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Life and Character
MR JOHN MACLAURIN was born in October 1693 at Gle erule in Argyleshire, * where his father was minister. He was the eldest of three brothers, of whom the second, Daniel, died young, and Colin, who was the youngest, is well known to have been one of the most celebrated Mathematicians of the age. Their father dya ing in 1698, and their mother in 1707, their uncle, Mr Daniel MACLAURIN, minister at Kilsinnan, took them under his care, and bestowed great pains on them; to which he was encouraged by the appearance of their uncommon capacity and application. While they studied philosophy in the University of Glasgow, they were noticed, not only for their diligence, but for their piety, in which the two younger had the advantage of the example of their eldest brother. Agreeably to this prominent part of his character, he early made choice of
* Now called Kilmodan. It is situated nearly in the centre of that district of Argyleshire, named Cowall. It is in the Presbytery of Dunoon, and Synod of Argyle. His father was distin. guished as a faithful and diligent parish minister, and was one of the translators of the Gaelic version of the Psalms in metre, which is used in that country in public worship. He was descended from an ancient family, who were formerly long in pos. session of the island of Tirrye on the coast of Argyle. His mother's name was Cameron. VOL. I.
divinity as his own study, and observing his brother Colin's taste for the sciences, he advised him to apply to the mathematics, for which she had an excellent genius himself, had he indulged it; but he had consecrated all his talents to the more immediate service of Christ in the gospel. This plan he followed ever after with such steadiness and uniformity, that it serves for a short description of his whole life.
Having attended the Divinity College at Glasgow, and studied for a short time at Leyden under Professor Mark Wesselius, &c. he was in 1717 licensed to preach the gospel by the presbytery of Dumbarton, and in 1719 was ordained minister at Luss, a country parish situated upon the banks of Lochlomond, about twenty miles north-west from Glasgow.
In this retirement, he had an opportunity of pursuing his studies, which he did not fail to improve. Having little relish for rural employments, his time was wholly occupied, either with the duties of his office, or with his book. And he well knew how to make all his reading subservient to religion.
But he was not suffered to continue long in so obscure a station. His uncommon talents attracted the attention of all who had access to know him. His unaffected Christian piety made him acceptable to many, his learning and ingenious thoughts to others, and his modest and cheerful temper to all; so that, having occasion sometimes to preach at Glasgow, which he did with uni. versal approbation, he was translated thither on an invitation from the City, and, with general satisfaction, admitted minister in the North-West parish in 1723.
He was now in a sphere that did not allow so much time for his studies as he formerly enjoyed, but was very proper for one who had laid so good a foundation, and had devoted all his time and talents to the work of the ministry.
The pastoral office in Glasgow, by reason of the largeness of the parishes, and the multiplicity of very imporçant duties, is a business of no small labour at any rate : but Mr MACLAURIN's activity and zeal carried him through a great deal of work. His calls to visit the sick were frequent. He was often consulted by persons who were thoughtful about their eternal interests. He preached once a month to the Highlanders living in Glasgow, in their own language. He assisted in concerting measures for the regular maintenance of the poor ; and particularly, when the erection of the Glasgow hospital met with considerable obstacles, he promoted this object with great diligence, and had a chief hand in composing the printed account of that excellent foundation. In all the shemes for suppressing vice and impiety, he was a principal mover, and was no less active in carrying them into execution.
But, if his zeal and activity for the reformation of manners was great, it was still greater in what regards inward religion.
About the year 1742, when numbers of people in different parts of the world became uncommonly concerned about their salvation, such an appearance engaged all his attention. He was at the greatest pains to be rightly informed about the facts; and having from these, fully satisfied himself that it was the work of God, he defended and promoted it to the utmost of his power. Nothing gave him so much joy as the advancement of vital religion. This part of the Saviour's temper (Luke x. 21.) was exceedingly remarkable in him. With what earnestness used he to apply these words of the evangelical prophet, “ For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.” Being invited by the ministers in whose congregations the religious concern chiefly appeared, he cheerfully went and assisted them. He did not consult his own ease, nor his reputation among many who would pass for wise and prudent men, but sacrificed all to what he was fully convinced was the work of God. He was at great pains to procure and communicate well-attested accounts of it both at home and abroad. His correspondence with the late Rev. Messrs Cooper and Prince, and other ministers in Boston, and the Rev. Mr Jonathan Edwards, was always much valued by him, especially at this time. When he received their accounts, he communicated them to his acquaintances, and wrote largely to his American correspondents what intelligence he could procure of the state of religion in Scotland. He met once a-week with some Christian friends to receive and communicate religious intelligence, and to converse on religious subjects, which he did with inimic table spirit and cheerfulness.
When those who made a profession of piety were guilty of any thing that tended to hurt the cause of religion, it vexed him to the heart, and bore so heavy on his spirits as to make him restless whole nights.
He encouraged the societies for prayer which multiplied in Glasgow about this time. With his approbation there was a general meeting appointed once a month, consisting of a member from each society, with a minister for their Preses, to inquire into the state of the societies, and to send more experienced persons to assist the younger sort. Several years afterwards, he was the chief contriver and promoter of the concert for prayer which had been acceded to by numbers both in Great Britain and America. * It may be proper to take no. tice here, that as he was remarkably earnest in his
prayers for the public interests of religion, so he was always for beginning every matter of importance with prayer; and it was observed, that both as to his expressions and manner in prayer, none could excel him in proa found reverence, or in freedom, fluency and holy hum. ble boldness; and very few equal his constant mixture of these in so remarkable a degree.
From this short account, it appears how active he was in matters of public concern, as well as in the more private duties of his office; so that one would think he could not spare much time for reading, especially as he was obliged to be often in company, persons of all ranks,
Mr Edwards wrote a book to recommend it, entitled, “ An humbie attempt to promote explicit agreement and visible union of God's people in extraordinary prayer, &c.” some account of which may be seen in “ Historical Collections relating to the Success of the Gospel,” Vol. ii. p. 401. This has since that time been republished by Mr Sutcliff of Olney, and in a late edi. tion of his whole works at Leeds.