Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Halyburton, Thomas

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HALYBURTON, THOMAS (1674–1712), theologian, was born at Dupplin, Perthshire, on 25 Dec. 1674. His father, George Halyburton (d. 1682), descended from the Haliburtons of Pitcur, and a near relative of George Haliburton [q. v.], bishop of Dunkeld, graduated at the university of St. Andrews in 1652; after being licensed by the Glasgow presbytery in 1656, became assistant minister of the parish of Aberdalgie and Dupplin in 1657; was deprived for nonconformity in 1662; lived, by the kindness of George Hay of Balhousie, in the house at Dupplin, where his son Thomas was born; was denounced by the privy council for keeping conventicles 3 Aug. 1676; and died in October 1682, having had eleven children by his wife Margaret, daughter of the Rev. Andrew Playfair, his predecessor at Aberdalgie.

On his father's death, his mother, a woman of much religious feeling, removed to Rotterdam to escape threatened persecution, and Thomas was educated there at Erasmus's school, where he proved himself a good classical scholar. He returned to Scotland in 1682, graduated at the university of St. Andrews 24 July, 1696 and, after serving as a private chaplain, was licensed by the presbytery of Kirkaldy 22 June 1699. He was ordained to the parish of Ceres, Fifeshire, 1 May 1700, but he injured his health by excessive labour. On 1 April 1710 he was appointed by Queen Anne, at the instance of the synod of Fife, professor of divinity at St. Mary's (sometimes called the "New" College. He devoted his inaugural lecture to an attempt to confute the deistical views lately promulgated by Dr. Archibald Pitcairn in 1688. He died at St. Andrews 23 Sept. 1712, aged only 38. His piety was remarkable, and the deeply religious tone of his unfinished autobiography, published after his death, gave him a very wide reputation. Wesley and Whitefield recommended his writings to their followers.

Halyburton's works, all of which were issued posthumously, are as follows: 1. 'Natural Religion Insufficient and Revealed necessary to Man's Happiness' (together with the inaugural lecture against Pitcairn, 'A Modest Enquiry whether Regeneration or Justification has the Precedency in the order of Nature,' and 'An Essay concerning the reason of Faith'), Edinburgh, 1714, 8vo; Montrose, 1798, with preface by J. Hog. The 'Modest Enquiry' and the 'Essay' were reissued together at Edinburgh in 1865 as 'An Essay on the Ground or formal Reason of a saving Faith.' Throughout this volume Halyburton attacks the deism of Lord Herbert of Cherbury and of Charles Blount from the point of view of Calvinistic orthodoxy. He was well read in the writings of his opponents, and in a list which he appends of books consulted mentions the works of Locke, Hobbes, and Spinoza. Leland, in his view of 'Deistical Writers,' admitted Halyburton's narrowness, although he approved his conclusions (cf. Remusat, Lord Herbert of Cherbury, Lord Herbert, Autobiogr., ed. Lee, 1886, Introd.) 2. 'Memoirs of the Life of the Reverend Mr. Thorn as Halyburton. Digested into Four Parts, whereof the first three were written with his own hand some years before his death, and the fourth is collected from his Diary by another hand; to which is annex'd some Account of his Dying Words by those who were Witnesses to his Death,' dedicated by Janet Watson (Halyburton's widow) to Lady Henrietta Campbell; 2nd edit., corrected and amended, Edinburgh, 1715; another edit., also called the 2nd, with recommendatory epistle by Dr. Isaac Watts, London, 1718, 8vo ; 8th edit., Glasgow, 1756, 8vo; with introductory essay by D. Young, Glasgow, 1824, 12mo; 14th edit., 1838, 1839, Edinburgh, 1848. 'An Abstract of the Life and Death of Thomas Halyburton' appeared in London in 1739, and again in 1741, with recommendatory epistle by George Whitefield and preface by John Wesley. An abbreviated version was also issued at Cork in 1820, and has frequently been reissued in collections of evangelical biography. 3. 'The Great Concern of Salvation, with a Word of Recommendation by I. Watts,' Edinburgh, 1721 and 1722, 8vo, and 1797, 12mo; Glasgow, 1770, 16mo. 4. 'Ten Sermons preached before and after the Celebration of the Lord's Supper,' Edinburgh, 1722. 5. 'The Unpardonable Sin against the Holy Ghost briefly discoursed of,' Edinburgh, 1784, 8vo. Halyburton's works were collected and edited, by the Rev. Robert Burns, D.D., of Paisley, London, 1835. A portrait of Halyburton is prefixed to this volume.

[Hew Scott's Fasti Eccl. Scot. iv. 477, 621; Halyburton's Memoirs, 1714; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Chalmers's Biog. Dict.; Leland's View of Deistical Writers.]

S. L. L.