« AnteriorContinuar »
parish of Largo, Fifeshire. But though appearances here sometimes seemed to warrant hope, it became ere long, too evident that his strength was greatly diminished; while every symptom of decline rapidly augmented. From the time that his disorder took a turn so decidedly unfavourable, he had a strong desire to return home; which grew as he felt his weakness increase. In compliance with this desire they set out, hoping to accomplish their journey by short and easy stages; and on their way, stopped a few days at Dairsie, to enjoy the society of his worthy father and mother-in-law. Though, during this time, his symptoms were not mitigated, yet the near approach of death was not apprehended. In order to reach home, therefore, while he had still some strength to travel, they again set out. In the first part of the way to Dundee, he was remarkably easy; but at landing from the boat, in which he had crossed the Tay, his strength almost entirely failed; and he was with difficulty supported, till a chair was procured to convey him to the house of
friend. After this, his breathing became more and more dif ficult; and the sweat, which stood constantly on his face, indicated the struggle that nature underwent, Next morning, however, though after a very distressing night, he arose considerably easier; and, after some hesitation, they proceeded on their journey. All the way to Forfar, his ease and spirits as tonished his companions: and he repeatedly expressed his satisfaction at the prospect of so soon getting home. He had stopped, however, but a very little while, at the hospitable Mansion of the Rev. Mr. Bruce, when it became evident to all about him that the streams of life were running low indeed. During the journey of this day, as of the preceding, the motion of the carriage, by assisting the circulation, gave him, while on the road, additional strength and spirits: but so soon as that sti mulus was removed, both proportionally sunk. And at Forfar, a little before six of the following morning, being that of the 18th of June 1803, it was the will of the Sovereign Disposer of events, to call this faithful servant to his crown, in the 32d year of his age, and the 5th of his ministry.
The manner in which his season of health was occupied, has been noticed. To the above account of his decline, it will be gratifying to the pious reader, that there be subjoined a short sketch of his temper and deportment, during that period of trial. In it, that patient and cheerful submission to the divine will, which it is so difficult to exercise in any painful situation, and which it is so much more difficult to preserve through a long continued distress, eminently distinguished him. Throughout the whole, he was never known to use the language of complaint, may scarcely to express a sense of suffering. Though frequently engaged in prayer, he was never heard, but once, to offer a petition for recovery; a circumstance the more remarkable, that, even previously to his being laid aside from public duty, he was himself of opinion that his situation
was dangerous. Nor did he ever express in any form, a desire on the subject, farther than once to say, that he could have wished to have lived more than four or five years, (alluding to the period of his ministry,) to some good purpose. What he at first felt most severely was his being incapacitated for his master's public service. The ringing of the bells for public worship seldom failed to bring tears to his eyes, accompanied by the remark that God had seen meet to lay him aside from his duty and his privilege at once. Yet he expressed, at the same time, the firmest conviction that his situation was that, which was most for his real advantage. As he told a beloved friend, he reckoned his distress the best dispensation with which he had ever met, and one of his greatest mercies. In this view, indeed, he often rejoiced in it, exclaiming, “What a delightful truth-The Lord reigns! I wonder that I cannot "always rejoice, seeing it is so." As his disease advanced, he found another thought, for some time, hard to bear; that of leaving his affectionate and delicate partner, the mother of an orphan child, and pregnant with another. It seemed, indeed, to be almost the only subject, on which the uncommon tranquillity of his soul was liable to be disturbed. Towards the close of his distress, however, he was enabled to rise above his anxieties, even respecting this, and with much composure and satisfaction, to commend her and his offspring to the protection of heaven.-Throughout his distress, that affection to his flock, which formed a leading principle in his character, was displayed in the liveliest manner. Their esteem and good will, he had reason to believe, he had possessed, from the commencement of his connexion with them. But during his distress, it was more strongly manifested than ever. And the many proofs of their love, in their earnest prayers for his recovery, and various kind attentions, frequently overcame him even to tears, and excited a gratitude too warm for his feeble frame to bear. "Poor unworthy creature that I am!" he would say, "How
is it that I excite such concern, and interest so many hearts? "Alas, I never did any thing but barely my duty among
them. Yet I hope it is a token that my coming among them "has not been wholly in vain." It was this affection for his flock, which made him wish so anxiously to get home, that he might spend among them his departing hours. To such of them as he might be able to see and to address, he hoped it would be useful, to hear his dying confirmation of the truths which he had formerly inculcated; and that the report of it might serve to awaken, or to fix the attention of others. And though in this wish it pleased Providence to disappoint him, yet the object, it is to be hoped, has not been wholly lost. His people, indeed, kept their hold of his heart to the very verge of eternity. The last sentences, save one, which he uttered on earth, after commending to God his beloved wife and child, were
these" And my dear flock-I say my dear flock-let my bless"ing be given to my dear flock! I leave them also upon God."
