David Black.

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APR 19 1912








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J. HE family from which Mr Black de-
scended, has produced several eminent mi-
nisters of the Church of Scotland, as well
as many private individuals of distinguished

His grandfather, the Rev. Thomas Black,
was esteemed one of the most judicious,
learned, and worthy ministers of the age in
which he lived. He was first settled mi-
nister of Strathmiglo, in the county of Fife ;
a 2

VI ACcouxT or

sermon was preaclied b}^ the Rev. James
Scott, one of the miuisters of Perth, who on
that occasion, whilst he testified his own af-
fection and the public regret, offered a
just and honourable testimony to the emi-^
nent worth of his departed coUeague and

The Hev. David Black, the subject of this
Memoir, was born at Perth, May 23. 1762.
Though deprived of his father when just
nine years of age, the education which he
received from his pious mother, was blessed
as the means of letiding his mind to an early
acquaintance Avith serious religion. Whilst
only in his tenth year, he was remarked for
his tenderness of conscience, and for the

3. Elizabeth, — who married Thomas Young, Esq.
cf Arbenie. — Died September 19. 1785.

4'. David, — minister of Lady Tester's, Edinburgh. —
Died February 25. 1806.

.5. Neil, — now residing in London.


readiness -^vith which he received instruc-
tion ; as well as for his diligence in I'eading
the scriptures, and his attention to the du-
ties of secret devotion. At an early period
he expressed a strong desire to consecrate
his life to the work of the ministry. To this
object, in which he was encouraged by his
friends, all his subsequent schemes and pur-
suits were uniformly directed. He applied
with dilip-ence to his studies iit the universi-
ty of Edinburgh, and made proficiency a-
bove many of his equals, in the knowledge
of the learned languages, as well as of theo-
logy, and the different branches of litera-
ture, more immediately connected with theo-
logical science.

In his sixteenth year he began to keep a
diary, a practice in which he persevered till
his last illness. These papers discover
his habitual attention, not only to his ex-
ternal conduct, but also to the state and
dispositions of his mind. Though he fre-


querrtlj laments imperfections which could
be known only to God and his own con-
science, it evidently appears, that on many
occasions, he experienced the peculiar com-
forts of true religion.

Having finished his studies at the univer-
sity, and having passed through the usual
trials before the Presbytery of Perth, with
the high approbation of all the members
who attended, he was licensed to preach the
Gospel, August 25. 1784. It would be hap-
py indeed for the church, if all who enter
on the sacred office possessed that sense ot
its high importance, and that ardent zeal
for promoting its great design, with which
his mind was then impressed. His first ap-
pearances as a preacher, fully equalled the
expectations of his friends ; and there is rea-
son to believe, that his occasional servites,
whilst a probationer, were accompanied with
a divine blessing, to the spiritual advantage
of many who heard him.


Mr Black's first settlement was at St Ma-
does, a small country parish, about six
miles from Perth. His immediate prede-
cessor in this charge was the Rev. Archibald
Stevenson, one of the ablest and most re-
spectable ministers of his time ; whose talents
and worth vi^ould have qualified him to fill
with honour to himself, and with advantage
to the public, any situation in the church.
Mr Stevenson having died in December

1784, Mr Richardson of Pitfour, the Patron,
presented Mr Black to this parish ; and he
was accordingly ordained, with the cordial
approbation of the people, September 15,

1785. Mr Black enjoyed much personal
comfort in St Madoes,and continued, for the
space of nine years, to discharge the duties
of his office with approved fidelity ; pos-
sessing the full confidence and aflPection of
his own people, and the unqualified estima*
tion of all who knew him.


