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Old Church Life in Scotland
Appendix E.—Rev. Dr. Dairymple of Ayr


Mr. Dalrymple was a native of Ayr, and, to use his own words, "notwithstanding had the honour of an unanimous call to minister to so large a congregation" as that of his native place. Writing in 1787, he said, "for nighest to forty years past a good and gracious God has judged proper to enable me for the discharge of common parochial duties, with apparent general acceptance, which I speak to the praise of his unmerited love."

That he was a man of more than common excellence of personal character may be interred from the words of Burns,

"D'rymple mild, D'rymple mild,
Though your heart's like a child's,
And your life like the new driven snaw."

But he was more than an amiable man. He was a man of weight and authority in the Church, and was appointed Moderator of the General Assembly in 17 81.

His orthodoxy, however, was suspected, especially on the question of our Saviour's nature. He has left behind him several publications. One of these is entitled, "A History of Christ for the Use of the Unlearned." It is not of much literary or theological merit, and is simply a paraphrase of the Gospels in the style of Doddridge's "Family Expositor." It was published in 1787, and the object of its publication was thus stated in his dedication of it to his parishioners, "At a time of life when an approach of dissolution may be soon expected, it is natural for the warmth which I owe to an obliging people to look beyond them to their posterity, and if possible to serve both parents and offspring in absence."

The following paraphrase of a few verses in the 14th chapter of St. John's Gospel will indicate pretty clearly Dr. Dalrymple's views on the point on which he was popularly considered unsound, "Whither I go ye may surely know, and the way of coming thither ye may likewise know. Thomas, yet weak in belief, and desirous that he should be still more explicit, saith unto him, Lord, we know not so surely yet whither thou goest, and how can we, m then, without some clearer instructions, know the way that leads thither? Jesus, in great affection, saith unto him, I am the way by my example, the truth by re-"peated promise, and the life by an endless reward, no man cometh to the Father for the enjoyment of this perfect, eternal existence but by means of me. If, therefore, ye had known me aright, and the nature of my kingdom, ye should have known the chief glorious manifestation of my Father also, and from henceforth ye know him more fully than ever, and have, as it were, seen him in his divine attributes of wisdom, goodness, holiness and power. . . He that hath seen me perform such miracles in confirmation of a heavenly doctrine hath in effect seen the Father."

The colleague of Dr. Dalrymple in Ayr in 1787 was Dr. M'Gill, whose book on "the sufferings and death of Christ, considered by way of practical essay," made, on its appearance from the press, such a commotion in the West country that Burns took up his pen and immortalised the ecclesiastical uproar in satirical verse, which he entitled the Kirk's Alarm. The most curious passage in Dr. Dalrymple's History of Christ is a sentence in the dedication, in which, all unconscious and unsuspicious of the storm that was gathering, he refers to the essay of his worthy colleague, Dr. William M'Gill. "There is little doubt," he says, "from its piously condescending manner, the simple elegance of its composition, exactness of method, and whole tendency to excite and cherish the best affections, it will prove universally acceptable. He will pardon me, after perusing the whole in manuscript, to have cast in this mite of tribute without his knowledge; less could not be said, and more might have been liable to misconstruction, besides doing hurt where modesty wishes to be spared.....My trust and hope in the divine mercy is that you may yet long continue to enjoy and value his sacred ministrations, and to set a special mark of regard, as you now do, upon the unremitting accuracy with which the truths of Scripture are explained and applied by lectures."

Dr. Dalrymple had taken a very inaccurate guage of public sentiment when he wrote these kindly and complimentary words, for such a storm as M'Gill's essay raised, shortly after it was published, was never heard of in connection with any literary subject in Ayrshire.

Mr. Dun, of Auchinleck, in the preface to one of his sermons—"A Discourse on the Divinity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, in the Latin language, which a late publication has called for"—says, "I am sorry that a co-presbyter of mine has published an attack on the dignity of our Lord, under the dark title of a Practical Essay on the death of Jesus Christ, . . . and has not given the fair hint where to find what has been formerly answered to Ebion, Cerinthus, Socinus, and his other friends, whom he copies alter."

Notwithstanding Mr. Dun's denunciation, however, the essay of Dr. M'Gill (published in 1786, and dedicated to Dr. Dalrymple) is a very able production, written in an admirable spirit, and evincing an earnest desire to solve the great mystery of redemption and vindicate the ways of God to man through Christ. It is not destructive, but constructive, in its aim. It may be described as a reply to the statement of Archbishop Tillotson that " the death of the Son of God is such a stumbling-block as is very hard for human reason to get over." The following passages will indicate Dr. M'Gill's views :—" Next to the mercy of God, which is never to be forgotten, the benefits of our redemption by Christ flow chiefly from the righteousness and holiness of his life—and particularly from the eminent patience, piety, submission, and benevolence displayed at the close of it—which avail with God in favour of sinners, in the same manner as do the piety and virtue of good men in general, only the effects of such singular excellencies are proportionally greater and more extensive," p. 275. "The worthiness of Christ was most eminently displayed in his endeavouring to save men at the price of his blood. This is of great estimation in the sight of God, who is pleased for the sake of it to show favour to the unworthy, provided they turn from their evil ways and join themselves to the son of his love," p. 279. "What the blood of Christ did," says Dr. M'Gill, "was to ratify and make valid the covenant of grace," p. 360-361.

Although Dr. Dalrymple in 1787 spoke of himself as having reached "a time of life when an approach of dissolution might be soon expected," he lived for twenty-seven years after that date, and died at the age of ninety in 1814. In 1794 he published a treatise on the Mosaic Account of Creation. This was followed in 1796 by his Legacy of Dying Thoughts, and in 1803 he closed his literary career by the publication of a Handbook of Scripture Jewish History. (Scott's Fasti).


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