house of Halcro, which is a very ancient and honourable family in the Orkneys—the noble and potent Earl of Early and Lairds of Dun in Angus; and by her mother, of the Laird of Burscobe in Galloway. In witness whereof, we, the Minister and Clerk, have subscribed these presents at Evie, day, month, year of God, and place foresaid, and give way to all other noblemen, gentlemen, and ministers, to do the same.
MR. MORISON, Minister of Evie,
family is said to be still industriously preserved by the present Lord Buchan, as a relic and memorial of them. The name EbeNEZER is understood to have been given to him by his parents, in testimony of their fervent gratitude to that God, whose goodness and mercy bad followed them amidst all their hardships and difficulties, and constrained them to set up a pillar of remembrance, saying, “ Hitherto hath the Lord helped us."
The particulars of Ebenezer's early life are now almost wholly unknown. During his first sixteen years, he enjoyed the united advantages of a father's guardianship and a mother's care; and by the Divine blessing on parental instruction and example, he seems to have devoted his youth to the fear and service of God. Having learned the elements of literature at Chirnside, under the immediate superintendence of his father, he prosecuted his studies at the University of Edinburgh, where he received a regular education for the sacred office. For some time, he was chaplain and tutor in the house of the Earl of Rothes, at Leslie. Providence having thus cast his lot within the bounds of the Presbytery of Kirkaldy, he applied to that Presbytery for license; and, accordingly, after he had passed through the usual course of exercises for trial, they licensed him to preach the gospel, probably in the year 1702.
One considerable memorial of Ebenezer's youthful piety and diligence is furnished by a large Note-book, written in the years 1699, 1700, 1701, 1702,-at this moment in our hands. It contains “ Some memorable passages in Church history,” and copious extracts from various theological works he had been perusing; as Charnock's Discourses, Ferguson on the Sufferings of Christ, Wilkin's Gift of Prayer, Polhill's Speculum Theologiæ, and other writers. A great part of the book too, is occupied by notes of Sermons, which, during those years, he had heard delivered from the pulpit by esteemed clergymen of that age, as the Rev. Messrs. Alexander Cowper,
James Webster, George Hamilton, John Moncrieff, John Shaw, George Gillespie, and others.
The excellent character and useful discourses of this young Preacher soon recommended him to public notice. On the 26th of May, 1703, he received a unanimous call to the parish of Portmoak, to succeed the Rev. John Wilson, who had been translated to Kirkaldy: and having given ample satisfaction with regard to his qualifications for the Christian ministry, he was ordained at Portmoak, in the month of September, that year, by the same Presbytery to which he had formerly been indebted for license.
Portmoak is a sequestered village, pleasantly situated at the bottom of the west end of the Lomond-hills, and on the banks of Loch Leven,-commanding a prospect of the whole lake, including the Castle where the unfortunate Mary, Queen of Scots, was confined. In this retired spot, Mr. Erskine entered on his parochial duties with activity and zeal, and at the same time enjoyed, at the commencement of his ministry, choice opportunities
for devotion and mental improvement, which laid the foundation of his future eminence and usefulness.
