Campbell, George

, a very learned divine of the church of Scotland, and principal and professor of divinity of the Marischal college, Aberdeen, was born in that city Dec. 25, 1719. His father, the rev. Colin Campbell, who was one of the ministers of Aberdeen, and a man of primitive piety and worth, died in 1728. George, the subject of this article, who was his youngest son, was educated in the grammar-school of his native city, and afterwards in Marischal college, but appears to have originally intended to follow the profession of the law, and for thatpurpose served an apprenticeship to a writer of the signet in Edinburgh. By what inducements he was made to alter his purpose we are not told; but in 1741 he began to study divinity at the university of Edinburgh, and continued the same pursuit both in King’s college and | Marischal college, Aberdeen and here he delivered, with great approbation, those discourses, which are usually prescribed to students of divinity in the Scotch universities. After studying the usual number of years at the divinity hall, he was, according to the practice of the Scotch church, proposed to the Synod; and having undergone the ordinary trials before the presbytery of Aberdeen, was licensed as a probationer, or preacher of the gospel, on the llth of June, 1746. In this rank he remained two years, before he obtained a settlement in the church of Scotland, but at the end of that period was presented to the church of Banchory Ternan, about seventeen miles west from Aberdeen, and was ordained June 2, 1748.

While he held this charge, the powers of his mind began more fully to unfold themselves, and his character rose in the opinion of men of learning. Here he prosecuted the study of the holy scriptures, and instructed others with great success. In the church of Scotland, it is the practice to explain a chapter, or large portion of scripture, every Lord’s day, or at least every other Sunday. Mr. Campbell paid so much attention to this, and was so much master of it, that his character as a scripture critic, and lecturer of holy writ, was deservedly very high. It was while explaining the New Testament to his parishioners, that he first formed a plan of translating that part of it, viz. the four gospels, which he afterwards published. And it was in this country parish, long before any attention was paid, in the north of Scotland, to the niceties of grammar, that he composed a part of the philosophy of rhetoric.

After remaining nine years in this country parish, he was chosen one of the ministers of Aberdeen in June, 1757, where his various and extensive talents were appreciated by those who knew best their worth, and where his fame was most likely to be rewarded. Accordingly in 1759, he was presented by his majesty to the office of principal of Marischal college, and soon made it appear that he was worthy of this dignity. Hume had recently published his “Essay on Miracles,” and despised his opponents until principal Campbell published his celebrated “Dissertation on Miracles,” which deservedly raised his character as an acute metaphysician and an able polemical writer. This “Dissertation” was originally drawn up in the form of a sermon, which he preached before the provincial synod of Aberdeen, Oct. 9, 1760, and which, on their requesting | him to publish it, he afterwards enlarged into its present form. Some circumstances attended the publication which are rather singular, and which we shall relate in the words of his biographer. “Before it was published, he sent a copy of his manuscript to Dr. Blair of Edinburgh, with a request that, after perusing it, he would communicate the performance to Mr. Hume. The learned aud judicious Blair read the dissertation both as a friend, and as a critic, then showed it to his opponent, and afterwards wrote to Mr. Campbell both what had occurred to himself, and what Mr. Hume chose at first to write on the subject. It soon appeared, that this sceptical philosopher, with all his affected equanimity, felt very sensibly, on reading so acute, so learned, and so complete an answer to his essay on miracles. He complained of some harsh expressions, and stated a few objections to what Mr. Campbell had advanced, shewing, in some cases, where his meaning had been misunderstood. Instead of being displeased, his generous adversary instantly expunged, or softened, every expression that either was severe, or was only supposed to be offensive, removed every objection that had been made to his arguments, and availed himself of the remarks both of his friend, and of his opponent, in rendering his dissertation a complete and unanswerable performance. Thus corrected and improved, it was put to the press, and a copy of it sent to Mr. Hume. That philosopher was charmed with the gentlemanly conduct of Mr. Campbell, confessed that he felt a great desire to answer the dissertation, and declared that he would have attempted to do something in this way, if he had not laid it down as a rule, in early life, never to return an answer to any of his opponents. Thus principal Campbell, from a rnanly and well-bred treatment of his adversary, rendered his own work more correct, gained the esteem of his opponent, and left an example worthy to be imitated by all polemical writers.” How far such an example is worthy to be imitated, may surely be questioned; in Mr. Campbell’s conduct we see somewhat of timidity and irresolution, nor does he seem to have been aware of the impropriety of gratifying Hume by personal respect; and after all no good was produced, for Hume reprinted his essay again and again without any notice of Campbell or any other of his opponents, a decisive proof that in this respect he had no title to the character of philosopher. | The “Dissertation on Miracles” was published in 1763, previously to which the author received the degree of D.D. from King’s college, Old Aberdeen. The sale of the work was in proportion to its merit, most extensive in Great Britain, and being translated into the French, Dutch, and nan languages, the name of Dr. Campbell was from this time always mentioned with the highest respect among the learned men of Europe.

