Read CHAPTER VII of The Life of Col. James Gardiner Who Was Slain at the Battle of Prestonpans‚ September 21‚ 1745, free online book, by P. Doddridge, on ReadCentral.com.

DOMESTIC RELATIONS.

I meet not with any other remarkable event relating to Major Gardiner, which can properly be introduced here, till 1726, when, on the 11th of July, he was married to the Right Hon. Lady Frances Erskine, daughter to the late Earl of Buchan, by whom he had thirteen children, five only of which survived their father, two sons and three daughters, whom I cannot mention without the most fervent prayers to God for them, that they may always behave worthy the honour of being descended from such parents, and that the God of their father and of their mother may make them perpetually the care of his providence, and yet more eminently happy in the constant and abundant influences of his grace.

As her ladyship is still living, (and for the sake of her dear offspring, and numerous friends, may she long be spared,) I shall not here indulge myself in saying any thing of her, except it be that the colonel assured me, when he had been happy in this intimate relation to her more than fourteen years, that the greatest imperfection he knew in her character was, “that she valued and loved him much more than he deserved.” Little did he think, in the simplicity of heart with which he spoke this, how high an encomium he was making upon her, and how lasting an honour such a testimony must leave upon her name, long as the memory of it shall continue.

As I do not intend in these memoirs a laboured essay on the character of Colonel Gardiner, digested under the various virtues and graces which Christianity requires, (which would, I think, be a little too formal for a work of this kind, and would give it such an air of panegyric as would neither suit my design, nor be at all likely to render it more useful,) I shall now mention what I have either observed in him, or heard concerning him, with regard to those domestic relations which commenced about this time, or very soon after. And here my reader will easily conclude that the resolution of Joshua was from the first adopted and declared, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” It will naturally be supposed, that as soon as he had a house, he erected an altar in it; that the word of God was read there, and prayers and praises were constantly offered. These were not to be omitted on account of any guest; for he esteemed it a part of due respect to those that remained under his roof to take it for granted they would look upon it as a very bad compliment to imagine they would have been obliged by neglecting the duties of religion on their account. As his family increased, he had a minister statedly resident in his house, who discharged both the office of a tutor to his children, and of a chaplain, and who was always treated with a becoming kindness and respect. But, in his absence, the colonel himself led the devotions of the family; and they were happy who had an opportunity of knowing with how much solemnity, fervour, and propriety he did it. He was constant in attendance upon public worship, in which an exemplary care was taken that the children and servants might accompany the heads of the family. And how he would have resented the non-attendance of any member of it may easily be conjectured from a free but lively passage in a letter to one of his intimate friends, on an occasion which it is not material to mention. “Oh, sir, had a child of yours under my roof but once neglected the public worship of God when he was able to attend it, I should have been ready to conclude he had been distracted, and should have thought of shaving his head, and confining him in a dark room.”

He always treated his lady with a manly tenderness, giving her the most natural evidences of a cordial, habitual esteem, and expressing a most affectionate sympathy with her under the infirmities of a very delicate constitution, much broken, at least towards the latter years of their marriage. He had at all times a most faithful care of all her interests, and especially those relating to the state of religion in her mind. His conversation and his letters concurred to cherish those sublime ideas which Christianity suggests, to promote our submission to the will of God, to teach us to centre our happiness in the great Author of our being, and to live by faith in the invisible world. These, no doubt, were frequently the subjects of mutual discourse; and many letters, which her ladyship has had the goodness to communicate to me, are most convincing evidences of the degree in which this noble and most friendly care filled his mind in the days of their separation days which so entire a mutual affection must have rendered exceedingly painful, had they not been supported by such exalted sentiments of piety, and sweetened by daily communion with an ever-present and ever-gracious God.

