He was, in his day, a most singular and pious youth; and though he died young, yet was old in grace, having lived and done much for God in a little time.
Andrew Gray (by the calculation of his age and the date of his entry into the ministry) seems to have been born about the year 1634; and being very early sent to school, he learned so fast, that in a short time he was ripe for the university; where, by the vivacity of his parts and ready genius, he made such proficiency, both in scholastic learning and divinity, that before he was twenty years of age, he was found accomplished for entering into the holy office of the ministry.
From his very infancy he had studied to be acquainted with the Scriptures, and, like another young Samson, the Spirit of God began very early to move him; there being such a delightful gravity in his conversation, that what Gregory Nazianzen once said of the great Basil might be applied to him: “He held forth learning beyond his age, and fixedness of manners beyond his learning.” The earthly vessel being thus filled with heavenly treasure, he was quickly licensed to preach, and got a call to be minister of the outer kirk of the High Church of Glasgow, though he was scarcely twenty years of age, and therefore below the age appointed by the constitution of the Church, unless in extraordinary cases.
No sooner was this young servant of Christ entered into his Master’s vineyard, than the people from all quarters flocked to attend his sermons, it being their constant emulation who should be most under the refreshing drops of his ministry. As he and his learned colleague, Mr Durham, were one time walking together, Durham, observing the multitude thronging into that church where Andrew Gray was to preach, and only a very few going into the church in which he was to preach, said to him, “Brother, I perceive you are to have a throng church to-day.” To which he answered, “Truly, brother, they are fools to leave you and come to me.” Durham replied, “Not so, dear brother, for none can receive such honour 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 getting ground, for I am content to be anything, or nothing, that Christ may be all in all.”
And indeed, Andrew Gray had a notable and singular gift in preaching, being one experienced in the most mysterious points of Christian practice and profession; in handling of all his subjects, being free of youthful vanity, or affectation of human literature, though he had a most scholastic genius and more than ordinary abilities. He did outstrip many that entered into the Lord’s vineyard before him. His expression was every way warm and rapturous, and well adapted to affect the hearts of his hearers; yea, he had such a faculty, and was so helped to press home God’s threatenings upon the consciences of his hearers, that his contemporary, the foresaid Mr Durham, observed, “That many times he caused the very hairs of their heads to stand up.”
Among his other excellences in preaching, which were many, this was none of the least, that he could so order his subject as to make it be relished by every palate. He could so dress a plain discourse as to delight a learned audience, and at the same time preach with a learned plainness. He had such a clear notion of high mysteries, as to make them stoop to the meanest capacity. He had so learned Christ; and being a man of a most zealous temper, the great bent of his spirit and that which he did spend himself anent, was to make people know their dangerous state by nature, and to persuade them to believe and lay hold of the great salvation.
All these singularities seem to have been his peculiar mercy from the Lord, to make him a burning and shining light, though for about the space of two years only; the Spirit of the Lord, as it were, stirring up a lamp unto a sudden blaze, that was not to continue long in His Church. On which a late prefacer of some of his sermons has very pertinently observed, “Yea, how awakening, convincing, and reproving may the example of this very young minister be to many ministers of the Gospel, who have been many years in the vineyard, but fall far short of his labours and progress. God thinks fit now and then to raise up a child to reprove the sloth and negligence of many thousands of advanced years, and shows that He can perfect His own praise out of the mouths of babes.”
His sermons are now in print, and well known in the world. His works do praise him in the gates, and though they are free from the metaphysical speculations of the schools, yet it must be granted that the excellences of the ancient fathers and schoolmen do all concentre in them. For his doctrine carries light, his reproofs are weighty, and his exhortations powerful; and though they are not in such an accurate or grammatical style as some may expect, yet this may be easily accounted for, if we consider the great alteration and embellishment in the style of the English language since his time. There can be no ground, also, to doubt but they must be far inferior to what they were when delivered by the author, who neither corrected them, nor, as appears, intended that they should ever be published. Yet all this is sufficiently made up otherwise, for what is wanting in symmetry of parts or equality of style is made up in the pleasure of variety, like the grateful odours of various flowers, or the pleasant harmony of different sounds; for so is truth in its own native dress.
