John Maclaurin.

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■TV. M*c-vr.LOCH, rrvi>:T r.n





Thet^e are some books of an inferior class — they were not
without their \ise at the time that they were published ; but the}
soon sink into oblivion — they have peribrmed their office. Thera
is a middlinif class, wiiich edifies the generation for Mliich they
were composed, and descends with respect to the next ; and
they are read with profit. But tliere is a third kind, exalted far
above these, and which ranks hjj^-h in tlie estimation of mankuid.
The autlioxs were men of su])ciior endowments, and they are
greatly and justly admired in every succeedin^^ age. When they
become scarce, the person who reprints thein docs a service to
the world.

In this last class ]Maclaurin has an exalted place. This little
volume may be put into the scale with any work of its size whicji
the eig-hteenth century produced, and it will not disg-race the
kand which threw it in. The author appears to have been a man
very superior to most, botli m intellect and in goodness. It will
be difficult to find two sermons more excellent than the second
and tliird in this collection. Along- with a wonderfid mass of
select ideas, solidity of judg-ment, profoundness of researcii, in-
g-enuity of tliought, and vivacity and briUiancy of representation,
they display the most powerful and impressive eloquence on sub-
jects wdiere eloquence is most diflicult and unconnnon, namely,
instating-, illustratmg, confii-minrr, and enforchig the fundamen-
tal Doctrines of the Gospel.

Young Preachers should carefully stud}- this little volume.
When men of talents, education, and learning, are unhappil}
prejudiced against Evangelical Principles, we know no book
more proper to be put into their hands than this. If any thing
human can convince them of the impropriety of despising the
truth, it is the lovely representation of it by the superior intellect
ofMaclaurin, united with the display of the most ardent devo-
tion, and of a holy, humble, and benevolent heart. We have
often read this book ; but we never read it without feeling our-
selves to be but children, and sinking into nothing, from a cor^-
sciousness of his vast superiority.

Evangelical Magazine for July, 1802.




MR. JOHN M'LAURIN was bom in October, 1693^,
at Glenderule, in Argyleshire, wliere his father was minister.
He was the eldest of three brothers, of whom the second,
Daniel, died young, after giving proofs of an extraordinary
genius ; and Cohn, who was the youngest, is well known to
have proved one of the most celebrated Mathenriaticians of
the age. Their father dying in 1698, and their mother in
1707, their uncle, IVIr. Daniel M'Laurin, minister at K;l-
finnan, took them under his care, and bestowed great pains
on them ; to which he was, no doubt, encouraged by the pro-
mising appearances of their uncommon capacity and appli-
cation. While they studied philosophy in the University
of Glasgow, they were taken notice of, not only [ur their
diligence, but for their piety, in which the two younger had
the advantage of an excellent example from their eldest bro-
ther. Agreeably to this eminent part of his character, he
made an early choice of divinity for his own study, and ob-
serving his brother Colin's taste for the sciences, he advised
him to apply to the mathematics, for which he had an excel-
lent genius himself, had he indulged it ; but he had consecra-
ted 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 descrip-
tion of his whole life.

Havingaltended the Divinity- College at Glasgow, and
studied some short time at Leyden under Professor Mark^
A 2

vi Tht Life and Character

Wesselius, etc. He was, in 1717, licensed to preach the
gospel by the presbytery of Dumbarton ; and in 1719 was
ordalneci minister at Luss, a country parish situated upon the
banks of Lochloraond, about twenty miles north-west from

In this retirement he had an opportunity of pursuing his
studies, which he did not fail to Improve. Having no reUsh
for rural employments or diversions, his time was wholly ta-
ken up, 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 private a
station. His uncommon talents were soon taken notice of
in the neighbourhood of Luss, and by all every where wha
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 universal approbation, he was translated
thither on an invitation from the city, after the death of the
reverend Mr. Anderson,* and admitted minister in the
North- West parish in 1723, to the great satisfaction of all

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 necessary or very im-
portant duties, is a business of no small labour at any rate:
but Mr. M'Laurin's activity and zeal carried him through
a great deal more work than ordinary. His calls to visit the
sick were uncommonly frequent. He was often consulted
by persons that 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 par-
ticularly when the Glasgow hospital at its first erection met
with considerable obstacles, he promoted it with great dili-
gence, and had a chief hand in composing the printed ac-

* Known to the public by his vrritings.

