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REV. ANDREW-THOMSON.D.D. 






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PRINCETON, N. J. 



BX 9225 .B6 T50 

Thomson, Andrew, 1814-1901. 

Thomas Boston of Ettrick 



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PORTRAIT OF THOMAS BOSTON. 



THOMAS BOSTON 

OF ETTRICK: HIS 
LIFE AND TIMES 



REV. ANDREW THOMSON, D.D., F.R.S.E., 
Minister of Broughton Place Church, Edinburgh 

AUTHOR OF "SAMUEL Rl'THERFORD," " IN THE HOLY LAND," 

" LIFE OF PRINCIPAL HARPER, D.U." 

&C. &C. 




T. NELSON A N D SONS 
Lctuioi, Edinburgh, and New York 

1895 



PREFACE. 



T ~K J"E shall not be charged with superfluous authorship 
* ^ in having written the following Memoir of Mr. 
Boston of Ettrick. Nearly a century and a half has 
elapsed since the death of that remarkable man, and any- 
thing approaching to a complete biography of him has up 
to this time remained to be written. 

Brief narratives regarding some of the salient points in 
his life, and estimates of his character, have indeed ap- 
peared at intervals, usually attached to some of his works 
when they were republished ; but we are not aware of any 
book which, beginning with his early youth, and giving 
ample space to family incidents, has traced the story of his 
life through all its changeful periods — described his con- 
flicts with surrounding errors, his influence on the condi- 
tion of the church and the religious thought of his times 
■ — producing, in fact, what we mean by a biography. 

No doubt we have Mr. Boston's diary, which was written 
by him for his family and published soon after his death, and 
must be invaluable to any biographer; but even it contains 
many gaps which need to be filled up from other sources ; 
and besides this, it would not serve the ends of biography 
to be always looking at the subject of it through his eyes. 



vi PREFACE. 

We have endeavoured, in the following pages, to include in 
our narrative the whole range of his life and ministry ; 
with what measure of success it will be for the intelligent 
and candid reader to judge. 

Even in so brief a preface as this, we cannot refrain 
from mentioning the names of friends to whom we are 
conscious of owing a debt of gratitude for kindly advice 
and cheering encouragement in connection with the writing 
of this memoir. We owe a warm tribute of thanks to the 
Rev. John Lawson of Selkirk, who guided us for several 
days amid the classic scenes of Ettrick and Yarrow, and 
showed us sacred spots that were linked with the honoured 
name of the author of the "Fourfold State;" and to Mrs. 
Dr. Smith of Biggar, who possesses, and kindly allowed us 
to photograph a portion of, the original manuscript of that 
work. We have also to thank our long-tried friend and 
fellow-labourer in the gospel, Dr. Blair of Dunblane, who 
was in full sympathy with us in our veneration for Mr. 
Boston, and ever ready with friendly advice and suggestion 
out of his well-stored mind. Nor can we omit to mention 
the name of W. White-Millar, Esq., S.S.C., the cherished 
friend of a long life, who grudged neither time nor trouble- 
in procuring for us desired information on the subjects of 
our narrative, and in this way, as well as by his cheerful 
countenance, turned our labour into a pleasure. And 
not least do we place on grateful record our deep sense of 
the spiritual benefit we have derived from the study, for so 
many months, of the life and character of a man of the 
true apostolic stamp, who would have been justly regarded 
as a star of the first magnitude, an ornament to the Chris- 
tian Church even in the brightest and purest periods of 
its history. 



CONTEN T S, 



I. INTRODUCTORY, 
II. FROM BIRTH TO EARLY MANHOOD, ... 

III. STUDENT, TUTOR, AND PROBATIONER, 

IV. SIMPRIN — FINDING OF THE " MARROW " — A CALL 

FROM ETTRICK, 
V. FIRST TEN YEARS IN ETTRICK, 
VI. THE " FOURFOLD STATE " — COMMUNION FESTI- 
VALS — A GREAT SORROW, 
VII. HOME LIFE, STUDY, PULPIT, AND PASTORATE, 
VIII. HEBREW STUDIES AND FOREIGN CORRESPOND- 
ENCE, 
IX. GATHERING CLOUDS, 
X. THE "MARROW" CONTROVERSY, 
XI. THE LAST DECADE, 
XII. HOME IN SIGHT, 
XIII. SUPPLEMENTARY, 



33 

56 
95 

134 

151 

i7S 

187 
200 
210 
218 
246 



THOMAS BOSTON OF ETTRICK. 



CHAPTER I. 

INTRODUCTORY. 

IT would be difficult to name a man who has a 
higher claim to an honourable place in the 
Christian biography of Scotland in the eighteenth 
century than Thomas Boston of Ettrick. We deem 
it sufficient of itself to explain and justify this state- 
ment, that he was the author of the " Fourfold 
State." It is a remarkable circumstance that, from 
the days of the Reformation downward, there has 
always been some one book in which the vitalizing 
element has been peculiarly strong, and which God 
has singled out as the instrument of almost in- 
numerable conversions, as well as of quickening and 
deepening the divine life in those who had already 
believed. Luther's " Commentary on Galatians," 
Baxter's " Call to the Unconverted," Bunyan's " Pil- 



10 THOMAS BOSTON. 

grim," Alleine's "Alarm," Doddridge's "Rise and 
Progress," Fuller's " Great Question Answered," 
Wilberforce's " Practical Christianity ; " in France, 
Monod's " Lucille," and in Germany, Arndt's " True 
Christianity," have been among the great life-books 
of their generation ; and we may add with confi- 
dence to this sacred list the "Fourfold State" of 
Boston. 

Within a quarter of a century after its publication 
it had found its way, and was eagerly read and 
pondered, over all the Scottish Lowlands. From 
St. Abb's Head, in all the Border counties, in the 
pastoral regions shadowed by the Lammermoors and 
the Lowthers, to the remotest point in Galloway, 
it was to be seen, side by side with the Bible and 
Bunyan's glorious Dream, on the shelf in every 
peasant's cottage. The shepherd bore it with him, 
folded in his plaid, up among the silent hills. The 
ploughman in the valleys refreshed his spirit with it, 
as with heavenly manna, after his long day of toil. 
The influence which began with the humbler classes 
ascended like a fragrance into the mansions of the 
Lowland laird and the Border chief, and carried with 
it a new and hallowed joy. The effect was like the 
reviving breath of spring upon the frost-bound earth. 
Many a lowly peasant with Boston's " Fourfold 
State," familiar through frequent perusal to his 



INTRODUCTORY. I I 

memory and heart, became an athlete in the discus- 
sion of theological questions, and, like the Border 
wrestlers in an early age, was rarely worsted in a 
conflict. One who lived nearer to Boston's age, and 
was better able to judge, has declared that, over three 
generations, the "Fourfold State" had been the in- 
strument of more numerous conversions and more 
extensive spiritual quickening, in at least one part of 
our island, than any other human production it was 
in his power to specify. 

It would, however, be a mistake to suppose that even 
in our own age this remarkable book had at length 
spent its force, and had become as an old defaced 
golden coin withdrawn from circulation, or as a sword 
that had become rusty and unwieldy, and was trans- 
ferred from the armoury to the museum. In a paper 
of much ability and interest on "Religious Thought in 
Wales," which was not long since read by Principal 
Edwards at a great meeting of the Presbyterian 
Alliance in London, it was stated that if you entered 
the house of a rustic elder or leader of the private 
societies fifty years ago, you would uniformly find 
that he had a small and very select library. Among 
other books you would be sure to lay your hand on 
translations into Welsh of Boston's " Fourfold State," 
Bunyan's " Pilgrim's Progress," Owen on the " Per- 
son of Christ " and on the " Mortification of Sin in 



12 THOMAS BOSTON. 

Believers," and others. It is also true that in our 
British colonies at the present day, especially where 
the Scottish element abounds in the population, the 
"Fourfold State" continues to be sought after and 
read ; and we have received testimony from natives 
that it is extensively sold and circulated on the 
misty coasts of Labrador. It is natural that we 
should wish to know something of the outer and 
inner life of an author whom God has honoured for 
so many generations and in so many lands as the 
instrument of the highest form of blessing. 

It was not only, however, as the author of the 
" Fourfold State," and of other books that are after- 
wards to be named, but as the pastor of Ettrick, that 
the name of Boston long since obtained a secure and 
sacred place in the annals of the Church of Christ 
in Scotland and in the hearts of her people. The 
assertion is not likely to be challenged that, if Scot- 
land had been searched during the earlier part of 
the eighteenth century, there was not a minister of 
Christ within its bounds who, alike in his personal 
character and in the discharge of his pastoral func- 
tions, approached nearer to the apostolic model than 
did this man of God. It is a fact that, even before 
he died, men and children had come to pronounce 
his name with reverence. It had become a syno- 
nym for holy living. Away up among those green 



INTRODUCTORY. 1 3 

hills and limpid streams of Ettrick, he rises before 
our imagination as a man striving daily to lead a 
saintly life, endeavouring by much thought and 
prayer to solve for himself difficult theological prob- 
lems, and doing earnest battle against the profanity, 
impurity, worldliness, and loose notions and practices 
in bargain-making which he found to prevail among 
his parishioners, and to win them to the obedience of 
Christ. He was such a man as might have sat as a 
living model to Baxter when he wrote his " Reformed 
Pastor." We would place him as a companion spirit, 
like-minded and like-gifted, to that " gentle saint of 
Nonconformity," as a pious English bishop has 
recently termed him, Philip Henry of Broad-Oak. 

It must be known to many that Boston wrote 
a "Memoir" of himself, or, more correctly, kept 
a diary, which was principally designed for the 
benefit of his family and " inner friends," after 
he had finished his course. It is a large volume, 
and is invaluable to the biographer both on account 
of the fulness and accuracy of its information, and 
because it introduces us to a knowledge of the 
writer's inward and spiritual life, which, in its degree, 
would have been impossible except in an autobiog- 
raphy. Next to the " Confessions of Saint Augus- 
tine," with their terrible fidelity of self-revelation, it 
would be difficult to name any autobiography, in 



14 THOMAS BOSTON. 

any language, which bears so unmistakably through- 
out the marks of simplicity and truth. In so far as 
self-display or self-laudation are concerned, Boston 
forgets himself even when he is writing of himself. 
In regard to the incidents of his early life and his 
early ministry, and to the experiences of his last 
years, when begun defection in the church drew him 
forth reluctantly into ecclesiastical conflict, and the 
spirit of the martyr showed itself in the good con- 
fessor, the biographer must derive much of his in- 
formation from Boston. 

But it is from the records of his Ettrick life and 
ministry that we gather our most precious stores. 
To the Christian reader there is a sacred and heart- 
stirring interest in marking that abounding and 
ardent prayer which was as the air he breathed ; in 
his practice of seeing God, not only in extraordinary 
providences, but in the common round of daily life; 
and not less in noticing the severity with which he 
searched his heart and judged himself as if he felt 
himself standing in the burning light of divine om- 
niscience, and the sweet tenderness with which he 
ruled his house, and the holy passion with which his 
spirit yearned for the salvation of his children. 
While to the ministers of religion the Ettrick ex- 
periences of Boston, as he himself has described 
them, are full of the most wholesome impulses and 



INTRODUCTORY. 1 5 

suggestive lessons. Alike in his motives and in his 
methods, as he has enabled us to see him, in his 
study, in his pulpit, in his pastoral visits, in his meek 
endurance of opposition, in his perils amid mountain 
mists and flooded mountain torrents, in his watching 
for opportunities of doing good, and carving out 
those opportunities when he did not find them, 
young ministers when entering on the difficulties and 
responsibilities of their sacred office may learn the 
secret of ministerial success, and those who have not 
succeeded may find out, while it is not yet too late, 
the secret of their failure. 

The more we study that grand Ettrick ministry, 
the more deep will become our impression that 
the ideal of a true Christian minister, as traced 
by Cowper in his well-known lines, and by Paul 
himself, was in an extraordinary measure realized 
by this man of God. In later generations Ettrick 
has become classic ground. In the poems of Sir 
Walter Scott and of James Hogg, " the great min- 
strel and the shepherd poet," as Wordsworth has 
happily designated them, every glen and hill and 
stream has been made sacred to literature, and its 
name has been wafted to the ends of the earth. 
But it is to be remembered that two generations 
before these masters in poetry had struck the chords 
of their lyre, Ettrick had already become a house- 



1 6 THOMAS BOSTON. 

hold word in all the cottages and castles of the 
Scottish Lowlands, through its association with the 
name of Boston, who by his writings and his minis- 
try had, in many a parish, turned the wilderness 
into a fruitful field, and guided many a bewildered 
wanderer into the kingdom of God. 



CHAPTER II. 

FROM BIRTH TO EARLY MANHOOD — SCHOOLS 
AND SCHOOLMASTERS. 

THOMAS BOSTON was born on the 17th 
day of March 1676, twelve years before the 
benign Revolution of 1688, which placed William 
of Orange on the British throne, and reinstated the 
Presbyterian Church in its emoluments and privi- 
leges. His birthplace was Duns, an important town 
in Berwickshire, situated on a fine plain to the 
south of Duns Law, which, in spite of broom and 
furze, still retains the vestiges of its occupation by 
General Leslie in the stormy times of Cromwell and 
the Commonwealth. 

This neat Border town has been more than usually 
distinguished as the birthplace of eminent Scotsmen. 
It claims, not without preponderating evidence in 
its favour, to have been the native town of John 
Duns Scotus, some time in the later part of the thir- 
teenth century, who maintained an almost unrivalled 



I 8 THOMAS BOSTON. 

reputation for learning, dialectic subtlety, and elo- 
quence over all Europe, until the scholastic theology 
and philosophy were exploded. It was said of 
him by one of his contemporaries, that "he wrote 
so many books that one man was hardly able to 
read them, and no one man was able to understand 
them." It became the birthplace of Boston in the 
seventeenth century, and, about a hundred years 
afterwards, of Dr. Thomas M'Crie, who did so much 
to enrich the ecclesiastical history of Scotland by his 
lives of Knox and Melville. 

Boston's parents belonged to that humbler middle 
class who have always formed a large part of the 
moral salt of Scotland. Reputable among their 
neighbours, his father, John Boston, was, as his son 
loved to describe him, an intelligent and pious man, 
"having got good of the gospel from his youth;" 
his mother, Alison Trotter, was " a woman prudent 
and virtuous." Thomas, the subject of our narrative, 
was the youngest of seven children. 

During the interval of twelve years between the 
birth of Thomas and the enlargement and liberty 
which came with the Revolution, both parents, who 
refused to bend to prelatic authority, and preferred 
peace of conscience to outward ease and the pleas- 
ing of men, were made to suffer severely for their 
Nonconformity. For this offence alone the father 



HIS PARENTS. 1 9 

was cast into prison. It is the earliest reminiscence 
of the boy that he was taken into prison with the 
father to relieve his loneliness. The experience left 
a deep mark on the child's memory, and he often 
rejoiced, in his mature years, that he had thus been 
honoured to have fellowship with his father in his 
sufferings. One is reminded of something kindred 
in experience to this in the history of another Non- 
conformist family. The father of that Isaac Watts 
who, by his hymns, was destined to make all the 
churches and all succeeding generations his debtor, 
was also a Nonconformist, and lay in prison for his 
Nonconformity at the time when the future hymn- 
writer was born. The little Isaac was carried from 
day to day, in his mother's arms, to the prison gate, 
near to which she would sit for hours on a large 
stone nursing her infant ; for she knew that the 
innocent sufferer whom she was not allowed to see 
was soothed and comforted by his knowledge of 
their presence there. 

There is one reminiscence which shows how much 
the mother was of the same mould and metal as her 
husband in refusing to obey men in opposition to 
the demands of conscience, and, at the same time, 
how fully her woman's heart was in sympathy with 
him in his sufferings ; and she did her utmost to 
relieve them. On occasion of a second act of recu- 



20 THOMAS BOSTON. 

sancy, she made every effort, by her self-straining and 
industry, to provide the cruel fine which was imposed 
by the magistrate, with the alternative penalty of 
imprisonment or the spoiling of his goods. On 
venturing to ask for some slight abatement on the 
charge, she was refused with oaths and imprecations 
of evil. But, according to the Spanish proverb that 
" curses like ravens often come home to roost," the 
malediction speedily returned upon himself in ruin 
and disgrace. We proceed with the story of the 
son's life. 

At an early age young Boston was sent to school. 
For three years he was under the care of a " dame," 
or schoolmistress, whose manner of teaching was of 
a very simple and primitive kind, different in many 
ways from our modern methods. After the tiny 
pupil had been sufficiently drilled in the alphabet 
and in the pronouncing of syllables of two or three 
letters, his next lesson-book, for reading as well as 
for spelling, was usually the Proverbs of Solomon or 
the Shorter Catechism, in both of which even poly- 
syllables were plentiful. There was no graduated 
scale then of first, and second, and third standards, 
to make the ascent easy. It was like requiring 
the young scholar to climb a ladder that wanted 
some of its steps, and to take an almost desperate 
bound upward as he might. Nevertheless, the diffi- 



SCHOOL LIFE. 21 

culty was in due time overcome. But in the case of 
little Boston, the " good-souled " schoolmistress was 
not content with the usual routine of teaching, for 
her heart was drawn out to the gentle boy. It was 
in an upper chamber in his father's house that she 
kept her school ; and, especially in the long winter 
nights, when the other children were not present, she 
not only made him read to her aloud, but repeated 
to him endless Scripture stories, to which the child 
listened with wondering delight. We are reminded 
by the scene of Doddridge's gentle mother amplify- 
ing, with all a mother's loving simplicity, the incidents 
of Holy Writ depicted on the blue Dutch tiles which, 
according to the fashion of the day, lined the chimney 
corner. The lessons were never forgotten, for nature 
always paints her earliest pictures on the memory in 
undying colours. 

At eight years of age, or thereabouts, young Bos- 
ton, having probably risen in his attainments to the 
level of his kind schoolmistress, and having already 
shown a marked capacity for instruction, passed into 
the grammar school of his native town under the 
mastership of Mr. James Bullerwall, who, in addition 
to his promoting his further progress in the element- 
ary branches of education, engaged to instruct him 
in English grammar, in Latin, in which many of the 
Scottish schoolmasters had been eminent since the 



22 THOMAS BOSTON. 

days of George Buchanan, and also to qualify him 
for translating some of the easier parts of the Greek 
New Testament. From the first, the boy was dili- 
gent and dutiful in his attention to his school tasks, 
profiting above the rest of his own class, by means 
of whom his progress was the more slow. 

It is interesting to notice the estimate which he 
formed of himself at this period of his school life, and 
also to obtain a glimpse of the youth as he appears 
among his schoolmates on the playground. He says, 
after his own quaint manner: " By means of my edu- 
cation and natural disposition I was of a sober and 
harmless deportment, and preserved from the common 
vices of children in towns. I was at no time what 
they call a vicious or roguish boy ; neither was I so 
addicted to play as to forget my business, though I 
was a dexterous player at such games as required art 
and nimbleness. And toward the latter end of this 
period, having had frequent occasion to see soldiers 
exercised, I had a peculiar faculty at mustering and 
exercising my school-fellows accordingly, by the 
several words and motions of the exercise of the mus- 
ket, they being formed into a body under a captain." 

We cannot help thinking, especially when we 
call to mind a later passage in his autobiography 
in which he tells us that " in the natural temper of 
his spirit he was timorous," that it would have been 



HIS CONVERSION. 23 

for his advantage, both in his school life and after- 
wards, if he had been a good deal more of an athlete 
than he was. We say this in full remembrance of 
the protests of the gentle author of the " Tirocinium." 
It is probable that more of the friendly conflicts of 
the school-ground would have helped to give Bos- 
ton's natural timidity to the winds. Athletic exer- 
cises in the open air and in the midst of fanning 
breezes not only benefit the body, but the mind 
through the body, and no good moral education is 
complete without them. We should endeavour to 
keep " the harp of thousand strings " in tune for God. 
Looking back upon a period of more than sixty 
years, we can remember excursions of our school in 
autumn to the hazel-wood behind the hills, the rush 
in summer, after school hours, to the swimming feats 
in the bright river not far off, and the bracing 
winter amusements, secured by holiday, on the 
bosom of the frozen lake ; and we cherish the con- 
viction that the mental and moral, as well as the 
physical part of our nature, gained by the exercise. 

It was not until some time during the closing 
years of young Boston's attendance at the grammar 
school that he came under the supreme influence of 
the religion of Christ. In the case of those whose 
earliest thoughts have been associated with Bible 
instruction, who from their childhood have looked 



24 THOMAS BOSTON. 

on the example of pious parents and breathed the 
atmosphere of Christian homes, the great change 
lias often come so gradually and imperceptibly 
that it was impossible for themselves or others to 
tell the exact moment of the dawning of the new 
life. Their sense of sin and their apprehension of 
the Divine love in Christ were so simultaneous that, 
according to the beautiful figure of Cesar Malan, 
their spiritual quickening was like the awakening 
of an infant by its mother's kiss — the moment 
that it opened its eyes it looked up into the coun- 
tenance of love. This was not quite the manner of 
Boston's great change; neither was it in his case 
associated with those terrible birth-throes into the 
new life which are associated with the repentance 
of some, especially when their previous career has 
been stained with profanity or vice. His conver- 
sion in some of its features was different from 
both of these, and its story is alike interesting and 
suggestive. 

When, in 1687, James II., for purposes of his own, 
relaxed the restraints on Presbyterian worship, the 
Rev. Henry Erskine was one of the first to take 
advantage of the begrudged boon. Originally he 
had been a Presbyterian minister at Cornhill, on the 
south of the Tweed, until, under the Act of Uni- 
formity which extinguished so many of the best 



HENRY ERSKINE. 25 

lights of English Nonconformity, he had been driven 
from his charge. During the intervening years he 
had moved from place to place on both sides of the 
Border, taking eager advantage of opportunities for 
preaching wherever they could be found, when at 
length this sudden outburst of liberty, so soon to be 
enlarged and consolidated by the Revolution, brought 
him to Whitsome, a little village down in the Merse, 
about five miles from Duns. He was a man of 
gentle birth, being related to one of the noble families 
of Scotland, of much natural eloquence and evan- 
gelical fervour, to whom the preaching of Christ was 
welcome as the air he breathed. To many it may 
add a peculiar interest to know that he was the 
father of Ebenezer and Ralph Erskine, who, many 
years afterwards, were to become the founders of the 
Scottish Secession Church. 

Considerable numbers of the Duns people, who 
had long been weary of the sapless and Christless 
preaching to which they had been constrained to 
listen in their native town, no longer held back 
by the dread of fine or imprisonment, were gladly 
willing on every Sabbath morning to travel all the 
way to Whitsome to attend upon Mr. Erskine's 
ministry, which was impregnated by gospel truth 
and glowed with that love which the gospel in- 
spired. It was indeed a time of refreshing. Never 



26 THOMAS BOSTON. 

did fainting traveller in an Eastern wilderness more 
welcome the cooling fountain under the shadow of 
the palm-trees, than did those weekly pilgrims 
welcome the message of Heaven's love for which 
they flocked to Whitsome. And John Boston was 
regularly there with his son Thomas. Our young 
scholar was among the first whose heart was effec- 
tually touched and won to Christ through Mr. 
Erskine's preaching in that Border village. Partic- 
ularly, two sermons, the former on the words, " O 
generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee 
from the wrath to come?" speaking of man's guilt 
and ruin ; and the second on the text, " Behold the 
Lamb of God," holding up before his anxious gaze 
the cross and the Crucified One as the divinely pro- 
vided means of his deliverance, marked the great 
turning-point in his spiritual history, and brought 
him into " the valley of decision." " By these," he 
says, " I judge, God spake to me. However, I know 
I was touched quickly after the first hearing, wherein 
I was like one amazed with some new and strange 
thing. Sure I am, I was in good earnest concerned 
for a saving interest in Jesus Christ. My soul went 
out after him, and the place of his feet was glorious 
in mine eyes." From that time, every Sabbath 
morning, as it dawned upon the young convert, 
seemed to arise with healing on its wings. 



SAINTLY COMMUNION. 2.J 

Nor were his benefit and enjoyment confined on 
those days to the Whitsome assemblies. The con- 
versation of his fellow-pilgrims, especially on their 
way homeward — many of whom were men of much 
Christian knowledge and ripe religious experience 
— was found by him to be so edifying and cheering 
as to make him unconscious of fatigue or weariness 
by the way. There were "Greathearts" in that com- 
pany; and in their fellowship, in which he listened 
much but said little, he had no need that any one 
should exolain to him what was meant by the " com- 
munion of saints." And when winter came with its 
cold and frost, and he was sometimes alone on his 
journey, and the swollen stream of the Blackadder, 
without boat or bridge, needed to be waded by him, 
he never hesitated or turned back ; for he knew that 
the heavenly manna which was in store for him in 
the Whitsome sanctuary would a hundredfold more 
than compensate him for all the sacrifice. " Such 
things," he says, " were then easy, for the benefit of 
the word which came with power." 

There was another good influence besides those 
which have just been named, to which he was accus- 
tomed to look back in his riper years with delighted 
remembrance. He and two of his elder schoolmates 
were in the habit of meeting frequently in a chamber 
of his father's house for prayer, the reading of Scrip- 



28 THOMAS BOSTON. 

ture, and spiritual converse, " whereby," he tells us, 
" we had some advantage both in point of knowledge 
and tenderness." It was probably, in some measure, 
an imitation by the young lads of what they had 
seen in the practice of their pious parents. In this 
case the gratified parents would hail the budding life 
as a fulfilment of the promise to those in mature age 
who " feared the Lord, and spake often one to an- 
other," that " God would pour out his spirit upon 
their seed, and his blessing upon their offspring, and 
they should spring up as among the grass, and as 
willows by the water-courses." 

But with this glow of affection in religion, we 
need not be surprised to find that at this period 
in his early discipleship there was an alloy of 
weakness and imperfect knowledge which at times 
disturbed his stability and peace. He records an 
experience of this kind by which many young 
Christians, both before and since, have been per- 
plexed and distressed. We describe it in his own 
words, and with his own reflections : " Having read 
of the sealing of the tribes (Rev. vii.), Satan wove 
a snare for me out of it — namely, that the whole 
number of the elect, or those who were to be saved, 
was already made up, and therefore there was no 
room for me. Thereby one may see what easy work 
Satan, brooding on ignorance, hath to hatch things 



A VERY TRACTICAL QUESTION. 29 

which may perplex and keep the party from Christ." 
He needed some one to teach him that the doctrine 
of divine election was never meant to be a barrier to 
scare away the anxious heart from the fountain of 
life, but to make those who had drunk of its living 
waters praise and magnify the divine grace that 
had led them to it, that they might drink and live 
for ever. He does not tell us how long he was 
entangled in this snare, and in what way he was 
at length delivered from it. Perhaps some words 
spoken by the good pastor at Whitsome may have 
been as the stretched-out hand that broke " the 
subtle fowler's snare." 

Having passed through the usual curriculum of the 
grammar school in his native town, and probably 
exhausted the resources of his master, for he tells 
us that " before he left the school he saw no Roman 
author but what he found himself in some capacity 
to turn into English," the very practical question 
now arose in the mind of John Boston, What was 
next to be done with his promising son Thomas ? 
As the good parents, who, like Zacharias and Elis- 
abeth, " were righteous before God," without an)' 
illusion of parental partiality which sometimes sees 
a genius in a dunce, marked their son's superior 
and expanding natural gifts, and noted with delight 
his young and earnest piety, the thought pressed 



30 THOMAS BOSTON. 

itself on the minds of both that they should give him 
to the Lord in the Christian ministry ; all the more 
when they learned from their son himself that his 
own desires had already begun to point tremblingly 
in the same direction. Such holy ambition for their 
children has been no uncommon thing even in 
troublous times in Scotland, and the Scottish Church 
in all its best periods has received some of its most 
eminent ministers from lowly cottage homes. But 
it was wisely required by the Presbyterian Church 
of Scotland, from the Reformation downwards, that 
all entrants into the Christian ministry should pass 
through a course of preparatory study in one of its 
universities. And the worthy father was not long in 
discovering, to his own and his son's great disap- 
pointment, that the needed expenditure for this end 
was beyond his means. The bright dream was 
marred ; the res angustte domi blocked the way. 
The good purpose, however, was not abandoned ; 
but meanwhile, during the two following years, 
Thomas was employed in a notary's office in his 
native town, at the end of which time his father's 
improved circumstances made it possible for him to 
fulfil his heart's desire. 

The favouring tide had come which was to float 
his son into the midst of all the new scenes and 
aspirations of a college life. A similar practice had 



in god's school. 31 

not been unusual among the children of the English 
Puritans at some point in their advance to the pas- 
toral office, even when there was no barrier of poverty 
to hold them back — a memorable instance of which 
we have in the student days of Matthew Henry, 
whose " Commentary," so unique in its excellence, 
has made all succeeding generations his debtor. 

Young Boston was made to see that this tempor- 
ary delay was for his lasting advantage. God took 
him into His school, that he might thus early " learn 
to labour and to wait." Moreover, in the notary's 
office he acquired habits of order and business which, 
as will be seen afterwards, proved of great value to 
him in later life ; and when, at length, he entered the 
university, it was with more matured faculties, which 
made his benefit from his studies all the greater. 
When God delays his blessings, it is that they may 
come at last with a fuller stream and upon a more 
prepared heart. This was Boston's own devout ac- 
knowledgment long afterwards, when, looking back 
upon this period of his life, he marked the guiding 
hand of Providence in all. " Thus," says he, " the 
Lord, in my setting out in the world, dealt with me, 
obliging me to have recourse to Himself for this 
thing, to do it for me. He brought me through 
many difficulties, tried me with various disappoint- 
ments, at length carried it to the utmost point ol 



32 THOMAS BOSTON. 

hopelessness, seemed to be laying the grave-stone 
upon it at the time of my mother's death ; and yet, 
after all, he brought it to pass. And this has been 
the usual method of Providence with me all along 
in matters of the greatest weight. The wisdom 
appearing in leading the blind by a way they knew 
not, shined in the putting off that matter to this 
time, notwithstanding all endeavours to compass it 
sooner ; for I am perfectly convinced I was abun- 
dantly soon put to the college, being then but in the 
fifteenth year of my age ; and the manner of it was 
kindly ordered, in that I was thereby beholden to 
none for that my education ; and it made way for 
some things which Providence saw needful for me." 



CHAPTER III. 

STUDENT, TUTOR, AND PROBATIONER. 

THE face of young Boston was now turned with 
strong desire towards the Christian ministry. 
Accordingly, in the beginning of the winter of 1691. 
he proceeded to Edinburgh to enter on a course of 
stud\- in the Arts classes of its university, which 
should extend over three annual sessions — this being 
required by the Scottish Church of all aspirants to 
the sacred office before entering on the more direct 
study of theology. Coming from a country town in 
Berwickshire, in which almost even.- inhabitant was 
known to him, into the midst of the noise and bustle 
of a large city, without friend or acquaintance to ac- 
knowledge him, the somewhat timid youth must for a 
time have felt a depressing sense of loneliness even 
in the midst of thousands. But he had reached an 
age when the desire for knowledge in minds like his 
becomes intense and sometimes omnivorous ; and 
when he saw vast fields of instruction opening before 



34 THOMAS BOSTON. 

him that stirred him into intellectual activity, this and 
higher considerations were not long in dispelling the 
temporary shadows, and making his university plea- 
sant to him, and himself ready to work with a will. 

The information he gives us in his autobiography 
regarding this period of his life is comparatively 
scanty. He mentions, however, that in addition to 
further and more advanced training in the Greek and 
Roman classics, his prescribed subjects of study were 
" logics, metaphysics, ethics, and general physics ; " 
the last named of which in our days, when new 
sciences have in the interval sprung into existence, 
and others have expanded into almost indefinite 
magnitude, would demand for even one of its de- 
partments the whole period of his triennial curricu- 
lum. His own report of the manner in which he 
acquitted himself is condensed into this modest 
statement, in which he very considerably underrates 
himself, that he " always took pains with what was 
before him, and pleased the regent." The proficiency 
which we discover at a later period in his knowledge 
of the Greek and Latin languages gives testimony 
not only to his assiduity but to his success. 

From what he tells us of his almost incredibly 
small expenditure during those three years of his 
curriculum, we are led to conclude that he restricted 
himself to much too scanty a fare at his solitary 



STUDENT DAYS. 35 

meals ; not indeed from any fit of juvenile asceticism, 
but that he might lighten the burden on the little 
home exchequer at Duns. Indeed he lets out the 
fact that during his first two years at the university, 
having "tabled himself," he did fare but sparingly. 
But Nature is sure to exact a heavy interest from 
those who overdraw their account in her coffers. 
His over-strained economy was most unwise, and he 
had to pay dear for it, as many an earnest student 
has done, in a permanently weakened constitution ; 
though his experience showed, as in the case of 
Baxter and Doddridge, how much mental energy 
may live and work in a frail physical frame. 

There was one exercise by which our student be- 
gan to relieve the tedium of his long winter nights, 
and this was in the study and practice of vocal 
music, in which he took lessons from a qualified 
teacher. He gives prominence to this in his diary, 
and tells us that his voice was good, and that he had 
delight in music. It formed a pleasant alterative 
after long hours of severe study, and gradually, as 
he adopted the practice of singing psalms in private, 
it became the cherished habit of his life. He de- 
lighted in it as holy Herbert did in his lute. He 
was conscious that it not only soothed his over- 
sensitive spirit when at times he seemed to " see too 
clearly and to feel too vividly," but that, in his private 



36 THOMAS BOSTON. 

devotions, it helped his soul to soar more easily 
upward, like the lark which sings while it soars. 
Many good men and ministers in those and earlier 
days had found the same experience. It is well 
known that Philip Henry was not content with sing- 
ing to himself the fragment of a psalm, but that he 
sought the full advantage of being brought into 
sympathy with all its changes of thought and 
emotion by singing it to the end. The practice is 
not common in our days, though it is understood 
that it still lives and lingers among the various 
sections of our Methodist brethren. One thing we 
know from personal recollection, that in some of 
those mountain districts of Scotland over which the 
influence of Boston in his later years had beneficially 
spread, it was no uncommon thing, in our own early 
days, for the shepherds tending their flocks away up 
among the silent hills, to awaken their echoes with 
the " grave sweet melody of psalms," until the place 
hemmed in by the mountains seemed like an oratory 
or a sanctuary of God's building. 

Our young scholar's attendance during the three 
prescribed annual sessions was at length honourably 
terminated by his receiving, some time in the 
summer of 1694, what was then termed Laureation. 
This was something more in value than " a certifi- 
cate of satisfaction " which it was the custom to give 



THEOLOGICAL STUDIES. 37 

among the English Nonconformists, and approached 
nearer in its testimony of proficiency to our degree 
of Master of Arts. 

Having thus completed his three years' course of 
preparatory study in classical literature, philosophy, 
and science, and received his Laureation, young 
Boston's next onward step towards the Christian 
ministry, to which his heart owned a growing attrac- 
tion, was to devote himself for a corresponding 
series of years to the systematic study of theology, 
the teaching of which to his fellow-men, both as a 
preacher and as an author, was in a few years to be- 
come the congenial work of his life, and ultimately 
to make his name a household word over all Scot- 
land. The kind and seasonable presentation to 
him of a bursary by his native Presbytery of Duns 
and Chirnside opened his heart in gratitude, and 
relieved his ingenuous mind by assuring him that 
he would not be unduly drawing for help upon 
home resources. Accordingly, early in the winter 
of 1695, certified by a loving testimonial from his 
presbytery, and laden with commendations, he re- 
turned to the university to attend upon its theo- 
logical classes ; a great snowstorm, aggravated by 
intense cold, for a time stopping his way, for de- 
liverance from which he does not fail to record his 
devout gratitude when he testifies how it had not 



38 THOMAS BOSTON. 

only impeded his journey, but for a time even en- 
dangered his life. 

For any knowledge of the Hebrew language which 
he received at this period, he appears to have been in- 
debted to a Rev. Mr. Rule ; but the benefit must have 
been slight, for the professor is simply named by him 
without one grateful note of praise. It is different 
with the professor of " theology proper," the Rev. Mr. 
Campbell, from whose prelections and examinations, 
as well as encouraging looks and words, he owns 
himself to have derived lasting benefit. It is plea- 
sant to notice in this age of ours, in which veneration 
is certainly not an outstanding virtue, especially 
among the young, the ingenuous enthusiasm with 
which he dilates on the excellences of his professor. 
He names him again and again as " the great Mr. 
George Campbell," and in one place describes him 
with felicitous appreciation as " a man of great 
learning but excessively modest, undervaluing him- 
self, but much valuing the tolerable performances of 
his students." 

