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Significant Scots
David Bogue


BOGUE, DAVID, the Father, as he has been called, of the London Missionary Society, was born at Hallydown in the Parish of Coldingham, Berwickshire, on the 18th February, 1750. His father, who farmed his own estate, was descended of a respectable family which had been long settled in the county. His studies are said to have been carried on at Dunse under the superintendence of the distinguished Cruikshanks, not less remembered for the success of his tuition, than for the severity of his discipline. He afterwards removed to the university of Edinburgh, and studied moral philosophy under Adam Ferguson, the well-known author of the "History of Civil Society." After undergoing the usual course of study, and being licensed as a preacher in connection with the church of Scotland, from want, perhaps, of very flattering prospects in his native country, he removed to London (1771), and was for some time employed in the humble, but meritorious, capacity of usher in an academy at Edmonton, afterwards at Hampstead, and finally with the Rev. Mr Smith of Camberwell, whom he also assisted in the discharge of his ministerial duties both at Camberwell and at Silver Street, London, where he held a lectureship, the duties of which were at one time performed by the celebrated John Home. The zeal with which Mr Bogue discharged his duties in both of these capacities, contributed not less to the satisfaction of Mr Smith, than to the increase of his own popularity. At length, on the resignation of the minister of an independent chapel at Gosport, Mr Bogue was unanimously chosen to fill the vacant charge. The duties of his new situation were such as to require all the strength of judgment and uncompromising inflexibility, tempered with Christian meekness, which entered so largely into his character. The charge was one of great difficulty, and of peculiar importance. The members of the congregation were divided among themselves, and part of them had indeed withdrawn from the communion altogether, during the ministry of his predecessor, and formed themselves into a separate congregation, under a rival minister; but the exemplary conduct of Mr Bogue, and his zeal in the discharge of his duties, were such, that he had scarce occupied the pulpit twelve months when a re-union was effected. His fame, as a solid and substantial scholar, and an evangelical and indefatigable minister, now spread rapidly; and, early in March 1780, he entered into the design of becoming tutor to an establishment for directing the studies of young men destined for the Christian ministry in connexion with the Independent communion. For the ability with which this establishment was conducted, both now and when it afterwards became a similar one for those destined for missionary labours, his praise is indeed in all the churches. It was in this period, though occupied with the details of what most men would have felt as a full occupation of their time, that his ever-active mind turned its attention to the formation of a grand missionary scheme, which afterwards resulted in the London Missionary Society. The influence which the establishment of this institution was calculated to have on the public mind was grand and extensive, and the springing up of the British and Foreign Bible Society, and the Religious Tract Society at short intervals, proves how much good was effected by the impetus thus given by one master-mind. In the establishment of both of these he likewise took an active part, contributing to the latter body the first of a series of publications which have been of great usefulness. In the year 1796, Mr Bogue was called upon to show whether he, who had professed himself such a friend to missionary enterprise, was sufficiently imbued with the spirit of the gospel to enable him to forsake home and the comforts of civilized society, to devote himself to its sacred cause. The call alluded to, was made—and it was not made in vain—by Robert Haldane, Esq. of Airdrie, who, to furnish funds for this grand enterprise, sold his estate. Their design was, in connection with two other divines, who had recently left the established church of Scotland, and become Independent ministers, to preach the gospel to the natives of India, and likewise to form a seminary for the instruction of fellow-labourers in the same field. The names of the two other ministers who intended to join in this, perhaps the noblest enterprise of Christian philanthropy of which our age can boast, and which will ever reflect a lustre on the church with which it originated, were the Rev. Greville Ewing of Glasgow, and the Rev. W. Innes of Edinburgh. But the design was frustrated by the jealousy of the East India Company, who refused their sanction to the undertaking—a most fortunate circumstance, as it afterwards appeared, in as far as the missionaries were individually concerned; for a massacre of Europeans took place at the exact spot where it was intended the mission should have been established, and from which these Christian labourers could scarcely have hoped to escape. In 1815, Mr Bogue received the diploma of Doctor of Divinity, from the Senatus acádemicus of Yale college, North America, but such was the modesty of his character that he always bore this honour meekly and unwillingly.

His zeal for the cause of missions, to which he consecrated his life, continued to the last: he may truly be said to have died in the cause. He annually made tours in different parts of the country in behalf of the Missionary Society; and it was on a journey of this kind, in which he had been requested to assist at a meeting of the Sussex Auxiliary Society, that he took ill at the house of the Rev. Mr Goulty of Brighton, and, in spite of the best medical advice, departed this life in the morning of the 25th of October, 1825, after a short illness. The effect of this event upon the various churches and religious bodies with which Dr Bogue was connected, was great: no sooner did the intelligence reach London, than an extraordinary meeting of the Missionary Society was called, (October 26,) in which resolutions were passed expressive of its sense of the bereavement, and of the benefits which the deceased had conferred upon the society, by the active part he had taken in its projection and establishment, and subsequently "by his prayers, his writings, his example, his journeys, and, above all, by his direction and superintendence of the missionary seminary at Gosport."

The only works of any extent for which we are indebted to the pen of Dr Bogue, are, "An Essay on the Divine Authority of the New Testament." "Discourses on the Millennium," and a "History of Dissenters," which he undertook in conjunction with his pupil and friend Dr Bennet. The first of these he commenced at the request of the London Missionary Society, with the purpose of its being appended to an edition of the New Testament, which the society intended to circulate extensively in France. In consideration of the wide diffusion of infidelity in that country, he wisely directed his attention to the evidence required by this class of individuals - addressing them always in the language of kindness and persuasion, "convinced," as he characteristically remarks, "that the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God,"—and if usefulness be taken as a test of excellence this work is so in a very high degree. No work of a religious character, if we except perhaps the Pilgrim’s Progress, has been so popular and so widely circulated: it has been translated into the French, Italian, German, and Spanish languages, and has been widely circulated on the continent of Europe, where, under the divine blessing, it has been eminently useful. In France, in particular, and on the distant shores of America, its influence has been felt in the convincing and converting of many to the cause of Christ. It is, indeed, the most useful of all his works. The discourses on the millennium are entirely practical and devotional, and though they want the straining for effect, and the ingenious speculations with which some have clothed this subject, and gained for themselves an ephemeral popularity – for to all such trickery Dr Bogue had a thorough aversion – they will be found strikingly to display the enlarged views and sterling good sense of their venerable author.


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