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Significant Scots
Rev Hugh Heugh


HEUGH, REV. Hugh, D.D.—This estimable divine was born at Stirling, on the 12th of August, 1782. He was the ninth child of the Rev. John Heugh, minister of a Secession congregation in Stirling. In his education he was so fortunate as to have for his teacher Dr. Doig, who presided over the Grammar-School of Stirling, and was one of the most accomplished scholars of his day. After having made considerable proficiency in classical learning under this able preceptor, Mr. Heugh, who, from his earliest years, had selected the ministerial office as his future destination, repaired at the age of fifteen to the University of Edinburgh, and after undergoing the prescribed course of study, was licensed as a preacher by the General Associate or Antiburgher Presbytery of Stirling, on the 22d of February, 1804. His youth and timidity at the outset, on one occasion at least, had nearly marred his prospects. Having preached in a church at Leslie, at that time unprovided with a minister, and being obliged to deliver his discourse memoriter, without which compliance he would not have been allowed to enter the pulpit, his recollection suddenly failed; he was at once brought to a dead stop, and no remedy remained but to give out a psalm, while he refreshed his memory during the interval of singing. This disaster sealed his fate so far as that vacancy was concerned; and though his father, fifty years before, had received a call to the same church, the son was rejected. Two years of preaching overcame this timidity, and made him so acceptable to his auditories, that three different congregations presented calls to him to be their minister. Of these calls, that from Stirling, where he was invited to become the colleague of his aged father, was preferred; and accordingly he was ordained to this charge by the General Associate Presbytery of Stirling, on the 14th of August, 1806.

The life of a country minister is seldom one of public interest. Let him be as talented as he may, he is confined within a particular locality, and fixed to a particular routine of duty; and thus it often happens, that the very men from whom society receives its prevailing impress, live unnoticed and die without record. Such was the case of Mr. Heugh while labouring at Stirling; and to the common eye he was nothing more than a diligent, pains-taking, Dissenting minister, instant in his daily occupations, and anxious for the spiritual interests of his flock. But in his diary there is ample evidence to be found that his exertions and struggles were to the full as heroic as those which insure distinction to the best men of every-day life. His twofold aim, of which he never lost sight, was self-improvement, and the improvement of his people, the former closely connected with, and stimulated by the latter; and the result was his own advance in wisdom, eloquence, efficiency, and spiritual-mindedness, accompanied with the increasing attachment of his people, and their growth in religious wisdom and piety. While thus employed, he was married, in 1809, to Isabella Clarkson, only daughter of a minister of his own religious denomination; and on the following year his father died, leaving him sole minister of the congregation. The important charge which had thus devolved upon him only doubled his diligence, and increased his acceptability among his flock; while his diary at this period is filled with notices of his daily and hourly labour, and his earnest desire to be continually doing good. In this way the life of Mr. Heugh went onward for years, alternated by two visits to London upon ministerial duties, in which he showed himself a sharp observer of public characters and the signs of the times, and by his earnest labours to promote that union between the two bodies of the Secession, which was afterwards happily accomplished.

As Mr. Heugh had now attained a distinction that placed him in the foremost rank of the religious community to which he belonged, the town of Stirling, venerable though it be from its ancient historical remembrances, was thought too limited a sphere for his exertions; and accordingly, in 1819, an attempt was made to secure his services for the populous and growing city of Glasgow. This was done by a call from the newly-formed congregation of Regent Street, Glasgow. But this call, and another from the same congregation, which followed soon after, was refused; his people in Stirling had become so endeared to his affections, that he could not reconcile himself to the pain of parting, or the uncertainties of a new career. Bent, however, upon what they considered a point of most vital interest, by securing him for their minister, the congregation of Regent Street made a third call; and the Secession Synod, overcome by this determined perseverance, agreed, though with reluctance, to transfer their valued brother to the great mercantile metropolis of Scotland. Accordingly, he was inducted into his new charge on the 9th of October, 1821. But how to part from his old congregation, among whom he had officiated so long—among whom, indeed, he had been born! "The feelings of tenderness," he said in his farewell discourse from the pulpit, "which this crisis awakens, I dare not attempt to express; but these may well be allowed to give place to this most solemn and paramount consideration—the responsibilities incurred both by you and by me for the opportunities which are now over. Eight hundred Sabbaths have well nigh elapsed since my ministry in this place began. What have you and I been doing on so many days of the Son of Man?" His personal adieus from house to house were also of the most painful description. "I enter no house," he writes, "connected with the congregation, in which tears are not shed; and the looks, and language, and grasp of the hand—of some of the poor especially—altogether overcome me. . . It is, indeed, a sort of living death." "Never," he added a few days afterwards, "have I passed through such a scene, and I often start and ask myself, is it real? But I must yield myself to the necessity. I have now no control over arrangements which were made without any agency of mine. Over these arrangements the Lord of the church has presided, and his grace is sufficient for me, and his strength can be made perfect in my weakness." In these feelings he tore himself from Stirling, and commenced his labours in a new field.