We are led to conclude from other reminiscences 
of Boston that much of the instruction was conveyed 
by means of catechisms and text-books in Latin, 
which were probably good for their generation, but 
have long since been superseded or forgotten ; and 
the further information that the professor was ac- 



A RELUCTANT CHOICE. 39 

customed to meet with his students in his chamber 
as well as in his lecture-room, favours the impression 
that he thus brought himself into contact with each 
individual mind in his class, winning the student's 
confidence, learning his wants, discovering his weak 
points, drawing out his powers, and kindly helping 
him to grapple with his difficulties — an immense 
advantage when the character and personality of the 
man add to the power and influence of the teacher. 

But there was an alternative course open to the 
student. After a period of regular attendance on 
the theological classes in the university, he was at 
liberty to withdraw and place himself under the care 
of one or other of the presbyteries of the church, for 
theological training and general oversight ; one of the 
ends intended by this being that the student should 
have an opportunity of self-support by labouring as 
a schoolmaster in one of the parish schools, or being 
engaged as a tutor in some family of rank and 
social position. It was evidently with a good deal 
of reluctance and regret that our young theologian, 
who had found so much profit and enjoyment in 
sitting at the feet of " the great Mr. George Camp- 
bell," succumbed to this alternative, and made choice 
yield to necessity, for a time, in a beautiful district 
in Dumfriesshire. There he taught in a parish school, 
but in the midst of uncongenial surroundings un- 



40 THOMAS BOSTON. 

favourable to religion and even unfriendly to morality, 
from which his sensitive nature recoiled and sought, 
though for a time in vain, to be relieved. At length, 
a more attractive sphere opened to him in his being 
engaged as tutor in the family of Colonel Bruce of 
Kennet in Clackmannanshire. He was to find in this 
chosen home that there were additional schools in 
which divine Providence became the teacher, and in 
which aspirants to the sacred office might learn 
many a useful lesson which could not be so effi- 
ciently taught in theological halls and colleges. 

Boston's one pupil, a step-son of Colonel Bruce, 
was a boy of nine years of age, who attended daily 
on the parish school ; and as the principal work of 
the tutor consisted in the superintendence of the 
boy in the preparation of his lessons, and in the 
oversight of his general conduct, especially during 
the frequent absence of the head of the family on 
his military duties, there was a considerable margin 
of time remaining, even when his lenient studies 
under his presbytery were taken into account, for 
works of usefulness that might seem to be laid by 
divine Providence to his hand. A famine which 
prevailed in the land and was of long continuance, 
and which of course pressed with unusual severity 
on the poor, drew the nascent pastor to their homes, 
in willing ministries of material help supplied from 



LIFE AT KEN NET. 41 

Kcnnet House, and also in Christian consolation. 
He gratefully owns that he obtained many of his 
most precious lessons in Christian experience from 
those low-roofed cottages. 

Though he did not claim to possess the functions 
of a family chaplain, he charged himself, during the 
absence of Colonel Bruce, with the conduct of family 
worship, associating with this religious instruction. 
Nor was he slow to reprove sin when, on some 
occasions, it obtruded itself upon his notice. This 
part of his action was sometimes resisted, and even 
resented, as passing beyond his province. But his 
naturally shrinking and timorous nature stood its 
ground faithfully, and this experience helped to 
strengthen him where he was naturally weak. We 
find him gratefully noting this, in some remarkable 
sentences which we shall quote. At the same time, 
we are led to conclude from some words in his diary 
that there were occasions in which his young zeal 
was not sufficiently tempered by discretion, or 
marked by that holy wisdom which selects the 
mollia tempora fundi, and aims to do the right thing 
at the right time and in the best way. The whole 
passage is, on more than one account, interesting : — ■ 

" I am convinced that God sent me to Kennet in 
order to prepare me for the work of the gospel for 
which he had designed me ; for there I learned in 



42 THOMAS BOSTON. 

some measure what it was to have the charge of 
souls ; and being naturally bashful, timorous, and 
much subject to the fear of man, I attained, by what 
I met with there, to some boldness and not regard- 
ing the persons of men when out of God's way. 
There I learned that God will countenance one in 
the faithful discharge of his duty, though it be not 
attended with the desired success ; and that plain 
dealing will impress an awe on the party's con- 
science, though their corruption still rages against 
him that so deals with them. It was by means 
of conversation there that I arrived at a degree of 
public spirit which I had not before ; and there I 
got a lesson of the need of prudent and cautious 
management and abridging one's self of one's 
liberty, that the weak be not stumbled and access 
to edify them be precluded — a lesson I have in 
my ministry had a very particular and singular occa- 
sion for." 

Our student's habits during all this Kennet period 
were eminently devotional. We are not therefore 
surprised to learn from his own grateful testimony 
that, in spite of drawbacks and hindrances before 
which a feebler piety would have been discouraged, 
it was, on the whole, a " thriving time for his soul." 
He set aside times for fasting, which did not, how- 
ever, so much consist in partial abstinence from 



BETHEL EXPERIENCES. 43 

food as in temporary isolation, in which he gave 
himself with mingled prayer to self-examination, 
especially with reference to heart sins — a practice 
much more common in those days than in our own, 
but in respect to which we are disposed to accept 
the saying of Foster, that " no man will regret on the 
day of judgment that he had been a most rigid 
judge of self." He had also his seasons of prolonged 
secret devotion, in which " prayer overflowed its 
banks like Jordan in the time of harvest." These 
were times of great spiritual strengthening and 
enlargement, as well as of holy joy, upon which he 
afterwards delighted to look back, as Jacob may be 
imagined to have remembered his Bethel dreams 
and visions, and the two privileged disciples their 
Emmaus walk. All around Kennet, indeed, there 
were sacred places linked in his memory with devout 
experiences in which they had seemed to him as the 
very gate of heaven. Particularly there was one 
spot which we have visited, in the orchard around 
Kennet, and which he describes with characteristic 
minuteness as " having been under an apple tree with 
two great branches coming from the root." " There," 
says he, " I anointed the pillar and vowed the vow." 

The prescribed years of his theological training 
were now approaching their end, when it was ex- 
pected that our earnest student would at once offer 



44 THOMAS BOSTON. 

himself to one of the presbyteries within whose 
bounds he had resided for " trials and examinations," 
with a view to his becoming' a licentiate or pro- 
bationer of the Scottish Church, and eligible to the 
pastoral office in one of its parishes. Good men in 
those districts, who had learned to appreciate his 
blossoming gifts and ardent piety, vied with each 
other in seeking to induce him to apply for license 
within their bounds. But growing diffidence, arising 
from a deepened sense of the responsibilities of the 
pastoral office, made him hesitate for a time about 
taking the decided step. At length, a visit to Duns 
on another matter bringing him under the old home 
influences, his scruples vanished, and he consented 
to be proposed for license by his native presbytery. 
An elaborate course of examinations, associated with 
written exercises in theology, "dragged its slow length 
along" through several months, and ended in a unani- 
mous record of approval and resolution to enrol his 
name on the list of probationers. With mingled 
feelings of humility and gratitude, the young licen- 
tiate now stood within sight of the sacred office 
which was to him not the object of a mere human 
ambition, but of a holy passion to serve the best of 
Masters in the best of causes. 

Our probationer's superior preaching gifts were 



"SETTING FIRE TO THE DEVIL'S NEST." 45 

readily acknowledged and appreciated, especially 
by his more serious and earnest hearers who had had 
some experience of the power of Christian truth in 
their own hearts. It is evident, however, that, in the 
earlier months of his novitiate, his sermons consisted 
too exclusively in denunciations of sin and threaten- 
in sfs of divine wrath and retribution. It might have 
been said of him in measure, as Cotton Mather had 
long before said of the great missionary Elliot, that 
" his pulpit was a Mount Sinai, and his words were 
thunderbolts." No doubt this was necessary in its 
own place and degree. The ploughshare of the law 
must turn up the furrows for receiving the good 
seed of the gospel ; but the ploughshare is impotent 
alone. He had hoped thereby, to quote his own 
words, " to set fire to the devil's nest." But " old 
Adam proved too strong for young Melancthon." 
A kind hint from a minister of long experience 
helped the young and intrepid minister to see his 
mistake. "If you were entered," said he, " on preach- 
ing Christ, you would find it very pleasant." The 
immediate effect of this word spoken with a wise 
love was to make him so far modify his strain of 
preaching, and to season and vitalize all his dis- 
courses with the gospel of Heaven's love. From that 
day no one had cause to complain to him, " Sir, 
we would see Jesus." The change was followed by 



46 THOMAS BOSTON. 

a life-long gratitude to his fatherly mentor. " I 
have often," said he, " remembered that word of Mr. 
Dysart as the first hint given me by the good hand 
of my God towards the doctrine of the gospel." 

It was natural to anticipate that, in the case of so 
impressive and attractive a preacher, with so much 
glowing earnestness of spirit, he would not have 
needed to wait long for a settlement. Perhaps 
Boston himself, without any undue self-appreciation, 
may have shared in this expectation, all the more 
that there -were many vacant parishes longing and 
looking out for one who should break among them 
the bread of life ; but, in fact, his probation extended 
over the somewhat protracted and dreary period of 
two years and three months. The explanation of 
this lays open some not very pleasing glimpses 
into the ecclesiastical condition of the times. There 
were dark shadows and portents upon a picture which 
revealed many things that were bright and promis- 
ing. For one thing, though the right of election 
to the pastoral office in the Scottish Church was 
nominally in the free call of the people, it was 
practically to a great extent in the hands of the 
principal heritor or landed proprietor in the parish, 
whose veto, though not formally given, was in many 
instances potent enough to hinder a settlement ; and 
Boston's sense of the sacredness which belonged to 



WAITING FOR A SETTLEMENT. 47 

the call or free choice of a Christian congregation, 
as well as his tenderness of conscience, held him 
sensitively back from any approaches, by way of 
solicitation or otherwise, to those who, to use his 
own words, " had the stroke in such matters." 

Then one of the greatest blunders and most 
mischievous compromises which helped to vitiate 
the Revolution Settlement which re-established the 
Presbyterian Church and restored to her her former 
immunities, was the allowing as many of the 
Episcopal incumbents as were willing to accept 
the Presbyterian polity and form of worship, to 
continue in their charges and retain their emolu- 
ments. Bishop Burnet declared, in terms which 
one would like to believe were somewhat over- 
coloured, that these conformists "were ignorant to a 
reproach, many of them openly vicious, and the 
worst preachers he ever heard." By a natural in- 
stinct, these men with their easy pliancy were almost 
certain to use their influence and secret manoeuvring 
and management against such a man as Boston, 
whose life and character were a standing rebuke and 
condemnation of theirs. In seven different parishes 
where the popular voice, if left to its own free and 
unbiassed choice, would have fallen upon our young 
evangelist with his expanding gifts and ardent zeal, 
these hostile forces dashed the cup from his lips. It 



48 THOMAS BOSTON. 

was impossible that he should not deeply feel these 
repeated disappointments, though he knew that he 
owed them in part to his determination, at whatever 
loss and hazard, not to walk into the sacred office 
over the body of a wounded conscience. 

In the midst of this long succession of hopes de- 
ferred, of expectations which blossomed only to be 
blighted, it is pleasant to note that his spirit was 
sustained by the testimonies he received, wherever 
pulpits were thrown open to him, of the highest 
forms of blessing which multitudes had derived 
from his ministry of the Word. Everywhere, as in 
the fresh bloom of our religion in the preaching of the 
apostles, " the Lord gave testimony unto the word 
of his grace." It was a frequent experience to be 
told by some who came to him with streaming eyes 
that his words had been to them the seeds of a new 
and heavenly life ; while others would be found 
waiting at the church gates to tell him, with mingled 
wonder and gratitude, how, while unknown to him, 
he had seemed by his searching representations to 
have been reading their history and their hearts. 
Even ripe and aged saints were not slow to express 
their astonishment how one so young could reflect 
in his teaching their deepest and most hidden ex- 
periences as " face answereth to face in a glass." 
Could there be any more distinct sealing of the 



LIGHT AND SHADOW. 49 

Holy Spirit upon his ministry than this ? Thus he 
interpreted the providence, and " thanked God, and 
took courage." 

There is one fact recorded in his experience at 
this period which is not without its suggestiveness. 
There were occasions in which he preached under 
much mental depression and restraint, and these he 
was sometimes tempted to regard as tokens of 
divine displeasure and desertion, which, for the time, 
might leave his ministry unblessed. Probably these 
alternations of light and shadow in the same day, or 
even in the same hour, sometimes had their explana- 
tion in physical weakness or ill health, as seen and 
judged by Him who " knoweth our frame, and re- 
membereth that we are dust." One thing is certain, 
that some of those very occasions on which there 
was an absence of happy frames and eloquent speech 
were signally blest. There was a rich harvest of the 
sea when the man-fisher seemed to be dragging out 
from the deep an empty net. 

We notice in this trying period of his life the 
same abounding in prayer, and severe heart-search- 
ing and striving against heart sins, which no eye 
could see but God's, as we remarked in his student 
life. Again and again we meet with such exclama- 
tions as, " Oh, how my heart hates my heart ! " 
Even some of his dreams wounded his moral sensi- 

4 



50 THOMAS BOSTON. 

bility, and he could have prayed with good Bishop 
Ken, — 

" When in the night I sleepless lie, 

My soul with heavenly thoughts supply ; 
Let no ill dreams disturb my rest, 
No powers of darkness me molest." 

We shall introduce another fact in his own words 
which exemplifies the same habit of unsparing self- 
scrutiny in connection with somewhat novel con- 
ditions. We must imagine our young probationer 
to have been listening to the preaching of a rival 
candidate, Mr. J. G., for a vacant charge. Mark how 
he schools his heart against prejudice, and into just 
and even generous appreciation : — 

" On the Saturday's afternoon, there comes a letter 
to my hand, desiring me to give the one-half of the 
day to Mr. J. G., whom those that were against me 
had an eye upon. The letter I received contentedly, 
granted the desire of it, and blessed the Lord for it. 
In these circumstances, seeing what hazard I was in 
from an evil prejudice, I committed my heart to the 
Lord that I might be helped to carry evenly. I cried 
to the Lord for it, and got that word, ' My grace 
shall be sufficient for thee.' On Sabbath morn- 
ing, I found in myself a great desire to love Christ 
and to be concerned solely for his glory ; and prayed 
to that effect not without some success. He (Mr. J. 



A CRUCIBLE OF FIRE. 5 1 

G.) got the forenoon, for so it was desired by them. 
I was helped to join in prayer, was much edified both 
by his lecture and sermon, yet, in the time, I was 
thrice assaulted with the temptation I feared ; but 
looking up to the Lord, got it repulsed in some 
measure, and found my soul desirous that people 
should get good, soul-good, of what was very seri- 
ously, pathetically, and judiciously said to us by the 
godly young man. Betwixt sermons I got a sight of 
my own emptiness, and then prayed and preached in 
the afternoon with much help from the Lord. Yet 
for all that, I wanted not some levity of spirit, which 
poison my heart sucked out of that sweet flower." 

On the whole much genuine gold was revealed by 
that crucible of fire. 

Two years of this probationary life had now 
come and gone, and the prospect of settlement 
in a parochial charge seemed as remote as ever. 
Mr. Boston began to question with himself whether 
the many tokens of divine blessing upon his some- 
what wandering ministry were not to be regarded by 
him as providential signs that his mission was rather 
to be that of an evangelist itinerating and preaching 
from place to place, than that of a settled pastor. 
But such an arrangement did not seem practicable. 
To quote his own words, " he had now reached the 
full sea-mark of his perplexing circumstances. He 



52 THOMAS BOSTON. 

felt like one standing in the dark, and not know- 
ing what his next step should be." We notice in 
his diary at this period a growing heavenliness of spirit 
and a more unqualified self-surrender and willing- 
ness to follow whithersoever God might lead, blam- 
ing himself with more severity than others generally 
would have done for the occasional risings of itching 
desires after a settlement. Texts of Scripture like 
the following were as ointment poured forth: "The 
meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will 
he teach his way " — " He hath determined the times 
before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation." 
And we find these words in his diary : " My soul 
desires to lay itself down at his feet. Let him do 
with me as he will. I am his own." 

And now had come "the time for God to work." In 
the small parish of Simprin, down in the Merse, about 
five miles towards the east of Duns, " least among 
the thousands of Judah," God had provided for him 
a sphere in which he should find welcome rest in the 
congenial work of a minister of Christ. The rustic 
people were unanimous in their choice of him for 
their pastor, and for the first time in his experience 
there was no spectral lay-patron to neutralize the 
people's action and to stop the way. The principal 
heritor cordially joined with the simple people in 
their call , and with no vitiating elements to make his 



CALLED TO SIMPRIN. 53 

course of duty uncertain, he heard the voice of God 
in the voice of the people, and obeyed it. We can 
imagine devout ministers in some of the surrounding 
parishes to have wondered much that a man of such 
rare gifts and capabilities should have been placed 
by the manifest leadings of Providence in so narrow a 
sphere. As for Mr. Boston himself, if such a question 
as this ever for a moment cast its shadow over his 
mind, he thought of his responsibility for the care of 
souls, " watching for them as those who know that 
they must give an account," and was satisfied. More- 
over, we find him saying in one of his mental 
soliloquies, " I know not what honourable use the 
Lord may have for me there." But could those 
kindly onlookers whom we have imagined have been 
permitted to look on the whole of that plan of God 
of which every good man's life is the development, 
their wonder would have been turned into praise. 
Simprin was the chosen place in which, through 
strangely varied incidents in which God was pleased 
to work, Boston should receive great enlargement in 
his knowledge of divine things, which should not 
only be of large and lasting benefit to himself and 
his ministry, but should favourably influence the 
religious thought and teaching of Scotland for 
generations to come. Moreover, within seven busy 
years he was, by his earnest preaching not taught in 



54 THOMAS BOSTON. 

the schools of human rhetoric, but kindled and 
sustained by fire from off the altar of God, by his 
pastoral oversight and all-pervading prayer, to trans- 
form his parish, putting a new look upon everything, 
and to "cause the desert to blossom as the rose." 
Surely this more than solved the mystery. We find 
him writing many a year afterwards in grateful and 
adoring retrospect, " I will ever remember Simprin 
as a field which the Lord blessed." 

" When obstacles and trials seem 
Like prison walls to be, 
I do the little I can do, 
And leave the rest to Thee. 

" 111 that He blesseth is our good, 
And unblest good is ill ; 
And all is right that seems most wrong, 
If it be His sweet will." 

We shall be forgiven if, in closing this chapter, 
we mention the fact that, in the latter part of his 
course as a probationer, Mr. Boston composed a 
small treatise, which evidently grew out of passing 
experiences, and which, in its devout thinking and 
practical sagacity, would have been worthy of a 
minister of twice his age. The little book was not 
published at the time, but only appeared after a long 
interval. We shall enrich our chapter by quoting a 



ON THE ART OF MAN-FISHING. 55 

few sentences. It was entitled "A Soliloquy on the 
Art of Man-fishing ; " and it was founded on those 
words of Jesus to Simon and Andrew when, standing 
by the seaside, he called them away from their em- 
ployment as fishermen, in order that they might be 
trained and qualified by him for becoming the minis- 
ters and apostles of his religion, and thus coming forth 
at length as " fishers of men." The young author 
explains that when Jesus thus said to those sincere 
and simple men, " Follow me," his language meant a 
great deal more than, " Leave your nets and boats 
and come after me, and learn to be the preachers 
of my word ; " but, in addition, that if they would 
do good to souls, and gain them to him by their 
ministry, then they were to imitate him " in their 
character and preaching, to make him their pattern, 
to write after his copy, as a fit means for the gaining 
of souls." 



CHAPTER IV. 

Simprin as Mr. Boston found it — Marriage — Redoubled 
happiness — Death of first-born child — A strange 
dream strangely fulfilled — the young minister's 
efforts to do good — growing signs of blessing — 
Story of the finding of the "Marrow" — All Sim- 
prin SHARES THE INFLUENCE — A CALL FROM ETTRICK. 



M 



R. BOSTON was ordained at Simprin on 21st 
September 1699. He had now reached the 
object of his holy ambition, and was ready to say of 
his church and parish, " This is my rest, here will I 
dwell. I found my heart well content with my lot, 
and the sense of God's calling me to that work with 
the promise of his presence. Oh, it satisfies my soul, 
and my very heart blesseth him for it. For really 
it is the doing of the Lord, and wondrous in my 
eyes." 

The text from which he preached on the first Sab- 
bath after his ordination struck the loud and solemn 
keynote of his whole ministry : " For they watch for 
souls as they that must give an account." The 



CONDITION OF SIMPRIN. 57 

solemn thought of the care of souls which, as a 
preacher, he must feed with the manna of heavenly 
truth, and as a pastor he must tend and guide in the 
way of life, with the foresight of that day of reckon- 
ing in which he must give an account of his steward- 
ship, haunted him like an angel's presence, and made 
him well content with the obscurity of his position, 
the rustic manners of his people, and the smallness 
of his charge. A mere hireling, whose earthborn 
ambition never rose above a comfortable manse, a 
good stipend, and a respectable social position, 
would have turned away from poor Simprin with 
disappointment or disdain, because he was an hire- 
ling ; all the more that both church and manse were 
dilapidated and going fast to ruin, and the people 
had been described as generally ignorant and coldly 
indifferent. But our young minister judged of the 
matter by another standard. There was even a 
peculiar fascination to his consecrated spirit in his 
being called to " break up the fallow ground," and to 
give his days and nights to the winning of souls. 
Was not this the part of the Lord's vineyard to 
which God had appointed him ? And woe was unto 
him if he turned a deaf ear to the divine voice which 
said to him, " Go and work there." 

We find Mr. Doddridge, the author of " The Rise 
and Progress of Religion in the Soul," in the same 



58 THOMAS BOSTON. 

spirit, though more in a vein of contented pleasantry, 
writing to a friend who had condoled with him in a 
letter on his being buried alive in the obscure coun- 
try village of Kibworth. He admits that his rustic 
flock consisted mainly of graziers and their depend- 
ants. " I have not," he adds, " so much as a tea-table 
in my whole diocese, although about eight miles in 
extent, and but one hoop petticoat within the whole 
circuit. I am now with a plain, honest, serious 
people. I heartily love them myself, and I meet 
with genuine, undissembled affection on their side. 
Instead of lamenting it as my misfortune, you should 
congratulate me upon it as my happiness that I am 
confined to an obscure village, seeing that it gives 
me so many advantages to the most important pur- 
poses of devotion and philosophy, and I hope I may 
add of usefulness too." 

Eight days after his ordination, Mr. Boston renewed 
his dedication of himself to God, and subscribed 
anew his solemn covenant in the following charac- 
teristic document, which long afterwards was found 
among his papers : — 

" I, Mr. Thomas Boston, preacher of the gospel of 
Christ, being by nature an apostate from God, an 
enemy to the great Jehovah, and so an heir of hell 
and wrath, in myself utterly lost and undone, be- 
cause of my original and actual sins, and misery 



SOLEMN COVENANT. 59 

thereby ; and being, in some measure, made sensible 
of this my lost and undone state, and sensible of my 
need, my absolute need, of a Saviour, without whom 
I must perish eternally; and believing that Jesus 
Christ, the eternal Son of the eternal God, is not 
only able to save me (though most vile and ugly, 
and one who has given him many repulses), both 
from my sins and from the load of wrath due to me 
for them, upon condition that I believe, come to him 
for salvation, and cordially receive him in all his 
offices, consenting to the terms of the covenant : 
therefore, as I have, at several opportunities before, 
given an express and solemn consent to the terms 
of the covenant, and have entered into a personal 
covenant with Christ, so now, being called to under- 
take the great and mighty work of the ministry of 
the gospel for which I am altogether insufficient, I 
do by this declare that I stand to and own all my 
former engagements, whether sacramental or any 
other whatsoever : and now again do renew my 
covenant with God ; and hereby, at this present time, 
do solemnly covenant and engage to be the Lord's, 
and make a solemn resignation and upgiving of 
myself, my soul, body, spiritual and temporal con- 
cerns, unto the Lord Jesus Christ, without any re- 
servation whatsoever ; and do hereby give my volun- 
tary consent to the terms of the covenant laid down 



60 THOMAS BOSTON. 

in the Holy Scriptures, the word of truth ; and with 
my heart and soul I take and receive Christ in all 
his offices, as my Prophet, to teach me, resolving 
and engaging in his strength to follow, that is, to 
endeavour to follow, his instructions : I take him as 
my Priest, to be saved by his death and merits alone ; 
and renouncing my own righteousness as filthy rags 
and menstruous cloths, I am content to be clothed 
with his righteousness alone, and live entirely upon 
free grace : likewise I take him for my Advocate 
and Intercessor with the Father : and, finally, I 
take him as my King, to reign in me and to rule 
over me, renouncing all other lords, whether sin or 
self, and in particular my predominant idol ; and in 
the strength of the Lord do resolve and hereby en- 
gage to cleave to Christ as my sovereign Lord and 
King, in death and in life, in prosperity and in ad- 
versity, even for ever, and to strive and wrestle in 
his strength against all known sin ; protesting that 
whatever sin may be lying hid in my heart out of 
my view, I disown it and abhor it, and shall, in the 
Lord's strength, endeavour the mortification of it 
when the Lord shall be pleased to let me see it. 
And this solemn covenant I make as in the presence 
of the ever-living, heart-searching God, and subscribe 
it with my hand, in my chamber at Dunse, about 
one o'clock in the afternoon, the fourteenth day of 



DIFFICULTIES AND DISAPPOINTMENTS. 6 1 

August, one thousand six hundred and ninety-nine 
years. — T. BOSTON." 

The young minister lost no time in entering on 
his sacred work. " The King's business required 
haste." It was true that the half-ruined and unin- 
habitable condition of his manse made it necessary 
that he should reside for a time in Duns, which was 
about six miles distant, and this both consumed 
much of his time and impeded his labours. But still 
he would do what he could, and while his work was 
unpleasantly diminished, this was no reason why it 
should stand still. 

It was reasonable that one of his earliest mea- 
sures should be the visitation of every household 
in his parish, not only that he might endeavour 
to win the confidence of his people in his good 
intentions, and that they might be convinced of 
his earnestness of purpose, but that he might 
ascertain for himself the amount of their Christian 
knowledge and their general moral and religious 
condition. The diagnosis was disappointing and 
saddening. The whole truth had not been told 
him. Their ignorance was such that they needed 
to be instructed in the simplest elements of divine 
truth, and their indifference to everything spiritual 
and heavenly was in proportion to their ignorance. 
Their thoughts were bounded by the ploughing 



62 THOMAS BOSTON. 

of their fields, the sowing of their seeds, and the 
gathering in of their crops, in the circle of the 
seasons. Two facts revealed much. In all that 
parish, with its seventy " examinable " persons, he 
could find only one house in which there was the 
observance of family worship. And such was the 
prevailing spiritual death, or languor that was on the 
verge of death, that the Lord's Supper had not once 
been observed in the parish for several years. We 
can imagine the devoted young pastor, as he realized 
the cheerless picture, again and again putting to 
himself the question, " Can these dry bones live ? " 
and yet, in another moment of kindling hope, pros- 
trating himself in the solitude of his little prophet's 
chamber, and sending up the cry to heaven, " Come 
from the four winds, thou Spirit of the Lord, and 
breathe upon these slain, that they may live." This 
was the condition in which he found Simprin. We 
are now to see what it became under his ministry, 
and by what means, in the following seven years. 

He proceeded to " build up the waste places," and 
to set in order the various agencies of an earnest min- 
istry. The forenoon and afternoon Sabbath services, 
which had long been irregularly and fitfully observed, 
were instituted anew; the smallness of the parish 
having this advantage, that it made attendance easy 
even for the most remote parishioner. Already 



BUILDING UP THE WASTE PLACES. 63 

alive to the fact that such a people needed, in the 
first instance, a ministry of conviction and alarm, 
such as that of Elliot in olden times to which we 
have already referred, or that of John the Baptist 
on the banks of the Jordan among the self-satisfied 
and hardened Pharisees, his earliest discourses, with 
their glowing personal applications to his somewhat 
astonished hearers, were principally on man's de- 
pravity and guilt; as if he had already in his mind 
the germ of that " Fourfold State " which, in another 
age, was to exercise so powerful and beneficent an 
influence upon the religious thought and the spiritual 
life of Scotland. 

Simultaneously w T ith this, he commenced the life- 
long practice of pastoral visitation from house to 
house, its predominant services consisting in re- 
ligious exhortation and prayer. To this he con- 
tinued to attach an importance only second to his 
pulpit ministrations, not merely because of its direct 
influence, but because it brought him into direct 
contact with individual minds, and made him ac- 
quainted with the history and condition of the individ- 
ual families, while it helped him the better to select 
topics seasonable for pulpit instruction, and to adapt 
them to their business and bosoms. One is apt to 
think that his gift of music must often have been 
brought into service in the singing of psalms, in the 



64 THOMAS BOST<: 

winding up of those edifying family gatherings. 
And when, in the depth of winter, with his church 

t :>red and his manse renovated and made in- 
habitable, he was able at length to give his whole 
strength and time to his sacred work, he proceeded 
to institute a Sabbath-evening service for his people, 
in order to their more familiar and systematic in- 
struction in the elementary truths of the Christian 
faith, in which he found them most grievously ill- 
informed ; uniting with this the catechetical exam- 
ination of his hearers, one by one, in the lessons 
which the}- had heard. 

We find in his autobiography a summary state- 
ment of his instructions in one of those Sabbath- 
evening exercises, on the subject of " divine provi- 
dence," which we may take as a specimen. In com- 
mon with the Nonconformists of England at the 
same period, he seems to have taken the Shorter 
Catechism as his text-book, while leaving himself free 
for individual freedom of treatment. " The evening 
service concerning the providence of God was sweet 
to me ; and in converse after it, it was a pleasure to 
think and speak of the saints' grounds of encour- 
agement from that head — under trouble, particu- 
larly, how it is their God that guides the world, and 
nothing do they meet with but what comes through 
their Lord's fingers ; how he weighs their troubles 



EARNEST EFFORTS. 65 

to the least grain, that no more falls to their share 
than they need ; and how they have a covenant 
right to chastisements, to the Lord's dealing with 
them as with sons, to be rightly educated, not as 
sen-ants whom the master will not strike but send 
away at the term." 

We are struck with the evidence which the whole 
of our young minister's plan and action at this period 
affords us of the earnest anxiety with which he 
thought for his people in all his arrangements. The 
practice of questioning his hearers on those Sabbath 
evenings, immediately after his familiar conversa- 
tional lessons, enabled him at once to see how far he 
had succeeded in making himself understood, and 
gave him an opportunity of reiterating his instruc- 
tions, and of further explanation where he saw it to 
be needed. He was unwilling to move beyond their 
pace. Another fact reveals his conscientiousness 
and zeal in these instructions. He tells us that he 
endeavoured to enlist and retain their attention and 
interest by the free use of similitudes drawn from the 
natural world, enlisting their imaginations by those 
natural pictures. But in his first endeavours, he was 
disappointed, and mortified to find that he had only 
half succeeded. His catechizings brought to light 
the fact that while they remembered the similitudes, 
they failed to retain the divine truths of which they 



66 THOMAS BOSTON. 

were meant to be the vehicle ; kept hold of the 
earthly, but let drop the heavenly ; relished the shell, 
but not the kernel. " The natural man receiveth 
not the things of the Spirit of God." 

But this monotony of unfruitfulness was not long 
to continue. Before spring was ended, there began to 
appear signs not only of awakening inquiry but of 
spiritual quickening, like the music of the early song- 
birds, which not only tells us that winter is past, but 
is hailed as a prophecy of summer. The heart of the 
young pastor was gladdened by these few but wel- 
come experiences. He thought that he saw in them 
the sealing of the Holy Spirit upon his labours, and 
that their voice to him was, " Be of good cheer ; " 
and they sent him to his closet with songs of thanks- 
giving, so that he could already write in his diary : 
" With joy I saw myself in Simprin as in my nest, 
and under the covert of Christ's wings." 

But when midsummer came, there occurred an 
event which, next to his conversion and ordination 
to the Christian ministry, exercised the most import- 
ant and beneficent influence upon all his future life. 
Early in his probationer life, he had formed an 
acquaintance with a lady of good family in Clack- 
mannanshire, which had speedily ripened into a 
tender affection. He informs us, indeed, that on the 
first day on which he looked on her his heart had 



CATHERINE BROWN. 67 

been drawn out to her with a preference which in- 
creased with intercourse, while it was fully recipro- 
cated by the object of his choice. And what helped 
much to strengthen his love, while it introduced into 
it a new and sacred element, was the living religious 
sympathy which existed between them, so that 
Boston beheld in his Catherine Brown not only a 
sweetheart but a sister in Christ. He tells us, in 
his own characteristic manner, that from the first 
" he discerned in her the sparkles of grace." Had 
this divine quality been wanting, or its existence 
even dubious, it was certain that he would never 
have told his love. But there was no cause even 
for uncertainty ; and the consequence was that the 
honourable attachment which, in his own words, 
" needed rather to be bounded than strengthened," 
soon ripened into mutual devotement and betrothal, 
to be consummated in honourable wedlock when 
Providence should make their way plain, and should 
be ready to arise and bless the banns. 

Probably neither of them anticipated that a period 
of nearly three years would intervene before marriage 
would be made practicable through Mr. Boston's 
settlement in a pastoral charge. And there must 
have been an occasional sinking of the heart on the 
part of both when the cup of ecclesiastical preferment, 
as it rose to his lips, was again and again dashed away. 



68 THOMAS BOSTON. 

But during all that wearisome interval of hope de- 
ferred, the betrothed maiden looked on with quiet 
and trustful patience, giving no sign of murmuring 
or disappointment, and did much to encourage Bos- 
ton in waiting God's time, which would be seen and 
owned by them to be the best when it came. It was 
with reference to this, as well as to later periods, 
that we find him making this grateful record : " I 
was made often to bless the Lord that ever I was 
made acquainted with her." 

But when Boston became minister of the church 
and parish of Simprin, every barrier to marriage was 
taken out of the way, and about ten months after- 
wards the two attached friends, whose hearts had 
for years been one, joined hands in holy wedlock, 
and pledged themselves to each other by sacred 
bonds which nothing but death could sever. The 
solemn rite, which had been preceded by much heart- 
searching and prayer, and was engaged in with a 
deep and chastened joy, took place at Culross, on 
the banks of the Forth, on July 17, 1700, and was 
conducted by the Rev. Mr. Mair, who was Boston's 
friend, and minister of the parish. "The action," says 
Mr. Boston, " was gone about most sweetly by Mr. 
Mair. The Lord directed him to most seasonable 
and pertinent exhortations, and they came with 
power and life. Of a truth God owned it, and it was 



MARRIAGE. 69 

sweet both to him and to us." A few days afterwards, 
when the grateful husband led his bride into the 
humble manse of Simprin, he felt that he had indeed 
received a gift from the Lord. The words of Luther 
when writing of his wife Catherine Bora would not 
have been unsuitable to Boston when speaking of 
his wife Catherine Brown : " The greatest gift of 
God is an amiable and pious spouse who fears God, 
loves his house, and with whom one can live in per- 
fect peace." It was a union which stood the tests 
of time and trial. 

Thirty years after his marriage, we find Mr. Bos- 
ton bearing his testimony to this in words which 
have often been admired since, and in whose holy 
beauty, tenderness, and gushing thankfulness he rises 
above himself: "Thus was I, by all-wise Providence, 
yoked with my wife, with whom I have now, by the 
mercy of God (1730), lived thirty years complete ; a 
woman of great worth, whom I therefore passionately 
loved and inwardly honoured ; a stately, beautiful, 
and comely personage, truly pious, and fearing the 
Lord ; of an evenly temper, patient in our common 
tribulations and under her personal distresses ; a 
woman of bright natural parts and an uncommon 
stock of prudence ; of a quick and lively apprehen- 
sion in things she applied herself to; of great presence 
of mind in surprising incidents ; sagacious and acute 



70 THOMAS BOSTON. 

in discerning the qualities of persons, and therefore 
not easily imposed upon ; modest and grave in her 
deportment, but naturally cheerful ; wise and affable 
in conversation, having a good faculty at speaking 
and expressing herself with assurance ; endowed 
with a singular dexterity in dictating of letters; being 
a pattern of frugality and wise management of house- 
hold affairs, therefore entirely committed to her; well 
fitted for and careful of the virtuous education of 
her children ; remarkably useful to the country-side, 
both in the Merse and in the Forest, through skill 
in physic and surgery, which, in many instances, a 
peculiar blessing appeared to be commanded upon 
from heaven ; and, finally, a crown to me in my 
public station and appearances. During the time 
we have lived together hitherto, we have passed 
through a sea of trouble as not seeing the shore 
but afar off. I have sometimes been likely to be 
removed : she having had little continued health, 
except the first six weeks, her death hath sometimes 
stared us in the face, and hundreds of arrows have 
pierced my heart on that score ; and sometimes I 
have gone with a trembling heart to the pulpit, lay- 
ing my account with being called out of it to see her 
expire. And now for the third part of the time we 
have lived together — namely, ten years complete — 
she has been under a particular racking distress, and 



OPEN FAMILY WORSHIP. 7 1 

for several of these years fixed to her bed ; in the 
which furnace the grace of God in her hath been 
brightened, her parts continued to a wonder, and her 
beauty, which formerly was wont upon her recoveries 
to leave no vestige of the illness she had been under, 
doth as yet, now and then, show some vestiges of 
itself." 

