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OF

THE LATE REV. JAMES SOMERVILLE,

OF BRANTON, IN THE COUNTY OF NORTHUMBERLAND.

There are many invaluable characters unknown to the world, and seldom mingling in the busy scenes around them, whose examp'e and talents, though they do not illuminate the crowded city, or fascinate the gay metropolis, like suns of another system, spread their benign influence throughout the circle in which they live. Such shall, at the last, be owned as those who have turned many to righteousness, and shall shine as the stars for ever and ever. Such was the Subject of the follow: ing Memoir. Blest with piety, learning, and eloquence, which would have done honour to the most public station, it was his lot to spread abroad the Saviour's name in regions of comparative obscurity. Here, unknown to Fame, and without any object but the good of souls, he spent a life of labour, usefulness, and peace, testifying the truth of the gospel, and affording a bright example of the efficacy of divine grace on the minds of men.

Mr. Somerville was born at Pitmuir, in the parish of Lauder, and county of Merse, Scotland, in 1743, of poor but eminently pious parents, who taught him to read, and instructed him how to pray. Happily, he soon took very great delight in both these exercises. When six years of age, he was put to school with Mr. H. Wilson, of Netherhaughton : here he learned writing, &c. He learned Latin, and probably Greek, at the GrammarSchool of Lauder. Learning and books were his principal delight; and, tho' only a child, at this school he first manifested a strong inclination to become a preacher of the gospel. When but a boy, he made conscience of secret prayer; and conducted the worship of God in the family when his father was absent. He was admitted to the Lord's Supper when only 13 years of age this he received not in a careless maoner; but, sepsible of the XVII.

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solemnity of the ordinance, and the great importance of a right participation thereof, he spent the whole night preceding his approach to it, in self-examination and prayer.

When very young, he went to visit some relations in the neigh. bourhood of Channelkirk, where the late Rev. Mr. Scott was holding an examination : he was examined, together with other children; when his answers discovered a knowledge of divine things-very uncommon at his age : Mr. Scott laid his hand upon his head, and said, “There is something in that boy more than common. From that time, Mr. Scott took particular notice of him, assisted him in his learning, and at last was the instrument of sending bini to college.

He entered the University of Edinburgh in 1762, and continved there ten years. Here he made great proficiency in various branches of useful literature and divinity, under Professors Steward, Hamilton, Russel, Robertson, Stephenson, and Fergusoa. He generally had some young men with hinn; to whom he taught the mathematics, &c. in the evenings. He was often engaged with them till 10 or 12 o'clock; after which, he had his own exercises to prepare for the next day, so that he seldom got to bed before 2 or 3 o'cloek in the morning ; and, one night in every week he never went to bed at all. After attending the lectures of the day, he usually retired, and committed tu paper the most important observations he had heard. So ernest was his desire to be thoroughly grounded in evt.y science, that, while attending a course of Lectures on Natural Philosophy, which the Professor had apnounced wonld conclude the next day, Mr. S. finding himself deficient in some particulars, wrote an anonymous card, beseeching him to be more explicit in his last lecture. This letter the Professor acknowledged publicly, expressing the highest esteem for the writer, and requesting him to make him. sell known ; this Mr S.'s great modesty prevented : the students were, however, favoured with an additional lecture, containing a copious analysis of the whole conrse; from which Mr. S. derived all the information he needed. He spoke with great delight, many years after, of the opportunities he enjoyed at this time of bearing the very eminent ministers of that city, particularly the late Dr. Erskine and Mr. Plenderleath.

He was licensed to prench by the Prısbytery of Lauder, Dec. 3, 1771; and, in Oct. 1772, was recommended, by Mr. Scott, of Heckmondwike, to the congregation at Stainton, near Kendal. At this place he began his ministry. Having only a small congregation, he had much leisure, wbich he carefully employed in the prosecution of his studies ; and thus acquireci much useful knowledge, and was gradually prepared for more extensive services.

In 1775, he received an invitation from the congregation at Ravensionedale, in the same county, which he accepted ; and preached his first serm.cn there, May 28, from Aois x. 29. He

was ordained pastor of that church on the 27th of Sept. by the Rev. Messrs. Ord, of Cockermouth; Allat, of Forton; and Pratman, of Catherstone. In this place his labours were very abundant: he expounded many parts of the holy Scriptures, and freqdently visited his people from house to house. Here he taught numbers of young people the Larger Catechism, which they repeated publicly on the Lord's Day. During his ministry there, many were added to the church ; and he had reason to hope that many were turned from darkness to light by the blessing of God on his labours. While he was settled here, in 1776, he received information that his father was ill, and longed to see him. He flew on the wings of affection to visit his dying bed,--found him extremely weak, but full of the hopes of a blessed immortality. He stayed with him a fortnight, - conversed with him fully on many important subjects, and took his læst farewell without any hopes of seeing him again. His mother, who was then in perfect bealth, accompanied him a short distance, - parted from him with great emotion, and, on his part, without any doubt of ineeting her again in this vale of tears; but the thoughts of God are not as our thoughts: - in about a month, he received the mournful news that his mother died on the Sabbath, - his father on the Tuesday following, - and that both were buried in one grave. This solemn providence affected him greatly; and he used to speak of it, many years after, with peculiar sensibility.

On the 6th of June, 1777, he married Isabella, daughter of Mr. Wm. Sproat, a respectable farmer in the parish of Channelkirk : an amiable woman, who bore him 4 children. She died on Oct. 28, 1791; and, in a very little time before and after her deceae, 9 of their children were taken away by the stroke of death: an only daughter now survives both her parents. On the 19th of May, 1796, he was married again to Margaret Plenden, a most excellent woman. She proved a helpmeet indeed; and is now his disconsolate widow.

