Pirie, Alexander (DNB00)

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PIRIE, ALEXANDER (1737–1804), Scottish divine, was born in 1737. About 1760 he was appointed teacher in philosophy in the divinity school at Abernethy, and, in the course of his lectures, recommended for the study of his pupils parts of Lord Kames's ‘Essays on the Principles of Morality and Na- tural Religion.’ For this he was suspended and excommunicated by the synod in 1763, and an appointment which he had to preach in North America was withdrawn. Upon this, a portion of the Abernethy congregation gave its allegiance to him, and he left the anti-burgher portion of the secession church, and joined the burghers. Within a few years he was again charged with heresy, and, after an appeal from the presbytery to the synod, was suspended in 1768. In the following year he left the secession church and joined the independents, his first charge being at Blair-Logie. From this he removed to Newburgh, Fifeshire, where he died on 23 Nov. 1804.

A cultured man, and one of exceptionally liberal religious views for his time, Pirie was described as ‘capable of producing something more useful and permanent than any of his works are likely to be’ (Orme, Bibl. Biblica, p. 351).

His works are: 1. ‘The Procedure of the Associated Synod in Mr. Pirie's Case,’ Edinburgh, 1764; a defence of himself after his first trial for heresy. 2. ‘A Review of the Principles and Conduct of the Seceders, with Reasons of the Author's Separation from the Burghers in Particular,’ Edinburgh, 1769. 3. ‘Sermons on some Leading Doctrines in the Christian System,’ Edinburgh, 1775. 4. ‘Psalms or Hymns founded on some important passages of Scripture,’ Edinburgh, 1777; from this collection two familiar hymns have survived, ‘Come, let us join in songs of praise,’ and ‘With Mary's love without her fear.’ 5. ‘Critical and Practical Observations on Scripture Texts,’ Perth, 1785. 6. ‘Dissertation on Baptism,’ Perth, 1786. 7. ‘An Attempt to expose the Weakness, Fallacy, and Absurdity of Unitarian Arguments,’ Perth, 1792. 8. ‘The French Revolution exhibited in the Light of Sacred Oracles,’ Perth, 1795. 9. ‘Dissertation on the Hebrew Roots,’ published in Edinburgh after his death, 1807. ‘The Miscellaneous and Posthumous Works of Alexander Pirie,’ in six volumes, were published in Edinburgh in 1805, and went through two editions.

[Scots Mag. 1763 p. 525, 1804 p. 974; McKerrow's History of the Secession Church, p. 289; Julian's Dictionary of Hymnology, p. 896.]

J. R. M.