It hath been often said that Mr Gray many times longed for the twenty-second year of his age, wherein he expected to rest from his labours, and, by a perpetual jubilee, to enjoy his blessed Lord and Master. It is certain that in his sermons we often find him longing for his majority, that he might enter into the possession of his heavenly Father’s inheritance, prepared for him before the foundations of the world were laid.
He escaped death very narrowly when going to Dundee, in company with Mr Robert Fleming (some time minister at Cambuslang); which remarkable sea-deliverance was matter of thankfulness to God all his life after.
There is one thing that may be desiderated by the inquisitive, namely, what Andrew Gray’s sentiments were concerning the public resolutions, seeing he entered the ministry about the third year after they were passed. Whatever his contentions in public were, it is credibly reported that he debated in private against these defections, with his learned colleague Mr Durham; who afterwards, when on his death-bed, asked him, What he thought of these things? He answered, that he was of the same mind as formerly, and did much regret that he had been so sparing in public against these woeful resolutions, speaking so pathetically of their sinfulness and the calamities they would procure; that Mr Durham, contrary to his former practice, durst never after speak in defence of them.
But the time now approached that the Lord was about to accomplish the desire of His servant. He fell sick, and was in a high fever for several days, being much tossed with sore trouble, without any intermission; but all the time continuing in a most sedate frame of mind.
It is a loss that his last dying words were neither written nor remembered; only we may guess what his spiritual exercises were, from the short but excellent letter sent by him, a little before his death, to Lord Warriston, bearing date, February 7, 1656. In this he shows that he not only had a most clear discovery of the toleration then granted by Cromwell, and the evils that would come upon the land for all these things, but also was most sensible of his own case and condition; as appears from the conclusion of it, where he accosts his Lordship thus:
“Now, not to trouble your lordship, whom I highly reverence, and my soul is knit to you in the Lord, but that you will bespeak my case to the great Master of requests, and lay my broken state before Him who hath pled the desperate case of many, according to the sweet words in Lamentations 3:56, ‘Thou hast heard my voice: hide not thine ear at my breathing, at my cry.’ This is all at this time from one in a very weak condition, in a great fever, who, for much of seven nights, hath slept little at all, with many other sad particulars and circumstances.”
Thus in a short time, according to his desire, it was granted to him, by death, to pass unto the Author of life, his soul taking its flight into the arms of his blessed Saviour, whom he had served faithfully in his day and generation, though only about twenty-two years old. He shone too conspicuous to continue long, and burned so intensely, that he behoved soon to be extinguished; but he now shines in the kingdom of his Father, in a more conspicuous refulgent manner, even as the brightness of the firmament and the stars for ever and ever.
He was, in his day, a most singular and pious youth; and though he died young, yet was old in grace, having lived and done much for God in a little time. He was one, both in public and private life, who possessed, in a high degree, every domestic and social virtue that could adorn the character of a most powerful and pathetic preacher; a loving husband, an affable friend; ever cheerful and agreeable in conversation, always ready to exert himself for the relief of all who asked or stood in need of his assistance. These uncommon talents not only endeared him to his brethren the clergy, but also to many others from the one extremity of the land to the other that heard or knew anything of him, who considered and highly esteemed him as one of the most able advocates for the propagation and advancement of Christ’s kingdom.
His well-known sermons are printed in several small portions. Those called his Works are bound in one volume 8vo. In addition to the Eleven Sermons printed some time ago, a large collection, to the number of fifty-one, are lately published, entitled his Select Sermons, whereof only three, for connection’s sake, and his letter to Lord Warriston, are inserted, which were before published in his works. So that by this time most, if not all, of the sermons are now in print that ever were preached by him.
This article on Andrew Gray is from John Howie’s Scots Worthies, first published 1775, revised and enlarged 1781. Revised from the author’s original edition, by Rev W H Carslaw, (Edinburgh: Johnstone, Hunter and Company, 1870), pp 215-219.
Editorial notes in square brackets were inserted by Rev W H Carslaw, who stated in his preface:
“Nothing new has been inserted without being carefully marked; and even these insertions have been made as few and brief as possible, their principle object being to supply important historical links for the reader’s information and guidance. A few of Howie’s notes have also been put into the text where this could easily be done, and several verbal corrections have been made.”
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