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Memoirs of the life and writings of Ralph Wardlaw online

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Equidem beatos puto quibus datum eat aut facere acribenda, aut scribere
legenda; beatissimos vero quibus utrumque.— Pij»j(/J, ep. vi. 16.




When the representatives of the late Dr. Wardlaw first
requested me to become his biographer, I felt con-
strained to decline to undertake the duty. To this I
was moved, not by any insensibility to the honour
which the making of such a request conferred upon
me, still less by any unwillingness to do aught that lay
in my power to serve the memory of that honoured and
beloved friend, but by two reasons of a kind which
seemed to disqualify me for the office I Avas invited to
assume. The one of these was, that I had already
upon my shoulders a burden of engagements, official and
literary, which seemed to preclude the possibility of
my accomplishing the work required within any
reasonable period ; the other was that, holding upon
several points views different from those advocated by
Dr. Wardlaw in some of his published writings, I
feared lest, in describing his literary efforts, I should
be constrained to display a greater amount of dissent
from his opinions than is desirable on the part of a
biographer in relation to his subject. On stating these
reasons, however, to the friends who had requested


ine to write his Life, they did not appear to them to
possess sufficient force to constrain me to decline that
duty, and they accordingly again pressed it upon me.
Thus urged I consented ; and I refer to this matter
now simply for the purpose of accounting for two
things which, to some of Dr. Wardlaw's friends, may
seem to require explanation — the one the length of
time which has elapsed between his decease and the
publication of these memoirs, the other the freedom
with which I have criticised some of his published
opinions. The former I could not possibly help ; the
latter I have used as sparingly as a regard to my own
convictions would allow.

In attempting to discharge the duty which had
thus been laid upon me, I have found greater difficulty
than I anticipated. Dr. AVardlaw on principle kept no
diary or journal, not even of the simplest kind, and
though multitudes of his letters remain, yet they
seldom contain anything about himself. This, which
is characteristic of the man, with whom self was ever
an object invariably postponed to other considerations,
has cut off from his biographer a fruitful source of
interest in works of this kind, and has impeded his path
with many difficulties. With these I have contended
as I best could, drawing from his letters what few
incidents they contained, and piecing together the dis-
jointed fragments of information I have been able to
gather from this and from other sources into such a
continuous narrative as I could frame. I have sought


also to give interest and variety to the narrative by
insertino' numerous extracts from Dr. Wardlaw's con-e-


spondence. In selecting these from the immense mass
of letters which I have had before me, I have been
guided principally by a regard to the light they were
calculated to throw on the personal history, the habits,
the character, and the opinions of the writer.

" As the life of a great man," says a recent writer,
one of the few remaining lights of Italy, '' is in the
general composed of the history of his thoughts and
his actions, that of a great writer in particular is com-
posed solely of the history of his thoughts."* This
remark holds strictly true of such a life as that of Dr.
Wardlaw. His biography is the history of his mental
efforts, whether from the pulpit or the press. To give
the history of his mind then — the history of his training,
his studies, his opinions, his labours as a preacher, and
his publications as an autlior, is most effectively to
write his Life. This it has been my supreme aim to
accomplish, without neglecting those events which
constitute the history of his outer life, or overlooking
those minor incidents which often so strikingly elu-
cidate character.

To the many friends of Dr. Wardlaw who have
kindly aided me in my undertaking by submitting to
my inspection and use letters of his in their possession,
I beg to express my sincere obligations. My thanks

* Come la vita de un grande uomo in generale si compoiie della storia de' suoi
pensiere e della sue azioni, quella de un grande scrittoi-e in particolare si compone
dolla storia solamente de' suoi pensiere. — Ant. Eanieri Vit. di Leopaedi, p. 28.


are especially due to the Rev. Dr. Muir of Glasgow —
the oldest of Dr. Wardlaw's surviving acquaintances
— to the Rev. Dr. Burder of London — his faithful
friend and correspondent for nearly half a century —
to the Rev. Dr. Morison of Chelsea, the Rev. J. Ken-
nedy of Stepney, the Rev. Dr. Macfarlane of Glasgow,
the Rev. Dr. M'Kelvie of Balgedie, Wm. Wardlaw,
Esq., Glasgow, and the Rev. John Smith Wardlaw of
Bellary ; who have materially assisted me either by
their reminiscences of the deceased, or by procuring for
me important information respecting him.