It was probably not long after his marriage that 
the earnest minister, ever on the outlook for new 
opportunities of benefiting his people, threw open 
his house to any who might be willing to attend on 
his morning family worship. Nor is it difficult to 
believe that his young wife, who was ready to be his 
helpmate in his ministry as well as in the common 
details of home life, would sympathize with him in 
this arrangement, and, casting aside all thoughts of 
domestic inconvenience, would give cordial welcome 
to all that came. The project was successful. Many 
of his parishioners came regularly to the service. 
Mr. Boston mingled with the devotional exercises 
a brief exposition of Scripture, for which he never 
failed to prepare himself by previous study ; and the 
interested worshippers returned to their home cares, 
or their out-of-door industry, toned for the day. 

But his sky was not to be long without clouds. 
The first year of his Simprin pastorate was scarcely 
ended, when he was called to mourn over the death 



72 THOMAS BOSTON. 

of his father, in his seventieth year. The stroke was 
not unexpected, but, as he tells us in his diary, " it 
went to the quick with him." "It was a heavy death 
to me, the shock of which I had much ado to stand." 
There were filial ties and sacred memories of peculiar 
strength and tenderness which bound him to his 
father. He remembered how, when a boy, he had 
borne him company night and day when he was 
suffering imprisonment for conscience' sake. He 
could not forget the sacrifices which he had made 
for a series of years, out of his straitened means, in 
order to obtain for him such a university education 
as was required of candidates for the Christian 
ministry. And ever since, the hoary head had been 
found in the way of righteousness. There must 
have been grateful joy, mingled with natural sorrow, 
when the bereaved son could write thus of his 
father : " He was one who, in the worst times, re- 
tained his integrity beyond many ; and in view of 
death gave comfortable evidences of eternal life to 
be obtained through the Lord Jesus Christ." 

A few weeks after the father's death, another event 
happened in the family history, in which joy and 
sorrow were strangely mingled. On the 24th May 
1 70 1, Mrs. Boston gave birth to her first child, 
Catherine, " having," says the devout father, " at the 
holy and just pleasure of the sovereign Former of all 



JOY AND SORROW. 73 

things, a double harelip, whereby she was rendered 
incapable of sucking." On the way to the chamber 
he was met by the nurse, who intimated to him the 
case of the child, " with which," says he, " my heart 
was struck like a bird shot and falling from a tree. 
Howbeit," he adds, " I bore it gravely, and my afflicted 
wife carried the trial very Christianly, and wisely 
after her manner." It was a weakly child, requiring 
to be watched night and day through all the months 
of summer ; but when autumn came, the little one 
began to revive. Money affairs requiring that Mr. 
Boston and his wife should visit her former home 
in Clackmannanshire, they proceeded thither in the 
beginning of harvest. On their return home after a 
brief stay, made shorter on account of Mrs. Boston's 
imperfect health, they rested for a night in her 
sister's house at Torryburn, Fifeshire. There, in the 
morning before rising from bed, she had a remark- 
able dream. She dreamed that she saw her child 
perfect in form, "the natural defect being made 
up, and extraordinarily beautiful." This making an 
impression on their minds to which they could not 
be indifferent, they hastened their way homeward. 
On arriving at Black's Mill, about nine miles from 
Simprin, they were met by friends, when their hearts 
were pierced with the information that their little 
infant was both dead and buried. " After which," 



74 THOMAS BOSTON. 

says Mr. Boston, " we came home in great heaviness, 
and found that that very day and hour of the day, 
as near as could be judged, when my wife had the 
dream aforesaid, the child had died." They could 
not help connecting the death with the dream which 
had been sent to them beforehand " with healing on 
its wings." 

It may be interesting to some ministers of Christ 
in our own days to be told of some of our young 
pastor's early ministerial experiences — those " lessons 
in black print," as Foster calls them. They may 
even suggest valuable hints both for encouragement 
and warning. In the earlier years of his Simprin 
life, he had frequent difficulty in fixing on a text 
for the following Sabbath. Sometimes, even more 
time was consumed in finding a text that suited his 
present state of mind, than was usually occupied in 
the composition of a sermon. There was something 
more than perplexity and worry in this, when, as 
occasionally happened, the week was already far 
advanced, and in his growing anxiety he seemed to 
hear the sound of the Sabbath bell summoning him 
to his sacred work. This was even beyond the ex- 
perience of John Newton, the good pastor of Olney, 
who was seldom helped to more than one text in 
the week, and who compared himself to a servant to 
whom a key had been given that only opened one 



EARLY MINISTERIAL EXPERIENCES. 75 

drawer at a time, but never had committed to him a 
bunch of keys which opened all the drawers. 

But in his later years at Simprin, it was Mr. Bos- 
ton's custom to select large paragraphs of Scripture, 
which, in their succession of verses, supplied texts 
for many sermons, — a practice which carried with it 
the great advantage of enabling him, sometimes con- 
sciously and sometimes unconsciously, to gather ma- 
terial from his reading and observation, not only for 
the wants of the present week, but for those of many 
weeks to come. We find him, for instance, lingering 
over the few verses of the epistle to the Church of La- 
odicea from January to the end of May, and appa- 
rently loath to leave the passage even then, with the 
feeling that the golden mine had not yet been made 
to yield up all its riches. One statement which he 
makes is specially valuable and suggestive, that his 
afflictions not unfrequently found his texts for him, 
and that those sermons were the most profitable to 
others which had taken their shape and colouring 
from his personal and family history, and had been 
suggested by the events of his own life. 

A valuable lesson may also be gleaned by some 
from another experience in his early ministry. It 
had been his practice, at first, to delay his prepara- 
tions for his pulpit to the last days of the week, the 
consequence of which too often was that when Satur- 



76 THOMAS BOSTON. 

day came much of his sermon yet remained to be 
written. It was not long ere he began to find the 
inconvenience and evil of this delay, and to resolve 
that the writing of his discourses for the Sabbath 
should be over, at the latest, on the Friday evenings. 
In more than one respect he found the advantage of 
this wise change. The intervening rest of Saturday 
secured for him a greater reserve of strength and 
freshness for his Sabbath ministrations. It may even 
have preserved him at times from mistaking mental 
and physical depression for divine desertion. It 
saved him also from the fretting and worry which 
were certain to come out of undue haste or inconve- 
nient interruptions, while it gave him time to preach 
the sermc i to his own heart before he preached it to 
his people. Much is revealed regarding his frequent 
state of mind on closing the writing of one of his 
sermons : " Oh that it were written in my heart as it 
is in my book." 

It must have been a painful surprise to a minister 
of such lofty aims and gentle charity as Mr. Bos- 
ton, to have been told by certain of his hearers 
that he was suspected of indulging in "person- 
alities " in his preaching, and that they even be- 
lieved that, in some things which he had recently 
spoken, he had been aiming at them. It is super- 
fluous to say that few things can be more unworthy 



SCARCITY OF BOOKS. 77 

of a minister of Christ, or a more shameful degrad- 
ing of his sacred office, than when he uses his pulpit 
to gratify a secret vindictiveness or spite. But such 
suspicions are commonly groundless, and are to be 
accounted for by an overweening self-importance 
on the part of some of his hearers, or by an uneasy 
conscience in others, which smarts under faithful 
preaching when it unveils to the man some secret 
besetting sin, or purpose of evil. Indeed it is a poor 
sign of a minister's discriminating skill and fidelity 
in his pulpit when his preaching does not at times 
make individuals among his hearers uneasy almost 
to resentment, and his " drowsy tinklings only lull his 
flock to sleep." " I should suspect his preaching had 
no salt in it," says the wise and witty Thomas Fuller, 
" if no galled jade did wince. But still it does not 
follow that the archer aimed because the arrow 
hit." 

Some of our readers will be interested by another 
phase in Mr. Boston's early Simprin experiences. 
We find him mourning again and again over the 
fewness of his books, and especially of commentaries 
on the Word of God. He even describes himself in 
one place as having been wounded in his feelings, 
" touched to the quick," by observing the smile which 
passed over the countenance of a brother minister 
from a neighbouring parish, when he showed him 



yS THOMAS BOSTON. 

his little book-press with its scantily supplied shelves. 
Among the cherished few, he tells us, were Zanchy's 
works, and Luther on the Galatians, " which he was 
much taken with ; " and Providence also laid to his 
hand Beza's " Confession of Faith." Circulating 
libraries, and book posts, and other expedients with 
which the modern country parson is gratefully famil- 
iar, were unknown in those days, and there is no 
evidence that the weekly carrier's cart from the great 
city regularly touched at Simprin. Only once in the 
year did our pastor's straitened means admit of his 
bringing home a carefully selected book parcel, not 
very portly, to add to his little stores. . He came, 
however, ere long to see that there were compensating 
advantages even in this. For he had time to read 
and digest the supplies of one year before the next 
greedily-waited-for annual parcel of books arrived. 
The reproach could not have been flung at him that 
it was more easy to furnish our library than our 
understanding. And even by his lack of commen- 
taries, he was thrown back the more upon his own 
mental resources, and closed up to independent 
thought ; while he early began to register in a " Book 
of Miscellanies" the difficulties of interpretation 
which he could not surmount, and the problems in 
theology which he could not immediately solve ; and 
not unfrequently the solution came in maturer years. 



THE BEST INTERPRETER OF SCRIPTURE. 79 

One precious testimony of Boston's, more than 
once repeated by him even at this early period of 
his ministry, will find its echo in the heart of every 
devoted minister of Christ — that a heavenly frame of 
mind is the best interpreter of Scripture. There are 
great texts, especially those which belong to the 
region of Christian experience, which sound to the 
man of mere lexicons and grammars as paradoxes 
or riddles, and before which he will sit for days and 
weeks vainly guessing and groping at their meaning, 
but which sweetly open themselves almost at once 
to the mind which has " tasted that the Lord is 
gracious," and' disclose to him all their golden stores. 
It is a profound saying, expressing in another form 
Boston's meaning, that " the best scriptural inter- 
preter is the man with a scriptural mind." 

We have noticed the manner in which our young 
Simprin pastor hungered for books, and how scanty 
was his supply of this mental pabulum during the 
earlier years of his ministry. But there was one 
book to which we have now to advert which came 
into his possession without his seeking, even the 
name of which he had never before heard, which 
was destined to exercise over himself and his min- 
istry a most powerful and benignant influence, and 
ultimately and partly through him, over the theo- 
logical thinking and the ecclesiastical history of 



80 THOMAS BOSTON. 

Scotland for ages to come. Other ministers, such 
as Mr. Hog of Carnock, soon became associated 
with him in his experience and action ; but his 
was the hand which beyond all others put the 
leaven into the meal. This remarkable book was 
'' The Marrow of Modern Divinity." Its author 
was Mr. Edward Fisher, a gentleman commoner of 
Brasenose College, Oxford. Its first part was 
published in May 1645, and its second part three 
years after; and it consisted largely *of extracts from 
the writings of the Reformers and the Puritans, 
these having reference mainly to questions con- 
nected with the way of a sinner's access to God. 
We see the familiar names of Luther and Calvin 
and Beza shining out from the great multitude of 
honoured names, and the editor himself contributes 
an occasional sentence or brief passage. But he 
prefers to describe himself as one who has gathered 
sweet-scented and medicinal flowers from many a 
garden, and bound them together in one bunch of 
mingled sweetness and healing power. The book 
was strongly recommended by the famous Joseph 
Caryl, who held the office of censor of theological 
works, from the Westminster Assembly of Divines. 
And the fact that the entire work passed through ten 
editions in a few years after its publication, proves 
the avidity with which it was sought after and read. 



THE FINDING OF THE "MARROW." 8l 

The story of the manner in which the " Marrow " 
found its way into this obscure corner of Scotland, 
and into Mr. Boston's hands, presents a remarkable 
instance of the unlikely means and the minute inci- 
dents by which God not unfrequently works out 
his great designs, especially for the advancement of 
his kingdom among men. How little did Luther 
dream when he found a copy of the Latin Bible in 
the Augustinian monastery at Erfurth, and began 
to read it, that he was " the monk whom God had 
chosen to shake the world," and that this discovery 
was to be the first step in his training for his glo- 
rious mission. The way of Boston's finding the 
" Marrow," though greatly inferior in importance, be- 
longs to the same class of providences. We shall best 
give the narrative of the finding of the " Marrow " 
in Boston's own quaint words : — " As I was sitting 
one day in a house of Simprin, I espied above the 
window-head two little old books, which when I 
had taken down I found entitled, the one ' The 
Marrow of Modern Divinity,' the other ' Christ's 
Blood Flowing Freely to Sinners.' These, I reckon, 
had been brought home from England by the 
master of the house, who had been a soldier in 
the time of the civil wars. Finding them to point 
to the subject I was in particular concern about, I 
brought them both away. The latter, a book of 



82 THOMAS BOSTON. 

Saltmarsh's, I relished not, and I think I returned 
it without reading it quite through. The other, be- 
ing the first part of the ' Marrow,' I relished greatly, 
and purchased it, at length, from the owner, and it 
is still to be found among my books. I found it 
to come close to the points I was in quest of, and 
to shew the consistency of these which I could not 
reconcile before, so that I rejoiced in it as a light 
which the Lord had seasonably struck up to me in 
my darkness." 

It is not difficult to understand how, in looking 
at the doctrine of election by itself, apart from the 
uses and connections in which it is presented in 
Scripture, Boston in his earlier years at Simprin 
should sometimes, to use his own words, have found 
himself confused, indistinct, and hampered in his 
proclamation to men of the free, open, and universal 
liberty of access to God in Christ for salvation. But 
when he was brought to see, from a hundred passages 
in the " Marrow," that the gospel was the fruit and 
expression of God's love to every " man of woman 
born," that " God so loved the world that he gave his 
only begotten Son," or, to quote the words which be- 
came the recognized formula of "Marrow" theology, 
that "Jesus Christ was God the Father's deed of 
gift and grant unto all mankind lost," the morning 
mists passed away, he saw God's wondrous method 



A NEW LIGHT. 83 

of mercy in its full-orbed light and radiance, and 
began from that hour to sound " the gospel trumpet's 
heavenly call " with a new energy and delight which 
his people and those in the surrounding parishes 
were not slow to recognize and relish. " The time 
of the singing of birds had come." 

There is one statement in an early passage of his 
autobiography, probably having reference to this very 
period, in which our young minister describes him- 
self as conversing with a visitor about " the measure 
of humiliation requisite in a sinner before he can 
come to Christ." If up to this time he had been 
hampered by this question, which has made so many 
to stumble and hold back on their way to Christ 
and peace, we may well believe that the teaching 
of the " Marrow " would tell him how to deal with 
such an inquirer. He would insist on an immediate 
and unqualified closing with the message of heaven's 
love. He would assure the anxious one that he 
would never become better, but worse, by waiting. 
Why should you linger, even for a day, when the 
gate stands wide open, and the feast is ready, and 
the King is waiting with open arms to welcome you 
in ? The only way to be made clean is to go to 
the fountain; the only way to be made warm is 
to go to the fire. In this way had Boston come to 
plead with men when preaching on such texts as 



84 THOMAS BOSTON. 

" Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy 
laden, and I will give you rest " — " Ho, every one 
that thirsteth, come ye to the waters," on which the 
lamp of the "Marrow" had shed a new light. 

During the following fifteen years, the " Marrow " 
doctrine spread far and wide over many of the fairest 
provinces of Scotland ; it became incorporated with 
the preaching of not a few of its best ministers; and 
multitudes of sincere believers were so quickened by 
it that their experience seemed like a new conversion ; 
while myriads of careless professors and open sinners 
entered with joy into the kingdom of the saved. 
There is truth in the remark that the Marrowmen, 
first of all among our Scottish divines, entered fully 
into the missionary spirit of the Bible, and were able 
to see that Calvinistic doctrine " was not inconsist- 
ent with world-conquering aspirations and efforts." 

We return to our narrative. From the time that 
Boston had drunk of the reviving waters of the 
" Marrow," his work in Simprin was carried on with 
increased freedom and crowned with greater success. 
Conscious that he had been put in trust with a divine 
message which was fitted for all, needed by all, and 
commanded to be proclaimed to all, he preached with 
an enlarged hope and earnestness. And Simprin 
was not only improved but visibly transformed. 
There was a new face upon everything. " Instead 



REMARKABLE TRANSFORMATION. 85 

of the thorn there had come up the fir tree, and 
instead of the brier there had come up the myrtle 
tree." When he entered on his ministry in Simprin 
there was not a single house in which family wor- 
ship was observed : within a period of less than seven 
years there was not a single home in all the parish 
without its family altar and its morning and evening 
sacrifice of praise and prayer. As it had been with 
Baxter at Kidderminster, when at the stated hours 
every house resounded with the voice of psalms, so 
it had come to be the experience of Boston in the 
cottages of this rural parish. And these are among 
the surest signs of thriving religious life among a 
people, just as there are certain flowers on the Alps 
which are sure to appear at a high elevation. 

Moreover, in the later years of his Simprin pas- 
torate, and especially on extraordinary communion 
occasions, multitudes came streaming from the 
neighbouring parishes to be "present at the feast;" 
and many carried away with them in their hearts 
the memory of words and thoughts that never died, 
their awakened interest giving an increased enthu- 
siasm and fervour to Boston's preaching, so that his 
lips seemed touched with hallowed fire, and he rose 
above himself. Writing in his diary at the recollec- 
tion of one of those sacramental seasons, we find him 
testifying, " If I ever preached, it was on that day ;" 



86 THOMAS BOSTON. 

" I will ever remember Simprin as a field which the 
Lord had blessed." 

In speaking of such successes as thus crowned 
and rewarded the ministry of Boston even at this 
early period, while we must look for the explanation 
mainly in the divine adaptation of the gospel and 
doctrine which he preached, we must look also at the 
personality of the preacher. Such a man preached 
to his people in his daily life. They beheld the 
witness to the divinity of his message, in its divine 
fruits, as he lived and moved before them. They 
could not doubt regarding such a man that he " be- 
lieved, and therefore spoke." We have already 
quoted his own testimony that he preached his 
sermons to his own heart before he preached them 
to his people. And then they were studied in an 
element of prayer. His was the prayer ardent which 

" Opens heaven, and lets down a stream 
Of glory on the consecrated hour 
Of man, in audience with the Deity." 

With what an intensity of gratitude do we find him 
recording in his diary instances of blessing in answer 
to prayer : " My soul went out in love flames to the 
Advocate with the Father." 

This was emphatically a formative period in Bos- 
ton's life. As an instance of this, we may mention 
the habit which he had already formed of daily 



SPIRITUAL LESSONS. 87 

meditation on the ways of Providence, especially in 
connection with his own spiritual life and ministry, 
and his extracting from these experiences the les- 
sons which they suggested. By this means, the 
divine word and the divine ways were made to 
shed mutual light, and often the moral which they 
suggested was condensed into a proverb and pre- 
served. In this manner his autobiography becomes 
even at this early stage of his life like his manse 
garden, a place abounding with wholesome fruits 
and medicinal plants. We shall enrich our narra- 
tive with a few of these : — 

" Spiritual decays suck the sap out of mercies." 

" There may be an enlargement of affection where 
there is a straitening of words." 

" The way of duty crossing people's way is a safe 
way." 

"When the Lord means a mercy to a people he 
helps them beforehand to pray for it." 

" A depending frame is a pledge of mercy desired." 

" Satan is sure to lay hold of us in a special 
manner when there is some great work that we 
have to do." 

" There is no keeping foot without new supplies 
from the Lord." 

Early in the beginning of 1706, Mr. Boston was 
surprised by receiving the news of his having been 



88 THOMAS BOSTON. 

called to be minister of the parish of Ettrick in 
Selkirkshire. It was not a welcome surprise. No 
doubt, Simprin was a little parish with a scanty 
population, by no means equal to his capacity 
of work and oversight ; but during those seven 
years of his pastorate over that rustic flock, it had 
entwined itself around his affections. It was his 
" first love." There was not one among his 
parishioners whom he did not know, and the short 
and simple annals of whose family life, in which 
" the dews of sorrow were lustred o'er with love," 
which he could not have repeated. We are re- 
minded of Goldsmith's lines : — 

" Even children followed with endearing wile 

And plucked his gown, to share the good man's smile." 

And his ministry had been singularly blessed among 
them. They were indeed his " living epistles." How 
could he endure to be severed from a people who, 
in so many simple forms and ways, reciprocated his 
affection ? Moreover, when the call from Ettrick 
came at length into his hands, " his health," as he 
records in his diary, " was so broken that he looked 
rather like one to be transported to another world 
than into another parish." But still " the Call " was 
there. It was a reality. It had come to him un- 
sought and undesired. He was conscious in his 



CALLED TO ETTRICK. 89 

own heart that he would not have so much as 
lifted up a finger to bring it forth ; but now that 
it had come to him, he must look it full in the face, 
and endeavour to ascertain what was the will of 
his Master in heaven. Unbiassed by any poor am- 
bitions or mercenary motives, this would be the 
only factor in determining his decision. He tells 
us that, " leaving all in God's hands, he was willing 
from the first to go or stay as the Lord might give 
the word." And " when the eye was thus single, the 
whole body was full of light." 

At the same time, while he was thus prepared to 
obey the divine will, it was necessary that he should 
do his utmost to ascertain what this will was. He 
could not hope to hear a voice from heaven saying, 
" This is the way, walk ye in it." For this end he 
visited Ettrick, preached to the people, and sought 
by personal observation and otherwise to inform 
himself, especially regarding the moral and religious 
condition of the parish. Up to this time, his heart's 
preference had been to remain in Simprin. But what 
he saw and heard during those days in " the Forest " 
made him hesitate, and even incline to make it 
the object of his choice, not because his work would 
be easy, but because the crying wants of the people 
were so great. " The desolation in that parish," he 
says, " ever since I saw it, hath great weight on me, 



90 THOMAS BOSTON. 

and I am convinced I should have more opportunity 
to do service for God there than here ; but success 
is the Lord's." Still, like Moses in the wilderness, 
who would not move with his myriad host until the 
pillar of cloud and fire moved, he would take no 
step until Providence gave its sign. " The Lord 
helped me to believe that he would clear me in the 
matter in due time, and to depend on him for the 
same ; while the word, ' He that believeth shall 
not make haste,' was helpful to me." Well know- 
ing, as he tells us, that " several who had interest 
with God at the throne of grace were concerned 
to pray for light to him," he at length determined 
to wait for the action of the synod in whose bounds 
the congregations both of Simprin and Ettrick were 
placed, and to accept its decision as the indication 
of the divine will. 

And on the 6th day of March 1707, the synod 
having met, transferred Mr. Boston to Ettrick, a 
place with which his name has continued to be 
linked by many sacred associations in the minds of 
Christians throughout Scotland and in many other 
lands, up to the present day. m Grey-headed elders 
were there from Simprin, weeping much at the 
thought of his being severed from them ; and when 
he beheld their unfeigned grief, " how," says he, 
" could my eyes fail to trickle down with tears ? " 



FAREWELL SERMON AT SIMPRIN. 9 1 

On the 1st day of May 1707, Mr. Boston was for- 
mally inducted as minister of Ettrick — a day, as he 
did not fail to note, remarkable in after ages as 
" that in which the union of Scotland and England 
commenced according to the articles thereof agreed 
upon by the two Parliaments." On the Sabbath 
after his admission, he began his ministry at Ettrick 
by preaching from the text 1 Sam. vii. 12 : "Then 
Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh 
and Shen, and called the name of it Eben-ezer, 
saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us." It was 
not until the 15th day of June that he preached his 
farewell sermon to his Simprin people on John vii. 
37 : " In the last day, that great day of the feast, 
Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let 
him come unto me, and drink." It was characteristic 
of the man to choose that grand evangelical text for 
such an occasion, when all the associations and 
incidents were likely to prepare and attune the 
hearts of the people for hearing. The multitude 
was very great, consisting not only of his sorrow- 
ing Simprin flock, but of thousands besides, who 
had come crowding from all the surrounding parishes 
to listen to a voice which the greater number of 
them knew they would hear no more. The place 
was at once a Bochim and a Bethel. He notices 
with glowing gratitude that " the Lord who had 



92 THOMAS BOSTON. 

been with him in his ministry there, was with him 
at the close, and much of God's power appeared 
in it." It might have been said that " that last 
day was the great day of the feast." There was a 
holy awe over the hushed and expectant multitude ; 
and though many a face that was turned to the 
preacher was suffused with tears, there was a pre- 
vailing element of joy which the text and the 
words which were spoken on it did not fail to 
produce and sustain. It was like the drawing of 
the loaded net by the disciples on the Sea of 
Galilee at the morning dawn, which they could 
scarcely drag to the land because of the multitude 
of fishes. 

On the Thursday following, Mr. Boston with his 
wife and two children, Jane and Ebenezer, arrived 
at their new mountain home among the green hills 
of Ettrick. No doubt there were some momentary 
misgivings and regrets on that eventful day, but 
he was borne up by the consciousness that it was 
an overpowering sense of the divine call and lead- 
ing that had brought him there. " Thus," says he, 
" I parted with a people whose hearts were knit 
to me, and mine to them ; nothing but the sense 
of God's command that took me there making me 
to part with them." The times were not few in 
later years when he looked back with wondering 



CHOSEN CLERK OF SYNOD. 93 

gratitude, and even with fond heart-longings, upon 
his " halcyon days at Simprin." 

We must not omit to mention that, in October 
1702, Mr. Boston was chosen to the important office 
of Clerk to the Synod of Merse and Teviotdale, 
and that he held that office till 1711. Probably his 
suitableness for conducting the business of church 
courts had already in some measure revealed itself 
in the narrower sphere of his own presbytery, which 
was within the jurisdiction of the synod. The clerk's 
special duties were the recording of the proceedings 
of the synod in its minute-book, maintaining its 
correspondence with the presbyteries and sessions 
within its bounds, helping in the education and over- 
sight of students within the bounds of the synod 
who were preparing for the work of the Christian 
ministry ; as well as the visiting of presbyteries and 
sessions in which the interference and advice of 
the synod were needed. Very different this from 
the routine duties of a quiet pastoral charge such 
as that to which he had been accustomed. But he 
did not shrink from the responsibility, all the more 
that the call to it had come unsought. Moreover, 
he knew that the work would only come to him at 
intervals ; while perhaps he was not altogether un- 
conscious that the parts of it which were most 
difficult were those for which he had a natural 



94 THOMAS BOSTON. 

liking, and, as often happens in such cases, a 
peculiar fitness. His habits of order had been 
early formed. And the synod was not long in 
discovering that it had made a wise and happy 
choice. We find good men thus recording the 
traditions regarding him which they had received 
from his contemporaries : " He had a great know- 
ledge and understanding of human nature, of the 
most proper methods of addressing it, and the most 
likely handles for catching hold of it. And he had 
an admirable talent at drawing a paper." We gather 
from passages in his diary that not unfrequently, 
when the synod was about to vote upon a question 
on which it appeared from the previous discussions 
there was not entire unanimity among the members, 
he succeeded in preparing such a minute as, by its 
happily-chosen words and well-balanced phrases, pro- 
duced in the end entire harmony where, a little be- 
fore, this issue had seemed very unlikely. But the 
testimony of Lord Minto, an eminent statesman, 
who had also been a judge, confirmed and exceeded 
all the others — that " Mr. Boston was the best clerk 
he had ever known in any court, civil or eccle- 
siastical." 



CHAPTER V. 

MR. BOSTON'S FIRST TEN YEARS IN ETTRICK. 

Ettrick scenery, history, and people — Great names— Con- 
dition of the parish — The Abjuration Oath — Rebellion 
— False alarms— Call to another parish — Mr. Boston 
pleads against his removal — Retained in Ettrick — 
Universal joy. 

THE parish of Ettrick is in the south-west of 
Selkirkshire. Its surface has been described 
as a " sea of hills," which are finely varied in appear- 
ance, beautifully rounded at the top and covered 
with green grass to the summit. Some of its hills, 
such as Ettrick Pen, rise more than 2,000 feet above 
the level of the sea, and form part of the highest 
mountain range in the southern highlands of Scot- 
land. Some centuries before the days of Boston, 
the whole of that tract of land which stretches along 
the margin of "lone St. Mary's Loch," and, including 
both Ettrick and Yarrow, extends northward to the 
Tweed, was covered by the Ettrick forest. But now 
there is scarcely a straggling tree with its naked 
branches to suggest traditions of what once had been. 



96 THOMAS BOSTON. 

" The scenes are desert now and bare, 
Where flourished once a forest fair, 
When these waste glens with copse were lined 
And peopled by the hart and hind." 

But in the interval of less than two centuries, since 
the days of the good pastor of whom we are writing, 
what changes have come over Ettrick and its twin- 
sister Yarrow ! Over the whole region there has 
been spread the mantle of romance, and it has be- 
come classic ground. In common with the lake 
district in Cumberland across the borders, where 
Wordsworth and Coleridge and Southey found a 
congenial retreat, and did much to enrich the litera- 
ture of the world, this district of Scotland, with its 
green hills, and lonely glens, and sparkling streams, 
became the favourite haunt and home of poets. 
More than once Wordsworth was drawn to it from 
his own Rydal Mount and Grasmere, and in his 
" Yarrow Visited " and " Yarrow Revisited " he has 
owned the power of its fascination over him. Sir 
Walter Scott received impulse and inspiration alike 
from its scenery and its Border ballads and teeming 
traditions of war, and love, and chivalry, gradually 
becoming what Wordsworth called him in the enthu- 
siasm of his admiration, "the favourite of the world." 
But Ettrick claimed one as emphatically her 
own, as having been born and bred within her 
boundaries — James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd. 



THE ETTRICK SHEPHERD. 97 

His birth-place was in a half- ruined cottage in the 
little village of Ettrick, not far from the old parish 
church and its straggling retinue of trees. With 
no advantage of education or social position, with 
every influence against him except his indomitable 
courage and perseverance, and after many struggles 
and many failures, he rose at length to a first place 
among the poets of Scotland. His sphere was 
unique, but within it he was a master and stood 
unapproached. In expressing and depicting human 
passions and affections, Burns stood far above him ; 
but in the region of pure imagination, especially in 
the world of the supernatural, he was in his element 
In the beautiful picture of Kilmany, for instance, 
we feel, while reading, as if he must have actually 
lived with her in the enchanted land. In the hands 
of others who, in their own departments, are great 
poets, their supernatural characters are found after 
all to be real flesh and blood. But in such poems 
as the " Queen's Wake " and others we are carried 
away to fairyland, and feel for a time as if we were 
in it. As has been happily said, " we find ourselves 
walking in an enchanted circle, on a cloudless land, 
in a sunless world " {Delta . 

But we must now turn back to the year 171 1, and 
resume the story of him who, before the days of 
James Hogg, had made the name of Ettrick sacred, 



9S THOMAS BOSTON. 

and won for himself also, by other and undying claims, 
the designation of the " Ettrick Shepherd." 

Mr. Boston's first impressions of the people of 
Ettrick as he found them were not encouraging, 
but the reverse. Nothing indeed but the sense of 
his divine call to this new sphere and his faith in 
Him who could "make his strength equal to his 
day," could have kept him from fearing and even 
fainting at the prospect which opened before him. 
The discouraging causes came from more than 
one quarter. First, the parish had been without a 
minister, or the regular observance of the public 
ordinances of religion of any kind, for the previous 
four years. It was impossible that a people num- 
bering many hundreds, and left for so long a time 
to wander as sheep without a shepherd, should not, 
in such circumstances, have greatly degenerated. 
The neglected and apparently forsaken parish had 
become morally and spiritually like an unploughed 
field which was covered with tangled weeds and 
thorns, and sheltered many foul creatures. The 
new minister notes in his diary, in his own charac- 
teristic manner and with observant sagacity, that 
" he did not find the people's appetite for ordin- 
ances to have been sharpened by the long fast 
which they had got for about the space of four 
years ; on the contrary, they were cold and indiffer- 



FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF ETTRICK. 99 

ent about divine things, but keen about worldly gains 
to a proverb." 

Speaking of his parishioners in their characteristic 
moral features, and perhaps thinking the while of 
the quieter and less self-asserting people whom he 
had left behind him in the Merse, he describes them 
as " naturally smart and of an uncommon assurance, 
self-conceited and censorious to a pitch, and using 
an indecent freedom both with church and state." 
At the first, when he came among them, and for 
some time after, he was greatly shocked and dis- 
couraged by the indecent and disorderly behaviour 
of many of the people during divine worship, some of 
them rising with rude noise and seeming impatience, 
and others who had never entered the church, walk- 
ing up and down in the surrounding churchyard with 
loud talking while the service was proceeding. So 
common was this unseemly outrage that two of the 
elders were at length appointed in rotation to watch 
against the offenders, and to see that no one withdrew 
from the church during the service without adequate 
reason, or occasioned noise and confusion around the 
church doors. 

It was also not a little painful to the sorely-tried 
pastor to notice that, " during his preaching," the 
majority among his hearers gave little heed to what 
was spoken on divine themes, but pricked their ears 



IOO THOMAS BOSTON. 

and were all attention when there was any allusion 
to public affairs, or to the current news of the day. 
Two other scandals filled up this dark and repulsive 
picture. One was the prevalence of profane swear- 
ing even among those who frequented public ordin- 
ances, "the same fountain sending forth sweet and 
bitter," and the frequent occurrence among church 
members of sins of impurity, even in their grosser 
forms. When would this Augean stable be cleansed 
and turned into a temple of God ? There was only 
one power in the universe that could do it. 

Another circumstance which tended not a little, 
in the earlier years of Mr. Boston's Ettrick ministry, 
to disturb his peace and to hamper him in his 
work, was the presence in his parish of Mr. Mac- 
millan, the minister and leader of a party among 
the Presbyterians who had refused to " go in " with 
the Revolution Settlement of 1688, or to swear 
allegiance to the new dynasty which began with 
William of Orange. Without questioning the sin- 
cerity and conscientiousness of Mr. Macmillan and 
his followers, of whom there was a considerable 
number in the parish, it is easy to understand how 
their presence and constant agitation of points of 
difference in which Mr. Boston was the frequent 
object of attack, must have acted as an irritant 
upon his sensitive nature ; while malcontents and 



PUBLIC AND PRIVATE TRIALS. IOl 

fugitives from discipline were apt to seek refuge in 
the hostile camp. Still, in the face of all these 
frowning discouragements, he never regretted his 
having come to Ettrick ; and while he may some- 
times have thought of Simprin with a sigh, and 
written of himself in dark moments in his diary 
as " like a bird shaken out of its nest, or an owl 
in the desert," he believed that a kindly hand was 
leading him amid the encircling gloom, and that 
the time was surely coming when " at eventide 
there would be light." 

With these public trials in the first years of his 
ministry in Ettrick, there were mingled others of 
which the home was the scene. Within the brief 
period of eleven months, Mr. Boston was called to 
lay two infant children in the grave. After the cus- 
tom of many of the Old Testament saints, who often 
made the name given to their children a memorial of 
blessings, or an expression of consecration and faith, 
he named the first-born of these Ebenezer, as at 
once a testimony of gratitude and an act of dedi- 
cation. And when the second was born soon after 
the death of the first, the hallowed name was trans- 
ferred to it with much earnest pleading in prayer that 
its young life might be spared. But it was not long 
ere sovereign Wisdom removed this little flower also 
to His upper garden. This second bereavement not 



102 THOMAS BOSTON. 

only pierced the tender father's heart, but for a little 
time stumbled his faith, as if the dedication of his 
child had been rejected. 

One scene in the death -chamber has been de- 
scribed by himself in words of pathos which can 
scarcely be read without tears : " When the child 
was laid in the coffin, his mother kissed his dust. 
I only lifted the cloth off his face, looked on it, 
and covered it again, in confidence of seeing that 
body rise a glorious body. When the nails were 
driving, I was moved, for that I had not kissed 
that precious dust which I believed was united to 
Jesus Christ, as if I had despised it. I would fain 
have caused draw the nail again, but because of 
one that was present I resented and violented 
myself." His later reflections reveal the riper fruits 
of his parental sorrow, and have been profitable to 
many who have been similarly called to hear " deep 
calling unto deep." " I see plainly that divine 
sovereignty challenges a latitude, and I must stoop 
and be content to follow the Lord in an untrodden 
path ; and this made me, with more ease, to bury 
my second Ebenezer than I could do rny first. 
That Scripture was very profitable to me, ' It was 
in my heart to build a house unto the Lord.' I 
learned not to cry, How will the house be made 
up ? but being now in that matter made a weaned 



EARNEST PULPIT MINISTRATIONS. IOJ 

child, desired the loss to be made up by the presence 
of the Lord." 

