the Youngest puritan

William K. Tweedie's Preface to 1839 Edition of "Works".

The Rev. Andew GRAY, the author of the following Sermons, was born about the year 1630. Before he had reached the age of twenty, his extraordinary gifts and graces secured his entrance on the office of the Christian Ministry; and he died, after labouring for about two years in the work of winning souls to Christ. From one so young, and, therefore, in man’s judgment, so inexperienced, we are scarcely prepared to expect either the riches of a matured intellect, or the tokens of much growth in grace. But "none teacheth like God," and the name of Andrew Gray is now enrolled, and will continue to be so, as long as godliness continues to be cultivated, among those who are sometimes led to maturity in grace ere ordinary men have left the rudiments of religion.
A detail of the peculiarities of his mind is, for the most part, only a catalogue of excellencies. The characteristic which should perhaps be mentioned first, is, the power with which this author addresses the consciences of men. It is said that when he preached, his hearers often felt as if "their hair did stand on end." With all Baxter’s plainness and affectionate vehemence, Gray combines far deeper theology than his, and resting upon that, he assaults the conscience, as if he would carry it by storm. So intrepid and determined is he, that he refuses to take a denial. He lays his hand upon the sinner’s heart - he looks at man’s soul in the light of eternity, and obviously cares for no man’s frown or favour, if only he can persuade the sinner to look to Christ and be saved. In his own words, "he putteth the question home to the conscience, to answer yea, or nay" - and so authoritative, yet so affectionate, is his mode of addressing his audience, that all who reflected must have felt that the truth which he preached, and their mode of receiving it, decided their doom up to the moment of their hearing. "I charge you, as ye will answer to God one day, that ye search your hearts" - such was the frequent honesty of his appeal; " 0, if you had but one desire to get a sight of Christ, ye would get him for a desire" - such was the affection and the freeness of it.
Gray was by far too well acquainted with pure and undefiled religion, as planted in the soul of man by the Spirit of God, to be deceived by the professions which many assume, and attempt to regard as the religion of Jesus Christ. The author’s endeavours were, therefore, much directed to undeceive those who named the name of Christ, but forgot to depart from iniquity; who professed a spiritual religion, yet led a carnal life; who attempted at once to be the friend of God, and the friend of the world - a contradiction which even Omnipotence could not recondile.* To undeceive and awaken such men, he often takes the very stones of the church in which they met to worship, as witnesses against those whom he quaintly calls "tongue-Christians"
While he is tender as a nurse with her child, to the humble and tender-minded Christian, he shows no pity to the delusions in which carnal professors lull themselves asleep. He often puts the case - suppose all had withdrawn from the audiences whom he addressed, except those who were believers in spirit and in truth, how few would have remained as true followers of the Lamb. It was by faithfulness like this, guided by love to men’s souls, too strong to allow them to live and die undisturbed in delusions which are eternally ruinous, that Gray sought to gather in Christ’s peculiar people to his fold. Taking the Lord Jesus as his model, in separating between the true and pretended Christian, he searched the latter to the quick, in the very act of proclaiming the blessedness of the former; for he unfolded the privileges of God’s covenant people, in such a manner that the men of this world could not care for such blessings - they are so spiritual, so holy, so closely connected with Christ.
Thus does Gray so grapple with men’s consciences, so press conviction of sin upon men in one sentence, and deliverance from "all sin," through the blood of sprinkling, in the next, that the very moment which sees a Christian condemned by the law, may also see him made alive by the gospel; and this, we think, is one of the secret charms which have drawn God’s Spirit-taught people to this volume for so many generations.
After thus referring to the faithfulness of Gray in dealing with sinners in Zion, it would be injustice to his gifts, not to mention that his tenderness in dealing with mourners in Zion, was equally remarkable. When their hope seems to have gone out, he tries to rekindle it. When they write bitter things against themselves, he defends them. When they can find no excuses for their short-comings, he tenderly finds many. When they conclude that God’s mercy is clean gone for ever from them, he persuades them to wait on God, and he will yet renew their strength. And, it is not by exciting mere natural emotion, but by bringing men to God in Christ, that Gray speaks peace to the wounded spirit. Thus does he administer the true consolation; and while he makes all that he says the means of recommending the Lord Jesus, he, at the same time, carries into accomplishment the Redeemer’s purpose of mercy - "not to break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax." At once a Boanerges and a Barnabas, he thunders in the unconverted sinner’s ear, but his heart is obviously most in its element, when consoling or soothing the contrite. It is after some of his attempts thus to administer consolation, that he breaks out in some of his most seraphic raptures, like those of Rutherford and other worthies, concerning the glories of the New Jerusalem, and the blessedness of that state in which all shall sit under the shadow of the Plant of Renown.
