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Kay's Originals Vol. 2


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 83 The reputation of Mr. Baine as a preacher soon spread far beyond the retired scene to which his pulpit ministrations were confined. Being somewhat remarkable for the musical sweetness of his voice, he was honoured by his people with the characteristic epithet of the “Swan of the West.” In 1756 he was presented to the High Church of Paisley, then a new erection. Upon the arduous duties of his important charge he entered in the month of April, with a high degree of popularity ; and throughout the period of his ministration in that town, continued to be greatly esteemed by a large and affectionate congregation, as an eloquent preacher, and an able and sound divine. His personal appearance in the vigour of life was prepossessing-his manner in the pulpit, and his powers of elocution, were peculiarly attractive ; and, though he had the celebrated Dr. Witherspoon for his colleague, who was considered one of the most able clergymen of his day, his church was commonly crowded t,o excess.l When minister of the parish of Killearn, Mr. Baine was intimate with many of the most distinguished clergymen in the Church, and was regarded, particularly by his co-presbyters, as a young man possessed of much personal piety and ministerial zeal and fidelity. 80 early as 1745,‘his name is mentioned with particular honour, as having been warmly engaged amongst his parishioners in From the perusal of a volume of his sermons, which he published in 1777, during the period of his ministry in Edinburgh, we have heen led to consider him, in point of arrangement and composition, superior to many of his contemporaries. In this volume is to be found a judicious discourse on the subject of the Pastoral Care, which he delivered in the Low Church of Paisley at the admission of his colleague, in June 1757. Dr. Witherspoon, the colleague of Mr. Baine, was a man greatly distinguished in his day for his litemry acquirements, and as a preacher and theological writer. He was the son of a clergyman, minister of the parish of Yester, in the Presbytery of Haddmgton ; born in 1721, and educated in the University of Edinburgh. In early life he became a licentiate of the Scottish Establishment, and was soou afterwards presented to the parish of Beith, in Ayrshire. Being a young man of an ardent, enterprising, and patriotic mind, on January 17, 1746, he appeared at the battle of Falkirk with a party of volunteer militia belonging to his parish ; and, on that unfortunate occasion, when the royal army suffered great loss, he was taken prisoner by the rebels. Along with Mr. Home, author of the “Tragedy of Douglas,” and othen, he was confined in the Castle of Doune, near Stirling, from which he and his fellow-prisoners, after having suffered some severe privations, made an adventurous and hairbreadth escape. In June 1757 he was translated from the parish of Beith to the Low Church of Paisley, in which charge he continued eleven years. From an early period of his ministry, Dr. Witherspoon was known to his contemporaries as a clergyman particularly versant in the knowledge of the constitutional polity of the Church of Scotland. Like his colleague Mr. Baine, he was keenly opposed to what he considered the tyrannical measures of the moderate, and at that time the dominant, party of the Church, and became one of their ablest opponents by the publication of his “ Eccldastical Characteristics, or the Arcana of Church Polity,” and the grave “Apology ” he afterwards published for that ingenious performance. Having published in London three volumes of his sermons and essays in 1764, the fame of his talents 89 a theological writer not only spread over Britain, but extended across the Atlantic to the British Colonies. In consequence of the reputation he had acquired, he was repeatedly solicited by the Trustees of Nassau Hall College, Princetown, New Jersey, the Presidency of which had become vacant, to accept of that office. Upon the arrival of Dr. Withenpoon in America he was cordially received by the Trustees, and for a number of years afterwards directed the attention of his sagacious and reflecting mind in originating and maturing various educational improvements in that seminary, over which so many eminent men He waa at last induced to consent, and left his charge in Paisley, May 1768.
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81 BIOGRAPHICAL ‘SKETCHES. promoting what has been considered a remarkable revival of religion in the west of Scotland at that period ; and about ten years afterwards, in 1756, in a letter to the Rev. Dr, Gillies of Glasgow, he alludes, with a glow of satisfaction, to its remaining salutary effects in the parish of Killearn. During the whole period of his ministerial labours in connection with the Established Church, he displayed great public spirit ; and, even while a country clergyman, confined to his retired sphere of exertion, he was, as he had opportunity in the Church courts, a zealous defender of her liberty, independence, and legal rights, and a determined opponent of what he considered ecclesiastical tyranny, or an encroachment on her privileges. His feelings on these matters were distinctly and strongly expressed, connected with the procedure in his case at the bar of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1766. The conduct of that Court, in 1752, in deposing the Rev. Mr. Thomas Gillespie, of Carnock, from the office of the ministry, as well as some more recent proceedings, were understood to have made a strong impression on his mind. Considering them as infringing on the cause of religious liberty, they had undoubtedly a powerful influence in inducing him to resign his pastoral charge in Paisley. In the opinion of some of his friends, however, an occurrence, toward the close of his ministry in that town, was not without its effect. A vacancy in the office of session-clerk of the parish having taken place, a keen dispute arose as to who had the right of appointing a successor-whether the Kirk Session or Town Council. Each of these public bodies maintained their claim with obstinate tenacity. After much angry dispute, in which the whole community took an interest, the case came to be litigated in the Court of Session, and was finally.decided in favour of the Town Council. This decision produced much disagreeable feeling among the members of Session, and some of them resigned. With the discontented party Mr. Baine accorded, and keenly pleaded their cause ; but his reverend colleague having taken part with the members of Town Council, a painful misunderstanding was produced between these two distinguished clergymen, and followed with consequences probably affecting the’future destinies of both: To this disagreeable event Mr, Baine particularly refers, in his letter to the Moderator of Paisley Presbytery, had presided. It is, however, well known to those acquainted with the history of that eventful period, that, in 1775, on the breaking out of the American revolutionary war, his laudable and useful labours were interrupted by the confusion and disasters which ensued. The buildings of the College were made a barracks for the royal army ; the library, with other parts of the premises, were entirely destroyed ; and the President himself, upon the approach of the hostile legions, was obliged to fly to a place of safety. Having espoused the cause of the revolted colonies, he was at an early period of the contest appointed a member of Congress ; and, in that station, he became in a high degree beneficial to the cause by his talents as a writer and political economist. Many of the most important papers connected with the business of that Assembly were known to be the production of his pen. After a life of great activity and usefulness, Dr. Witherspoon died at Princetown, New Jersey, in 1794, in the seventy-second year of his age. Kay, in his notes, alluding to the variances of the two clergymen, somewhat wittily remarks that the call of Mr. Baine to the Relief Congregation in Edinburgh “may be supposed to have afforded relief to both.’’
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