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The Life and Diary of Lieut. Col. J. Blackader
Chapter XVIII


DOMESTIC SKETCHES, 1712—1714.

Colonel Blackader leaves London—Resides in Edinburgh—Is made a Member of the Society for Propagating Christianity—And a Member of the General Assembly—Settles at Stirling—Death of Queen Anne—Accession of George I.

Having disposed of his Commission, and obtained his final liberation from the army, Colonel Blackader left London. His stay there was not signalized by any thing particularly worthy of notice. “No place,” says he, “I ever was in gives me a greater idea of the vanity of the world, than this city. Most people walk in a vain show.” He several times visited the Duke of Marlborough then in London, but under disgrace, arid shorn of his military honours, “a sad emblem,” he remarks, “of the capricious inconstancy of all human things.”

Now that the means of grace and of hearing the gospel were more within his reach, he gladly availed himself of these opportunities. Scarcely a day passed in which he did not attend public worship, either at the morning lectures, or some of the religious Institutions in the city. This he never considered as any hindrance or interruption to his secular concerns.

April 5. I see that the service of God does not hinder business, but promotes it; for yesterday being employed in his service, and having several affairs yet to be despatched, I was afraid I should have too little time. But Providence brought my business to my hand, and also made it smooth and easy; so that it was well done, and soon over, and cost me neither trouble nor care. I see this in all the steps of my life, that though there is much weakness in my own management, he makes all I do to prosper, better than those who have much more wisdom and prudence. On Sabbath I heard the Bishop of Salisbury (Burnet) preach a very good sermon. I was edified by it; but I complain that impressions speedily wear out, and my affections soon grow cold.

It was on the 7th of April that he and his Lady left London, but from the slow mode of travelling then in practice, it was more than two weeks before they reached Edinburgh. On the evening of the 21st, they came to Dunbar. While here, his thoughts immediately turned to an interesting object, fitted to call up, in his mind, images at once pleasing and melancholy. The solitary rock where his venerable father had languished in captivity, and which, it appears, he had then visited occasionally on the mournful errands of filial duty and affection, stands within a few miles of that shore. . This naturally attracted his attention, and seems to have been the subject of his pensive meditations, .leading him to contrast his former humble and desolate prospects in life, with his present honourable and comparative affluence. “In the evening,” says, he, “I stepped out, and walked towards the seaside, in sight of the Bass Island, which occasioned serious thoughts^ and a thankful frame of mind, to think of the long train of mercy and goodness that has followed me these many years since I was there; when there was far from any appearance or expectation of such things as Providence has now done for me.” .

Next day they arrived in Edinburgh; and on the 24th, came to Craigforth, the seat of his wife’s father, near Stirling. There he continued until the middle of August, when he fixed his residence for some time in Edinburgh. The rural quiet ;and retirement which he enjoyed at Craigforth, were much more congenial to his temper and habits, than the tumult and distraction of the army. His leisure hours were spent occasionally in the recreation of angling or field-sports, which he considered a more rational and harm? less pastime, than the frivolous amusements,. or the fashionable dissipations of cities. “I pass my time,” says he, “quietly after the country manner. I find more peace and serenity of mind here, than in towns. There is something more sweet and innocent in rural life.”

His company and conversation, as was to be expected} furnished many attractions for visitors, both friends and strangers; hut he always grudged being compelled to sacrifice to the curiosity of his guests, more time than could he either instructive or edifying. Conversation, when it ceased to accomplish this object, he regarded as degenerating into idle entertainment, which ought to he cheqked, rather than encouraged. "There is much of my time,” says he, “wasted in making formal visits of ceremony. A country life, I see, is subject to tliis inconvenience. I was in company all day, (June) by strangers coming to the bouse. This is a kind of ‘ life I do not like—to have all my time stolen from me, and trifled away. I could not well live without some intervals of retirement. To be continually in bustle, and in public, is contrary to a Christian life. It keeps me from private duty, from thinking and meditation.” Notwithstanding his assiduous attendance on the public ordinances of religion, and his peculiar "warmth of devotion, he expresses himself no friend to that Pharisaic ostentation, which leads men/to aftach an undue value to external forms, while they are 'negligent to cultivate the no less essential duties of personal or domestic piety. The protracted services of the church, which it was then customary with some to extend to three or four hours without intermission,: he objected to, as tending to fatigue the attention, and exhaust the mind, rather than to edify or improve it.* Among other remarks on this subject, he observes,

