Beith, Alexander (DNB01)

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BEITH, ALEXANDER (1799–1891), divine and author, was born at Campbeltown, Argyleshire, on 13 Jan. 1799. His parents were Gilbert Beith and Helen Elder. Beith's father was a land agent and farmer in the Kintyre district of Argyleshire, and was a man of wide reading, especially in theology and church history. After the usual course of education at Campbeltown young Beith entered the Glasgow University with a view to the ministry of the church of Scotland. He was licensed by the presbytery of Kintyre on 7 Feb. 1821. Called to the chapel-of-ease at Oban in June following, he laboured there until November 1824, when he was transferred to Hope Street church, Glasgow. There for two years he ministered to a large congregation. In 1826 he removed to the parish of Kilbrandon, Argyleshire, and in 1830 to the parish of Glenelg, Invernessshire. In 1839 he was called to the first charge of Stirling. When the agitation on the subject of spiritual independence was reaching a crisis in the church of Scotland, Beith was one of the seven ministers appointed in 1842 to preach at Strathbogie in spite of the prohibition of the civil courts. He was one of the 474 ministers who in 1843 left the established church and formed the free church of Scotland. He and his congregation removed to a handsome place of worship which was subsequently erected in Stirling and named the Free North Church. In 1847 Beith gave evidence on the question of sites before a committee of the House of Commons, some landowners having refused sites for the erection of buildings in connection with the free church. He took a prominent part in educational and other matters affecting the new religious denomination. The degree of D.D. was conferred upon him in 1850 by the university of Princeton, U.S.A. In 1858 he was elected moderator of the general assembly of the free church, the assembly which first dealt with the famous Cardross case. Beith retired from the active service of the church in Stirling in 1876, but continued to take part in the general work of the denomination. He was a fluent speaker and able preacher; his theological position was broad and liberal. When the deposition of William Robertson Smith [q. v.] was first moved in the assembly, Beith proposed and carried a motion that the charges be withdrawn and the professor be restored to his chair in Aberdeen. 'He held that critical study of the scriptures was not inconsistent with reverence for them and belief in their inspiration. He died at Edinburgh on 11 May 1891 in his ninety-third year. By his wife Julia Robson (d. 25 Sept. 1866) he had fourteen children: six sons and eight daughters. His eldest son, Gilbert, was member of parliament for the central division of Glasgow, 1885, and for the Inverness district of burghs, 1892-5. Another son, John Alexander, was a justice of the peace and closely connected for many years with philanthropic and educational work in Manchester; he died in October 1896. Both brothers were partners in the well-known firm of Beith, Stevenson, & Co., East India merchants, Glasgow and Manchester.

An excellent portrait of Dr. Beith, painted by Norman McBeth, was presented to him by his congregation in Stirling, and is in the possession of his son Gilbert in Glasgow.

Dr. Beith was a voluminous writer. Besides many pamphlets on public questions, he published: 1. 'A Treatise on the Baptist Controversy' (in Gaelic), 1823. 2. 'A Catechism on Baptism,' 1824. 3. 'Sorrowing yet Rejoicing, a Narrative of successive Bereavements in a Minister's Family,' 1839. 4. 'The Two Witnesses traced in History,' 1846. 5. 'Biographical Sketch of the Rev. Alex. Stewart, Cromarty,' 1854. 6. 'Christ our Life, being a Series of Lectures on the first Six Chapters of John's Gospel,' 2 vols. 1856. 7. 'Scottish Reformers and Martyrs,' 1860. 8. 'The Scottish Church in her relation to other Churches at Home and Abroad,' 1809. 9. 'A Highland Tour with Dr. Candlish,' 1874. 10. 'Memoirs of Disruption Times,' 1877. 11. 'The Woman of Samaria,' 1880.

[Personal knowledge; private information; Scott's Fasti Eecles. Scotican, 11. i. 61, 70, 101, III. i. 43.]

T. B. J.