Hill, George (1750-1819) (DNB00)

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HILL, GEORGE (1750–1819), principal of St. Mary's College, St. Andrews, was born in that city in June 1750. He was the son of John Hill, one of the clergymen of St. Andrews, by his second wife, the daughter of his colleague, Dr. McCormick, and a grand-niece of Principal Carstares [q. v.] He was educated at the grammar school and university of his native city, and graduated at the age of fourteen. His distinction as a student attracted the notice of Lord Kinnoull, then chancellor of the university, who as long as he lived was his constant friend and patron. He entered the divinity hall in his fifteenth year, but, losing his father soon afterwards, he was recommended by Principal Robertson of Edinburgh to Pryse Campbell, esq., M.P., one of the lords of the treasury, as tutor to his eldest son. He resided for some time in Campbell's family in London and Wales, and afterwards spent two years with his pupil in Edinburgh, where he finished his divinity course at the university. In both capitals he saw much of the best literary society of the time. Before he had completed his twenty-second year he was appointed joint professor of Greek in the university of St. Andrews. In 1775 he was licensed as a probationer by the presbytery of Haddington, and afterwards preached regularly in the college church. He was ordained by the same presbytery in 1778, and in 1780 was inducted as one of the ministers of St. Andrews, holding his parochial charge along with his chair. He received the degree of D.D. in 1787, and in the same year was appointed dean of the order of the Thistle. After having held the Greek chair for sixteen years, he became professor of divinity in St. Mary's College in January 1788, and in 1791 was promoted to the principalship. He was soon afterwards appointed one of his majesty's chaplains for Scotland, and in 1799 he received the deanery of the Chapel Royal as ‘an acknowledgment of his public services as a churchman.’ For these latter preferments he was much indebted to the first Lord Melville, with whom he was on terms of friendship, and who consulted him on Scottish ecclesiastical affairs. From 1773 Hill had been constantly a member of the general assembly, and he was raised to the moderator's chair in 1789. He early distinguished himself as a supporter of Principal Robertson, and succeeded him as leader of the moderate party, a position which he held for upwards of thirty years. Combining great natural abilities with unwearied industry, equanimity of temper, and dignified and courteous manners, he discharged his manifold duties with conspicuous success. He was esteemed a model of pulpit eloquence; his ‘Lectures on Divinity’ form one of the most valuable theological works which Scotland has produced; while his thorough knowledge of the constitution of the church, great power in debate, business capacity, and conciliatory spirit towards those who differed from him qualified him for the place which he long held in the ecclesiastical councils of his country. He died on 19 Dec. 1819, in his seventieth year.

Hill married, on 7 June 1782, Harriet, daughter of Alexander Scott, merchant, Edinburgh, and had, with other children, Alexander [q. v.], professor of divinity in Glasgow; David, chief secretary of the Honourable East India Company at Madras; Thomas, minister of Logie-Pert; Janet, who married Dr. John Cook, professor of divinity in St. Andrews; Jane, who married Dr. Macnair, minister of Paisley; and Harriet, who married Mark Sprot, esq., of Garnkirk, Lanarkshire. Hill published: 1. ‘Occasional Sermons.’ 2. Volume of ‘Sermons,’ London, 1796. 3. ‘Lectures upon Portions of the Old Testament,’ 1812. 4. ‘Theological Institutes,’ Edinburgh, 1817. 5. ‘Lectures on Divinity,’ 3 vols., Edinburgh, 1821.

[Life by the Rev. Dr. George Cook; Scott's Fasti Eccl. Scot.]

G. W. S.