I issue this volume with feelings that lead me to
say most unaffectedly, "Would it were worthier!"
Most gratefully, at the same time, would I acknow-
ledge the grace which has sustained me under the accu-
mulated labours amidst which I have had to compose
it ; and now that the work is done, I sincerely thank
those who urged me to undertake it, and who have
thereby privileged me to unite my name with that of
one of the best men and greatest theologians of the
nineteenth century.

Pinkie-Burn House,

2M January 1856.


CHAPTER I. 1779-1795.

Birth and Birthplace of Dr. WariUaw

His Ancestry and Family

His Early Years

His Father .

His Boy Life

Enters the University

Professors Richardson and Young

College Verses

Professor Jardine

Reminiscences by Dr. Muir .

Ethical Class

Natural Philosophy and Mathematics

Not a Mathematician, and why

The Philosophical Society

Debating Clubs

CHAPTER II. 1795-1800.

Choice of Profession .

Devotes himself to the Ministry

Early Piety

Enters the Hall at Selkirk

Dr. Lawson and his Class

Student Life at Selkirk

Letter to his Father .

Controversy regarding the pow.ei' of the Civil Magistrate in

Doctrine of the Confession of Faith thereon

Porteous on the New Lights

Porteousiana .....

Rise of Congregationalism in Scotland

]\Ir. Wardlaw becomes a Congregationalist

things sacred


CHArTER ITI. 1800-1803.

Begins to Preach ....
Stationed at rcrtli ....
Visits to Dundee ....
Itinerant Labours ....
Invited to Settle in Perth

Proposal to Build a Chapel for him in Glasgow-
Temporary Residence in Dumfries .
Letters from Dumfries
Returns to Glasgow

Visits Edinburgh ....
Makes the Acquaintance of Mr. Fuller
Chapel in Glasgow completed
Cordiality of Mr. Ewing
Formation of a Church, and Ordination as its Pastor
Compiles a Hymn Booh . . . .

CHAPTER IV. 1803-1808.

Difficulties at first .....

Purity of Communion and Denominational Liberality

Marriage to Miss Smith

Duties and Encouragements

Village and Street Preaching

" Wardlaw's Brigade''

Early Ministiy

Preaching and Pastoral Visitation

Private Studies

Letter to J. Ogilvie, Esq.

Birth of a Daughter

Messrs. Payne, Fletcher, and Burder

Dr. Burder's Reminiscences

Mr. Wardlaw's First Visit to London

Fuller's Last Visit to Scotland

Birth and Death of another Daughter

John Walker of Dublin

Christian Forbearance

Letter on Paedobaptism to A. Smith, Esq.

Publication of Three Lectw-es on Ravi. iv. 9-25

Maclean's Reply

Births of Children .

Letter to W. Wardlaw, Esq.

George Cowie

.Tiihn Wardlaw goes into the Army

Glasgow Literary and Commercial Society

Letter on the Weekly Observance of the Lord's Sui)i)cr


CHAPTER V. 1808-1812.

Discussions and Dissensions in tlie Churches

Trouhlous Times ......

Differences hetween the Churches in Glasgow

Paper on the Relations of Sister Churches .

Order and Harmony restored ....

Contributions to the Missionary Magazine

Prayer for Britain ......

Essay on Lancaster s Improvements in Education, and Sermon on Christian
Mercy .......

Meeting in Glasgow for the Resumption of Itinerant Preaching

Formation of Glasgow Theological Academy

Mr. Wardlaw elected Professor of Systematic Theology

Sermon at the Formation of the Academy .

Travels for the Academy in the North

Travelling Experiffnces .....

Vigour and Activity .....

Dr. Morison's Reminiscences ....

A Christian Mother on the Death of her Child
Lancasterian Schools .....

Itinerancy in Ayrshire and other Places

Death of Captain Wardlaw ....

Sermon on the Doctrine of a Particidar Providence
Literary Labours ......

