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Significant Scots
Hugh Binning


BINNING, HUGH, an extraordinary instance of precocious learning and genius, was the son of John Binning of Dalvennan, a landed gentleman of Ayrshire. He appears to have been born about the year 1627. In his earliest years he outstripped all his seniors in the acquisition of Latin. At Glasgow college, which he entered in his fourteenth year, he distinguished himself very highly in philosophy. What was to others only gained by hard study, seemed to be intuitively known by Binning. After taking the degree of Master of Arts, he began to study for the church. When Mr James Dalrymple, afterwards Lord Stair, vacated the chair of philosophy at Glasgow, Binning, though not yet nineteen, stood a competitor with some men of graver years and very respectable acquirements, and gained the object of his ambition by the pure force of merit. Though unprepared for entering upon his duties, no deficiency was remarked. He was one of the first in Scotland to reform philosophy from the barbarous jargon of the schools. While fulfilling the duties of his chair in the most satisfactory manner, he continued his study of theology, and a vacancy occurring in the church of Govan, near Glasgow, he received a call to be its minister. Here he married Barbara Simpson, the daughter of a Presbyterian clergyman in Ireland. As a preacher, Mr Binning’s fame was very great: his knowledge was extensive, and there was a fervour in his eloquence which bore away the hearts of his congregation, as it were, to heaven. At the division of the church into Resolutioners and Protesters, he took the latter and more zealous side, but yet was too full of virtuous and benevolent feeling to be a violent partizan. In order to heal the difference as much as possible, he wrote a treatise on Christian love. When Oliver Cromwell came to Glasgow, he caused a dispute to be held between his own independent clergymen, and the Scottish Presbyterian ministers. Binning having nonplussed his opponents, Cromwell asked the name of "that bold young man." On being told that he was called Mr Hugh Binning, the sectarian general said, "He hath bound well, indeed, but" (clapping his hand upon his sword,) "this will loose all again." This excellent young preacher died of consumption in 1653, in his twenty-sixth year, leaving behind him a reputation for piety, virtue, and learning, such as has rarely been attained by any individual under that age. Besides his treatise on Christian love, he wrote many miscellaneous pieces of a pious nature, which were published, in 1732, in one volume quarto. A selection from these, under the title of "Evangelical Beauties of Hugh Binning," appeared in 1829, with a memoir of the author by the Rev John Brown of Whitburn.


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