When the church of Lady Yester's, in the
city of Edinburgh, became vacant in 17945
many respectable members of that congre-
gation, as well as Mr Black's numerous
friends in the city, were desirous that a mi-
nister of his character and talents should
be invited to fill that important charge. The
Magistrates and Town Council, concurring
in the general sentiment, were pleased to
grant a presentation in his favour. He was
accordingly admitted to be minister of La-
dy Yester's, November 20, 1794 The so-
lemn services of the day were conducted by
the late Dr Erskine,-— a name extensively
known-, and justly dear both to the learn-
ed, and the christian world. On this oc-
casion lie preached that excellent sermon,
entitled, " The Blessing of Christian Teach-
ers,'' which is the third in the volume pub-
lished in his life time. When that venera-
ble man proceeded — ^like Paul the aged ad-
dressing Timothy his son — to deliver to his
young friend the impressive charge subjoin-


cd to tlie sermon, sentiments of veneration
for the speaker, and of kind affection for the
young minister, pervaded every heart.
You have begun well," said Dr Erskine,
hold on to the end with persevering and in-
creasing diligence, and be not discouraged
by the difficulties of your work. Take heed
unto thyself, and unto thy doctrine ; con-
tinue in them ; for in doing this, thou
shalt both save thyself and them that hear
tliee You have had the honour to de-
scend from two ministers of Perth, and
one of St Cuthbert^s. May you be justly
loved and esteemed as they were, for the
amiableness of your temper, the exem-
plariness of your life, and your diligence
in the pastoral office. May the Lord be
with you, as he was with your fathers ;
and may you have many for your crown
of reioicinsi: in the day of the Lord l"

In March, 1795, Mr Black married"
Agnes Wood, daugliler of George \¥ood


of Warriston, Esq. in the parish of Cur-
rie. This event he considered as one of
of the happiest in his lot. Her amiable dis-
positions were congenial to his own ; and
in her piety, prudence, and tender aftection,
he enjoyed the greatest domestic comfort.

Mr Black continued to be minister of
Lady Tester's till his death ; and his servi-
ces in this station were highly acceptable
and useful to his people — He laboured with
diligence in his preparations for the pulpit,
and it will appear, from the specimen now
given to the pubhc, how much his discour-
ses were adapted to general edification.
His sermons, it must be remarked, derived
peculiar advantage from his elocution and
delivery. His manner was solemn and af-
fectionate, earnest and persuasive. When
expostulating with sinners, or unfold-
ins: to Christians the consolations of the
gospel, there was often an animation in
his address — a sacred fervour — a divine


unction, which powerfully impressed the
auditory. He evidently felt the truths h6
was delivering, and. spake as one standing
in the presence of God, animated with £i
pure zeal for the glory of the Redeemer,
and the salvation of immortal souls.

Nor did he confine his labours to the pul-
pit. He visited his parishioners in their
own houses ; and regularly every summer^'
except while the church was rebuilding^
held meetings for catechetical exercises,
which were uncommonly well attended. He
possessed a singular felicity in engaging the
attention of the }oung, and was successful^
in many instances, in fixing on their minds
lasting impressions of the truths of religion.
To the sick members of his congregation,
and to others who desired his visits, he re-
gularly devoted a portion of his time -To

the necessities of such as were indigent, he
ministered with a liberality, greater, per-
haps, than a rigid prudence would have^dic-


The most perfect afFection subsisted be-
tsvixt him and his congregation. They
\Vere justly sensible of the singular advan-
tage they enjoyed, in having such a pastor.
They looked up to him as their spiritual
guide, and, since his death, have testified
their respect for him, m a manner peculiarly
honourable to their own feelin Such al-
so was his attachment to them, that he re-
peatedly declined to accept the offer of a col-
legiate charge. And when the church of
Lady Tester's was found to be m so decay-
ed a state, that it was no longer safe to as -
semble there for public worship, he readily
entered into an arrangement, by which he
vras permitted to preach, on the forenoon of
every Lord's day, in the chapel of ease,
which belongs to the parish of St Cuth-
bert's. This he continued to do till the new
church was opened, December 8, 1805, lit-
tle more than two months before his death.