The necessity of being so many months together distant from his family hindered him from many of those condescending labours in cultivating the minds of his children in early life, which, to a soul so benevolent, so wise, and so zealous, would undoubtedly have afforded a very exquisite pleasure. The care of his worthy consort, who well knew that it is one of the brightest parts of a mother’s character, and one of the most important views in which the sex can be considered, made him the easier under such a circumstance; but when he was with them, he failed not to instruct and admonish them; and the constant deep sense with which he spoke of divine things, and the real unaffected indifference which he always showed for what this vain world is most ready to admire, were excellent lessons of daily wisdom, which I hope they will recollect with advantage in every future scene of life. And I have seen such hints in his letters relating to them, as plainly show with how great a weight they lay on his mind, and how highly he desired, above all things, that they might be the faithful disciples of Christ, and acquainted betimes with the unequalled pleasures and blessings of religion. He thought an excess of delicacy and of indulgence one of the most dangerous faults in education, by which he everywhere saw great numbers of young people undone; yet he was solicitous to guard against a severity which might terrify or discourage; and though he endeavoured to take all prudent precautions to prevent the commission of faults, yet, when they had been committed, and there seemed to be a sense of them, he was always ready to make the most candid allowances for the thoughtlessness of unripened years, and tenderly to cherish every purpose of a more proper conduct for the time to come.

It was to perceive that the openings of genius in the young branches of his family gave him great delight, and that he had a secret ambition to see them excel in what they undertook. Yet he was greatly cautious over his heart, lest it should be too fondly attached to them; and as he was one of the most eminent proficients I ever knew in the blessed science of resignation to the divine will, so there was no effect of that resignation which appeared to me more admirable than what related to the life of his children. An experience, which no length of time will ever efface out of my memory, has so sensibly taught me how difficult it is fully to support the Christian character here, that I hope my reader will pardon me (I am sure, at least, the heart of wounded parents will,) if I dwell a little longer upon so interesting a subject.

When he was in Herefordshire in July, 1734, it pleased God to visit his little family with the small pox. Five days before the date of the letter I am just going to mention, he had received the agreeable news that there was a prospect of the recovery of his son, then under that awful visitation; and he had been expressing his thankfulness for it in a letter which he had sent away but a few hours before he was informed of his death, the surprise of which, in this connection, must naturally be very great. But behold (says the reverend and worthy person from whom I received the copy) his truly filial submission to the will of his Heavenly Father, in the following lines addressed to the dear partner of his affliction: “Your resignation to the will of God under this dispensation gives me more joy than the death of the child has given me sorrow. He, to be sure, is happy; and we shall go to him, though he shall not return to us. Oh that we had our latter end always in view! We shall soon follow; and oh, what reason have we to long for that glorious day when we shall get quit of this body of sin and death under which we now groan, and which renders this life so wretched! I desire to bless God that (another of his children) is in so good a way; but I have resigned her. We must not choose for ourselves; and it is well we must not, for we should often make a very bad choice, and therefore it is our wisdom, as well as our duty, to leave all with a gracious God, who hath promised that all things shall work together for good to them that love him; and he is faithful that hath promised, who will infallibly perform it, if our unbelief does not stand in the way.”

The greatest trial of this kind that he ever bore, was in the removal of his second son, who was one of the most amiable and promising children that has been known. The dear little creature was the darling of all that knew him; and promised very fair, so far as a child could be known by its doings, to have been a great ornament to the family, and blessing to the public. The suddenness of the stroke must, no doubt, render it the more painful; for this beloved child was snatched away by an illness which seized him but about fifteen hours before it carried him off. He died in the month of October 1733, at near six years old. Their friends were ready to fear that his affectionate parents would be almost overwhelmed at such a loss; but the happy father had so firm a persuasion that God had received the dear little one to the felicities of the celestial world, and at the same time had so strong a sense of the divine goodness in taking one of his children, and that, too, one who lay so near his heart, so early to himself, that the sorrows of nature were quite swallowed up in the sublime joy which these considerations administered. When he reflected what human life is how many its snares and temptations are and how frequently children who once promised very well are insensibly corrupted, and at length undone, with Solomon he blessed the dead already dead, more than the living who were yet alive, and felt unspeakable pleasure in looking after the lovely infant, as safely and delightfully lodged in the house of its Heavenly Father. Yea, he assured me that his heart was at this time so entirely taken up with these views, that he was afraid they who did not thoroughly know him might suspect that he was deficient in the natural affections of a parent, while thus borne above the anguish of them by the views which faith administered to him, and which divine grace supported in his soul.

