Carson, Alexander (DNB00)

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CARSON, ALEXANDER (1776–1844), baptist minister, was born near Stewartstown, co. Tyrone, in 1776. His parents were Scottish Calvinistic presbyterians, settled in Ireland, who consecrated their son to the ministry at an early age. He was sent to a classical school, and afterwards to the university of Glasgow, where he made himself a good Greek scholar — 'the first scholar of his time,' says Robert Haldane. He proceeded B.A and M.A. At twenty-two he was ordained pastor of the presbyterian congregation at Tobermore, near Coleraine. His rigid Calvinism caused a disagreement with his hearers, who inclined to Arianism. After a time Carson resigned the pastorate, shook off the shackles of presbyterianism, and published his 'Reasons for Separating' in 1804. Part of his congregation followed him. For some years he preached in barns and in the open air. In 1814 they built a small meeting-house, in which he devotedly laboured for thirty years. In the intervals of his ministry he employed his pen in vindicating the principles of his belief, and published books on biblical interpretation, Transubstantiation, the Trinity, &c. In 1827 he had a sharp controversy with Samuel Lee, professor of Hebrew at Cambridge, and published a book entitled 'The Incompetency of Prof. Lee for translating the Holy Scriptures,' followed by a reply to Lee's answer. In attempting to refute Haldane's 'New Views of Baptism' he converted himself, and afterswards published (1831) a book on 'Baptism, its Mode and Subjects.' Of this he printed an enlarged edition in 1844; it was subscribed for by four hundred baptist ministers. The whole impression was rapidly disposed of, and a new edition of ten thousand copies called for. By his writings and the publication of his books Carson became widely known; and so much were they esteemed in America that two universities simultaneously bestowed upon him the honorary degree of LL.D. He also became well known nearer home by travelling through most of the English counties, preaching ashe went on behalf of baptist missions. Returning from his last tour in 1844, while waiting at Liverpool for the steamer to Belfast, he fell over the edge of the quay, dislocated his shoulder, and was nearly drowned. He was rescued and taken to the steamer; but on his arrival at Belfast he was unable to proceed further, and after eight days he died, on 24 Aug. 1844, in the sixty-eighth year of his age. His remains were removed to 'Solitude,' his residence near Tobermore, and buried near the chapel where he had preached, and where six months before he had buried his wife. A collection of Carson's works has since been printed in six stout volumes. At the end of the sixth volume is a copious collection of extracts from sixteen different notices of Carson and his writings, in which he is said to be a second Jonathan Edwards, and the first biblical critic of the nineteenth century.

[Coleraine Chronicle, 24 and 31 Aug. 1844; Baptist Magazine, 1844, pp. 185-91, 525; G. C. Moore's Life of Alexander Carson, 1851; Douglas's Biographical Sketch of Alexander Carson, 1884.]

J. H. T.