At length, the anxious pastor began to be cheered 
under his frowning discouragements, by being told 
of some who had spoken of his sermons as " ripping 
up their case and discovering the secrets of their 
hearts." This was like the ploughshare turning up 
the hard soil for the reception of the seed. Those 
rousing sermons were seasonably followed by others 
unfolding to his hearers the divine method of salva- 
tion, the "still, small voice" coming after the thunder 
and the tempest. In these there were already to be 
seen some of the germs of his " Fourfold State," 
which, in due time, was to be given to the world, 
and to be one of the life-books of his own and suc- 
ceeding ages, by means of which myriads were to be 
brought into the kingdom of God. Along with this, 
he associated catechetical lectures on Christian doc- 
trine, as he had previously done in Simprin, using 
the Shorter Catechism as his text - book, as had 
been the common practice some generations before 
among the English Puritans such as the saintly 
Flavel and others. And mingled with these were 
occasional sermons against the besetting sins of his 
parish, such as profane swearing and impurity; for 
he was not slow, when occasion called for it, to aim 
his winged arrows at a mark. 



104 THOMAS BOSTON. 

Alongside of Mr. Boston's ministry in the pulpit 
there were all the appliances of an enlightened and 
earnest pastorate — twice in the year catechizing 
groups of his people in the various districts of his 
parish, and once in the year visiting each of his 
families, like Paul at Ephesus, from house to house. 
In such a parish as Ettrick, extensive and moun- 
tainous, abounding also in mountain streams whose 
channels were often his only pathway, this part of 
his work proved to be laborious and dangerous, even 
when at length he provided himself with a pony. 
Moreover, it was no uncommon experience for him 
to be overtaken with darkness, or shrouded in mist, 
or arrested by a mountain stream which violent rains 
had rapidly swollen into the dimensions of a river 
and made for the time impassable. On some occa- 
sions, when he had become bewildered and lost his 
way, he would throw the bridle upon the neck of his 
sure-footed steed, and wait until its sagacious in- 
stincts brought him once more upon known ground. 
Then would the gratitude of the saintly pastor, re- 
cognizing in all the hand of Him without whom a 
sparrow cannot fall to the ground, find utterance in 
the suitable words of a psalm, and awaken, as he 
sang, the echoes of some lonely glen, — 

" Lord, thou preservest man and beast. 
How precious is thy grace ! 



CHRISTIAN ELDERS. 105 

Therefore in shadow of thy wings 
Men's sons their trust shall place." 

And so he persevered in this part of his sacred 
work, notwithstanding all its toil and peril, as mak- 
ing him better acquainted with the character of his 
people, with their modes of thinking, their spiritual 
wants, and their family history in its joys and sorrows; 
and thus giving him, as in the often remembered 
Simprin, a warmer place in their hearts, suggesting 
to him many a seasonable text for his sermons, 
doubling his moral influence, and making his " pulpit 
the preacher's throne." 

Nor was he slow in surrounding himself at an 
early period with a body of Christian elders, who 
strengthened him much with their experience and 
friendly counsel, and aided him in many ways in 
the spiritual oversight of his flock, forming a living 
link between him and his people ; helping him, 
moreover, in guarding the entrance of unsuitable 
members into the sacred fellowship of the church, 
and, by faithful discipline, in purifying the church 
from members who had proved themselves, by their 
ungodly and immoral lives, to be the servants of 
another master than Christ. The eldership is the 
strong point in the Presbyterian system, and the 
minister of Ettrick was not slow to recognize and 
appreciate the fact. In one page of his diary we 



106 THOMAS BOSTON. 

find him giving relief to his affection for some of 
those elders who had " obtained a good report," by 
embalming their names in glowing and grateful 
testimonies, as Paul writes of Gaius, and Aquila 
and Priscilla, and a whole constellation of workers 
who had "helped him much in the Lord." He 
speaks of one as " a most kindly, pious, good man, 
and most useful in his office." And he prays for 
another who, " with his family, had been the most 
comfortable to him in his ministry. So it was all 
along, and so it continues to this day. May the 
blessing of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, 
rest on them from generation to generation. May 
the glorious gospel of his Son catch them early, 
and continue with them to the end, of the which 
I have seen some comfortable instances already." 

And he writes of yet another elder in the follow- 
ing words, in which the pen-portrait is traced with 
admirable discrimination : "He was always a friend 
to ministers. Though he was a poor man, yet he 
had always a brow for a good cause, and was a 
faithful, useful elder ; and as he was very ready to 
reprove sin, so he had a singular dexterity in the 
matter of admonition and reproof, to speak "a word 
upon the wheels " so as to convince with a certain 
sweetness, that it was hard to take his reproofs ill." 

It was not till more than three years after his 



REINSTITUTING THE LORD'S SUPPER. 107 

settlement in Ettrick that Mr. Boston, with the advice 
of his elders, ventured to celebrate the Lord's Supper 
in his parish. It had long been a neglected ordinance, 
and like the Passover at one dark period in the history 
of the Israelites, had become " as a thing out of mind." 
But the faithful pastor knew that it was only those 
who were true disciples and could make a credible 
profession of their faith in Christ that had right and 
welcome to the sacramental feast, with all its thrice 
holy memories, and he concluded that his wisest course 
would be to reconstruct the congregation from the 
beginning. Acting on this conviction, he conversed, 
personally and alone, with every " intending com- 
municant." And these interviews were designed, not 
only to act as a winnowing fan for separating the 
chaff from the wheat and so keeping the church pure, 
but for conveying instruction to the young inquirer, 
strengthening holy resolution, correcting mistakes, 
and suggesting rules and maxims for cheering the 
timid and guiding the inexperienced. Lessons and 
counsels given in such circumstances are likely to 
be remembered ever afterwards by the sincere dis- 
ciple. The earnest Christian pastor, on such occa- 
sions intensely feeling the burden of the care of 
souls, may assure himself that he is not labouring in 
vain. 

For weeks before, this man of God looked forward 



108 THOMAS BOSTON. 

to the divine festival with anxious fears ; but the 
nearer it came, he was the more carried above dis- 
couragement. He notes the fact that the sermons 
preached on the Lord's day that preceded the com- 
munion seemed to have weight, and that he found 
his soul particularly pressed to follow that day's 
work with prayer. " As for the work itself, it was 
•more comfortable than I expected, and there seemed 
to be some blowings of the Spirit with it. I never 
saw a congregation," he adds, " more remarkably 
fixed and grave than they were. In all, there were 
about fifty-seven persons of our own parish com- 
municants ; few indeed, yet more than I expected 
amongst them." 

From that time onward, the Lord's Supper contin- 
ued to be observed annually in the parish of Ettrick, 
and its recurrence became a sort of vantage-ground 
from which its minister could stand and look back, 
and measure the religious progress of his people 
from year to year. The heart of the anxious pastor 
watched for signs of the presence and working of 
the Holy Spirit among his parishioners as the hus- 
bandman watches for the rain-clouds to refresh his 
parched fields, or as the mariner looks up to the 
stars to guide his course ; and year after year, he was 
cheered by tokens which sent him to his knees in 
thanksgiving. For though there was nothing as yet 



SIGNS OF REVIVING LIFE. IO9 

like a pentecostal effusion in which his whole parish, 
with its thousands, received a new life and impulse, 
and every individual was devoutly conscious of a bap- 
tism of fire, yet interest in divine things was deepen- 
ing, the circle was widening, and there were convic- 
tion and anxious inquiry in many hearts. Men who 
had not observed the Lord's Supper for twenty years 
came seeking to handle and taste the sacred symbols 
of Christ's redeeming love, and those who had long 
been deserters of Christian ordinances in every form 
hastened to renew the times when it was better with 
them than now. Writing of the fifth of the annual 
communions, Mr. Boston records, in his own homely 
style of narrative, that "there were 150 communi- 
cants who sat down at the sacred feast. At this time 
there were ten tables, though we used to have about 
seven, and the tables were longer than ordinary, and 
people came from a far distance." 

The gratification which the true-hearted pastor 
derived from these signs of reviving life in his parish 
was disturbed by the action of Queen Anne's Parlia- 
ment in framing an oath termed the " Oath of Ab- 
juration," which was required to be taken by every 
minister of the church, on pain of his incurring a 
heavy and almost ruinous pecuniary penalty in the 
event of his refusal, and in case of his persistence in 
this refusal, his being compelled to vacate his pas- 



IIO THOMAS BOSTON. 

toral charge. This startling and arbitrary decree 
naturally produced suspicion and alarm over the 
whole church. It was felt to be unnecessary as a 
pledge for the loyalty of men who, on their entrance 
on the ministry, had taken the oath of allegiance 
to the crown ; and then its terms were so vague 
and ambiguous as to be perplexing to men of tender 
consciences, who could not be sure to what extent 
its language would commit them, and shut their 
mouths against faithful testimony-bearing, when the 
liberty or purity of the church might be tampered 
with by the civil power. The more ambiguous its 
terms, the more likely were they to conceal a snare. 
The oath was accordingly refused to be taken at all 
hazards by many of the best ministers, and not a few 
of those who bore the infliction with painful scruples 
deeply felt that " an enemy had done this." When the 
day of decision came, the fear of consequences held 
back the hands of the rulers from inflicting what 
would have been a most cruel and crushing penalty, 
and the pastor of Ettrick remained in possession of 
his manse and glebe. 

And when, at a later period, it was attempted to 
make the oath more palatable by gilding it with some 
modifying clauses, Mr. Boston stood before his people 
prepared to suffer the loss of all things rather than* 
sin, openly declaring in characteristic words that " the 



"PLAYING THE MAN IN THE FIRES. Ill 

oath could not be cleansed, and that, like the leper's 
house, it needed to be taken down." 

It remains, however, to be noticed that there were 
many among Mr. Boston's parishioners who had all 
along refused to believe that he would stand firm 
in the hour of decision, who even prophesied that at 
the end when he stood face to face with conse- 
quences he would swallow the obnoxious oath, and 
who watched and waited jealously for his fall. The 
heart of the anxious minister was pained by the 
knowledge of this. But they did not know the man, 
and judged of his conscience by their own pliancy 
when conscience and duty gave way before self- 
interest. But when the news came and spread over 
the parish that their minister had " played the man 
in the fires," and had hazarded every worldly inter- 
est at the call of conscience, it was impossible any 
longer to withhold an involuntary approbation, and 
his moral power over the disaffected among his pa- 
rishioners was increased from that day. It was one 
of God's movements for preparing the way for the 
wider triumphs of his servant's ministry in Ettrick. 

Beyond the circle of his own mountain parish, Mr. 
Boston found encouragement and sympathy in some 
of the ministers in neighbouring parishes who, in the 
matter of Christian belief and religious experience, 
were like-minded with himself. It was the conscious 



112 THOMAS BOSTON. 

unity of Christian brotherhood which, like a silent 
magnetic influence, drew them together, so that each 
was made stronger by the other. He had found this 
in his recent perplexities and troubles connected 
with the attempt to enforce upon ministers the Ab- 
juration Oath. Among these "brethren beloved" 
he names Mr. Henry Davidson of Galashiels and 
Mr. John Simson of Morebattle, whom he praises 
for " his heavenly oratory," and Gabriel Wilson 
of Maxton, the last named of whom stood in the 
innermost circle of his affection. In his diary, he 
expatiates on his character with manifest delight, 
saying, with his keen perception and pleasing felicity 
of phrase : " Whatever odds there was in some re- 
spects between him and me, there was still a certain 
cast of temper by which I found him to be my other 

self He was extremely modest ; but once touched 

with the weight of a matter, very forward and keen, 
fearing the face of no man. In the which mixture, 
whereby he served as a spur to me and I as a bridle 
to him, I have often admired the wise conduct 
of Providence that matched us together." It is 
worthy of remark that, ages after those excellent 
ones of the earth had ascended to their heavenly 
reward, their names continued to live in hallowed 
traditions in the parishes in which they had dis- 
charged a faithful ministry, and shed a halo upon 



"THE 'FIFTEEN." H3 

their graves. " The righteous shall be held in ever- 
lasting remembrance." 

The sky of Providence seldom continues long with- 
out its clouds. After a brief and welcome interval, 
in which the heart of Mr. Boston was lifted up with 
joy by the signs of extending and deepening reli- 
gious life in his parish, a new trouble suddenly arose 
to disturb the peace of the kingdom, in which Ettrick 
and its pastor were called to share. I refer to the 
outbreak of the rebellion in the latter end of August 
17 1 5, the design of which was to upset the present 
dynasty, and to place upon the throne of Britain a 
descendant of the exiled house of Stuart. A few 
sentences will be sufficient to explain how the good 
pastor and his people, dwelling among those remote 
hills and glens, were brought into unwelcome contact 
with this most unwise and reckless movement. The 
outbreak began with the Earl of Mar, who, at Brae- 
mar, in the north of Scotland, raised the standard of 
rebellion, and proclaimed the Pretender to be the 
rightful heir to the British throne. Immediately fol- 
lowed by other Highland chiefs and their clans, he 
began his march southward, obtaining numerous ac- 
cessions on the way, until he reached Perth. Here it 
was determined by the rebel leaders that their army 
should be divided into several contingents, which 
should march into England by different routes, and 



TT4 THOMAS BOSTON. 

that one of the companies should proceed through 
the district in which Ettrick lay. It is at this point 
that Mr. Boston comes upon the scene. When the 
news became known, the effect was to produce an 
extensive panic over the whole region. Every new 
day brought with it its alarm. Companies of kilted 
Highlanders had been seen on the neighbouring hills. 
Others had been discovered skulking near quiet 
Ettrick homes after sunset, as if bent on mischief or 
violence of some kind. The alarmed people waited 
to hear of houses set on fire, or flocks scattered and 
slaughtered, or lonely dwellings entered and robbed, 
or human blood shed. 

From week to week this panic continued, to the 
great distress of the anxious pastor. Then the 
trouble took a different form which vexed him with 
new anxieties. The local authorities sent forth a sum- 
mons to every man in Ettrick from sixteen to sixty 
years of age, requiring him to appear in Selkirk on a 
certain day, in order to his being enrolled in a tem- 
porary militia for the defence of the parish ; and Mr. 
Boston was required to read this summons from the 
pulpit, to produce and supply to the magistrates a 
roll of all the capable men in the parish, and to urge 
upon his parishioners universal obedience to the call. 
But there was a universal refusal. Many of the 
people had come to believe that the alarm was ex- 



NEW TROUBLES AND ANXIETIES. 115 

cessive, or that the dangers might be met by the 
forces which were already in the hands of their rulers, 
and probably also, unlike their ancestors in earlier 
generations, they held back. The men of Ettrick had 
learned to prefer the shepherd's crook to the sword. 
The popular resistance became all the more resolute 
when a tax was levied for the purpose of meeting 
the expenses that might be incurred in the antici- 
pated conflict with the rebel invaders. It was a 
bitter cup which was thus given to Mr. Boston to 
drink; and one of the bitterest ingredients in it was 
that he was compelled to make the obnoxious com- 
munication to his parishioners, in whose affections he 
desired to live, the anger of the people falling far 
more upon him than upon its authors. The unreason- 
able estrangement, sometimes expressed in bitter 
words, was no doubt temporary, but while it lasted 
it was hard to bear. 

At length the unwelcome insurgents, having been 
joined by the English rebels at Kelso, disappeared, 
and marched southward to Preston, of which they 
took immediate possession, and began to fortify it. 
Rut in a few days the place was invested by General 
Willis, the leader of the royal troops, who soon com- 
pelled the rebels unconditionally to lay down their 
arms. Many of them were imprisoned, many persons 
of rank were subjected to a galling and ignominious 



Il6 THOMAS BOSTON. 

treatment, and some who were Scottish noblemen 
were executed with a cruel severity. 

We must look back to Scotland to behold the last 
scene in the drama. The Earl of Mar had meantime 
pressed forward to Dunblane, and there, on the 
neighbouring Sheriffmuir, he received a serious check 
from the Duke of Argyle, who had moved northward 
to resist his progress. When his affairs had become 
irretrievable and desperate, and when it was therefore 
too late to be of any service, the Pretender sailed for 
Scotland from Dunkirk in France, and, dressed in 
disguise, and with only six gentlemen in his train, 
landed not far from Aberdeen. Soon after, he was 
joined by the Earl of Mar and a little band of nobles 
and gentlemen at Fetteresso. For some weeks he 
spent his time in enacting the king, and received 
homage from his dispirited but devoted followers, 
without one shred of power to give the semblance 
of reality to the ceremonial. And then, weary of 
the ragged pageant, and declaring to those who had 
clung to him to the end with a wondrous chivalry 
his sense of the utter hopelessness of his enterprise, 
he set sail from the neighbourhood of Montrose 
in a small ship, accompanied by a few faithful 
adherents, arriving within five days at Grave- 
lines in France, and returning to the obscurity 
from which he had so recently emerged. How 



WALKING WITH GOD. 117 

rapidly had tragedy been turned into comedy and 
farce ! 

It is time that we should now see something of Mr. 
Boston's inner life. During all those years of varied 
incident and experience which have passed under 
our notice in this chapter, he continued to maintain 
a close walk with God. His closet was his refuge 
and his sanctuary. Every event in his individual 
and family life was turned into food for devotion. 
Self-examination, sometimes accompanied with fast- 
ing, was his frequent practice, in which, as he tells 
us, he " thought it safe and wise to antedate the 
judgment." The records of some of these exercises 
which he has left behind in his diary are of 
singular value, and may be of use to some in our 
own days who perchance are seeking to know the 
truth and the worst about themselves. The following 
are some of his notes drawn from his own experience, 
on what he terms " evidences for heaven " : — 

" My soul is content with Christ for my king ; and 
though I cannot be free of sin, God knows that he 
would be welcome to make havoc of my lusts and to 
make me holy. I know no lust that I would not be 
content to part with. My will bound hand and feet 
I desire to lay at His feet; and though it will strive 
whether I will or not, I believe that whatever God 
does to me is well done." 



Il8 THOMAS BOSTON. 

" When may we be sure that afflictions are the 
evidences of God's love to us, and of our love to 
him ? Though afflictions of themselves can be no 
evidence of the Lord's love, yet forasmuch as the 
native product of afflictions and strokes from the 
Lord is to drive the guilty from the Lord, when I 
find it not so with me, but that I am drawn to God 
by them, made to bless the Lord and accept the 
punishment of my iniquity, to love God more and to 
have more confidence in him and kindly thoughts 
in his way, and find my heart more closely cleaving 
to him, I cannot but think such an affliction an evi- 
dence of his love." 

I shall quote another passage descriptive of Mr. 
Boston's experience which belongs to the period of 
which I am now writing ; not so much as a help to 
self-examination as for the purpose of " comforting 
sorrowing hearts by the same comforts by which he 
was comforted of God." It expresses a hope full of 
immortality, which made the cloud luminous and his 
heart submissive. His youngest child, Catherine, 
had died, and a thought was given to the tender- 
hearted father which had not been so present to his 
mind under any similar bereavement. He says: " 1 
never had such a clear and comfortable view of the 
Lord's having other uses for our children, for which 
he removes them in infancy, so that they are not 



WORDS OF CONSOLATION. I 19 

brought into the world in vain. 1 saw reason to 
bless the Lord that I had been the father of six 
children now in the grave, and that were with me but 
a short time ; but none of them is lost. I will see 
them all at the resurrection. That clause in the cove- 
nant, ' I am the God of thy seed,' was sweet and full 
of sap." 

By suggesting a similar thought a hundred years 
earlier, and in his own manse of Anwoth, Samuel 
Rutherford had helped others to drink at the same 
well of comfort. He thus writes to a bereaved 
mother weeping for her lost child : " Do you think 
her lost who is sleeping in the bosom of Almighty 
love ? Think not her absent when she is in such a 
Father's house. Is she lost to you who is found to 
Christ ? Oh now, is she not with a dear Friend, and 
gone higher upon a certain hope that you shall in 
the resurrection see her again ? Let our Lord pluck 
his own fruit at any season he pleaseth. They are 
not lost to you ; they are laid up so well as they are 
coffered in heaven, where our Lord's best jewels lie." 

Reverting now to Mr. Boston's practice of self- 
scrutiny, and to the invaluable benefit which he 
derived from this, we think it necessary to introduce 
the qualifying statement that probably this habit of 
mental introversion was sometimes carried by him to 
excess, and that he " wrote bitter things against him- 



120 THOMAS BOSTON. 

self without cause." There were moods of spiritual 
depression which he ascribed to divine desertion, " the 
hidings of his Father's countenance," when perhaps, 
in some instances, the real cause of his mental gloom 
and sadness was to be found in a disordered body, or 
a shattered nervous system which needed to be re- 
stored by rest from excessive mental labour, or by 
change of scene, or by a bracing walk among his own 
Ettrick hills. When, as sometimes happened, the 
changes in his moods from cheerfulness to depression, 
or the reverse, took place more than once on the same 
day, fitful as the notes of the yEolian harp, might not 
the state of the body have had more to do with this 
than any spiritual cause, and might not the presence 
of the physician have been more needed than that of 
any spiritual counsellor ? " The silver bells were all 
out of tune." There was something suggestive in 
the acknowledgment of an eminently good man that 
"he had least enjoyment in his religion when the 
wind was in the east." There are times when the in- 
nocent sufferer sees — 

" Too clearly, feels too vividly, and longs 
To realize the vision with intense 
And over-constant yearning — there, there iics 
The excess by which the balance is destroyed." 

Of course, where the man's conscience accuses him 
of recently contracted sin, or the voluntary exposure 



SPIRITUAL DEPRESSION. 121 

of his heart to blighting spiritual influences, or the 
partial neglect of the means of grace, the explana- 
tion is to be sought in the sense of divine displeasure, 
when the daughters of music in the soul are brought 
low. The same depression of spirit having its root 
in the same physical cause, and leading our good 
pastor to form mistaken and unfavourable conclu- 
sions about himself, occasionally showed itself in 
his imagining that the divine blessing was being 
withheld from his ministry, and that like the moun- 
tains of Gilboa on which the curse of barrenness 
fell, the dew of heavenly grace had ceased to fall 
upon his heaven-sent message. He has himself 
left behind him in his diary the record that, in one 
instance, after the interval of a few days, the bruised 
reed was revived, and the gentle rebuke from heaven 
for his dark thoughts came in the news of multitudes 
of his people consciously quickened and gladdened 
as with a fresh soul-baptism by those very sermons 
which had seemed to him as " water spilt upon the 
ground." But those moods of depression were com- 
paratively rare experiences. We find him more fre- 
quently recording happy weeks of a heavenly life. 

We now pause for a moment to cull from this 
period of Mr. Boston's biography some of those 
semi-proverbial sayings which grew out of his Chris- 
tian experience during his first decade in Ettrick. 



122 THOMAS BOSTON. 

Some of these, as we have found in earlier quota- 
tions, are medicinal plants, others are sweet-scented 
flowers : — 

" Unto the trials which God brings in men's way, 
they often add much of their own which makes them 
far more weighty and bulky than otherwise they are 
in very deed." 

" Satan watches to prevent the good of our afflic- 
tions : how much need is there to watch against 
Satan." 

'* I saw it was vain to empty the heart of what 
was its carnal choice, unless it was filled with some- 
thing better than what was taken from it." 

" I have often found it good to follow duty over 
the neck of inclination.'' 

" I endeavoured to antedate my reckoning with 
my Judge." 

" It is the usual way of Providence with me that 
blessings come through several iron gates." 

" They have great need to take heed to their feet 
who are let within the veil, for our God is a jealous 
God." 

" I have found the Lord easy to be entreated, and 
recovery to be got without long onwaiting." 

" Melancholy is an enemy to gifts and graces, and 
a great friend to unbelief." 

In 171 5, Mr. Boston found time, at the urgent request 



THE "EVERLASTING ESPOUSALS." 1 23 

of many of his ministerial friends, to publish a little 
book under the title of the ' Everlasting Espousals," 
the flower of his people, who had probably heard the 
substance of the book in the form of a sermon or ser- 
mons, heartily seconding the request. It was founded 
on Hosea ii. 19, and was the heavenly Bridegroom's 
address to his bride the church. " I will betroth thee 
unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in 
loving-kindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth 
thee unto me in faithfulness : and thou shalt know 
the Lord." It was his maiden publication since he 
became a minister, the first sheaf in a long and con- 
tinuous harvest of religious books which he was to 
give to the church, and in which were already to be 
seen more than one of the characteristic excellences 
of his later and riper works. Among other things, 
its publication gave him an opportunity of testing his 
acceptance as an author with the Christian public. 
And the result was encouraging. Within compara- 
tively short intervals, the little volume passed through 
three editions, finding many readers far beyond the 
glens of Ettrick, especially in Edinburgh, who were 
not slow to express their desire for a greater number 
of refreshing draughts from the same newly-opened 
fountain. And who can tell but that such com- 
munications as these may have given hint and im- 
pulse to the preparation of that opus magnum which 



124 THOMAS BOSTON. 

was, in a large measure, to engross the thoughts 
and anxieties of his life. He felt that his mission 
was not to build a house for himself but a temple 
for God. 

It falls to be noticed here that a few years before 
the time of which we are now writing, a Hebrew 
Bible had come into Mr. Boston's hands, upon the 
study of which, assisted by Cross's " Tagmical Art," 
he entered with an enthusiasm and zest which con- 
tinued with him to the end of his life. There 
was no dryness to him in those Hebrew roots of 
which the author of " Hudibras " complained in his 
day. Even the mystery which hung about the 
" accents " charmed him. At the period of which we 
are now writing, he met with another learned work, by 
Wasmuth, on Hebrew accentuation, which quickened 
his curiosity, and made that a delight to him of 
which many would soon have wearied. He seemed 
to himself always to be on the verge of some new 
discovery. Unquestionably these inquiries, into 
which he threw his whole heart, served as a useful 
mental alterative in connection with his weekly 
preparations for the pulpit. And he never hesitated 
to affirm that they shed much new light to him on 
many parts of the Old Testament scriptures. He 
even hoped that he would, by persevering research 
and thought, be able to help in solving some of 



ANOTHER "CALL." 125 

those problems in that branch of sacred literature 
which were perplexing scholars both on the con- 
tinent of Europe and in the English universities. 
We shall meet with the Hebrew " accents " again. 

We have now to notice an event of no little 
moment, both in itself and in its consequences, in 
the history of Mr. Boston and his parish. In the 
month of September 1716, a call was addressed to 
the pastor of Ettrick by the church and parish of 
Closeburn in Dumfriesshire, inviting him to become 
their minister. This was soon after followed by 
the appearance of commissioners from Closeburn 
and the presbytery to which it belonged, urging 
upon him the claims of the church in Nithsdale, 
especially on account of the largeness of the con- 
gregation and its distracting divisions, which, it 
was believed, the ministry and oversight of Mr. 
Boston would be sufficient to heal ; while it was 
more than hinted that the stipend would exceed 
that of his present charge. The same unwelcome 
strangers were also seen by the quick - sighted 
parishioners, once and again visiting the manse 
at Ettrick ; and their errand was readily guessed. 

All this filled the mind of Mr. Boston with anxiety 
and alarm, and drove him to his wonted and un- 
failing resource of prayer. But from the first, he 
was strongly averse to his removal from Ettrick. 



126 THOMAS BOSTON. 

His heart and his conscience alike rose against the 
thought of his leaving that people " as sheep with- 
out a shepherd," notwithstanding much that had 
happened to chill his affection and loosen the bonds 
that had bound him to them. He thought of the 
spiritual desolation which he had found among them 
nine years before when he had come to be their min- 
ister; of the little flock which he had gathered around 
him in the first years of his anxious labours ; and 
how, in the nearer interval, and in the face of much 
and varied discouragement and opposition, it had 
increased by hundreds. But he thought also of 
their inexperience and imperfection, with scarcely 
any man among them qualified to lead them at 
such a crisis as his removal would be certain to 
produce; and he was convinced that the certain effect 
of his leaving them at such a time would be to 
undo much of his work in all the past, while it 
would be the signal to those who were watching 
for their halting and discord, and ready to enter 
in like ravening wolves to bite and devour. 

Moreover, the good pastor, with his keen observa- 
tion and moral sensibility, could not overlook the 
likelihood that, in the event of his accepting the in- 
vitation which held out to him the promise of larger 
emolument and higher social position, his Ettrick 
people would ascribe his action to mercenary mo- 



A TOUCHING INCIDENT. \2J 

tives ; the moral power of his past life among them 
would thus be withered in a night, and the character 
of the Christian ministry would suffer at his hands. 
He therefore determined that nothing would tear 
him from Ettrick, already sacred to his heart by 
many hallowed associations and tender memories, 
but the distinct indications of Providence that this 
mountain home was no longer to be his rest. 

And the state of mind and action of his people 
did much to confirm him in this conviction and 
resolution. The value with which they saw their 
pastor regarded by others did much to heighten 
their own estimate of his excellence ; and blessings 
are likely to acquire a higher price in our estimate 
when they seem about to be lost. Even little and 
undesigned incidents sometimes revealed much to the 
observant minister, who was a thoughtful student of 
the book of Providence, — as when he was walking one 
day along the public road with one of the elders from 
the competing congregation in Nithsdale, some poor 
women meeting them on the way, and fearing how 
all these visits and interviews might end, stood still 
and wept aloud. One of the wealthiest heritors in 
his parish, who had up to that time remained dis- 
affected and never entered his church, now began 
to attend with regularity on the public ordinances 
of religion, and continued the practice to the end of 



128 THOMAS BOSTON. 

his life. And many whom he had comforted in 
times of sickness or sorrow, or helped in their 
struggles with poverty, or won back to Christ from 
a life of ungodliness or vice, came to plead with 
him, even with tears from eyes unwont to weep, to 
remain among them. At length a fast was pro- 
claimed, to which multitudes not only of com- 
municants but of parishioners came, swelling the 
stream of worshippers from every quarter in Ettrick, 
that they might avert, by confession of sin and 
prayer, the threatened deprivation. It was impos- 
sible that the love to Ettrick and its people of 
this man of simplicity and godly sincerity should 
not have been greatly strengthened and riveted by 
these natural and unforced utterances of their ven- 
eration and attachment. 

We shall not minutely trace the history of this 
" call," in which Closeburn, " coveting earnestly the 
best gifts," sought to unsettle Mr. Boston's connec- 
tion with Ettrick and to obtain him as its pastor, 
and Ettrick, with awakened enthusiasm, did its ut- 
most to retain him whom the very effort had not 
unnaturally led it to value more than ever. It would 
be a dreary and tangled narrative were we to describe 
the call in its various stages in sessions, and presby- 
teries, and synods, " dragging its slow length along " 
through a period of nearly twelve months. We 



BEFORE THE COMMISSION. 1 29 

shall come at once to its final issue before the 
Commission of the General Assembly in 17 17, to 
which its settlement was committed. Learned ad- 
vocates, according to the custom in such cases, 
had already spoken on either side, and when their 
dialectics were ended, the minister of Ettrick, who 
was the most deeply interested, and, so far at least 
as Ettrick was concerned, knew the facts and merits 
of the case best, rose and asked permission to speak. 
Naturally bashful and timid, yet when he was moved 
by a sense of duty, he rose above the fear of man ; 
while his yearning love for his people, from whom he 
dreaded the very thought of being severed, made 
him speak with a holy fervour and a tender per- 
suasiveness as if his lips had been touched with 
celestial fire. We have only space for a few closing 
paragraphs : — ■ 

" Moderator, will the justice of the Reverend 
Commission allow them to lay a congregation deso- 
late which was planted with so much difficulty, has 
been managed with so much uneasiness, and upon 
the event of this transportation must become the 
very seat of separation in the country, and which 
there is so little hope of the comfortable supply of, 
they in the meantime so vigorously reclaiming, and 
all this in a time wherein there is so very little need 
of transportations, but the parish pursuing may be 

9 



I30 THOMAS BOSTON. 

otherwise settled to far greater advantage ? Will their 
respect to the peace of this church suffer them to 
give such ground of irritation to a congregation 
in the circumstances I have narrated ? Will their 
compassion allow them to take one whose spirit is 
already shattered with the effects of this divisive 
temper, and cast him into another place where it 
must be far more so? or to lead out one and set 
him upon the ice where he knows no way how to 
keep his feet, and when he falls must fall for nought, 
— I mean, no advantage to the church gained thereby. 
Nay, Moderator, I cannot believe these things. 

" I have been twice settled already, and I bless 
the Lord who was pleased in both convincingly to 
show me his own call coming along with the call 
of his church. And I have felt so much need 
of the former, its accompanying the latter, that 
it would be most inexcusable to venture on 
removing to another parish without it. I was 
persuaded in my conscience of the Lord's calling 
me to Ettrick, and my clearness as to my call to 
that place was never overclouded, no, not in my 
darkest hours ; and had I not had that to support 
me there, I had sunk under my burden. Now, I 
have endeavoured, according to the measure of the 
grace bestowed on me, to set aside my own inclina- 
tions and the consideration of the ease and satis- 



FERVENT AND PERSUASIVE APPEAL. 131 

faction of my own heart, and to lay this matter 
before the Lord for light, to discover his mind 
about it, labouring to wait upon him in the way cf 
his word and works. But I sincerely declare after 
all, that I have no clearness to accept the call to 
Closeburn, nor a foundation for my conscience in this 
transportation, which ought not to rest on human 
authority. I have ail deference for the authority 
of this church, and my ministry is very dear to 
me ; so I cast myself at your feet, begging that 
you will not grant this transportation, which has 
been refused by the presbytery and synod whereof 
I am a member, and who are best acquainted with 
the state of the parish of Ettrick and what concerns 
me, whereas both that parish and I are known but 
to very few of our now reverend judges. But if it 
shall please the holy wise God to surfer me, for my 
trial and correction, to fall under your sentence 
transporting me from the parish of Ettrick to the 
parish of Closeburn, since it is a charge I have no 
clearness to undertake, I resolve, through grace, 
rather to suffer than to enter on it blindfolded. 
Though, in the meantime, I cannot help thinking 
it will be hard measure to punish me because I 
cannot see with other men's eyes." 

When Mr. Boston began his speech, the impression 
among the members of the Commission itself, as 



T32 THOMAS BOSTON. 

well as among onlookers, was that by far the pre- 
ponderating majority of votes would be in favour 
of his translation to Closeburn. But as he pro- 
ceeded in his arguments and appeals, it was not 
difficult to read in the countenances of many of 
the reverend fathers that they were becoming un- 
settled in their preferences, and that the vote would 
finally fall on the side of Ettrick. And so it turned 
out to be. " By a vast majority," the grateful man 
himself reports, " the sentence passed in our favour ; 
and others as well as I were convinced that the 
speech I delivered was that which influenced the 

Commission and moved their compassion I must 

say that the Lord was with me in the management, 
giving me in that hour both what to speak and 
courage to speak it ; and even when I ran, he left 
me not to stumble." 

The good tidings carried joy into every farm- 
house and shepherd's shieling and poor man's cot- 
tage in Ettrick. We can imagine bonfires to have 
been kindled on every mountain throughout the 
wide parish, such as the men of a few generations 
back were wont to kindle when the people had 
heard of an invasion from the other side of the 
Border. On the following Sabbath the church 
could not contain more than a fraction of the 
multitudes that came from every quarter of the 



BLESSED RESULTS. 133 

parish to thank God for the happy termination of 
their months of anxiety. The event marked an 
epoch, not only in Mr. Boston's life and ministry, 
but in the religious history of the parish. Cold- 
ness and distrust seemed to have vanished. By 
that disinterested act, in which he had so earnestly 
pleaded for his retention in Ettrick, he had placed 
his noble unselfishness beyond doubt, and revealed 
a love to his people which many waters could not 
quench. He had won the hearts of all. The people 
now understood their minister. The personality of 
the man would henceforth more than ever enhance 
the power of his message. He had the conscious- 
ness that he was now to preach to a united people, 
and it was not long ere his increased influence and 
usefulness began to show themselves in many forms. 
He did not flatter himself that he would never again 
meet with inconsistencies among his people, and 
even discouraging falls. But it was now, in com- 
parison with much of his past experience, as if the 
ship had passed outside the region of frequent 
storms, and were sailing calmly before the trade- 
winds to the destined haven. 



CHAPTER VI. 

The "Fourfold State" — Incidents — Vast circulation- 
Communion festivals — Strangers from afar — "Laying 
ly in store" — a great sorrow. 

