« AnteriorContinuar »
JAMES MACKNIGHT, D.D.
EW men have diftinguished themselves, by greater ardour and perseverance, in the study of the Sacred Scriptures, than the Author of the following Work. Poffeffed of a vigorous and penetrating mind, he was indefatigable in applying its best efforts, almost exclusively, to the illustration of those inspired writings which contain the fublime doctrines of our faith and hope; and on the refult of his critical labours, the Public has pronounced a most favourable judgment. To thofe, accordingly, who feel an intereft in the fuccefs of religious truth, the noblest department of human knowledge, it is prefumed that a brief account of the life and character of Dr. MACKNIGHT will not prove unacceptable. Some information of this kind is, indeed, commonly regarded as a tribute due to the memory of thofe who have distinguished themselves in the walks of learning, and may be useful to animate the exertions of others who dedicate their talents to fimilar pursuits. - The following A 4
fhort biographical notice, of which the particular facts and dates were furnished by Dr. MACKNIGHT's family, at the time of publishing the octavo edition of his Harmony of the Gofpels, was at firft intended as an outline of a fuller account to be prepared for this edition of his work on the Apoftolical Epiftles. After the most careful enquiry, however, it has been found, that no further particulars, which feemed worthy of the public attention, could be learned, respecting either his early studies, or the fubfequent occurrences of his life. The sketch alluded to, is therefore still retained here, in its original form.
Dr. JAMES MACKNIGHT was born on the 17th of September 1721. His father, Mr. WILLIAM MACKNIGHT, Minifter at Irvine, was a native of Ireland, where his ancestors, defcended from the family of M'NAUGHTANE in the Highlands of Scotland, had refided for more than a century, and where fome of his relations ftill remain. Mr. WILLIAM MACKNIGHT early displayed very popular talents as a preacher; and having, it is said, accidentally officiated in the church of Irvine, fometime after the death of the former incumbent, he gave so much fatisfaction to the hearers, that he was foon appointed to fupply the vacant charge. In this fituation he continued during life, univerfally esteemed for genuine piety, purity of morals, and integrity of character. He married ELIZABETH GEMMIL, daughter of Mr. GEMMIL of Dalraith; a fmall property in the neighbourhood of Kilmarnock, which had been in poffeffion of the fame family for feveral centuries, and
which Dr. MACKNIGHT afterwards inherited in right of his mother.
By this marriage, Mr. WILLIAM MACKNIGHT had two daughters and four fons; of whom the youngest, and only one now alive, is THOMAS MACKNIGHT Efq. of Ratho; a gentleman, who in early life fignalized himself, during the American war, by the most eminent fervices as a Loyalift; and who, fince his return to his native country, has long been distinguished by unusual activity in the profecution of agricultural improvements, on the most liberal and extensive scale.
Mr. JAMES MACKNIGHT,, the subject of this narra tive, received the rudiments of education at the school of Irvine; and about the age of fourteen, was fent to the univerfity of Glasgow, where he studied with great approbation from his teachers, on account of his diligence and proficiency. The notes he then took from the Lectures on Logic and Moral Philofophy, before he was fixteen, ftill remain among his papers, and afford remarkable indications of the fame acutenefs, and foundness of judgment, which afterwards characterized his Theological Writings.
Having completed the ufual courfe of academical dif cipline at Glasgow, Mr. MACKNIGHT went to Leyden, in order to prosecute the study of Theology, to which he had shewn an early attachment. While he staid in Holland, he had an opportunity of procuring many valuable books written by foreign Divines, which afterwards affifted his own labours in explaining Scripture.After his return to Scotland, having received from the Prefbytery of Irvine a license to preach the gofpel, he was chofen to officiate at the Gorbals, near Glasgow; a fituation which at that time could be held by a Licen
ciate of the Church, before being ordained to the pastoral function. On this occafion, one of the candidates was Mr. ROBERT HENRY, afterwards the well known. Hiftorian of Great Britain. It is fomewhat remarkable, that the fame Gentlemen who thus happened to be placed in competition with each other at the commencement of life, were at last, after an interval of many years, affociated as colleagues in the Charge of the Old Parish Church of Edinburgh; a connection which fubfifted till the death of Dr. HENRY, in the most cordial habits of friendship and intimacy.
From the Gorbals, Mr. MACKNIGHT went to Kilwinning, in confequence of an invitation from Mr. FERGUSSON, then Minister of that place; and acted for fome time as his Affiftant in the Charge of the Parish. Here he conducted himself with fuch propriety, that his character began to be established; and on the death of Mr. FISHER at Maybole, he obtained the vacant living there, with the concurring wish of the heritors and people. Of this Charge, accordingly, he was ordained as Minister, on the 10th of May 1753. At Maybole, Mr. MACKNIGHT Continued fixteen years; and discharged the duties of the pastoral office with fuch affiduity and kindness, that when he left it, he carried with him the affections and regret of all his flock. It may be mentioned, as a pleasing evidence of attachment, that when he propofed accepting a Presentation to the living of Jedburgh, many refpectable inhabitants of the parish of Maybole, joined together in earnestly foliciting him to remain as their Paftor; and in order to obtain his compliance with this request, they offered not only to augment the value of his income, but to provide him an Affiftant, fhould the state of his health render it neceffary.
fary. This generous proposal, however, he judged it proper, from prudential confiderations, to decline.
It was at Maybole that, amidst his profeffional occupations in a populous Charge, Dr. MACKNIGHT compofed the first and second of his Works. Of the former, indeed, or the Harmony of the Gofpels, it appears from his papers, that the plan had been conceived by him fo 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. Although the plan of it differed confiderably from that of former Harmonies, in fuppofing that the Evangelists have not neglected the order of time in the narration of events, the reception it met with from the most competent judges was fo favourable, that the Author was encouraged to undertake a fecond edition, with confiderable improvements and additions. This edition appeared in 1763. In the fame 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 ftudies 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 teftimony of ancient authors, what are commonly arranged under the three great titles of the Internal, the Collateral, and the Direct Evidences of the Gofpel History.
By these publications, Dr. MACKNIGHT foon obtained a high reputation for theological learning. The Univerfity of Edinburgh conferred on him (among the first who obtained that diftinction in Scotland) the Degree of Doctor of Divinity; and he was chofen Moderator of the General Affembly of the Church of Scotland in