Dr. Andrew Hunter was the eldest son of Andrew
Hunter, Esq., of Park, Writer to the Signet (descended from a branch of
the family of Hunter of Hunterstone in Ayrshire). His mother, Grisel
Maxwell, was a daughter of General Maxwell of Cardoness, in the
stewartry of Kirkcudbright—a gentleman alike distinguished for his
bravery and his piety. He was a zealous supporter of the Protestant
interest; and, at the Revolution of 1688, was one of those who
accompanied the Prince of Orange from Holland.
Dr. Hunter was born in Edinburgh in 1743, and, at an
early period, gave evidence of that mildness of temper and goodness of
disposition which so much endeared him in after life to all who had the
pleasure of his acquaintance. He was educated at the school taught by
Mr. Mundell, one of the most distinguished teachers in Edinburgh at that
period. Nearly fifty years afterwards, out of respect to him, a club was
formed, consisting of those who had been his scholars—among whom we may
enumerate the Earl of Buchan, Lord Hermand, Lord Polkemmet, Lord Balmuto,
and other distinguished individuals, including Dr. Hunter. The members
were in the habit of dining together at stated periods in honour of his
memory. At these social meetings the parties lived their boyish days
over again; and each was addressed in the familiar manner, and by the
juvenile soubriquet which he bore when one of the "schule laddies."
Any deviation from these rules was punished by a fine.
After passing through his academical studies at the
University of Edinburgh, Dr. Hunter spent a year at Utrecht, which he
chiefly devoted to the study of theology—such a course being at that
time considered highly necessary to perfect the student of divinity.
Thus prepared for the Church, Dr. Hunter was licensed as a probationer
by the Presbytery of Edinburgh in 1767 ; but he refused to accept of any
charge till after the death of his venerable father, towards whom he
manifested the utmost degree of filial affection, cheering the evening
of his days by his kind attention and solicitude,
While attending the University, Dr. Hunter became
intimate with several young gentlemen, afterwards distinguished in their
various walks of life: among others, Sir Robert Liston (for many years
ambassador to the Ottoman Court), Dr. Alexander Adam (rector of the High
School), Dr. Sommerville (minister of Jedburgh, the historian), and Dr.
Samuel Charteris (minister of Wilton). He was also connected with
several literary and theological societies formed among his
fellow-students; and was a member of the Newtonian Society, instituted
in 1760, which for several years continued to meet weekly in one of the
rooms of the College, and which may be said to have been the precursor
of the present Royal Society of Edinburgh.
An anecdote is told of Dr. Hunter in connection with
this Society. He was at the time very young, and not sufficiently
practised in the art of literary condensation. When it came to
his turn to produce an essay for the evening, he had entered so
sincerely and fully upon the subject, that he appeared at the forum with
au immense bundle of papers under his arm; and commenced by stating that
his discourse consisted of twelve different parts! This
announcement alarmed the preses for the night so much, that he
interrupted him by declaring that he had twelve distinct
objections to the production of such a mass of manuscripts. The preses
accordingly stated his twelve reasons, and was followed on the same side
by six other members, who prefaced their observations by a similar
declaration. During this opposition the temper of the young theologian
remained unruffled; and it was not till the last speaker had finished
his oration, that he took up his papers, and, without deigning to reply,
walked out of the room.
In 1770, Dr. Hunter was presented to the New Church
of Dumfries; and, soon afterwards, became the purchaser of the estate of
Barjarg in that county, which had previously belonged to James Erskine
of Barjarg and Alva—one of the Senators of the College of Justice. He
remained at Dumfries for nine years, and was much esteemed by all
classes of the community.
In 1779, he was presented to the New Greyfriars'
Church, Edinburgh; and, whilst there, was appointed the colleague of Dr.
Hamilton (father to the late eminent physician) in the Divinity
Professorship of the University; and, until the death of that gentleman,
continued to teach his class without any remuneration.