The unction, the tenderness, the lofty spiritual character of such portions of the volume, will show most plainly the rare attainments of this surprising youth, and convice us that our attainments in godliness in this age have brought us acquainted with little more than the name of the Redeemer, or the rudiments of pure spiritual religion. We cannot read over one of the following Sermons without noticing this love which the author bore to the souls of men, and his determined zeal in bringing them to Christ. But in particular do the "Sermons on the Great Salvation" exhibit these peculiarities of the author. Like all the other discourses, they are rendered sometimes obscure by divisions and sub-divisions, so that a critic would condemn them. But into the Christian’s soul they pour a warm stream of religious knowledge and feeling, worthy of the grandeur of the subject. The author does not content himself with discussing doctrines, and holding them up for the contemplation of the intellect; but he transacts between a living Christ and the hearts of men: as an ambassador from Christ, he delivers Christ’s message, and refuses to let sinners escape, until they accept of the great salvation.
Nor does this author merely address men in groups, or masses. He individualizes and classifies, so that not one can escape. His deep insight into the effects of religion in the soul, his marvellous acquaintance with the difficulties, the dangers, the fears and errors of Christians, enable him to detect every subterfuge of the sinner As if the workings of the soul were the ongoings of a material substance, which could be examined and analysed, does Gray examine the workings of a mind exercised about religion, without seeming to be conscious of his power. He points out the difficulties, indicates the cause of the error, and adopts the true means of giving light to them that sit in darkness, by the unction of the Spirit, the Sovereign Teacher.
In consequence of the individualizing character of his Sermons, this author’s writings affect us more like spoken than written discourses. There is so much of human life, and human thought and action, that it requires no effort, nay, it is sometimes inevitable, while we read, to feel as if the speaker were actually pouring the oil of gladness into the soul from living lips, or driving the ploughshare of divine truth through the sins which conscience tells we have committed. All who know how difficult it is to counsel Christians in spiritual distress, and all who are anxious about the soul, with no friend at hand to counsel them, will find in these Sermons a precious council br, one who had learned wisdom at the feet of Him who is the Wonderful, the Councillor, the Mighty God.
For example, when the author describes the different classes who neglect the Great Salvation, or when he explains the use of God’s name in Christ, as guiding to religious repose, as well as in many other passages, he supplies us with a spiritual mirror, in which all who are anxious about their souls may see their condition reflected. Man’s spiritual disease, and God’s remedy for it, are described by one who knew the virulence of the malady, and the power of the balm provided; and as we read such passages, remembering the age of the author, we are forcibly reminded of the truth, that out of the mouths of babes and suck lings God hath perfected praise.
To be so mighty in the scriptures, so rich in grace, so versant in all the varieties of Christian expe rience, as well as all the intricacies of the unregenerate heart, at the early age of twenty-one, manifests how clearly one day is with the Lord as many years. Another remarkable feature in the following Sermons, already hinted at, is this, the author proceeds actually to transact with sinners, about eternity. He does not leave them for one instant in doubt as to whether they should receive the gospel; but, like one who knew that man is responsible to God for receiving the gospel the moment it is propounded to him, the author offers Christ and salvation with him, to every sinner that will accept. He does not preach about Christ, but he preaches Christ himself He does not present merely religion to men, but a living, present Redeemer, as that which alone can bring peace into the soul. He knew that men may, in one sense, enjoy certain of the privileges which Christ died to purchase, or be soothed by fancied faith, and elated by doctrinal knowledge, without ever receiving Christ himself.
But he also knew that if a man do receive Christ, he has in him all that is needful for the soul. The author therefore sought to press Jesus Christ, in his glorious person, as well as his offices, on the sinner’s acceptance. It was not religion which consisted in the hearing of the ear; it was such religion as actuated Job,when he cried, "now mine eye seeth thee," that Gray sought to teach. "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me," "Christ in the believer the hope of glory ;" these were the mottoes inscribed over the pulpit of the author; these guided him in all his doings, for he ever sought to "join men to the Lord, and make them one Spirit with Him."
