1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Alexander, William Lindsay
ALEXANDER, WILLIAM LINDSAY (1808–1884), Scottish divine, was born at Leith on the 24th of August 1808. He was educated at the universities of St Andrews and Edinburgh, where he gained a lasting reputation for classical scholarship. He entered Glasgow Theological Academy under Ralph Wardlaw in September 1827, but in December of the same year he left to become classical tutor at the Blackburn Theological Academy (afterwards the Lancashire Independent College). At Blackburn he stayed till 1831, lecturing on biblical literature, metaphysics, Greek and Latin. After short visits to Germany and London he was invited in November 1834 to become minister of North College Street church (afterwards Argyle Square), Edinburgh, an independent church which had arisen out of the evangelical movement associated with the Haldanes. He deliberately put aside the ambition to become a pulpit orator in favour of the practice of biblical exposition, which he invested with a singular charm and impressiveness. In 1836 he became one of the editors of the Congregational Magazine, to which he contributed articles on biblical literature and theology and on the “voluntary” controversy. In 1840 he delivered the Congregational Lecture in London on the “Connexion and Harmony of the Old and New Testaments.”
Alexander took an active part in the “voluntary” controversy which ended in the Disruption, but he also maintained broad and catholic views of the spiritual relations between different sections of the Christian church. In 1845 he visited Switzerland with the special object of inquiring into the religious life of the churches there. He published an account of his journey in a book, Switzerland and the Swiss Churches, which led to an interchange of correspondence between the Swiss and Scottish churches. In 1845 he received the degree of D.D. from the university of St Andrews. In 1861 he undertook the editorship of the third edition of Kitto’s Biblical Encyclopaedia with the understanding that the whole work should be thoroughly revised and brought up to date. In January 1870 he became one of the committee of Old Testament revisers, and by his thorough biblical scholarship rendered exceptional service to the board; he enjoyed the work and devoted much time to it for the next fourteen years. In 1877 he became principal of the Edinburgh Theological Hall, a position which he held, in spite of many tempting offers of preferment elsewhere, until his death on the 20th of December 1884.
See his Life and Work by James Ross (1887). (D. Mn.)