The Communion -Service especially was then protracted to a very tedious and unnecessary extent. On the Preparation Sabbath they had in towns three long sermons, besides, in some places, two exhortations, or addresses to intending communicants. On the Fast-day, Thursday, there were three services by two or three several ministers; on Friday evening a sermon; on Saturday two, or perhaps three. On Sabbath, there was the action sermon, as it is called ; the table services which were seldom short, sermons in the- tent, and an evening sermon in the church. The whole ceremony concluded on Monday, with two s&mohs, by two ’different ministers. These lengthened services which had there origin in times of persecution, when people could meet for worship only by stealth, and at the hazard of their lives, the church has now judiciously abridged; and it is a question with some, whether they might not be still farther reduced?

While attending the preparation sermons before the sacrament at Stirling, “I complain that I was preached more dead and flat, by being too much in public. I am sorry I cannot hold out better, but I am not capable of such intenseness of attention. My spirits become fatigued by-long sermons. I think this is the fault of the custom here. There is too much time employed in public and too little left for private devotions. And also, upon such occasions, there is too much pains taken to work up the affections and frame to a height, without taking equal care of a suitable growth and improvement in the judgment and conversation. This makes fanciful, rather than- solid Christians. We are generally more earnest to have the consolations and smiles of Christ, than careful to take on the whole yoke of Christ, or to walk in a course of obedience, mortifying and subduing our own wills and tempers.”

It was a ^favourite text with him, that expression of the Psalmist in his dedicatory prayer. For we are Strangers before thee, and sojourners as were all our fathers; our days !on the earth are as a shadow, and there is nothing abiding. “I heard,” says he, “a good sermon on a subject that I love well to hear preached upon. O learn me to live as I have heard, a stranger and pilgrim Hin the world. I thought my affections more warmed and raised by this 'sermon, than they were at the Lord’s table. The Spirit is free, and bloweth where it listeth. I desire not, as many do, to measure my Christian growth by the workings of my affections, but by solid resolutions of the will, guided by a sound judgment and understanding, and that guided by the word of God.

June. 29. I went early to Airth on Sabbath, but did not communicate: and in the evening the ministers served a conviction upon me that I ought to have done it. I hope, however, I did it in effect, that is, I took hold of Christ in my heart, and fed upon him by faith. I desire to employ him for mortifying sin, and for sanctifying my soul.

August 6. I was abroad all day, attending a burial in the country. Most of the conversation and company there, was not desirable. It is wonderful to see what a perverse, malignant spirit is gone out among the gentry, especially against all that is good. O the madness of the people, that would sacrifice religion and liberty, and all that is valuable, to satisfy their humour; but Quos Deus vult perdere prius dementat. ...

Parties at this time in Scotland, both political and religious ran extremely high, This was a subject of frequent regret and animadversion with Colonel Blacksader. Although a man of .no faction, and expecting neither post nor pension from government, yet he could not but lament the violence of party, and feel interested in the welfare of his country. The divisive spirit which rent both the church and the state, was his greatest uneasiness, and he will be found perpetually alluding to it in course of the Diary.

