Keith, Alexander (1791-1880) (DNB00)

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KEITH, ALEXANDER (1791–1880), writer on prophecy, born in the manse of Keith-Hall, Aberdeenshire, 30 Nov. 1791, was son of George Skene Keith [q. v.] He was educated at the Marischal College and university of Aberdeen from 1805 to 1809, where he graduated B.A. on 1 April 1809, and proceeded D.D. in 1833. He was licensed by the presbytery of Garioch on 17 March 1813, presented by the prince regent to St. Cyrus, Kincardineshire, in July, and ordained 27 Aug. 1816; this appointment he resigned through illness in 1840. In 1839, being sent by the church of Scotland as member of a commission of inquiry into the state of the Jews, he visited Palestine and Eastern Europe. In 1844, accompanied by his son, Dr. George Skene Keith, he revisited Palestine, and was the first to take daguerrotype views of notable places in the Holy Land. He joined the free church secession in Scotland, and his name was removed from the roll of the ministers of the established church on 20 June 1843. At an early age he obtained wide distinction as an author. His first important book, ‘Evidence of the Truth of the Christian Religion from the Fulfilment of Prophecy,’ appeared in 1828. It soon took its place as a standard treatise on the evidences of Christianity, passed through a large number of editions, and was translated into numerous foreign languages. ‘It is recognised,’ Dr. Chalmers said, ‘in our halls of theology as holding a high place in sacred literature, and it is found in almost every home and known as a household word throughout the land.’ At subsequent periods Dr. Keith published various works on prophetical subjects, the most popular of which were ‘The Signs of the Times, illustrated by the Fulfilment of Historical Predictions,’ 1832, and ‘The Harmony of Prophecy,’ being a comparison of the Book of Revelation with the prophecies of Scripture (1851). The moderatorship of the free church of Scotland was repeatedly offered to Keith, but he declined it on account of his infirm health. He died at Aberdeen House, 56 West Street, Buxton, where he had resided for some years, on 8 Feb. 1880, and was buried at Chinley, Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, on 12 Feb. He married, 10 Dec. 1816, Jane, eldest daughter of John Blaikie, plumber, Aberdeen; she died in February 1837, leaving three sons: Alexander, who was his father's assistant at St. Cyrus, and his successor 1840–3, George Skene, and Thomas, who were both well-known physicians in Edinburgh.

The chief works by Keith, other than those noticed, were: 1. ‘Sketch of the Evidence from Prophecy,’ 1823. 2. ‘Demonstration of the Truth of the Christian Religion,’ 1838. 3. ‘The Land of Israel according to the Covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob,’ 1843. 4. ‘Examination of Elliott's “First Six Seals,”’ 1847. 5. ‘The History and Destiny of the World and of the Church according to Scripture,’ 1861. Among the authors who discussed in print the merits of Keith's works on prophecy were John Brewster, D.D., E. B. Elliott, R. Govett, and C. Housman.

[Black's Jewish Missionary Travels to the Jews, 1841, pp. 3 et seq.; Hew Scott's Fasti Scoticanæ, 1868, vol. iii. pt. ii. pp. 865, 881; Annual Register, 1880, p. 149; Times, 13 Feb. 1880, p. 11; Men of the Time, 1879, pp. 583–584; High Peak News, Buxton, 14 Feb. 1880, p. 5; information from George S. Keith, esq., M.D., Currie, Midlothian.]

G. C. B.