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O most of the subscribers to this volume, the author was advantageously known, as a faithful, zealous, and able minister of the gospel. The period, during which it pleased Providence that he should exhibit this character, was indeed but short: yet it was long enough satisfactorily to establish his claim to the esteem of every christian.
The late reverend and worthy Mr. Bruce, minister of the second charge, in the parish of Brechin, finding it necessary, from the infirmities of advanced life, to employ an assistant, Mr. Coutts, in consequence of the respectability of his recommendations, and his acceptableness as a preacher, was engaged. in that capacity, in the end of summer 1798. The satisfaction, which he gave in discharging the duties of this office, continu ing and increasing, and Mr. Bruce seeing no prospect of being able to resume his ministerial labours, an application was made, with the unanimous concurrence of all who were interested, tc the Crown; in consequence of which, Mr. Coutts, by his Ma jesty's sign manual, was nominated assistant and successor to Mr. Bruce: and after the usual trials and preparatory steps, was ordained to the office of the holy ministry, on the 27th December 1798. Thus, in a manner most pleasing to himself, was formed, that connexion, between him and the people o Brechin, which continued, to the end of his life, to be one of the chief objects of his solicitude, and the source of some of his greatest joys. Of his attachment to this people, and of his happiness in being connected with them, it was no doubt a cause, as well as an effect, that they were reciprocally attached to him, and seemed to have a just sense of their privilege, in being provided with a pastor of such ability and faithfulness.
Though the editor had little opportunity of personally observing the manner in which his ministerial duties were discharged; yet, from all the knowledge of him, which the most friendly previous intercourse could afford, he must have concluded that, in whatever scene performed, they would be characterised by fidelity and attention, as well as by talent. And from every thing which he has learned, either from the few inhabitants of the parish with whom he is acquainted, or from the most respectable and best informed individuals in the neighbourhood, the author's whole manners and deportment, as a pastor, and as a man, were such as to deserve, and to obtain the approbation, of every competent judge. Of his public instruc tions, of the principles on which they were formed, and which they were intended to inculcate, the subsequent pages afford a specimen. But while to the labours of the pulpit, as the most important part of his pastoral duties, he paid his chief attention,
he omitted none, which either the constitution of the church of Scotland, or a sense of propriety, prescribes to its ministers.-Indeed he looked higher than to the constitutions of any establishment, for the maxims of his conduct. He looked to the commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ; to the instructions of the apostles; and he sought to approve himself to the great Master of the church, as a workman that needed not to be ashamed. Besides the regular ministerial visitation and examination of his district of the parish, the punctuality and attention, with which he visited the sick, were highly exemplary. This is a duty, which when punctually performed in so large and populous a city and parish, as those of Brechin, occupies no little time, and frequently demands the exercise of much self-denial. It is to be hoped, that his efforts to promote the right improvement of sickness and affliction, and to convey consolation to those who la boured under them, are still felt in their happy effects on the minds of many. Indeed, his exertions in preaching were not confined to the pulpit. For the benefit of the aged and infirm, whose distance from the church prevented their attendance on his ministry there, he occasionally preached in the remoter parts of the parish, at baptisms, and other seasons. He was parti cularly anxious to excite an attention to religion among the young; and bestowed uncommon pains, especially on those who applied to him for admission to the Lord's table. In all these labours, it is but just to add, that his colleague took an honourable share. With that gentleman he lived in sincere, and uninterrupted harmony. Of the zeal with which they mutually entered into every scheme that promised usefulness, it was a pleasing instance, that they alternately presided in a very numerous sabbath evening school; of the good effects of their endeavours in which both on the scholars, and on others, they had various comfortable proofs.-In the government and discipline of the flock under his care, his knowledge, firmness, and wisdom, were equally conspicuous and useful.-In his general intercourse with society, the kindness of his nature, and his sense of duty as a christian and a minister, gave the tone to his character. Hence, while he was affable to all, he allowed to none an undue ascendency over his conduct. The vigour of his mind, and his regard to principle, preserved him from servility, and unworthy compliances, when he mingled with persons in the higher ranks of life; while to the lowest he was accessible and kind; and felt too strongly both the dictates of christian philanthropy in general, and what became him as a pastor in particular, to permit any thing haughty or supercilious, to appear in his demeanour to any one among them. If he ever assumed a sternness of aspect and of manner, it was in reproving gross and shameless vice.
