Imatges de pÓgina

In the discharge of every public and private duty of religion, vith a constant reliance on divine aid, he was regular and steady. He knew and felt what became the sacred office which he held; and never departed on any occasion from the dignity or decarum of his professional character. Having given himself wholly to the meditation of divine things, he continued in them: In the work of his Master he was stedfast and faithful to the end. His piety was at once sincere, rational, and without ostentation. To be useful in the cause of truth and virtue, was his highest ambition : And with all the means of attaining this end, which the resources of a well-informed and liberal mind could supply, he united a zeal for the interests of Christianity, that terminated only with his life.

In that branch of the pastoral office which is called Lecturing, his learning and ability were much admired, and never failed to please, as well as to instruct and edify, in a degree which has seldom been equalled. As a preacher, also, without pretensions to the graces of elocution, he had a certain earnestness of manher, evidently proceeding from the heart, and from a sincere anxiety to be useful, which always commanded the attention, and excited the interest of the hearers. In doctrine he showed uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity; his sentiments were just, energetic, and impressive. And his constant object was to press on the minds of his people the truths necessary for the correction of vice, and the advancement of piety, knowledge, and goodness. With this view he may be said to have affected a greater than usual plainness of diction. It is true, that to be perspicuous and intelligible to the most illiterate of his audience, ought to be always the chief object of a preacher. But this may be accomplished with a strict adherence to purity of language; and it must be confessed, that the difficulty is great of frequently employing familiar expressions, without descending from that propriety which is indispensable to the dignity of the pulpit. It may be added, that his inexhaustible variety of thought and expression in Prayer, bespoke a mind richly stored with religious ideas; and at once surprised and delighted those who regularly attended his ministry.

When engaged, either in private controversy or in the public debates of the Church Courts, he was always remarkable for speaking strictly to the point at issue. He was likewise distinguished by coolness, discretion, and command of temper; he listened with patience to the arguments of his opponents; and


[ocr errors]

in delivering his opinions, he shewed himself uniformly open,
candid, and explicit. At the same time, his talent was rather
that of business than of address; he appeared to be better fitted
for deciding on the merits of a question in debate, than for
soothing the passions, or managing the humours of mankind
a qualification rarely possessed but by minds of a superior order.
In the management of the Public Charities officially intrusted to
the Ministers of Edinburgh, his rigid integrity, and impartial
firmness in resisting the effects of all personal interest or solici-
tation, which he regarded as interfering with the real advantage
of these Institutions, are still in the recollection of many with
whom he then acted. On every occasion, indeed, he thought
and acted with the energy of a self-deciding, upright mind.
And hence it is, that all his writings evince the sentiments of a
masculine independent spirit, uninfluenced by authority, and
unfettered by prejudice.

Nor was his praise merely that of professional excellence. On various subjects his range of knowledge was ample and profound. Thus, his taste for classical literature was early formed. He perused the writers of antiquity with critical skill; and of his acquaintance with the Greek language, especially the original of the New Testament, his observations on the force of the particles, in his Commentary, are a sufficient proof. In the speculations, also, of metaphysical, moral, and mathematical science, he was a considerable proficient. The fact is, his powers were such as might have been turned with advantage to any department of knowledge or learning.

It may further be noticed, that in conducting the ordinary affairs of life, he displayed uncommon prudence and sagacity. He was one of those who are generally attentive to small concerns, but on proper occasions shew themselves liberal to a high degree. Of this, different instances occured in the course of his transactions with his friends; and he was enabled to act on such a principle of generosity, by his usual habits of economy and prudence.—Dr. MACKNIGHT's external appearance was sufficiently expressive of his Character. His countenance was manly and commanding, and his gait remarkably erect and firm.

AGREEABLY to the plan of this sketch, any critical account of Dr. MACKNIGHT's Works cannot with propriety be given here. It may only be observed in general, that his reputation for sound

criticism, extensive knowledge, and clear elucidation of the sacred writings, is rapidly increasing amongst Christians of every denomination, and he must be acknowledged to have been one of the most intelligent, judicious, and candid Expositors of the Scriptures, that ever appeared. Even during his own lifetime, his diligence was rewarded by an ample portion of respectable fame.--The Harmony of the Gospels' has long been esteemed a work of standard excellence for the students of evangelical knowledge. His Truth of the Gospel History' has hitherto attracted the notice of the Public less than any of his other productions. But it well deserves to be more generally read; since of what it proposes to establish, it contains the most satisfying views that can be suggested by learning, acuteness, and good sense, and is admitted by the best judges to be a performance as useful and instructive as any we have on that important subject.

