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THE REV. BRYCE JOHNSTON, D. D.
MINISTER OF HOLYWOOD, IN SCOTLAND *, The events which befal a country minister are seldom sufficiently striking and diversified to engage the research of thie biographer, or to gratify the curiosity which may lead to the perusal of his pages. His personal improvement and professional duties are his chief employments; and it is within the precincts of his own family, and the narrow circle of his friends, that he unbends bis mind, and is furnished with opportunities of exhibiting the appropriate features of his character. His situation is not calculated to bring into exercise those passions by which the men of the world are roused to exertions which arrest its notice. Seldom can he attain celebrity, while the honour which men bestow is inferior, in his esteem, to that which cometh from God. Seldom can he rise above dependence, while his principles and his voluntary engagements forbid the use of those means by which he inight augment bis scanty income.
But though these remarks admit of general application, some individuals, by the force of superior talents, or by pecuJiar circumstances in their lot, bave been found to move in a less bumble sphere. Of this description was the subject of the following Memoir.
For inore than a century, his family have possessed a small estate within the royalty of Annan, in ihe county of Dumfries; and have successively been in the magistracy and council of that burgh. His father, John Johnston, of Gutterbraes, repeatedly filled the office of Provost, or Chief Magistrate; and by his fidelity and uprightness in that station, and by the virtues which adorned his private character, acquired very considerable reputation and influence, and preserved them entire to the close of life. He married Elizabeth, daughter of the
* Extracted from his Life and Sermons, lately published by the Rev. J. Johnstone, Minister of Crossmichael.
Rev. T. Howie, minister of Annan, -the savour of whose name is still dear to those by whom his zeal and diligence are remembered. The offspring of this marriage were eight sons and two daughters. Bryce, the youngest of the sons, was born at Annan, March 2, 1747. At a very early period he discovered a strong predilection for the profession of his maternal grandfather; and seemed even then to have had it put into his heart to form a resolution, which his parents had no wish to oppose, and in which, as he advanced in years, he was firm and unshaken. At the parochial school, he received the ele. mentary principles of education; and failed not to distinguish himself by his docility and application. November 15, 1762, he entered on his academical studies at the university of Edinburgh; and was enabled to prosecute them with rapidiiy, and without interruption, till his last session at college, when he was unexpectedly called for a season to relinquish them. After a short illness, which, at taking leave of him only a few weeks before, there was no reason to anticipate, his venerable father fell asteep in Jesus, December 3, 1768. Having attended to perform the last tender offices of filial duty, --- having joined in the general regret which the event awakened, and administered consolation to ihe surviving members of iris family, he returned to the seat of learning; and at the close of the sessions, he finished the course of study prescribed by the laws of the church. Soon after, he was taken on trial by the Presbytery of Annan; and having acquitted himself to their entire satisfaction, was licensed by them to preach the gospel, as a probationer for the holy ministry, October 4, 1760.
A suitable situation was, in the course of Providence, soon provided for him.
The Rev. T. Hamilton had long exercised ine functions of the ministry in the parish of Holywood; and being now full of years, and unfit for labour, was solicitous that the charge of his flock should devolve on a faithful as. sistant and successor.
Mr. Johnston was made known to him; and was found, upon trial, fully equal to his expectations, and those of his people. In April 1771, the aged pastor retired to spend the evening of his days in Glasgow, reserving 10 himself a small portion only of the emoluments of the be: nefice. With the unanimous consent of the patrons, heritors, elders, and congregation, Mr. Jobnston was, August 22, 1771, ordained to the office of the holy ministry, by the Presbytery of Dumfries, within whose bounds Holywood is situated. This is the only church-preferment he ever obtained. Frequently, indeed, he might have been translated to a more lucrative, or to a more conspicuous station ; but he found himself at once in his place, among a people whose call he had received and accepted, and whose esteem and attachment were to be commensurate wilda his own zeal, fidelity, and diligence.