WITH the affection and confidence of his 
parishioners now gathered around him, and 
delivered from the distracting and depressing cares 
produced by division and alienation, Mr. Boston 
now proceeded to the composition of his " Fourfold 
State," with which his own name and that of Ettrick 
were to be permanently and indissolubly associated. 
It is probable that the writing of the book did not 
occupy more than two years in the earlier part of 
the second decade of his Ettrick ministry, but from 
various causes long intervals of years intervened 
more than once to hinder further progress, and 
almost indefinitely to arrest publication. Moods 
of self-diffidence again and again held him back 
from this decided step ; and a desire to bring the 
book nearer to his ideal of what it ought to be, 



THE "FOURFOLD STATE.' 1 35 

when treating of themes of such transcendent im- 
portance and interest, had greatly increased delay. 
In addition to this, his modest estimate of the probable 
success of his book, along with his knowledge of 
his scanty income, made him dread pecuniary diffi- 
culties in case of failure. But this impediment, as 
it became known, was promptly met by the promise 
of all necessary help from those brethren in the minis- 
try whom we have already named, and whose appre- 
ciation of the author and his book was very much 
higher than his own. As for Dr. Trotter, his "be- 
loved physician" and "inner friend" both at Simprin 
and Ettrick, who had thrown out the first hint of 
writing such a book as the " Fourfold State," and 
who loved him with all the chivalrous affection of 
Jonathan to David, he would have been ready, out 
of his own resources alone, to meet all difficulties; 
but he had died during those irritating and irk- 
some delays. And so a publisher in Edinburgh was 
at length sought for and secured, and the printing of 
the " Fourfold State " proceeded with. 

At the very beginning, however, an incident oc- 
curred, not without its ludicrous features, but which 
must have sorely tried the temper and strained 
the patience of the much -enduring pastor. It 
appears that one of the civic dignitaries of Edin- 
burgh had, in some way or other, assisted in business 



I36 THOMAS BOSTON. 

negotiations connected with the procuring of a suit- 
able printer and publisher of the " Fourfold State." 
But not satisfied with this act of kindness, which 
would have been of some use to the author, he 
had spontaneously offered the further and un- 
sought service of revising the proof-sheets of the 
book as it passed through the press, making his 
amendments and suggestions immediately after they 
had passed from the printer's hands, and before they 
had been sent out to Ettrick. And in his overween- 
ing self-conceit, this gratuitous censor had imagined 
that his revision was to extend, not only to the 
accuracy of the printer, but to the style and even 
to the thought of the author, so as to introduce 
foreign sentences, or portions of sentences, into the 
composition. What, then, must have been the as- 
tonishment and mortification of Mr. Boston when 
he found the first proof-sheet, as revised by the 
city Treasurer, blotted and blurred all over with 
corrections, and changes introduced which extended 
not only to printers' blunders but at times to senti- 
ment and style, toning down pithy sayings into 
vapid inanities, or substituting magniloquent com- 
monplace for strong words of fearless earnestness, 
which were meant and fitted to arouse and alarm 
the conscience. It was like advising a racer to mend 
his pace by mounting upon stilts, or putting into 



THE "FOURFOLD STATE." 1 37 

a warrior's hand a sword that was wrapped in ivy. 
This presumption was too much even for the en- 
durance of the Ettrick pastor. Sending to the 
printer for a clean " proof," he intimated at the same 
time to his too officious patron that he would 
dispense with his further aid. 

This practice of using unjustifiable liberties with 
authors and their writings did not die out with 
Boston's age. The poet Montgomery, who did so 
much to enrich by his hymns the hymnology of 
the churches, complained that, in many instances, 
the compilers of hymn-books, not content with re- 
ceiving from him liberty to appropriate his hymns 
without any remuneration, altered them at their 
pleasure, and almost always for the worse, destroy- 
ing the rhythm and cadence of the lines, substitut- 
ing some prosaic word for an expression that had 
a picture in it, and sometimes not only changing 
the thought but making the author say what he 
did not believe. 

The comprehensive and felicitous title of the book 
was in these words, " Human Nature in its Four- 
fold State of Primitive Integrity, Entire Depravity, 
Begun Recovery, and Consummate Happiness or 
Misery." This sufficiently indicated that the author 
was to present his readers with a complete system of 
Christian theology, intended to describe the divine 



138 THOMAS BOSTON. 

method of human redemption, to be a compact 
statement of " the glorious gospel of the blessed 
God," to show the way back from "Paradise lost" 
to " Paradise regained." 

There was one important and outstanding feature 
of the book in which the author's manner of treat- 
ment distinguished it from the greater number of 
those systems of theology which had been given to 
the world both in his own and in earlier times. Those 
systems were usually too scientific in their structure 
and style for common readers, being overlaid with 
learning, deficient in the practical clement, and too 
often also rendered repulsive by distracting and un- 
profitable controversy about comparative trifles. The 
aim of the pastor of Ettrick, who was brought into 
daily contact with the common people and knew 
their modes of thinking and feeling, was, while 
presenting Christian truths in systematic form, and 
in such a manner as to show their mutual rela- 
tion and dependence, to adapt his language to 
the general capacity of his readers, and to bring 
the whole to bear upon men's greatest wants and 
their eternal well-being. As has been happily 
said, " He took the bewildered child of trespass 
familiarly by the hand, and descending to the level 
of his untutored capacity, gave him a clear and 
consecutive view of the innocence from which he 



THE "FOURFOLD STATE." 1 39 

had fallen, the misery in which he was involved, 
the economy of restoration under which he was 
situated, and the hope which, by submitting to 
that economy, he might warrantably entertain. His 
eye, as he wrote, was upon the unawakened sinner, 
that he might arouse him from his dangerous 
lethargy; upon the anxious inquirer, that he might 
guide his steps into the right way ; and upon the 
young convert, that he might guard him against 
devious paths and perilous delays. He never failed 
to show the bearing of Christian doctrine upon the 
conscience, the affections, and the life, and to mingle 
with the light of systematic arrangement beseech- 
ing tenderness and practical appeal " (the late Dr. 
Young of Perth). 

Once and again, while reading the " Fourfold 
State," we have been struck with the author's felic- 
itous application of Scripture sentences, so fitting 
them to surrounding circumstances as if they had 
been placed in the Bible for that very occasion. 
In like manner, we have been charmed with his 
skilful adaptation of Scripture incidents to passing 
events, and also with the ingenuity with which he 
struck new thoughts out of familiar texts, having 
all the effect of a new discovery, or of a pearl 
found upon the trodden highway ; and all this 
expressed in happily chosen words like " apples oi 



[40 THOMAS BOSTON. 

gold in baskets of silver," reminding us of Philip 
Henry in his more genial and happy moods. While, 
at other times, we have been astonished when he 
has seemed to read our very heart, and to give a 
wondrous reality to the things which are unseen 
and eternal, and we have felt as if he had inherited 
the rare power of Richard Baxter as seen in his 
" Now or Never " and his " Saints' Everlasting Rest." 

We have Mr. Boston's own testimony, more than 
once repeated in his diary, that his "Fourfold State" 
was written throughout in connection with much 
prayer. And there is a tradition which can be 
traced up to his own times, that the last chapter 
of his book, on the congenial subject of Heaven, 
was literally written by him on his knees. And 
when we read that part of the book, the tradition 
becomes the more credible. There is a singular 
elevation in his thoughts and grandeur in his 
words which transcends all that had been previ- 
ously written. It then seems as if, like Bunyan's 
Pilgrim, he had been walking in the land of Beulah, 
had seen the angels, and heard the sound of the 
heavenly minstrelsy. The following are his words 
on Mutual Recognition in Heaven :— 

"There we shall see Adam and Eve in the heavenly 
paradise, freely eating of the tree of life ; Abraham, 
Isaac, and Jacob, and all the holy patriarchs, no 



ON MUTUAL RECOGNITION IN HEAVEN. 141 

more wandering from land to land, but come to 
their everlasting rest ; all the prophets feasting their 
eyes on the glory of Him of whose coming they 
prophesied ; the twelve apostles of the Lamb sitting 
on their twelve thrones ; all the holy martyrs in 
their long white robes, with their crowns on their 
heads ; the godly kings advanced to a kingdom 
which cannot be moved ; and them that turn many 
to righteousness shining as the stars for ever and 
ever. There shall we see our godly friends, relations, 
and acquaintances, pillars in the temple of God, to 
go no more out from us. 

" And it is more than probable that the saints 
will know one another in heaven — that, at least, 
they will know their friends, relatives, and those 
they were acquainted with when on earth, and such 
as have been most eminent in the church. This 
seems to be included in that perfection of happi- 
ness to which the saints shall be advanced there. 
If Adam knew who and what Eve was at first 
sight, when the Lord God brought her to him, 
why should one question that husbands and wives, 
parents and children, will know each other in glory ? 
If the Thessalonians, converted by Paul's ministry, 
shall be his 'crown of rejoicing in the presence of 
our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming,' why may 
not one conclude that ministers shall know their 



142 THOMAS BOSTON. 

people, and people their ministers in heaven? And 
if the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration 
knew Moses and Elias, whom they had never seen 
before, we have ground to think that we shall 
know them too when we come to heaven. The 
communion of saints shall be most intimate there : 
' they shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob 
in the kingdom of heaven.' Lazarus was ' carried by 
the angels into Abraham's bosom,' which denotes 
most intimate and familiar society." 

On November 6, 1720, Mr. Boston received from 
his publisher in Edinburgh the first bound copy 
of his " Fourfold State." The next morning, he 
remained for many hours in his study engaged in 
continuous thanksgiving and in prolonged prayer. 
Not long before, he had written this record in his 
diary : " I had much to stand the thought of 
publishing that book, being tossed betwixt two, 
namely, venturing such a mean piece into the world, 
while many, whose books I was not worthy to 
carry, are silent ; and the fear of sitting the call 
of Providence." But in a few months, the heart 
01 the too diffident author was cheered by the 
news from Edinburgh of the rapid sale of a second 
and even a third edition. And years before his 
death, he was able to record, with mingled humility 
and thanksgiving which rose to adoring wonder, that 



A WONDERFUL COOK. 1 43 

the treatise had won the hearts of all classes and 
conditions of men. We have already noted, in our 
introductory remarks, that by means of his " Fourfold 
State," which he had hesitated for years to launch 
on the uncertain sea of public opinion, Mr. Boston 
was virtually preaching the gospel of heaven's great 
love, not only to his people in Ettrick, but to the 
south and south-eastern provinces of Scotland. In 
all the counties watered by the Tweed, the Nith, 
the Annan, the Dee, and the upper districts of the 
Clyde, it was literally read by all, and converts 
were made by thousands. 

We find him mentioning in the last chapter of 
his diary that, far beyond the sphere in which the 
"Fourfold State" had borne its earliest harvests, 
he had received a " comfortable account " of its ac- 
ceptableness and usefulness in remote places, par- 
ticularly in the Scottish Highlands. And not only 
in the cottages of the poor and in the homes of 
the middle classes, but equally in the mansions of 
the wealthy and in the castles of the noble, it was 
welcomed, and came with healing on its wings. 
On the little book-shelf in the lonely cottage in 
remote glens it lay a cherished thing side by side 
with Bunyan's immortal allegory. And this con- 
tinued through more than one or two generations. 
It was one of those books which God had 



144 THOMAS BOSTON. 

chosen by which to work his miracles of grace. 
Even the everyday conversation of the common 
people came at length to be enriched by many of 
those proverbial and pithy sayings with hooks upon 
them, in which the "Fourfold State " abounds. Its 
frequent and delighted perusal made many of them 
not only enlightened Christians, but able theo- 
logians ; and even ministers of religion of a certain 
class, who were more familiar with current litera- 
ture than with the epistles of Paul, have been 
known, in disputing on religious questions with 
those Border wrestlers, to receive an ugly fall. It 
would be impossible for any man fitly to write the 
religious history of Scotland during the greater 
part of the eighteenth century and the earlier part 
of the nineteenth, without acknowledging that, dur- 
ing all that long period, this book had been one 
of the mightiest factors in leading men into the 
kingdom of God. It is not even at this day an 
exhausted power. 

There was another new experience which began 
to yield much holy enjoyment to the heart of Mr. 
Boston, and which probably continued to gladden 
his spirit to the end of his life. I refer to the multi- 
tude of people who came in streams from other 
parishes, and even travelled from distant parts of 
Scotland, to be present at the annual observance 



COMMUNION FESTIVALS. 145 

of the Lord's Supper, and to join with the Ettrick 
worshippers in the week of holy festivities that were 
associated with it. This practice found its explana- 
tion, not only in the attraction of Mr. Boston's 
eminent gifts as a preacher, as well as of other 
ministers of kindred spirit whom he was accus- 
tomed to associate with him in those annual gather- 
ings, but also, and even yet more, in the fact that, 
in too many of the parishes of Scotland, ministers 
had begun to preach " another gospel which was 
not another," and to substitute the husks of a 
shallow and sapless philosophy, or of dry moralities, 
for that divine message which they had been com- 
missioned to preach, and by which God saves souls ; 
and that their dissatisfied hearers came crowding 
annually to those communion festivals like thirsty 
pilgrims in a desert to a fountain of living waters, 
often beguiling the tediousness of the journey and 
making the glens and mountain-sides vocal by the 
singing of psalms. 

" They chant their artless notes in simple guise ; 
They tune their hearts — by far the noblest aim : 
Perhaps 'Dundee's' wild warbling measures rise, 
Or plaintive ' Martyrs,' worthy of the name ; 
Or noble ' Elgin ' beets the heavenward flame — 
The sweetest far of Scotia's holy lays." 

It often reminded them of the Jewish pilgrims in 

10 



I46 THOMAS BOSTON. 

Old Testament times ascending in companies to 
Jerusalem to keep their Passover. 

Mr. Boston welcomed those annual visitants as 
if he had heard the words of an apostle, " Be not 
forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some 
have entertained angels unawares." He led the 
van in the ever-enlarging hospitality which extended 
over many days ; at length adding, at his own ex- 
pense, two new and spacious rooms to his manse, 
for the increased accommodation of strangers, many 
of whom he knew to be true brethren in Christ, 
and others earnest inquirers after the way of life, 
and not far from the kingdom of heaven. 

And the happy Ettrick people were in full sym- 
pathy with their minister, with enlarged hearts more 
and more devising liberal things. There was more 
than one Phebe, or Gaius, or Priscilla in those lonely 
glens and beside those mountain streams, waiting 
and longing to give full scope to their hospitality 
and love. Mr. Boston writes of one Isabel Biggar. 
" a singular Christian," as on one occasion " entertain- 
ing a great weight of strangers." And, writing of 
another week of sacred festival, he places it on pleas- 
ant record that " in the one district of Midgehope 
alone there were about ninescore strangers, four- 
score of whom were entertained by William Blaik, 
husband of Isabel Biggar aforesaid;" adding, with 



SYSTEMATIC GIVING. 1 47 

homely detail, " having before baken for them half 
a boll of meal for bread, bought four shillings and 
tenpence sterling of wheat bread, and killed three 
lambs, and made thirty beds. And I believe their 
neighbour, Robert Biggar, Isabel's brother, would 
be much the same. This I record, once for all, 
for a swatch of the hospitality of the parish ; for 
God hath given this people a largeness of heart 
to communicate of their substance on these and 
other occasions also. And my heart has long been 
on that occasion particularly concerned for a bless- 
ing on their substance, with such a natural emotion 
as if they had been born of my body. Those within 
a mile of the church still had the far greater weight 
on solemn occasions." 

There are reasons for thinking that it v/as at 
this period that Mr. Boston began the practice of 
setting apart a fixed proportion of his annual in- 
come for religious and benevolent objects, acting 
in the spirit of Paul's direction to the members of 
the church at Corinth : " On the first day of the 
week, let every one of you lay by him in store 
as God hath prospered him." Dr. Paley, and 
others in his times, have been credited with 
being the first to hold up this apostolic sugges- 
tion to the notice and imitation of the churches ; 
but the practice had long before been anticipated, at 



148 THOMAS BOSTON. 

least in its principle and spirit, by the good pastor of 
Ettrick. The words in which he records this, in 
writing to his family, are characteristic in their 
minuteness of detail, and they mark the beginning 
of a practice which was cheerfully continued to the 
end of his life : — 

" A part of my stipend coming in about that 
time, I did, on the 30th March 17 18, lay by fifty 
merks thereof for pious uses. And all along since 
that time I have kept a private box, making up into 
yearly portions the said sum of fifty merks ; laying 
it in mostly by parcels, and giving out of it as 
occasion requires, and I always keep of it in my 
left side pocket. The dealing to the poor at the 
house for their food continues as formerly without 
respect to this ; only what wool is given them in the 
summer, since I have none of my own, is bought 
out of this fund ; out of which also our Sabbath's 
contributions are taken. This course 1 have found 
to be profitable to the poor, and affording much 
ease to myself; for I have thereby been in case 
to give considerably on special occasions, and that 
with more ease to myself than otherwise I could 
have had, always looking on that part of my yearly 
income as not mine, but the Lord's." 

It will be noticed that in those words the good 
pastor not only states the commencement of this 



A LIFE-LONG SORROW. 149 

practice, but his satisfaction in it after some ex- 
perience. It secured deliberation and system in 
his giving, and rendered it more likely that his 
income would both be laid aside and distributed 
under religious influence and motive. It guarded 
him alike against improvident excess and grudging 
restraint, when conscience and charity were joined 
hand in hand in the stewardship of his worldly 
means. And it even helped to foster a healthful 
religious spirit when looking at his annual deposits, 
in thinking of them as consecrated things, which 
were no more his than the gift of the worshipper 
in the temple after he had laid it on the altar of 
God. 

In the midst of these notices of events and ex- 
periences, which must have opened many a spring 
of gratitude and joy in the heart of this devoted 
minister of Christ, we are now called to mention 
one event which became to him a life-long source of 
anxiety and sorrow. In the summer of 1720, his be- 
loved wife, whose character we found him depicting, 
at an early period of his married life, with so much 
glowing appreciation and beauty, began to show un- 
mistakable symptoms of insanity. To quote his own 
words, " Her imagination was vitiated in a partic- 
ular point, to her great disquietment, accompanied 
with bodily infirmities and maladies exceeding great 



150 THOMAS BOSTON. 

and numerous." And this dark eclipse of the spirit, 
though sometimes diminished, seldom wholly passed 
away; while in later years the gloom became darker 
still. The once sweetly - sounding lute sent forth 
only discords. It touched Mr. Boston on his tenderest 
point. Certainly, if he had been allowed, like David, 
to choose between various forms of suffering, this was 
the last which he would have chosen. At length the 
dear sufferer was confined entirely to one apartment, 
which her husband touchingly called " the inner 
prison," and there she spent months and years, the 
subject of a mental malady which no science or human 
device could even mitigate. Allusions to this great 
sorrow appear again and again in Mr. Boston's diary, 
and as we read them we seem to hear his groans 
and sighs. Was this the Refiner's fire into which he 
had once more cast his gold for its seventh refining ? 
His ministry and work, along with his unfailing re- 
source of prayer, brought the sufferer his best relief. 
The affliction was one of those mysteries of Pro- 
vidence to which many of God's saints are no 
strangers, and which wait for the explanations of 
that glorious world where " in God's light we shall 
see light." 



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OF THE FOURFOLD STATE." 



CHAPTER VII. 

HOME LIFE, STUDY, PULPIT, AND PASTORATE. 

IN the extraordinary popularity and rapidly-widen- 
ing influence of his " Fourfold State," as well 
as in the attractive power and abounding fruits of 
his ministry, Mr. Boston had now reached the central 
landmark in his life ; and before proceeding further 
in narrating his biography, this seems to be the 
natural point at which to pause and introduce some 
more detailed statements in reference both to his 
home life and to the varied work which belonged 
to his sacred office. 

In regard to his family, Mr. Boston showed an 
engrossing earnestness for the early conversion of 
his children. No doubt this zeal was intensified, 
and the burden of his responsibility became heavier, 
from the time that the mind of his beloved wife was 
shadowed by that mysterious cloud which was never 
removed but rather darkened, and she could no 
longer be his willing and happy helpmeet. It was 



152 THOMAS BOSTON. 

his custom to pray regularly for his little ones, and 
also, in due time, to pray with them, as we find him 
recording : " I had a particular concern this morn- 
ing in my heart for grace to the young ones. I 
spake affectionately to my little child Thomas about 
the state of his soul, and prayed with him." He 
sought to have religious truths and Scripture stories 
interwoven with their earliest thoughts, all the more 
because he knew that these first memories and im- 
pressions seldom die out of the mind. He not only 
longed, but looked out, for the early dawn of the new 
life, assured that " the flower when offered in the 
bud " was peculiarly welcome to Him who had said, 
" Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid 
them not." And he showed a similar concern for 
the supreme good of " the man-servant and the 
maid-servant within his gates," recognizing the fact 
that they, too, were a part of his family for whose 
souls he was bound to watch. He wished to see 
in his manse at Ettrick " a little spot enclosed by 
grace," and to have " a church in his house." 

In this respect, as in so many others, the pastor 
of Ettrick stood side by side in spirit and practice 
with the pastor of Broad Oak and the other Puritan 
fathers of an earlier age. Particularly on the even- 
ings of the Lord's day, it was the unfailing practice 
of Philip Henry to gather his children around him, 



SECRET DEVOTIONS. 153 

to pray with them, and to address questions to them, 
in their answers to which they declared their self- 
dedication to the three-one God. And then the 
saintly patriarch was accustomed to respond with 
loving solemnity, " So say, and so do, and you are 
made for ever." This beautiful story is told by Mr. 
Henry's own son, Matthew Henry, the great com- 
mentator, who had, no doubt, been one of the little 
band around the father's knees on whom the weekly 
benediction fell. 

The transition is not difficult from Mr. Boston in 
his family to Mr. Boston in his closet. From the 
time of his youth, when we saw him kneeling be- 
neath the branches of the apple-tree in the garden 
at Kennet, he found in secret prayer the congenial 
element in which his spirit lived, and moved, and 
had its being. And the morning and evening 
prayers were not sufficient to satisfy the cravings 
of his heart for prolonged intercourse with God, 
" the living God." In every condition he found an 
errand to the heavenly mercy-seat. For comfort 
in affliction, guidance in perplexity, help to repel 
temptation, strength for hourly duties and double 
strength for sacred work, he hastened with his 
empty vessel to the fountain of life ; sometimes, 
when accusing himself of spiritual decay, or dread- 
ing the thought of divine desertion, " wrestling for 



154 THOMAS BOSTON. 

the blessing until the dawning of the day." Like 
the young female convert in one of the South Sea 
Islands, whose chosen place of prayer was revealed 
by the beaten path that led to it, so might it have 
been said of this saintly man in connection with 
his solitary devotions. He was a man and a 
minister of the true Luther type, whom God makes 
" strong to do exploits," and uses to revolutionize 
provinces and kingdoms. How much did Mr. 
Boston owe, for the wondrous success of his min- 
istry and authorship in the highest forms of bless- 
ing, to this one holy habit, in which he laid hold 
of omnipotence ! The same outward action would 
have been powerless and fruitless without this wrest- 
ling devotion, which said, " I will not let Thee go, 
except Thou bless me." 

I wish to refer here more particularly to one 
practice which Mr. Boston, occasionally and at not 
very long intervals, joined with his secret devotions, 
and this was personal fasting, a conjunction of the 
two exercises familiar to us in the practice of the 
primitive church, and also in our Lord's teaching 
and references in his Sermon on the Mount and else- 
where, and in the Book of Acts and the Epistles. 
We meet with allusions to it in various places 
in Mr. Boston's diary ; and he even published in 
his later days an interesting little treatise in com- 



PERSONAL FASTING. 155 

mendation of it, and for the guidance of those who 
had found it profitable for the soul at times to fast 
as well as to pray. We should, however, be seriously 
mistaken did we imagine that on such occasions 
when he mingled fasting with his devotions, there 
was anything of the nature of penance or afflicting 
of the body. To suppose this would be to lose the 
spirit in the body. He was no anchorite. There 
was a partial, prolonged, or entire abstinence from 
food, and from bodily indulgences of every kind for 
a portion of the day. 

But the supreme idea and aim of such fasting as 
our Ettrick pastor practised at times in conjunction 
with prayer, was the securing of absolute seclusion, 
the shutting out of all thoughts about the world 
and worldly occupations ; and this for the purpose 
of self-examination, concentrating the mind upon 
the things which were unseen and eternal, and 
giving full opportunity for prayer to spread its 
wings and soar upward to heaven's gate. It was 
the soul "panting after God," and guarding itself, 
as far as might be, against interruption or disturb- 
ance in its intercourse with the Father of spirits. 
It was the heart answering to the call of Jesus, 
" Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and 
rest a while." And sometimes, also, such holy se- 
clusion was chosen by this servant of God when he 



156 THOMAS BOSTON. 

had been smitten with some great affliction, or when 
he was called to the discharge of some peculiarly 
arduous and momentous duty. The fact that he 
continued this practice to the end of his life proves 
that he had derived conscious benefit from its 
observance. But one is apt to put the anxious 
question, How is it that this custom of godly men 
in an earlier age, or something kindred to it, is 
scarcely known among professing Christians in the 
present day? Has it not become as one of the 
lost arts ? And therefore how many with a Christian 
name have become strangers to themselves ! They 
have fallen into the perilous mistake of thinking 
that constant occupation with the business of the 
church, in its committees and week-day meetings, 
is, as a matter of course, an evidence of thriving 
religion ; and in this way communion with their own 
hearts and with God is in danger of being jostled 
out. In the midst of over-engrossment and ex- 
aggerated activity they have ceased to hear " the 
still small voice." 

We must now imagine ourselves to pass by a few 
steps from his closet into our pastor's study, where we 
see him seated at his desk with his open English Bible 
before him, and a Hebrew Bible and a Greek New 
Testament within easy reach, and his library, now 
of considerable size, surrounding him on every side. 



IN HIS STUDY. 157 

It has increased so slowly that he knows every 
volume, not only by its title-page, but by its con- 
tents. It would, however, be a mistake to imagine 
that the whole of his work in this apartment con- 
sisted in the preparation of discourses for preaching 
in that somewhat ancient church hard by, on the 
coming Sabbath. On the table there is a large 
manuscript volume, entitled "Miscellanea," which 
bears the mark of much handling, in which he has 
written from time to time questions on difficult 
points in theology, some of which he has already 
succeeded in solving, while others are held in re- 
serve ; and on the other side there are several 
volumes of Hebrew learning, by the help of which 
he is elaborating theories regarding the accentuation 
of the Hebrew Scriptures, for he leans to the opinion 
that the accents as well as the letters are inspired. 
But his principal work consists in the study of the 
Word of God, and especially in preparing the weekly 
" tale of bread " for his beloved flock. This was not 
only a discharge of duty but a labour of love. He 
was in his element when he was in his pulpit, or 
when he was preparing for it. He so delighted in 
his message and in his Master, that he could have 
appropriated the language of holy Herbert, who was 
wont to speak of his pulpit as " the preacher's joy 
and throne." 



I58 THOMAS BOSTON. 

We have seen that, in the earlier years of his 
ministry, Mr. Boston had frequent difficulty in fix- 
ing on a text for his sermons. Whole days were 
sometimes spent in an anxious and often an un- 
successful search ; every part of Scripture seemed 
to him like a cabinet that was locked against him. 
And he felt this to be discouraging, even from a 
religious point of view. But, by degrees, these diffi- 
culties diminished and disappeared. Partly for this 
end, he began to deliver, at intervals, a series of ex- 
pository and practical discourses on one verse or 
paragraph of Scripture. These sometimes occupied 
him for a long succession of Sabbaths; and it hap- 
pened, not unfrequently, that when the passage had 
seemed at length to have become an exhausted 
mine, golden nuggets of saving truth continued to 
be brought to the surface by the pastor's holy 
ingenuity, to the wondering delight of his people. 
In addition to this, suitable texts and topics came 
to be suggested to him in his growing experience, 
sometimes by predominant sins in his parish, or by 
neglected duties such as family worship, or by events 
in providence such as a scanty or an abundant 
harvest, and, not least in value or acceptableness, by 
conversations with his people in his pastoral visits, 
or by his daily private and family readings of the 
Word of God. These at length became a corps de 



EXPOSITORY PREACHING. 1 59 

resej've, to which he could turn at any time in an 
emergency. 

Like St. Augustine and St. Chrysostom — the latter 
of whom often drew down by his expositions of 
Scripture in the old cathedral at Antioch, the ir- 
repressible plaudits of his delighted hearers — Mr. 
Boston had a strong liking for expository preach- 
ing ; and his gift went hand in hand with his pre- 
ference. And often, when the whole discourse was 
not meant to be expository, he began with an ex- 
position of the verse, in order to supply a solid 
basis for the doctrinal statements or practical ad- 
monitions that were to follow, according to Nehe- 
miah's language, which admirably described so long 
ago what the exposition of Scripture should be — 
"reading in the book of God distinctly, and giving 
the sense, and causing the people to understand the 
reading." It was one of the maxims of our great 
Ettrick preacher, that "all good preaching must be 
founded on good exposition ; " that the function of 
the expositor is not to put his thoughts into the 
text, but to bring God's thoughts out of it. 

And the instances were not few in which his intro- 
ductory explanation of a verse which had seemed 
to his hearers, when announced by the preacher, 
obscure in its meaning and involved in its con- 
struction, became, in a little time, like the touching 



l60 THOMAS BOSTON. 

of a spring which let in heaven's light, or like the 
opening by the penitent woman of her " box of oint- 
ment very precious," by which in a little time the 
whole apartment was filled with sweetest odours. 
I wonder what such a man as Boston must have 
thought of a preacher who, reading out as his theme 
for the hour some verse of Scripture which was full 
of Christ's love, or beamed with some "exceeding 
great and precious promise," or was filled to the brim 
with consolatory words which were " sweeter than 
honey, yea, than the honeycomb," immediately left 
it unheeded, or turned it into a peg on which to 
hang a disquisition on some secular subject, or by 
which to insinuate a half-veiled unbelief? Would 
he not have denounced the presumptuous trifler as 
guilty of profanity against Christ and of treachery 
and insult to his people who had come to him 
asking for bread and he had given them a stone 
or a serpent ? 

It may be affirmed with confidence that there was 
no minister in Scotland at that period of whom it 
could have been said with greater truth and fulness 
of meaning than of Mr. Boston, that he faithfully 
" preached Christ." I mean by this that he earnestly 
endeavoured to give to Christ in his preaching the 
same supreme and central place that he occupies in 
the Word of God. There we behold all the lines 



PREACHING CHRIST. l6l 

of inspired truth meeting in him, all the blessings 
of redemption provided by him and emanating from 
him. And it was the constant and commanding 
aim of this devoted and divinely-taught minister, to 
have his pulpit teaching conformed to this, alike in 
matter and spirit. We have only to look into his 
sermons in order to see to what a blessed extent 
his practice realized his aim. His whole teaching 
is fragrant as a garden of sweets with that " name 
which is above every name." We find him dilating 
with holy delight on the various parts of Christ's 
redemption work on which the salvation of the 
human race depended, and tracing it in its various 
stages from the one eternity to the other : Christ, 
who " was in the beginning with God, and was 
God," coming forth, in the fulness of time, from the 
bosom of the Father, and becoming incarnated in 
our humanity, in order that he might be qualified 
for working out our salvation in all its glorious and 
benignant issues ; — Christ in his perfect obedience to 
the divine law, and in his atoning sufferings and 
death as the substitute of sinners, enduring in their 
behalf the penalty of sin, and "bringing in an ever- 
lasting righteousness ; "• — Christ in his triumphant 
resurrection from the dead, receiving the Father's 
public testimony to his approval and acceptance of 
his atoning work, and " powerfully demonstrated to 

u 



l62 THOMAS BOSTON. 

be the Son of God ; " — Christ ascending to heaven, 
taking possession of its many mansions in his people's 
behalf, there making continual intercession for them, 
and receiving from his Father's hand the sovereignty 
of the universe, "all power being given to him in 
heaven and on earth," in order that by the dispensa- 
tion of the Holy Spirit and the administration of 
his providence, he might in due time bring his in- 
numerable redeemed to glory. 

With kindred gladness do we behold him, as an 
ambassador of Christ, making free offer to the whole 
fallen race of man of all the blessings which have 
been provided by Christ's redemption work, free as 
the air we breathe or as the light of day, and the 
actual bestowal of these, in all their divine and im- 
measurable riches, " without money and without 
price," upon every child of man who should take him 
at his word and believe in his name. And how often 
do we find the preacher's language tasked and strained 
to the utmost, to admeasure and to understand, when 
he proceeds to speak of those redemption blessings 
which meet all men's necessities as sinners and all 
their capacities as creatures, — the full and irrevocable 
forgiveness of sins; reinstatement in the divine favour 
and friendship; the gift of the Holy Spirit in his 
enlightening, purifying, and peace-giving influences, 
turning men into living temples of the living God ; 



MARVELLOUS EFFECTS. 163 

victory in death and over death ; the reception of the 
ransomed soul at death into the Father's house, into 
the fellowship of the angels and the beatific vision 
of God ; the resurrection of the body at the end of the 
world, made like unto the glorified body of Christ, 
and united for ever to the glorified spirit; triumphant 
acquittal at the last judgment, and ascension with 
Christ and all his redeemed to the heaven of heavens, 
where " they shall for ever be with the Lord." 

These were the themes of transcendent interest 
which enriched and glorified the preaching of Mr. 
Boston, and which made it so mighty a power for 
the highest good, so that, at the period of which we 
are now writing, there was scarcely a cottage home 
in all Ettrick that did not contain some of his con- 
verts, to whom he could have said, " What is our 
hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing ? Are not even ye 
in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his com- 
ing?" To a large extent Ettrick, in this second 
decade of his ministry, had been transformed into a 
garden of God. 

And beyond all this, Mr. Boston felt that if he was 
to preach Christ faithfully and fully, it was indispens- 
able that he should present and explain the moral 
law to his hearers, not only in its outward letter, but 
in its spirituality and comprehensiveness, and also 
in its evanq-elical sanctions and motives. Was not 



1 64 THOMAS BOSTON. 

Christ Prophet and King in his church; and must not 
those who claimed to be his followers be instructed 
in the knowledge of the King's laws ? To do this 
was included in Mr. Boston's commission as a 
Christian minister, and, in its own time and place, 
was to preach Christ. 

And beyond the matter of his sermons, there were 
characteristic qualities in the style and imagery in 
which they were clothed, which were fitted both to 
arrest and to retain the attention of his hearers. It 
was not often that he was chargeable with unnecessary 
divisions and subdivisions which were apt to perplex 
the understanding and to overtask the memory of his 
hearers. In general, his thoughts were arranged in 
a succession of paragraphs which presented a con- 
nected and continuous train of instruction. And these 
were expressed with simplicity and beauty, and with 
an unfailing freshness which did not remind you of 
the lamp, but rather of the newly-plucked flower from 
the garden, with the morning dew upon it. These 
paragraphs again were often wound up with a com- 
pact sentence which was proverbial in its point and 
brevity, and seemed to gather into itself the whole 
essence of the passage. So that even now, when 
the whole sermon is read in its unity, it is apt to re- 
mind us of one of the Ettrick hills, smooth and 
green to the summit, with here and there a daisy or 



NATURAL ILLUSTRATIONS. 165 

a wild violet refreshing the eye with its modest 
beauty. 

Another prominent and engaging feature in much 
of Mr. Boston's preaching consisted in the frequency 
and felicity with which he drew his illustrative 
imagery from the natural scenery of Ettrick and the 
social customs of its people. This, when skilfully 
done, was eminently fitted both to win the attention 
and to assist the understanding and the memories of 
his hearers ; and the practice has been adopted in 
every age by some of the greatest and most success- 
ful preachers. It is one way of bringing home the 
truth to the business and bosoms of men. How often 
did the divine Teacher himself use the scenery and 
customs of Palestine to be the garment and vehicle 
of his matchless and priceless lessons, and emphati- 
cally in his parables, which have made the world 
richer for all time. The sower going forth to 
sow, the tares mingled with the wheat, the shepherd 
going out to search for his lost sheep, the woman 
searching for her lost piece of silver, the fishermen 
drawing their net and separating the precious from 
the worthless, — these and many more of his every- 
day surroundings were employed by the heaven- 
sent Teacher to make the entrance of his lessons 
into the hearts of men the more easy, and to secure 
that, once there, they could never be forgotten, 



1 66 THOMAS BOSTON. 

and so to make the earthly do service to the 
heavenly. 