CHAPTER VI. 1813-1819.

Unitarianism in Glasgow
Discourses on Socinian Controversy
Tour in Ireland
Death of Mr. Ewing Maclae
Correspondence with Mr. Yates
Yates's Vindication of Unitarianism
Brown's Strictures on Yates
Unitarianism incapable of Vindication
Yates's Sequel
Payne's Remarks
Testimonial on resigning Secretaryship of
Society . . . ,

Visits Lancashire
Poetical Epistle
Birth of a Son
Letter to his Aunt .
Sermon Reading
Sermon on the Scriptural Unity of Churches
Invitation to Hoxton Academy
Letter of Declinature

the Literary and Commercial

Address from liis Church

The very Man to Visit Africa

Essay on Benevolent Associations for the Poor

The State of Church and Academy .

Sermon before London Missionary Society

Strictures on Hume

Death of Dr. Balfour

Funeral Sermon for Dr. Balfour

Letter on the Death of Joseph Hardcastle, Esq.

Portrait in Evangelical Magazine

CHAPTER VII. 1819-1824.

Diploma of D.D. from Yale College

Sermon on the Truth, Nature, and Universality of the Gospel

West George Street Chapel opened

Radical Disturbances

Sermon on Civil Government

Sermon on the Divine Purposes to the Seed of Abraham

Oban Controversy

Reviewing ....

Death of Mr. Wardlaw Senior

Light in the Valley of Death

Expository Lectures on Eeclesiastes

Death of W. F. Durant

Sermon on the Vanity of the Earthly Hopes of Man

Gifts from Bible Classes, &c.

Letter to Mr. E. Henry

Sermon on Love to Christ

Sermon on the Early Siiccess of the Gospel

London May Meetings

Letter to Rev. D. S. Wayland

Letter to R. Dewar, Esq.

Contributions to Literary and Commercial Society

CHAPTER VIII. 1824-1829.

Dr. "Wardlaw's Family

Home Life .

Sketch by Dr. Morison

Mr. J. S. Wardlaw's Reminiscences

Domestic Characteristics

Innocent Amusements

SjTnpathy with his Children


Piety and Cheerfulness

Has his Reward


CHAPTER IX. 1824-1826.

Public Life ....

Pulpit Efforts

Dissertation on Infant Baptism

Argument from the Abraliamic Covenant

Eeply to the Letter of Rev. J. Birt .

Divine Dissuasive to the You7ig, a Sermon

Man Besponsihle for his Belief, two Sermons

Correspondence with Brougham

Argument of the Sermons

Metaphysics of Belief

Wayland's Missionary Sermon

Second Edition of Sermons on Responsihility

Letter to Burder ....

CHAPTER X. 1825-1828.

British and Foreign Bible Society

Apocrypha Controversy ....

Edinburgh Christian Instructor

Fourth Edition of Discourses on Socinian Controversy

Collects in London for Congregational Union

Chair of Moral Philosophy in London University

Invitation to Rotherham College

Death of Mrs. Ewing ....

Funeral Sermon for do. .

CHAPTER XL 1829-1832.

Introductory Essay to Doddridge, and Sermons

Marriage of his Eldest Daughter ....

Letter to Dr. Woods ......

. to Rev. H. F. Burder .....

to a Young Friend ......

Charge to Mr. John Beid ......

Letter to Mr. John S. Wardlaw .....

to Mrs. Reid .......

Erskine's Essay on the Unconditional Freeness of the Gospel
Faith of Assurance .......

Essays on Assurance of Faith and Extent of the Atonement and Universal

Pardon ........

Opinions of Calvin, &c., on Faith .....

Extent of the Atonement ......

Funeral Sermon for Bev. John Hercus ....

Sabbath Question .......

Introductory Essay to Clark's Scripture Promises .

Do. Do. to HalVs Contemplations

Failing Health .......

Discourses on the Sabbath ......

Sabbath Legislation . ....

CHAPTER XII. 1830-1833.