IR 1784, he received a call from the dissenting congregation of Branton, in Northumberland, to be their pastor. He was not hasty in accepting it, being greatly attached to his people at Ravenstonedale, and they to him; but, by much intreaty, and after due consideration, he at length consented; and, on the 21st of March he preached his farewell-serinon to the church at Ravenstonedale, from Acts xx. 32. It was a mournful day, to him, and to many who esteemed him highly for his work's sake, and to whom he had been botii acceptable and of much use dur. jog his ministry of nearly 10 years amongst them.

Mr. S. entered on his charge at Branton, March 28, 1781. Here was the chief scene of his usefulness. Though Branton is only a small village, and the neighbourhood by no means popu. lous, he seldom preached, when the weather was fine, to less than 600 people ; some of whom came 8 or 10 miles. Here a large round of duties became incumbent on him, for which he was singularly qualified, and to which he devoted the whole of his time and talents. He was eminently fitted for a minister of the gospel, by education and much experience. Possessed of great natural abilities, having a retentive memory, sound judg ment, quick discernment, clear understanding, vast invention, and deep penetration :-- he was a man of raro and unaffected piety,

had an extensive knowledge of the human heart, -- and, above all, an unbounded desire to promote the glory of God and the salvation of sinners. He was a plain, bold, animated preacher ; had a 'most solemn and venerable appearance in the pulpit; a strong, clear voice, and could have been beard with ease a considerable distance. He constantly aimed at great plainness of speech, not fearing the face of man, - prossed the truths he de. livered bome to the conscience, and shunned not to declare the whole counsel of God.

His sentiments were strictly Calvinistic; but he loved all of every denomination who bore the image of Christ. He clearly understood the doctrines of grace, - their dependence on each other, and the inseparable union of privilege and duty in the plan of salvation; and he laboured zealously to make his congre. gation understand them also. Justification, through the imputed righteousness of Christ, was his favourite topic ; but, though he insisted particularly upon it, shewing that it is by grace alone a sinner can be saved, he as zealously enforced the necessity of sanctification, which he styled The Christian's Education for Heaven. His preaching tended wholly to exalt the Saviour and debase the sinner. He set forth the law in all its terrors, and shewed the impossibility of salvation by the works thereof; but he was not fond of that method which some affect,

to terrify people into religion! He thought the glad tidings of salvation better calculated for that purpose; and endeavoured to draw singers into the paths of boliness by kind and endearing persttasions.

He was peculiarly excellent in expounding the holy Scriptores. His thorough knowledge of the original languages, the great extent of his reading, and the peculiar delight with which he studied Universal History, gave him a remarkable insight into their true meaning ; and enabled him to set the most difficult passages in so clear a light, that the most illiterate of his audience were forcibly struck with their great importance *.

* While at Branton, he expounded St. John's Gospel, the Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles, and tne Revelation. He spent two summers in expounding the Book of Daniel ; and part of two winters in expounding the 119th Psalm. At a future period he began at the 120th Psalm, and went through the book to the end; he then expounded Genisis, and the first 20 chapters in Exodus; after that, he began St. Matthew's Gospel : the last chapter he explained was the 25 ih of that book. His lectures on Daniel and the Revelation were exceedingly interesting: he was ofte

ten earnestly solicjied to publisb the latter, but would bever conseut to it.

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He was most laborious in preparing his sermons : he wrote the plan of them in small books, -- digested bis subjects well, and never attempted to preach what he had not studied with great

He never accustomed himself to use notes; and was, therefore, at liberty to say whatever forcibly struck his mind in the pulpit. It was his practice to preach several Sabbaths from the same text. He was singular for using apt and familiar similiesto illustrate his subject, and careful to prove his doctrines from the word of God. He was a strict observer both of Nature and Providence; and daily improved any particular occurrence in bis church or neighbourhood. These talents preserved his sermons free from sameness, and caused them to be long remembered with great delight. His administration of Infant Baptism generally comprized a masterly defence of the practice, a solemn charge to the parents, - a comprehensive view of their duty, impressive instances from Scripture of care or negligence, and their

consequences, and a most affectionate concern for the present and eternal welfare of the children whom he dedicated to the Lord. He was remarkably energetic when dispensing the Lord's Supper. At these times his discourses were well suited to the solemnity, and founded on texts calculated to make a lasting impression on the mind : his manner was particularly lively and animated, and will long be remembered.

He had no stated times of visiting his people; but often spent three days a week in this exercise, instructing them from house to house : his congregation extending over a large tract of country, made this exercise very fatiguing:

In these visits bis conversation was familiar, and very acceptable : he could talk on any subject with the greatest ease, -- made himself a companion of the old and the young, the learned and the unlearned ; - equally happy with the poor as with the rich, ever ready to commu. nicate or hear instruction, and never happy in any company without imparting or receiving something profitable. Few men could administer the balm of consolation better than he: his company was much longed for by the afflicted; many of whom received more edification from his private visits than even from his public ministrations.

Once a year he catechized the whole of his congregation, con. sisting of nearly 1000 persons; by this means be diffused much useful knowledge, and establisited his people in the doctrines he preached. He wished these examinations to be duly attended, not only that he might learn what knowledge each person had at. tained, but that they might gain more.

To this end he carefully adapted - himself to the capacities of his hearers ; and rejoiced greatly at the satisfactory manner in which many of them answered his queries ; and he would sometimes jocularly say, "I am afraid some of the Cheviot shepherds will set me fast.'

Little time as these important duties left for study, it is evident they required much; and in this exercise he was indefatigable, XVII,

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