of the Author. vii

count of that excellent foundation. In all the schemes for
suppressing vice and impiety he was a principal mover, and
was no less active in carrying them into execution. In his
sermons, before the societies for reformation in Glasgow,
he made it his business to inculcate upon the conscientious
inhabitants the necessity of doing their "part to bear down
wickedness, by giving information against offenders, without
which the best laws and most zealous magistrates could avail
nothing. He laboured to take off the unjust odium affixed
by some to the name of informers, and to shew that they
who declined giving themselves the trouble cf preventing sin
in their neighbours were like Cain, who said, Am I my bro-
ther'' s keeper? The account of the societies for reformation
which arose in England and Ireland about the end of the
last century, was a book he read with great pleasure, especi-
ally^ as it narrates the surprising success with which Provi-
dence blest their vigorous endeavours at their first setting
out. He was much for encouraging a like spirit, and using
like prudent methods in Glasgow : and although the success
of these methods might not be so great as were to be wished^,
he was not for laying them aside. He heartily agreed with
those who think it is the duty of Christians to improve all
the countenance given by human laws for restraining wick-
edness, because, otherwise, bad as we are, we should still be
worse. For which reason he greatly approved of the design
of the friendly society lately erected in Glasgow, who are
endeavouring to raise a fund to prosecute such wicked per-
sons as might otherwise escape the law.

But if his zeal and activity was great for the reformation
of manners, it was still greater in what regards Inward reli-
gion. Some years ago, when numbers of people In different
parts of the world became uncommonly concerned about
their salvation, such an appearance engaged all his attetition.
We 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 was exceedingly remarkable in h^m. Luke x. 21.
With what earnestness used he to apply these words of the
evangelical prophet. For Zicn/s sake zcill I not hold my
peaccy and for Jeruiahm^s sake J xii I not rest until tha

ViU The Life and Character

righleousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation
thereof as a lamp that burneth. Being invited bj the min-
isters in whose congregations the rehgious 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 reverend Messrs. Cooper and Prince, and other
ministers in Boston, and the reverend Mr. Edwards, (then
at Northampton, now at Stockbridge) was always much
valued by him, especially at this time.* When he received
their accounts, he spread them amongst his acquaintances,
and wrote largely to his American correspondents what in-
telligence he could procure, of the state of religion in Scot-
land. He met once a week with some Christian friends, to
receive and communicate religious intelligence, and to con-
verse on religious subjects, which he did with inimitable spi-
rit and cheerfulness.

When those who made a profession of piety were guilty
of any thing that tended to hurt the cause of religion, it vex-
ed 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 mulilplled
in Glasgow about this time. With his approbation there
was a general meeting appointed once a month (which still
subsists), consisting of a member from each society, with a
minister for their Preses, to inquire into the state of the soci-
eties, and to send more experienced persons to assist the
younger sort. And several years afterwards, he was th^
chief contriver and promoter of the concert for prayer, which
hath been complied with by numbers both in Britain
and Amerlcaf . And it may be proper to take notice here,

* He had several other correspondents in Boston, and in other
parts of Ne\v-En:rland, whom he greatly esteemed and loved, piir-
ticularly Abiel Walley, Esq.

■{■ Mr. Edwards wrote a whole book to recommend it, entitled,
*' An humble attempt to promote explicit ag-reement and visible
union of God's people in extraordinary ])rayer," ckc. Some ac-
count of wliicli may be seen in " Historical Collections relating"
•o the success of the g-ospcl." Vol. ii. p. 401.

tifthe Author. i;t

that as he was remarkably earnest in his prayers for the pub-
He irvterests of religion, so he was always for beginning every
deliberation of importance with prayer. And it was obser-
ved, that both as to his expressions and manner in prayer,
none could go beyond him for profound reverence, or for
freedom, fluency, and holy humble boldness ; and very few
equal his constant mixture of these in so remarkable a degree.
In the latter part of his life he was uncommonly concern-
ed for the peace of the church of Scotland. He had all along,
endeavoured to prevent strife and division to the utmost oi"
his power. What pains he was at in procuring the peacea-
ble settlement of vacant congregations, appears in part from
papers on this subject found among his manuscripts, and is
otherwise well known. He was equally against the extremes
ot encouraging an unreasonable opposition among the peo-
ple on the one hand, and of violently imposing ministers up-
on tliem on the other. A call and appointment to the holy
ministry by ordination, he thought a very solemn business,
and not to be made on any account subservient to political
measures. He coni-ldered tha great ucsign of the sacred
iunctlon, the edifmation of the body of Christ, which he
thought could never be promoted by violent measures, and
fixing a pastoral relation amldht an universal opposition.
The arbitrary me.Lliods therefore lately pursued, in not only
appointing and authorizing such settlements, but deposing
from the holy ministry such as for conscience sake refused
to have an active hand in them, made very deep impression
on his spirits, as a dismal presage of the decay of vital reli-
mon, and the pulling to pieces our ecclesiastic constitution.
Moved by such considerations, he interposed his most vigo-
rous efforts to stop the progress of so unprecedented and ru-
inous measures. He actecl, and wrote himself; and engaged
others, who had talents for it, to write upon the subject.*
Declining no step, however troublesome, unless it seemed to
have a ten len^y to increase the flame.