Anti-Slavery Movement

Wrath of the West Indian Party

Various Trials


"The Aula Faitlier"


First Visit of the Cholera


Voice of the Spirit to the Churches


Letter to Dr. H. F. Burder .


to Mrs. Dewar



to Miss Agnes Wardlaw


to Miss Wardlaw


to Miss Eeid


to Rev. D. S. Wayland

Tried by the Word of God


Congregational Lecture
Voluntary Church Controversy
Letter to Rev. Dr. Heugh .
Civil EstaUishments of Christianity


Letter to Rev. Dr. Burder .


Album Verses


A Family Picture


CHAPTER XTII. 1832-1834.

Delivers his Congregational Lecture in London


Engagements in London ....


Christian Ethics ....


Reply to Edinburgh Reviewer


Strictures .....


Morell's Criticism ....


Renewal of Invitation to Rotherham


Letter to Mr. and Mrs. Reid


Centenary of the Secession Church .


Bitterness of the Voluntary Controversy


Expositre E.riwsed, in reply to Anglo-Scotus


Speech at Voluntary Church Meeting


Manchester LiberaUty


The Jubilee: A Sermon


Letter to Miss Agnes Wardlaw


Rev. Dr. Burder


Rev. Dr. Woods




Misunderstanding with the Voluntary Association
Scottish Congregational Magazine .
Two Lectures on the Voluntary Question
Sketch of Dr. W. as Theological Professor .



Letter to Miss Agnes Wardlaw

Treatment of Servants ....

Removes his Residence to the Country

Friendly Letters to the Societ;/ of Friends

Letter to Mr. J. S. Wardlaw ...

Invitation to Spring Hill College

Appeal of the Church for his Remaining

Letter to Rev. T. East ....

Testimonial .......

John Morell Mackenzie . . . . ,

Dwight's Hehreiv Wife, loitJi Introductory Essay .
Voluntary Controversy ....

Church Extension Struggle . . . ,

Deputation to London ....

Dealings with Ministers and Members of Parliament
Presented to the Queen ....

Letter to Rev. J. M. Mackenzie

Anti-Slavery Convention ....

The Importance of the Church Controversy, &c., a Lecture
Invited to Lecture in reply to Dr. Chalmers
Marriage of Miss Agnes Wardlaw

CHAPTER XV. 1838-1840.

Preparations for London

Lectures delivered ....

National Church Establishments examined

Merits of the Work

Office of the Civil Magistrate in Religion

Engagements in London

Sketch of the Life and Character of Dr. M'All

The Ilinistry of the Gospel the Service of Clirist, a Cliarge

Mr. J. S. Wardlaw resolves to be a Missionary

Marriage of Miss Jessie Wardlaw

Death of Mr. Reid .

Letter to Mr. J. S. Wardlaw

State of Health

Leaves Ijinn for Barlanerk

CHAPTER XVI. 1841-1844.

Mission Prize Essays ......

Letters to the Rev. H. M'Neile on his Lectures on the Church of England

Services in Lancashire

The Revived of Religion, a Sermon

Ordination of Mr. J. S. Wardlaw

Funeral Sermon for Rev. Greville Eicing

Proposed Resignation of Pastoral Office

Invitation to Lancashire College

Lectures on Fenmle Prostitution


Family Changes ....
Letter to Rev. J. S. Wardlaw, Bellai y
Sermon on Christian Communion
Atonement Controversy
Funeral Sermon for Dr. Fletcher .

Do. do. for Rev. J. M. Mackenzie
Letters to Dr. Heugh and to Eev. J. S. Wardlaw

CHAPTER XVII. 1844-1848.

Heretical Tendencies among the Students .

Correspondence on the New Views

Memoir of the Rev. John Reid

Tlie Ldfe of Joseph, and Last Days of Jacob

Funeral Sermon for Rev. A. Campbell

Efforts for Unity .....

Return of Mrs. Gunn and Mr. J. S. Wardlaw

Letter to Mr. and Mrs. William Wardlaw

Funeral Sermon for Dr. Heugh

Strictures on Dr. Halley's Views

Severe Illness .....

Lecture on the Headship of Christ

Resolutions of Sympathy from different Bodies

Congregational Ind&pendency the Church Polity of the Neio

Contributions to Congregational Magazine .

