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The Scottish Nation
Binning and Byres


BINNING and BYRES, Lord, the second title of the earl of Haddington, derived from an ancient parish in the county of Linlithgow. See HADDINGTON, earl of.

      The surname of BINNIE or BINNY is evidently a contraction of BINNING, which appears to have been originally French, Benigne being the name of several persons of learning and distinction both in France and Italy. The first archbishop of Dijon was named St. Benigne. In the county of Linlithgow there is an eminence called Binnie Crag, which rises to the height of about four hundred and fifty feet. In 1307, during the wars of independence under Robert the Bruce, a peasant named Binny, styled the William Tell of Scotland, by a successful stratagem, obtained possession of the Castle of Linlithgow, which was held by an English garrison under Peter Lubard, This daring exploit is thus related by Tytler in his History of Scotland, (vol. i. p. 291): “Binny, who was known to the garrison, and had been employed in leading hay into the fort, communicated his design to a party of Scottish soldiers, whom he stationed in ambush near the gate. In his large wain he contrived to conceal eight armed men, covered with a load of hay, a servant drove the oxen, and Binny himself walked carelessly at his side. When the portcullis was raised, and the wain stood in the middle of the gateway, interposing a complete barrier to its descent, the driver cut the ropes which harnessed the oxen; upon which signal the armed men suddenly leapt from the cart, the soldiers in ambush rushed in, and so complete was the surprise that with little resistance the garrison were put to the sword, and the place taken.” According to tradition six of the armed men concealed in the wain were Binny’s sons. Bruce rewarded the brave peasant with a grant of the lands of Easter Binning, and his descendants long survived, bearing in their coat of arms a hay wain, with the motto, “virtue doloque.”

      From the Binnings of Easter Binning were descended the Binnings of Wallifoord and the Binnings of Carlowryhall, both of which have been for along period extinct. In Wallifoord’s charter-chest Nisbet states there was a charter by King James the First of the lands of Easter Binning to David de Binning, upon the resignation of William de Binning, his father. Sir Thomas Hamilton, the first Lord Binning and Byres (created, in 1619, earl of Melrose, a title which he relinquished for that of earl of Haddington), besides other lands in Linlithgowshire, had chargers of the lands of West Binny and the ecclesiastical lands of Easter Binny, 11th Nov. 1601.

      About 1722, when the first volume of Nisbet’s System of Heraldry was published, Mr. Charles Binning of Pilmuir, advocate, was one of his Majesty’s solicitors-general. He was a younger son of Sir William Binning of Wallifoord, sometime Lord Provost of Edinburgh.

BINNING, Lord, see HAMILTON, Charles

BINNING HUGH, the Rev., a preacher of the seventeenth century, of extraordinary eloquence and learning, the son of John Binning of Dalvennan, a gentleman of landed property in Ayrshire, was born about 1627. His mother was Margaret M’Kell or M’Kail, a daughter of Mr. Mathew M’Kail, minister at Bothwell, the brother (some accounts say the father) of Mr Hugh M’Kail, one of the ministers of Edinburgh, and uncle to the celebrated Hugh M’Kail, the young licentiate who was executed at Edinburgh, 22d December 1666, for being concerned in the insurrection at Pentland. At the grammar school he made so great proficiency in the Latin that he outstripped all his fellows, and before he was fourteen years old he entered upon the study of philosophy at the university of Glasgow, in which he made considerable progress. After taking the degree of master of arts, which he did on the 27th July 1646, he began the study of divinity. A vacancy having occurred in the chair of philosophy in Glasgow college, by the resignation of Mr. James Dalrymple, afterwards Lord Stair, who had been his master, Binning was induced to become a candidate, and his great acquirements and extraordinary genius caused him to be elected to the vacant professorship before hi was nineteen years of age. At the expiration of his third year as professor of philosophy he received a call from the parishioners of Govan, in the immediate vicinity of Glasgow, to be their minister, and in January 1650, he was ordained to that charge. Soon after he married Barbara (or Mary) Simpson, the daughter of a presbyterian clergyman in Ulster, in Ireland.

      When the unhappy division took place in the church into Resolutioners and Protesters, (for an explanation of these terms, see life of JAMES GUTHRIE, minister of Stirling,) he sided with the latter; but with the view of bringing about a reconciliation, he wrote his ‘Treatise on Christian Love.’ The eloquence, fervour, and great theological attainments he displayed in the famous dispute which Oliver Cromwell caused to be held at Glasgow, in April 1651, between his own Independent clergymen and the Scottish Presbyterian ministers, astonished even the protector himself. Finding that Binning had completely nonplussed his opponents, Cromwell asked the name “of that learned and bold young man.” On being told it was Mr. Hugh Binning, he replied in the true spirit of Alexander with “the Gordian know,” “He hath bound well, indeed, but (putting his hand on his sword) this will loose all again!” Binning died of consumption in 1653, in his 26th year. He was buried in the churchyard of Govan, where Mr. Patrick Gillespie, then principal of the university of Glasgow, caused a monument to be erected to his memory with a Latin inscription. It is a simple marble tablet, surmounted with a heart, and the emblems of mortality. It was placed in a niche in the front wall of the old parish church; but, in 1826, when the present church was erected, it was removed to the vestibule. The inscription may be turned into English, thus: “Mr. Hugh Binning is buried here, a man distinguished for his piety, eloquence, and learning, an eminent philologist, philosopher, and theologian; in fine, a faithful and acceptable preacher of the gospel, who was removed from this world in the 26th year of his age, and in the year of our Lord 1653. He changed his country, not his company, because when on earth he walked with God. If thou wish to know anything beyond this, I am silent as to anything further, since neither thou nor this marble can receive it.”