On the 14th of August lie left Craigforth, and came to Edinburgh. His first reflections, on this occasion,' were those of gratitude.and thankfulness. “I bless God for his goodness, (which has been very great,) in bringing us back here to a quiet, peaceable habitation among our friends, after so many year’s wanderings through dangers and difficulties. Now that we are to live here, let thy, presence be with us, that our house may be a Bethel, and our hearts a temple where thou mayest delight to dwell.” Here, though he regularly attended the Established Church, not only 011 Sabbath, but at the weekly sermons, lie united himself to a private society or association for prayer and religious fellowship.. At the same time he extended the greatest liberality of sentiment towards others. To those who differed from him in opinion, he never shewed that asperity or intolerance of spirit, which unfortunately too much distinguishes the boasted liberality of more enlightened times. On the contrary, his reprobates these animosities as the hateful offspring of bigotry and virulence.

September 10. I was most of this day in company, where too much heat was shewn in debate. Heat always produces heat, and passion draws out passion. Indeed, I suspect, that much of what some people call zeal, proceeds from heat and violence of temper which, I think, is natural to the Scots people above others; and I am afraid we are often led by our own humours, instead of the Spirit of God. It is the meek thou guidest in judgment. The meek thou clearly teachest thy way. Lord, make me so. Keep me from extremes, both on the right hand, and on the left. Let me not act or suffer for any thing but what is clear duty, wherein I may have thy approbation, and the peace and testimony of a good conscience. I dare not give myself up to be directed by any man, or set of men. Be thou thyself my guide.

(1713,) February 3. Hearing the morning sermon ; and was afterwards surprised to hear of the sudden illness of a friend who seems to be dying. Lord, fit and prepare her for the change. Let her soul be bound up in the bundle of life. I find that the sight of a dying person makes a deeper impression upon me now in cold blood, than ten thousand did in Flanders at battles. At night my niece died. Lord, sanctify the providence to those most concerned, and to us all. I perceive, that in a dying hour, an interest in Christ, and the, sense of it,, is worth ten thousand worlds; for all earthly comforts are then tasteless and useless.

In the end of March the Colonel and his Lady left Edinburgh, and spent the summer in visiting their friends in Stirlingshire. While at Doun, he observes, “ here I was stirred up to a thankful frame of mind at the remembrance of all the mercies and deliverances that has attended me since I was last in this place, about twenty-three years ago?

The company of . his friends and. the relaxation of country diversions made his time pass very agreeably, and he sometimes exclaims with the ancient poet, but in a nobler sense, Deus nobis hcec otia fecit. They left Craigforth in August and returned to Edinburgh.

September 10. I hear that our regiment is gone for Ireland. They cannot serve there unless they take the sacramental test. I admire and adore the, goodness of God to me, who brought me out of the army,

just at the proper time; who allowed me to stay in it while service was to he done against his enemies, and honour to he got; and gave me a bountiful share of it, and of profit also. And I could never have managed my demission right, nor got the difficulties removed that are frequently in the way of such bargains, had not Providence made me almost passive in it, and sent a man. who was fond of my post, and acceptable to those concerned, which made it easy, and let me off with honour and profit in abundance. May God give me grace to devote the rest of my life to him and his service.

November 5. This day heard sermon, and was made a member of the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge.

In January 1714 the Colonel was made an Elder of the College Church, Edinburgh.  'Lord, give me grace to do the duties of this post aright, so as I may have divine approbation, and the peace and testimony of a good conscience.’.’ In his official visitations of the parish he was very assiduous; and the duties of this avocation, together with those of the fellowship meeting for prayer, and the Society for Propagating Christianity, kept him tolerably well employed. He was on the Committee of this Society, which consisted of fifteen members, "chosen annually. Their office required both labour and attention. They transacted the whole business of the society, superintended their accounts, executed their orders, and managed their correspondence. Their meetings were held weekly, sometimes twice a-day, and never less than once a-month. To these various duties he applied himself with diligence and cheerfulness, for he grudged neither time nor pains when they could be beneficial to the interests of religion or morality.

