Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gibson, James (1799-1871)

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GIBSON, JAMES, D.D. (1799–1871), Free church polemic, was born at Crieff, Perthshire, on 31 Jan. 1799, went to school in his native place, and entered the university of Glasgow in his twelfth year. Towards the close of his preparatory course he became tutor in a Lanarkshire family, and in 1820 was licensed to preach by the presbytery of Hamilton. He afterwards accepted a situation as tutor in a Roxburghshire family, where he remained more than three years. In 1825 he became travelling companion to Captain Elliot, a cousin to the Earl of Minto. They went to Portugal and resided a considerable time in Lisbon. Returning to Glasgow Gibson was appointed assistant to the Rev. Mr. Steel, of the West Church, Greenock. After two years of work he made another continental tour with a pupil, receiving a testimonial from the Greenock congregation on his departure. In these tours he specially studied the moral and religious condition of the countries visited. Gibson was afterwards appointed assistant to Dr. Lockhart in the college parish, Glasgow, and received ordination as a minister. He was distinguished for accurate scholarship, a well cultivated mind, and sincere piety, but was not an attractive or effective preacher. He was drawn into the voluntary controversy as a defender of church establishments. He argued that the errors supposed to be due to the action of the Emperor Constantine had existed at an earlier date. He became editor of the ‘Church of Scotland Magazine’ in 1834, an office which he held for three years. Some influential members of the church placed at his disposal about 2,000l., which might either be accepted as a gift or devoted to the purpose of building a church for him. A church was accordingly built in the suburb of Kingston, into which he was inducted in 1839. The disruption came in 1843, when Gibson joined the Free church, and on the Sunday following he was interdicted from entering his own church. A place of worship in connection with the Free church was built for him in the same locality. For some years he acted as clerk to the Glasgow free presbytery. In 1855, having a promise of 30,000l. from Dr. Clark of Wester Moffat, with whom Gibson was on friendly terms, the general assembly of the Free church resolved to erect a theological college in Glasgow, and next year Gibson was elected professor of systematic theology and church history. He was conspicuous as a debater in the courts of the Free church, and strenuously opposed anything like innovation. Gibson died on 2 Nov. 1871. Besides contributing to volumes of lectures against infidelity, popery, and voluntaryism, he edited the ‘Scottish Protestant,’ vols. i. and ii., Glasgow, 1852, and wrote treatises on ‘The Marriage Affinity Question,’ 8vo, Edinburgh, 1854; ‘Principles of Bible Temperance,’ 8vo, Glasgow, 1855; ‘Present Truths in Theology,’ 8vo, Glasgow, 1863; ‘The Connection between the Decalogue and New Testament Morality,’ 8vo, Glasgow, 1865; and ‘The Public Worship of God: its Authority and Modes,’ 8vo, Glasgow, 1869.

[Free Church Monthly, January 1872; Disruption Worthies, 1876; newspaper reports; published works.]

J. T.