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Significant Scots
Thomas Halyburton


HALYBURTON, THOMAS, an eminent author and divine, and professor of divinity in the university of St Andrews, was born in December, 1674, at Dupplin in the parish of Aberdalgy, near Perth, of which parish his father had been clergyman for many years, but being a "non-conformist," was ejected after the Restoration. Upon his death, in 1682, his widow emigrated to Holland with Thomas, her only son, then eight years old, on account of the persecutions to which those of their persuasion were still exposed in their native country. This event proved fortunate for the subject of this notice, who attained uncommon proficiency in all branches of classical literature. He returned to Scotland in 1687, and after completing the usual curriculum of university education, turned his views to the church, and entered upon the proper course of study for that profession. He was licensed in 1699, and in the following year was appointed minister of the parish of Ceres, in Fifeshire. Here he continued till 1710, distinguished by the piety of his conduct, and the zeal with which he performed the duties of this charge, when his health becoming impaired in consequence of his pastoral exertions, he was appointed, upon the recommendation of the Synod of Fife, to the professorís chair of divinity in St Leonardís college at St Andrews, by patent from queen Anne. About this period, Deism had partly begun to come into fashion in Scotland, in imitation of the free-thinking in England and on the continent, where it had been revived in the preceding century. Many writers of great learning and talent had adopted this belief, and lent their pens either directly or indirectly to its propagation, the unhappy consequences of which were beginning to display themselves on the public mind. To counteract their pernicious influence, Mr Halyburton assiduously applied himself, and on his induction to the professorís chair, delivered an inaugural discourse, taking for his subject a recent publication by the celebrated Dr Pitcairn of Edinburgh, containing an attack on revealed religion under the feigned name of "Epistola Archimedis ad Regem Gelonem albae Graecae reperta, anno aerae Christianae, 1688, A. Pitcarnio, M.D. ut vulgo creditur, auctore." One of the earliest, and perhaps the most powerful, of all the deistical writers that have yet appeared, was Edward lord Herbert of Cherbury in Shropshire, (elder brother of the amiable George Herbert, the well known English poet,) who figured conspicuously in the political world in the time of Charles I., and wrote several works in disproof of the truth or necessity of revealed religion. His most important publication, entitled, "De Veritate," was originally printed at Paris in 1624, in consequence, as the author solemnly declares of the direct sanction of heaven to that effect, but was afterwards republished in London, and obtained very general circulation. Mr Halyburton applied himself zealously to refute the doctrines contained in these works and others of similar tendency from the pens of different other writers, and produced his "Natural Religion Insufficient, and Revealed Necessary to Manís Happiness," a most able and elaborate performance, in which he demonstrates with great clearness and force the defective nature of reason, even in judging of the character of a Deity, - the kind of worship which ought to be accorded him, &c. Dr Leland, in his letters, entitled "View of Deistical Writers," expresses great admiration of this performance, and regrets that the narrowness and illiberality of the writerís opinions on some points operated prejudicially against it in the minds of many persons. Neither this nor any other of Mr Halyburtonís works were given to the world during his life, which unfortunately terminated in September, 1712, being then only in his thirty-eighth year. Besides the above work, which was published in 1714, the two others by which he is best known in Scotland are "The Great Concern of Salvation," published in 1721, and "Ten Sermons preached before and after the celebration of the Lordís Supper," published in 1722. A complete edition of his works in one vol. 8vo. was some years ago published at Glasgow.

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