Leechman, William

, a learned Scotch divine, was born at Dolphinston, in Lanerkshire, in 1706. He received his academical education at the university of Edinburgh, where he distinguished himself by his great proficiency in different branches of learning. He began his theological studies in 1724, and in 1727 he undertook the education of a young gentleman at Caldwell, in Renfrewshire, where he resided in the summer months, but during the remainder of the year he lived at Glasgow, and was honoured with the friendship of professors Hutcheson and Dunlop. About the beginning of 1731 he was licensed as a preacher, but it was not till 1736 that he was ordained minister of Beith, on which charge he continued seven years. In 1740 he was elected moderator of a meeting of the synod at Irvine, and opened the assembly at Glasgow | on the 7th of April 1741, with a sermon to the clergy “On the temper, character, and duty, of a minister of the gospel,” which has passed through many editions, and is still in high reputation. In 1743 he published a much longer discourse on “The nature, reasonableness, and advantages of Prayer; with an attempt to answer the objections against it.” This, likewise, added much to his reputation, and has been frequently reprinted. He was shortly after elected to the professorship of theology at the university of Glasgow; an honour which he obtained only by the casting vote of the president, owing to some suspicions entertained of the orthodoxy of his sentiments, founded on his sermon on prayer, in which he v.a thought to have laid too little stress on the atonement and intercession of Christ. A prosecution for heresy was the consequence, which was ultimately decided in his favour by the synod, the members of which almost unanimously determined, that there was no reason to charge him with any unsoundness in the passages of the sermon complained against. After this the prejudices against him appear to have subsided, and his character became very generally and highly respected, even by some who had thought it their duty to promote the prosecution. Soon after he had been established in the professorship, he took the degree of doctor in divinity; and continued in the theological chair seventeen years, vindicating and establishing the grand truths of natural and revealed religion, in answer to the principal objections made to them by Mr. Hume, lord Bolingbroke, and other sceptical writers. He had, in his lectures, a remarkable talent of selecting what was most important and striking on every subject that he handled: his arguments were solid, founded on indisputable facts; and they were urged with a degree of warmth which carried his auditors along with him; for they were addressed equally to the judgment and the heart. Dr. Leechman’s fame extended far and wide, the divinity-hall at Glasgow was crowded, in his time, with a greater number of scholars than any other in Scotland: and his numerous scholars, however they might differ in their sentiments on speculative theology and church government, were all cordially united in their affection and veneration for their master. In 1761, Dr. Leechman was raised to the office of principal of the university of Glasgow by a presentation from the king. He had previously to this been in a very bad state of health, and this change | in his avocations was probably the means of prolonging his life; yet, though released from the more fatiguing part of his duties, he gave a lecture, for some time, once a week, to the students in divinity, and weekly lectures to the whole university. Dr. Leechman’s faculties remained in full vigour amidst the increasing infirmities of old age, and his taste for knowledge continued as acute as ever. In September and October 1785, he experienced two violent paralytic strokes, from which he partially recovered; but a third attack carried him off on the 3d of December, 1785, when he was almost eighty years of age. Dr. Leechman committed nothing to the press, except nine sermons, which went through several editions during his life-time. These were republished, with others, forming together two volumes, in 1789. To the first of these volumes is prefixed an account of the author, by Dr. Wodrow, from which the preceding particulars are taken. 1


Life as above.