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The Rev. Andrew Hunter, D.D., Professor of Divinity


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 useful life.

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 be found.

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.

Dr. Hunter married, in 1779, Marion Shaw, eldest daughter of William sixth Lord Napier, by whom he had four children. His eldest son, a member of the faculty of advocates (who afterwards took the name of Arundel, in compliance with the wishes of his wife, who was a relative of Lord Arundel of Wardour), succeeded to the estate, and died a few years since, leaving several children. His youngest son, the Rev. John Hunter, is one of the ministers of the Tron Church —which charge he has held since October, 1832, in conjunction with Dr. Brunton, Professor of Hebrew in the University.


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