The author. %v

He retain- H always a warm a'^ection for
the people of Perth, and was ready on eve-
ry occasion to promote their interests. When
a plan was formed m 1793 to erect a cha-
pel of ease in that town, ho exerted him-
self with great zeal, along which some other
ministers and private Christians, in forward-
ing this salutary and important object. The
decision of the General Assembly in 1794/,
by which this plan was finally frustrated, he
regretted as highly prejudicial both to the
interests of the Established Church, and to
the spiritual prosperity of the people of

To the Church of Scotland he was con-
scientiously attached. The sermons con-'
tained in this volume will sufficiently shew,
how perfectly his views of christian doc-
trine accorded with the public standards of
the church. His soul, indeed, abhorred the
dishonesty of subscribing, as articles of
peace, doctrines which the subscriber does


jjflt Wieye to be " agreeable to tlie word of
God, and founded thereon/' The growing
neglect of the peculiar doctrines of the Gos-
pel, he certainly considered as one princi-
pal cause of the declining state of religion
in the present times. — -Though neither dis-
posed, nor, perhaps, qualified to take any ac-
tive share in the direction of public affairs,
yet lie felt it his duty steadily to resist all
those measures, which, in his judgment,
appeared to militate against tlije essential
principles of the constitution of the church,
or to endanger her most important inter-

The lively interest which he felt in the
general prosperity of religion, led him to
rejoice in the exertions which have, of late
years, been made by Christians in different
parts of the world, for propagating the gos-
pel among heathen nations. Hence, too,
he assisted with great alacrity at the forma-
tion of the Edinburgh Missionary Society,


knd continued, to the end of his Hfe, one of
the most zealous friends of that institution.

He justly appreciated the blessings, which
the inhabitants of the British empire derive
from the civil constitution of their country.
He was a steady friend to government, and
strenuous in supporting its authority, even
at the time, when, to serve a temporary
purpose, his conduct w^as greatly misrepre-
sented and traduced.

About the middle of February, 1806,
Mr Black was seized with a fever, the symp-
toms of which did not appear alarming till
Thursday the 20th of that month. On the
forenoon of that day, his mind was remark-
ably tranquil and serene. In the course of
an interesting conversation with a christian
friend, he expressed, in strong- terms, his
confidence toward God through Jesus Christ,
and his assurance of his personal interest in
the salvation of the gospel. Towards



evening the disorder increased to a great
degree, and from tliat time became so vio-
lent, as to prevent him from expressing, in
such a manner as his friends could have
wished, the state of his mind in the near
prospect of dissolution. Nor was this ne-
cessary. His whole life had afforded an
honourable testimony to the truth of Chri-
stianity ; and all his principles and habits
had been deliberately formed, under the in-
fluence of realizing prospects of an eternal
world.— On the evening of Monday, February
24th, a considerable number of the congre-
gation, and other friends, met in Lady Yes-
tei'^s church, and offered their united and
earnest prayers for his recovery. But the
Sovereign Disposer of events had determin-
ed to release his servant, from the services
and suiferings of the present state. Mr
Black died on the eveniiig of Tuesday, Fe-
bruary 25th, in the 44th year of his age,
and 21st of his ministrv.


The general regret occasioned by his
death, sufficiently testified the high estima-
tion in which his character was held, by
persons of all ranks and denominations.
This painful and unexpected bereavement
Mrs Black was enabled to bear, with a for*
titude and resignation, which displayed, in a
striking light, the power of true religion to
support the mind, in the most trying scenes
of life. She was left with six children, one
son and five daughters, of whom the young-
est was born about three months alter Mr
Black's death.

On the Lord's day after his funeral, ap-
propriate and impressive discourses were de-
livered in Lady Tester's church, by the Rev.
Mr Bonar of Cramond, and the Rev. Dr
Buchanan, Canongate : two of his friends,
well qualified by their long and intimate
acquaintance with him, to do justice to his
character, and to direct the congregation
to a suitable improvement of this afflicting



dispensation of providence. — The fathers of
Mr Bonar and Mr Black had lono- been
colleagues at Perth ; a circumstance which
laid the foundation of that endearing friend-
ship which subsisted between their sons ;
and which, not only Mr Bonar's connection
in marriage with Mr Black's sister *, — a tru-
ly pious and amiable lady, — but a remark-
able similarity of character, sentiments, and
pursuits, served to strengtlien and perpe-
tuate Though Mr Bonar declined to write

the life of his friend, he has been so obliging,
as to furnish a considerable portion of the
materials from ^vhich this account is drawn

The limits of this memoir will not admit
such a delineation of Mr Black's character,
as might equal the just expectations of his
friends, or convey to strangers an adequate
idea of his worth. Yet, it may not be im-

