science, and hope to his soul, had at the same time effectu-
ally taught him <^ to live soberly, righteously, and godly in
« the world."
The lively and substantial interest which Mr. Newton
took in tlie situation and welfare of Mr. Buchanan, is one
amongst Tnany other instances of the Christian kindness
which habitually warmed his heart. The person who was thus
S2 iMEMOIRS OF
addressing him was at that time an utter stranger. After
mentioning, therefore, some of the particulars respecting his
family, and his early history, which have heen already
stated, Mr. Buchanan thus proceeds.
" On the receipt of my mother's letter, I immediately re-
*< jSected that I had heard there was a crowded audience at
'< a church in Lomhard Street. Thither I accordingly went
*' the next Sunday evening ; and when you spoke, I thought
"I heard the words of eternal life ; I listened with avidi-
" ty, and wished that you had preached till midnight."
Mr. Buchanan laments, however, that this pleasing impres-
sion was too soon effaced ; and that, although he constantly
attended Mr. Newton's sermons with raised expectations
and sanguine hopes tiiat he should one day be relieved
from the burthen which then oppressed his mind, he had
hitherto been disappointed. *< But," he adds, with genuine
humility, " I have now learned how unreasonable was such
*' an early expectation : I have been taught to wait patiently
" upon God, who waited so long for we."
" You say," he continues, " many things that touch my
" heart deeply, and I trust your ministry has been in some
*< degree blessed to me : but your subjects are generally ad-
*f dressed to those who are already established in the faith,
" or to those who have not sought God at all. Will you
<« then drop one word to me ? If there is any comfort in the
*« word of life for such as I am, shed a little of it on my
*« heart. And yet I am sensible that 1 am not prepared to
♦* receive that comfort. My sins do not affect me as I wish,
*< All that I can speak of is a strong desire to be converted
*f to my God. sir, what shall I do to inherit eternal life ?
" I see clearly that I cannot be happy in any degree, even
" in this life, until I make my peace with God : but how
«« shall I make tliat peace ? If the world were my inherit-
" ance, I would sell it, to purchase that pearl of great
" How I weep when I read of the prodigal son as descri-
« bed by our Lord ! I would walk many miles to hear a
DR. BUCHANAN. 33
« sermon from the 12tli and 13Jh verses of the thirty-third
*< chapter of the second book of Chronicles.^"
After apoloi^izing for thiis intruding upon one to whose
attention he had no personal claim, Mr. Buchanan concludes
« My heart is overburthened with grief, and greatly does
" it distress me, that I must impart my sorrows to him who
« has so much himself to bear.^ My frequent prayer to God
" is, that he would grant you strong consolation. To-mor-
« row is the day you have appointed for a sermon to young
*< people. Will you remember we, and speak some suitable
f( word, that by the aid of the blessed Spirit may reach my
« heart ? Whatever becomes of me, or of my labours, I pray
« God that you may prove successful in your ministry, and
«* that your labours may be abundantly blessed."
The preceding letter was addressed to Mr. Newton anony-
mously ; but so simply, yet so forcibly does it describe the
state of a penitent, awakened to a just apprehension of his
sin and folly, and earnestly desiring relief, that it could not
fail to excite in the mind of a man of so much Christian
benevolence, a degree of lively sympathy with the feelings,
and of interest in the welfare, of the writer. His letter,
however, being not only without any signature, but without
any reference to the place of his residence, the only method
which occurred to Mr. Newton of conveying any reply to
him was, by giving notice in his church, that if the person
who had written to him anonymously on such a day were
present, and would call upon him, he should be happy to
converse with him on the subject of his communication. This
intimation Mr. Newton accordingly gave, and an early
interview in consequence took place between them.
" I called on him," says Mr. Buchanan, in a letter to his
mother, « on the Tuesday following, and experienced such
a The following are the affecting verses alluded to hy Mr. Buchanan : "And
" when he was in afflicUon, he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself
« greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed unto him : and he was entreated
"of him, and heard his supplication."
b Mr. Newton was at this time suffering under one of the severest domestic
34? MExMOIRS OF
** a happy hour as I ought not to forget. If he had been my
" father, lie eould not have expressed more solicitude for my
'* Mr. Newton encouraged me much. He put into my
" hands the narrative of his life, and some of his letters ;
*i begged my cai'cful perusal of them before I saw him again.