As a member of the Kirk-Session, he was sometimes brought into contact with the Presbytery. The ordinary discussions of that court, he thought, were conducted in general with too much acrimony and ill nature. "Attending the Presbytery, and seeing there what is not very pleasant. Churchmen have their pride, their passions, and stiffness, like, others. I believe there is much humour and wild-fire mixed up with the zeal of many good people, which they themselves mistake for true zeal. There is much of that in Scotland. Our national temper, the prafervidum ingenium imposes upon us for zeal. But it is not all gold that glitters. The tongue is ah unruly evil. Lord* rebuke and beal our divisions. Give us the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit—the wisdom that comes from above, which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, &c. I do not like pride and ill humour in those who should have least of it.”

His conduct upon another occasion, shews his conscientious independence in deciding according to the dictates of his own judgment, unbiassed by the influence of any particular party.

February 10. Waiting upon the Presbytery all day. I gave my opinion and vote not with the side that I gave it upon the other two days. It was according to my conscience, and I think it is a weakness to have the conscience tied to any party, but free and disengaged to receive the truth. I hope I was well directed; at least I was disinterested, and without bias in the matter; and I am sorry to see so much of it in those who should he the most free. I am always uneasy with brisk, forward, hot tempers. I like calmness, sobriety, and solidity, in debate; but mettle, resolution, and fire, when it comes to action.

February 28. Hearing our quarterly sermon against immorality. In the forenoon dining with a large company. I like not the brisk sparkling conversation of the wits so well as the wise and prudent, whereby we are edified and made better. At night had a meeting with our correspondents. Lord, direct and bless, else all our endeavours are vain and fruitless. This town is full of stories and rumours; there is a busy lying people spreading scandal on all sides, to rankle and irritate men’s spirits. I know, I among others am the butt of this malice and rage,—but who shall harm us if we be followers of that which is good ? Lord, counsel and guide us to just and proper measures for the security of our holy religion, our liberties, and properties, all of which seem to be in great danger.

March 11. At the Presbytery, and giving my opinion according to my judgment. I am chosen member for the General Assembly. Lord, give me grace to discharge my duty faithfully. I either mistake religion myself, or I think many in this country do. I think the best evidence of our sincerity, and of our being partakers of grace, lies in subduing our tempers, and those sins which most easily beset us. But I see many place their religion in strict opinions, in a fiery hot temper, and a forward practice conform thereto. This really scandalizes me to see so much profession of strict religion, and other things not conformable.

April 27. Attending my duty in the Synod. I sought counsel and direction of God how to carry, that I may have no wrong bias upon my mind, no prejudices, but to have the glory of God and the good of his church always before me. I wish to have a just mixture of zeal and prudence, that I may be kept from extremes on the right or left hand.

May 6. Heard an excellent sermon at the opening of the Assembly. Lord, direct and guide this Assembly by thy Spirit. Give them a spirit of unity and love, a spirit of zeal and wisdom to manage all we do for thy glory and the advancement of Christ’s kingdom. Direct me in my affair. Put words into my mouth; for I may say, I am but of slow speech and a stammering tongue. I have not the gift of delivering my mind with eloquence.

May 7. Walked with the Commissioner, (the Duke of Athol.) Upon the Committee of the Assembly. Obliged to go out and sup, where we were kept intolerably late. Vexed at it, and out of order.

May 10. Still on Committees : in the afternoon dined with the Commissioner.

May 12. This day the affair I was concerned in came before the Assembly. I was sensible how weakly it was managed on my part. I was unwilling to take the commission, but I could not get by it.

May 17. This forenoon the Assembly rose, and a pleasant sight it was. Such unity and harmony ! I hope the Lord’s presence has been with us. I was much affected while singing the 133d Psalm.

May 19. Waiting upon the Assembly’s Commission, and representing the case of our old regiment as to conformity to the English Service.4 I am apt to get too hot in debate: and I am sorry that too many in Scotland are so. I think religion runs greatly in the wrong channel, and may be called Pres-byterianism rather than Christianity,—strict opinions in the head about public things, and oftentimes about doubtful points, where good men are on both sides; while the influences of it do not go through the conduct of their lives, in universal obedience and charity.

