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The Rev. Dr. Thomas Hardie, Professor of Ecclesiastical History


Dr. Thomas Hardie was the son of the Rev. Thomas Hardie, one of the ministers of Culross, in the Presbytery of Dunfermline. Of the early part of his history little is known, but it is believed he studied at the University of Edinburgh. His first presentation was to Ballingary, in Fifeshire (June 16,1774), where he continued to discharge his clerical duties for several years, and acquired a degree of local popularity, which promised, at no distant period, to call him away to a more enlarged sphere of action. He was of an active disposition, and by no means a passive observer of events. He felt much interested in the divisions which then, as now, existed in the Church; and, while he personally tendered his exertions on that side which he espoused, his pen was not idle. We allude to the pamphlet which he published in 1782, entitled "The Principles of Moderation: addressed to the Clergy of the Popular Interest in the Church of Scotland."

The object of this publication was to review, in a dispassionate manner, the real cause and state of division in the Church; and he certainly succeeded in calmly, if not successfully, vindicating the conduct of the moderate party, or "the Martyrs to Law," as he called them, to which he belonged. The address was written with ability, and displayed considerable acumen and acquaintance with the history, as well as the law of the Church. At that time patronage was the principal cause of dissent, and had led to the secession of a numerous body of the people. This he lamented; and, while he viewed patronage as an evil to which the Church ought to bow solely and only so long as it remained law, he was desirous of uniting all parties in procuring an amicable change in the system. But, while he deprecated patronage in the abstract, he was equally averse to popular election. The plan which be promulgated, iu his address, was similar in principle to the act of 1732. He proposed that one entire vote should remain with the patron, a second with the heritors, and a third with the elders; the majority of these three bodies to decide the election of the minister. In order to obtain the concurrence of the patrons to this partial divestment of their power—"Let it be provided," he says, "that all vacant stipends shall be declared to become their absolute property, instead of being conveyed in trust for any other purpose;" and, by way of explaining such an extraordinary clause, the rev. gentleman adds—"The vacant stipends are appropriated in law to pious uses within the parish, but indeed are very seldom so bestowed; and parishes would in fact suffer nothing by their total abolition!" This plan, as might have been foreseen, was not at all calculated to meet the views of the popular party; but it had the effect of introducing the author to public notice, and of paving the way for his subsequent advancement.

In 1784, only two years after the publication of his "Principles of Moderation," Dr. Hardie was called, by the Town Council of Edinburgh, to be one of the ministers of the High Church. Here be soon attracted notice as a preacher; and an exposition which he gave of the gospel according to St. John, was so generally esteemed, that an Edinburgh bookseller is said to have offered him a very considerable sum for the copyright. On the proposal being made to him, however, it was discovered that the lectures had never been written out, but delivered from short notes only. In consequence of delicate health, and finding himself unable for so large a place of worship as the High Church, he was at his own request removed, in 1786, to Haddo's Hole, or the New North Parish, where he continued the colleague of Dr. Gloag until his death.

In 1788, Dr. Hardie was elected to the Professorship of Ecclesiastical History in the University, vacant by the death of the Rev. Robert Cumming. For many years previously this important class bad been in a languishing condition; but the appointment of Dr. Hardie infused a new spirit among the students. His course of lectures was well attended; and his fame as a Professor soon equalled, if it did not surpass, his popularity as a preacher. His views of church history took an extensive range; and the boldness of his sentiments was not less vigorous than the manly tone of his eloquence.

Although thus placed in a situation of high honour and importance. and his time necessarily much engaged, Dr. Hardie still iuterested himself actively in matters of public moment. He was one of the original members of the "Society for the Benefit of the Sons of the Clergy of the Church of Scotland;" and, in 1791, preached the first anniversary sermon before the Society, which was afterwards published. Other sermons, preached on public occasions, were also published. One of these, entitled "The Progress of the Christian Religion," was delivered before the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, at the anniversary in 1793; and a discourse on "The Resurrection of Christ" appeared in The Scotch Preacher.

The genius and exertions of Dr. Hardie were not, however, confined to spiritual matters. Temporal affairs occasionally engaged his attention. In 1793, he produced his "Plan for the Augmentation of Stipends"—one of the works to which the artist has made special reference in the Print; and, much about the same period, he undertook another essay entirely of a political nature. This was no less than a refutation of the republican dogmas of Thomas Paine. The late Mr. Smellie had been applied to by the leading men of the city, in the interest of Government, to write an answer to the revolutionary works of Paine; but his hands being full of important literary engagements at the time, he declined doing so. Dr. Hardie having been next applied to, he produced a well-written pamphlet, entitled The Patriot, for which he obtained a pension from Government. It is in allusion to this publication that he has been called "The Reverend Patriot" by the artist.

In the Church Courts, notwithstanding occasional party heats, Dr. Hardie was very generally esteemed by his professional brethren, and was elected Moderator of the General Assembly in 1793. In private, and especially in the domestic circle, his conduct was such as to endear him to his friends and family. He died at a premature age in 1798, leaving a wife and several children to regret the close of a career which had been so full of promise. He was married to Agnes Young in June 1780. His residence was at one time at Laurieston, but the house he latterly occupied for many years, and in which he died, was that which still stands at the corner of Richmond Place and Hill Place.


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