Dr. Campbell continued for twelve years to discharge the offices of principal of Marischal college-, and of one of the ministers of Aberdeen. In the former capacity he was equally esteemed by the professors and students; as he united great learning to a conduct strictly virtuous, and to manners equally gentle and pleasant. lit the latter office he lived in the greatest harmony with his colleagues, over whom he affected no superiority; and by all his hearers was esteemed as a worthy man, a good preacher, and one of the best lecturers they had ever heard. In lecturing, indeed, he excelled, while he rarely composed sermons, but preached from a few, and sometimes without any notes. Yet his discourses on particular occasions, were such as maintained his reputation. In June 1771, he was, on a vacancy by resignation, elected professor of divinity in Marischal college. This appointment was attended with the resignation of his pastoral charge, as one of the ministers of Aberdeen; but as minister of Gray Friars, an office conjoined to the professorship, he had to preach once every Sunday in one of the churches, and besides this, had the offices both of principal and professor of divinity to discharge. In the latter office he increased the times of instructing his pupils, so thak they heard nearly double the number of lectures which were usual with his predecessors, and he so arranged his subjects, that every student who chose to attend regularly during the shortest period prescribed by the laws of the church, might hear a complete course of lectures on thelgy embracing, under the theoretical part, every thing that the student of divinity should know; and under the practical branch, every thing that he should do, as a reader of sacred or church history, a biblical critic, a polemic divine, a pulpit orator, a minister of a parish, and a member of the church courts on the Scotch establishment. Some idea may be formed of the value of his labours, by the canons of scripture criticism, and a few other | prelections on the same subject, which are included in preliminary dissertations/printed along with his “Translation of the Gospels,” and by the “Lectures” published after his death. In 1776 Dr. Campbell published his “Philosophy of Rhetoric,” which established his reputation as an excellent grammarian, an accurate and judicious critic, a scholar of delicate imagination and taste, and a philosopher of great acuteness and deep penetration. Our author also published a few occasional sermons, which were much admired, but not equally. That “On the Spirit of the Gospel,1771, placed him at variance with many members of his own church, who adhered more closely to the Caivinistic creed than the doctor. That in 1776, a Fast Sermon on account of the American war, inculcating the duty of allegiance, was circulated in an edition of six thousand, in America, but it had no effect, at that period of irritation among the colonies, in persuading the Americans that they had no right to throw off their allegiance. In 1779, when a considerable alarm, followed by riots in Scotland, took place in consequence of a bill introduced into parliament; for the relief of the Roman catholics, Dr. Campbell published an address well calculated to quiet the public mind, at the same time that he took occasion to express his abhorrence of the tenets of Popery. The same year he published a sermon on the happy influences of religion on civil society. It has already been noticed that he did not often, write sermons, but the few which he did compose, were in general highly finished.

The last work which he lived to publish, was his “Translation of the Gospels,” with preliminary dissertations and explanatory notes, 2 vols. 4to. It is, we believe, universally acknowledged that this work places him very high in the rank of biblical critics, and is that which will probably hand down his name to a late posterity.

