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FOR FEBRUARY, 1801.
SOME ACCOUNT OF THE REV. ALEX. SHANKS,
Late Minister to the Associate Congregation in Jedburgh; From the Conclusion of a Sermon, on Pf. xxxi. 5, deli
vered by the Rev. Mr. Hill, to his Congregation at Kelfo. A"
FTER what has been said in illustration of this im
portant truth, “ that the last work of the Chriftian is the fiducial resignation of his foul into the hands of his heavenly Father," your minds must naturally have turned towards that interesting event, which has given occafion to the train of these our present meditations. Upon such an occasion, I know this congregation will indulge me in paying the last tribute of respect to the memory of that great and good man, in whose removal, by death, the Church has been deprived of one of her brightest ornaments. Praises, I know, avail not the dead; but when bestowed with judgment on the memory of those who deserve them, may be of service to the living. I confefs I am not fond of obtruding upon the public attention every friend whom I love and honour; but when I reflect upon that uncommon assemblage of qualities which formed the character of that great and good man, I feel that his duft ought not to be deposited as common duft, nor his monument inscribed with common characters. It is surely no unreasonable demand we make in behalf of his memory, when we say, “Give him of the fruit of his hands, and let his own works praise him in the gates.” In attempting to do justice to the memory of our worthy father, I feel myself embarrassed, from an apprehension that those who did not know him may think I have said too much, and that those who did know him, may think I have said too little.
With regard to his parentage, I know but little. All that I have heard is, that his father was a peasant; a man of Vol. IX.
great primitive fimplicity of character, and who possessed an uncommon share of the public esteem. For piety and usefulness in the humble 1phere in which he moved, his eminence in the district where he lived, was felt and acknowledged by all. With regard to our worthy father himself, so soon as his mind received a determination in favour of the ministry, he gave himielf wholly to studv. So intente was his application in preparing himself for the service of the church, that it proved the occafion, as I am well informed, of bringing upon him that paralytic ciforder under which he laboured during the subsequent period of his life.* Upon his obtaining license, his gifts as a preacher were highly acceptable to the church; and immediately le received a call to the associate congregation in jedburgh, where he was ordained, and exercised his miniftry for thirty-nine years.
A grave and dignified composure characterized his countenance. His deportment was modest and unaliuming, yet there was that in it which always commanded respect. His passions, originally strong, were brought under remarkable government. In council, he was wite ; in reproof, gentle ; in friendthip, sincere: in every thing virtuous, exemplary and praise-worthy. His manner of life was plain, altogether removed from every thing that looked like oftentation. Simple in his manners, simple in his taste of living, he moved through life little folicitous about the advantages of worldly fortune. When Mr. Dundas, Secretary of State, wrote him in his Majefly's name, a letter of thanks for the sermon he had publiihed upon Peace and Order, and signified his intention of procuring for him fome confiderable emolument, he thanked him for his offer, and humbly declined accepting it. A little before bis death, he sent a donation to the London Missionary Socieiy. + In his charity to the poor on all occasions he was liberal: and when it is considered, that he possessed but a slender in
For about fifteen years before the close of his ministry, this difi rder made the performance of his duty very difficult to him. Yet he contin pued caretully to commit his discourses to writing, wliile he was o' liged with the one hand to hold firm the other, to prevent it from Making ;and frequently while thus employed, to lie at tull length on his study Hoor.
† When he gave the money, five pounds, to Mr. Young, his ficceflor, he said, “ it is the last they will receive from me, and, although I cannyć go all their length, yet I see it my duty to countenance the scheme, perceiv. ing that were I io itay till all were of my way of thinking, nothing would be done at all."
come, there is nothing wonderful in his having died with. out wealth, yet without debt. : The character of his mind was strong and masculine. His unde rstanding was found and just; his memory retentive, his imagination bold. His thoughts were sublime, his language correct, forcible, and expressive. The natural endowments with which he was favoured, le mightily improved by a close application to study. It has been observed, as something peculiar to himself, that he did not confider study as his labour, but as his recreation. Even when advanced in life, he was as assiduous in adding to the treasures of ufeful knowledge, with which his mind was enriched, as if he had been but beginning to prepare himself for the ministry.* Prudence formed a distinguishing feature in his character. So much was the whole of his public and private life characterized by prudence, that very few have passed through a world, unhappily too much inclined to be malevolent and cenforious, with their character so entire, as we all know it was his happiness to have done.