“The Commentary on the Apostolical Epistles' is now held in peculiar estimation; and it may be doubted, whether the scope of the sacred authors of these writings was ever, in any former age of Christianity, so fully, clearly, and happily stated, as has been done by Dr. MACKNIGHT, in the general Views and Illustrations which he has prefixed to the several Chapters of the Epistles. In this able, judicious and learned Work, the Author's method of explaining the Scriptures, is every where employed with the greatest success. His object was to discover the meaning of the inspired writers in difficult passages, from a comprehensive view of all the circumstances to which they allude, without regard to interpretations of mere human authority. Hence, although on principle attached to the. cstablished standards of the Church of Scotland, he did not conceive it as any advantage to the system which he maintained, to urge in support of its peculiar doctrines, every passage which zeal without knowledge may have employed for that purpose. Nothing, in fact, tends more to injure the cause of truth and religion, than an injudicious appeal to Scripture; or the attempt to establish opinions by the sanction of scriptural words or passages, quoted singly, without regard to what precedes or follows them, and thus invested with a meaning, more than probably, entirely different from what was intended by the sacred writers. Of this mistaken application, Dr. MACKNIGHT has shewn various instances; remarking, that when a doctrine is sufficiently established by any passage in which it is expressly or undoubtedly declared, we only weaken it by any appeal to other passages, of #hich the application to that doctrine may be dubious, or at best equivocal.- Accordingly, it must be allowed, that in this method of eliciting the true meaning of Scripture, by a due respect to parallel passages, and the design of the whole context, the expositions and views which, with much sagacity of critical investigation, our Author has given of Paul's Epistles, are extremely natural, acute, and sensible.

The Life of the Apostle Paul, which concludes the sixth volume of “The Translation and Commentary,' is an excellent compendium of the Apostolical History; and may be considered as the Author's view and illustration of the Acts of the Apostles—the only part of the New Testament writings (except the Revelation of St. John) to which the labours of Dr. MACKNIGHT, as a Commentator, were not directed. In all his writings, his style, though unambitious of elegance or ornament, is perspicuous, and appropriate to the subject.

DR. MACKNIGHT enjoyed the friendship and esteem of many eminent Characters among his cotemporaries of the same profession. In the number of these were Dr. Blair and Dr. ROBERTSON; to whose attachment he owed much on different occasions. If the portrait which has been given in this account, is a faithful resemblance, the name of him whom it represents may now be considered as not unworthy to be associated, in future times, with those of the men in whose society, during his lifetime, he had often the happiness of passing his hours, and whose works will live as the glory of Scottish literature, while civilization and refinement exist.

Dr. ErSKINE and Dr. Findlay had been the companions of his early youth; and although in his opinions on some points of Church policy, he differed from these venerable persons, so universally esteemed for piety and profound theological learning, their mutual regard continued unaltered through life. From Lord Hailes he received many valuable hints, relative to the early state of Christianity, of which he availed himself in his last Work. To that learned and truly estimable Character, he was also under peculiar obligations of another kind, through the friendship of the Kilkerran family, with which Lord HAILES was connected by marriage. The character and learning of Dr. MACKNIGHT had long pointed him out as worthy of being

promoted to a distinguished station in the Church. And it was on this ground, that by the immediate influence of John DalRYMPLE, Esq. brother of Lord Hailes, and Provost of Edinburgh at that time, he obtained his election as a Minister of the City.

The proofs of respect which he experienced from many of his younger Brethren in the Church, were highly gratifying to Dr. MACKNIGHT. Among his friends of this description, there were two for whom he entertained a peculiar esteem; and they will forgive the mention of their names on the present occasion, because the public tribute of regard which they have each had an opportunity of paying to his memory, in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, was so honourable to him, that it ought not to pass unrecorded. Principal Hill, with that impressive and dignified eloquence which has long been celebrated as having a powerful influence on the decisions of the Assembly, characterized him as—“A venerable Father, who ranked among the most eminent Divines that the Church of Scotland has produced; who often spoke in this House with great ability, and profound knowledge of the subject on which he delivered his opinion; who was a Master in our Israel, concerning all points of ecclesiastical law; and by whose theological labours, conducted during a long life with unremitting assiduity, and directed to the most valuable objects, all of us now daily profit.” To Dr. Finlayson, of whose firmness, sagacity, and accurate knowledge, he early appreciated the future value to the Church, Dr. MACKNIGHT was strongly attached by a certain congeniality of mind; and he often had great pleasure in discussing various subjects of his attention, with a friend so remarkable for acuteness, judgment, and strength of intellect.-It accorded with the sentiments of all his brethren, when Dr. FINLAYSON, officially reporting to the Assembly, the death of Dr. MACKNIGHT, as joint Collector of the Fund already mentioned, said that “ his deep learning, sound judgment, and great respectability of character, had rendered him one of the brightest ornaments of our Church.”

Soon after the time of his being ordained, Dr. MACKNIGHT married ELIZABETH M'CORMICK, eldest daughter of the worthy and respectable SAMUEL M'CORMICK Esq. General Examiner of the Excise in Scotland--a Lady whose humane and charitable

« AnteriorContinua »