      Binning’s miscellaneous writings, which are chiefly of a religious nature, were published in one volume, in 1732. A selection from these, entitled ‘Evangelical Beauties of Hugh Binning,’ with a memoir of the author by the Rev. John Brown of Whitburn, was published in 1829. Binning, says a reviewer in ‘The Edinburgh Christian Instructor’ for that year, was “a writer of no common order. There is a depth and solidity of thinking about his works, a richness of scriptural and pious sentiment, coupled with an exuberance of beautiful and striking illustration, such as none but a very highly gifted and sanctified mind could command. We see in them, in fact, a delightful union of true genius with the most exalted piety; of the fervour and the flow of youth, with the riper judgment and experience of age. We are not conscious of overrating his power, when we say that neither in the richness of his illustrations, nor in the vein of seraphic piety which pervades his writings, is he at all inferior to Leighton, whom, perhaps, on the whole, he most resembles.”

      Binning’s widow was afterwards married to one Mr. James Gordon, presbyterian minister of Comber, in the county of Down, Ireland. His only son John inherited the estate of Dalvennan at the death of his grandfather, after whom he was named; but having been engaged in the insurrection of Bothwell Bridge in 1679, his estate was forfeited, and he continued dispossessed of it till the year 1690, when the forfeiture and fines were by act of parliament rescinded. It appears, however that one Roderick Mackenzie, who had been a depute advocate in the reign of James the Seventh, contrived to obtain possession of the estate, on the pretext of having advanced money for the benefit of John Binning, far exceeding the value of his land, and that the latter, having fallen into poverty, taught a school for some time. The General Assembly showed kindness to him, on different occasions, for his father’s sake. In 1702, the commission of the Assembly being informed by a petition from himself of his “sad circumstances,” recommended him to the provincial synods of Lothian and Tweeddale, and of Glasgow and Ayr, “for some charitable supply.” In 1704 he applied for relief to the General Assembly, and stated that he had obtained from the privy council a patent to print his father’s works, of which twelve years were then unexpired, and that it was his intention to publish them in one volume. The Assembly recommended “every minister within the kingdom to take a double of the same book, or to subscribe for the same.” They likewise called upon the different presbyteries in the church to collect among themselves something for the petitioner. The last application he made to the Assembly for pecuniary aid was in 1717, when he must have been far advanced in life. [Life of Binning prefixed to Fullarton’s edition of his works, with Notes by Dr. Leishman.]

      The following is a catalogue of Binning’s works, all of which were published posthumously:

      The Common Principles of the Christian Religion clearly proved and singularly improved; or a practical catechism, wherein some of the most concerning foundations of our faith are solidly laid down, and that doctrine which is according to godliness is sweetly yet pungently pressed home, and most satisfyingly handled. Glasgow, 1659, 12mo. 5th Impression, Glasgow, 1666. Edin. 1672, 12mo.

      The Sinner’s Sanctuary; being forty sermons upon the eighth chapter of Romans, from the first verst to the sixteenth. Edin. 1670, 4to.

      Fellowship with God, being twenty-eight sermons on the First Epistle of John, chap. 1st and 2d, verses 1, 2, 3. Edin. 1671.

      Heart Humiliation, or Miscellany Sermons, preached upon choice texts at several solemn occasions. Edin. 1671, 12mo.

      An useful Case of Conscience, learnedly and accurately discussed and resolved, concerning associations and confederacies with idolaters, infidels, heretics, malignants, or any other known enemies of truth and godliness. 1693, small 4to, pp. 51. Neither the name of the printer, nor the place where it was printed, is mentioned in the titlepage; hence, it has been questioned whether this was really a work of Mr. Hugh Binning, but his own name is given as the author, and it cannot reasonably be doubted that the Case of Conscience was written by him.

      A Treatise of Christian Love, John xiii. 35. First printed at Edinburgh in 1743, 8vo, pp. 47.

      Several Sermons upon the most important subjects of Practical Religion; first printed at Glasgow in 1760.

      The Works of the Rev. Hugh Binning, M.A., collected and edited by the Rev. M. Leishman, D.D. minister of the parish of Govan. Third edition, A. Fullarton and Co. 1851. Imp 8vo.

      Binning’s Common Principles of the Christian Religion was translated into Dutch by the Rev. James Coleman or Koelman, minister at Sluys in Flanders, and published at Amsterdam in 1678, with a Memoir of the Author, furnished in a letter to him from Mr. Robert MacWard, at one time secretary to Mr. Samuel Rutherford, and afterwards one of the ministers of Glasgow. all the other works of Binning which were printed in Mr. Koelman’s lifetime were also translated by him into the Dutch language. No fewer than four editions of these have been published at Amsterdam.


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