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Perhaps it may serve the purpose of an apology for the marks of haste that may appear in this discourse, and, at the same time, gratify the love of anecdote, to mention that, betwixt the notice of Lord Leven's death and preaching it, owing to particular circumstances, the author had eight sermons to deliver. The communion service was celebrated in two congregations in which he had promised his assistance: the day of thanksgiving for the peace, followed the day of the interment, which he attended: the ordinary duty of the intervening Lord's day: these coincidences account for his being not idle in the week preceding the sermon being preached.
To The Praise of Female Piety, when it was circulated privately, was added an Epistle addressed to the Earl of, Hopetoun: by the indulgence of that nobleman, which is gratefully acknowledged, the author presents the Epistle now to the public. He does so, the more readily, because he had been desired to publish it singly, on the idea that
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the circulation and perusal of it, extensively, might be useful; as exhibiting an example for imitation to the higher orders of society.
I Shall, to the end of my life, remember, with tenderness, the day of the interment of the late worthy Countess of Leven. Among other tilings, which will recal that memorable occasion to my mind, is the short and interesting con_ versation your Lordship savoured me with, respecting the last scene, the deathbed of that venerable Lady. I was enabled, from the best possible source of information, to satisfy you concerning her composure and tranquillity, the fervour of piety, and the warmth of friendship, preserved and exhibited by her, under her last illness; and that I had every reason to concur in your full conviction and ample testimony as to her Catholicism and benevolence, and her zeal for the interests of humanity and religion.
It was this conversation, and the advantages I enjoyed, as her neighbour and minister, for knowing her character, that suggested the attempt I now engage in, and address to your Lordship.
A Fair opportunity of delineating her character, and of doing justice to her memory, it may be observed, presented itself in addressing my congregation, upon the death of the worthy Lady. That opportunity was not entirely neglected; but delicacy and feeling prevented the sermon, or rather the conclusion of the sermon, being so full and particular as the account I now draw up. I give it these epithets, comparing it with the peroration of the discourse. In relation to the theme, I pronounce it concise and imperfect. sect. I trust, however, that it will be perused with profit, and that the useful will be mingled with the grateful, in her many friends.
In the'observation and intercourse of more than twenty years, 1 enjoyed many advantages for collecting materials for a memoir; but neither of that period, nor of any part of her life, do I assume the office of an historian. I wish to exhibit the mind; I wish to paint the Christian. I record some of the natural developements of character and history which more particularly respect religion.
It was not in set conversations on the subject, but as occasionally introduced by others, rather than by herself, I learned, that, enjoying the tuition and example of an excellent mother, she became pious from her earliest years. She was the posthumous daughter of William Nisbet, Esq. of Dirleton.
From early life she rose betimes in the morning. The prime of day, as of life, was pious. I learned in particular that she regularly attended the morning exercises or lectures, at that period delivered in the churches of Edinburgh.
This part of Lady Leven's history and character naturally brings in view the ministrations of Mr. George Whitefield, who at this time became very conspicuous. His catholic spirit, fervent zeal, and extraordinary labours, are well known. In order, as much as possible, to prevent the complaints of prudence, and the dread of injuring worldly industry and exertion, his congregation assembled at an early hour. Miss Nisbet and her pious friends were frequently of his audience. Of her walking with them, from the Dean in the summer mornings to die Orphan Hospital Z z 2 . Park, Park, she used to speak with much satisfaction j contrasting such days and scenes with the irregular hours of too many in the present times. This practice of early rising, and early devotion, became a habit; an excellent habit it is; it distinguished her through life, as long as her health and years permitted.
If, my Lord, we are persuaded we have received much advantage•, if we are conscious of receiving much satisfaction, from any person, by coincidence of sentiment, by seasonable advice, by self-knowledge and attention to duty being promoted, by opening sources of comfort, by assisting and heightening devotion, and its attainments and joys; to such a person we cannot but be attached. Esteem and gratitude endear their object. In this manner, Mr- Whitefield was endeared to thousands. His character and conversation, and discourses, were highly valued by Miss Nisbet. With his many pious friends and admirers, she knew very well that respect for Mr. Whitefield subjected them to the imputation, by not a few, of being enthusiasts, and favourers of enthusiasm; but she was not soon shaken in mind. She was, with others, confirmed in her favourable opinion of that wonderful man, and her high respect for his character, by finding that many of the tales unfavourable to his character industriously circulated, were often contrived and spread by calumny, and that mere cobweb threads were magnified into cables by credulity, pre- judice, and irreligion.
I HAVE often regretted, my Lord, that the distinctions and classiffications, so to speak, of strict and lax, wild and moderate, moral and evangelical, serious and worldly, among the clergy, are by too many rashly taken up and obstinately retained, and industriously and perseveringly circulated.