In his religious principles, he was firm, but not bigotted; conscientious, but not presuming to any domination over the consciences of others. He was a lover of all good inen. His clear and extensive knowledge of religion enabled him to discern where the main stress should be laid, and his zeal was proportioned accordingly. He did not consider the visible kingdom of Christ as confined to this or that particular denonination"; nor suppose that the cause of Christ and truth was to be found only in the hands of that church, with which he was more particularly connected. Hence he gloried more in being a Christian than in being a Presbyterian and Seceder, though he was both from principle. He loved the peace and the truth. He never
His conviation of the value of time led hini to abridge the hours of conversation, even with his most intimate friends. During the three latt years of his life, after, on account of his bodily, infirmities, he had resigned his charge, and seldom preached, he continued to compose fermons, bę. cause it afforded an agreeable exercise to his mind. There are as many of his sermons written out for the press, as will make three volumes. The first volume may be expected in a Mort time ; besides a small volume of pine sermons, on Acts xv. 11. and Titus ii. 11, 12. entitled, “ Salvation through the grace of our Saviour displayed—the Doctrine of grace illuftrated-and righteousness in all manner of conversation recommended,” pub. Jithed at Edinburgh in 1788. He after wards published, on occasion of the poitical ferment among the lower ranks of people in the country, two leimons, the one on “ Peace and Order in the Society," from Jer. xxxiii. 7, che other, on “ Cursing the King and the Rich," from Eccl. x. 20.
put his finger into the fire of contention. Animosity and difcord he considered as the bane of the Church. And, under a conviction of this, he uniformly " followed the things which made for peace, and things whereby one might edify another.”—His piety was genuine and exems plary. He reflected a luftre on the Chrittian character. He was much given to prayer. He lived much above the fenfible world, and in folitude and filence converled much with God. His life thone bright with the fplendour of holiness. He lived like a itranger on the earth, and a citizen of heaven. The people that were of his charge are witneffes, and you, my friends, are witnesses, and all the countrv are witnesses, and God also is witness, how holily, and juftly, and unblameably, he behaved himself in the world.
As a Minister, his eminence in the pulpit was conspicu. ous to all. The great and substantial doctrines of the Gospel; the unspeakable intereft men have in believing thele doctrines; their bleffed influence upon the holiness and confolation of believers in this world, and in preparing them for everlasting felicity in the world to come. These were the themes of his public ministry, and upon these he dwelt with unwearied delight. A peculiar dignity in sentiment and language, a venerable presence, a commanding voice, together with a grave, firm, and impreffive delivery, charaéterized bini as a preacher. Like Apollos, he was eloquent and mighty in the Scriptures; and his superior knowledge in thote sacred books enabled him to exhibit divine truths with such light, and evidence, and energy, as at once delighted, aftonished, and inftructed his hearers. His language, his voice, his manner of address, were altogether peculiar to himself, and accorded with the majetty and grandeur of the truths he delivered. Even the most common and obvious truths, delivered by him, foufed the attention, and produced an effect which they ceased to do when coming from the mouth of another perfon. His difcourfes afforded fubftantial food to the foul with delight; fo plain, that persons of the lowest capacity eafily underftood, and withal fo excellent, that the moft faftidious mind could not but relish. He dipt his words in his foul, and breathed an holy fire into the breasts of his hearers. His discourses had in them a great deal of what has been termed Unction, which rendered them pcculiarly grateful and favoury to the taste of the renewed foul.- Were 1, in a single sentence, to point out his charac