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A POEM, dedicated to the Reverend Mr. RALPH
ERSKINE, by a Lady in New England, upon reading his Gospel-Sonnets..
RSKINE, thou bleffed herald, found
Till fin's black empire totter to the ground,
Thy lines are such my nobler passions warm ;;
defire. - May the black train of errors hatch'd in hell
No longer on this globe in quiet dwell;
OF THE REVEREND
THE Rev. Mr. RALPH ERSKINE was honourably
the Rev. Mr. HENRY ERSKINÉ, being one of the thirty. three children of. RALPH ERSKINE of Shieldheld, a family of confiderable repote 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 said Rev. Mr. HENRY ERSKINE, who was sometime Minifter of the Gospel at Cornwall, afterwards at Chirnside *; a man eminent in his days and juftly distinguifhed for his piety and firm attachment to Presbyterian Principles : For his stedfast adherence to which, he was fub. jected to many considerable hard".ips in the latter part of the last century, during the persecuting period of Charles II. and James Vil.t.
The Author of the following Poems, was born at Monilaws, in the county of Northumberland, on Sabbath the rath of March, 1685, at three o'clock in the afternoon; and baptized at Chirnlide on the sth of April said year, by the Re. verend Mr. William Violand.
He gave pretty early proofs of a great genius and fine fancy; and several inftances of a pious dispose:ion and a so. lid way of reflecting on matters.
On this account he was, by his parents, early destined for the holy ministry, who re. solved to give him a regular and liberal education, in order to qualify him for that important office.
* Cornwall is in the fire of Northumberland ; Ghirnside lies about five miles from Berwick upon Tweed, in the Scots fede.
+ See the continuation of Calamy's life of Baxter, px 681.
When he had acquired a competent measure of Grammar, 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 Divi. pity with success; and made a considerable progress in all the different branches of literature : for, he soon became a fine Grecian, and excellent Logician, and an accomplished Philo. sopher. But after having acquired such a competent measure of knowledge, in these various branches of erudition, he gave bimself up to the study of theology, his darling and beloved topic ; in which he made great progress, as his productions therein do abundantly evidence.
The ordinary course of philosophical and theological Audies being gone through, at the college of Edinburgh, with fuccels; he was, in the providence of God, called 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 aligned 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 capaci ty he exercised the talents which the Lord had graciously conferred on him, within the bounds of the said Presbytery, both in vacancies and settled congregations, to the great fatis. faction of his hearers, both minitters and people, as his certificate from that Presbytery, dated April 4th, 1711, expredy bears.--In this itation of life he did not long re. main : Providence soon opened a door for him ; and he got an unanimous call, from the parishioners of Dunferm. line, on the firlt of May 1711, io exércise his minuterial talents and abilities amongst them; which call was appro: ven of by the Presbytery on the day following, as regu. larly proceeded in. He went through the usual pieces of trial, for ordination, prescribed by the Presbytery, with ap. probation, and thereupon they let him apart to the office of the holy ministry, in the collegiate charge of Dunfermline, on August 7th, 1711.
Under the character of a minister of the gospel, having now a pastoral relation to a particular flock; in the church universal, he determined not to know any thing Jave fe
fus Chris and him crucified. He was inllant in fealox and out of seafon, in all parts of of his ministerial labours, ind: gave himself wholly thereunto; exhorting the people uncher his trust, from houfe to house, in the way of tamily vilitation ; 'examining them more publicly upon the principles of our holy religion; visiting the fick when called; and preaching elre everlasting gospel, in which he had a very pleafant and eäffying gift He preached, by turns, with his colleague. every Sabbath and Thursday, througla the year: and afterwards, when he had ncne, for several
years before his death, he officiated alone, very puregally, both on Sabbath and week day.
He delivered few extemporary productions. His sermons were generally the fruit of diligent study, and affiduous application. For the most part he wrote all; and kept very close by his "nores in the delivery, except when the Lord was pleased to carry in upon his mind, in time of preaching, some pat and appofire enlargements, whereof he had no previons study, and to which he deverthelefs chearfully gave way, as coming from Him, who has the tongue of the learned; who knows how to speak a word in reason to him that is weary ; and who Yays, It mall be given you the same hour what ye shall speak; for it is not ye that [peak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you. He was bleffed with a rich and fertile invention, as appears in the agreeable and entertaining diversity, wherewith his heads of doctrine are every where adorned. The poe. tical genius, with which he was happily endowed, contributed not a little to the embellishment of his discourses, with a variety of pertinent epithets and striking metaphors.
His gift of preaching was both instructing and searching. Few ouifhone him in the nervous and convincing manser, whereby he confirmed the truth of the doctrines he infifted on; and fewer fill in the warm and pathetic address, in which he enforced the practice of them.
He peculiarly excelled in the ample and free offers of Christ he made to his hearers : and the captivating and alJuriog' methods he used, for gaining their compliance, or their receiving and testing on Christ alone for their falvation, as thu's freely and fully exhibited unto them in the gor. pel. On all which accounts he was justiy esteemed, and and much followed, as one of the moit popular and edify
ing preachers of his day.---During his time, facramental solemnities, at Dunfermline, were very much crouded; num. bers of people, from several parts of the kingdom, resorting unto them: and the Lord was pleased to countenance some of these communions, with signal evidences of his gracious prefence and influence, to the sweet and comfortable experience
It will easily appear to the judicious and experienced read. er, in peruling his writiogs, that he had as dexterous a facul. ty in ransacking the plagues of the heart, and describing the diversified circumstances of serious and exercised souls, as if they had fully communicated their several doubts and cases unto him; while, in the mean time, he was only unfolding the inward experience of his own soul, what he himself felt of the workings of unbelief, and of the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit, in opposition thereunto ; which could not but quadrate or agree, with the operations of the self same Spirit of God in others; for, as in water, face answereth to face, so doth the heart of man to man.
This eminent servant of Jesus Christ, being exercised to godliness from his youth, became, by the grace of God, a jcribe inftruted unto the kingdom of heaven, whom our Lord compares to an houfholder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure, things new and old. Old invariable truths, but new illustrations of them ; old experiences, the fame with other saints before, but new observations and improvemenis upon them: so that, with abundance of propriety, it may be said, that there are few perplexing doubts, or intricate cafes, which the saints have, at any time, been exercised with, that are not in some one or other of his sermons, very judiciously folved, and distinctly elucidated, or cleared up.
During our Author's life-time, and at the importunity of many of his acquaintances, both ministers and people, he pube lished a great number of his sermons, on the most interesting subjects, which were well relished by the truly godly, and had their praises in the churches of Christ, both at home and abroad. These, with several others, transcribed from his notes, were first collected together, after his death, and pub: lished along with his poems, in two large volumes in folio, in the years, 1764 and 17650 printed in an elegant manner ; and, fince that time, re.printed in ten large yolumes octavo,