On the 2d of June he quitted Edinburgh and fixed his residence in Stirling. At this time the country was in considerable fermentation, from the intrigues of the Pretender’s friends and some unpopular acts of the administration. The death of the Queen seemed also to throw an additional gloom over these apprehensions.

August 8. This day we got the surprising news of the Queen’s being extremely ill, which put a damp upon my spirits and stunned me at first. Then being alone, and committing all to God by prayer, my heart was somewhat quieted and established. Lord, disappoint the designs of malignant restless enemies, and get glory by all events. Met in the afternoon with the magistrates and friends here, to concert measures for our security. Let our eyes be towards thee, and give us help from trouble, for vain is the help of man. We heard next day that the Queen is better. I rejoice in it, and wish her recovery if it be God’s will. We have had peace and truth in her time, and also liberty under the wings of her government, to lead quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty. If we have had hardships put upon us of late years, they must be attributed to the violence and rage of parties, and not to her temper. She has been virtuous, s6ber, clement, and devout in her own way. All this we ought to acknowledge with thankfulness to God, and also to her as the means.

August 5. We do not hear yet of the Queen’s death, although her life be despaired of. Lord, prepare her for, and receive her to, an immortal crown of glory. I am glad that all is going on quietly and peaceably, all seeming to go in heartily with the Protestant succession.

August 6. This day I came up in haste from Craigforth to Stirling, hearing the Queen is dead. She died the first of this month. I assisted with the magistrates in proclaiming the new King George. Lord, send him over to us filled with the graces and gifts that may make him a great and lasting blessing to these nations. We hear comfortable accounts from all places of peace and quietness; and that there appears not a dog to move his tongue against the Protestant succession. This is the Lord’s doings, and wonderful in our eyes, as what we did not expect. May the goodness of God lead us to repentance, else he can soon turn our hopeful beginnings into a sad end. He has many arrows in his quiver.

The intestine jealousies and divisions to which the writer of the Diary slightly alludes, had risen at this time to an almost unprecedented height. A very general discontent had been engendered in Scotland, by some late unpopular acts of the legislature; and as both parties were equally ready to put the worst construction on the sentiments and actions of each other, every measure was interpreted and regarded as bearing directly upon the grand subject of alarm, the Presbyterian religion, and the succession of the House of Hanover. The minds of the people were exasperated at the toleration granted to Episcopacy, and the permission to use the English Liturgy. This, with the restoration of patronage, against which the country had always entertained an inveterate prejudice, were looked upon as a pre-concerted scheme to overturn the whole establishment. Patrons, many of whom were disaffected, were invested with their ancient rights, on purpose, as was supposed, to fill up vacancies in the church with such presentees as were favourable to the interests of the Pretender.

Another, and a more solid ground of discontent was, the act obliging the Established Clergy to take the oath of Abjuration, which, in some parts of it, breathed a spirit directly at variance with Presbytarian principles. The church was thus divided into two factions, Jurors and Non-jurors, and the nation kept in a state of tumult and fluctuation. Attempts certainly were made to alter the succession into its hereditary channel, and promotion ran strongly in the interest of the exiled family. There were publications in which the rights of the Pretender were asserted, and openly defended: but the danger was magnified, and the alarm was industriously propagated to serve political purposes. 5 These projects were happily disconcerted by the wranglings of party in the cabinet, and the unexpected death of the Queen; and the accession of the House of Brunswick met with no formal opposition.