The entire tranquillity and composure of mind, which, as has been already hinted, he displayed, through his whole distress, with respect to every thing that concerned himself, gave a happy presage of a comfortable approach to eternity, and of a peaceful dying scene. Nor did that presage fail.-From his dislike of ostentation, he seldom said much; but what he did say, was expressive of a mind at rest in the Redeemer's hands, formed to complete satisfaction with the divine appointments, and looking forward to death and to the state beyond it, with joy and hope. Thus, when endeavouring to moderate the anxiety of his affectionate spouse, respecting his recovery, he was enabled to add: "I have no anxiety about it. I know that "whether I live, I live unto the Lord; or whether I die, I die unto the Lord. Living or dying, I hope to be the Lord's: "and why should I be anxious?" When expressing to her mother his concern on account of the affliction, which he knew that his death would bring upon her, he continued: "as to me, "I know into whose hands I have been enabled to commit myself, and that I am safe."-On the last Lord's day which he spent in this world, he was much engaged, when his strength permitted, in conversation about the heavenly state. He dwelt particularly on this, that, though we know but little of it or its occupations, yet the presence and enjoyment of the Saviour would surely be enough to form the completest happiness. A view, in which he delighted to contemplate it, was that of a perfect rest from sin; of which his abhorrence became every hour more strong, and his desire to be wholly freed from its influence more ardent.—Within little more than an hour of his departure, after a conversation with Mrs. Coutts, in which he had expressed, in a manner that he had never used before, his sense of pain and danger, while at the same time, he had discovered the most recollected attention to his concerns, as a husband and a father, she mentioned her hope that his mind was perfectly composed in the prospect of eternity. He replied, with emphasis, "perfectly composed." "Your reli"ance," she rejoined, "I know, is upon that gracious Sa"viour, whose finished work is all our hope," He raised himself in the bed, and with a clear voice, and the most perfect distinctness of manner, looking upwards, replied, "He is all "my hope, and all my joy; all my salvation, and all my de"sire; without his presence heaven would be no heaven to me; "it would be destitute of sweets, and its fruits would have no "flavour." He stopped a little for breath, and proceeded: "He is my wisdom, my righteousness, my sanctification, and "complete redemption !" And when she answered, that her soul rejoiced (as it had good cause) on his account, he expressed his lively hope, that he was now "just about to get an “ abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of his Lord
"and Saviour."-Not long after this, he uttered the last sentences, already mentioned, save one, which he spake on earth. The last itself was expressed in the Psalmist's emphatic language, "When I walk through the valley of the shadow of "death, I will fear no evil, for God is with me." Soon after, having gently uttered his last expression of tenderness to his beloved partner, as his cold hand pressed hers, he breathed his spirit, without a struggle or a groan, into the Saviour's hands.
And what christian, on reviewing this scene, of which these are but a few particulars, will not be ready to exclaim, “ Let દ me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like "his!" Nay, what mortal, however profligate or irreligious, if he will allow himself a moment's serious thought, but must feel how desirable, how inestimable a privilege it is, to meet death with such perfect superiority to all the fears of nature-with such assured and triumphant hope? Let it teach all the value of Jesus, and of his gospel. For solely on the finished work of Jesus Christ, and on the promises of the gospel, the hope and confidence which have been described, were founded.