The transition of this affectionate-hearted pastor from Stirling to Glasgow was, in the first instance at least, anything but a change to greater ease and comfort; and at the commencement, Mr. Heugh had large demands upon his secular prudence, as well as Christian liberality. In the communion to which he belonged, there still lingered in Glasgow some of those old prejudices which had disappeared from other parts of the country. It was not allowed, for instance, for a family to pass from one pastoral superintendence to another, unless they removed their residence within an imaginary boundary line belonging to that other congregation, which had been fixed by the church courts. Then, too, in public worship there were certain trifles insisted upon as stiffly and keenly as if they had formed part of the creed or the decalogue. Thus, a gown and bands, however becoming in the eyes of the younger portion of the congregation, as proper clerical distinctions in the performance of the duties of the pulpit, were, in the judgment of the older members, an utter abomination, as the badges of Erastianism, Prelacy, or even downright Popery. Psalmody also had of late been somewhat attended to (and verily there was need!); and not only was the slavish practice of reading the psalm line by line, while singing, beginning to be discontinued, but new tunes were introduced, in which the last line, or part of the line, of each verse, was repeated. This was astounding to the orthodox: it was like the introduction of the Liturgy itself in the days of Charles I.; and although no joint-stools flew on the occasion, it was only, perhaps, because such modes of church controversy could no longer be available. These prejudices, so silly, and worse than silly, were even tolerated and connived at by not a few of the Secession ministers, who were afraid, by a more manly course of action, to thin their congregations and lessen their influence. Such was one of the inevitable consequences of the Voluntary system, by which Dissenterism will be hampered to the end. It speaks not a little for the intrepid disinterestedness of Mr. Heugh, that in spite of these obstacles he held onward in his own course, both in gown-wearing and psalmody, as well as in the more important dogma of territorial distinction, to which some of the most distinguished leaders of his own party were obstinately wedded. Another duty, in which he was worthy of the highest commendation, consisted in the faithful diligence of his pulpit preparations. On being transferred from one charge to another, it is natural for a minister to draw upon his old stock of sermons, while few think of blaming him for such a convenient substitution. But Mr. Heugh could not be thus satisfied. Although he brought with him to Glasgow about two thousand discourses, which he had written during the fifteen years of his past ministry, scarcely more than twenty of these were delivered during the quarter of a century over which the rest of his labours extended. Combined with all this diligence, he possessed the true spirit of an orator, in never rising to address an audience without a certain degree of anxious diffidence and tremor. "I scarcely ever enter a pulpit," he said, " without a temporary hectic." Such a preacher can never be dull or uninteresting; independently of feeling the sacred nature of his message, he is keenly sensitive to the propriety and effectiveness of its delivery. Accordingly, his hearers were in the habit of remarking the singular equality of his pulpit labours, where every sermon was essentially a good one. All this was nothing more than the result of that careful preparation that would not permit him either to trust to extemporaneous oratory, or delay the study of his subject to the last. In 1831, he enjoyed one of the earlier drops of that thunder-shower of Doctors’ caps which has lately crossed the Atlantic, and descended upon our island—whether to fertilize or impoverish our literary spirit, time will reveal. The degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred upon him by the college of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Such distinctions he seems to have estimated at their real worth—and nothing more. "Considering all things," he said, "they are of vastly little value; a mere tinsel shoulder-knot--neither helmet, sword, nor shield, much less brawny arm or valorous soul."

Such was the character and such were the labours of Dr. Heugh in Glasgow—an earnest, diligent, pains-taking minister, and eloquent instructor in the truths of the gospel, while every year added to the affection of his flock and the esteem of the public at large. Of his share in the ecclesiastical controversies of the day, and his visits to England and the Continent, important though they were to himself, it is unnecessary to speak in a short biographical sketch. He died at Glasgow, on the 10th of June, 1846, in the sixty-fourth year of his age.

A review by the North British Review of the first edition of "The Life of Hugh Heugh, D.D."

The book - Life of Hugh Heugh D.D. Second Edition


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