Macmillan, Hugh (DNB12)

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MACMILLAN, HUGH (1833–1903), presbyterian divine and religious writer, born at Aberfeldy on 17 Sept. 1833, was eldest son in the family of six sons and three daughters of Alexander Macmillan, merchant of Aberfeldy, by his wife Margaret Macfarlane. After attending a school in his native place and Hill Street Academy, Edinburgh, he entered the university of Edinburgh, where he went through the arts course and also studied medicine. Deciding to enter the ministry of the Free church, he studied at New College, Edinburgh, and being licensed by the presbytery of Breadalbane in January 1857, became minister of the Free church at Kirkmichael, Perthshire, in 1859. The fine scenery of this parish stimulated his love of nature, to which he gave expression in his preaching and writings. In 1861 he published 'Footnotes from the Page of Nature, or First Forms of Vegetation' (2nd edit. 1874, entitled 'First Forms of Vegetation'), the first of many popular volumes in which he brought study of scientific research to illustrate moral and spiritual truths. He was especially well versed in botany. In 1864 he accepted the pastorate of Free St. Peter's church, Glasgow. There, while faithfully discharging his pastoral duties, he continued his studies in natural history, which he supplemented by foreign travel. In 1867 there appeared his best-known work, 'Bible Teachings in Nature' (15th edit. 1889), in which he enforced the harmony subsisting between the natural and the spiritual world. The work was translated into French, German, Italian, Norwegian, and Danish, and at the author's death upwards of 30,000 copies had been printed in this country, besides many thousands in America. His next book, 'Holidays on High Lands, or Rambles and Incidents in Search of Alpine Plants' (1869; 2nd edit. 1873), was a detailed account of the Alpine plants found in this country. There followed 'The Ministry of Nature' (1871; 8th edit. 1888)

On 19 Sept. 1878 he became minister of the Free west church, Greenock. There he remained until 1901, when he retired from the active ministry. His labours received wide recognition. He was made in 1871 both hon. LL.D. of St. Andrews University and a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and he became hon. D.D. of the universities of Edinburgh (1879) and Glasgow. In 1883 he was elected a fellow of the Scottish Society of Antiquaries.

During his later years he filled practically every post of honour and influence in the Free church. He delivered the Thomson lectures at the Free Church College, Aberdeen, in 1886; the Cunningham lectures at New College, Edinburgh, in 1894, his subject being the archaeology of the Bible in the light of recent researches; and the Gunning lectures at Edinburgh University in 1897, when he dealt with the relations of science and revelation. In the last year he was moderator of the general assembly of the Free church, and in that capacity was present at the celebration in London of the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria, who was a warm admirer of his books.

Devoted to the Highlands and its people, Macmillan was the first chief of the Clan Macmillan Society (1892-9). He was a diligent student of art, and one of his last literary undertakings was a monograph on George Frederick Watts, R.A. ('Temple Biographies' series), posthumously published in 1903.

He died at his residence in Edinburgh on 24 May 1903, and was buried in the Dean cemetery. He married on 14 June 1859 Jane, second daughter of William Patison of Williamfield, near Edinburgh. She survived him with one son and five daughters.

Besides the works cited, Macmillan published the following, chiefly dealing with the relations of religion and science, and characterised by beauty of thought and diction, and by devotional feeling: 1. 'The True Vine, or the Analogies of our Lord's Allegory,' 1871; 5th edit. 1883. 2. 'The Garden and the City, with other Contrasts and Parallels of Scripture,' 1872; 2nd edit. 1873. 3. 'Sun Glints in the Wilderness,' 1872. 4. 'The Sabbath of the Fields, being a Sequel to Bible Teachings in Nature,' 1876; 6th edit. 1889. 5. 'Our Lord's Three Raisings from the Dead,' 1876. 6. 'Two Worlds are Ours,' 1880; 4th edit. 1889. 7. 'The Marriage in Cana of Galilee,' 1882. 8. 'The Riviera' (one of the best books on the subject), 1885; 3rd edit. 1902. 9. 'The Olive Leaf,' 1886. 10. 'Roman Mosaics, or Studies in Rome and its Neighbourhood,' 1888; 2nd edit, 1892. 11. 'The Gate Beautiful and Other Bible Teachings for the Young,' 1891. 12. 'My Comfort in Sorrow,' 1891. 13. 'The Mystery of Grace and Other Sermons,' 1893. 14. 'The Daisies of Nazareth,' 1894; 2nd edit. 1901. 15. 'The Clock of Nature,' 1896. 16. 'The Spring of the Day,' 1898. 17. 'Gleanings in Holy Fields' (the outcome of a visit to Palestine), 1899. 18. 'The Corn of Heaven,' 1901. 19. 'The Christmas Rose, and Other Thoughts in Verse,' 1901. 20. 'The Highland Tay from Tyndrum to Dunkeld,' 1901. 21. 'The Poetry of Plants,' 1902. The following were posthumously published: 'The Touch of God and Other Sermons' ('World's Pulpit' series 1903); 'Rothiemurchus,' a fascinating account of a picturesque Highland neighbourhood (1907); and 'The Isles and the Gospel and other Bible Studies' (1907). Macmillan was also a voluminous contributor to scientific and religious periodicals.

[Memoir by George A. Macmillan, prefixed to The Isles and the Gospel and other Bible Studies, 1907; Sunday Magazine, 1897, p. 374; In Memoriam: Hugh Macmillan, (printed for use of members of West United Free church, Greenock); Scotsman, and Glasgow Herald, 25 May 1903; private information.]

W. F. G.