Andrew Gray (1634-1656)

A Powerful Preacher Who Died at a Young Age

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“Without Christ, the most stately palace is a Hell. With Christ, the most stinking dungeon is a palace!” – Andrew Gray

Biography of Andrew Gray (1634-1656):

Andrew Gray’s brief life has many peculiarities. He was the youngest minister in the Church, his period of labour was limited to two years and a half, the impression he left has been deep and lasting, the notes of his sermons published after his death, have been handed down from father to son in the households of the godly, as a rare treasure.

 

Andrew Gray, by the calculation of his age, and the date of his entry into the ministry, seems to have born about the year 1634; and being 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 aquainted 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 1icensed 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 he was free of youthful vanity or affectation of human literature, though he had a most scholastic genius and more than ordinary abilities, so that he did outstrip many that entered into the Lord’s vineyard before him. His expression was very 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. Hp 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.
All these singularities seem to have been his peculiar mercy from the Lord, to make him a burning and a 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 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 it appears, ever intended that they should 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 differnt sounds, for so is truth in its own native dress.

It hath been often been said that Mr.Gray many times longed for the twenty second year of his age whenin 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 Robert Fleming, (sometime minister at Cambuslang), which remarkable sea deliverance was a 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 that 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 those defections, with his learned colleague, Mr. Durham, who afterwards on his deathbed, 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.

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 flight into the arms of his blessed Saviour, whom he had served failthfully in his day and generation, though only about 22 years old. He shone too conspicuously to last long, and burned so intensly 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 in 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 sttod in need of his assistance. Those 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 or esteemed him as one of the most able advocates for the propogation 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 octavo. 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 (and these for connection’s sake along with his letter to Lord Warriston) 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.

He is remarkable, too, in some less important circumstances of his life. His father was Sir William Gray of Pittendrum oin Aberdeen shire – an able man who made a fortune in his day by merchandising – improving foreign trade enormously. Sir William married Engidia, sister of Sir John Smith of King’s Cramond, Aberdeenshire, Provost of Edinburgh. Their family consited of six sons and twelve daughters, and were a family of rank and station. A grandson of Sir William became Lord Gray Kinfauns, while one of his daughters married the Earl of Roseberry.

Andrew was the fifth son, or the youngest, and was born in 1634. As a boy he was lively and playful to such a degree, that one of his nephews told Wodrow, the historian, that in early youth he was “playrife and minded nothing but frolics and pleasures”. But a great change was wrought on him very quickly by a singular circumstance. He had come South. and was one day walking between Leith and Edinburgh, when he saw a poor man, a begger, in a blue gown, leave the road and go into a corn-field. The boy watched him kneeling down beside a great stone and then heard him pour out a most serious confession of sin and earnest prayer with great warmth and affection of spirit. The boy was much moved. “Here is a most miserable creature in the worst of circumstances, whose life is almost a burden to him, and here am I who have all things in plenty, and have never felt any want or strait, and yet I have never made any acknowledgment to God, the free giver of all to me, as that poor creature who never had the tenth part of the obligations I have to God”. This simple incident was the beginning of the change. It “sat down on him” says the narrator and “oh, what a change in a little time” was the remark of an aged minister who used to meet the “playrife” boy.

At St. Andrews he distinguished himself greatly, though he entered on the university curriculum when very young. Soon after his laureation he preached once or twice at Glasgow, and at once attracted notice. He was chosen successor to Patrick Gillespie, as minister of the Outer High Church in 1653. In the controversy between the Protesters and the Resolutioners he took the side of the former.

He died at Glasgow in Feb. 1656 “of a purple fever, of a few days roving” says Robert Baillie in a letter.

Gray had been a short time married. His widow became the wife of Mr. George Hutcheson, minister at Irvine.

 

Bible Verse:

“Peace to you all who are in Christ Jesus,” (1 Peter 5:14).

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