« ÖncekiDevam »
M E MO I R S
LIFE, TIME, and WRITINGS,
Mr THOMAS BOSTON.
HAT my life may be more fully known unto my posterity, for their humiliation on the one hand, and thankfulness on the other, upon my
account; for their caution also in some things, and their imitation in others; and that they may fet their hope in God, and not in the empty creation,-I have thought it meet to give the following general account of the days of my vanity, in the several periods thereof.
From my birth, till I left the grammar-school.
I Was born of honeft parents, of good reputation among
, and baptized on the 21st, of March, in the year 1676; being the youngest of seven children, four brothers and three fifters, procreated betwixt John Boston, and Alison Trotter, a woman prudent and virtuous. I was born at a time when my mother was thought to have left bearing; for which cause a certain woman used ordinarily to call me God's send. The youngest of my sisters I saw not: but the rest lived, and had all of them several children; many of whom have now children of their own. Meanwhile
my brothers and sisters are all of them gone, several years ago, into the other world, which I have now in view.
Andrew Boston, my grandfather, came from Ayr to Dunfe, and possessed the tenement given afterward by my father to my eldest brother, and belonging to his heirs to this day. But before him had come William, his brother, as I suppose ; whose name the tenement next on the west fide, to that which my father gave me, bears. When I was a boy, I saw a grand-daughter of his from England, by his son Mr William, a churchman there
; a very
devout woman in her way, and married to one Mr Peter Carwain, another churchman; but I suppose childless.
My father was a knowing man, having in his youth, I think, got good of the gospel. Being a nonconformist during the time of Prelacy, he suffered upon that head, to imprisonment, and spoiling of his goods. When I was a little boy, I lay in the prison of Dunse with him, to keep him company : the which I have often looked on as an earneft of what might be abiding me; but hitherto I have not had that, trial. My mother once paying, to one A. lexander Martin fherift-depute, the sum of L. 50 as the fine of her imprisoned husband, for his nonconformity, defired of him an abatement; whereupon he, taking up a pint-stoup standing on the table, therewith broke in pieces a part of a tobacco-pipe lying thereon; bidding the devil beat him as small as that pipe-stopple, if there should be ought abated of the fum. And once walking through the street, while
father was with the masons that were building his house, he looked up, and said to him, that lic would make him fell that house yet. Nevertheless he and his posterity were not long after rooted out of the place; and that house was not fold, until I, not for need of money, but for my own conveniency otherwise, fold it fome years ago. May all my offspring be faved from ever cmbarking with that party; of whom I say from the heart, “ O my loul, come not thou into their secret; mine how “ nour, be not thou united with them.”
The schoolmistress having her chamber in my father's house, I was early put to school ; and having a capacity for learning, and being of a towardly difpofition, was kindly treated by her; often expresiing her hope of seeing me in the pulpit. Nevertheless, for a considerable time, I wępt incessantly from the time they began to put on my cloaths till I was up stairs in the school. Thus my natural temper of spirit appeared, being timorous and hard to enter on, but eager in the pursuit when once entered.
By the time I was seven years old, I read the Bible, and had delight in reading it ; would have read with my fchoolmiftrefs in the winter-nights, when the rest of the children were not present; yea, and got the Bible some. times to the bed with me, and read there. Meanwhile I know nothing induced me to it, but the natural vanity of my mind, and curiosity, as about some fcripture-histories. However, I am thankful, that it was at all made my choice carly; and that it hath been the study of my ripest years, with which I would fain close my life, if it were his will.
Sometime in the year 1684, or at farthest 1685, I was put to the grammer-school, under Mr James Bullerwall schoolmaster in the town, and continued at it till the harveft 1689, fave that one summer I was kept at home, while the rest of my class were going on in the grammar.
When I was very young, going to a neighbour's house, with a halfpenny, or some such reward of divination, in my hand, to a fortune-teller; after entering the outer door, I was suddenly struck in my mind, stood musing a little between the doors, durft not go forward, but came ftealing away again. Thus the unfeen Counsellor preserved me from that snare.
I remember some things which I was, by hearing or seeing, in persons come to years, witness to, in these days, leaving an impression on me their disadvantage. Wherefore care should be takennothing shouid be done or said, finful or indecent before children ; for their memory may, retain the famej till they are capable to forin a right judgement of it, to the faining of the character of the party with them afterward.
