the Youngest puritan

INTRODUCTION to the "Works" published by Soli Deo Gloria - by Joel R. Beeke

It is a great privilege to introduce the reprinting of the works of Andrew Gray, a renowned seventeenth-century Scots divine. Gray represents solid, experiential Reformed and Puritan teaching at its prime. Devotional and practical, this volume seeks to stimulate true Christians to renewed zeal in fearing God and having a heart for Him and His glory.
Born to Sir William of Pittendrum and Egidia Smyth in August of 1633, Andrew Gray was the fourth son and eleventh child in a family of twenty-one. He was converted in his youth. As a child he was once profoundly convicted of his sin of ingratitude by unexpectedly witnessing a beggar pour out his heart in prayer to God behind a large stone in a field near Leith. He thought, 'There is a most miserable creature, in the most destitute of all conditions, while I have everything I need, and yet I never made such an acknowledgement of my mercies as that poor creature who does not lie under one-tenth of my obligations."
Subsequently, he was brought by Spirit-worked faith to rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ for his distraught soul. Peace that passes understanding became his portion. Early on Andrew Gray felt called to the ministry. This calling gave impetus to his studies at the universities of St. Andrews and Edinburgh which were marked, in the words of Francis Coxon, by 'remarkable proficiency, both in learning and divinity."
At the age of nineteen, Gray was declared a candidate for the ministry. He was called to and ordained in the Outer High Kirk in Glasgow by the Protestors on November 3, 1653, notwithstanding the objections of Robert Baillie and others. Baillie opposed Gray on grounds of his 'weak voice, his youthfulness, and his lack of being known.’ Baillie’s fears were put to shame, however, as the Lord enabled Gray to exercise singular preaching gifts with considerable divine approbation.
Gray’s popularity as a preacher was nearly unparalleled in his day. He rendered doctrine intelligible and practical. He could say with Luther from personal experience, ‘Doctrine is heaven,’ for scriptural truths had sunk deeply into his heart and moulded his life and preaching. Incessantly Gray aimed for the conscience: in convicting of sin, in believing on the only Mediator, and in requiring godliness. He spoke to the heart in comforting the newly reborn, in arresting the backslider, and in unmasking the hypocrite. He left no room for the 'carnal Christian" of our day. His Christianity demanded the union of Jesus as both Saviour and Lord. He was skilled in separating the precious from the vile. His exhortations were weighty; his invitations, persuasive; his comforts, moving. In a word, all his preaching honed in on winning souls to Jesus Christ.
'Christ," as William Tweedie has rightly noted, 'was the beginning, the middle, and the end of all his Sermons?’ Small wonder then that Gray was regarded by thousands who heard him gladly as a burning and shining light!
Happily, this popularity was conj oined with humility. To illustrate: The story has been frequently told of Gray and his illustrious colleague, James Durham, walking together to church on a particular Sunday. These two divines were to preach that day in the vicinity of each other. Observing that the vast majority of parishioners were entering Gray’s church, Durham remarked, 'Brother, I perceive you are to have a thronged church today?’ Gray responded, 'Truly, brother, they are fools to leave you and come to me." Durham replied, 'Not so, dear brother, for none can receive such honor and success in his ministry except it be given him from heaven. I rejoice that Christ is preached and that His kingdom and interest is gaining ground, for I am content to be anything, or nothing, that Christ may be all in all."
William Blaikie, a Scotsman himself and author of The Preachers of Scotland, writes of the young preacher: 'His knowledge of Christian experience was wonderfully extensive and minute; he knew well the joys and troubles, the helps and hindrances, the temptations and delusions of the Christian life. He had a remarkable power of probing the conscience; as James Durham remarks, ‘he could make men’s hair stand on end?"
Gray excelled in experiential and practical applications. Both in preaching and in personal life, he accented sanctification. Like his fellow Scots, Hugh Binning, his entire demeanor conveyed genuine piety. Another fellow Scots, George Hutcheson, spoke of him as 'a spark from heaven?’
That spark, however, was soon destined to return to heaven. Andrew Gray was early made ripe for heaven. He often preached of and longed for glory. When he turned twenty-two, he expressed the joyous expectation that he looked forward to meeting his blessed Master in celestial bliss before his next birthday. And he received this cherished wish, dying six months later on February 8, 1656 at twenty-two years of age after a few days of fever. He left behind a God-fearing wife, Rachel Baffle, a son, William, and a daughter, Rachel.
