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tery, with approbation; and thereupon they set him apart to the office of the holy ministry, in the collegiate charge of Dunfermline, on August 7th, 1711.
Under the character of a minister of the Gospel, having now a pastoral relation to a particular flock, in the church universal, he determined not to “know anything save Jesus Christ and him crucified :" he was “instant in season and out of season,” in all parts of his ministerial labors, and gave himself wholly thereunto; exhorting the people under his trust, from house to house, in the way
of family visitation, examining them more publicly upon the principles of our holy religion ; visiting the sick when called ; and preaching the everlasting Gospel, in which he had a very pleasant and edifying gift. He preached by turns, with his colleague, every Sabbath and Thursday, through the year: and afterwards, when he had none, for several years before his death, he officiated alone, very punctually, both on Sabbath and week day.
He delivered few extemporary productions. His sermons were generally the fruit of diligent study and assiduous application. For the most part he wrote all; and kept very close by his notes in the delivery, except when the Lord was pleased to carry in upon his mind, in time of preaching, some pat and apposite enlargements, whereof he had no previous study, and to which he nevertheless cheerfully gave way, as coming from Him, who has “the tongue of the learned ;" who knows how to speak “a word in season to him that is weary;" and who says, “ It shall be given you the same hour what ye shall speak; for it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you.” He was blessed with a rich and fertile invention, as appears in the agreeable and entertaining diversity, wherewith his heads of doctrine are everywhere adorned. The poetical genius with which he was happily endowed, contributed not a little to the embellishment of his discourses, with a variety of pertinent epithets and striking metaphors.
His gift of preaching was both instructing and searching. Few outshone him in the nervous and convincing manner, whereby he confirmed the truth of the doctrines he insisted on; and fewer still in the warm and pathetic address, in which he enforced the practice of them.
He peculiarly excelled in the ample and free offers of Christ he made to his hearers; and the captivating and alluring methods he used, for gaining their compliance, or their receiving and resting on Christ alone for their salvation, as thus freely and fully exhibited unto them in the Gospel. On all which accounts he was justly esteemed, and much followed, as one of the most popular and edifying preachers of his day. During his time, sacramental solemnities, at Dunfermline, were very much crowded; numbers of people, from several parts of the kingdom, resorting unto them: and the Lord was pleased to countenance some of these communions, with signal evidences of his gracious presence and influence, to the sweet and comfortable experience of many.
It will easily appear to the judicious and experienced reader, in perusing his writings, that he had as dexterous a faculty in ransacking the plagues of the heart, and describing the diversified circumstances of serious and exercised souls, as if they had fully communicated their several doubts and cases unto him ; while, in the mean. time, he was only unfolding the inward experience of his own soul, what he himself felt of the workings of unbelief, and of the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit, in opposition thereunto ; which could not but quadrate or agree with the operations of the selfsame Spirit of God in others; for, “as in water, face answereth to face, so doth the heart of man to man.”
This eminent servant of Jesus Christ, being exercised to godliness from his youth, became, by the grace of God, a “scribe instructed unto the kingdom of heaven," whom our Lord compares to “an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure, things new and old.” Old invariable truths, but new illustrations of them; old experiences, the same with other saints before, but new observations and improvements upon them: so that, with abundance of propriety, it may be said, that there are few perplexing doubts, or intricate cases, which the saints have at any time been exercised with, that are
not in some one or other of his sermons, very judiciously solved and distinctly elucidated or cleared up.
During our author's lifetime, and at the importunity of many of his acquaintances, both ministers and people, he published a great number of his sermons, on the most interesting subjects, which were well relished by the truly godly, and had their praises in the churches of Christ, both at home and abroad. These, with several others, transcribed from his notes, were first collected together, after his death, and published along with his poems, in two large volumes in folio, in the years 1764 and 1765, printed in an elegant manner; and, since that time, reprinted in ten large volumes octavo, for the more conveniency of readers and purchasers, with considerable additions and amendments.
* That eminent divine, the late Rev. Dr. BRADBURY, in his preface to a collection of some of Mr. Erskine's Sermons, printed at London, in 1738, expresses himself in the following manner : “ These Sermons,' saith he," have no need of my recommendation : the reader will find in them a faithful adherence to the design of the gospel, a clear defence of those doctrines that are the pillar and ground of truth, a large compass of thought, a strong force of argument, and a happy flow of words, which are both judicious and familiar; and they have been greatly blessed to the edification of many, especially the poor of the flock.”
The words of the late justly celebrated and pious Mr. Hervey are very significant, and truly expressive of the high esteem he had for Mr. ERSKINE's works." Was I to read with a single view to We cannot dismiss this account of our author, without taking notice of another particular concerning him, which constitutes a very material branch of his character. He was not only deservedly esteemed, as a judicious divine, but also much respected as a good PoET: and he hath favored the world with several excellent productions of that nature, which have all met with a very favorable reception. His poetical talent was employed chiefly on divine subjects; he had no relish and taste for and other. In his younger years, at his leisure hours, he composed the following piece, which is now entitled Gospel Sonnets: or, Spiritual Songs, in six parts. The usefulness of this poetical compend of the revealed principles of our holy religion, for promoting the life of faith, comfort, and holiness, will be experienced, it is hoped, by many of the saints of God, to the latest posterity. This piece was so well relished, that it hath undergone a multitude of impressions; and the demand for it is as great as ever.
About the year 1738, he emitted into the world his poetical paraphrase upon the whole book of the Song OF Solomon; which, indeed, is an evangelical comment, done in a strain adapted to the New Testament dispensation, upon that allegorical or figurative part of holy
the edification of my heart, in true faith, solid comfort, and evangelical holiness, I would have recourse to Mr. ERSKINE, and take his volumes for my guide, my companion, and my own familiar friend."