It has been remarked that after the Civil War, 
in one of whose regiments Jeremy Taylor served 
for a time as chaplain, his sermons drew much 
of their colouring and imagery from the camp and 
the battlefield. — It was similar with the minister of 
Ettrick. There were few of his sermons that did not, in 
some form or other, reflect and reveal his outward sur- 
roundings, and turn them to holy uses. The changes 
in the seasons, the aspects of the sky, the sudden 
thunder awakening the echoes of the everlasting hills, 
the sheep knowing the shepherd's voice, the bemisted 
traveller unable to find his way, the sheep buried in 
the snow, the shelter of the sheepfold, the market 
and the fair with their bargainings and contentions, 
— these and many other outward things were used 
by him as garments to enrobe spiritual truth or to 
point a moral lesson, and, as it were, made " to pay 
tithes to the ministry." 

We are led to conclude from some incidental hints, 
that in the earlier periods of his ministry Mr. Boston 
had fastidiously abstained, even after long intervals, 
from preaching sermons to his people which he had 
formerly addressed to them. Whether his reason 
for this was the groundless fear that he might be 
suspected of indolence by such an indulgence, or an 



REPETITION OF SERMONS. 167 

unwillingness to act thus in the face of an unreason- 
able prejudice on the part of some of his hearers, it 
would not be easy to determine. But as he advanced 
in years, he became less scrupulous, especially when 
his health was impaired and study had become for 
the time a weariness, and he allowed his people to 
taste some of " the old wine." And he was encour- 
aged in this somewhat rare indulgence when, on 
a certain sacramental occasion, he first preached 
a newly-written sermon, and at a later hour of 
the same day an old sermon selected from his large 
bundle of manuscripts, and he found that the latter 
was the more appreciated of the two by his hearers. 
" That," says he, " was it which the Lord made the 
most sweet to the people and to me." It did not 
occur to the tenderly scrupulous minister that in 
preaching the same sermon from his Ettrick pulpit, 
after a considerable interval of years, he was really 
not preaching to his old congregation, and that by 
a large proportion of his listeners it was heard for 
the first time. Besides, he had sanction for such 
judicious repetition in the words of an apostle, when 
he well knew that the cause was not indolence or 
self-indulgence, but the need of relief from an excess 
of mental toil and strain, lest the bow being too long 
bent should break ; for " to write the same things 
unto you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you 



168 THOMAS BOSTON. 

it is safe." Moreover, a sermon when so repeated 
after a considerable lapse of years, is likely to gather 
into it new thoughts derived from new experiences. 
The language of Mr. Fuller on this subject is marked 
by his wonted wit and wisdom, and was probably 
meant, not only as a suggestion to others, but as 
a vindication of his own practice. These are his 
words : — 

" As for our minister, he preferreth rather to enter- 
tain his people with wholesome cold meat which was 
on the table before, than with that which is hot from 
the spit, raw and half-roasted. Yet in repetition of 
the same sermon, every edition hath a new addition, 
if not of new matter, of new affections. ' Of whom,' 
saith St. Paul, ' we have told you ofte7i, and now we 
tell you weeping.' " 

We have yet to look at Mr. Boston in the pulpit. 
It was often noticed by his family and others that he 
always lingered long in his study on the morning of 
the Lord's day ; and they well knew the reason. 
He was preaching his sermon to his own heart 
before he went forth to preach it to his people ; and 
he was wrestling hard in earnest and continuous sup- 
plication for that almighty help without which even 
the preaching of the true evangel was impotent. 

We know of only two ministers in Scotland at that 
period whose preaching was equally owned and hon- 



NATURAL GIFTS. 169 

oured of God with Mr. Boston's, and these were 
Ralph and Ebenezer Erskine, whose names occupy 
an honoured place in Scottish Church history ; and 
whose sermons are still to be seen in stately folios in 
the libraries of our older ministers, and, dressed in 
the garb of the Dutch language, in many of the 
rustic homes and congregational libraries of Hol- 
land. 

His natural gifts as a preacher must not be left 
by us unnoticed. In his countenance there was the 
mingled expression of majesty and benignity ; and 
this, when lighted up by the kindling emotions pro- 
duced by the sacred themes on which he spoke, 
attracted and retained the attention of his hearers. 
And his fine musical voice, which had been trained 
in his youth, increased the effect of his speaking, 
and made it pleasant for the crowding multitudes to 
listen ; while the rare and beautiful figures in which 
he often clothed his thoughts and emotions added 
another charm to his oratory. 

But all these qualities and gifts, so valuable in 
their own place, would have failed in the great and 
paramount end of the Christian ministry had they 
been alone. The message of the gospel in some of 
its many grand aspects must be the theme of the 
preacher, and his own heart must be in sympathy 
with it, if he is to be the instrument of winning 



I70 THOMAS BOSTON. 

souls into the kingdom of God. The eloquent 
preacher without the gospel may attract multitudes, 
but his eloquence alone will never save a soul. But 
in the union of these two qualities in his weekly 
ministry, we have the secret of Mr. Boston's great 
success. In those happy days of which we are 
writing, there was scarcely a Sabbath in which 
he did not receive the welcome tidings of some 
instance of the highest form of blessing in the con- 
version of hearers. Scarcely did the gospel net 
ever come up empty. The people hung upon the 
preacher's lips. So rapt was the attention that every 
sound was hushed into silence but that one pleading 
voice. There was not only influence but fascination. 
Flow different was all this from Mr. Boston's experi- 
ence at the beginning of his ministry in Ettrick, 
when he was often hindered in his preaching by 
many of his people walking out, without reason or 
excuse while he was speaking ; giving utterance to 
all manner of uncouth sounds, and to loud conver- 
sation and laughter afterwards around the church 
door. But in these later times a change had come 
which was not of earth. And all Ettrick owned 
its benignant power. Had one followed the people 
to their homes, after those holy services which we 
have been describing, he would have found them, ere 
long, breaking up into little companies for conversa- 



REMARKABLE INCIDENT. 171 

tion on the sermons to which they had listened and 
of which their hearts were full, and helping ' each 
other's memories for the better storing up of the 
lessons of the day. And then they would find that 
the " heads " and " particulars " into which the earnest 
preacher had arranged his instructions had not been 
without their uses, but had been as hooks by which 
the better to recover and retain what they had heard. 
There was one remarkable incident which re- 
peatedly occurred in connection with Mr. Boston's 
preaching, and which revealed much in regard to 
his pulpit influence and power. At the sacramental 
services in those times, which, as we have seen, 
drew many thousands together and extended over 
the greater part of the sacred day, it was common 
and even necessary to have many ministers engaged, 
who should preach in rotation, the one after the 
other. Of course, Mr. Boston had his full share 
assigned to him in these services. But, again and 
again, after he had preached, the minister whose 
turn it was to succeed him in the pulpit refused to 
ascend and occupy his empty place. And when he 
was asked to state his reason for this unwonted 
course, his answer was that the impression made 
by Mr. Boston's sermon had been so great, that 
he was afraid and unwilling to follow him, lest he 
should unwittingly undo the blessing. 



172 THOMAS BOSTON. 

I must refer in this connection to the extent to 
which Mr. Boston's incessant labours as a pastor 
contributed to the power and influence of his preach- 
ing. Those words of Paul to the elders of Ephesus, 
so full of holy wisdom and melting tenderness, every 
sentence touching a chord in their bosoms, might 
have been spoken by the minister of Ettrick to his 
parishioners, though his reference embraced in it a 
much longer ministry : " I have shewed you, and 
have taught you publicly, and from house to house. 
I ceased not to warn you night and day with tears." 
It is when we see these two parts of his ministry com- 
bined and co-operating, preaching and pastoral visita- 
tion, and all of course conjoined with prayer, that we 
can the more easily account for that rich harvest of 
souls which he was again and again called upon to 
reap. Those tears of sympathy watered the good seed 
of the word which he had sown. Those home visits, 
winning their affections and their confidence, invested 
his preaching with a double power, and opened the 
way for the entrance of the word. " The sheep knew 
their shepherd's voice," and followed him. As we 
have seen, it had been the same "in measure" at 
Simprin. They could not doubt the reality and 
strength of his love. And with what grief and even 
anguish did he receive the unwelcome intelligence 
of flagrant sin in the case of any in the flock. Such 



PASTORAL WORK. 1 73 

wounds struck very deep. With what sympathy also 
did he hear of the sickness, or bereavement, or 
crushing disappointment of any of his members, and, 
making their trials his own, hasten to their homes, 
however far off. " Who was weak, and he was not 
weak ? Who was offended, and he burned not ? " 
That pastor's heart was the chosen depository 
of his people's sorrows, and cares, and joys. And 
he knew the special value of personal interviews 
with individuals in his parish who had come 
into circumstances of peculiar moral danger or diffi- 
culty, calling for counsel, or stimulus, or warning. 
The youth who was rising to manhood undecided 
and without experience, was always an object of his 
special interest, whom he would invite to his manse, 
and warning him against surrounding temptations 
and perils, urge him to immediate decision for 
Christ. Nor was the backslider left unwarned by him, 
but entreated not to lose his first love ; and the in- 
stances were not few in which those of his flock who 
had begun to wander from the fold were brought back 
with thanksgivings and prayers and tears. 

When his congregation saw him enter his pulpit 
on the morning of the Lord's day, they knew that 
they were looking into the countenance of one 
who had just come forth from intimate communion 
with God, and who was at once God's ambassador 



174 THOMAS BOSTON. 

and their friend. Along with his devout and holy 
living, he united in himself two great influences — 
his preaching and his pastoral oversight, in which 
he " watched for souls as one that must give an 
account." But the minister who holds himself back 
from the latter of these functions, when it is within his 
power to use it, is like a man that is content to work 
with only one arm. So long as his health continued 
unbroken, Mr. Boston delighted in this part of his 
sacred office, ready to face storm and rain and cold 
in visiting the dying and the disconsolate, even to the 
remotest parts of his parish ; and it was only when 
advancing years came, bringing with them decaying 
health and growing infirmities, that he reluctantly 
obeyed their unwelcome interdict to hold back. 

" Wide was his parish, not contracted 

In streets, but here and there a straggling house ; 
Yet still he was at hand without regret 
To serve the sick, or succour the distrest, 
Tempting on foot alone, without affright, 
The danger of a dark tempestuous night." 



CHAPTER VIII. 

HEBREW STUDIES AND FOREIGN CORRE- 
SPONDENCE. 

IT has already been mentioned that, in addition to 
his regular studies in his weekly preparations for 
his pulpit, there were two special subjects of study to 
which Mr. Boston was accustomed frequently to turn 
aside, not only as a pleasant diversity for study, but 
for self-improvement and the enrichment of his 
ministry. The origin of one of these is easily ac- 
counted for. It happened not unfrequently, especially 
in his early years at Simprin, that in the course of his 
usual studies for his Sabbath teachings, questions 
would arise which perplexed as well as interested him 
at the moment — theological problems which were 
new to him, but which required more of thought and 
reading and prayer satisfactorily to answer, than he 
could give to them at the moment. These he did 
not cast aside, but took careful note of them, that he 
might turn to them with avidity and concentrated 



176 THOMAS BOSTON. 

mental energy when an opportunity for prolonged 
meditation offered itself. In a large volume, which 
he called his " Miscellanea," he stated the subject 
in the form of queries, leaving an ample num- 
ber of blank pages for recording the answer when 
the knot of difficulty had been untied, and for 
stating the reasonings by which his conclusions had 
been reached. 

We give the following examples of his queries : — 
" Where hath sin its lodging-place in the regenerate ? 
Why the Lord suffereth sin to remain in the regene- 
rate?" It is not difficult to understand how questions 
like these must have multiplied in the hands of the 
earnest student in those earlier years of his ministry, 
and how the "Miscellanea" did not long remain a 
blank book, especially when we remember that, in his 
young ministry, he did not possess a single com- 
mentary on the Bible, and his other books, which lay 
on his few half-furnished shelves, might have been 
counted and catalogued in a few minutes. This, 
however, as we have seen, was not all disadvantage, 
for the lack of books threw him back the more upon 
his personal resources, and accustomed him to inde- 
pendent thinking ; and the prize of knowledge, when 
it was won by him after this fashion, was doubly 
precious. We may imagine him, many years after- 
wards in Ettrick, turning over those difficulties in 



A THEOLOGICAL PROBLEM. 1 77 

earnest devout thought in his long walks in its glens 
or upon its hillsides, and also in his meditations during 
the night watches. The queries, with the answers, 
were not published in Mr. Boston's lifetime; but they 
were edited, at some interval after his death, by his 
son, when he had become a minister in Jedburgh. 

The answers to the two queries which we have 
named cover together thirty closely-printed pages. 
The reasoning is masterly, ingenious, and fresh as 
newly-plucked flowers. And it is pleasant, while we 
read, to trace his footsteps into light, and to feel that 
one theological problem more had been set to rest. 
We quote the closing paragraph in his elaborate an- 
swer to the question, " Why the Lord suffers sin to 
remain in the regenerate ? " " Finally, to shut up all, it 
is plain that the more difficulties the work of man's sal- 
vation is carried through, the free grace of God is the 
more exalted — our Lord Jesus, the author of eternal 
salvation, hath the greater glory. But in this way it 
is carried on over the belly of more difficulties than it 
would have been if, by the first grace, the Christian 
had been made perfect. And seeing none can prize 
rest so much as they who have sore toiled, and have 
come out of the greatest tribulations, I think I may 
be allowed to say that a child of God, having come 
to his journey's end, after so many ups and downs, 
falls and risings, having won through the trouble- 

12 



178 THOMAS BOSTON. 

some sea of this world, and being set safe ashore after 
so many dangers of shipwreck in a longsome voyage, 
will have the praises of free grace in his mouth 
sounding more loudly, and will sing the song of 
Moses and the Lamb in a more elevated strain and 
higher notes, than if he had never been in danger 
through the whole of his course. From all which it 
appears that this dispensation is most suitable to the 
grand design of the gospel, exalting the riches of 
true free grace in Christ. And what lover of Christ 
will not say, Amen ? " 

Another subject of study which eagerly engaged 
Mr. Boston's thoughts alongside of his weekly pre- 
parations for his pulpit, was the Hebrew Bible, with 
the grammar and structure of the Hebrew language. 
It has already been mentioned that a copy of the 
Old Testament in its original tongue came early into 
his hands, in his young and happy days at Simprin ; 
and almost from the beginning he became deeply 
interested in it ; and all through his ministerial life 
it continued to be the almost daily pasture-ground of 
his intellect and heart. It was like a fountain which 
had been suddenly opened at his feet, and which 
flowed on alongside of his daily path. The fact that 
the Hebrew Bible was written in the very language 
in which God had communicated with men through 
patriarchs, and kings, and prophets in the earlier 



HEBREW STUDIES. 1 79 

revelation, and in which the moral law had been con- 
veyed by the hands of Moses from the summits of 
the thunder-riven Sinai, gave to it, in his estimate, 
a peculiar and sacred fascination. We find him, in 
his diary and letters, calling the Hebrew the " holy 
tongue," and speaking of it as his " darling study." 

It was natural that he should begin his systematic 
reading of the Hebrew Scriptures with the Book of 
Genesis, and he was not slow to acknowledge that 
he was amply rewarded from the first by the new 
light which it flashed upon many a sentence in the 
English version, the Hebrew vocables being in many 
instances " word pictures." These discoveries made 
him happier for the day, and were laid up by him in 
store for future use. In his riper ministry he seldom 
preached from a text in the Old Testament, without 
previously examining the Hebrew original, making 
it contribute to the freshness and fulness of his 
instructions. 

It was not many years after he had begun the 
systematic study of the Hebrew Scriptures that 
Cross's "Tagmical Art" came into his hands; and the 
book with its novelty of thought introduced a new 
subject of inquiry and element of interest into this 
branch of sacred learning. One prominent topic 
was the accents in the Hebrew text, which had 
usually been regarded as helps to the pronunciation 



l8o THOMAS BOSTON. 

of the words and nothing more, and as fitted to 
produce a pleasant uniformity in this respect. But 
the author of the " Tagmical Art " contended for 
the divine original and authority of those accents — 
that they were as old as the words of the Bible, 
given also by divine inspiration, and had to do 
not only with the sound but with the sense of the 
Scriptures. 

Mr. Boston was greatly interested by this theory, 
and, from the beginning, regarded it with favour ; 
not only because of the ingenuity and plausibility 
of some of its arguments, but also because he per- 
suaded himself that if it could be satisfactorily 
established, it would both add to the contents and 
value of the Bible, and shed welcome light upon not 
a few passages whose meaning was now dark or 
doubtful. We find him writing to Sir Richard Ellys, 
an accomplished English scholar, and a devout man, 
in such glowing and sanguine terms as the following: 
" Through the divine favour falling on the scent, I 
was carried into the belief of the divine original and 
authority of that accentuation as stigmatological, 
seeing glaring evidence of the same in my reading 
of the sacred Hebrew text, shining by means thereof 
in its own intrinsic light." Again: " A happy expli- 
cation or genuine representation of the nature of the 
accentuation of the Hebrew Bible, in its natural and 



CONTINENTAL CORRESPONDENCE. l8l 

artless contrivance, is the only thing wanting to pro- 
cure it the same awful regard with the other parts of 
the sacred text." 

His enthusiasm on this subject brought him into 
correspondence with some of the most distinguished 
Biblical scholars on the European continent, many of 
whom regarded the discussion not only with interest 
but with favour, sincerely hoping that the evidence 
might be so convincing as to warrant their taking 
their place on the side of the Scottish divine. Among 
those friendly onlookers and inquirers were such 
eminent Dutch scholars as Schultens and Gronovius 
at Leyden, and Loftus at Rotterdam. The better 
to facilitate intellectual intercourse and a comparison 
of views, Mr. Boston not only wrote an essay of 
considerable length on the divine origin and au- 
thority of the accents, but translated it into Latin, 
which in those days was the common language of 
learned divines ; in this way the better securing 
against his being misunderstood, and widening the 
interest by largely increasing the number of readers. 
The solid learning of the Scottish minister, writing 
from amid the obscurity of his Scottish mountains, 
and the ingenuity of his reasonings, along with his 
modesty and outshining piety, charmed his readers 
and prepossessed them in favour of his views ; while 
the great issues in connection with the interpretation 



1 82 THOMAS BOSTON. 

of Scripture which they anticipated, if he should 
succeed in justifying his convictions on the divine 
inspiration of the accents, made them wish for his 
success. There were many friendly onlookers candid 
in their doubts, but pausing for the weight that 
would turn the scale. 

One of his most attached and scholarly friends 
writes to him in these encouraging words : " If your 
essay on the Hebrew accentuation succeeds, it is a 
glorious work. Has Providence directed you to 
rules for ascertaining the sense of Scripture, or at 
least for reducing it in some good measure to a 
greater certainty than heretofore ? For my own part, 
I had rather be the author of such a book than mas- 
ter of the Indies. The very failing in an attempt of 
this nature has its merit. 

' Magnis tamen excidit ausis,' 

you know is given as no mean character." 

It is an interesting fact that, at some time during 
Mr. Boston's correspondence with those foreign theo- 
logians, his "Fourfold State," which had already borne 
a new life into myriads of homes in the southern 
and eastern counties of Scotland, had found its way 
among the divines and pastors of Germany and 
Holland, and through them among the people. It 
is not improbable that copies may have been sent, 
in the first instance, by the author himself. At all 



THE "FOURFOLD STATE" ABROAD. 1 83 

events, we have the testimony of letters written to 
him that it was read by many with lively interest 
and permanent benefit. The free and full-orbed 
gospel which it presented as the message of heaven's 
love to every human being, and the warmth and 
pleading earnestness with which it was conveyed, 
unlike the cold and philosophic stateliness which 
was too much the characteristic of modern books of 
divinity in those days, made readers feel that they 
were brought into contact with matters, not of mere 
speculation or dialectic discussion, but of supreme 
personal interest to themselves. Holy earnestness 
pulsed in every sentence, and those who read could 
not remain indifferent. It was acknowledged by 
many, with glowing gratitude, that Mr. Boston's 
" Fourfold State " had introduced them to clearer 
views of the great central doctrines of saving truth, 
and made plainer to them the way of life. His pre- 
cious life-book met a great and clamant necessity. 
God loved them, and so loved them as to give his 
only begotten Son for their redemption. It did for 
multitudes in those foreign lands in theological 
schools and in the homes of the common people, 
what his own reading of the " Marrow" had done so 
long ago in the soldier's cottage at Simprin for himself. 
In the course of time, as was natural, the corre- 
spondence between the good Ettrick pastor and those 



1 84 THOMAS BOSTON. 

Continental scholars slackened and ultimately ceased, 
partly because of his impaired health, and his occupa- 
tion with engrossing controversies and ecclesiastical 
troubles, which had begun to show themselves at home. 
Meanwhile, in passing from this subject, it may 
be remarked that had Mr. Boston been acquainted 
with facts which came into notice at a somewhat 
later period, he would not have committed himself 
with so much confidence and enthusiasm to the 
opinion that the accents formed part of the Old 
Testament revelation from the beginning, were 
given by divine inspiration along with the other 
parts of the Hebrew text, possessed equal authority, 
and formed part of the Old Testament canon when 
it was completed. But scholars by-and-by arose 
who hesitated, and at length found themselves shut 
up by increasing knowledge to the denial of the 
inspiration of the Hebrew accents. They argued, 
that if those accents formed an essential part of 
the text of the Hebrew Scriptures from the begin- 
ning, how was it that in looking into the writ- 
ings of the early Christian fathers, such as Jerome, 
Origen, and others, in many of which they quote 
profusely from the Hebrew Bible, those accents are 
uniformly absent and unknown ? There seemed 
only one answer to this question — namely, that they 
did not then exist. Another fact is equally signifi- 



THE HEBREW ACCENTS. 1 85 

cant and conclusive, that the copies of the Hebrew 
Scriptures which are read in the Jewish synagogues 
are the oldest in the world, and their completeness 
and purity have all along been guarded with the ut- 
most veneration and jealousy, even to the minutest 
jot or tittle ; and in these again we look in vain for 
the accents. 

The most probable account of their origin and 
uses has been given by the Jews themselves, who, 
speaking by the Rabbi Elias Sevita, ascribe the in- 
vention of the accents to the doctors of Tiberias 
in the fifth century of the Christian era ; and this 
judgment has been confirmed by the most learned 
Rabbins. They further inform us that these ac- 
cents were never meant to take their place as a 
part of the Hebrew text, but to give direction and 
uniformity in the pronunciation of the words. They 
were mere human aids introduced for convenience, 
which meddled in no degree with the sense but with 
the sound of the words which had been given by 
inspiration of God. We may be certain that more 
than one of these facts were unknown to this saintly 
man ; and that, if he had known them, he would not 
have spoken and written in assertion of the antiquity 
and inspiration of the accents, with the confidence 
and persistent zeal which marked his conversation 
and correspondence on the subject. The thought 



1 86 THOMAS BOSTON. 

of an addition being virtually made to the text 
of the Old Testament Scriptures, and new facili- 
ties being discovered for interpreting their meaning, 
dazzled his imagination, and almost made him wish 
to live longer that he might help in bringing the un- 
told treasures to light. He and those of his learned 
contemporaries who thought along with him were 
like men working in a mine of gold, who imagined 
that they had come upon a new vein which would 
immeasurably add to their riches. It was a fond 
imagination which appealed to some of their most 
sacred instincts, and it died hard. But the consensus 
of later generations has gone against it, and at length 
it has passed away, " like the baseless fabric of a 
vision." 



CHAPTER IX. 

GATHERING CLOUDS — ERROR BEGINS TO LIFT ITS 
HEAD — THE GOSPEL MUTILATED. 

IN Mr. Boston's own parish of Ettrick, peace and 
religious prosperity had long reigned. It was 
like a carefully watched and well cultivated garden, 
and the affection and reverence of the people had 
increased with their pastor's years. But when he 
looked forth beyond the circuit of those green hills, 
there were not wanting signs and incidents to awaken 
his anxiety and alarm. 

Defection in doctrine, creeping like a leprous 
taint, was becoming in various forms more aggra- 
vated and pronounced in the teaching of positive 
and perilous error. In 17 17, Professor Simson, the 
lecturer in theology in the university of Glasgow, 
was charged at the bar of the General Assembly 
with the teaching of several unscriptural tenets which 
savoured of Pelagianism ; and although the charge 
was proved, the censure of the Assembly amounted 



1 88 THOMAS BOSTON. 

only to a gentle hint " to be careful of his language." 
About the same time, Professor Campbell, of the 
sister university of St. Andrews, when it was shown 
that he had vented errors of an even darker hue, was 
treated with a similar unfaithful daintiness. 

Mr. Boston was not slow to predict, at the time, that 
such inadequate discipline on the part of those who 
were the appointed guardians of the church's faith and 
purity, instead of deterring, was likely to encourage 
to bolder heresies. And his words were prophecies. 
For, after the lapse of several years, it was found 
that by that time Professor Simson had so far di- 
verged from "the faith once delivered unto the saints" 
as even to have called in question, in his lectures to 
his students, the supreme divinity of our Lord Jesus 
Christ, the foundation truth of Christianity as well as 
of Christian hope ; and instead of dismissing the be- 
trayer of his sacred trust from his office and deposing 
him from his ministry, as the majority of presbyteries 
in the church had recommended to be done, the 
General Assembly satisfied itself with suspending 
him, in the meantime, from the discharge of his 
ecclesiastical functions, which left him to enjoy all the 
emoluments of his office. The supreme gravity of 
these dealings consisted in the fact that the men who 
were treated with such guilty leniency were the per- 
sons to whom had been entrusted the training of the 



SOLEMN PROTEST. 1 89 

future ministers of the church ; and that a censure so 
utterly inadequate on the part of the rulers revealed 
a widespread indifference to Christian truths even 
the most vital, or a secret sympathy with what had 
been so timidly condemned. The wound was filmed 
over with plaster when the surgeon's amputating 
knife was needed. Let us at once follow this part of 
the story to its end. 

On this momentous occasion, which tried men's 
hearts, there was only one man who had courage 
enough to stand up and utter his solemn and indig- 
nant protest against this action of the Assembly ; and 
this solitary man, reminding us of Athanasius of old 
in the Council of Nice, was Thomas Boston of Et- 
trick. Rising with a solemn majesty that became 
him, and inspired with that fear of God which de- 
livers from every other fear, he entered his dissent in 
the following words which made many around him 
quail : " I cannot help thinking, Moderator, that the 
cause of Jesus Christ, as to the great and essential 
point of his supreme deity, is at the bar of the As- 
sembly requiring justice ; and as I am shortly to 
answer at His bar for all that I say or do, I cannot 
give my assent to the decision of this act. On the 
contrary, I find myself obliged to offer a protest 
against it. And therefore, in my own name, and in 
the name of all that shall adhere to me, and, if none 



190 THOMAS BOSTON. 

here will, for myself alone, I crave leave to enter my 
dissent against the decision of this act." 

Timidity rather than treachery or indifference, a 
desire to maintain an outward semblance of peace, 
and perhaps also a fear to incur the displeasure of 
those ecclesiastical rulers who sat there in their 
" pride of place," must be held as explaining the un- 
worthy silence of many of Mr. Boston's brethren on 
this occasion, who held themselves aloof from him 
when they should have been found standing at his 
side, sharing the responsibility of his protest, and 
ready, at all hazards, to put honour upon Him whose 
" name was above every name." They lost a grand 
opportunity of testifying their fidelity to Him who 
had promised to those who confessed him before 
men, that " He would confess them before his Father 
and his angels." And, no doubt, their conscience was 
not long in telling them this, when it arose in their 
bosoms like an armed man. It is recorded that their 
recollection of this scene, and of their failure in duty 
in the testing hour, haunted the death-beds of many 
of those brethren, and though it did not extinguish 
their hope, it disturbed their peace. In an epitaph 
on Mr. Boston, written by Ralph Erskine, his faith- 
ful friend and fellow-witness for the truth, reference 
is made to this heroic act, when he seemed to stand 
alone, " faithful found among the faithless : " — 



ANXIOUS FOREBODINGS. I91 

f< The great, the grave, judicious Boston's gone, 
Who once, like Athanasius bold, stood firm alone ; 
Whose golden pen to future times will bear 
His name, till in the clouds his Lord appear." 

Years before this event, the heart of Mr. Boston 
had also begun to be grieved and filled with 
anxious forebodings, because of the negative style 
of preaching which was becoming fashionable in 
many of the pulpits of the Scottish Church, especi- 
ally among its younger ministers. I mean by this, 
that while none of the great truths of our religion 
were directly denied or even questioned by those 
ministers, they were held back, and something else 
was substituted in their place which did not con- 
tain that vitalizing power by which God converts 
men and brings them within the kingdom of the 
saved. They preferred to linger in the outer court 
of the temple, and seldom turned their gaze to the 
inner shrine in which the glory dwelt. They did 
not regard the divine injunction, " first to make the 
tree good, and then the fruit would be good." They 
were strangers to the divine method of creating men 
anew, which was to begin with the heart, and then 
to work out from it upon the whole circumference of 
the outward life. Moral precepts were coldly stated, 
not unfrequently in elegant sentences ; but nothing 
was said of those evangelical motives which win and 



192 THOMAS BOSTON. 

bind the heart to Christ, and which, constraining to 
a loving service, make his yoke " easy and his burden 
light." They seemed to be more concerned about 
the beauty of the vessel than about the nutritious 
qualities of the food contained in it. That secret 
power which, under the preaching of such earnest 
men as Knox, and Henderson, and Rutherford, had 
roused multitudes to repentance and kindled within 
them a new life, was not there ; their " drowsy tink- 
lings lulled their flocks to sleep," and the people 
went home empty and unblest, to indulge their 
former worldliness, perhaps to hug their old sins. 

There was another mode of preaching not un- 
known in those days, which, though it did not aim 
to destroy the gospel, tended to mutilate it, to mar 
its power, and to dim its glory, the thought of which 
had many a time made the heart of our earnest 
pastor sad, as he sat and mused in his mountain 
home. I refer to those who denied the free, unlimited 
offer of Christ in the gospel to mankind sinners as 
such, and asserted that this " deed of gift and grant " 
was made to the elect alone, or to such as had pre- 
vious qualifications commending them above others. 
What a barrier of discouragement and repulsion did 
this place around the fountain of life! The gospel in 
the teaching of such men was like the glorious sun 
under dark eclipse. Who among the fallen sons of 



DIFFERENT GOSPELS. I93 

men could know by this means whether he was invited 
to the feast of heaven's love or not ? How different 
from that gospel, " in its full round of rays complete," 
which Mr. Boston and those who were like-minded 
with him rejoiced to proclaim, that "Jesus Christ 
was God the Father's deed of gift and grant to the 
whole human race." There was no exception in its 
message ; and in sending it to the world, it proved and 
proclaimed that God loved the world. It invited 
every human being to its warm embrace. If I were 
travelling alone in an African desert, and met one poor 
naked savage, I would have warrant to assure him, 
on the authority of God's own word, that there was 
a gospel for him. At the very period of his life of 
which we are now writing, and after seventeen years' 
experience in holding forth this word of life to his 
fellow-men, we find Mr. Boston writing thus : " The 
warrant to receive Christ is common to all. Though 
I had a voice like a trumpet that would reach to the 
corners of the earth, I think I would be bound by my 
commission to lift up my voice and say, ' Unto you 
O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of men.' 
None are excluded but those who exclude them- 
selves. But the convert of yesterday is the young 
heir of glory." 

And another kind of teaching, in some respects 
kindred to this, and with which the gospel message 

10 
O 



IQ4 THOMAS BOSTON. 

was grievously hampered, was connected with the 
name of Principal Haddow of St. Andrews, who 
was soon to come into unenviable prominence 
in connection with approaching ecclesiastical con- 
flicts. He insisted on the necessity of a certain 
amount of moral preparation on the part of the 
sinner, for receiving the gospel and entering on the 
possession of its priceless benefits. The gospel, as 
he taught it, did not all at once say, " Come," but, 
" Wait " until you are more deeply humbled, and 
have undergone a certain amount of outward pre- 
paration. This was rightly described by Mr. Boston 
as a " gilded deceit," and a " trick of the enemy of 
souls " to keep the man back until those temporary 
impressions had faded away ; while, in the case of 
others, it tended to generate a self-righteous spirit, 
as if the man were coming with a price in his hand 
and trying to do for himself what Christ was wait- 
ing to do for him. To quote the pointed words of 
Riccaltoun, " Such preachers would have persons 
whole before they come to the physician, and clean 
before they come to the fountain." 

At that same period, the efficiency of the pulpit 
for its supreme ends was greatly marred, in the 
case of not a few ministers, by their inadequate 
and misleading views of what has been fitly termed 
"the gospel method of sanctificaticn" Their strain 



GOSPEL METHOD OF SANCTIFICATION. I95 

of preaching produced the impression that the 
attainment of a certain measure of outward morality 
might realize at length what was meant by sancti- 
fication, and lift men up to that state of heart 
and character which this great word in our Bible 
theology describes. But the clear and uniform 
teaching of Scripture is that, in every instance, the 
first indispensable step towards sanctification con- 
sists in the man's being brought into friendly rela- 
tions with God — in other words, in his "justification 
through faith in the righteousness of Christ imputed 
to him." The moment that this blessed change takes 
place in him, he becomes united to Christ, and is 
made a partaker of the renewing influences of his 
Holy Spirit ; and this justifying faith produces and 
sustains in him that love to God in Christ which is the 
root and germ of all true holiness in the heart and 
life. And this evangelical holiness cannot be produced 
in any other way. There may be outward morality 
and seemly acts of kindness without it, but holy love 
reigning in the heart, and working out in holy serv- 
ice on the whole circumference of the outward man, 
so as to make it evident that he has been created 
anew, and that the image of Christ is reflected in 
him, must be preceded by, and can only come 
through, justification. "As the branch cannot bear 
fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can 



I96 THOMAS BOSTON. 

ye, except ye abide in me." It was a favourite and 
characteristic saying of Boston, " Let them that will, 
repent, that Christ may do for them. I believe what 
Christ hath done for me, that I may repent." There 
cannot be any acceptable obedience where there is 
no love, and there cannot be love where there is no 
faith. The same thought was beautifully expressed 
in a later age by one who, like Mr. Boston himself, 
was a native of Duns : " The tear of repentance is 
shed by the eye of faith ; and faith, as it weeps, stands 
beneath the cross." 

" Talk they of morals, 
O thou bleeding Lamb, thou teacher of new morals to mankind ; 
The grand morality is love of thee." 

It is indeed the judgment of many, that in describ- 
ing the gospel method of sanctification, even more 
than that of justification, Mr. Boston and the two 
Erskines and the other Marrowmen did the greatest 
service to sound theology in their days ; and perhaps 
some modern preachers who are, in the main, evan- 
gelical, but do not yet fully comprehend " the perfect 
law of liberty," would do well to clear their mental 
vision with eye-salve gathered from the discourses of 
those " masters in Israel." 

The Neonomian doctrine imported from England, 
which, though not asserting, like Antinomianism, that, 
under Christianity, the believer was not subject to 



A BRIGHTER SIDE. I97 

the divine law as a rule of life, yet taught that the 
standard of the law was lowered in order to accom- 
modate itself and make it more attractive to human 
frailty, began to be whispered at times from certain 
Scottish pulpits, and in some of Mr. Boston's later 
sermons we can see this faithful watchman's hand 
lifted up in protest and warning against its insidious 
and plausible teachings. 

But there was, no doubt, a bright side to this pic- 
ture, and this consisted, not least, in the body of 
divinely enlightened and earnest ministers of Christ 
to which Mr. Boston belonged, and in the eager 
multitudes who flocked to their ministry. And be- 
yond the Boston circle, the number of ministers and 
congregations was still not few who held fast in 
all its purity and fulness " the faith once delivered 
unto the saints," and adorned their Christian profes- 
sion by their holy lives. But those many-coloured 
signs of divergence from " the form of sound words," 
and those numerous instances in which, while error 
was not taught from the pulpits, saving truth was 
withheld and there was a corresponding decay of 
spiritual life among the people, were such as to alarm 
and sadden the hearts of those men of God who 
placed the cause and kingdom of Christ upon the 
earth supreme in importance above all other interests. 
Had the question been put at this period to our 



193 THOMAS BOSTON. 

Ettrick pastor, " Watchman, what of the night ? " he 
would probably have answered in such terms as the 
following, which we gather from his diary and 
letters : " The stream of gospel doctrine, which some- 
time was clear, is now disturbed." " Truth is fallen 
in the streets." " Zion's wounds are multiplied in the 
house of her friends." " The song of the watchman 
is marred." We might imagine him, as he wandered 
in such moods of mind, far from the haunts of men, 
in one of the glens of his own Ettrick, to have 
sung in plaintive notes these words of the psalm — ■ 

' ' By Babel's streams we sat and wept, 
When Sion we thought on. 
In midst thereof we hanged our harps 
The willow-trees upon." 

