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The Scottish Nation

M’CRIE, THOMAS, D.D., a distinguished divine and historian, was born at Dunse, in November 1772. He received his elementary instruction at the parish school, and before he was 15 years of age, he taught successively two country schools in the neighbourhood of his native town. In 1788 he was sent to the university of Edinburgh, and in May 1791 he became the teacher of a school at Brechin, in connection with the Antiburgher congregation of that town. He studied divinity under Mr. Archibald Bruce, minister at Whitburn, and theological professor of the General Associate or Antiburgher Synod. In September 1795 he was licensed as a preacher by the Associate presbytery of Kelso, and in May 1796 he was ordained minister of the second Associate congregation in the Potterrow, Edinburgh. His first publication was a Sermon; and to a new religious periodical started in Edinburgh in 1797, called ‘The Christian Magazine,’ of which he was afterwards for a time editor, he communicated various able papers on different subjects. He also distinguished himself in polemical theology, having, in conjunction with Mr. Whytock of Dalkeith, published two pamphlets of Faith, in answer to some statements contained in a work by a Baptist minister of Edinburgh.

      In 1806, Mr. M’Crie felt himself conscientiously impelled to separate from the General Associate synod, on account of the doctrines involved in ‘The Narrative and Testimony; adopted by that body in 1804, relative to the powers and duties of the civil magistrate in ecclesiastical matters. He and Mr. Bruce, and two other ministers, entered repeated protests against the prevailing party in the Synod, “for having departed from some important doctrines of the Protestant churches, of the Westminster Confession of Faith, and of that particular testimony which they had subscribed” at their license and ordination; and on August 28, 1806, the four protesters, Messrs, M’Crie, Bruce, Hog, and Aitken, formed themselves into a presbytery, afterwards styled “The Constitutional Associate Presbytery.” Having thus dissolved their connection with the Synod, the latter body almost immediately thereafter formally deposed Messrs, Aitken and M’Crie from the ministry. a tedious lawsuit took place relative to the possession of his meeting-house, which was decided against him, when a new chapel was erected for him, in West Richmond Street, by those of his people who had espoused his sentiments. The Constitutional Presbytery existed till 1827, when, being joined by a body of protesters from the Associate Synod, they took the name of Original Seceders.

      In the examination of the question in dispute, Mr. M’Crie had been led to enter deeply into the study of Ecclesiastical history, particularly in Scotland, when he obtained a most intimate acquaintance with the fundamental principles of the Protestant churches, as well as a thorough knowledge of the character and objects of those eminent and faithful men by whose labours they were founded. His ‘Life of John Knox’ was published in November 1811, and a second edition, with considerable alterations and additions, appeared in 1813. This work gave a juster view of the conduct and principles of the illustrious Reformer than had ever before been exhibited, and at once placed its author in the first rank of ecclesiastical historians. It has gone through several editions, and has been translated into the French, Dutch, and German languages. shortly after its appearance, the university of Edinburgh conferred upon the author the degree of D.D., being the first time it had been bestowed on a dissenting minister in Scotland. To the pages of the ‘Christian Instructor,’ then edited by Dr. Andrew Thomson, Dr. M’Crie became an occasional contributor; and one of the ablest of the articles furnished to that periodical was his celebrated critique of the ‘Tales of my Landlord,’ inserted in the numbers for January, February, and March, 1817, containing a powerful and complete vindication of the Covenanters against the attacks of Sir Walter Scott.

      During 1817 and 1818, after the death of Mr. Bruce, Dr. M’Crie performed the duties of professor of theology to the small body with which he was connected. In the end of 1819 appeared his ‘Life of Andrew Melville,’ intended as a continuation of the ecclesiastical history which he had commenced in the Life of Knox. This also has become a standard work. The 2d edition was published in December 1823, with numerous additions and improvements.

      In 1821 Dr. M’Crie published ‘Two Discourses on the Unity of the Church, her Divisions, and their Removal,’ designed to show the fallacious principles on which the then recent union of the burghers and Anti-burghers had been founded. He subsequently published the following works: In 1825, ‘Memoirs of Mr. William Veitch, and George Bryson;’ in 1827, ‘History of the Progress and Suppression of the Reformation in Italy, in the 16th Century;’ and in 1829, a similar History of the Reformation in Spain. His last publication was an anonymous pamphlet, in May 1833, on the subject of Patronage, in which he recommends its entire abolition. He had been, for several years, engaged on a Life of Calvin, for which he had collected the most valuable materials, but which was left incomplete. Dr. M’Crie died at Edinburgh, August 5, 1835.

      He was twice married, first, in 1796, to Janet, daughter of Mr. William Dickson, farmer, parish of Swinton, by whom he had Rev. Thomas M’Crie, D.D., LL.D., his successor, appointed in 1857 professor of systematic theology in the London Theological college of the Presbyterian church in England; William, merchant in Edinburgh; Jessie, wife of Archibald Meikle, Esq., Flemington; John, who died in Oct. 1837, and Rev. George, minister, Clola, Aberdeenshire; and, 2dly, in 1827, to Mary, 4th daughter of Rev. Robert Chalmers of Haddington, who survived him; and to whom, on her husband’s death, a handsome annuity was granted by Government. A life of this estimable divine was published by his son, the Rev. Thomas M’Crie, in 1840.

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