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Significant Scots
Anderson, John M.A.


ANDERSON, JOHN, M.A. an eminent Presbyterian clergyman born in the 17th century, grandfather of Professor Anderson. Of his early history very little is known, except that he received a university education, and took his degree in arts. He was afterwards preceptor to the great John Duke of Argyle, and he mentions in his letters upon the Overtures concerning Kirk Sessions and Presbyteries, that he had resided in Edinburgh for twenty-five years in early life. He seems also to have taught a school, and he is upbraided by "Curat Calder," with having been "an old pedantic dominie, teaching haec da ta." It was not, however, till after his settlement as minister of Dumbarton, that he became known as author. The earliest of his productions that has been discovered is entitled, "A Dialogue between a Curat and a Countreyman concerning the English Service, or Common-Prayer Book of England," which was printed in quarto at Glasgow, about 1710. The question relative to the form of prayer used in Scotland, immediately after the Reformation, was at this time keenly canvassed by the Scottish Episcopalians and Presbyterians, and the clergy of the former persuasion had very shortly before introduced the liturgy into their church service. (Carstares' State Papers.) Mr, afterwards Bishop, Sage endeavoured in his "Fundamental Charter of Presbytery Examined," to show that the English liturgy had been used in Scotland for at least seven years after the establishment of the Protestant religion. In this he was opposed by Mr Anderson, who adduced many arguments to prove that it was not the English liturgy that is spoken of by the Scottish historians, but that used by the English church at Geneva. Soon afterwards Anderson published a "Second Dialogue," (dated 1711) in which, says he, "there is hardly any thing of importance which is not said in the very words of the writers of the other side," and in which South, Beveridge, Hammond, and Burnet are the Curates whose sentiments are opposed. "A Letter from a Countreyman to a Curat," followed the dialogues and received several answers, of which we shall only mention one, written by Robert Calder, an Episcopalian clergyman, the friend of Dr Archibald Pitcairn, and printed in his "Miscellany Numbers relating to the controversies about the Book of Common Prayer," &c. folio, 1713. To this attack Anderson replied in a pamphlet entitled "Curat Calder Whipt." He soon after published "A Sermon preached in the church of Ayr at the opening of the Synod, on Tuesday the first of April, 1712," printed at the desire of the Synod of Glasgow and Ayr, (quarto, price sixpence,) and in 1714, the work by which he is best known appeared. It has for its title "A Defence of the Church Government, Faith, Worship, and Spirit of the Presbyterians, in answer to a book entitled an "Apology for Mr Thomas Rhind," &c. 4to. and is dedicated to Archibald Earl of Islay. About the beginning of the year 1717, Anderson informs us, "the people of Glasgow were pleased to move that I should be called to be one of the ministers of that place;" (Letter to Stewart of Pardovan, p. 1.) but the proceedings relative to this transaction strikingly illustrate the truth of Wodrow's remark in a letter to Dr Cotton Mather.* "We are biting and devouring one another," says the venerable historian, "and like to be consumed one of another. In our neighbouring city of Glasgow, where since the Revolution, unity and harmony, and consequently vital religion flourished, now heat, and strife, and every evil work abound. The university is split and broken. The magistrates and ministers are at present in no good terms." The same author gives us some additional information relative to Mr Anderson's case in a letter to the Rev. James Halt, one of the ministers of Edinburgh in 1718.** "Our Synod last week," says he, "had the Presbytery of Glasgow's reference of Mr Anderson’s call before them; the ministers' reasons of dissent and the town's answers were read, and the ministers' answers to them read, viva voce. The advice given at the close of the last Synod when the house was thin (to fall from Mr Anderson) was disliked by the Synod now when full, and it was agreed not to be recorded. The vote came to be stated, - concur with the call, and transmit it to the Presbytery of Dumbarton, or refer to the Assembly; and it carried, - concur 63, refer 41; whereon the minister's and four or five of the Presbytery appealed to the Assembly, and gave in a complaint verbally against Mr Anderson, which the Synod obliged them to bring in in write, signed, to-morrow." Mr Anderson was, however, at length settled in Glasgow in 1720, although it appears from M'Ure's History that the North-West Church to which he was appointed was not founded till 1721, nor finished for "a year or two thereafter." It would be difficult to explain Anderson's motives in coming to Glasgow, - his colleagues were disgusted at a letter addressed by him to Walter Stewart of Pardovan, which was published in 1717, and contained some severe remarks upon them, and he says, in a strain of bitter irony, "I confess I was under a great temptation of being eager for a settlement in Glasgow, for what minister would not be fond of a lesser stipend and a double charge!" *** Nor was he more fortunate in his first appearance in his new parish, for he had, according to M’Ure, a kind of consecration sermon, which disgusted "the stricter, or more bigotted sort of the people." In the same year in which he was appointed one of the ministers of Glasgow, "Mr Anderson's Letters upon the Overtures concerning Kirk Sessions and Presbyteries" appeared in 12mo. Of this topic he says, "I must needs confess that it is the most melancholy subject I ever wrote upon. There was pleasure as well as duty in contending with our prelatic adversaries; but alas!

In civil war, to lose or gain's the same,
To gain's no glory, and to lose a shame."

These letters extend to six, and although now little known, as they refer merely to an ephemeral subject, contain some curious historical information, and not a little satire. Mr Anderson did not long survive his call to Glasgow, - the date of his death has not been ascertained, but his successor was appointed in 1723. His controversial writings are full of valuable historical information, and show him to have been thoroughly versed in theological literature, but it cannot be too much regretted that he so far indulged in intemperate language. We have not alluded to some of his smaller pamphlets, which refer merely to subjects of a temporary or local nature.

Upon the family tomb-stone, erected by the will of Professor Anderson, over the grave of his grandfather, upon the front of the North-West Church, Glasgow, was inscribed the following memorial of Mr Anderson: - "Near this place ly the remains of the Rev. John Anderson, who was preceptor to the famous John Duke of Argyle and Greenwich, and minister of the gospel in Dumbarton in the beginning of the eighteenth century, and in this church in the year 1729. He was the author of ‘The Defence of the Church-government, Faith, Worship, and Spirit of the Presbyterians,’ and of several other ecclesiastical and political tracts. As a pious minister and an eloquent preacher, a defender of civil and religious liberty, and a man of wit and learning, he was much esteemed; he lived in the reign of Charles II., James II., William III., Anne, and George I. Such times, and such a man, forget not, reader, while thy country, liberty, and religion are dear to thee."

* Wodrow's History, new edition, vol. 1. p. xxv.

** History, vol. 1. p. xxii.

*** Letters on the Overtures p. 67.


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