A state of things had now been reached in the 
condition of the Scottish Church which brought men 
together who remained true to the old gospel of the 
Reformation and whose bodies were the temples of 
the Holy Ghost, that they might confer and pray 
together as to what should be done in such a grave 
emergency. Boston's own " Fourfold State " was 
passing into the hands of ministers and people, 
and was soon to work like a heavenly leaven 
and with unabated power and ever-widening sphere 
in many parts of the land. But in addition to 
this, it was now resolved by those assembled 



A GOD-GIVEN PURPOSE. I99 

fathers and brethren to secure the republication and 
extensive circulation of the " Marrow of Modern 
Divinity ; " a book which, as we have already seen, 
mainly consisted of the best thoughts of the best men 
on the great truths of evangelical theology — great 
reformers, renowned authors, eminent preachers, pro- 
fessors in universities, in many lands and through 
many generations — the primary stars of their age. 
We have found that this remarkable book had been 
greatly blessed to Mr. Boston in his early ministry, 
and to others among those fathers and brethren 
who were now sitting with him in devout and anx- 
ious consultation, having given to them, as it were, 
a second spiritual birth. It seemed to these vener- 
able men that such a measure as had been proposed 
was eminently fitted to counteract those evil tenden- 
cies which were showing themselves in so many 
forms in many parts of Scotland. It was a God- 
given thought and purpose, as the issue abundantly 
proved ; though, as we are now to see, the carrying 
of it into effect was for a time most bitterly and un- 
scrupulously opposed. We are now briefly to relate 
the story of the publication of the " Marrow " in Scot- 
land. 



CHAPTER X. 

THE "MARROW" CONTROVERSY — PRINCIPAL HAD- 
DOW — THE MARROWMEN — WHITFIELD. 

EARLY in 17 19, the Rev. James Hog, minister 
of Carnock, a man of singular intellectual 
gifts, and described by his contemporaries as one of 
the holiest ministers in the kingdom, republished the 
first part of the " Marrow of Modern Divinity," with 
a preface strongly recommending it, in which he 
dwelt on its seasonableness as meeting contemporary 
errors in reference to the all-embracing nature of the 
gospel message and the true way of obtaining gospel 
holiness. In the beginning of April, in the same 
year, Principal Haddow of St. Andrews University 
preached a sermon before the Synod of Fife, in which 
he especially attacked the "Marrow." This sermon 
was immediately printed and published at the desire 
of the synod. Soon after, he published another ser- 
mon, which bore the reckless and misleading title of 
"The Antinomianism of the 'Marrow' detected." 
In both of these the "Marrow" is charged with 



EARLY CONTENDINGS. 201 

containing and vindicating such revolting positions 
as these : " Holiness not necessary to salvation ; " 
" The believer not under the law as a rule of life ; " 
" Rewards and punishments no motives to obedi- 
ence." And all this is written and charged against 
a book, the second part of which is devoted to a 
masterly exposition of the ten commandments ! 

Both these productions were promptly answered, 
and the unblushing ignorance revealed in many 
places exposed, by the dauntless friends of a full- 
orbed gospel. In all these early contendings, an 
onlooker might have seen the gathering clouds which 
portend the storm. 

The men who were sitting in the high places of 
power in the church, and not a few of whom were 
unfriendly to evangelical truth, were indignant at and 
hostile to this action of the friends of the " Marrow." 
And they were not slow in giving form to their hos- 
tility. The General Assembly of 1720, founding on 
the report of a committee which had been appointed 
to " inquire into the publishing and spreading of 
books and pamphlets," not only condemned the 
" Marrow," but prohibited its ministers from either 
preaching, writing, printing, or circulating anything 
in its favour ; further enjoining them to warn their 
congregations against its perusal. Here was the 
Index Expurgatorius in the supreme court of the 



202 THOMAS BOSTON. 

Scottish Church. "It is understood," said Mr. Bos- 
ton, " that Principal Haddow was the spring of that 
black Act of Assembly." Could a book abounding 
in blasphemy, or proclaiming infidelity, or apologiz- 
ing for licentiousness, have been more severely con- 
demned ? And yet there were thousands in the 
parishes of Scotland at that very time who had been 
sitting under a sapless ministry, and who had found 
this very " Marrow," when it came into their hands, 
to be like heavenly dew or hidden manna to their 
fainting and famished spirits. " I would not," said 
one, " for ten thousand worlds, have been a Yea to 
the passing of that Act." Many of the best ministers 
and private members of the church were astounded 
and grieved. And at the General Assembly of the 
following year, Ebenezer Erskine and eleven other 
ministers, among whom was Mr. Boston, laid upon its 
table a document, afterwards known in Church His- 
tory as " The Representation," remonstrating against 
the condemnation and interdict, as an unwarranted 
restraint upon their liberty ; a rejection, in some 
instances, of doctrines which were precious in them- 
selves, and which they believed to have full warranty 
of Scripture; and a wounding of Christ in the house 
of his friends. It was written with fearless candour, 
but in a respectful and conciliatory spirit; while there 
was a ready admission of the existence of defects in the 



THE REPRESENTATION. 



203 



l: Marrow," with all its excellence, making it evident in 
every page that the aim of its compilers was not the 
gaining of a controversial victory, but the conserving 
of truths which were more precious to them than life. 
But there was no returning to wiser courses. On 
the contrary, " The Representation " was not only 
condemned, but its twelve supporters, who had come 
by this time to be known as the Marrowmen, were 
ordered to be rebuked at the bar of the Assembly. 
They have been justly spoken of as " the truest 
ecclesiastical patriots of their times." The names 
of several of them stand honourably prominent in 
church history, and in the theological literature of 
their age. And the names of all of them are sur- 
rounded to this day by a sweet fragrance in the 
parishes in which they laboured, through the double 
ministry of their preaching and their lives. They 
are as follows :— 



James Hog, 
Thomas Boston, 
John Bonar, 
John Williamson, 
James Kid, 
Gabriel Wilson, 

EliENEZER ERSKINE, 

Ralph Erskine, 
James Wardlaw, 
Henry Davidson, 
James Bathgate, 
William Hunter, 



Carnock. 

Ettrick. 

Torphichen. 

Inveresk and Musselburgh. 

Queensferry. 

Maxton. 

Portmoak. 

Dunfermline. 

Dunfermline. 

Galashiels. 

Orwell. 

Lilliesleaf. 



204 THOMAS BOSTON. 

With calm dignity and holy gravity, those faithful 
confessors stood forward and endured the censure, 
" rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer 
shame for the name of Christ." In his diary, Mr. 
Boston has this record : " I received the rebuke and 
admonition as an ornament put upon me for the 
cause of truth." " It is better," said another of those 
faithful witnesses, " to be under the reproach of men 
for following Christ, than to be under the curse of 
God for forsaking him." It must, however, be re- 
membered that, while only twelve ministers appeared 
at the bar of the Assembly in this supremely im- 
portant cause, they were only the leaders in the con- 
flict, and there remained many others who preached 
the same doctrines of the Reformation, and were the 
hearty friends of the Marrowmen. 

Their action and endurance on that eventful day 
were not yet completed. For immediately after 
" gi vm g m " their united and solemn protest against 
the Act which had condemned the " Marrow," they 
declared that it should be lawful for them to preach 
and bear testimony to the truths contained in it. 
But in high-handed violation of the constitutional 
rule for protecting the consciences of minorities, the 
protest was refused to be recorded, and the further 
indignity was added of not allowing it to be read 
in the Assembly. Rights were in this way wrested 



WHAT THE "MARROW" WAS. 205 

from their hands, which had been bought and sealed 
by the blood of martyrs. 

One is apt to wonder that while those ecclesiastics 
were sending forth their condemnation of the " Mar- 
row," and fulminating their interdicts against those 
ministers who had promoted its republication and 
circulation, it had never occurred to them that if the 
" Marrow " was a book of such dangerous tendencies 
as they had never wearied in pronouncing it to be 
— a thing not safe to be " touched, or tasted, or 
handled " — then the authors of the book were surely 
more severely to be blamed than those who had 
taken part in its circulation. But mark now where 
the stroke of the anathema falls. The " Marrow," as 
we have already seen, was not the production of one 
mind, but mainly consisted of brief extracts, some- 
times individual sentences, from the writings of 
eminent authors who were the friends of evangelical 
truths, from the Reformation downwards. The 
book was a miscellany of choice sayings and select 
passages from the works of the greatest authors of 
their times, stretching back through many ages. 
Great reformers and eminent scholars and theo- 
logians, such as Luther and Calvin, and Knox and 
Beza, and others who, in their day, had formed " the 
flower and chivalry " of the Puritans, are made to 
unite their mental stores in illustrating "the faith 



206 THOMAS BOSTON. 

once delivered to the saints." And one great fact 
stands out with peculiar interest, that the " Marrow " 
was one of the books specially recommended by 
the famous Westminster Assembly of Divines in 
1643. How shall we account for the fact that the 
same book which was specially commended by that 
august assembly, the compilers of the " Confession 
of Faith " and the " Catechisms Larger and Shorter," 
the greatest thinkers and most profound theologians 
of their age, should have been branded with inter- 
dict and anathema by the General Assembly of the 
Scottish Church in 1720? 

But all these keenly persistent efforts against the 
" Marrow " and the Marrowmen were unavailing. 
The people who were forbidden, at their peril, even 
to read the " Marrow," would not consent to walk 
blindfold, or to be led whithersoever their ecclesias- 
tical rulers listed. They were determined to judge 
for themselves, " proving all things, and holding fast 
that which was good.". The " Marrow " was accord- 
ingly purchased and eagerly read, during those years 
of controversy, by thousands over the land, with the 
effect of conversion in the case of multitudes, and of 
increased knowledge, holiness, and joy in the case of 
others who had already believed. It was to many 
of them like passing from dim twilight into gladden- 
ing sunshine. They now, for the first time, saw " the 



EFFECTS OF THE CONTROVERSY. 207 

glorious gospel of the blessed God" in its "height and 
depth, and breadth and length." Mr. Boston himself 
tells us that it turned to the great advantage of 
many, both among ministers and people, being 
obliged both to think of these things, and " to inquire 
into them more closely and nicely than they had 
done before." And referring in another place to the 
" Marrow " controversy, this is his record : " That 
struggle, through the mercy of God, turned to the 
advantage of truth in our church both among the 
ministers and the people ; insomuch, as it has been 
owned, that few public differences have had such good 
effects, and saving truths have, in our day, been set 
in an uncommon light." He seemed to himself to 
witness, in the case of many, the repetition of his 
own experience in " sweet Simprin " so long ago, 
when he saw the gospel illuminated and enlarged 
with a new splendour, and it appeared to him, to 
quote his own words, " like a chariot paved with 
love." The sight of happy converts rejoicing in their 
new life was immeasurably more than a compensa- 
tion to him for all the humiliation and the evil treat- 
ment of the last three years. 

And the blessed influence of this remarkable book 
was found, within the next quarter of a century, to 
have spread beyond Scotland, and to have proved a 
benefit to preachers and authors whose reputation, 



208 THOMAS BOSTON. 

in those years, rilled the mouths of men. George 
Whitfield, whom we might almost style the evan- 
gelist of two hemispheres, acknowledged with enthu- 
siasm the good he had derived in his ministry, both 
in England and America, from the study of the 
" Marrow." 

And Mr. Hervey, the distinguished author of 
" Theron and Aspasio," a book which in those days 
might have been seen in almost every Christian 
home in England, wrote thus in the year 1755: "I 
never read the ' Marrow ' with Mr. Boston's notes 
till this present time. I find that by not having read 
it I have sustained a considerable loss. It is a most 
valuable book. The doctrines it contains are the life 
of my soul and the joy of my heart. Might my 
tongue and my pen be made instrumental to recom- 
mend and illustrate, to support and propagate, such 
precious truths, I should bless the day wherein I was 
born. Mr. Boston's notes on the ' Marrow ' are, in my 
opinion, some of the most judicious and valuable that 
ever were penned." Of two outstanding doctrines 
of the " Marrow," — the free grant of Christ to sinners 
as such, and the special application of the faith of 
the gospel,- — Mr. Hervey also says : " These two doc- 
trines seem to me the very quintessence of grace and 
the riches of the gospel. They are, I am certain, the 
sovereign consolation of my soul; at least they are 



PRESENT INFLUENCE. 20O. 

the channel and conveyance of all comfort to my 
heart." 

It would not be difficult to trace the influence of 
this remarkable book upon creeds and testimonies, as 
well as upon religious thought and Christian experi- 
ence, in days much nearer to our own. It tinctures 
the phraseology of our religious literature and conver- 
sation, and shapes our thoughts, without our knowing 
from whence the influence comes ; just as it is pos- 
sible for us to drink from a stream, and be refreshed 
by its waters, without our being aware of the foun- 
tain from which it has flowed far up among the ever- 
lasting - hills. 



H 



CHAPTER XI. 

THE LAST DECADE. 

a lucid interval — decaying strength — busy authorship — 
"The Crook in the Lot" — Flowers from Mr. Boston's 

GARDEN. 

E are now some years, in our narrative, within 
the last decade of Mr. Boston's life. It is 
eight years since his beloved wife was smitten with 
that insanity which brought her mind under dark 
eclipse, and shadowed the formerly bright and happy 
home at Ettrick. That fine spirit, so full of love and 
tenderness, and lighted up with wisdom, had become 
like a defaced and ruined temple. Her husband 
touchingly speaks of her as, during those past years, 
having been as " the slain that lie in the grave, and 
are remembered no more." And he goes on to say 
that, " being overwhelmed with bodily maladies, her 
spirit dried up with terror by means of her imagina- 
tion in a particular point, and harassed with Satan's 
temptations plied against her at that disadvantage." 
We learn, however, that there came at times lucid 
intervals, in which " the Lord had given her remark- 
able visits in her prison, and manifested his love to 



BLIGHTED HOPES. 211 

her soul." And it seemed as if the soul-music had 
come back again to the old Ettrick home, " proving 
that the reality of grace was in her, and could not 
be quenched." She even said, " Who knoweth but 
that the Lord will bring us again to the land of the 
living?" And her husband had welcomed the gleam 
of hope, as the weary traveller through the long mid- 
night welcomes the dawn. " Now," says he, " we were 
with our broken ship within sight of the shore, and I 
was like one stretching out his hand and crying, Help 
forward, help forward. But, behold, a little time 
after, the storm rose anew, and the ship was beaten 
back into the main ocean, out of sight of land again." 
But, continuing " to hope against hope," we find the 
meek and enduring sufferer writing thus, at a later 
period, of his wife and himself: "I was helped to 
believe that we would both stand on the shore yet 
and sing, notwithstanding our swelling seas." The 
hope was to be exceeded a hundredfold in a heavenly 
sense ere many years had run their course. 

So early as 17 19, Mr. Boston's strength had begun 
to show symptoms of decay. The afternoon of his 
life had begun, with its lengthening shadows. But he 
would not allow this to hinder, or even to slacken his 
activity as a preacher or an author. The effect was 
rather, in the meanwhile, to quicken it, for he knew 
that his time was short. About the close of the 



212 THOMAS BOSTON. 

" Marrow " controversy, he had sent forth, at the 
request of his brethren, a volume of " Notes on the 
Marrow." This he soon after joined in one volume 
with the " Marrow " itself, which greatly added to the 
interest and usefulness of both. We have seen in 
what glowing terms eminent authors standing in the 
front ranks of theologians and writers on Christian 
experience, like Mr. Hervey, the author of " Theron 
and Aspasio," spoke of the benefit, both in knowledge 
and in spiritual impulse, they had derived from the 
Notes of the Ettrick pastor. 

In 1 72 1 and 1722, he delivered an elaborate series 
of discourses to his Ettrick flock on the two Cove- 
nants — the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of 
Grace. They show much of the learning and man- 
ner of Witsius, while they excel him in freshness and 
fervour. The people must have been fond of strong 
meat who relished and hungered after such sermons. 
But if they demanded thought, they richly rewarded 
it. The two courses formed an elaborate system of 
evangelical theology, and were admirably adapted to 
meet and expose the rising errors of the times, such 
as Antinomianism with its license to sin, while giving 
many a " root-stroke " to crude thoughts which were 
the growth of half knowledge. The motto of the 
book, as sounding the keynote of the whole treatise, 
might have been given in the words of Paul : " As in 



ON CHRISTIAN MORALS. 213 

Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made 
alive." It was not published until after Mr. Bos- 
ton's death. 

Following the preaching of those elaborate and 
exhaustive discourses on the two covenants, Mr. 
Boston soon after delivered a series of sermons on 
Christian morals, their general designation being 
" Sermons on the distinguishing characters of true 
believers;" and associated with these and with kin- 
dred aims was a little group of sermons on Phil, 
ii. 7 — " Christ's taking upon him the form of a serv- 
ant." These were characterized by his brethren at 
the time as "masterly." Our Ettrick pastor seems 
to have been followed in this action by his brethren 
of the " Marrow " generally. And, no doubt, this 
was done primarily for the purpose of instructing 
their people in practical religion, both by showing 
the meaning and comprehensiveness of the moral 
law, and stating the Christian motives by which 
obedience to it was prompted and sustained in the 
believer in Christ. But another reason was, by ex- 
pounding and enforcing in their teaching the moral 
law, to deliver the minds of multitudes from the im- 
pression which had been produced by the Act of 
Assembly, which charged the " Marrow " and the 
Marrowmen with the loathsome Antinomian error 
that the believer in Christ was not under the law as 



214 THOMAS BOSTON. 

a rule of life — an Act which had never, up to that 
hour, been repealed. Mr. Boston justified the course 
that had been taken by himself and his brethren by 
remarking that the gospel doctrine had got a wound 
by that Act which condemned the " Marrow," and 
which charged it with containing doctrines which every 
Marrowman not only rejected and condemned, but 
loathed from the very depths of his heart. Why 
should it have "lien among the pots" so long? Bring 
it forth to the light, that men may see that its " wings 
were of silver and its feathers as yellow gold." 

Somewhat later in the decade, Mr. Boston 
preached to his people a series of sermons on Afflic- 
tion. These were subsequently published under the 
memorable title of " The Crook in the Lot," being 
mainly founded on the text in Eccles. vii. 13 — "Con- 
sider the work of the Lord : for who can make that 
straight, which he hath made crooked ? " The sub- 
title is given in a more expanded form, and is like 
the bud opening into the blooming flower: "The 
sovereignty and wisdom of God in the afflictions of 
men, together with a Christian deportment under 
them." The foundation truths in the passage are 
stated by himself to be the following : — I. That what- 
ever crook there is in any one's lot, it is of God's 
making. 2. That whatever God sees meet to mar, 
no one will be able to mend, in his lot. 3. That the 



"THE CROOK IN THE LOT." 21 5 

considering of the crook in the lot as the work of 
God — that is, of his making — is the proper means to 
bring one to a Christian deportment under it. These, 
with the truths and lessons which grow out of them, are 
stated and illustrated with a vigour and a pathos, and 
enriched with a fulness and variety of Scripture fact 
and incident, not to speak of that proverbial point in 
many of his sentences which we have seen to be char- 
acteristic of all his best writings, as to have made it, 
next to the " Fourfold State," the most popular of all 
Mr. Boston's works. While written by him in de- 
caying health, the book proves that his intellectual 
strength was undiminished. There is a freshness in 
almost every page which reminds one of the dew- 
laden grass upon the green hills of Ettrick. How 
many a sorrowing heart, from those days onwards 
down through the ages, has drunk consolation from 
" The Crook in the Lot," and found the bitter waters 
of Marah turned into sweetness. To how many has 
it proved in God's hand a sanctifying power, drawing 
from them the wondering and adoring acknowledg- 
ment, — 

"Among the choicest of my mercies here 
Stand this the foremost, that my heart has bled : 
For all I bless Thee ; most for the severe." 

The proverbial maxims are specially valuable, as 
they are also specially memorable. Let us gather 



2l6 THOMAS BOSTON. 

and bind together a few flowers and fruits from 
this part of Mr. Boston's garden : — ■ 

i. "God makes none of his people to excel in a 
gift, but, some one time or other, he will afford them 
use for the whole compass of it." 

2. " When God wills one thing and the creature the 
contrary, it is easy to see which will must be done. 
When the omnipotent arm holds, in vain does the 
creature draw." 

3. "There are many prayers not to be answered till 
we come to the other world, and there all will be 
answered at once." 

4. " There is never a crook God makes in our lot 
but it is in effect heaven's offer of a blessed exchange 
to us. Sell whatsoever thou hast, and thou shalt 
have treasure in heaven." 

5. " Impatience under the crook lays an over- 
weight on the burden, and makes us less able to 
bear it." 

6. "A proud heart will make a cross to itself, where 
a lowly one would find none." 

7. " It is far more needful to have our spirits 
humbled and brought down than to have the cross 
removed." 

8. " It is a shame for us not to be humbled by such 
wants as attend us; it is like a beggar strutting in 
his rags." 



PROVERBIAL MAXIMS. 21 J 

9. "All men must certainly bow or break under the 
mighty hand." 

10. " Lay your account with it, that if ye would get 
where the Forerunner is, ye must go thither as he 
went." 

11. "Who would not be pleased to walk through 
the dark valley, treading in Christ's steps ? " 

12. "Standing on the shore, and looking back on 
what you have passed through, you will be made to 
say, ' He hath done all things well.' Those things 
which are bitter to Christians in passing through 
them, are very sweet in the reflection on them. So 
is Samson's riddle verified in their experience." 

13. " Let patience have her perfect work. The 
husbandman waits for the return of his seed, the sea- 
merchant for the return of his ships, the storemaster 
for what he calls ear-time, when he draws in the pro- 
duce of his flocks. All these have long patience. 
And why should not the Christian too have patience, 
and patiently wait for the time appointed for his 
lifting up?" 



CHAPTER XII. 

HOME IX SIGHT. 

IN the beginning of the last year of his life, 
which we have now reached in our narrative, 
Mr. Boston published a treatise of no great bulk, but 
which came up to his wonted mark of excellence, 
and proved that, however much his bodily strength 
might have been impaired, it would, in the freshness 
of its style and the vigour of its thought, as in the 
case of " The Crook in the Lot," have been worthy of 
his middle life. The book was entitled " A Memo- 
rial concerning Personal and Family Fasting and 
Humiliation." 

These personal fasts, as we have seen, had been 
practised by him during the whole period of his long 
ministry, and he believed that they were clearly war- 
ranted in many places both in the gospels and the 
epistles ; nor is he slow to testify in his booklet that 
he had derived invaluable religious benefit from 
them during his long Simprin and Ettrick life. We 
shall here introduce a few of his valuable thoughts 



ON FASTING AND HUMILIATION. 219 

which have not been anticipated in our former re- 
ferences to the subject. He takes good care to 
indicate that there was nothing of penance or will- 
worship in the fasting which he commended and 
practised. He explains that religious fasts thus 
kept in secret " by a person apart by himself, are 
not the stated and ordinary duties of all times to 
be performed daily, or at set times recurring, such 
as prayer and praise and reading of the Word are ; 
but that they are extraordinary duties of some times 
to be performed occasionally, as depending entirely, 
in respect of the exercise of them, on the call of 
Providence, which is variable." 

We must imagine the individual fencing off a 
day, or part of a day, in which he shall have with- 
drawn from intercourse with others and from the 
common avocations of life ; and in some private 
apartment where he has secured himself against 
interruption, and sought to be alone with God, he 
shall give himself up entirely to spiritual exercises. 
It may be that, during this period, there shall be 
entire fasting or abstinence from food, or that the 
taking of food shall be only diminished in degree. 
In this and kindred matters every one must be a 
law to himself. What is best to be done in these 
circumstantial matters must be regulated by Chris- 
tian prudence, and determined by the individual 



220 THOMAS BOSTON. 

for himself. It must be remembered that things 
like these are only as the shell to the nutriment 
contained in it. 

In stating the various parts of religious exercise 
which are comprehended under the head of personal, 
and equally of family fasting, Mr. Boston mentions 
the following ; it being understood that prayer is 
an element which shall pervade and animate the 
whole like the sunlight, in which the solitary wor- 
shipper shall live and move and have his being, 
while it shall come into special prominence in some 
parts of the exercise : — 

i. There must be self-examination, or "considera- 
tion of his ways," on the part of the Christian seek- 
ing to discover what is wrong or wanting in his 
manner of life, in order that he may humble him- 
self before God because of it. 

2. Free and full confession before God of his 
sins, especially of those which have been discovered 
and brought out to light from their hiding-place, 
in order to his seeking deliverance at once from their 
guilt and their power. " See if there be any wicked 
way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." 

3. Exercises of repentance towards God with 
special reference to those sins, in order to his re- 
turning from them to God in heart and life. And 
it may be well that the penitent in his solitariness 



ON FASTING AND HUMILIATION. 221 

name those particular sins, and dwell upon them 
in their humbling aggravations. "If we are indeed 
true penitents, we will turn from sin, not only because 
it is dangerous and destructive to us, but because 
it is offensive to God, dishonours his Son, grieves 
his Spirit, transgresseth his law, and defaceth his 
image ; and we shall cast away all our transgres- 
sions, not only as one would cast away a live coal 
out of his bosom for that it burns him, but as one 
would cast away a loathsome and filthy thing for 
that it defiles him." 

4. Extraordinary and prolonged prayer as the 
humble and self-accusing utterance of this repent- 
ance, and also with special reference to that which 
had been the immediate occasion of the fast. 

5. Entering anew into covenant with God by 
taking hold anew of his covenant of grace through 
believing in the name of Christ, whereby we take 
hold of the covenant and are instated in it unto 
salvation ; in mentioning which Mr. Boston remarks, 
with well - timed tenderness that " one may take 
hold of God's covenant of grace, even though it 
be with a trembling hand." 

We close our reference to Mr. Boston's treatise 
on fasting, by quoting two sentences which are 
worthy of being treasured in the memory of those 
who are willing to be his disciples : — 



222 THOMAS BOSTON. 

''- Lay no weight on the quantity of your prayers — 
that is to say, how long or how many they are. 
These things avail nothing with God, by whom 
prayers are not numbered but weighed." 

" The laying over of a matter on the Lord, believ- 
ingly in prayer, gives great ease to a burdened heart ; 
it turns a fast sometimes into a spiritual feast." 

Mr. Boston was made conscious by increasing 
signs that " the sands of time were sinking." In 
addition to the feeling of diminishing strength, there 
were frequent attacks of " gravel," producing acute 
pain and accompanied by " paralytical shakings of 
the head." In all this, Nature was holding out 
signals of distress, the meaning of which could not 
be misunderstood. It led him, among other things, 
to make arrangements with a view to the disposal 
of his worldly goods after his death, especially in 
making provision for his children and assigning 
them equal portions. This was promptly done, not 
only to prevent those embittering family feuds which 
are the frequent result when this part of parental 
duty is neglected, but, as he himself expressed it, 
with the design " to have no remembrance about 
worldly affairs when the Lord should be pleased to 
call him home." And with what sad and thought- 
ful tenderness did he also make adequate provision 
for that loved one sitting in the gloom of her " inner 



A JOYFUL EVENT. 223 

prison," in the event of her being left behind him, 
cherishing the while the assured hope that ere long 
they would meet again in that world where 

" The quenched lamps of hope are all relighted, 
And the golden links of love are reunited." 

And there was another matter which, at this time, 
pressed itself on the anxious thoughts of the good 
Ettrick pastor, attention to which came within the 
scope of the divine command to "set his house in 
order." He had good grounds for believing that 
three out of his four children were already true 
disciples of Christ. But there was still one, the 
youngest, just budding into manhood, about whose 
religious condition he was uncertain and anxious. 
" Oh that Ishmael might live before Thee." The 
youth was sent for at once by his saintly father, 
and the object of his errand affectionately declared. 
A few prayerful and loving interviews assured Mr. 
Boston that his youngest son was " not only almost, 
but altogether persuaded to be a Christian." To 
use the father's own favourite language, he believed 
that "Jesus Christ was God's deed of gift and grant 
to mankind sinners, and therefore to him." This 
was Christ's gospel. He accepted it, and the gift 
became his. The words of the hymn written in a 
later century reflected the thoughts of the happy 



224 THOMAS BOSTON. 

parent as he grasped the hand of the young com- 
municant, his youngest son : — 

" When soon or late we reach that shore, 
O'er life's rough ocean driven, 
We shall rejoice no wanderer lost, 
A family in heaven." 

A few weeks after, Mr. Boston, when administering 
his last communion, with grateful and gladdened 
heart that brought tears of joy to his eyes, saw 
this son of his many prayers and vows sitting at 
the Lord's Table amid the numerous band of young 
confessors of Christ. 

At an advanced period in those waning months, 
Mr. Boston " renewed his covenant with God," in 
order, as he expresses it, to his preparation for death. 
On repeated occasions, at earlier periods, as we have 
seen, he had, after the review of his life and confes- 
sion of sin, declared his renewed acceptance of God's 
covenant of grace. And with some changes in the 
language, indicating his more enlarged views of 
" the glorious gospel of the blessed God," the solemn 
transaction was now repeated, as if in sight of the 
eternal world. He describes himself, as on those 
earlier occasions, " after a period of prolonged prayer, 
rising from his knees, and while he stood alone in 
his chamber, lifting up his eyes to the Lord, reading 



LAST RENEWAL OF COVENANT. 225 

before him the acceptance he had written, and sub- 
scribing it with his hand." We shall quote his own 
detailed account of this last renewal of his covenant 
with God : — 

" Rising early in the morning, after my ordinary 
devotions, I spread the subscribed acceptance of 
the covenant before the Lord, and I solemnly 
adhered to it and renewed it. Then proceeding 
towards the covenant, I stated God's offer and 
exhibition of it to me in his own express words ; — 
such as Isa. lv. 3 : ' I will make an everlasting cov- 
enant with you, even the sure mercies of David.' 
This is the covenant, Heb. viii. 10 : 'I will put 
my laws into their mind, and write them in their 
hearts : and I will be to them a God, and they 
shall be to me a people. For I will be merciful 
to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their 
iniquities will I remember no more.' Hos. ii. 19: 
' I will betroth thee unto me for ever.' John iii. 
16: 'God so loved the world, that he gave his 
only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in 
him should not perish, but have everlasting life.' 
Rev. xxii. 17: 'Whosoever will, let him take the 
water of life freely.' These," continues the devout 
man, coming out from the presence chamber of 
his covenant God — " these I pleaded were his own 
words, he could not deny it ; and thereupon I 

15 



226 THOMAS BOSTON. 

adhered and solemnly took hold of the same as 
before. And then I saw so clearly the matter 
concluded between God and my soul, that I could 
plead and see that, upon the separation of my 
soul from my body, my soul should be carried 
up by angels into Abraham's bosom, by virtue of 
the covenant ; and my dead body be carried down 
to the grave in it, and lie there in it, and, by virtue 
of it, raised up at the last day reunited to my 
soul. And tongue and heart jointly consented that 
this my vile body, bearing the image of the first 
Adam, should be left lifeless, carried to the grave, 
and become more loathsome there, till it be re- 
duced to dust again ; but so that, in virtue of the 
covenant, it be out of the same dust new framed 
and fashioned after the image of the second Adam, 
like unto his own glorious body. Rising up from 
prayer with joy in believing, I sang with an exulting 
heart Ps. xvi. 5 to the end, — 

" 'God is of mine inheritance 
And cup the portion ; 
The lot that fallen is to me 
Thou dost maintain alone. 

" ' Unto me happily the lines 

In pleasant places fell ; 

Yea, the inheritance I got 

In beauty doth excel.' " 



WELCOME INTELLIGENCE. 227 

It was about this time that Mr. Boston received 
welcome intelligence regarding the acceptance and 
usefulness of his " Fourfold State " in remote places, 
and particularly in the Highlands of Scotland. And 
not long after, his heart was cheered by his receiv- 
ing kindly notice of the publication of a new edition 
of his precious treatise, a copy of which was not 
long in finding its way to Ettrick. The manner 
of his reference to this in his diary is truly charac- 
teristic of the man of God. " I took it," he says, 
" and spread it before the Lord, praying for a bless- 
ing to be entailed on it, for the correction and con- 
version of sinners and the edifying of saints, for 
the time I am in life, and after I shall be in the 
dust." Little did the modest author venture to 
indulge the fond imagination that, within little 
more than thirty years, the book would have 
passed through more than thirty editions, some of 
them very large. It would have seemed to him 
like a presumptuous dream ; but it was exceeded 
by the fact. Who can compute the spiritual results 
within the same period ? 

There was another event in this closing period 
of his life which was surrounded with a peculiar 
and sacred interest, in connection with the observ- 
ance of the Lord's Supper by Mr. Boston and his 
people in the midsummer of 1 73 1. For it was 



228 THOMAS BOSTON. 

anticipated by the beloved pastor, with his grow- 
ing infirmities, that this would be the last time in 
which he would dispense among them this "heart- 
strengthening ordinance;" and the same thought, 
though yet unspoken, was in the minds of his 
people. What hallowed memories and melting 
associations stood connected with the thought of 
former communions, in which the language of their 
hearts had often been, " Surely it is good for us 
to be here." But this approaching sacrament was 
to bring with it associations and impressions pe- 
culiarly its own. The good pastor, as he gazed 
forth upon those deeply-impressed multitudes with 
his look of mingled majesty and benignity, could 
have said to them, in the language of the Master, 
" I shall not drink henceforth of this fruit of the 
vine, until that day when I drink it new with you 
in my Father's kingdom." All Ettrick was moved 
by the anticipation. The parishioners came forth 
on that occasion in numbers that had never before 
been equalled. Even the lame, and the halt, and the 
blind would not consent to be absent. From " lone 
St. Mary's Loch" to the gates of Selkirk, from 
the picturesque glens of Yarrow, and places far 
beyond, they hastened, streaming from the early 
morning dawn ; throwing themselves with confi- 
dence upon the unfailing hospitality of their 



A MEMORABLE COMMUNION. 229 

Ettrick brethren, some of whom provided lodging 
for fifty strangers, while others were equally lavish 
in providing meat and drink. This, as we have 
already stated, was one of the last things which Mr. 
Boston noticed in his diary. And he did it with 
holy gladness and gratitude. " God," says he, " hath 
given this people a largeness of heart to communi- 
cate of their substance on these and other occasions 
also. And my heart has long been on that occasion 
particularly concerned for a blessing on their sub- 
stance, with such a natural emotion as if they had 
been begotten of my body." 

The communicants were strangely moved as they 
heard their pastor's solemn and tender voice repeat- 
ing the " words of institution," and received from 
his pale and trembling hands the sacred emblems 
of a Redeemer's dying love, and thought that this 
was the last time in which he would preside at 
the holy festival. Still, the joy on that occasion 
swallowed up the sorrow. The records left behind 
regarding it lead us to think of it as a day ever 
to be remembered, a little Pentecost, an antepast of 
the time when all the emblems shall have vanished 
away, and Christ shall be seen by his people face 
to face. 

We here introduce two letters which were written 
to Mr. Boston at this period by two of his brethren 



230 THOMAS BOSTON. 

in the ministry, whose names are already familiar 
to us, as belonging to the innermost circle of 
his friends — Gabriel Wilson of Maxton, and Henry 
Davidson of Galashiels. Their ointment and per- 
fume, no doubt, " rejoiced his heart," on the way 
to his heavenly home. 

Letter from Mr. Wilson. 

"Rev. dearest Brother, — It has been a most 
real pain to me, after I was fully purposed to be 
with you some time this day, to think of sending 
any letter. But the ordering seems to be of the 
Lord. I design to essay it again without delay, 
according as I hear from you. I hear the trial 
has become still more fiery ; but hope you will 
be kept from thinking it strange, as though some 
strange thing had happened unto you. Oh, it is 
difficult ; but you are allowed, and even called to 
rejoice, inasmuch as you are thus made ( a partaker 
of Christ's sufferings.' 

" The Lord has in great favour led you forth into 
his truth, and is now in his fatherly wisdom giving 
you use for it all — calling you to show forth the sup- 
porting and comforting power of it. Our season, if 
need be, of being in heaviness through manifold 
temptations is made up of hours and minutes, and 
will soon run out (2 Cor. iv. 17, 18). 



LETTER FROM MR. WILSON. 23 1 

" The Son of God, your Lord and Master, is with 
you in the furnace, though not always visible, and 
will never leave you nor forsake you. May the God 
of hope, of patience, and consolation, ' the God and 
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,' ' the Father of 
mercies,' and ' the God of all comfort,' comfort you 
in all your tribulation with the comforts of his cove- 
nant, and with the same comforts with which he has 
enabled you to comfort others in any trouble. You 
mind (Ps. xxxi. ult.) that it is in the way of our 
labouring to be of good courage that he promises 
to strengthen our hearts. I will still hope and seek 
that he may turn the shadow of death into the 
morning, and spare you to recover strength. 