By means of my education, and natural disposition, I was of a foběr and harmless deportment, and preserved from the common vices of children in towns. I was at no time what they call a vitious or a roguish boy; neither was I fo addicted to play as to forget my business ; though I was a dexterous player at such games as required art and nimblenefs: and towards the latter end of this period, having had frequent occasion to see soldiers exercised, I had a peculiar faculty at mustering and exercifing my schoolfellows accordingly, by the several words and motions of the exercise of the musket; they being formed into a body, under a captain. The which exercise I have managed, to as much weariness and pain of my breast, as sometimes I have preached,
During the first years of my being at the grammarschool, I kept the kirk punctually, where I heard those of the Episcopal way; that being then the national establishment: but I knew nothing of the matter, fave to give suit and presence within the walls of the house ; living without God in the world, unconcerned about the state of my foul, till the year 1687. Toward the latter end of summer that year, the liberty of conscience being then newly given by King James, my father took me away with him to a Prefbyterian meeting, in the Newton of Whitsome. There I heard the worthy Mr Henry Erskine *, minister of Cornhill before the restoration, mentioned in Calamy's Account of the ejected ministers, vol. 2. p. 518. and in the Continuation of that Account, vol. 2. p. 678. et feqq.; by whose means it pleased the Lord to awaken me, and bring me under exercise about my soul's state; being then going in the twelfth year of my age.
After that, I went back to the kirk no more, till the Episcopalians were turned out : and it was the common observation in these days, That whenever one turned serious about his soul's Itate and cafe, he left them. The which experience in my own case, founded my aversion to that way, which hath continued with me all along to this day.
But how blameless and limless foever my life was before the world during my thood, and while I was a boy, whether before or after I was enlightened, the corruption of my nature began very early to thew and spread forth itself in me, as the genuine offspring' of fallen A. dam. And this, not only in the vanity and ungodliness of the general course of my life before I was enlightened, living without God; but in particular branches thereof, which I remember to this day with shame and confusion before the Lord. And indeed in this period were some such things as I have ever fince looked upon as special blots in my escutcheon; the which, with others of a later date, I have been wont, in my secret fasts all along, still
• This Mr Henry Erskine was father to the late. Mefl. Ebenezer and Ralph Erskines, whole praile is in all the churches.
to set before mine own eyes, for my humiliation, and lay before the Lord, that he may not remember them against ine; though I hope they are pardoned, being washed away by the blood of Christ my Saviour. I remember my gross and unbecoming thoughts of the glorious, incomprehensible God; keen hatred of my neighbour, upon disobligations received ; and divers loathsome sproutings of the fin which all along hath “ moft easily beset me,” as the particular bias of my corrupt nature. Two fnares I fell into in that period, which have been in a special manner heavy to me, and have occasioned me many bitter reflections; and, I think, they have been after the Lord had begun to deal with my soul, and enlightened me. The one I was caught in, being enticed by another boy io go to Dunse-law with him on a Lord's day, and, when on the head of the hill, to play pins with him. The o. ther I narrowly escaped, being put into the snare by the indiscretion of one who then had the management of me: all circumstances favouring the temptation, God alone, by his Spirit, working on my conscience, delivered me as a bird out of the snare of the fowler. The particular place I well remember, whither after the escape I went, and wept bitterly, under the defilement I had contracted, in tampering with that temptation. Such is the danger of ill company for young-ones, and of indiscreet management of them. However, that they were the genuine fruits of my corrupt nature I do evidently see ; in that, however bitter both of these had been to me, I did fome years after run, of my own accord, into two fnares much of the fame kinds, narrowly alto escaping one of them, but so as it occafioned to me great bitterness.
Two of Mr Erskine's first texts were, Johni. 29. “ hold the Lamb of God,” &c.; and Matth. iii. 7. “O " generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee,” &c. I distinctly remember, that from this last he oft-times forewarned of judgements to come on these nations, which I still apprehend will come. By thefe, I judge, God fpake to me; however, I know I was touched quickly after the first hearing, wherein I was like one amazed with some new and strange thing.
My lost state by nature, and my absolute need of Chrift, being thus discovered to me, I was set to pray in earnest ; but remember nothing of that kind I did before, save what was done at meals, and in my bed. I also careB