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CH A R A C T E R
T T is not the Intention of the Editors of the present 1 Edition of the Rev. Mr. Ralph Erskine's Practical Works, in ten volumes octavo, to attempt passing any fulsome encomiums on the worthy Author, whose praise is already in the churches, or to launch out into any prolix commendation of his elaborate and valuable writings, which are so universally known, read, and esteemed; but to refer the reader, for his satisfaction relative to these, to what is advanced in the following short Account of his Life and Writings: We shall only here observe, That as he was eminently pious from his youth, had always a conversation becoming the gospel, was endued with every suitable qualification for the ministry, poffefsed of very popular talents, made the distinguishing doctrines of Christianity the chief subjects of his pulpit-themes, and fingularly zealous for the purity of gospel-truth, it is not at all surprising, that he was greatly beloved, much followed by all true Christians, and his writings eagerly read by the religious and devout of every denomination.
The SERMONs and Poems are already so well known and deservedly admired, both at home and abroad, that it would be fuperfluous to pass any encomiums on them. Let it suffice to say, in the words of that eminent divine, the late Rev. Dr. BRADBURY, in his preface to a collection of Meff. EBENEZER and RALPH Ekskine's Sernions, printed at London in 1738. “ The Sermons, faith he, have no need of my re.
“ commendation: the reader will find in them a faith“ ful adherence to the design of the gospel, a clear “ defence of those doctrines that are the pillar and “ ground of truth, a large compass of thought, a “ (trong force of argument, and a happy flow of 66 words, which are both judicious and familiar: and 6 they have been greatly blessed to the edification of “ many, especially the poor of the flock.” · The fame Dr. Bradbury, speaking concerning the poetical compositions of our Author, obferves, That " as poetry has often no more in it than great fwel« ling words of vanity, distorted images, and monstrous « allusions ; so it is a pleafure to fee the things of
another world delivered without any heathenish fi“ gures and phrases, but in such an adorning as be" comes the gospel of Jesus CHRI$T: On this ac« count, Mr. Erskine's Gospel-Sonnets, are greatly “ to be esteemed, for the sweetness of the verse, the s disposition of the fubjects, the elegance of the coms pofition, and, above all, for that which animates 66 the whole, the favour of divine and experimental « knowledge.” - The words of the late juftly celebrated and pious Mr. Hervey are very significant, and truly expressive of the high esteem he had for Mr. ERSKINE's Writings. “ Was I to read, fays that judicious and elegant “ writer, in order to refine my taste, or improve my “ stile; I would prefer Bishop Atterbury's sermons, 46 Dr. Bate's works, or Mr. Seed's discourses: But, " was I to read with a single view to the edification “ of my heart, in true faith, folid comfort, and ci evangelical holiness; I would have recourse to “ Mr. ERSKINE, and take his volumes for my guide, “ my companion, and my own familiar friend.”+ + Hervey's works in fol. p. 346. and Theron and Afp. dial. 16.
A Ć CO U N T
OF THE REVEREND
= Mr. R ALPH ER SKIN E.
IN emitting the writings of great men to the public,
it hath been usual to give some account of their Au. i thor, that the reader may, in a short coinpass of read
ing, learn fome of the principal lines of their character. Our Author is already so well known in the churches of Christ, both at home and abroad *, by his excellent and elaborate productions, that saying any thing of him might have been entirely superceded : and had it not been, that his writings may fall into the hands of some at a distance, and in after-ages, who are not, and cannot be so, well acquainted with him as the present, it would have been superfluous to have said any thing concerning him.