In July 1801, a tender attachment, which he had long cherish ed for the only daughter of the Rev. Mr. Macculloch of Dairsie, Fifeshire, was crowned by their union. The excellence of his
character was now more distinctly exhibited in a situation, in which he had scarcely had an opportunity hitherto to act; that of the head of a family, in its various relations. To say what he was as an husband, it were necessary to read the heart, and to witness all the expressions of the still unabated love of his surviving partner. Indeed their reciprocal affection was such, as cannot exist but where the mind is not only endowed with the liveliest sensibility by nature, but is also under the powerful influence of a sense of duty. Their happiness had but one alloy, in the ill health to which Mrs. Coutts was frequently subject. This, however, only afforded room for the farther display of conjugal sympathy and tenderness. Another, alas! was soon added, in the evident breaking of his own constitution. Though of a frame apparently robust, he often felt the labours of the sabbath very severe. His heart, however, was so much in them, that, while he was at all able to preach, he would never consent to give it up: and frequently he performed this duty with a warmth, and to a length, which doubtless contributed rapidly to wear him down; and which a quicker sensibility to self, than he was capable of displaying, would have taught him to avoid. The zeal, indeed, with which he entered into this important service, and his ardent desire fully to discharge it, evidently increased, as his strength declined; and led some of his pious hearers to remark, that he appeared to act, as one conscious that the hour of his great account was near, and anxious to prove himself" pure from the blood of all men," " warning every man, "and teaching every man."-Some symptoms of his decline, as it afterwards appeared, though they were not immediately suspected, had begun to shew themselves, when he became a father, and had presented to him a new object of his affection, solicitude, and prayers. In his mind, a disposition to kindness and affection was strongly predominant. In every instance, therefore, where he felt that duty demanded and sanctioned them, the attachment and interest which he manifested, were peculiarly strong. Hence the ardour of those affections, of which his friends, his family, his flock were the objects, and the power which they had over him.
In his domestic arrangements, religion had a leading place. Twice every day his household was assembled for reading the scriptures, and celebrating together the offices of devotion: to which were added, from time to time, the exercises of examination and direct instruction. To this duty he was so much attached, that so long as he remained in his own house, he persevered in the observance of it. Though often unable, after his disease had formed, to rise, till a late hour of the day; and though when up, scarcely possessed of strength to articulate two or three sentences at a time, it was his first care to call his family together for this sacred purpose.-On this part of his conduct and character, the editor, from insinuations which he has heard, is induced to pause for a moment. Is it true, or is
it but the tale of calumny, that, among the ministers of the church of Scotland there are some, who have given so much into the fashion of this world, as to abandon the useful, the respectable, the delightful exercise of family worship? and that there are others, who confine it to the evenings of the sabbaths, or other solemn days? If there be, and if any of them should ever deign to glance at these lines, let them be entreated seriously to ask themselves, whether their own practice, and the character which it exhibits, be more consistent with the profession of christians and christian ministers, than those of the lamented author of this volume, in not only observing this duty with zeal and regularity, while in health; but in persevering in it, even when obliged to struggle for the breath that was necessary to perform it? And if they will indulge the editor so far, as, at his request, to put another serious question to their consciences, let them ask, on which character and practice, it is most likely that the approbation of the great Master, whose servants they are called, will finally rest?
Actuated by such principles, and conducting himself in such a manner, Mr. Coutts continued his public labours, till the last sabbath of January 1803; when in the afternoon's service, the decline of his health, and the change of his appearance, were so visible, as to draw tears from many of the audience, and to lead them to apprehend that he was now addressing them, as was indeed the case, for the last time. Towards the conclusion of the service, his weakness became so manifest, that his colleague, went to the pulpit, and offered to finish for him the work of the day. Fearful, however, of alarming his friends in the church, and particularly his beloved wife; anxious too, if it should be his last opportunity of public usefulness, to improve it to the utmost, he declined the offer, concluded the service himself, and came down from the pulpit, to ascend it no more.
From this time he was harassed by a variety of distressing symptoms; concerning the precise origin of which the most skilful medical men differed. The language, in which he himself described his sensations, was that he felt as if his upper intestines were giving way.-A voyage having been strongly recommended to him, he left Brechin, in the beginning of April, and in order to make experiment of the propriety of this prescription, as well as to give him an opportunity of consulting the faculty at Edinburgh, embarked at Montrose for Leith, accompanied by a kind and attentive friend. The weather was favourable: and during the two days of this short voyage, he was better and easier than he had been for several weeks before. For afew days aftertoo, his health seemed to promise amendment. But the reviving hopes of his friend were speedily blasted, and the idea of his proceeding farther put an end to, by an aggravated attack of all his former complaints. Attended by his anxious and affectionate wife, he resided for a few weeks, in order to try the effects of his native air, at his father's, in the