'• and gave me a general invitation to breakfast with him
** when and as often as 1 could."
Of the meeting immediately subsequent to this first inter
view no account has been preserved. That it was mutually
pleasing and satisfactory, is evident from the intercourse
which afterwards took place between them, and which was
ultimately productive of such important consequences.
" I cultivated," says Mr. Buchanan, « a close acquaint-
« ance with Mr. Newton, and he soon professed a great
*< regard for me."
The grand subject, which would of coHrse immediately
occupy the attention of both, was the reality and the com-
pletion of the recent change in the moral and religious cha-
racter of Mr. Buchanan. Though the public and private
instructions of Mr. Newton would, from his well known
views of Christian doctrine, incline him to exhibit to the
awakened and trembling penitent the free and full forgive-
ness of the Gospel, he would doubtless urge with equal so-
lemnity and earnestness the necessity of ascertaining the
sincerity of his repentance, the genuineness of his faith, and
the stability of his resolutions of obedience to the divine
precepts. That such was the general tenor of the counsel
which was imparted upon these occasions, plainly appears
from several succeeding letters of Mr. Buchanan ; and
though it is to be lamented that those ol his pious correspon-
dent to which he refers are not now to be found, it is evident,
from various traces of their contents, that they were admi»
rably calculated to relieve thii distress, to remove the diffi-
culties, and to direct the conduct of his new disciple.
Thus in the venerable person to whom the providence of
God had introduced him, Mr. Buchanan found an enlighten-
ed and experienced guide, a wise and faithful counsellor.
DR. BUCHANAN. 35
and at length a steady and affectionate friend ; while the
latter discovered in the stranger who had heen so remark-
ahly made known to him, one wlio displayed talents and dis-
positions which appeared to him capable of being beneficially
employed in the service of their common Lord and Master.
Before we proceed, however, with the narrative of their
future intercourse, it may not be unnecessary to offer a few
observations respecting the change in the religions and
moral dispositions of Mr. Buchanan, which has been thus
particularly described, for the purpose of obviating some
probable objections and misapprehensions upon this subject.
It is possible, on tlie one hand, that some may perceive in
Mr. Buchanan's ingenuous statement, little more than an
example of that sudden and enthusiastic conversion, which
it is so much the custom to ridicule and to decry ; while,
on the other, an equally numerous class of readers may be
inclined to think that the circumstances thus related are
easily to be accounted for, and little to be regarded. The
one, in short, may be disposed to treat the wliole as vision-
ary and delusive ; the other, as weak and unimportant.
In reply to the former of these objections, it may be ob-
served, that, even admitting the change in question to have
been sudden, it does not necessarily follow that it was enthu-
siastic and visionary. "I do not in the smallest degree,"
says a peculiarly calm and cautious writer,* " mean to un-
" dervalue, or speak lightly of such changes, w henever, or
*^ in whomsoever they take place ; nor to deny tliat they
" may be sudden, yet lasting; nay, I am rather inclined to
«« think that it is in this manner that they frequently do
*« take place." But in the present case, sudden as that im-
pression appears to have been, which was tlie turning point
in the mind of Mr. Buchanan between a life of sin and of
religion, between the world and God, it was neither the
first nor the last which he experienced ; but one of many
previous convictions, which had been comparatively ineffec-
tual, and of many subsequent influences, which issued in the
real conversion of his heart to God, and which continued
* Dr. Paley, Sermons^ p. 123,
36 MEMOIRS OF
through his future course to establish and edify him in
Christian faith and holiness. The substantial effects which
followed sufficiently rescue the impressions which have been
described from the imputation of enthusiasm, and vindicate
their claim to a more legitimate and divine origin.
If the spiritual change, however, which has been thus ex-
plained, is acknowledged by some to have been devoid of
any thing delusive or visionary, it may still perhaps be con-
sidered by others as neither extraordinary nor important.
The religious education of Mr. Buchanan, it may be
alleged, might naturally have been expected to lead at some
period of his life to such a result ; and the cliange in his
character and conduct was only such as a regard to truth
and propriety absolutely required.
