Gilfillan, Samuel (DNB00)

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GILFILLAN, SAMUEL (1762–1826), secession minister, son of a merchant in the village of Bucklyvie, Stirlingshire, was born there on 24 Nov. 1762. He was the youngest of a family of fifteen children. In his early years he displayed great fondness for reading, and the habit was encouraged by his mother, with a view to his entering upon the work of the ministry. In November 1782 he went to the university of Glasgow, passed through the arts course, and afterwards studied theology under Professors William Moncrieff of Alloa and Archibald Bruce of Whitburn, of the antiburgher secession church. During his period of study Gilfillan maintained himself principally by teaching. He was licensed to preach by the associate presbytery of Perth in June 1789, and shortly afterwards received calls from the congregations at Barry in Forfarshire, and Auchtergaven and Comrie in Perthshire. The synod sent him to Comrie, a small village in the upper part of Strathearn, and he was ordained on 12 April 1791.

In July 1793 he married Rachel, eldest daughter of the Rev. James Barlas of the adjacent parish of Crieff, known for her beauty and other charms as ‘the star of the north.’ Gilfillan himself was a handsome man of stately bearing. His income was at first 50l. a year, and his congregation numbered only sixty-five members. Within a few years his popularity doubled that number, but his stipend never reached 100l. The Gilfillans managed on this to bring up a large family and educate three sons for the ministry. Gilfillan preached with much success both in Gaelic and English. His son says that he had ‘little logical faculty,’ but a powerful memory, a lively fancy, and a power of moving the hearts of his hearers. He was a strict Calvinist.

His published writings, most of which had been used as sermons, include numerous articles contributed to the ‘Christian Magazine,’ a periodical conducted by ministers of his church, which, says Hugh Miller, ‘was not one of the brightest of periodicals, but a sound and solid one’ (My Schools and Schoolmasters, p. 543). His articles were signed ‘Leumas’ (Samuel reversed). A number of these were included in 1822 in a volume of ‘Short Discourses on various important subjects for the use of families.’ His ‘Essay on the Sanctification of the Lord's Day,’ published in 1804, passed through ten English editions, and was translated into various foreign languages. Another small treatise on ‘Domestic Piety’ was published in 1819, and an enlarged edition in 1825. Two essays on 'Hypocrisy' and 'Meditation,' and a small 'Manual of Baptism,' were also published in 1825. In 1826 was issued what has been considered his best work, 'Discourses on the dignity, grace, and operations of the Holy Spirit;' and he was occupied preparing his 'Treatise on Relative Duties' for the press when he died. He also contributed some articles to the columns of 'The Student,' a Glasgow University periodical, in 1817. A posthumous work giving a collection of his letters, chiefly to afflicted persons, to which a memoir was prefixed, was published in 1828 by his eldest son, the Rev. Dr. James Gilfillan [q. v.] of Stirling, himself the author of a work on ' The Sanctification of the Sabbath.'

Along with several other ministers of the same church Gilfillan in 1819 planned and put in execution a scheme for the erection of lending libraries in the highlands, to consist principally of religious books. Of such libraries fourteen were actually set in operation with good results. Gilfillan died on 15 Oct. 1826, from an inflammation produced by eating sloes. He was buried close beside the river Earn four days later. He was survived by his widow and eight out of twelve children. Two sons, James and George, are separately noticed.

[Memoir by the Kev. Dr. James Gilfillan (see above); the Rev. George Gilfillan's Remoter Stars in the Church Sky, 1867, p. 26; Christian Magazine, 1797-1820.]

H. P.