* See Note, p. v.


proper to mention a few of those qualities,
which secured to him, whilst living, the es-
teem and atfoction of all to whom he was
known, and which must render his memo-
ry- precious to all the friends of genuine
Christianity. — His natural endowments were
peculiarly adapted to the sphere, which
providence had assigned for their exer-
tion. His clear understanding, his sound
judgment, and correct taste, qualified
him well, both to investigate truth, and to
display it with advantage. He was capa-
ble of great application to study, and might
>haTe risen to considerable eminence, had he
chosen to employ his talents in the pursuit
of literary fame. — His temper was calm and
mild ; and his manners were distinguished
by an unconimon degree of sweetness and

gentleness He possessed a considerable

measure of sensibility, which appeared
chiefly in his lively participation in the joys
and sorrows of his friends, seldom in any
:itrong expression of his feelings, when ex-


periencing ungenerous or injurious treat-
ment His heart was the seat of all the

kind affections. His endearino; converse
with his family and friends, gave to his so-
ciety peculiar attractions His habits of life

were simple, orderly, and free from ostenta-
tion. Moderate in his desires, and satisfied
with his condition, he managed his own affairs
with good sense and discretion ; and was far
from resembling those who trouble the world
with pretensions, too often produced by dis-
content or vanity Modest and unassum-

ino-, he discovered none of that self-conceit
and arrogance, which mark, with awful in-
consistency, the character of some pretend-
ers to religion. His humihty shed a pleas-
ing lustre over all the other excellencies of
his character. In matters of indifference
he was never tenacious of his own opinion.
At the same time he discovered nothing of
tameness or servility. He thought for him-
self, and steadily followed the convictions
of his own mind. Hence he has been known,


on some occasions, to dissent from the opi-
nion of liis most respected friends.

vSincere and fervent piety, undoubtedly
formed the most prominent feature in the
character of M^ Black. It has been alrea-
dy stated, that at an earl}^ period of life he
felt the power of religion on his mind ; and
his early choice was confirmed by the full
convictions of his riper years. His piety
was not confined to stated seasons of devo-
tion. He lived under its influence, and dis-
covered its happy effects in every part of
his conduct. His faith filled his mind Avitli
peace and joy ; raised him above the anxie-
ties of life ; sustained him under its various
trials ; and animated him with the hope of
a blessed immortality. — His ov/n reflections
on some interesting occasions, and at dif-
ferent periods of his life, will exhibit a just-
er idea of the distinguishing character and
habitual tendencies of his mind, than can
be conveyed by any general description.



TVhen en terming on his Pj-esbi/ferial
triah, Fehniarij 1784 — * Thursday the
19th was appointed for my examhia-
tion before the Presbytery. It passed
without censure : so that in due time,
if the Lord spare me, my trials will go
on. In the several steps of this affair
I acknowledge and adore the hand of pro-
vidence. How little would it signify to
me, to have the countenance and appro-
bation of mv fellow-creatures, if I thouHit
I had not the call of God himself to un-
dertake this great work. Men may mis-
take our qualifications. They cannot pe-
netrate into the secret purposes and dis-
positions of the heart, but all things are
naked and open unto the eyes of Him with
whom we have to do. He knows whether
our aim be single or not, whether it is a
sincere desire of being useful, an ardent
love to Christ, and a generous compassion

* for the 50uis of men, that are our chief

* motives ; or whether our minds are influ-


^ enced by the mean desire of worldly enio-
' lumentj ease, or honour.

' Great Searcher of hearts ! hast thou not
' early determined me to choose this em-
' ployment, as that in which, by thy grace,
' I hope with most success to glorify thy
" name, and advance the best interests of

* my fellow-creatures. If ever I have in-

* dulged other views, O discover to me the
' deceit and hypocrisy of my heart, and let

* me bitterly repent my grievous folly.

* Methinks at this moment, if I know my
' own heart, I should willingly prefer the
' honour of being a minister of the gospel
' of Jesus Christ, however despised, to the

* dignity of the greatest potentate on earth.

* Since ever I was capable of any thing, I
' have alv/ays been inclined to devote my
' time and talents to the w ork of the minis-

* try, and have never, from my earhest years,

* seriously thought of any other profession.