The early associations and habits of Mr. Buchanan un-
doubtedly favoured the hope that he would eventually become
a real Christian : but their very inefficacy in restraining
him during several years from a course of insincerity,
vanity, and sin, is alone sufficient to prove that nothing short
of that divine influence, to which he ascribed his conver-
sion, could at once have convinced his understanding, and
changed and purified his heart. With respect to the extent
and importance of this change, it must not be estimated
solely by the reformation of his external conduct, striking
and decisive as it was : merely moral or prudential con-
siderations might, perhaps, have been sufficiently powerful
to have produced such an improvement. But how many,
who either never deviated into what is grossly immoral, or
whom inferior motives may have reclaimed from such a
course, are, nevertheless, unconscious of the spirituality of
that divine law, which reaches to the thoughts and intents of
the heart, and consequently of those innumerable transgres-
sions of its pure and extensive demands, and of that inward
corruption and weakness, which lead the awakened mind to
the deepest humiliation and repentance, and prepare it to
embrace with lively gratitude the forgiveness and grace of
the Gospel ! How many also, who are exemplary, perhaps,
in social and relative duties, are yet destitute of any thing
DR. BUCHANAN. 37
which can be justly called the love of God, and cannot be
said to be actuated by any specific and prevailing desire of
pleasing him, or of living to his glory !
It is, however, from considerations and comparisons such
as these, that the nature and importance of the change which
took place at this period in tlie character of Mr. Buchanan
must be determined. It was initial, indeed, but it was
radical; it was imperfect in degree, but universal as to its
objects and influence. It not only redeemed him from a
sinful and worldly course, but gradually introduced him to
a state of «« righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy
•« Ghost." It rendered him, in short, " a new creature.''
He felt thfe powerful influence of the love of Christ ; and
cordially acquiescing in the unanswerable reasoning of the
great Apostle, " that if one died for all, then were all
<f dead,'!" he resolved no longer to live unto himself, ^«but
*«unto Him that died for him, and rose again."
Such was the change, which by the effiectual grace of
God was produced in the subject of these Memoirs ; and
such will be found to have been its practi^I results in his
subsequent life and conduct. To the developement, there-
fore, of these, as affording its most satisfactory vindication
and illustration, let us next proceed.
d 2 Cor. V. 14—16.
SS MEMOIRS OF
ABOUT a fortnight after the date of his first letter, Mr.
Buchauan again wrote to Mr. Newton, for the purpose ol
communicating to him a strong inclination, whieli he liad
lately felt, to revert to the profession for which he was ori-
>« Yesterday morning," he observes, <« I went to hear Dr.
•< S. Near the conclusion of the service, I was insensibljy'
*« led to admire this passage of the prophet Isaiah, < How
*< beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of
♦« peace !' It occurred to me, that that enviable office was
♦« once designed for mc ; that I was called to the ministry,
*' as it were, from my infancy. For my pious grandfather
" chose me from among my mother's children to live with,
** himself. He adopted me as his own child, and took great
<* pleasure in forming my young mind to the love of God.
<« He warmly encouraged my ])arents' design of bringing me
*« up to the ministry. I particularly recollect tlie last me-
" morable occasion of my seeing this good grandfather.
*< The first season of my being at college, I paid him
*< a visit. He lived but five miles from Glasgow. After
" asking me some particulars relating to my studies, he
<* put the following question to me ; < What end I had in
^< view in becoming a minister of the Gospel ?' I liesitated ^
»« a moment, thinking, I suppose, of some temporal blessing.
<' But he put an answer into my moutli. ' With a view, no
<< doubt,' said he, « to the glory of God.' I recollect no
<' otlier particular of the conversation but this. It made a
<« strong impression on my mind, and even often recurred to
«< my thoughts in the midst of my unliappy years; and last-
*< ly I thought of my present profession and prospect in life.
« It suddenly came into my mind, that I might yet be a
" preacher of the Gospel. I began to consider the obsta-
« cles tliat had hitherto deterred me from attempting it;
« but they appeared to have vanished.
