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Memorable Circumstances in the Life of the Late Mr. Riccaltoun

MEMOIRS OF THE REV. R. RICCALTOUN. 157

this conviction engage you to pray, and especially pray for the teaching of his Holy Spirit, to enlighten your mind to see and understand the great- things of his Word. Reverence his sabbaths, and public worshipWhere two or three are met in his name, he hns said, I am in the midst of them. Prize tile preaching of the Gospel when you can have it, for ordinarily faith comerh by hearing. If you persevere in this way. you shall find that he is able and willing to do that for you which you cannot possibly do for yourself.

I commend you to the care and blessing of the Lord. I hope you will always believe me to be.

Your affectionate friend,

J. NEWTON.

MEMORABLE CIRCUMSTANCES IN THE LIFE Of The Late MR. R1CCALTOUN.

To the Editor of the Evangelical MagazineSir,

SOME months ago I met with the works of Robert Riccaltoun, late minister of Hobkirk, in Scotland. I am not in the habit of recommending books. Some sentiments of this author appeared to me rather singular ; but his originality, genius, and force as a writer, engaged my attention. And though 1 do not think myself bound to plead for every thing he has advanced, 1 readily acknowledge myself a debtor to him, as an instrument, for a more enlarged view of some truths, which have been long dear to my heart.

I found, upon inquiry, that it was a posthumous publication, and, though printed long since (the last vo

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lume in the year l'Ti), there were few persons within the circle of my acquaintance who had either seen it or heard of it. A considerable part of the edition remained unsold, and almost forgotten ; and I was told that the editor, the Rev. John Riccaltoun, the author's sou, and his successdr in the charge of the parish of Hobkirk, was a considerable loser by the impression.

A friend of mine in Edinburg wrote to Mr. Riccaltoun, at my instance, requesting some information concerning his father, who, I judged from his writings, must have been a very considerable man. My friend transcribed a copy of the letter he received from Mr. Riccaltoun. If you think proper to insert the annexed abstract of the most interesting particulars of this account, in your Magazine, it is at your service. Perhaps it may not be unacceptable to some of your readers.

Mr. Robert Riccaltoun was born (I am not told where) in the year 1591. Some indications of the genius which he afterwards displayed, appeared in early life. He could read the Bible distinctly before he was five years of age. His father, who was a substantial tenant, probably had a design of educating this his only son, with a view to the ministry. He was placed in the grammar school at Jedburgh, where he made a rapid progress in learning. He could write and speak in Latin, with the same ease and readiness as in English. From thence he was removed to Edinburgh, attended the university, and became a proficient in all the various branches of literature. About the time he had finished his course in the college, his father; diedy and left him in the possession of a very good farm. He then seemed resolved to follow the farming business, and therefore did not attend the Divinity Hall. However, he studied the Holy Scriptures with great diligence, before he attained the age of twenty, and: formed to himself a system of what he called Bible Divinity, from which he never departed through life, though he doubtless acquired clearer and more distinct views, as he advanced in years : and he became so possessed of his system of biblical knowledge, that he could without difficulty preach a lecture upotv any portion of scripture, without premeditation, when he was afterwards called to it in ihe course of divine Providence.

The Presbytery of Kelso, in whose bounds he resided, had such a high opinion of his abilities, and of his -knowledge in divinity, that they in a manner forced him upon trials. They wrote his circular letters without his ronseni, and at length prevailed on him to comply with their wishes. In a year or two after he became a preacher (when about the age of twenty four) he published what he called The Sober Enquiry, which had the good effect of putting an end to a dispute, warmly carried- on for a considerable time, between two parties of the most eminent men in the church of Scotland.

He was much esteemed by many of his contemporary ministers. My information particularly mentions four by name, as his intimates: the late Alexander Calder, of Oxman; Thomas Boston, of Etterich ; Henry Davidson, of Galiashiels ; and Gabriel Wilson, of Maxton.

In the life of Mr. Thomson (author of the Seasons) there is "an acknowledgment of his obligations to Mr. Rkcaltoun, who was himself likewise a poet. And his son's letter informs me, that some of his father'6 poems were published under Mr. Thomson's name. He mentions one piece of his in particular, entitled, The Description of a Winter Blast, upon which Mr. Thomson founded his Winter.

Mr. Rkcaltoun met with one great trial, which brought him into very straightened circumstances through the remainder of his days. But he did not Tegret it. His son has often heard him say, that it was the very best dispensation that could have befallen him ; as he thought, that if he had not been so bore down, his spirit rnight have been very haughty and overbearing.