When he had fully established his reputation, the university of Edinburgh, without any solicitation on his part, unanimously conferred on him the degree of Doctor in Divinity, June 12, 1786. The ecclesiastical establishment of the church of Scotland presented a favourable field for the exercise and display of his talents. In the meetings of the Presbytery to which he belonged, and in the General Assembly, of which he was frequently elected á Member, he stood forth to defend with energy those principles which he regarded as orthodox, Nor did the multiplicity of his active engagements interrupt his private researches, or prevent him from composing works, by which, though dead, he yet speaketh.” Of his writings, that which was produced at the greatest expence of time and labour is, " A Commentary on the Revelation of St. John,” in two vols. octavo, published at Edinburgh, 1794. With a view to disseminate principles conducive to peace and good order in society, he published in 1801,“ An Essay on the Influence of Religion on Civil Society and Civil Government.” A portion of his leisure hours he devoted to agricultural pursuits; and in 1794 he drew up, for the Board of Agriculture, “ A General View of the Agriculture of the County of Dumfries, with Observations on the Means of its Improvement."
In general, he had been blessed with good health. Occasionally he had been visited with inflammatory complaints, occasioned chiefly by his exertions in public duty. For about two years before his death, he was more exhausted than formerly by these exertions; yet his heart was so much engaged, that, after he had begun to speak, he forgot his increasing feebleness; nor was it perceptible by his hearers that he stood so much in need of relaxation and ease. About the middle of March, 1805, he was seized with a rose fever; by which, for three weeks, he was confined to the house. Neither his friends, nor those who attended him, were apprehensive of serious consequences; and God seemed pleased to restore him. April 1st, he rode out a little ; and next day, feeling himself nearly quite well, he altended the Presbytery of Dumfries, and was elected a Member of the ensuing General Assembly. To the meeting of that court the public looked forward with exa pectation unusually earnest; and he anticipated an opportu. nity of co-operating with his friends to promote the triumph of liberality and justice : but before that meeting took place, he was to join the General Assembly and Church of the firstborn, which are written in Heaven. Till the 20th day of the month, he was able to devote his time as usual to study, to business, and to intercourse with his friends. When he went to the pulpit for the last time, he was so extremely feeble, that he purposed to give only one short discourse : but when he reached the church, he felt himself strengthened to extend the service to the ordinary length. « Grace and truth came by
Jesus Christ,” were the words from which his people were then addressed by him, whose voice they were no more to hear in the sanctuary below. That grace and truth had come to himself, was to be proved by bis dying testimony to the faithfulness of him who bath brought in these glad tidings of great joy. Rapid was the decay of his animal powers. His physicians could not assign any marked disease as the immediate cause ; but said, It was nature giving way at once. Their opinion coincided with his own; for be said," My great exertions in my divine Master's work have broken down one of the strongest constitutions in the country; but I do not grudge it: 1 am willing to spend and to be spent for his sake.” Though his bodily frame had thus lost its vigour, the faculties of his mind and the serenity of bis temper remained entire. To his relatives who were present, and to all about biin, he administered consolation and seasonable counsel. With fervour he joined in acts of devotion, and expressed the strength of his faith, the rejoicing which fowed from the testimony of his conscience, and his firm confidence in the hope set before him, as an anchor to his soul both sure and stedfast. Towards the close of the scene, when it was observed that his hands hung down, “ Yes," said he faintly; “ but I shall soon lift them up.” At Jast, about eleven o'clock of the morning of Saturday, April 27, 1805, fifty-six days after he had completed the fifty-eighth year of bis age, he resigned his spirit, without a struggle, or groan, or even change of countenance.
In point of bodily constitution, he was highly indebted to the Muthor of Nature. His' statute was six feet. In early life his forin was slender ; but after he had recovered from a fever, in the year 1772, he became rather corpulent, though not unwieldy. He had a dignity in his aspect that commanded respect. His countenance was open, and his eye beamed with kindness; though, by his abhorrence of vice or meanness, it could be made to flash indignation. By a regimen equally remote from abstemiousness and excess, by regular exercise, and by placid equanimity, he did ample justice to his natural advantages.
He was never married; yet his benevolence wanted not objects 1owards whom it was directed. Great was bis filial piety to his venerable mother, who died in faith only ten months before himself, in the ninety-seventh year of her age. To his other relatives he was ever kind and attentive. He administered counsel and aid in the time of need. He spared neither labour nor money to promote the execution of pans for the good of his country and the advancement of the gospel. His establishment was suited to the circumstances in which Providence had placed him: but he knew too well what is required of a steward to waste in extravagance, or empty shew, what is capable of being applied to far nobler purposes. He