Dickson, David (1583?-1663) (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 15
Dickson, David (1583?-1663)

by Thomas Finlayson Henderson
Death in 1662, according to the ODNB.

DICKSON or DICK, DAVID (1583?–1663), Scottish divine, was the only son of John Dick or Dickson, a wealthy merchant in the Trongate of Glasgow, whose father was an old feuar of some lands called the Kirk of Muir, in the parish of St. Ninians, Stirlingshire. He was born in Glasgow about 1583, and educated at the university, where he graduated M.A., and was appointed one of the regents or professors of philosophy. These regents, according to the recommendations of the general assembly, only continued in office eight years, and on the conclusion of his term of office Dickson was in 1618 ordained minister of the parish of Irvine. In 1620 he was named in a leet of seven to be a minister in Edinburgh, but being suspected of nonconformity his nomination was not pressed (Calderwood, History of the Kirk of Scotland, vii. 448). Having publicly testified against the five articles of Perth, he was at the instance of Law, archbishop of Glasgow, summoned to appear before the high court of commission at Edinburgh, 9 Jan. 1622, but having declined the jurisdiction of the court, he was subsequently deprived of his ministry in Irvine, and ordained to proceed to Turriff, Aberdeenshire, within twenty days (ib.vii. 630-42). When about to proceed on his journey northward, the Archbishop of Glasgow, at the request of the Earl of Eglinton, permitted him to remain in Ayrshire, at Eglinton, where for about two months he preached in the hall and courtyard of the castle. As great crowds went from Irvine to hear him, he was then ordered to set out for Turriff, but about the end of July 1623 was permitted to return to his charge at Irvine, and remained there unmolested till 1637. Along with Alexander Henderson and Andrew Cant, he attended the private meeting convened in the latter year by Lord Lorne, afterwards Marquis of Argyll, at which they began to regret their dangerous estate with the pride and avarice of the prelates (Spalding, Memorials of the Troubles, i. 79). The same year he prevailed on the presbytery of Irvine for the suspension of the service-book, and he formed one of the deputation of noblemen and influential ministers deputed by the covenanters to visit Aberdeen to 'invite the ministry and gentry into the covenant' (Gordon, Scots Affairs, i. 82; Spalding, Memorials, i. 91). The doctors and professors of Aberdeen proved, however, 'not easily to be gained,' and after various encounters with the covenanters published 'General Demandis concerning the lait Covenant,' &c. 1638, reprinted 1662 (the latter edition having some copies with the title-page dated 1663), to which Henderson and Dickson drew up a reply entitled 'Ansueris of sum Bretheren of the Ministrie to the Replyis of the Ministeris and Professoris of Divinity at Abirdein,' 1638, reprinted 1663. This was answered by the Aberdeen professors in 'Duplyes of the Minsteris and Professoris of Abirdein,' 1638. At the memorable assembly which met at Glasgow in 1638 Alexander Henderson was chosen in preference to Dickson to fill the chair, but Dickson distinguished himself greatly in the deliberations, delivering a speech of great tact when the commissioner threatened to leave the assembly, and in the eleventh session giving a learned discourse on Arminianism (printed in 'Select Biographies,' Wodrow Society, i. 17-27). The assembly also named him one of the four inspectors to be set over the university cities, the city to which he was named being Glasgow (Gordon, Scots Affairs, ii. 169), but in his case the resolution was not carried out till 1640, when he was appointed to the newly instituted professorship of divinity. In the army of the covenanters, under Alexander Leslie, which encamped at Dunse Law in June 1639, he acted as chaplain of the Ayrshire regiment, commanded by the Earl of Loudoun, and at the general assembly which, after the pacification, met at Edinburgh in August of the same year, was chosen moderator. In 1643 he was appointed, along with Alexander Henderson and David Calderwood, to draw up a 'Directory for Public Worship,' and he was also joint author with James Durham [q. v.], who afterwards succeeded him in the professorship in Glasgow, of the 'Sum of Saving Knowledge,' frequently printed along with the 'Confession of Faith' and catechisms, although it never received the formal sanction of the church. In 1650 he was translated to the divinity chair of the university of Edinburgh, where he delivered an inaugural address in Latin, which was translated by George Sinclair into English, and, under the name of 'Truth's Victory over Error,' was published as Sinclair's own in 1684. The piracy having been detected, it was republished with Dickson's name attached and a 'Life' of Dickson by Wodrow in 1752. In 1650 he was appointed by the committee of the kirk one of a deputation to congratulate Charles II on his arrival in Scotland. For declining to take the oath of supremacy at the Restoration he was ejected from his chair, and the hardships to which he had to submit had such injurious effects that he gradually failed in health and died in the beginning of 1663. By his wife, Margaret Roberton, daughter of Archibald Roberton of Stonehall, a younger brother of the house of Ernock, Lanarkshire, he had three sons, of whom John, the eldest, was clerk to- the exchequer in Scotland, and Alexander, the second son, was professor of Hebrew in the university of Edinburgh. Besides the works already referred to, he was the author of: 1. 'A Treatise on the Promises,' 1630. 2. 'Explanation of the Epistle to the Hebrews,' 1685. 3. 'Expositio analytica omnium Apostolicarum Epistolarum,' 1646. 4. 'A Brief Exposition of the Gospel according to Matthew,' 1651. 5. 'Explanation of the First Fifty Psalms,' 1653. 6. 'Explication upon the Last Fifty Psalms,' 1655. 7. 'A Brief Explication of the Psalms from L to C,' 1655. 8. 'Therapeutica Sacra, seu de curandis Casibus Conscientiae circa Regenerationem per Foederum Divinorum applicationem,' 1656, of which an edition by his son, Alexander Dickson, entitled 'Therapeutica Sacra, or Cases of Conscience resolved,' was published in 1664; and an English translation, entitled 'Therapeutica Sacra, or the Method of healing the Diseases of the Conscience concerning Regeneration,' in 1695. His various commentaries were published in conjunction with a number of other ministers, each of whom, in accordance with a project initiated by Dickson, had particular books of the 'hard parts of scripture' assigned them. He was also the author of a number of 'short poems on pious and serious subjects,' which were 'spread among country people and servants,' to 'be sung with the common tunes of the Psalms.' Among them were 'The Christian Sacrifice,' 'O Mother dear, Jerusalem,' 'True Christian Love,' and 'Honey Drops, or Crystal Streams.' Several of his manuscripts were printed among his 'Select Works,' published with a life in 1838.

[Life by Wodrow, prefixed to Truth's Victory, and reprinted in Select Biographies published by Wodrow Society in 1847, ii. 1-14; additional details in i. 316-20; Robert Baillie's Letters and Journals (Bannatyne Club); Calderwood's History of the Kirk of Scotland, vol. vii. ; Spalding's Memorials of the Troubles (Spalding Club); Gordon's Scots Affairs (Spalding Club); Sir James Balfour's Annals; Wodrow's History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland; Lane's Memorials; Life of Robert Blair; Hew Scott's Fasti Eccles. Scot. ii. 8; Chambers's Eminent Scotsmen, i. 446-9.]

T. F. H.