Blair, James, M. A.

was born and bred in Scotland, and ordained and beneficed in the episcopal church there but meeting with some discouragements under an unsettled state of affairs, and having a prospect of discharging his ministerial function more usefully elsewhere, he quitted his preferments, and came into England near the end of Charles the Second’s reign. It was not long before he was taken notice of by Compton, bishop of London, who prevailed with him to go as missionary to Virginia, about 1685 where, by exemplary conduct, and unwearied labours in the work of the ministry, he did good service to religion, and gained to himself a good report amongst all: so that bishop Compton being well apprised of his worth, made choice of him, about 1689, as his commissary for Virginia, the highest office in the church there; which, however, did not take him off from his pastoral care, but only rendered him the more shining example of it to the rest of the clergy.

While his thoughts were intent upon doing good in his office, he observed with concern that the want of schools, and proper seminaries for religion and learning, so impeded all attempts for the propagation of the gospel, that little could be hoped for, without first removing that obstacle. He therefore formed a vast design of erecting and endowing a college in Virginia, at Williamsburgh, the capital of that country, for professors and students in academical learning: in order to which, he had himself set on foot a voluntary subscription, amounting to a great sum and, not content with that, came over into England in 1693, to solicit the affair at court. Queen Mary was | so well pleased with the noble design, that she espoused it with a particular zeal and king William also very readily concurred with her in it. Accordingly a patent passed for erecting and endowing a college, by the name of the William and Mary college; and Mr. Blair, who had the principal hand in laying, soliciting, and concerting the design, was appointed president of the college. He was besides rector of Williamsburgh in Virginia, and president of the council in that colony. He continued president of the college near fifty, and a minister of the gospel above sixty years. He was a faithful labourer in God’s vineyard, an ornament to his profession, and his several offices and in a good old age went to enjoy the high prize of his calling, in the year 1743. His works are “Our Saviour’s divine sermon on the mount, explained and the pi-actice of it recommended in divers sermons and discourses,” Lond. 1742, 4vols. 8vo. The executors of Dr. Bray (to whom the author had previously transferred his copy-right) afterwards published a new impression, revised and corrected. Dr. Waterland, who wrote a preface to the new edition, calls these sermons a “valuable treasure of sound divinity and practical Christianity.1

1 From the last edition of this Dict. 1784. Burnet’s Own Times. Humphrey’s Hist. Account, p. 9. 10.