August 12. Went to Edinburgh on business, and sat in the Commission. When wise and good men have the management, things go well. Little else was done than drawing up ran address to the. King. This is a hot place on one side, and other. I. was in a company where there were some of contrary principles, high-fliers on both sides, and Hke to fire the house. I like not this high-flying on any side ; and I dare say we mistake our temper often for zeal. I thought myself obliged to vindicate truth and matter of fact, and to own my own principles. It was ill taken; and the gentleman in whose house we were, turned peevish with what I and a minister said, and ran away from his own table. I took no notice of this; However, he came to himself, and sent for me, and we parted good friends. Where people differ from me, I would gladly carry towards them with that good nature, courtesy, and civility, as to engage them. I would comply in things indifferent; for I do not think religion obliges to a morose, captious behaviour, an opposing and contradicting every thing that those of a contrary persuasion say or do. There is great prudence to know the proper time when a testimony ought to be given. I desire at all times boldly to avow my own principles, and never to be ashamed of them; but I do not think this obliges me to be always attacking and disputing with others. It does much hurt, for it irritates instead of edifying.

August 18. I heard sermon at Logie, being the preparation before the sacrament. I find on these occasions, too many follow divisive courses; and I do not like such separative, ways, as makes this holy ordinance a communion of parties, which should be a communion of saints. My affections were not highly raised, yet I hope faith was in lively exercise. Lord, I desire, on this occasion particularly, to be thankful for the great things thou hast done for us, in disappoint?-, ing the big hopes of. enemies, and the fears of thy people; surprising us with mercy, breaking the snares that were laid to bring us into slavery and ruin, and bringing a Protestant Prince to the peaceable possession of our throne. Lord, make us a. holy, humble, thankful people, and this will complete our deliverance.

September 23. This afternoon we got the good news of the King’s safe arrival. O Lord make, us thankful; thou dealest mercifully with us. Lord, make him a lasting and great blessing to these nations, and to thy church, to break the balance of Antieliristian power in Europe. Assisting at night at the solemnity with the magistrates and officers of the regiment here. We were very cheerful, and good reason have we. We may see the moderation and lenity of a just and good government. Those who have been the greatest enemies to it are protected, and may appear in as great security as its best friends. But if a Pretender had come in, I doubt not hut the country had become a field of blood; persecutors again triumphing, and glutting themselves with the blood of their countrymen ; malice and vice again high in place, and good men hiding themselves. But the Lord be praised the snare is broken, and our soul has escaped as a bird out of the snare.

September 27. The gentlemen here met to address the King; disputes among them. Lord, direct me and my friends here, to carry and countenance the right side, who stand for liberty and religion against those who value neither.

October 20. Hearing a good sermon on this occasion (the coronation.) Thankful frame for the great things God has done for us: That he has broken the yoke of tyranny, popery, and slavery that was preparing for us by wretched men that have no regard to the security of our religion or liberty. Blessed he God who has turned their counsels into foolishness, and made their designs of no effect. Going in the afternoon to assist at the solemnity. This is a day of much joy and mirth through Britain, and it is to be feared of much sin also. Drunkenness is an ordinary sin on such occasions. I bless God who keeps me free from these temptations. .

December 25. Christmas-day. I see much of a party spirit here in Scotland; a great heat in the head about strictness of principles, wherein the practice of true godliness is not much concerned. I do not see that strictness in the practice of those who are hottest in their heads about circumstantials. I would desire to be strict to myself in my own walk, hut easy and charitable to others that differ in opinions from me. All the Protestant churches preach on Christmas-day, on the birth of Christ. We differ from them, but we should be moderate, and not run them down, as it were a sinful wicked custom. I wish professors in Scotland were warmer hearted and cooler headed in religion; but this is another instance of the prcefervidum Scotorum ingenium. We often take that for zeal, which is nothing but natural temper.

December 29. Going this day to a country wedding. Every public meeting now becomes an occasion of snares and temptations, people are so divided in their opinions. I was cheerful, and perhaps gave too great a swing to raillery, but I hope not light or vain in conversation. I desire always to have my speech seasoned with salt, and ministering profit to the hearers. Sitting up late, and merry enough, though I hope innocent; but I will not justify myself.

December 31. I bless the Lord who adds to my days and years, and that I enjoy them in peace, contrary to my expectations. Lord, give me grace, so to number my days, as to apply my heart to heavenly wisdom.


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