'We may safely say:’ Blaikie remarked, 'that never in the history of our country did a man of his years make so deep a mark?’ Gray was used in an unusual degree by God for the conversion of souls and the spiritual arousal of believers in the twenty-seven months of ministry allotted him in thisHappily, most of Gray’s sermons were taken down in shorthand and preserved for posterity. These were first published from a student’s notes but contained numerous errors. Later, they were meticulously revised from additional sets of notes, including those remaining in the possession of Gray’s wife, and issued by Robert Trail and John Stirling. Printed as short books (The Mystery of Faith Opened; Great and Precious Promises; Directions and Instigations to the Duty of Prayer; The Spiritual Warfare, etc.), Gray’s written sermons proved as popular as his actual preaching (not only in England, Scotland, and North America, but also on the European continent - particularly in the Netherlands where most of his works were translated into Dutch and are still being reprinted and read widely in the twentieth century).
For more than a century these little works passed through numerous editions until they were collected and printed in 1813 in Glasgow as The Works of the Reverend and Pious Mr Andrew Gray. This also went through several reprintings, the most readable being the present reprinting of an 1839 edition published by George King in Aberdeen. Since Gray’s writings are sermons rather than treatises, one ought not expect exhaustive treatments of each subject discussed. Nor ought one to look for precise language, as Gray never had the opportunity to edit his own sermons. On the other hand, we may be assured that Gray’s sermons were 'studied with prayer, preached with power, and backed with success?’ Moreover, his profound insights, poignant statements, and succinct summaries related to various truths should not be underestimated. Gray’s gifts do not lie in the area of propounding new theological insights, but in presenting 'old truth" to the heart in fresh modes.
Often his summaries of a doctrine are most enlightening. For example, when proving that assurance of faith can be had, Gray points to the following phenomena: (1) the lives of biblical saints that evidenced assurance; (2) 'the great scope of many scriptures, to show how Christians may attain unto assurance"; (3) commands in Scripture for Christians to be serious in searching after assurance:’ most notably, 2 Peter 1:10; (4) 'the blessed end of God’s oath in the everlasting covenant [is] that a Christian might get assurance"; (5) 'the ends of the sacraments, that our assurance may be confirmed"; and (6) the very exercises of divine graces which affirm the necessity of assurance’s attainability. None of these six points are novel to Gray, but no one prior to him had compiled such a workable list.
Much more could be said about the precious sermons contamed in this valuable reprint, but we will forebear. There is no substitute for reading Gray himself. He will warm your soul, convict you of slothfulness, and urge you to godliness. He is always full of spirit and life. Unlike many collections of Works, Gray is thoroughly readable from the opening series of sermons on 'The Mystery of Faith" to the closing letter addressed from his deathbed to Sir Archibald Johnston. In this volume you will find no abstruse theological debates or impractical messages. Gray is a gem - read him from beginning to end.
It ought to be noted that two important transcripts are not included in Gray’s collection of Works. A volume of his Select Sermons (most of which are not included in his Works), was first published in 1765. A selection from this volume was most recently reprinted as Twelve Select Sermons (Gisborne, New Zealand: Westminster Standard, 1961), but is out of print again. Moreover, Gray’s most lengthy exposition of more than two hundred pages on sanctification, A Door Opening into Everlasting Life: An Essay Tending to Advance Gospel Holiness, and to Establish the Hearts of True Believers against Their Many Doubts and Fears, has also never been included in his Works. (Treatises) In this recently reprinted work, Gray uses a five-pronged approach to spur true believers onward in pursuit of living to God. First, he argues why Christians should pursue sanctified lives. Secondly, he provides directions for 'living holly?’ Thirdly, he describes marks of grace evidenced in the lives of believers. Fourthly, he answers fears, doubts, and objections raised by those in the process of being sanctified, but who feel the poverty of their own sanctification. Finally, he encourages the children of God by unfolding the privileges and blessedness of those who may follow after Christ. Barring these two exceptions, however, all of Andrew Gray’s extant writings are included in this volume. Nearly all of this volume has been out of print for more than a century.
A copy of Gray’s Works has long been considered a scarce treasure by those who love the scriptural doctrines of grace and godliness. We are deeply grateful to Soli Deo Gloria for its reprinting and pray that God may use it mightily to the awakening of sinners and the edification of His people. For conviction of spiritual shortfall and as a stimulant to growth in grace, a believer can hardly do better than peruse the works of Andrew Gray. Use this volume as a daily devotional, and your soul will 'make gain thereby?’
Joel R. Beeke

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