In this manner, the grand characteristic of this author, in the Christian’s estimation, is, that he has only one text, while that text includes the universe of spiritual existence; it is, Christ crucified. Wherever he begins, he ends with the Saviour, and we may venture to say, that the aim of every paragraph in the volume, is to magnify the Son of God, and guide sinners to him. It is not difficult to fasten on a religious topic, and make it the theme of a discourse, or to preach the doctrines of the cross in a certain way, when they are obtruded on us in a text. But to make every subject lead to Christ, and terminate on him, as shutting up the view, and satisfying the soul of the believer, that is the divine art which God’s Spirit alone can teach, which God’s people alone can love and relish.
Now Gray had drunk deep into this Spirit. Jesus Christ was the beginning, the middile, and the end of all his Sermons; and hence they have found favour for two hundred years in the minds of all who know and love the truth as it is in Jesus. In pressing it upon men’s notice, he speaks like one who knew he was speaking on God’s authority, and propounding God’s sole specific for man’s redemption; he therefore tells his message, not like one afraid to awaken men from their dreams and delusions, but like one who would save their souls at all hazards. And when men begin to make excuse, that they may escape from his urgency, he "poses" them with a gospel statement, which they may neglect, but cannot gainsay.
For example, in urging men to immediate acceptance of Christ, according to the gospel, Gray was met, as every gospel minister is often met, with the excuse, "Ye bid us come to Christ, but we cannot come." In answer to this he says, "I desire no more of you, but to come with this, ‘Lord, I am content to come, but cannot come’- come once with that, and if once ye do come, it will not be long before ye be able to receive the gospel." In this manner, while he makes Christ crucified the great theme of his Sermons, as he is of the word of God, the author shows that all the blessings of the New Covenant flow down from heaven to man, on the Saviour’s blood, and if they are not seized now, they may float past us for ever.
It is easy, however, to foretell that these Sermons will not be acceptable to all. The age in which they were preached, when simplicity was so much neglected, the digressions which often lead the author away from the main topic, together with the injury sustained by their transmission to us, not from the author’s MSS. but from the Notes of his widow, and other hearers, render the Sermons often very imperfect as compositions. Behind the fig-leaves of objections to style and want of ornament, or often even of order, some may conceal their distaste for the author’s doctrines and plainness. But God’s renewed people will find that they have here something more than crumbs from the table of the Lord of life. The harmony of divine truth is never disturbed, and wherever that truth is known in the power and the love of it, the Sermons of Gray will be relished for their unction, their faithfulness, their tenderness, and discrimination. If the author’s vehement zeal sometimes led him to the adoption of language which seems bold, or sternly severe, it is only what can be paralleled in the writings of David, Isaiah, Ezekiel, or the apostle James. In our day, and in this island, we hear much of a revival of pure and undefiled religion. We fear that that revival is exceedingly over-rated, or that it is ecclesiastical rather than spiritual; for if it were real, to the alleged extent, one of the symptoms thereof would be, not plaudits of self-gratulation, such as we too often hear, but deep and prostrate humiliation, because of our long torpor, and our continued shortcomings.
It is true, however, that men are now in greater numbers searching for the old paths, as if they designed to walk in them. By the returning grace of God, the distinction between the true and nominal Christian is being better established. The day has passed when the gospel cf the Son of God could be put down as Methodistical, or when the doctrines of Regeneration, and the Indwelling of God the Spirit, in the soul of man, could be scoffed at as fanatical, or branded as "Religion for the vulgar." The undisguised truth is now proclaimed. The foolishness of God is supplanting the wisdom of men; and though some may be crying "hosanna!" now, who, ere long, will cry, "crucify him! crucify him !" still God is gathering in his own. The Sun of Righteousness is above the horizon, and his people, it may be hoped, are coming to the brightness of his rising.
Now, to promote this renovation, we know not a better volume than the Sermons of Gray. It helped to keep alive the knowledge of the simple gospel in many of our cottages among our cottage patriarchs, when the doctrine of redemption through the blood, and holiness through the Spirit of Christ, was obscured or extinguished in many more public places. It is proper that such a volume should be drawn from its obscurity; and we now commend it to the prayerful perusal of all that would live holily, and die the friends of God. Whether the reader belong to the class of the careless and profane, or the class of the formal hypocrite, or the class of honest men, according to the religion and the light of nature, or the class of enquiring men, who want decision to do what they feel they should do, or the class of anxious and alarmed men, or the class of weak and timid Christians, or, lastly, to the class who are stablished, strengthened, and settled in the faith, there is something in this volume which God’s free Spirit may bless to all.

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