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The Scottish Nation
Cook


COOK, GEORGE, D.D., an eminent minister of the church of Scotland, was the second son of the Reb. John Cook, professor of moral philosophy in the university of St. Andrews, who succeeded to the estate of Newburn in the county of Fife, and of Janet Hill, daughter of the Rev. John Hill, minister of St. Andrews, Fife, and sister of Principal Hill. He was burn in December 1772, and at an early age became a student at the united college of St. Salvator’s and St. Leonard’s, St. Andrews. Devoting himself to the ministry, after attending the divinity hall of St. Mary’s in that university, he was licensed to preach the gospel on the 30th of April 1795. About three months after, he was presented to the living of Laurencekirk, in the gift of St. Mary’s college, and was ordained and settled there on the 3d of September in that year. He remained at Laurencekirk till 1829. During his whole life Dr. Cook was distinguished by great energy and activity of mind. To his pastoral duties he devoted himself with great assiduity. Unaffected and kindly in manner, and singularly easy of access, his people regarded him with much affection and respect. His leisure time he early devoted to studies congenial to the duties in which he was engaged, and he published in 1808 a treatise in one vol. octavo, under the title of ‘An Illustration of the General Evidence establishing the Reality of Christ’s Resurrection,’ which was at the time very favourably received. He had early begun to take a prominent part in the deliberations of church courts, and was led to a careful investigation of the history of the church, which had not then attracted the amount of attention which, in consequence of his labours and those of Dr. M’Crie and others, it subsequently received. The result of his investigations, carried on under considerable disadvantage from his distance from public libraries, but with great industry and much research, was the appearance of his ‘History of the Reformation in Scotland,’ in 1811, in 3 vols. octavo, embracing the period from the beginning of the Reformation to the appointment of the earl of Murray to the regency in 1567. This was followed by the ‘History of the Church of Scotland,’ which appeared in 1815, in 3 vols. octavo, containing the narrative from the regency of Murray down to the Revolution. The two works form a full and interesting ecclesiastical history of a period out of which momentous consequences to Scotland resulted. They are written with great calmness and impartiality, and the researches of later historians have in no particular of the least importance affected their accuracy. A third important work was published in 3 vols, 8vo, in 1822, entitled a ‘General and Historical View of Christianity.’

      In addition to these larger works, Dr. Cook published in 1820 a life of his uncle, Principal Hill, who had long directed the counsels of the General Assembly, in which much important information as to the ecclesiastical proceedings of that venerable body during the period is conveyed. In July 1826 a commission was issued by the crown for the visitation of the universities of Scotland, of which Dr. Cook was a member. To the duties of that commission he devoted himself with his usual mental activity, and on him a large portion of its important work was devolved. He drew up for the commissioners elaborate reports of the history and present state of the universities of Edinburgh and Aberdeen, and the draft of the general Report – services which were acknowledged in a special communication to Dr. Cook made by the earl of Rosebery, the chairman of the commission. These services were continued till near the conclusion of the year 1830; and as a gratifying mark of the estimation in which his character as a clergyman was held, he was appointed dean of the Order of the Thistle in June that year, the highest honour that the Crown has to confer on a minister of the Church of Scotland.

      In the course of the summer of 1828 Dr. Cook received the intimation that he was to be appointed professor of moral philosophy in the university of St. Andrews, and he accordingly entered on the duties of the chair in the following college session. To his regular course, of 115 lectures, on moral philosophy, he added in the ensuing year a shorter course, of 49 lectures, on political economy.

      From an early period of life Dr. Cook took a deep interest in the deliberations of the General Assembly, and soon distinguished himself in debate by his knowledge of the constitution and history of the church. He was attached, by a deep conviction of their soundness, to those principles maintained by what was called the moderate party in the church – principles which might seem hereditary to his family, for they were those so powerfully advocated by his uncle Principal Hill, and by his father’s kinsman Principal Robertson, and which had been maintained by a long line of clerical ancestors. But Dr. Cook was too independent to tie himself down to party, or to allow others to determine for him what were the principles which, as a member of a party, he should in consistency entertain. In the year 1813 he differed with those with whom he had till then acted, as to the important question of pluralities and non-residence. To non-residence he was strongly opposed, – his views on this subject will be found expressed in a pamphlet entitled, ‘Substance of a speech delivered in the General Assembly, 22d May 1816, containing an Inquiry into the Law and Constitution of the Church of Scotland, respecting Residence and Pluralities,’ &c., 8vo. The subject excited for a time a strong feeling against Dr. Cook on the part of the leading men of the moderate party, and in consequence he was opposed by them in the General Assemblies of 1821 and 1822, when brought forward as a candidate for the moderator’s chair. On the latter occasion he addressed the Assembly in a speech, subsequently published, in which he vindicated, with great judgment and temper, the course he had followed. In 1825, however, he was unanimously chosen moderator, and from that period unquestionably held the leading position in the counsels of the party to which he was attached. In all the debates which led to the disruption of the Church of Scotland in May 1843, he took a prominent part on the moderate side, and his name was a “tower of Strength” to his party. His views on the Veto Act, and on the different questions which were originated by it, as expressed in the Assembly, are fully stated in a pamphlet entitled, ‘A few Plain Observations on the Enactments of the General Assembly of 1834, relating to Patronage and Calls,’ published in that year, and in several speeches published since. The duties of the Assembly of 1844 were very heavy, and although Dr. Cook appeared to be in his usual health, he was attacked almost immediately after with sudden illness, supposed to be connected with disease of the heart. The attack was of short duration, but it occasionally recurred. On the 13th of May 1845, in passing down to the Bank in St. Andrews, he was observed to fall heavily on the street, and when taken up it was found that life had fled. To Dr. Cook’s character and usefulness the following tribute was borne by the Assembly that met in 1845 – “The General Assembly desire to record the deep feelings of regret with which they regard the loss which this court and the church at large have recently sustained, in the death of one of its most distinguished members – the Rev. Dr. George Cook, whose eminent abilities and profound knowledge of th principles and practical constitution of our church, while they highly qualified him for becoming her historian, no less enabled him, in combination with that sound wisdom, clear reasoning, and manly eloquence, which were equally characteristic of his mind, to afford the most valuable aid in conducting the deliberations of the Assembly. The cool judgment, enlarged views, and unwearied perseverance of Dr. Cook the Assembly regard as having been, under providence, instrumental in no ordinary degree to the safety of the church during the perils with which she was lately surrounded – and the valuable counsels so promptly and kindly afforded by him, as often as inferior judicatories or individual clergymen applied in cases of perplexity for his aid, will be long and gratefully remembered through the church.”

      Dr. Cook married, 23d February, 1801, Diana, eldest daughter of the Rev. Alexander Shank, sometime minister at St. Cyrus. Of seven children, five survived him, namely, the Rev. Dr. John Cook, minister of Haddington; Mrs. Marjoribanks, wife of the Rev. Thomas Marjoribanks, Stenton; Alexander Shank Cook, Esq., advocate; the Rev. George Cook, chaplain at Bombay; and Henry David Cook, a civil servant of the East India Company at Madras. dr. Cook’s eldest brother, John Cook, D.D., professor of divinity at St. Andrews, was the author of a valuable ‘Inquiry into the Authenticity of the Books of the New Testament,’ published in 1821. He died in 1824. One of his sons, Dr. John Cook, is minister of St. Leonards. St. Andrews, and another, the Rev. George Cook, of Midmar. A younger brother of Dr. George Cook is Mr. Walter Cook, W.S. The youngest of the family is the Rev. Henry David Cook, minister of Kilmany.


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