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CHARACTER AND WRITINGS OF THE
LATE REV. DR. M-CRIE.
BY THE REV. C. J. BROWN.
[The following interesting communication from the Rev. C. J. Brown,
on the life, character, and writings of Dr. M'Crie, we copy from “The Scottish Guardian," with the following remarks from the talented Editor of that excellent paper. -Ed.].
"By the death of this eminent man, whose funeral took place on Wednesday last in Edinburgh, the Church sustained a loss like that which it suffered in the fall of Dr. Thomson, both whose deaths were sudden and unlooked for. As there was no one upon whom the mantle of Dr. Thomson fell, so there is no bope of a successor to the spirit of Dr. M'Crie. His spirit was one of deep discernment of wisdom and of counsel. His mind was not of this superficial and agitated age, but had the riches and repose of the olden studious times. How delightful it would have been, how instructive to the Church and world, to have received a full record of the dying thoughts of so great and good a man! They might have been a lesson and comfort to many. But God's thoughts are not as man's thoughts. It has pleased bim to give us a lesson in a different way."
VIEWING Dr. M*Crie as a Christian man, we look back on one, the whole tenor of whose life gave evidence of deep, and elevated, and humble piety. His personal character was not only irreproachable, but eminently exemplary. If his prosession was high and peculiar, it was borne out by his life. "What he taught so ably and eloquently from the press and the pulpit, his conduct exemplified. He was often brought into cir. cumstances fitted to put the strength of his Christian principles to the test: and he as often showed that neither personal ease nor reputation among men, was so dear to him as the service of Christ and a good conscience. We should add here, what could not fail to make his character and example the more infuential, that be was a person of the most amiable and every way winning manners in the intercourse of private life.
As a minister of the Gospel, Dr. M'Crie was of no common eminence. If his preaching was not distinguished for that particular kind of eloquence which has of late years
become fashionable in Scotland, yet was he, in our judgment, one of the best preachers in the country. A rich and exalted tone of doctrine, deep seriousness, and affectionate, though calm earnestness, copiousness of Scripture illustration, an elegant and chaste simplicity of diction, together with fulness of practical application to the hearts and consciences of his bearers, -- these were qualities which appeared prominently in his discourses. Ja lecturing on the historical Scriptures, he was peculiarly happy, bringing to bear on the lives of Jewish patriarchs and kings the same acuteness of perception, knowledge of the heart, and accurate discrimination of character, which shine in his biographies. If in other departments of preaching be excelled most men, in this he seemed to excel himself. How he acted in the other duties of the pastoral office, and in the important situation of Theological Professor, which he long filled in the excellent body of Seceders with which he was connected, we have no particular means of knowing ; but his faithfulness in the former was sufficiently evinced, by the affectionate at tachment of that flock which now deplores his loss; while the superior character of the younger ministers generally, of his connexion, bears witness to his eminence in the datter:
But worthy of high respect and esteem as Dr.M“Crie was, both as a Christian man and minister, he was remarkable chiefly as a writer, in which character, as his fame had extended beyond the limits of this country, so his loss will be felt, not in Scotland only, but in Europe and America. His lives of Knox and Melville form specimens almost unrivalled, in that interesting department of writing which may be termed historical biography, and which combines what in history is enlarged, comprehensive, and publicly important, with what is minute, and graphic, and spirited in biography. In a very: high degree the lives of Knox and Melville unite the peculiar excellencies of both. The history is marked by profound research, by extensive erudition, by unwearied care in the unravelling of controverted facts, by a generous candour, and by enlarged and truly philosophic reflection, pointing the mind of the reader to the great practical uses of the events narrated. The biography is characterised, not only by the same successful care in clearing up the events in the individual's life, but by an admirable tact in laying open the springs and motives of his actions, showing their bearing on the history of the period, and, generally, portraying his character with vigour, minute. ness, and accuracy. But principally are these works important for the mighty service they have done to the cause of the Reformation in Scotland. They have rescued from unmerited obloquy the character and actions of our leading Reformers: they have shown what a debt of gratitude is owing to them, under God, not only by the cause of religion, but of liberty also, and learning: they have exposed the erroneous and partial character of those statements, by means of which Hume and other historians had occupied the minds of the English, and multitudes of the Scotch also, with the idea that Knox and
his.coadjutors were little better than a set of rude barbariang and ignorant zealots: they have left on record, for the use of posterity, many of the noblest models of all that is great in solid learning, ardent piety, attachment to sound doctrine, love of genuine liberty, and heroic Christian fortitude: and, in a word, they have thrown a flood of light on the transactions of one of the most important periods of our history, bringing the whole also to bear on the interests of vital godliness, the spirit of which runs through every chapter of these works, commending them to the love of the Christian mind; while the elegance of the style, the extent of erudition, and the vigour of thought, cannot fail to command the attention and respect even of the mere man of the world. It was long hoped that Dr. M‘Crie would have continued his series of biographies in the life of the famous Alexander Henderson, who so much distinguished himself in the Assembly, 1638, and was one of the Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly. That this work has never appeared, is certainly much to be lamented. Those, however, who can lay their hands on a periodical long carried on under the name of the Christian Magazine, (we cannot refer to the particular number) will find there a memoir of Henderson, which is known to have come from the pen