* See 1. The terms of Ministerial and Christian communion
imposed oa the church of ScoUund by a prevailing- party in the
general Ti^oembl}^, in opposition to tiie great bulk both of office-
bearers i^.rui private Christians. I'rinteci at Glasg-ow, 1753.

2. An inquiry into the powers committed to the general As-
semblies of the Liiarch, and che nature of deposition from the
holy ministry, occusioned by the cond,uct ^U4 procedure of the

X Tht Life, and Character

From this short account of things, it appears how actire
he was in matters of public concern, as well as in the itiore
private duties of his office ; so that one would think he could
not spare much time for reading, especially as he was obliged
to he often in compan3^ persons of all ranks, who had any
regard for religion, being fend of conversing with him.
And indeed it was his duty, as well as his inclination, to 8;ra-
tify them. For he had such an inexhaustible fund of edify-
ing pleasant discourse ; such a constant tiu'Ci fulness and flow
of spirits, attended vvith the most serious piety ; so obliging
a readiness to hear others ; and so unaffected a desire to make
all about him happy : that there never was perhaps a man
better qialifi^d to recommend Christianity in the way of
conversatioa : nor were his endeavours in this way without

Yet though sn large a portion of his time was necessarily
employed in action and conversation, he read a great deal to
the last. There was hardly a new book of any note, but he
made himself acquainted with it ; nay, he found time to stu-
dy and compose upon a variety of divine subjects. To ac-
count for v.'hich, we must consider, that as he had a very
quick apprehension, so he was capable of extraordinary ap-
plication, attended with a certain earnestness to finish every
subject he had once begun. And then he generally retired
several months in the summer season to the country, where
his studies were both his business and recreation : for he ne-
ver seemed to be weary of them, nor to give them up, except
when necessarily interrupted.

At what lime soever it was, His certain he did write seve-
ral valuable composures besides these published in this vol-
ume ; such as, ^^w essay on the prophecies relating to the
Messiah — Of the difference betwixt enthusiasm and true
christian piety. — Of the Scripture Doctrine of continued

assembly, 1752. By the author of the queries in the Scots Maga-
zine for July, 1752, with an introduction by another hand. Prin-
ted at Glasgow, for John Gilniour, bookseller, 1754.

3. The nature of ecclesiastic government, &.c. being a second
conference on the terms of communion, &c. Printed at Glasgow,

He had a great regard for the Authors of these pieces, and took
upon himself the chief care and trouble of pviblishmg thegn

of iht Authtif, Xi

for gi'oeness-^ Against the errors of the mystics*. — A col-
lection of remarks on the evidence of the miracles recorded
in the New Testament. And several smaller pieces, viz.
Letters on infant baptism — A consolatory letter to Lady
Frances Gardner, occasioned by the ColonePs death Re-
marks on Mr. R's manuscript on the nature of faith.
And some unfinished papers, as. Remarks on Mr , Stinstras''
pastoral letter. — Remarks on lord Bolinghroke's insinua-
tions against the scriptures in his Letters on History.

There are, perhaps, some of his manuscripts omitted in
this list ; but from those mentioned it appears in part, (though
his intimate acquaintances only can have a clear notion of it)
how studious he was as well as active. It is indeed hard to
say which of the two he was most remarkable for ; but he
was never idle, and the great principle that visibly animated
him all along, was a regard to the honour of his Saviour, and
a zeal to promote his cause according to the opportunities af-
forded him.

Notwithstanding his incessant application, he enjoyed a
very good state of health, seldom interrupted, except by
some fits of a rheum in his head, and a pain and weakness
. in his eyes.

In spring, 1754, he was feverish, for some days, but soon
recovered, and was so well as to attend the general assembly
in Ma.y, where he had the pleasure to meet with the reverend
Messrs. Tennentand Davies, agents for the college ofNew-

* Some have expressed their surprise, that he could be at the
pains to search into these obscure writers ; but such as have read
them without the prejudice of contempt (which may be more ea-
sily done, as some of them were men of a fine imag-ination and an
affectionate heart) will soon perceive how apt they are to engage
a devout reader. Upon several very important points, such as,
*' A constant sense of the divine presence, A supreme love and re-
gard to the Deity ; Conformity to his will," &,c. they speak ex-
tremely well. But the great defect of the mystic divinity seems
to be, that it overlooks, in a great measure, some of the peculiar
doctrines and precepts of the New Testament, upon which our all
depends ; such as, " Justification by the blood and rig-hteousness
of the Saviour, and a zealous care to promote our own salvation
and that of others." This, Mr. M*Laurin, no doubt saw, and
upon this, and some other accounts, he might justly look upon the
mystic scheme as the more dangerous, the greater resemblance
it bears to real religion.

