Robert Traill (1642-1716)
Robert Traill was born in 1642 in Elie, Fifeshire. His father, Robert, carefully supervised his son’s early education. The elder Traill served first as minister of Elie, then went to Greyfriars Church in Edinburgh, pastoring there with fidelity and zeal. During the Civil War, he enlisted as chaplain with the Scottish army in England. He was later imprisoned for seven months, then exiled for reminding Charles II at the Restoration of his obligation to keep the Covenant. In 1662, Traill fled to the Netherlands, leaving behind his God-fearing wife, Jean Annan, and six children. Three years later, Jean was imprisoned for corresponding with her exiled husband.
Meanwhile, young Robert Traill studied at the University of Edinburgh, where he was a good scholar. William Guthrie of Fenwick, author of The Christian’s Great Interest, became his mentor and close friend. At age nineteen, Traill was attendant to James Guthrie of Stirling, his father’s friend and Cromwell’s “short man who could not bow,” when Guthrie went to the scaffold. Traill served briefly as chaplain to the Scotstarvet family and spent some time with John Welsh, minister of Irongray, who was first to hold “armed conventicles,” i.e., spiritual fellowships where several attendees would bear arms to defend the group from arrest.
In 1666, agents of the prelatical party in Scotland discovered copies of the forbidden book An Apologetic Relation (1660) in the Traill home. The entire family was forced to become cautious. The crisis culminated during the Pentland Rising that same year, when young Traill was denounced as a “Pentland rebel.” Anticipating arrest, he fled to the Netherlands, where his father and other British divines were taking refuge from Stuart absolutism. Young Traill continued his theological studies there, assisting Matthias Nethenus, professor of divinity at Utrecht, and helping to prepare Samuel Ruther- ford’s Examination of Arminianism for print.
In 1669, young Traill returned to Britain and settled in London. The following year he was installed in a Presbyterian congregation in Cranbrook, Kent. In 1677, Traill was again arrested in Edinburgh, this time for preaching in private homes and assisting in conventicles. While imprisoned on the Bass Rock in Firth, he met James Fraser of Brea and Alexander Peden. He was released from prison a few months later and returned to his flock at Cranbrook. After a few years, he moved to a Scottish congregation in London, where he ministered for the remainder of his life. His Christ-centered approach to prayer and ministry is evident from his confession:
I have no name to come to God but in Christ. My own name is abominable to myself. No other name is given under heaven, but that of Jesus Christ, in which a sinner may safely approach unto God. Since the Father is well pleased with this name, and the Son commands me to ask in it, and the Holy Ghost hath brought this name to me, and made it as ointment poured forth (Song of Sol. 1:3), and since its savor hath reached my soul, I will try to lift it up as incense to perfume the altar enthroned above; since all that ever come in this name are made welcome, I will come also, having no plea but Christ’s name, no covering but His borrowed and gifted robe of righteousness. I need nothing, I will ask nothing, but what His blood hath bought (and all that I will ask); I will expect answers of peace and acceptance only in that blessed Beloved—beloved of the Father, both as His Son and our Savior, and beloved of all that ever saw but a little of His grace and glory.
In 1682, Traill published a powerful sermon, “By what means can ministers best win souls?” (on 1 Tim. 4:16), which is still a “must read for soul-winners” today. Later, he published Justification Vindicated (see below), Thirteen Sermons on the Throne of Grace (on Heb. 4:16) and Sixteen Sermons on the Prayer of Our Saviour (on John 17:24). These books went through numerous printings, becoming very popular among the evangelicals of succeeding generations.
Traill died in 1716, at age seventy-four. He was a great contributor to the Puritan age; his name is linked to the best in Scotch, Dutch, and English Puritan traditions. – Meet the Puritans
Books by Robert Traill
Justification Vindicated – Puritan Paperbacks
Works of Robert Trail, 4 Vols.
The Lord’s Prayer for His People