Anxious to acquire accurate and extensive views of the truth, he spent a great proportion of his time in study, where he perused with delight the oracles of God, and some of the best writers on theology, as Turretine, Witsius, Owen, and others. He was not insensible, at the same time, to the advantages that may be derived from frequent and familiar conversation on religious topics, with persons of intelligence and piety. For some time after his ordination, his views of divine truth, it is said, in common with those of a considerable number of pious ministers of the Church of Scotland at that period, were not quite clear and correct, but consisted of a confused mixture of legal and evangelical doctrine. It pleased God, however, to give him more enlightened and satisfactory conceptions, and to bless, for that purpose, the interviews he had with his brother Ralph and others. Nay, according to his own ingenuous acknowledgments to bis children and friends, he was more deeply indebted to no one, as an instrument of enabling him to understand “the way of God more perfectly," than to his partner, Alison
TURPIE, daughter of Mr. Alexander Turpie, writer in Leven, Fifeshire, a young lady of engaging dispositions and undissembled piety, whom he married on the 2d of February, 1704. A confidential conversation, which he accidentally overheard between her and Ralph, on the subject of their religious experience, is thought to have signally contributed towards the happy change that took place in Ebenezer's sentiments and impressions with relation to the gospel. Whilst they were opening their minds to each other without reserve, in a bower in his garden immediately beneath the window of his study, which then happened to be open, he listened with great eagerness to their interesting communications. Their views and feelings appeared so different from his own, that he instantly felt himself obliged to conclude that they possessed valuable attainments, to which he was a stranger, and the impression seems to have remained, till, with regard to vital and evangelical Christianity, he became not merely almost, but altogether, such as they were.*
Mr. Erskine was not only a conscientious student, but a faithful preacher of the gospel. Besides the usual services of the Sabbath, conformably to the practice of some of his brethren in those days, he established a weekly lecture on the Thursday. In all his discourses, particularly after undergoing that essential improvement in his views and experience, to which we have just adverted, his constant object was to exhibit and recommend the Redeemer in his person, offices, salvation, and grace, and to persuade his hearers to place their entire dependence upon Him, as at once their righteousness and strength. The advances he was enabled to make in knowledge and in grace produced a happy effect, even upon his manner of delivering his discourses.
• See the Memoir of Mr. Ebenezer Erskine, contained in GOSPEL TRUTH, by the Rev. John Brown, of Whitburn.
For a few years after the commencement of his ministry, he felt considerable difficulty in public speaking, and was accustomed to fix his eyes on a certain spot of the wall opposite to the pulpit, from which he could not venture to move them without the imminent hazard of losing the command of his ideas. But, afterwards, he became a most undaunted speaker, was fully master of his mind and his voice, looked around on his audience with a dignified, yet pleasant and engaging aspect, and commanded a deep and universal attention.
The large Note-book mentioned above, besides the materials formerly specified, contains a Diary which Mr. Erskine began in November, 1707, and continued for the space of about twenty years. Owing, in a great degree, to the circumstance that it is written in short-hand, according to a rude and antiquated system of stenography, this treasure has long been neglected as a sealed book. But the characters having been lately deciphered, it is found to consist chiefly of a register of the Author's own varied feelings and exercises as a Christian, including occasional notices of the measure of liberty and success with which he was helped to perform his official duties. The unhappy dulness of frame he sometimes felt, gave occasion for humbling confessions of his own unworthiness and weakness; but the freedom and boldness he often experienced in the pulpit, with the salutary effects that the precious doctrines of the gospel seemed to produce on himself and his hearers, supplied matter of devout acknowledgments to that God whom he served. To gratify the pious reader, it may be proper to give the following specimen of these grateful reflections. It was written on the evening of a Sabbath which had been comfortably spent, a few months after the death of Alison Turpie, that excellent woman, whose character has just been noticed.
“Anno 1721, Jan. 1st, being Sabbath evening.-- This day I have been about my Master's work. I lectured on Canticles vi. from verse 4th; · Thou art beautiful, O my love, as Tirza, comely as Jerusalem, and terrible as an army with banners. I designed to have insisted on some of the verses following, but this one verse took up the whole of the time. And what the Lord helped to say was sweet and savoury; particularly, in answering these five questions from the latter part of the verse. 1st. Why the Church of God is compared to an army? 2dly. Who is the Captain-general of the army? 3dly. Who are the soldiers of the army, and wherein lies their excellency? 4thly. What is the banner, and why banners in the plural? 5thly. What is it that makes the Church of God terrible as an army with banners?
After lecture, I preached upon Isaiah xxvi. 19, particularly on the middle part of the verse; ' Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust.' The doctrine I insisted on was, that the resurrection of the saints will be a time of great joy and singing: Where I took occasion to handle these three Questions. 1st. Who will be the singers at that day? 2dly. What will be their songs? 3dly. After what manner will they sing? The Lord made what was delivered on these heads sweet. He helped to speak, and I hope