Xii The Life and Character

Jersey ; a design to which he heartily wished well, as he did t«
all that tended to promote Christianity. It gave him great
pleasure to see with what readiness the Assembly granted a
collection for carrying on that good design.

After he came home, he had frequently in his hands a
small volume of Mr. Shaw's pieces, one of which is entitled,
A farewell to Life. About the end of August he complain-
ed much of the rheum in his head, which, notwithstanding
the good effects of medicines for a short time, still returned.
Yet he preached on Sabbath, August 25th, and went abroad
next day, as usual. There were at that time some foreigners
in town, who were desirous to be introduced to him, on ac-
count of the great esteem they had for his brother. As his
humane, sociable, and Christian temper made him always be-
have in a very obliging manner to strangers, he waited upon
them with great cheerfulness, and conversed with them in
his usual entertaining and facetious way. He was again to
have waited on them on Thursday, August 29th, but found
himself so much indisposed by the pain in his head, that he
could not go abroad. About two in the afternoon he became
suddenly so ill, that his memory failed him, and he could not
express himself with his ordinary readiness. After that, he
had a continual inclination to sleep, attended with a s]ow fe-
ver. At the same time a little swelling under one of his
cheeks increased, till it became what the physicians call an
erysipelas. On Sabbath, September 1st, though be did not
speak with his former distinctness, his discourse, in the inter-
vals of his drowsiness, was in the same heavenly strain it used
to be on that day ; repeating many comfortable passages of
Scripture, and improving every thing that came In his way
as the means of devotion, and a spiritual frame ; taking occa-
sion, from the cordials he was using, to speak of tAe fruit of
the tree of life., and of the pure zoater of life. Alterwards
his trouble Increased, and carried him off in the sixty first year
of his age, on Sabbath, Sept. 8th. near ! 2 at night : the end
of a Sabbath on earth being the beginning of an eternal
Sabbath in heaven.

He was a man that had a very extraordinary degree of the
roOBt valuable gifts, and the most lovely graces united in
Wm. A lively striking instance of the truth, power, and
amiableness of Christianity: quite raised above the world:
empioyed from day to day In soine good design, without th«

of the Author. xiii

smallest appearance of vanity or ambition, or any interested
view. And in general, so free from all discernible failings,
that those who were most intimately acquainted with him
may be appealed to, whether they could ever observe any ;
except, that in the dechne of life he sometimes grew too
warm in expressing his honest zeal. And even this was, in a
great measure, owing to the decay of his bodily constitution,
for he was very uneasy at it himself, and used to desire his
friends to put him in mind when he was in danger of it.
And when it had overtaken him, he used in a very sincere
and affectionate manner to ask forgiveness of the person or
company whom he might have offended. As for personal
injuries, he always bore them with a patience and meekness
that was truly Christian.

There was a perpetual cheerfulness in his temper, attended
with that decency of behaviour, and that useful and perti-
nent discourse, that, in conversing with, one enjoyed
the pleasures of the gayest company, along with the advan-
tages of the most serious. His conversation was always
pleasant, but never trifling. He was Ingenious In making
the best improvement of every occurrence. He equally dis-
liked debates, and a sullen reserve of temper, and diverted
every thing of this kind, by introducing what tended to
cheer and edify.

He was eminently given to hospiial'iiy. And was al-
ways readij to disiribvte to the neces^itous to the utmost of
his power, if not beyond it.

His kind and affectionate heart to those who were in any
sort of trouble, whether of body or mind, was such as cannot
well bs expressed ; and yet even when those who were dear-
est to him were under threatening diseiises, he retained a
tranquiliity and cheerfulness of temper, always hoping for
the most comfortable event ; and when deeply aflllr.ted by
the disappointment of these hopes, he on every occasu n
overcame the tenderest grief by the most pious and cheerful

As a minister of the gospel, he was very exemplary. The
great subjects of his sermons were the peculiar doctrines of
Christianity, which were the life of his own soul. In dealing
with the consciences of men, he thought the proper method
was (according to the scripture pattern, particularly in the
epistle to the Romans) to convince them iirst of their having

xiv The. L'ffe and Character

broken the divine law, and their being; condemned by it, and
then to lead them to the blood cf Christ. He thought the
ahenation of the human soul from God, in its unconverted
state, is a sufTuient proof of its depravity and irnfery^ He m-
culcated the necessity of regeneration by the H.Jv bpint.

His opinion concerning the nature of fa^il in Christ, was,
that it is the receiving of a free gift, and hes much in a su-
preme and rooted esteem of Christ, and oil his benefits, with
proportionable desires after them. His clear and scriptural
views of the imputation of the Redeemer's righteousness, and
of the agreeableness of this doctrine to reason may be seen
in his Essay on Prejudices against the Gospel.

Online LibraryJohn MaclaurinSermons and essays: → online text (page 1 of 33)