So much did he, on one of the most trying occasions of life, manifest of the temper of a glorified saint, and to such happy purposes did he retain those lessons of submission to God, and acquiescence in him, which I remember he once inculcated in a letter he wrote to a lady of quality under the apprehension of a breach in her family with which Providence seemed to threaten her, which I am willing to insert here, though a little out of what might seem its most proper place rather than entirely to omit it. It is dated from London, June 16, 1722, when, speaking of the dangerous illness of a dear relative, he has these words: “When my mind runs hither,” that is, to God, as its refuge and strong defence, (as the connection plainly determines it,) “I think I can bear any thing, the loss of all, the loss of health, of relations, on whom I depend, and whom I love, all that is dear to me, without repining or murmuring. When I think that God orders, disposes, and manages all things according to the counsel of his own will; when I think of the extent of his providence, that it reaches to the minutest things; then, though a useful friend or dear relative be snatched away by death, I recall myself, and check my thoughts with these considerations: Is he not God from everlasting, and to everlasting? And has he not promised to be a God to me? a God in all his attributes, a God in all his persons, a God in all his creatures and providences? And shall I dare to say, What shall I do? Was not he the infinite cause of all I met with in the creatures? And were not they the finite effects of his infinite love and kindness? I have daily experienced that the instrument was, and is, what God makes it to be; and I know that this ’God hath the hearts of all men in his hands, and the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.’ If this earth be good for me, I shall have it; for my Father hath it all in possession. If favour in the eyes of men be good for me, I shall have it; for the spring of every motion in the heart of man is in God’s hand. My dear seems now to be dying; but God is all-wise, and every thing is done by him for the best. Shall I hold back any thing that is his own, when he requires it? No, God forbid! When I consider the excellency of his glorious attributes, I am satisfied with all his dealings.” I perceive by the introduction, and by what follows, that most, if not all of this, is a quotation from something written by a lady; but whether from some manuscript or printed book, whether exactly transcribed or quoted from memory, I cannot determine; and therefore I thought proper to insert it, as the major (for that was the office he bore then,) by thus interweaving it with his letter, makes it his own, and as it seems to express in a very lively manner the principles which bore him on to a conduct so truly great and heroic, in circumstances that have overwhelmed many a heart that could have faced danger and death with the greatest intrepidity.

I return now to consider his character in the domestic relation of a master, on which I shall not enlarge. It is, however, proper to remark, that as his habitual meekness and command of his passions prevented indecent sallies of ungoverned anger towards those in the lowest state of subjection to him, by which some in high life do strangely debase themselves, and lose much of their authority, so the natural greatness of his mind made him solicitous to render their inferior stations as easy as he could: and so much the rather, because he considered all the children of Adam as standing upon a level before their great Creator, and had also a deeper sense of the dignity and worth of every immortal soul, how meanly soever it might chance to be lodged, than most persons I have known. This engaged him to give his servants frequent religious exhortations and instructions, as I have been assured by several who were so happy as to live with him under that character. One of his first letters, after he entered on his Christian course, expresses the same disposition; in which, with great tenderness, he recommends a servant, who was in a bad state of health, to his mother’s care, as he was well acquainted with her condescending temper; mentioning at the same time, the endeavours he had used to promote his preparations for a better world, under an apprehension that he would not continue long in this. We shall have an affecting instance of the prevalence of the same disposition in the closing scene of his life, and indeed in the last words he ever spoke, which expressed his generous solicitude for the safety of a faithful servant who was then near him.