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OF THE LATE
REV. ROBERT SHIRREFF,
This most amiable man; devout Christian, and faithful minister, was born in the year 1754, at Wester. Broomhouse, near Dunbar, in East Lothian. His father, Mr. William Shirreff, was the pious and respectable tenant of that farm, and an elder in the associate congregation of Dunbar. At what period Robert began to seek the Lord God of his fathers, it is impossible to say; but it is certain that his religious impressions were of a very early date. To an intimate friend he stated, that some serious advices addressed to his elder brothers by the late venerable Mr. Hutton of Dalkeith, when on a visit at Broomhouse, being overheard by him, then little more than an infant, deeply affected him. He received his grammar-school education at Dunbar; and while residing there, was in the habit of attending a prayer-meeting held in the house of a near relative. At this period of his life he was distin. guished by a peculiarly pleasing seriousness of demeanour; and the writer of this recollects with me
lancholy delight having been on one occasion the unsuspected ear witness of his fervent secret devotions. The works of the Rev. Ralph Erskine, published about this time, in 2 vols. folio, were read by him with much interest and advantage. In November 1771, he commenced his literary and philosophical studies in the university of Edinburgh ; and after the ordinary course, placed himself under the care of the Rev. John Brown of Haddington, Professor of Divinity under the inspection of the Associate Synod. Having finished his five years of theological study, he was licensed by the Associate Presbytery of Edinburgh on the 3d of March, 1778; and was ordained, by the same presbytery, pastor of the lately formed congregation of Tranent, to which he had been unanimously called, on the 5th of January, 1779. On February 29, 1788, he was married to Miss Marjory Hutton, youngest daughter of the Rev. William Hutton, Dalkeith, a young lady of uncommon piety and accomplishments; but of whoin it pleased Providence to deprive him within eighteen months. She died in child-bed, leaving an infant daughter. How deeply he felt, and how patiently he bore this affliction, will appear from the following papers. Having continued a widower for several years, he again married Miss Margaret Watson of Haddington, a pious respectable young lady, who survived him, and by whom he has left a numerous family. In the discharge of his ministerial duties he was most regudar, diligent, faithful, and affectionate : he was retired in his habits; and his studies and reading were chiefly, though not exclusively, theologicala The book of God was his favourite companion ; and, as a preacher, he was mighty in the Scriptures. In the bosom of his own family his manners were singularly affectionate and engaging. He possessed an uncommon talent for religious conversation, and seemed to find great enjoyment in this exercise. He usually spent a considerable time every day, in his place of worship, in solitary religious meditation. During the earlier part of his ministry, he was blessed with a very good state of health, and it was conscientiously devoted to the service of his Master. In consequence of a severe nervous fever in 1800, his last years were afflicted with asthma. But, under many infirmities, he continued to discharge all his ministerial duties. So great was his delight in these, that even in his last days, he had, during a considerable part of the year, an evening lecture in his meeting-house ; and frequently, on a summer evening, used to preach in the surrounding villages. When unable to visit the afflicted, he used to send them letters of direction and comfort. He felt a deep interest in the rising generation, and was an active supporter of Sabbath evening schools. He published nothing but some papers in the Chris, tian Magazine. He died on Thursday, January 27, 1820.
The following sketch of his character was written by a very intimate Christian friend : « From his earliest years this singularly pious man felt the influence of divine truth; and into what beauteous and delectable forms it afterwards increased, is well known to many. He was well prepared by study, meditation, and prayer, for the duties of the pastoral office. The writer of this sketch cannot but remember the high tone of holy fervour with which, in the earlier part of his ministry, he held forth the word of life; and how by degrees it softened down into that earnest, serious, and winning manner, by which his public labours were afterwards characterized. Devotion seemed to pour forth from his lips in one continuous stream; and that heart must have been cold and dead which could hear without emotion. With few pretensions to the ornaments of speech, by the force of truth, by the power of devotion, and by that conimand of himself in public, to which, by the divine blessing, he had eminently attained, he exercised over the minds of his hearers all the influence of an accomplished orator. They felt, because he was affected, they wept, because he set the example; the effect being aided by the happy prepossession that the good man spake out of the abundance of his heart, and had nothing in view but their welfare. The subjects on which he insisted in the course of his ministry were the great leading doctrines of Christianity; the illustration of which was drawn chiefly from the fountain of truth, the sacred oracles, with which his mind was richly furnished. By what an affecting arrangement of Scripture language would he describe the misery and helplessness of our nature ! and with what force launch forth the thunders of the Eternal's vengeance against the siriner who goes on in his trespasses ! Nor were words smoother or more mov