« ForrigeFortsæt »
LIFE AND CHARACTER.
A GOOD MINISTER.
In some periods, the ministers of religion have
been the objects of excessive veneration. speak not of the ages of Popish darkness, in which their sentiments were regarded as the fruits of inspiration, their names were canonized after their demise, and miraculous powers were ascribed to their relics-but of seasons more enlightened, in which their opinions and conduct have been viewed with a deference to which no human being is entitled. In the present day, the case is often very different. The progress of infidel tenets has been marked by the sar
casms by which the opponents of revelation sought to bring an order of men into contempt, who are the appointed advocates of that system which they wished to destroy; and the spirit of insubordination, which has prevailed to such an extent, has led many to spurn the direction of their spiritual guides, while the worldly-mindedness and the indolence of some of the clergy have been imputed to their whole order. The exercise of the office of public teachers by men neither educated for it, nor regularly invested with it, has contributed also to degrade the ministerial function. It has led the inconsiderate to view it as a situation of ease, and to regard all that has been said about that private study requisite for public appearance as a pretext for indolence; while the ignorance and fanaticism of such pretenders has led others to associate the idea of silliness, vanity, and enthusiasm with that of a devout clergyman, and to consider him as destitute of all knowledge but that connected with his profession, and as utterly unfit for mingling in the discussions of enlightened and polished society.
In these circumstances, narratives of the lives of ministers who were an ornament to their profession (and how many of them deserve such a record!) may tend to maintain that respect
for public instructors which is so necessary to the profiting of the people by their ministry, and may confirm their attachment to the gospel by showing them the servants of God dying in the faith which they lived to promote. The writer of such sketches must find such an employment useful to the heart. A virtuous character, when followed thus closely, may shed upon us its spirit; and we are then in the most favourable circumstances for receiving their descending mantle. Some of them have left diaries and journals which afford great facility to the writers of such memoirs; though it is to be regretted that they have not been employed. in all cases, with judgment or delicacy. What was intended as a memento to gratitude or circumspection, in the review of past events and feelings, has been inconsiderately published to gratify a foolish curiosity, and has been abused to give effect to profane sarcasms. The minister of whom an account is now to be given, adorned in all things the doctrine of God his Saviour; and the delineation of the various features of his character and of the leading events of his life may be interesting and useful, not only to public teachers, but to Christians in general. While such a character is a credit to the society and to the order to which he be
longed, it reflects lustre on our common Christianity, and commends itself to the good of every party and profession. No materials for a memoir were left by him; and what is now presented is the result of what was heard and seen in the intercourse of a most intimate friendship.
The Rev. MICHAEL GILFILLAN was born in Stirling in 1747. I have heard few particulars of his early life. He had a great aversion to speak of himself; and circumstances which some would have deemed of importance, he thought had no claim on the notice of others, and were only fit for the review of his own mind. We are entitled to conclude, that the same mildness which marked his manners in after-life was the spirit of the boy; and the rapidity with which he acquired the knowledge of the English and Latin languages shows that his talents were of no mean order, and that they were diligently exercised. From the attachment he expressed for the character and ministry of the Rev. James Erskine, it is probable that he was the instrument employed by Providence for forming, or at least cherishing serious impressions in his mind. That excellent man died ere he had advanced far in his studies; but his advices were engraven on his heart, and his serious and practical manner of preaching contributed probably
in no small degree to guide him to that mode of instruction by which he was afterwards characterized, and which he had found so impressive on his own heart.
When he was little more than twelve years of age he went to the College of Glasgow, a period which, in the most of cases, would be by far too early; but in this instance it was justified by the result. From the accurate acquaintance with Latin and Greek which he showed through life, it is obvious that he must have been well grounded in the elements of these languages; and his acquaintance with philosophy in its various branches evinced that the prelections of the professors had been accompanied by a study which followed them with intelligence and interest through the whole of their course. Deeply imbued as his mind was with piety, the investigation of the faculties of man, of the works of nature, and of the progress of science, served to strengthen his impressions of the wisdom, power and goodness of the Creator, whose agency he delighted to trace in the movements of the soul, in the instincts of the creatures, and in the combinations of the elements. Philosophy was then taught in the scholastic method, and Aristotle was the oracle of the learned; but he saw, with pleasure, science purified from pedantic subtle