of the biographer of Knox. In connection with these works, we must not onit to remind the reader, that, as much evil was done to the cause of religion in Scotland by an eminent No. velist, in his caricatures (for they deserve no better name) of our Reformers and Covenanters of a later period, so Dr. M-Crie provided an admirable antidote, in an able, learned, and beautifully written review of “ Tales of
» which appeared soon after their publication in the pages of the Christion Instructor, and which is well worthy the
perusal of every man who would form a right judgment of the character of these times. M'Crie, however, was not the historian of the Scosvish Reformation alone. He produced a volume, some eight or ten years ago, on the rise, progress, and final suppression of the Reformation in Italy, and another on the same subject, with reference to Spain,-certainly not so important as bis two principal works, yet exhibiting the same great qualities of mind, and laying open many interesting facts which were very difficult of access, and so, of course, are the more valuable. For the few last years of his life, he was engaged in a work which promises to be of much importance-the life of the illustrious Calvin, of whose character and actions we possess no account of merit, connected though they were very closely
with the progress of the Reformation, not in a portion of Switzerland only, but in a great part of Europe, and specially in Scotland. It will be a ground of fervent thankfulness if, as there seems reason to hope, this work has been left by its author in a state of sufficient forwardness to admitof its publication. But how does one grieve to think that such a work should not have come forth complete from his own hand, and still more that that hand, which might have been employed in the execution of other and kindred works, and which has filled so many a classic and noble page, is not mouldering in the grave!
But there is another depărtment of Dr. M*Crie's writings, which it would be unpardonable to pass by without special remark, even in this slight notice, where several things must be wholly omitted. Every one knows that this great and good man was a Seceder from the Church of Scotlard. To her doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, in all its parts, he was warmly attacbed; and he retained his attachment undiminished to the day of his death. But he not only believed that certain serious evils had entered in and cor. rupted the Church's administration, but deemed these suf.ficient to justify, nay require, his remaining in a state of separation from her communion. When that controversy arose in the Secession, which, under a peculiar name, turned upon
very question respecting the connection of Church and State, that now threatens to convulse these kingdoms, Dr. M'Crie warmly espoused what among his brethren, rapidly became the unfashionable side, maintaining the same doctrine for which we contend at this day. So entirely was this opposed to his temporal interests, that, on account of his strong and inviolable attachment to that and kindred doctrines, he was actually at one time, as we understand, thrown destitute on the world. He had more.. over, to bear the scom of many, as one supposed to be suffering for a mere trifle; for the question of the magistrate's power had dot then assumed the shape of an attack on existing institations, but merely that of a difference in abstract principle. The importance of this difference was not perceived even by most in the Established Church; and on different bands, therefore, Dr. M'Crie 'was held up to ridicule, as contending and suffering for what was at best a theory. But his acute and penetrating mind saw the important practical bearings of that theory. He opened these op, together with a full defence of his own principle on the subject, in a very able paper, partly written and wholly revised by him, which appeared as far back
as the year 1806. For a long time, however, the differ. ence still appeared 10 many to be one of little importance; and this paper was scarcely known beyond the limits of that small body of Seceders, who avowed it as the declara. tion of their sentiments. In due time, however, what Dr. M'Crie had foreseen as not unlikely, came to pass in fact. The New Light opinions, from a variety of causes, continued to gain ground; and as they entirely fell in with the spirit of the age, were at length in circumstances for exhibiting their true character in an open and avowed attack, no longer on the principle merely, but on the very existence of the Established Church, together with all those fences and safeguards which public law has hitherto thrown around the institutions of religion. In the controversy to which this attack has given rise, this eminent man did not directly appear as a writer. Indirectly, how. ever, he did. His sentiments on the subject having been already before the public in the paper just referred to, it only remained for the friends of the Church to reprint such portions as were applicable to the existing state of the controversy. This they did accordingly, with his permission; and great benefit has thus doubtless arisen to the cause of truth on this important subject. But it was not by the force of his arguments alone that Dr. M'Crie formed a powerful friend of the cause of our Establishment in this its time of need. The very testimony of such a man, living as he did in a state of separation from the Church,-bis having suffered for adherence to these very principles,—his having done so at a period when the Church was so generally corrupt, as to furnish a plausible argument for the essential inexpediency and unlawfulness of Established Churches, -and, in a word, his continuing to adhere to the same sentiments after all that had been spoken and written against them, and though he openly said to the last, that he sav no immediate prospect of being able conscientiously to join the Church, -all these facts, independently of the arguments by which in his writings he so ably defended the principle of Establishments, form a very powerful argument indeed in its fa. vour, and one to which, on various accounts, we are able to appeal with a peculiarly good grace.
On the whole, in whatever light we view this eminent man-whether we look to his personal character, to his ministerial gifts and usefulness, or to his writings, -whe. ther we connect him with the cause of the Reformation in