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The Scottish Nation

FINLAYSON, JAMES, D.D., an eminent divine, was born February 15, 1758, at Nether Cambusnie, a small farm in the parish of Dunblane, Perthshire, where his ancestors had been settled for several centuries. He was sent first to the school of Kinbuck in the neighbourhood, and about the age of ten to that of Dunblane. In his fourteenth year he went to the university of Glasgow, to study for the ministry, and during the summer vacations he occupied himself in instructing his younger brothers at home. To assist in defraying the expense of his attendance on the classes, he became a private tutor, and was engaged for two years in teaching the children of Mrs. Campbell of Carie, and afterwards acted in the same capacity to the family of Mr. Cooper, Glasgow. He was next employed by Professor Anderson, founder of the Andersonian university, as his amanuensis; and, in 1782, he resumed the duties of a tutor by taking charge of two sons of Sir William Murray of Ochtertyre, baronet, these being the fifth baronet, Sir Patrick Murray, and his younger brother, Sir George. As Mr. Finlayson resided with the family in Edinburgh during the winter, he had an opportunity of pursuing his studies at the divinity hall, and of attending other classes in the university of that city.

      In 1785 he was licensed to preach, and in the summer of that year he received an offer of the living of Dunkeld from the duke of Athol, which he was induced to decline, on being informed, by Sir William Murray, that an arrangement was in progress for procuring for him the professorship of logic and metaphysics in the university of Edinburgh. More than a year elapsed, however, before the negociation, which had been set on foot for securing him this appointment, was brought to a satisfactory conclusion; and, in the meantime, he accepted of the living of Borthwick, in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh, which Sir William Murray, by his interest with Dundas of Arniston, had obtained for him. He commenced his duties as professor of logic in the winter session of 1786-7, and was ordained minister of Borthwick in the succeeding April. From his knowledge of the laws and constitution of the Church of Scotland, he soon became a leader, on the moderate side, in the church courts; and as it was deemed advisable that he should have a metropolitan charge, he was, in 1790, translated to Lady Yester’s church, Edinburgh, where he remained till 1793, when he succeeded Dr. Robertson in the Old Greyfriars. A vacancy having occurred in the High church in 1799, he was chosen by the town council to fill it, when he became the colleague of Dr. Hugh Blair, whose funeral sermon he was called upon to preach in little more than a year. Mr. Finlayson, not long after, received from the university of Edinburgh the degree of D.D. He was also elected fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. In 1802 he was elected moderator of the General Assembly. The remaining years of his life were only distinguished by the quiet and unostentatious discharge of his duties. In the beginning of 1805 his constitution began to decline. On the 25th of January 1808, while conversing with Principal Baird, he was seized with a paralytic affection, and died on the 28th of the same month, in the fiftieth year of his age. His only publications were two occasional sermons, and a short account of Dr. Blair, annexed to the posthumous volume of his sermons. He likewise printed, but did not publish, the ‘Heads of an Argument’ on a question depending before the ecclesiastical courts. A volume of his own sermons, with a memoir prefixed, was published the year after his death.

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