DR. BUCHANAN. 39
*< These things passed rapidly through my mind. I vvon-
*« dered that I had not thought of them before. Your sug-
" gestion occurred to me, and I seemed clearly to perceive
** the hand of Providence in my not having been articled to
" the law. I now beheld it as an unkindly and unprofitable
" study, a profession I never cordially liked, and was thank-
" ful that I might shake it off when I pleased. These re-
" flections filled me with delight, and as I walked home, the
"sensation increased; so that by the time I entered my
<< chamber, my spirits were overpowered, and I fell on my
<* knees before God, and wept. What shall I say to these
" things? At first I feared this change of sentiment might
" be some idle whim that would soon vanish. But when I
" began to deliberate calmly, reason pleaded that the plan
•< was possible ; and the wisdom and power of God, and my
" love to him, pleaded that it was probable. I thought that
" I, who had experienced so much of the divine mercy, was
*« peculiarly engaged to declare it to others. After fervent
,<« prayer, 1 endeavoui*ed to commit myself and my services
" into the hands of Him who alone is able to direct me.
" This day I still cherish the idea with delight. But I am
" much discouraged wiien I reflect on my weak abilities,
" my slender knowledge, my defective expression, and my
" advanced age. I am now four and twenty ; and if I pro-
" secute this new desire, I must return to the studies oi
At the close of this letter, Mr. Buchanan expresses the
lively interest with which he had read Mr. Newton's narra-
tive of his own life. «- I am the person," he says, " out of
" ten thousand, who can read it aright ; for I can read it
" with self-application. What a balm to a wounded con-
"science are your healing leaves! To-day I have felt a
" tranquillity of mind to which I have been long a stranger.
« I trust this peace has a right foundation."
It appears that upon an early interview with Mr. Newton,
in consequence of the preceding letter, he warmly approved
the rising disposition of his young friend to change his pro-
fession, and to devote himself to the ministry of the Gospel.
40 MEMOIRS OF
<^ He received ine,'' says Mr. Buchanan, <^with open
** arms, and in his family worship remembered me in a
<« very affecting manner, and prayed for the divine direction
*^ in liis counsels to me. We then passed a considerable
*< time together. He observed, that this vv^as a remarkable
<< season with me ; but that I must leave every thing with
" God ; that I must nse tlie means which he had appointed
*« for those who aspire to his service ; that I must devote the
*< principal part of my leisure hours to meditation and pray-
<< er, and the remainder to the study of the languages ; that
" I must persevere in this course for a considerable timej
^< and then, if it pleased God, he would open a door to me.
" In the mean time," added Mr. Newton, << I would advise
" you to acquaint your mother with every circumstance of
** your situation, and to request, in the first instance, her
*^ advice and approbation."
To this suggestion Mr. Buchanan yielded without hesita-
tion ; and employed a great part of several nights in com-
municating to his affectionate parent an ingenuous narrative
of his proceedings from the period of his departure from
Scotland to the present time. At the close of this varied
history, in which he strongly condemns himself for his past
misconduct, he thus expresses himself.
*< And now, my dear mother, how are you affected by this
'i account ? Is your heart ready to welcome the return of
« your long lost son, or does it reject with just indignation so
" much unworthiness ? Whatever may be your emotions, I
" pray God, who has been so gracious to ?ne, to bless this
<« dispensation to you, Tlie veil which was between us is at
« length rent, and I am now in peace ; for believe me I have
<' not enjoyed a day of peace since I left my father's house.
ii I once thought I would rather suffer torture than betray
<« my secret ; but my < sinews of iron' are now become like
« those of a child. Nothing less than what I have suffered
^< eould have softened so hard a heart as mine ; and not even
<« that, unless accompanied by the power of God."
Mr. Buchanan had no sooner made this disclosure to his
excellent mother, than he communicated the result to Mr.
Newton in a letter, which closes in the following terms.
DR. BUCHANAN. 41
^< My desires of returning to my first pursuit, the minis-
^« try, still continue, and I think increase. Blackstone says
*^ somewhere, that to have a competent knowledge of the
** law requires * the lucubrations of twenty years.' I once
*« had the low ambition of being such a lawyer. But I am
«« now so impressed with the dignity and importance of the
*< office of the ministry, that I would with pleasure sit down
*^ to-morrow, and devote, not the lucubrations of twenty
^' years alone, but all my life to it. But, alas ! my present
<^ situation militates much against my wishes. that He,
<< who has led me thus far, would graciously direct my
*i steps !''
