Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Geden, John Dury

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GEDEN, JOHN DURY (1822–1886), Wesleyan minister, son of the Rev. John Geden, Wesleyan minister, was born at Hastings on 4 May 1822. In 1830 he was sent to Kingswood school. In 1836 he left school and devoted himself to study and teaching. In 1844 he became a candidate for the Wesleyan ministry, and was sent to Richmond College, Surrey. After the usual three years' course Geden was appointed assistant-tutor at the college. By the conference of 1851, which met at Newcastle-on-Tyne, Geden was stationed in that town, having Dr. Punshon as one of his colleagues. After a year each in this and the neighbouring circuit of Durham, he removed to Manchester, where he spent three years in the Oxford Road circuit. His ministry won the esteem of some of the most cultivated congregations of his church. On the death of Jonathan Crowther (1794–1856) [q. v.] in January 1856, Geden was requested to fill provisionally the vacant post of tutor in the sacred and classical languages at the theological college, Didsbury, Lancashire, and by the conference of the same year was formally appointed Crowther's successor. Geden's favourite field of study was oriental literature and philology, but he also studied various branches of philosophy and natural science. Soon after his appointment to Didsbury he became joint-editor of the ‘London Quarterly Review,’ established in 1853, and contributed to its pages many valuable papers, among them a review of Robertson's sermons (October 1861). Meanwhile Geden's services as an occasional preacher were in request over a wide surrounding district, and his reputation became established as one of the leading thinkers and writers of methodism, though he was not often a prominent figure in public ecclesiastical assemblies.

In the autumn of 1863 Geden made a journey to the East, and passed through parts of Egypt, the Sinaitic peninsula, and the Holy Land. A dangerous attack of dysentery at Jerusalem permanently injured his delicate constitution. Some memorials of this tour appeared subsequently in the ‘City Road Magazine’ during 1871–3. In 1868 Geden was elected into the legal hundred.

In 1870 Geden was invited to become a member of the Old Testament Revision Company, then first formed, and for many years he regularly attended the sessions of the company at Westminster. When no longer able to travel to London, and to face the discomforts of the Jerusalem Chamber, Geden still made many suggestions to his colleagues; he was specially anxious to preserve the dignity and rhythm of the authorised version. In 1874, at the Camborne conference, in compliance with the request of the trustees of the Fernley lectureship, Geden delivered the fifth of the series on that foundation. He chose as his subject ‘The Doctrine of a Future Life as contained in the Old Testament Scriptures,’ vigorously opposing the view that the doctrine is not to be found in the Old Testament. The lecture was published by the Wesleyan Conference office. In 1878 Geden published (at the same office) ‘Didsbury Sermons,’ fifteen discourses, in which great energy of thought and brilliancy of style are combined with strict orthodoxy.

In 1883 failing health compelled him to retire. In January 1885 he received the honorary degree of D.D. from the university of St. Andrews. After prolonged suffering, patiently endured, he died on Tuesday, 9 March 1886.

Geden was twice married: first, to Elizabeth, daughter of the late Solomon Mease, esq., J.P., of North Shields; and secondly, to Eliza Jane, daughter of the late Robert Hawson, esq., of Scarborough, whom he also survived. By his first wife he left two sons and a daughter. The elder son is an architect; the younger became a missionary in India, where he was in charge of Royapettah College, near Madras.

[Personal knowledge and information from the family.]

A. J. F.