Mearns, Duncan (DNB00)

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MEARNS, DUNCAN, D.D. (1779–1852), professor of theology, was born on 23 Aug. 1779 at the manse of Cluny, Aberdeenshire, of which parish his father, Alexander Mearns, was minister. His mother was Anne, daughter of James Morison of Disblair and Elsick, provost of Aberdeen in 1745. At the age of twelve he entered King's College, Aberdeen, gaining the first bursary. After graduating M.A., March 1795, he entered the Divinity Hall, where he studied under Dr. Gilbert Gerard [q. v.] and Principal George Campbell [q. v.] At the age of twenty he was licensed by the presbytery of Kincardine O'Neil, and the same year (13 Nov. 1799), on the presentation of George, earl of Aberdeen, was ordained assistant and successor to the parish of Tarves, succeeding shortly after to the benefice. He became professor of divinity in King's College, Aberdeen, in succession to Dr. Gilbert Gerard on 12 Oct. 1816. There he carried on the traditions of the chair, and his learning and character quickly made him a leader of the 'moderate' party in the Scottish church during the long and growing controversy with the evangelicals or 'high-flyers.' In 1821 he was chosen moderator of the general assembly, and in 1823 was appointed one of George IV's chaplains for Scotland. During the ten years' conflict that ended in the secession of 1843, his faculty of direct and incisive speech was unsparingly employed in support of the establishment. He died, after a long and painful illness, 2 March 1852, aged 72. Mearns married Eliza Forsyth, by whom he had two sons and six daughters. His younger son, William Mearns, D.D., was minister of Kinneff, and died in 1891. Of his daughters, the eldest, Anne, married Dr. Robert Macpherson (1806-1867), who succeeded him in his chair of theology, and the second, Jane, married Dr. Hercules Scott, professor of moral philosophy, in the university of Aberdeen.

Next to Principal George Campbell Mearns was considered the most learned Scottish divine of his time. He published outlines of the Murray lecture on 'The Knowledge Requisite for the Attainment of Eternal Life' in 1825; and his 'Principles of Christian Evidence Illustrated' (1818), in which he sought to show that the views of Dr. Chalmers were subversive of natural theology, is an interesting exposition of the internal evidence of Christianity. After his death his son edited 'Scripture Characters,' 1853, 2 vols., discourses delivered at King's College, as Murtle lecturer on Practical Religion.

[Hew Scott's Fasti; family knowledge.]

R. M.