During the three months which followed the date of this
letter, Mr. Buchanan continued his employment in the law;
diligently and devoutly cultivating the spirit of real reli-
gion, and anxiously revolving in his mind the practicability
of accomplishing his wishes respecting the change of his
profession. In the month of July, however, he addressed
another letter to Mr. Newton, who was then absent from
London, in which he laments, with much humility and feel-
ing, the painful discoveries which he had been making in self-
knowledge, and the slowness of his progress in his Christian
course. '< I have but sipped," he modestly observes, " at
*^ Salem's spring — J\*ecfo7ite labra proluL^' He then informs
his kind correspondent and friend, that his late letters from
Scotland had afforded him much comfort. << My mother,"
he says, « writes thus.
<« The hint you gave me in your last of your probably
<« joining the Church of England, caused me at first some
<« uneasiness. I hope you will forgive this. I find now that
*« the difference between the two churches consists in disci=
<^ pline only, not in doctrine. I am therefore easy in mind,
<^ whichever way the providence of God may see fit to guide
*< you. I am happy that you consulted your Bible, and
<« sought the Lord's direction upon this occasion. If you
« cast your burden upon him, he will direct you aright.
" Since you were a boy, it was impressed upon my mind
" some time or other you would be a good man. I own of
4g MEMOIRS 0¥
" late years I was beginning to lose my hope, particularly
" on the supposition of your going abroad. I thought with
" myself, this is not God's usual way of bringing sinners to
•« himself. But tlie word of consolation often came in re-
•« mcmbrance, that < God is a God afar off.' O how merci-
" ful has he been to you, and how merciful to us, in conceal-
" ing your miserable situation till grace brouglit it to light ,'
" I do believe tlie discovery a year ago would but
** these recollections are painful; therefore I forbear. What
** comforting letters have you sent us ! Could a thousand
" pounds a year have afforded an equal consolation ? Impos-
" sible. It might indeed have tied us down faster to the
" earth, but it could not have set our hearts upon the im-
« searchable riches that are in Christ Jesus. Your friends
*' in Glasgow are rejoicing with us ; some of them say-
" ing, * Had the good old people (meaning his grandfather
*« and grandmother) been alive, how would this have revlv-
«< ed them !' Among your grandfather's papers, I find the
<^ inclosed letter written by Mr. Maculloch to him in a time
<^ of distress, when the sins of his youth oppressed him.
" Read it with care, and may God grant a blessing in the
It was surely with good reason that Mr. Buchanan add-
ed, *« It is not the smallest of my comforts, that I have such
« a mother as this ;" who, though evidently grieved at his
past misconduct, was, as he afterwards expressed it,
<^ overwhelmed with joy, that her son, who was lost,.
" had been found."
It appears by tlie subsequent part of this letter, that Mr.
Buchanan had a short time before been introduced by the
kindness of his friend to the notice of a gentleman, to whose
munificent patronage he was afterwards indebted for the
means of accomplishing the prevailing desire of his heart,
in entering upon the ministry of the Gospel in the Churcli
of England. This was the late Mr. Henry Thornton ; who,
to talents of a superior order, and to various and extensive
acquirements, devoted during a laborious and honourable
course to the most important duties of public life, united a
DR. BUCHANAN. 43
warm and eiiliglitened attachment to genuine Christianity:
which, while it formed the hasis of his religious cliaracter,
not only supplied the rule and the motives of his general
conduct, hut prompted him, in an especial manner, to sup-
port with calm and steady zeal, whatever a remarkably
sound and vigorous understanding deemed calculated t(i
promote the glory of God, and the present and future happi-
ness of his fellow creatures. It was to this distinguished
person that Mr. Buchanan, happily for himself and for
others, was now made known and recommended. Mr.
Newton had been largely indebted to the friendship and pa-
tronage of the excellent father of this gentleman; and just-
ly thought, that he could not render a more important ser-
vice to his young friend, or one which might eventually be
more useful to the world, than by introducing him to the
son ; who, with higher mental powers, inherited that en-