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Significant Scots
Gilbert Gerard

GERARD, GILBERT, D.D., a divine, son of Rev. Alexander Gerard, D.D., was born at Aberdeen on the 12th of August, 1760, and having acquired the earlier elements of his professional education in his native city, at a period when the eminence of several great and well known names dignified its universities, he finished it in the more extended sphere of tuition furnished by the university of Edinburgh. Before he reached the age of twenty-two, a vacancy having occurred in the ministry of the Scottish church of Amsterdam, a consideration of his father’s qualifications prompted the consistory to invite the young divine to preach before them, and he was in consequence waited upon by that body, with an offer of the situation, which he accepted. During his residence in Holland, he turned the leisure allowed him by his clerical duties, and his knowledge of the Dutch language and of general science, to supporting, with the assistance of two literary friends, a periodical called "De Recensent." What may have been the intrinsic merits of this publication, it would be difficult to discover either through the medium of personal knowledge or general report, in a nation where modern Dutch literature is unnoticed and almost unknown; but it obtained the best suffrage of its utility in the place for which it was intended, an extensive circulation. During the same period, he likewise occupied himself in contributing to English literature; and on the establishment of the Analytical Review in 1788, he is understood to have conducted the department of that periodical referring to foreign literature,—a task for which his hereditary critical acuteness, his residence on the continent, and knowledge of the classical and of several modern languages, some of which were then much neglected, or had but begun to attract the attention of educated Englishmen, must have given peculiar facilities.

During his residence at Amsterdam, he received as a token of respect from his native university, the degree of doctor of divinity. Soon after this event, his professional and literary pursuits experienced a check from a severe illness, which compelled him to seek early in life a restorative for his weakened constitution, in breathing the air of his native country. The change of climate had the desired effect, and he returned restored in health to his duties in Holland. These he continued to perform until April, 1791, when strong family motives induced him to relinquish a situation which habit and friendship had endeared to him, and his resignation of which was followed by the regrets of those who had experienced the merits of their pastor. He soon after accepted the vacant professorship of Greek in the King’s college of Aberdeen, a situation which he held for four years. Although the students of King’s college are not very numerous, and the endowments connected with the institution are by no means affluent, both are very respectable, and there is every opportunity on the part of the instructor to exhibit, both to the world in general, and to his students, those qualifications which make the man respected and esteemed. From the youth of the scholars generally committed to his care, the professor of Greek is not only the public lecturer in his department of literature, but the instructor of its elements; and he has not only to perform the more ostentatious duty of exhibiting to and laying before them the stores of his own knowledge, but to find the means by which this knowledge shall enter the mind of each individual student. The instructor meets his pupils during a considerable portion of the day, and for several months together; and a knowledge of individuals is thus acquired, which gives the benevolent and active discerner of character an opportunity of uniting the friend and the instructor towards the young man who looks to him for knowledge. The discernment of the young respecting those who have cognizance over them is proverbially acute, and it frequently happens that while the learned world has overlooked, in the midst of brilliant talents or deep learning, the absence or presence of the other more personal qualities requisite for the instruction of youth, the pupils have discovered these, and, as a consequence, have pursued or neglected their proper studies, as they have personally respected or disliked the teacher of them. It was the consequence of the learning and personal worth of Dr Gerard, that his pupils respected his personal character, and acquired, from his knowledge and his kind friendship towards them, an enthusiasm for Greek literature, which few teachers have had the good fortune to inspire, and which has very seldom made its appearance in Scotland. A course of lectures on Grecian history and antiquities, (unfortunately never given to the world,) which he delivered to his students, is still remembered by many to whom they have formed a stable foundation for more extended knowledge of the subject.

During the latter years of his father’s life, he had assisted him in the performance of his duties as professor of divinity, and on his death succeeded to that situation, where he brought, to the less irksome and more intellectual duties of instilling philosophic knowledge into more advanced minds, the same spirit of friendly intercourse which had distinguished his elementary instructions. The Scottish student of divinity is frequently a person who stands in need of a protector and friend, and when he has none to trust to but the teachers of the profession, on whom all have a claim, it is very natural that it might happen that these individuals should abstain from the exercise of any little patronage on which there is an indefinite number of claimants. It is, however, worthy of remark, to the honour of the individuals who have filled these situations, that many of them have been the best friends to their students, and that although they had at that period to look to them for no professional remuneration, they considered themselves as being from the commencement of the connexion, not only the temporary instructors, but the guardians of the future conduct, and the propagators of the future fortune, of their students. Of these feelings on the part of Dr Gerard, many now dispersed in respectable ministerial situations through the country, retain an affectionate recollection. His influence, which was considerable, was used in their favour, and where he had not that to bestow, he was still a friend. In 1811, he added to his professorship the second charge of the collegiate church of Old Aberdeen, and continued to hold both situations till his death. During the intervening period, he permitted his useful leisure hours to be occupied with the fulfilment of the duties of the mastership of mortifications for King’s college,—certainly rather an anomalous office for a scholar, and one which, with a salary that could have been no inducement, seems to have brought along with it the qualities of its not very auspicious name. The duties, though petty and irksome in the extreme, were performed with the same scrupulous exactness which distinguished the professor’s more important pursuits; and he had in the end, from his diligent discharge of these duties, and his being able to procure, from his personal influence with the government, a grant in favour of the university, the satisfaction of rescuing it from the poverty with which it was threatened, by a decree of augmentation of the stipends of several churches, of which the college was titular. During this period of adversity, Dr Gerard had before his eyes the brighter prospect of a benefice in the Scottish metropolis, which many of his friends there attempted to prevail on him to accept; but the retired habits consequent on a studious life, the small but select circle of intimate friends in the neighbourhood of his college, to whose appearance and conversation long intercourse had endeared him, and a desire to benefit an institution he might almost call paternal, prompted him to continue his useful duties.

Dr Gilbert Gerard died on the 28th of September, 1815; and amidst the regrets of his acquaintances, the professional tribute to his memory was bestowed by the same reverend friend who preached his father’s funeral sermon. His only published work is entitled "Institutes of Biblical Criticism," published in Edinburgh in 1808. It has received from his profession that approval which the author’s merit had given cause to anticipate. It is characterized by the author of the Biographie Universelle as "Un ouvrage plein d’Erudition, et compose dans un hon esprit."

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