Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/156

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


526 REV - DR - JAMES MACKNIGHT.

ther in earnestly soliciting liim to remain as their pastor; and in order to ob- tain his compliance with this request, they offered, not only to augment the value of his income, but to provide him an assistant, should the state of his health render it necessary. This generous proposal, however, he judged it proper, from prudential considerations, to decline.

It was at Maybole, that, amidst his professional occupations in a populous charge, Dr Macknight composed the first and second of his works. Of the for- mer, indeed, or the Harmony of the Gospels, it appears from his papers, that the plan had been conceived by him so early as the third or fourth year of his attendance at the university ; and from that time he began to collect materials for the publication. The first edition of this book was published in 1756. Al- though the plan of it differed considerably from that of former Harmonies, in supposing that the Evangelists have not neglected the order of time in the nar- ration of events, the reception it met with from most competent judges was so favourable, that the author was encouraged to undertake a second edition, with considerable improvements and additions. This edition appeared in 1763.- In the same year, was also published by Dr Macknight, another performance of great merit, entitled the Truth of the Gospel History, which had been the fruit of the author's studies during the interval between the first and second editions of his Harmony. Its object is, to illustrate and confirm, both by argument and by appeal to the testimony of ancient authors, what are commonly arranged under the three great titles of the Internal, the Collateral, and the Direct Evidences of the Gospel History.

By these publications, Dr Macknight soon obtained a high reputation for theo- logical learning. The university of Edinburgh conferred on him (among the first who obtained that distinction in Scotland) the degree of Doctor of Divinity ; and he was, in 1769, chosen moderator of the General Assembly of the church of Scotland. During the course of the same year, he was translated to the paro- chial charge of Jedburgh ; in which he remained about three years, and where he received from his people the most flattering tokens of respect and kindness. In 1772, he was elected one of the ministers of Edinburgh ; a preferment for which he was chiefly indebted to the long-continued and steady friendship of the very respectable and highly esteemed family of Kilkerran. His first charge in Edinburgh was the parish of Lady Yester's ; from which he was translated, in 1778, to the Old Church, where he continued during the remainder of his life.

Besides performing the ordinary duties of the pastoral function, a minister of Edinburgh, in virtue of his office, is much occupied with public meetings on business of various kinds, especially the management of the different charitable foundations, which have long been the boast of the capital of Scotland. On these, accordingly, Dr Macknight, though he entertained some doubts respect- ing the good effects of such institutions, bestowed much of his attention ; and his judicious counsels of management, were undoubtedly productive, at that time, of considerable benefit, in maintaining the strictness of their discipline, as well as the purity of their administration. Among other objects of such official care, is the fund established by act of parliament for a provision to the widows and children of ministers in the church of Scotland. As one of the trustees appointed by the act, he had long taken a leading part in conducting the business of this Charity; and after the death of Dr Webster, he was appointed joint collector with Sir H. Moncrieff Wellwood, Bart.

In the church courts he acted steadily on that system of ecclesiastical policy, which for many years had guided the decisions of the General Assembly. At the same time, he firmly resisted whatever appeared to him as any infringe- ment on the constitutional law or practice of the church j and, accordingly,