' A concurrence of favourable circumstan-
' ces, under the direction of providence,
' gradually succeeding each other, has tend-

* ed to confirm my inclinations ; and, up-
' on the whole, now that the Lord has

* brought me hitherto, and made my way
' plain before me, what can I say, but. Fa-
rther, thy will be done ; glorify thy great
' name in me and by me ; and fully qualify
' me for the work, thou hast appointed for
' me in thy vineyard. Let my own soul be
' jdaily and richly fed with the heavenly
' manna, the bread of life that came down
' froni heaven ; and endow me with the di-

* vine skill of dispensing to every one, like
' a faithful householder, their portion of
' meat in due season !'

When licensed to preach ' Wednesday^

' August 25. 1784. a day which I hope never
' to forget. I have now received a new

* character, and entered on the discharge of
' a new and important office. Unto me,^


* who am less than the least of all saints, is

* this grace given, that I should preach the
' unsearchable riches of Christ. — This is

* now the issue of many fears, and hopes,
^ and prayers. Hitherto the Lord hath

* helped me. I have undertaken a great

* work ; but blessed be God, he sends none
^ a warfare on their own charges, but gives

* strength according to the day.'

In autumn, 1789> he was visited with a
severe and dan2;erous illness. On his reco-
very, he expresses himself in his diary as
follows :

* October 11. 1789- Again permitted, by

* the kind providence of God, to enter the
' pulpit, after being debarred from this pri-

* vilege about four months. I preached on
' this occasion from Job xxxiv. 31, 32. a

* passage, which afforded me some comfort
' in the time of my sickness.— Life in itself,

* with all the cares and troubles that attend it.


' would hardly be desirable for its own sake ;
' but as it is the season of usefulness, as it
' gives an opportunity of advancing the in-
^ terests of the Redeemer's kingdom, it is
' highly valuable, and in this view I desire
' chiefly to value it. — O Lord, watch over
' my soul, that I may watch for the souls of
' my people. Help me to live a life of closer
' fellowship and communion with thee ; and
' then in health, or in sickness, serving thee,
* or suffering from thee, I shall be satisfied,
•• chearful, and happy/

On thexleath of a child ' February 6.

' 1799- An event which for some time we
' have been looking for, but still it is felt as
' a very sharp stroke, and hard to flesh and
' blood. Never was a lovelier child — s}ie
' had arrived at an age peculiarly interest-
' ing, when the first dawnings of reason be-
' gin to appear. But it is the Lord, let him
' do what seemeth him good. ' It is his
' will. Our dear child is now, I trust, with


? Christ in heaven, joined to her kindred
spirits around the throne — Whai a mar-
vellous change! what a glorious transition!
from a sick-bed to a throne of glory ; from
weeping friends to glorified spirits ; from
a world of sin and suffering, to a world of
perfect holiness and endless blessedness !
How inconceivable the expansion of facul-
ties, that must take place in the case of an
infant, on its first entrance into the unseen
world ! It is an almost overwhelming
thought, that our sweet babe already
knows more, than the most perfect saint
on earth. Let my soul bless God, that I
have been honoured as the instrument of
bringing into existence one, who is now
added to the Redeemer's company above.
Soon shall the last trumpet sound, and
the sleeping dust of countless generations
awake to life. I shall then see my dear
child, not the feeble infant which she ap-
peared on earth,- but a glorified saint, con-


' fomied to the image of her blessed Lord.
' O glorious hope !'

Happy communion season ' "Wednes-

' day, November 11. 1801. Last Lord's
' day was our communion here, and much

* cause have I to observe the abundant
' grace and goodness of God. It was as

* sweet and solemn a day as ever I expe-
' rienced in Lady Yester's. The number of
' conmiunicants greater, I believe, than on
' any former occasion, and some of those
' admitted, gave hopeful evidences of a
' change having lately been wrought in
' them. Preached on Exod. xii. 14. This
' day shall he unto you for a memorial

* I find enough to keep me humble, even in
' the most favoured seasons. May the Lord
' keep his good hand about all who have

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Online LibraryDavid BlackSermons on important subjects → online text (page 1 of 23)