In 1786, he was translated by the Magistrates to the
Tron Church, where he became associated with Dr. Drysdale—a clergyman
much esteemed for his talents and amiable character. Although differing
on some points of Church polity, the two incumbents lived on terms of
the closest intimacy during the short period of their connection; and
the kind attentions of Dr. Hunter contributed much to promote the
comfort of his venerable friend in the declining years of his long and
The lectures of Dr. Hunter, as Professor of Divinity,
were distinguished by a plain, clear, and accurate statement of the
evidences and doctrine of Christianity; and it was his uniform and
earnest endeavour to promote practical piety and ministerial usefulness
among his students. For this purpose he cultivated an acquaintance with
them in private; and, to such as he found most worthy and most in want
of assistance, he not only made presents of books, but frequently aided
them with sums of money, which he conveyed in such a way as to insure
the gratitude without injuring the feelings of the receiver; while, for
those who were distinguished by piety and talents, he endeavoured to
procure situations of usefulness and respectability. He also, from his
own funds, gave a prize yearly for the best theological essay on a
prescribed subject; and he was remarkable for the candour and
impartiality which he observed in adjudging the reward.
In the pulpit, Dr. Hunter had an earnest and
affectionate manner of delivery; and his discourses were sound in their
doctrine and practical in their tendency. Several of his sermons, on
particular occasions, have been published: one, in 1792, is entitled
"The Duties of Subjects," which seems to have been written with a view
to counteract the Republican mania, which the French Revolution had
introduced into the country. The discourse is characterised by a
comprehensive view of the relative duties of those who govern and of the
governed. The arguments are judicious and forcible, and the language
moderate and conciliatory. We find another published sermon by Dr.
Hunter, entitled "Christ's Drawing all Men unto Him," preached before
the Edinburgh Missionary Society, in Lady Glenorchy's Chapel, on
Thursday, the 20th of July, 1797; and in the "Scottish Preacher"—a
publication of very considerable excellence— two other discourses will
In discharging the private duties of his profession,
no individual could be more zealous than Dr. Hunter. The great aim of
his life seemed to be in every possible way to extend the knowledge and
practice of true religion. To all the religious and charitable
institutions of Edinburgh he contributed largely from his own substance
; and wide and judicious was the range of his private beneficence. Both
in his pastoral conduct, and in the discharge of his duties as a
Professor of Theology, no individual could be more completely divested
of bigotry or party spirit. He judged of others by himself; and
uniformly gave credit to those who were opposed to him on minor points
of religious opinion, or as to questions of church polity, for the same
integrity and purity of intention by which his own conduct was governed.
By his brethren he was much respected; and his well-known candour
procured every attention to his opinions in the church courts. He was
appointed Moderator of the General Assembly in 1792.
In the following quotation, the character of Dr.
Hunter has been drawn by one who knew him intimately, and whose judgment
may well be considered no slight authority:—"But shall I not mention the
known integrity and purity of his mind—the candour and sincerity which
so eminently distinguished him through life, and which ever commanded
the confidence of those who differed from him most in judgment—the fair,
and open, and generous spirit which he invariably discovered, when he
judged of other men, or acted with them—the scorn with which he ever
contemplated an unfair, an interested, a disingenuous proceeding—the
mildness of his temper, of which, by the grace of God he had acquired
the entire command; and (what can certainly be said of few amongst us
all), which was scarcely ever known to have been roused into passion,
either in public or domestic life—the earnestness and godly sincerity
with which he followed every good work, and co-operated with other men
whom he believed to be sincerely disposed to be useful; with no shade of
worldly selfishness to pervert his conduct; without ostentation ;
superior to envy, and superior to pride; gentle and forbearing with all
men; but firm and immoveable where he saw his duty before him ; fervent
in spirit, serving the Lord." In the private relations of life few men
could be more estimable. He was one of the kindest of husbands—an
affectionate parent—and the most attached of friends.
At a period of life, when actively employed in
discharging the duties of his profession, and in the full enjoyment of
health, on returning from the sacramental services at Leith, he was
suddenly seized with inflammation, and died, after a few days' illness,
on the 21st of April, 1809. The closing scene of his life was as
exemplary and instructive as his whole previous conduct had been; and he
looked upon his approaching dissolution with all the calmness,
resignation, and hope, which a well-spent life can inspire. Funeral
sermons were preached on the occasion by his colleague the Rev. Dr.
Simpson, and the Rev. Sir Henry Moncrieff Wellwood, Bart.; and most
gratifying tributes of respect were paid to his memory by almost all the
clergy of the city.