" Our Session being met this day, in token of their 
love and sympathy have sent the bearer, one of their 
number, to visit you and bring them word. Dearest 
brother, I desire to remember your bonds, as bound 
with you. Great grace be upon you. — I am, with 
love to all yours, dearest Sir, yours, 

" Gab. Wilson. 

" Maxton, April 8, /7J2.'' 

From Mr. Davidson. 

" Very DEAR Sir, — Your several letters came safe 
to hand, and were very acceptable. This comes to 
inform you that the good old woman, my mother, 



232 Thomas boston. 

went home to her own, the better country, this 
morning, betwixt three and four o'clock. She took 
her bed upon the Lord's-day evening ; had a fever 
pretty high, but retained all her senses to her dying 
hour. How cruel is our love ! How blind and in- 
considerate is our affection ! We would prefer the 
small advantages or greater gains we reap from their 
abode with us, to entire satisfaction and complete 
happiness — a very great but common solecism in true 
friendship we are often guilty of. However frightful 
and ill-favoured death may appear to the eye of 
sense, it is viewed by faith as the messenger of our 
heavenly Father ; and when the Christian opens its 
hard cold hands and looks into them, there are to be 
found gracious letters full of love, bearing an invita- 
tion to come home, a call from the new Jerusalem to 
come up and see. When death with the one hand 
covers our eyes, and deprives us of the light of the 
stars with the other, it rends in pieces the veil, and 
so makes way for our being set immediately under 
the refreshing beams of the Sun of Righteousness, 
without the least appearance of a cloud through the 
long ages of eternity. Now that ' his way is in the 
sea, and his path in the deep waters, and his foot- 
steps are not known,' we believe loving-kindness in 
all the mysterious passages of Providence ; we shall 
in due time see ' a wheel in the wheel,' and be taught 



LETTER FROM MR. DAVIDSON. 233 

how to decipher the dark characters ; we shall, with 
an agreeable surprise, perceive an all-wise Providence, 
in all its intricate, oblique, and seemingly contrary 
motions, to have been a faithful servant to the divine 
promise, so that we may say Amen to heaven's dis- 
posals, and cry out in the dark and gloomy night, 
Hallelujah. I should certainly make an apology for 
giving you so much trouble, but allow it to be 
written to the Lord's prisoner of hope with you, as I 
design it, though the direction bears your name. 
The fault of its length will, I hope, appear less when 
taken in that view. My affectionate respects to 
Mrs. Boston with yourself, are offered by him who 
is, very dear Sir, yours very affectionately in the 
straitest bonds, H. DAVIDSON. 

" Galashiels, February 2j, 1732." 

Meanwhile Mr. Boston's strength was gradually 
diminishing; and this was aggravated, as well as his 
pain greatly increased, by a scorbutic disease which 
had fastened upon him as a permanent malady. 
This made it necessary, however reluctantly, that he 
should begin to lessen his pastoral labours, though 
he could have said of the unwelcome change, with 
another devoted servant of Christ and lover of souls 
who had become old in the ministry, " Oh, it is hard 
for me to give up working in the cause of such a 



234 THOMAS BOSTON. 

Master." For instance, up to this advanced period, 
it had been his unvarying practice, as will be re- 
membered, to hold " catechizings " in the homes of 
his people, once in the year, over the whole of his 
parish. Neither inclement weather, nor swollen 
stream, nor steep and rugged mountain path could 
hold him back from this part of his pastorate, which 
he had valued and enjoyed as bringing him into 
close contact with the minds and hearts of his 
people, keeping up his acquaintance with their family 
history, and, not least, enabling him to gauge the 
measure and accuracy of their knowledge in the 
verities of the gospel of Christ. But this must now 
be abandoned as having not only become a difficult 
but an impossible service. 

And yet the loved work of catechetical teaching 
was not, wholly and at once, given up. There was 
a sort of compromise with difficulty. The devoted 
minister clung with enthusiasm to his favourite serv- 
ice. When he was no longer able to meet with 
parents and other adults in their homes and remote 
districts, it was arranged that the younger people 
should come from all parts of the parish, at stated 
times in the week, to meet with Mr. Boston in the 
kirk ; and a portable iron grate was provided by the 
kind people, in which a peat fire was kindled on the 
appointed day, beside which the earnest minister of 



DIMINISHING STRENGTH. 235 

Christ, with sixty or seventy young men and women 
gathered around him, could address them during an 
hour that never was wearisome while he conversed 
with them of the great things of God. 

But the interval was probably not very long 
until another change was needed. For the frail and 
palsied state of his limbs made it irksome and even 
impossible for him to stand in his pulpit while 
preaching ; and his sympathizing people, knowing of 
what all these signs were the prophecy, were glad to 
prolong his ministry among them, were it even for 
a little time, by placing a large arm-chair in the 
Ettrick pulpit, in which he could sit and discourse. 
The voice to which so many of them had listened 
from their infancy no longer possessed its earlier 
strength and power, but its wonted tenderness and 
pathos were still there ; and every Sabbath they 
listened with the saddened feeling, which made every 
sentence the more precious, that these might be his 
last words. They knew that they were now gather- 
ing the gleanings of the vintage. Ere long the cry 
of their hearts would be, 

"Oh for the touch of a vanished hand, 
And the sound of a voice that is still ! " 

Even this thoughtful arrangement served only for 
a time ; for at length, because of his growing frailty, 



236 THOMAS BOSTON. 

Mr. Boston could no longer venture outside of his 
manse to preach, and his last expedient was to 
preach from one of the open windows of the manse 
to large and loving congregations stretching away 
before him, with the sublime background of the ever- 
lasting hills. Two excellent sermons on the neces- 
sity of self-examination (2 Cor. xiii. 5) were written 
by him for these occasions, and preached from this 
extemporized pulpit. 

Two things may be gathered from Mr. Boston's 
sayings during those later months of his life. One 
of these was that those grand evangelical truths, 
which it had been the special work of his ministry to 
preach and to defend, were the support of his mind 
at the last, when he knew, by many symptoms, that 
the end was near. Referring to that favourite sen- 
tence, more " precious than gold, yea, than much fine 
gold" (1 John v. 11), "This is the record, that God 
hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his 
Son," which contained the condensed spirit of the 
Marrow divinity, we have found him saying, when 
looking back upon a period of dangerous illness, 
" This was the sweet and comfortable prop of my 
soul." And on another occasion, when stricken down 
with a sudden illness, and in the immediate prospect 
of death, he leaves this testimony of his experience : 
" The grant of Christ to sinners, as such, was the 



NEARING THE END. 237 

ground of my comfort ; and since Saturday last, I 
have had experience of the solid peace and joy of 
believing God to be my God." 

And the other noticeable circumstance was, that he 
had no desire to outlive his activity and usefulness. 
His desire rather was, that when he ceased to work 
he might cease to live. This feeling shines out in such 
sayings as the following: " I have some comfortable 
prospect of the weary 's getting to rest ; " "I had 
some special concern on my spirit this day, for being 
helped to die to the glory of God, that when death 
comes I might be ripe and content to go away." If 
he had been asked, during his closing weeks, to say 
whether he had any unsatisfied wish, the spirit of 
his answer would have been in the words of the dying 
Melancthon, " Nihil aliud nisi ccelum " (Nothing else 
but heaven). And the end, when it came, was in 
welcome harmony with his desire. 

Mr. Boston's mental attitude was now one of wait- 
ing expectancy for his summons to his heavenly 
home, like Elijah looking up for the descending 
chariot of fire. So much was this the case, that he 
promptly discouraged every form of interruption 
that threatened to disturb his equanimity, and to 
draw his thoughts back to " the things which were 
seen and temporal," which he had left behind him 
for ever. This appears from his answer to a corre- 



238 THOMAS BOSTON. 

spondent in Edinburgh, who, unaware of his condi- 
tion, had written to him on some matter of secular 
business. The letter is interesting, not only because 
of the state of mind which it reveals in the affec- 
tionate courtesy of his refusal, but because it is be- 
lieved to have been the last letter that Mr. Boston 
wrote : — 

" MY VERY DEAR SIR, — I am obliged downright 
to acquaint you that I have been of a considerable 
time, and am still, in an apparently dying condition. 
All business is quite over ; and I can no more, as 
matters stand, correspond with any about MSS. or 
anything else, but must leave them to the Lord, 
and the management of my friends as he shall direct 
them. I do not doubt but your God, who has seen 
meet to row you into deep waters, will, in due time, 
bring you out again ; but there is need of patience. 
I cannot insist. The eternal God be your refuge, and 
underneath the everlasting arms, and plentifully 
reward your twelve years of most substantial friend- 
ship. — I am, my dear Sir, yours most affectionately," 
etc. 

On the 20th day of May 1732, and in the fifty- 
sixth year of his age, within the brief period of a 
fortnight after he had preached, from the window 
of his manse, his second sermon on the necessity 



HOME AT LAST. 239 

of self-examination, Thomas Boston died, as has 
been happily said, scarcely old in years, but weary 
with labour and meet for heaven. There was no 
lingering on the brink of the great river. It hap- 
pened according to his wish and his prayer, that he 
might end his work and his life together. It is a 
comforting fact to the children of God that in every 
instance our heavenly Father not only appoints the 
fact, but also the time and the manner, of their death. 
When Jesus foretold to Peter his death in old age, 
and by crucifixion, we arc informed, in the inspired 
narrative, that he did this, " signifying by what death 
he should glorify God." We are thereby assured 
that " all our times are in his hand ; " and that while 
the manner in which his redeemed ones are removed 
from the world may be very various — some dying 
under great and prolonged suffering, with " pains 
and groans and dying strife," others with peace and 
even triumph, as if they felt themselves already in 
the everlasting arms — there is a Father's wisdom and 
love in them all, even in the most unlikely and mys- 
terious. Ralph Erskine died with the cry of " Vic- 
tory, victory " upon his lips. The dying words of 
Andrew Fuller were, " I have no raptures, and I have 
no fears, but I have such a faith as I can plunge with 
into eternity." Mr. Scott, the learned and pious com- 
mentator, was vexed for a time by Satanic tempta- 



24O THOMAS BOSTON. 

tions and assaults, though, in the end, he could thank 
God for victory and unclouded hope. The great 
missionary Schwartz turned his death-bed into a 
pulpit, and, surrounded by native Indian princes, 
charged them, as if with his last dying words, " See 
that none of you be wanting from the right hand of 
Christ at the day of judgment." Henry Martyn, one 
of the most devoted and self-denying missionaries of 
his times, died alone in the sandy desert, with not so 
much as one friend to hold up to his parched lips a 
cup of cold water, or to close his eyes. And now 
this saintly pastor of Ettrick has his prayer an- 
swered, that he might end his life and his work to- 
gether, and that death might be to him almost as if 
it were without dying. 

" Oh that without a lingering groan 
I might the welcome word receive, 
My body with my charge lay down, 
And cease at once to work and live ! 

" No guilty doubt, no anxious gloom, 

Shall damp whom Jesus' presence cheers ; 
My light, my life, my God is come, 
And glory in his face appears." 

Thomas Boston of Ettrick was a great man ; great 
in the sense in which John the Baptist was great, by 
his consecrated life, in which he glorified God and 
did good to men — " great in the sight of the Lord." 



A GREAT MAN. 24 1 

We have only to look back upon the narrative we 
have given of his life in order to attest our judgment. 
We think of him in his young ministry at Simprin, 
where, by means of it, in the course of seven years, 
the universal ungodliness and indifference among its 
people were supplanted by a living faith and holy 
conduct, so that " the wilderness became a fruitful 
field." We next behold him in Ettrick, with its 
much larger sphere, in which, when he entered on it 
as its minister, he found profane swearing, neglect of 
public worship, and impurity in some of its worst 
forms among the prevailing habits of its parishioners ; 
and these, after many years of earnest toil and " prayer 
ardent which opens heaven," yielding at length to 
the might of the gospel which he preached, and 
Ettrick becoming " a fruitful garden of the Lord." 

There next rises before us Mr. Boston's writing 
and publishing his " Fourfold State," which, during 
several generations, was more used of God for the 
conversion of men than any other book of human 
composition, not only influencing an individual here 
and there, but bringing whole counties in Scotland, 
containing all classes and conditions of men, under 
its divinely transforming influence. It was like "a 
lamp from off the everlasting throne which mercy 
brought down." Next came the " Marrow " contro- 
versy, in which Mr. Boston and the other Marrow- 

16 



242 THOMAS BOSTON. 

men did battle with various forms of error, especially 
seeking to deliver the gospel in all its divine fulness 
and freeness from the restraints and barriers which 
human ignorance and self-righteousness had placed 
around it, even suffering rebuke and shame for their 
fidelity to Christ in seeking to remove every obstruc- 
tion from the fountain of life. Through all those 
years of grievous wrong and persecution, Mr. Boston 
stood firm, even when, as once happened, he stood 
alone. The truth is, that there was the spirit of 
martyrs in this true minister of Christ ; and if he 
had lived a hundred years earlier, in the days of the 
Covenanting struggle which at length won for Scot- 
land her civil and religious liberty, we feel sure he 
would have been ready, if need be, to walk with firm 
step to the martyr's stake. 

Then came the closing years of Mr. Boston's life, 
which, as far as his failing strength permitted, were 
much employed in the preparing and publishing of 
books which seemed to have been called for by the 
doctrinal necessities of the times, such as his treatises 
on the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of 
Grace, and his Notes on the Marrow. Shall any 
one say that the man whom God had so eminently 
gifted and used as his willing instrument in bringing 
myriads into his kingdom, and defending the faith 
once delivered unto the saints, was not in the highest 



PASTOR AND PEOPLE. 243 

sense a great man — " great in the sight of the Lord "? 
We shall not shrink from affirming, that in some 
attainments he stood supreme among the great men 
of his time ; and one who was well qualified to judge, 
not long since gave it as his opinion that Thomas 
Boston was " the best Hebrew scholar in Scotland 
in his day, and that he was also the freshest and 
most powerful of Scottish living theologians."* 

How interesting it has been to witness the deep 
and tender affection shown by the people of Ettrick 
for their afflicted minister in the closing months of 
his life, as disclosed in the scenes which have been 
described in an earlier part of this chapter. It was 
no superficial sentiment or shallow sympathy which 
produced such tokens of regard. No doubt these had 
their root, in part, in the case of many, in their grati- 
tude to him through whose faithful guidance they 
had been led to the feet of Jesus and into the way 
of life. Nor could they forget his unfailing sympathy 
with them in all their times alike of sorrow and of 
joy. And their love had also sprung, in no slight 
degree, from that saintly life which he had lived be- 
fore them, and which testified to the divine reality 
of his faith. The daily witnessing of such a life as 
his was like reading a bright page in Evidences of 
Christianity. There was therefore a veneration to- 
wards this man of God which had something in it 

* Dr. James Walker, author of " Theology and Theologians of Scotland." 



244 THOMAS BOSTON. 

more than love. Long, indeed, before he died, the 
name of Boston had become a cherished household 
word in every home in Ettrick. It was a kind of 
synonym for sanctity. And the children in those 
simple homes had been taught to love him and to 
pronounce his name with reverence. And anecdotes 
regarding him, and many of his remarkable sayings 
and pointed proverbs, were repeated and treasured 
in those homes, and had even come to be circulated 
in regions far beyond Ettrick, and in due time trans- 
mitted from generation to generation. An eminent 
bishop of the Church of England was accustomed to 
speak of Philip Henry as " the sweet saint of Non- 
conformity." Why may we not speak of Thomas 
Boston as the sweet saint of Scottish Presbyterian- 
ism ? In our thoughts we would place his name on 
the same roll of Scottish saints and worthies as that 
of Samuel Rutherford a hundred years before — the 
pastor of Ettrick and the pastor of Anwoth. 

It was not long, however, ere the summons came 
which called Mr. Boston hence ; and it was only 
then that his stricken people knew how much they 
had loved him. What a Bochim must all Ettrick 
have become on that saddest of days when the 
messengers bore to every home the tidings of their 
beloved pastor's death ! " Know ye not that there is 
a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel ? " 




BOSTON'S TOMB. 



THE ETTRICK MOURNERS. 245 

And what a funeral, composed of multitudes with 
deep unfeigned grief, stretching far beyond the 
churchyard wall, who had come to lay in the grave 
the precious dust ! Heaven had already opened its 
golden gate to receive his immortal spirit ; and his 
many converts who had ascended to glory before 
him had hastened to welcome him in. And as the 
mourners approached to look for once into the 
narrow house, would they not seem to hear a tender 
voice calling to them from above, " What is our 
hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing ? Are not even 
ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his 
coming ? For ye are our glory and joy " ? 

" I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, 
Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord 
from henceforth : Yea, saith the Spirit, that they 
may rest from their labours ; and their works do 
follow them." 



CHAPTER XIII. 

SUPPLEMENTAR Y. 

Pen-Portrait of Mr. Boston — Self-Estimate — 
Posthumous Works. 

IT is pleasant to be able to add to our narrative a 
pen-portrait of Mr. Boston, evidently written 
not long after his death, by his three most intimate 
friends and fellow-workers in the ministry of the 
gospel — Messrs. Coldcn, Davidson, and Wilson. 
They have thus twined together a beautiful wreath, 
and laid it on his grave : — 

" Mr. Boston was of a stature above the middle 
size ; of a venerable, amiable aspect ; of a strong 
and fruitful genius ; of a lively imagination, such as 
affords what is called a ready wit, which, instead 
of cultivating, he laid under a severe restraint ; of 
tender affections ; a clear and solid judgment ; his 
temper candid, modest, cautious, benevolent, oblig- 
ing, and courteous ; had a natural aversion to any- 
thing rude or uncivil in words or behaviour, and a 
delicate feeling in meeting with aught of that sort ; 



PEN-PORTRAIT. 2tf 

could be heavy and severe in his words, where there 
was just occasion, or he judged the same necessary. 

" He was early called by divine grace ; all along 
afterwards exercised unto godliness ; walked indeed 
with God, in all his ways daily acknowledging him ; 
frequent in solemn, extraordinary applications to 
Heaven (namely, upon every new emergent of duty, 
difficulty, or trial), followed with evident, comfort- 
able, and confirming testimonies of divine accept- 
ance and audience ; a judicious observer, recorder, 
and improver of the dispensations of divine provi- 
dence, in connection with the Word, his own frame 
and walk, and consequently of great experience in 
religion. 

" He was accurately and extensively regardful of 
the divine law in all manner of life and conversation, 
even in things that escape the notice of the most 
part of Christians ; of a tender conscience, carefully 
watching against and avoiding the appearance of 
evil ; compassionate and sympathizing with the dis- 
tressed, charitable to the needy ; a dutiful husband, 
an indulgent father, a faithful and an affectionate 
friend, to which he had a particular cast in his 
temper, which proved a rich blessing to those who 
were favoured with his friendship. 

" He was a considerable scholar in all the parts of 
theological learning, and excelled in some of them. 



248 THOMAS BOSTON. 

What he was for a humanist, even toward the latter 
end of his days, his translation of his own work on 
the Hebrew accentuation into good Roman Latin 
will abundantly testify ; was well seen in Greek ; 
and for the skill he attained in the Hebrew, he 
will, we are satisfied, in ages to come, be admired 
and had in honour by the learned world, especially 
when it is understood under what disadvantages, in 
what obscurity and seclusion from learned assist- 
ance, the work was composed; and when it is con- 
sidered how far, notwithstanding, he has outstripped 
all that went before him in that study, namely, 
of the Hebrew accentuation. He understood the 
French ; and, for the sake of comparing translations, 
could read the Dutch Bible. There were few pieces 
of learning that he had not some good taste of. But 
all his knowledge behoved to be otherwise discovered 
than by professing it. 

" He was a hard student, of indefatigable applica- 
tion, so that whatever he was once heartily engaged 
in, he knew not how to quit, till, by help from heaven 
and incessant labour, he got through it. He had a 
great knowledge and understanding of human nature, 
of the most proper methods of addressing it, and the 
most likely handles for catching and holding of it. 
He had an admirable talent for drawing a paper; was 
an admirer of other men's gifts and parts, liberally 



PEN-PORTRAIT. 249 

giving them their due praise, even though in some 
things they differed from him ; far from censorious, 
assuming, or detracting. As a minister, he had on 
his spirit a deep and high sense of divine things ; was 
mighty in the Scriptures, in his acquaintance with 
the letter, with the spirit and sense of them, in 
happily applying and accommodating them for ex- 
plaining and illustrating the subject. His knowledge 
and insight in the mystery of Christ was great ; 
though a humbling sense of his want of it was like 
to have quite sunk and laid him by, after he began 
to preach. He had a peculiar talent for going deep 
into the mysteries of the gospel, and at the same 
time for making them plain, making intelligible 
their connection with and influence upon gospel 
holiness, notable instances of which ma)' be seen in 
his most valuable ' Treatise on the Covenants,' and 
in his ' Sermons on Christ in the form of a Servant' 
" His invention was rich, but judiciously bounded. 
His thoughts were always just, and often new ; his 
expressions proper and pure ; his illustrations and 
similes often surprising ; his method natural and 
clear, his delivery grave and graceful, with an air 
of earnestness, meekness, assurance, and authority 
tempered together. No wonder his ministrations in 
holy things were all of them dear and precious to 
the saints. He was fixed and established upon solid 



250 THOMAS BOSTON. 

and rational grounds in the Reformation principles, 
in opposition to Popery, Prelacy, superstition, and 
persecution ; was pleasant and lively in conversa- 
tion, but always with a decorum to his character, 
quite free from that sourness of temper or ascetic 
rigidity that generally possesses men of a retired 
life. He fed and watched with diligence the flock 
over which the Holy Ghost had made him overseer ; 
and notwithstanding his eager pursuit of that study 
which was his delight, he abated nothing of his 
preparation for the Sabbath, nor his work abroad 
in the parish ; nor did he so much as use the short- 
hand whereof he was a master, but always wrote 
out his sermons fair, and generally as full as he 
preached them. Far from serving the Lord with 
that which cost him nothing, it was his delight to 
spend and be spent in the service of the gospel ; 
was a faithful and, at the same time, a prudent 
reprover of sin ; was imbued with a rich measure 
of Christian wisdom and prudence, without craft 
or guile, whereby he was exceedingly serviceable 
in judicatories, and excellently fitted for counsel in 
intricate cases. Zeal and knowledge were in him 
united in a pitch rarely to be met with. 

" He had a joint concern for purity and peace in 
the church ; no man more zealous for the former, and, 
at the same time, more studious of the latter, having 



ESTIMATE OF HIMSELF. 25 I 

observed and felt so much of the mischief of divi- 
sion and separation ; was exceeding cautious and 
scrupulous of anything new or unpresented, until 
he was thoroughly satisfied of its necessity and 
ground. It was his settled mind that solidly and 
strongly to establish the truth was, in many cases, 
the best, the shortest, and most effectual way to 
confute error, without irritating and inflaming the 
passions of men, to their own and to the truth's 
prejudice : on all which accounts he was much re- 
spected and regarded by not only his brethren that 
differed from him, but generally by all sorts of men. 
To conclude, he was a scribe singularly instructed 
unto the kingdom of heaven, happy in finding out 
acceptable words — a workman that needed not to 
be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth ; a 
burning and a shining light. The righteous shall 
be had in everlasting remembrance." 

Along with this skilfully discriminating and affec- 
tionate estimate of Mr. Boston, prepared by his three 
lifelong and most endeared friends, it will not be 
unwelcome to our readers that we here introduce 
his graceful and modest estimate of himself : — 

" That cast of temper whereby I was naturally 
slow, timorous, and diffident, but eager in pursuit 
when once engaged, as it early discovered itself, so 



252 THOMAS BOSTON. 

I think it hath spread itself all along through the 
whole of my course. It hath been a spring of much 
uneasiness to me in the course of my life, in that I 
was thereby naturally fond where I loved. Yet I 
cannot but observe that my God hath made a valu- 
able use of it, especially in my studies, combating 
natural difficulties therein, till surmounted by his 
favour. Agreeable unto it, I was not of a quick 
apprehension, but had a gift of application ; and 
things being once discovered, I was no more waver- 
ing in them. I was addicted to silence, rather than 
to talking. I was no good spokesman, but very 
unready, even in common conversation ; and in dis- 
putes, especially at a loss when engaged with per- 
sons of great assurance ; the disadvantage of which 
last I often found in Ettrick, where an uncommon 
assurance reigned. 

" The touching of my spirit so as to be above fear, 
the moving of my affections and being once well 
dipped into the matter, were necessary to give me 
an easy exercise of my faculties in these and other 
extempore performances. My talent lay in doing 
things by a close application, with pains and labour. 
I had a tolerable faculty at drawing of papers ; yet 
no faculty at dictating, but behoved to have the pen 
in my own hand, and even in that it would often 
have been a while ere I could enter on. Accord- 



ESTIMATE OF HIMSELF. 253 

ingly, as for my sermons, it was often hard for me 
to fix on a text ; the which hath often been more 
wasting and weakening to me than the study of a 
sermon thereon. I studied my sermons with the 
pen in my hand, my matter coming to me as I 
wrote, and the bread increasing in the breaking of 
it. If, at any time, I walked, it was occasioned by 
my sticking. Meanwhile, it would frequently have 
been long ere I got the vein of my subject struck ; 
but then I could not be easy unless I thought I had 
hit it. Hence it was not my manner to shift from 
text to text, but to insist long on an ordinary, the 
closing of which at length I readily found to relish 
as much with myself and the serious godly as the 
other parts preceding. 

u Thus, also, I was much addicted to peace and 
averse to controversy ; though once engaged there- 
in, I was set to go through with it. I had no great 
difficulty to retain a due honour and charity for my 
brethren differing from me in opinion and practice ; 
but then I was in no great hazard neither of being 
swayed by them to depart from what I judged to be 
truth or duty. Withal it was easy to me to yield 
to them in things wherein I found not myself in 
conscience bound up. Whatever precipitant steps 
I have made in the course of my life, which I desire 
to be humbled for, rashness in conduct was not my 



254 THOMAS BOSTON. 

weak side. But since the Lord by his grace brought 
me to consider things, it was much my exercise to 
discern sin and duty in particular cases, being afraid 
to venture on things until I should see myself called 
thereto. But when the matter was cleared to me, I 
generally stuck fast by it, being as much afraid to 
desert the way which I took to be pointed out to 
me. And this I sincerely judge to have been the 
spring of that course of conduct upon which Mr. 
James Ramsay did, before the Commission anno 
1 7 17, in my hearing, give me the following character, 
namely, that if I thought myself right, there would 
be no diverting of me by any means. 

" I never had the art of making rich ; nor could I 
ever heartily apply myself to the managing of secular 
affairs. Even the secular way of managing the disci- 
pline of the church was so unacceptable to me that 
I had no heart to dip in the public church manage- 
ment. What appearances I made at any time in 
these matters were not readily in that way. I had 
a certain averseness to the being laid under any 
notable obligation to others, and so was not fond of 
gifts, especially in the case of any whom I had to 
deal with as a minister. And Providence so ordered 
that I had little trial of that kind. I easily perceived 
that in that case ' the borrower is servant to the 
lender.' " 



POSTHUMOUS WORKS 255 



Posthumous Works. 



In the course of our biography of Mr. Boston, we 
have taken notice, with more or less fulness, of the 
greater number of those books which were written 
and published by him during his lifetime ; of course 
giving to his " Fourfold State " its rightful and un- 
questioned prominence. Our work, however, would 
not be fitly ended, if we did not devote a supple- 
mentary section to some statements regarding his 
posthumous works, which were very considerable 
alike in number and in value, so that when any new 
volume appeared it was sure to be welcomed by 
thirsty readers even far beyond the hills and glens 
of Ettrick. 

His earliest posthumous work which came to break 
the silence, was his Exposition of the well-known 
Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Assembly of 
Divines, which for so many years was to hold an 
honoured place in the Christian homes and parish 
schools of Scotland. It has been usual to speak of 
the Catechism as "milk for babes;" but parts of it 
have been found to be strong meat for full-grown 
men, and hence the greater need for such a com- 
mentary as the good Ettrick minister supplied. It 
was edited by Mr. Boston's eldest son, who was 
minister of Oxnam, and afterwards of Jedburgh ; and 



256 THOMAS BOSTON. 

the editorial work was done with rare delight and 
filial devotedness and reverence. It was a large and 
solid book of two volumes. It consisted of a series 
of sermons, in which usually a separate exposition 
was given to each question and answer, thus ranging 
over the whole field of popular theology. 

Two parts of it are especially elaborate and valu- 
able, and they occupy a considerable portion of the 
whole work. We refer to the exposition of the Ten 
Commandments, with the questions about " what is 
required " and " what is forbidden," and the " reasons 
annexed ; " and to the exposition of the Lord's 
Prayer, in which is laid open that rich and inex- 
haustible mine of devotional thought and feeling, 
whose words are more frequently on the lips of 
men than any other part of the inspired Word. It 
is not too much to say that the thoughtful reading 
of Mr. Boston's Exposition would be sufficient of 
itself to make a man a good theologian. And if 
the reader complains that there are some things in 
it hard to be understood, even after reading Mr. 
Boston's notes, let him be reminded that it is good 
mental discipline when, in the reading of a book, 
he is sometimes obliged to pause and think. 

There was also a class of Scripture passages 
which drew forth Mr. Boston's exegetical gifts, and 
wrought upon his mind with a powerful fascination. 



CONGENIAL TEXTS. 257 

We have found at times, when travelling through 
a country, objects and scenes which arrested our 
attention, and made us stand still for a time and 
look — the placid stream holding up its mirror to 
the firmament ; the garden by the roadside which 
opened suddenly upon our gaze with its fragrance 
and its flowers ; the foaming cataract ; the mountain, 
green to the summit, and almost seeming to touch 
the sky. And there is something similar to this in 
the Holy Scriptures. Every part of the Bible has 
indeed its value ; but there are some portions which 
have a peculiar attractiveness, just as one star differ- 
eth from another star in glory — such as those which 
are the glowing utterance of divine compassion, or 
reflect the heavenly beauty of Christian morality ; 
the incidents in the life of Jesus ; his parables, which 
at once instruct the understanding and touch the 
heart, and enrich the memory with heavenly treas- 
ures ; and the gleaming outbursts of a joy that is 
unspeakable and full of glory. It was in such pas- 
sages of Scripture that our preacher often found his 
congenial texts ; and when he found them, he 
lingered over them, returning to them from week to 
week, and discovering in them new thoughts and 
spiritual meanings ; loath to leave them, — 

" Ever in their melodious store, 
Finding a spell unfelt before." 
17 



258 THOMAS BOSTON 

We shall mention some of those passages of Scripture 
which supplied to Mr. Boston the theme of many 
sermons, and which at length found their way, in a 
succession of posthumous volumes, to the public. 
Among others, there was the great and all-embrac- 
ing gospel call which had been a favourite from his 
youth, and, along with 1 John v. II, became the 
motto and keynote of his ministry — " Come unto 
me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I 
will give you rest." It took many sermons to ex- 
haust this mine, with its riches more precious than 
gold. He lingered long in it, like the bee in the 
flower laden with honey. 

Luke xviii. 18-28, which was entitled, " The rich 
youth falling short of heaven," was the theme of 
many spirit-stirring sermons more numerous than 
its verses. It did not so much sound the gospel 
trumpet as the trumpet of alarm ; but there was 
mercy hidden under those expostulations and warn- 
ings, which have been happily described as " the 
loud rhetoric of God's love." 

Isaiah ix. 6, 7, which is, perhaps, the most sublime 
prophecy of the Messiah spoken and written by 
that greatest of the prophets, " Unto us a child is 
born, unto us a son is given : and the government 
shall be upon his shoulder ; and his name shall 
be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, 



SACRAMENTAL SERMONS. 259 

The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." 
Almost every word in this grand prophecy supplied 
the text for a sermon, beginning with the humble 
birth of the wondrous child, and ending with his 
ascent to his mediatorial dominion and glory. 
There was a mighty attraction to Mr. Boston in 
such a paragraph. As he studied it, he must have 
felt like one ascending from the earth on the steps 
of a golden ladder until he reached the summit, and, 
looking in, beheld, seated on heaven's loftiest throne, 
the Prince of Peace. 

There was yet a third class of Mr. Boston's post- 
humous sermons which were published at a con- 
siderably later period, near to the close of the 
century, and which were received by Christian 
readers with grateful welcome. These consisted 
mainly of sermons preached on great sacramental 
occasions, both in immediate connection with the 
observance of the Lord's Supper and on subsidiary 
occasions both before and after the holy communion, 
such as Fast Days and Thanksgiving Days. Those 
were occasions in Mr. Boston's life as a minis- 
ter of Christ in which he was lifted above himself. 
The sacrament itself, with its sacred emblems ; the 
grand evangelical texts on which, with studied variety, 
he and his brethren were wont to preach ; the pres- 
ence of the people in great and sympathizing multi- 



260 THOMAS BOSTON. 

tudes, stimulated at once his gifts and his graces, 
so that he often acknowledged with adoring grati- 
tude that these had been to him as days of heaven 
upon earth. There were also sermons to the sick, 
the bereaved, and the sorrowful ; and it is easy to 
understand how, when, many years afterwards, they 
were read by his people who had heard them 
preached, they were delighted to have their old 
impressions revived, and once more seemed to hear 
the sound of those lips into which grace was poured. 

And we feel it to be a duty and a delight to place 
on the list of Mr. Boston's posthumous writings his 
Memoir of himself, which was not so much written 
by him as the fruit of recollection, but as the record 
of experiences just as he had beheld or lived them. 
It was designed, primarily at least, for the benefit 
of his children, and was dedicated to them in an 
address of much tenderness, holy wisdom, and fe- 
licity of expression, which concluded with these 
words : — 

" Labour for the experience of religion in your 
own souls, that you may have an argument for the 
reality of it from your spiritual sense and feeling ; 
and cleave to the Lord in his way of holiness (with- 
out which ye shall not see the Lord), his work also, 
his interests, and people in all hazards, being assured 
that such also shall be found wise in the end. 



MEMOIR OF HIMSELF. 26 1 

" If your mother (undoubtedly a daughter of 
Abraham) shall survive me, let your loss of a father 
move you to carry the more kindly and affectionately 
to her in your desolate condition. Let the same also 
engage you the more to be peaceful, loving, and 
helpful among yourselves. The Lord bless each one 
of you and save you, cause his gracious face to shine 
upon you, and give you peace, so as we may have a 
comfortable meeting in the other world. Amen." 

What a variety of excellences in the character of 
Mr. Boston is unconsciously revealed in this Memoir 
of himself! What a life of prayer did he lead, going 
with his sins and sorrows, his temptations and cares, 
to the throne of heavenly grace ! His way to the 
place of prayer must have been indeed a beaten 
path. How earnestly did he endeavour to walk 
according to the rule which he had laid down for 
the guidance of others — that of endeavouring to 
keep himself in a state of constant readiness for 
dying. And how intensely did he identify himself 
with the spiritual good of his people. He could have 
said to them, with an apostle, " Now we live, if ye 
stand fast in the Lord." He had no greater joy 
than to see his children walking in the truth. 
How charitable he was in his judgment of others ; 
how severely did he judge himself, sometimes even 
treating mere infirmities as if they had been faults ! 



262 THOMAS BOSTON. 

How gently did he write in his diary of those who 
had wronged him, though he knew that its contents 
were sacred to himself! 

We have sometimes imagined that had this man 
of God lived in a later century, when the cause of 
missions to the heathen had begun to interest the 
churches at home, how it would have brightened 
his home and his heart with a sacred joy. He 
would have rejoiced if he had been privileged to 
help in gathering in the first-fruits of the millennial 
glory. The tidings of islands and large portions of 
continents having been won to the standard of Christ 
would have given to him a longer and happier life, 
and brightened his Ettrick home, and made his face 
at times shine like the face of an angel. But he 
had a work to do which stood in close relation to the 
missionaries of the gospel of Christ. His mission 
had been, more perhaps than that of any other man 
of his age, to save the gospel which the missionary 
was to preach, from perversion and corruption. 
Especially in the conflicts connected with the " Mar- 
row " controversy, he had proclaimed a gospel which 
had a voice of mercy for every human being on the 
earth. He had set his face as a flint against those 
who sought to narrow its invitations to a favoured 
portion of the human race, and against others who 
burdened it with so many conditions as to surround 



LIFE-WORK. 263 

the fountain of life with barriers, or substituted in 
its place its counterfeit, or so explained the glorious 
gospel as in the end to explain it away. In this 
way he had helped to preserve the gospel, and to get 
myriads to inscribe on their standard the motto of 
the "Marrow" and of the Marrowmen — nay, the 
motto of Paul and all the other apostles — that the 
gospel was " God's deed of gift and grant to man- 
kind sinners of the whole human race." To have 
done this was not to have lived in vain. 



THE END 



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