A Mr- H , a preacher, and a farmer, who

married Mr. Riccaltoun's wife's sister, had borrowed large sums of money from different persons, and persuaded Mr. Riccaltoun he had sufficient funds to payoff all his debts, provided he could get in his own money; and assigned some plausible reasons why he could not call it in for some time. It is not difficult to deceive a young man, unpractised in the world, and who posseses an upright mind, and a warm benevolent heart. Thus he was drawn in to bind himself for a large sum, expecting, as he was promised, to be soon released. But not long after Mr. H. obtained a church in Shetland, and then it appeared he had no money to call in. Of course, the creditors came upon Mr. Riccaltoun, and at once tore from him every penny that his father had left him, to the amount of above £800, nor did that suffice to clear him. He was some years assistant to Mr. Deans, of Bowden, before he was settled at Hobkirk, and still harassed with the payment of Mr. H.'s debts. After living 15 or 16 years at Hobkirk, he was involved in new distress, by oppposing the settlement of a minister, patronized and presented by a nobleman, contrary to the inclinations of the parish- He thought the people's cause a just one ; and therefore saw it his duty to support them with all the strength of argument he was able. But he suffered severely for it. Mr. H. had been the nobleman's tenant, and one of the sums for which Mr. Riccaltoun was bound, was for the arrears of his rent.

This bond was brought against him, for principal and interest, to the amount of £300, and he would certainly have been-thrown into prison, if a friend had not advanced the money; for the payment of which he assigned one half of his stipend, yearly. But he was obliged to contract debts for the support of his family.

I sympathize with his son, while I transcribe the period which concludes this relation:—" At my father's " death, as I was bound with him to many of his cre" ditors) I became liable to his debts, which has kept " me under water ever since. But the cause was. " good, and I have struggled cheerfully. But now I '-' almost despair of being clear (though it is brought " within £100), as I have seven children to maintain " and educate, which, with the most frugal managetc ment, will exhaust the whole of my stipend."

Perhaps this little history may engage the notice of some persons, able and willing to assist him. I shall be sorry if a deserving son of such a father does not obtain relief in his exigency.

They who are competent judges of the late Mr. Riccaltoun's writings, will perhaps wonder, as I do, that a man so circumstanced for a course of many years,should be able to write with that apparent composure, and peculiar energy of thought and manner, whichseem to require a state of mind and situation perfectly at ease. But the paper before me affirms, that none of his most intimate friends ever heard him repine. The whole of his conduct manifested a serenity of spirit, and an habitual cheerful resignation to the will of God : —a striking proof of the faithfulness of Him, who has said, As thy day is, so shall thy strength be !

He was a very studious man, and when thinking closely upon any subject, or even if writing, the various conversation of others in the same room gave him no

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disturbance. Yet he was a very cheerful, agreeable companion, and always happy in company, where the conversation was instructive and sensible. He was especially pleased with the company of young people ; and they who had access to know him, were so warmly attached to him, that even reproof, when necessary, was thankfully received, when it came from him. And few men made greater allowances for the foibles of youth, than he. He was an affectionate husband and parent, a warm and sincere friend.

He was taken suddenly ill, during divine service, in the forenoon of a Lord's day, and desired a young man, who was frequently with him, to preach for him in the afternoon. His complaint terminated in a total suppression of urine. He continued in exquisite pain, till about the middle of the week ; from that time he seemed to be quite at ease: but as he never spoke after, the cause of the transition from so much pain to sudden ease remained unknown. He breathed strong and full through his nose, for the last three days ot his life, without once opening his lips. But his countenance discovered an animated serenity, which was much noticed by those who saw him. He breathed his x fast, without the smallest convulsive motions, on the evening of the following Lord's day, in the later end of September, 1769, in the 78th year of his age.

The controversy, which, it seems, subsided when his Sober Enquiry appeared, was occasioned by the publication of a book, entitled, The Marrow of Modern Divinity. I have not seen his Sober Enquiry; but I have in my possession his answers to Mr. Sandimaft, .who had animadverted upon Mr. Hervey's Tberon and Aspasio, in two volumes 12mo» under the signature of Palemon.

My paper contradicts a report, that the late Rer. Mr. Walker, of Edinburgh, had made many alterations in the third volume of Mr. Riccaltoun's Works (containing Notes and Observations on the Epistle to the Galatians), and declares that Mr. Walker neither made nor proposed any alterations; but only corrected the proof sheets.

I am, Sir, your's,

OMICRON.

Jan. 31, 1795. . ,