THE Rev. Mr. RALPH ERSKINE was honourably descended of very respectable ancestors; his father, El the Rev. Mr. HENRY ERSKINE, being one of the thirty
three children of RALPH ERSKINE of Shielfield, a family of confiderable repute and standing in the county of Merse, and originally descended from the ancient house of Mar. Our Author, and his brother, the Rev. Mr. EBENEZER ERSKINE, late Minister of the gospel at Stirling, were two of the children of the faid Rev. Mr. HENRY ERSKINU, who was foineţime Minister,
.. The greatest part of our Author's works were at first printed in single fermons and fmall tracts, and well relislied; numbers of these have gone abroad, and met with a kind reception : yea, such regard hath the public put upon them, that several of them have undergone a great many impreslions; and even some of them translated into other languages; and we have even seen at few of them printed in Dutch.-lo the year fixty-four and fixty-five they were collected together, and printed, in a most clegant manner, in two large vo. Jumes in folio, in which there was interspersed a great many manuscript Sermons. This handsome Odavo Edition is printed from the elegant folio one, with confidcrable amcodments.
of the gospel at Cornwal, afterwards at Chirnside*; a man eminent in his day, and justly distinguished for his piety, and firm attachment to Presbyterian principles : For his stedfast adherence to which, he was subjected to many considerable hardships in the latter part of the last century, during the persecuting period of Charles II. and James VII F.
The Author, of the following fermons, was born at Monilaws, in the county of Northumberland, on Sab.. bath the 15th of March, 1685, at three o'clock in the afternoon; and baptized at Chirnside on the 5th of A. pril, said year, by the Reverend Mr. William Violand. - He gave pretty early proofs of a great genius and fine fancy; and several instances of a pious disposition and a solid way of reflecting on matters. On this account he was, by his parents, early destined for the holy ministry, who resolved to give him a regular and liberal education, in order to qualify him for that important office.
When he had acquired a competent measure of Gram. mar, and other introductory parts of education, he went to the university of Edinburgh, to complete his studies; where he went through the ordinary courses of philosophy and divinity with success; and made a considerable progress in all the different branches of useful literature: for, he foon became a fine Grecian, an excellent Lo. gician, and an accomplished Philosopher. But after having acquired such a competent measure of knowledge, in these various branches of erudition, he gave himself up to the study of theology, his darling and beloved to. pic; in which he made great progress, as his producti. ons therein do abundantly evidence.
Having experienced the grace of God himself, he thought it his duty to give himself up to the great work of the ministry, that he might be a happy instrument of bringing others to know these things which he found and experienced to be of the utmost importance. He was abundantly sensible this was a work of great labour
• Cornwal is in the shire of Northumberland; Chirnside lies about five miles from Berwick upon Tweed, in the Scotch fide. + See the continuation of Calamy's life of Baxter, p 681. . .
and diligence; and therefore gave himself up to a course of unwearied study. He was never more delighted than when he could apply himself to the increase of van luable knowledge, without being interrupted : this defire after improvement continued to the last; and he was never seemingly better, than when he thus enjoyed himself.
The ordinary course of philosophical and theological ftudies being gone through, at the college of Edinburgh, with success; he was, in the providence of God, calied forth to appear in a public character; and being well reported of, by all who knew him, for a conversation becoming the gospel, he was accordingly taken upon trials by the Presbytery of Dunfermline: and having finished the usual pieces of trial assigned him, to the entire satisfaction of the presbytery, he was by them licensed to preach, as a probationer, the everlasting gospel, on the 8th of June, 1709. In which capacity he exercised the talents which the Lord had gracioully conferred on him, within the bounds of the said Presbytery, both in vacancies and settled congregration, to the great fatisfaction of his hearers, both ministers and people, as his certificate from that Presbytery, dated April 4th, 1711. exprelly bears. In this station of life he did not long remain : Providence foon opened a door for him ; and he got an unanimous call, from the parishioners of Dunfermline, on the ist of May 1711.- to exercise his ministerial talents and abilities amongst them; which call was approven of by the Presbytery, on the day following, as regularly proceeded in. He went through the usual pieces of trial, for ordination, prescribed by the Presbytery, with approbation: and thereupon they set him apart to the office of the holy ministry, in the collegiate charge of Dunfermline, on Auguit 7th, 1711.
For several years, prior to his appearing in a public character, he was a close student in the various branches of literature, and had made considerable progress therein. Few were endowed with a greater stretch of judgment, and a penetrating disposition of mind; this, joined with a lively invention, and a tenacious memory, enabled himn to make great researches after truth, and VOL. I.