In his seventy-second year, he was seized with a severe illness, from which he unexpectedly recovered, and though his bodily strength was impaired, resumed his former occupations. Some years before his death, he made. a dis^ interested and unsolicited offer of resigning his professorship of divinity, provided that any one of three gentlemen whom he named, and to whom he applied for their consent, should succeed him; but this offer not being accepted by the patrons of the professorship, he continued to hold his office, lest an improper person should in his life-time be chosen as his successor. But afterwards application was made | to him, and also to the patrons of the professorship, in Lehalf of Dr. William Laurence Brown, late minister of the English church, and professor of moral philosophy, &c. in the university of Utrecht. This gentleman had been driven from these offices by the French invasion of Holland, on account of his attachment to the house of Orange, and his native country; and because, in some of his writings, he had opposed the progress of French principles, and maintained the cause of religion. Dr. Campbell, knowing the excellence of his character, instantly resigned the offices of professor of divinity, and minister of Gray Friars church, which were worth 160l. a year, and soon after his resignation, government, desirous of testifying in a public manner, the high respect so justly entertained of his abilities and services, offered him, on condition of resigning the principalship of Marischal college, a pension of 300l. a year. Dr. Campbell accepted this token of his majesty’s munificence, and was succeeded in the office of principal also by Dr. Brown. This pension, however, he did not long live to enjoy, though he continued writing till within a week of his death; an event which he expected with great tranquillity and composure. On the 31st of March, 1796, after some previous symptoms of uneasiness, he was struck with the palsy, which deprived him of speech, and under which he languished for a few days till he died. He had long accustomed himself to prepare for death; and in a former illness he had given the testimony of a dying man in favour of religion. A funeral sermon was preached on occasion of his death, by Dr. Brown, in which he has given a sketch of his character as a public teacher, as the head of a public seminary of learning, and as a private Christian. His character is thus summed up in a few sentences by his biographer, Dr. Keith: “His imagination was lively and fertile his understanding equally acute and vigorous and his erudition was at once very deep and wonderfully diversified. His piety was unfeigned his morals unimpeached his temper chearful and his manners gentle and unassuming. His love of truth was even more remarkable than the uncommon success with which he sought after it. Where intuitive faculties could be of service to any man, he saw at once if he saw at all. But his deep perspicacity was not satisfied with a superficial view of any thing; his piercing eye darted to the bottom of every sul/ic < i to which discernment could be applied. Where study aud reflection were necessary, he could | bestow as much time on patient thinking, as if he had been possessed of no genius at all, and had acquired only a small share of erudition. And when once he began to examine any subject, he was never satisfied till he had viewed it in every light in which it could be seen. He always sought for truth in the love of truth, but he could not bear to be suspected of deviating from it for he neither courted those who might support, nor feared those who did oppose him. The tone of his mind was high, and he would not let it down from the elevation of truth and of virtue. Whether engaged in conversation, or employed in study, he could pass easily from the lightest subject to the most serious one. And the reach of his mind was so great, as to comprehend a great variety of subjects. He could explore the causes of that pleasure which arises in the mind from dramatic entertainments, and lay down the rules of Scripture criticism. He could illustrate the whole theory of evidence, or detect the false reasonings of Mr. Hume. He could explain the spirit of the Gospel, marking the extremes of superstition and enthusiasm; and both as a philosopher and a divine, declare the nature, extent, and importance of the duty of allegiance. While he zealously contended for the faith, he could warn the Christian against imbibing a persecuting spirit, and yet shew the influence of religion upon civil society, warning his countrymen against infidelity, before they had seen its dreadful effects. He could with manly eloquence describe the success of the fishermen of Galilee, while preaching the doctrine of the cross to prejudiced Jews, learned Greeks, and ambitious Romans; and at the same time, with well -applied erudition, he could delineate the characters of the pretended successors of the apostles, and trace the progress of the hierarchy through all the dark and middle ages, until the reformation of religion. As the principal of a college, a professor of divinity, or a minister of the Gospel, as a true patriot, a good man, and a sincere Christian, qwndo ullum invenies ‘par tin

This character may be seen enlarged, with many interesting and instructive particulars of the private and public life of Dr. Campbell, in an excellent account of him written by the rev. Dr. George Skene Keith, and prefixed to Dr. Campbell’s “Lectures on Ecclesiastical History,” published in 1800, 2 vols. 8vo. These lectures have since been the subject of much ingenious criticism, particularly | in the British Critic, vol. XX. As their object is to give a preference to the church government of Scotland, it was thought necessary by the advocates for the church of England to bestow particular notice on an attack on the latter coining from a man of so high talents and literary fame. In Scotland Dr. Campbell’s opinions were opposed by Dr. Skinner, a prelate of the Scotch episcopal church, in a volume entitled “Primitive Truth and Order vindicated,’ 1 and in England, by archdeacon Daubeny, in his” Eight Discourses,“&c. Dr. Campbell’s” Lectures on Systematic Theology,‘ 1 and on “The Pastoral character,” have also been recently published, which, if inferior in popularity, are yet worthy of the pen which produced the “Essay on Miracles,’ 1 thePhilosophy of Rhetoric, 11 and the “Translation of the Gospels.1

1 Life by Dr. Ktiib, ubi supra.