Did we dare to question the proceedings of Providence, we might be ready to exclaim: But why was a pastor so beloved, so diligent, and so likely to be farther useful, so soon cut off? This consideration suggested the choice of the sermons on Providence, as the fittest to commence the following volume. To these, the editor thought that the sermons on Christian rejoicing formed a proper sequel; as shewing that the privilege and duty of believers is not confined merely to submission and acquiescence, but extends to joy and thanksgiving, in every variety of condition. These naturally led to the discourse on the power of Christ to protect and bless; as more fully illustrative of the great foundation of a christian's joys. Of the other discourses, it was judged proper to insert that preached by Mr. Coutts, on the sabbath after his ordination, both as a discourse on which he had bestowed considerable pains, and as exhibiting a just view of those principles, relative to the chief duties of the ministerial office, which it was the study of his after-life to exemplify. All the remaining sermons, the two last excepted, were preached at the several celebrations of the Lord's Supper, which occurred during his ministry. They had been transcribed by himself, from the first copies, into one volume: and it was originally intended by all concerned in the publication, that the whole of these should be comprehended in the present volume. As the printing of the sermons advanced, however, it was found that the volume would hardly afford room to contain them all : and his friends conceived that it would afford a fairer specimen of his preaching, and be more agreeable to most of the subscribers, that some of his ordinary practical discourses should also be inserted, than that so large a portion of the book should consist only of discourses on certain particular occasions. For these reasons, the discourses on Self-denial were sent to the
press, instead of the remaining sacramental exercises. The editor, however, much regrets his being thus obliged to omit these. One of them, from Eph. ii. 18. contains one of the fullest and most distinct popular expositions of the doctrine of the Trinity, with the clearest and most comprehensive practical application of it, that he remembers to have met with. Other two, on Heb. xi. 13. abound in admirable views of human life; of the character and sentiments of true christians. Besides these, there are several more which were judged fit for publication, and which are well worthy of attention.
In these sermons, the author will be found a strenuous advocate of that system of doctrine, which is usually denominated Calvinistic: yet there was a time when he 'maintained very different notions. The editor thinks it proper to mention this, both that he may protect his friend from the charge of inconsistency, which some, who knew him only in the early stage of his studies, may be apt to bring against him; and that he may point out the very useful lesson suggested by the history of his change of opinion. On his first entrance into theological study, he fell into a snare, to which young men of talents are peculiarly exposed. The affectation of singularity; the desire of appearing superior to the prejudices of education; the assertion of their right to think for themselves, often lead them to broach, or to adopt opinions, merely because they are new; because they startle sober reasoners; and because they afford an opportunity for the display of ingenuity, in the novel arguments by which they are supported. These dangerous principles had just begun to exert their influence on the mind of Mr. Coutts, when he was offered, and accepted the situation of companion and secretary to Sir Richard Johnson, Bart. Yorkshire; and in that capacity spent three and an half years in England. He was thus at once cut off from the company and the books which had contributed to ensnare him. For some time, the almost only book of divinity, to which he had access, was his bible. Resorting to this in solitude, and at a distance from the influence which had prevented due attention to its dictates, he reflected that, if the religion of the scriptures came from God, the scriptures themselves must be the best expositor of its truths; that, in interpreting the scriptures, it is to use an unwarrantable freedom with inspiration; and, in a christian divine, is absolutely irrational, first to form our system of theology, and then to attempt the reduction of their language to a conformity with this; and that it was but treating their language with due respect, to interpret it in its plain and obvious sense, as ascertained by the rules of criticism and interpretation, adopted in all other cases. Proceeding on these principles, and taking his religion from the bible alone, he quickly discovered the unscriptural character, and, of course, the presumption and the falsehood of many opinions, for which he had once argued