Choice of Eev. S. T. Porter as Colleague

How the Church apportioned the Salaries of its Pastors


CHAPTER XVIII. 1849-1853.

Letter to Mr. and Mrs. Gunn

to James Ogilvie, Esq.

Death of Mrs. Thompson

Dr. Wardlaw's character assailed

Proceedings in consequence .

Conduct of Mr. Porter

Vindication of Dr. Wardlaw

Iniquity of the Attack

His Demeanour under this Trial

Evil Overruled for Good

Visit to London, and Reception there

The Call to Repentance : A Sermon

What is Death? Funeral Sermon for Dr. Philip

The Christianas Final Home: Funeral Sermon for Rev. C. Ande

Treatise on Miracles

Preaches in London for the Jews

Letter to Rev. Dr. Macfarlane

Dr. Morison's Reminiscences

Jubilee Celebration .




Growing Infirmities .


Closing Scenes


Last Official Acts .


Closing Hours


Death and Funeral .






A. Dr. WarJlaw's Descent from James V.

B. Porteousiana

C. Hymns Composed by Dr. Wardlaw

D. Hints on Controversy

E. Character of Walter Ewing Maclae, Es(

F. Remarks on the Views of Malthus

G. Copy of Diploma from Yale College
H. Voluntariness of Belief .

I. Luther's Views of Faith .





A. D. 1779— A. D. 1795.

Ralph Wardlaw was tlie son of William and Anne Wardlaw,
and was born at Dalkeith, in the county of Mid-Lothian, on the
22d of December 1779.

The place of his nativity is a respectable country town, the
centre of an extensive and wealthy agricultural and mining district.
It lies about six miles to the south of Edinburgh, and has a weekly
market at which a considerable amount of business is transacted,
especially in the sale of grain. Dalkeith Palace, the seat of the
Dukes of Buccleuch,with its magnificent parks and gardens, adjoins
the town. On the site of the palace, which is picturesquely placed
upon a rock descending almost perpendicularly to the river Esk,
stood the ancient castle of Dalkeith, the residence of the noble
family of ]\Iorton for several centuries. Hither the able but
unprincipled Regent Morton retreated when driven from power
by popular odium and the machinations of his enemies. Here
many refugees from the disastrous battle of Pinkie found protec-
tion, until the garrison, closely besieged by the English and
straitened for provisions, were obliged to capitulate. Here also,
at a later period. Monk fixed his head-quarters, when left by
Cromwell in Scotland to complete the work which the battle of
Dunbar had begun. The place has thus somewhat of historical,
as well as of commercial interest, whilst the beauty of the sur-
rounding scenery adds to it attractions of another kind. But of
those who read this book, perhaps the greater part will be of



partner's maiden name was Hannali Laurie ; she was a daughter
of Gilbert Laurie, Esq. of Crossrig, and half-sister of Gilbert
Laurie, who was Lord Provost of Edinburgh in 1766 and 1767.
They were married in March 1766; she only survived about two
years, leaving at her death two sons, of whom the eldest w^as
afterwards a merchant in Glasgow.* ^h: Wardlaw's marriage
with ]\Iiss Fisher took place in February 1773. Their family
consisted of seven sons and one daughter, viz., 1. William, born
1774; died July 1796. 2. Jeanie, born 1775; died 1777.
3. Walter, born 1777 ; died February 1836. 4. Ralph, the
subject of this memoir. 5. Robert, born 1781 ; died March
1839. 6. John, born 1782 ; died June 1812. 7. James Fisher,
born 1784 ; died 1789. 8. A twin-brother of the last, who did
not survive.

Of this large family, it Avill be seen, only five attained matu-
rity ; and of these, William, the eldest, was cut off in early
manhood, just as he was embarking in business, and after giving
excellent promise of a life adorned with many graces and virtues,
had he been spared.f Walter and Robert were also engaged in
mercantile pursuits ; the latter was, for a number of years, con-
nected with the management of the Herald newspaper, and for
some time was a partner in that property. John, after being
occupied for some time in business, entered the army, and was
killed at the battle of Salamanca, under circumstances which will

* Hannah Laurie's mother was Mary Gillespie, daughter of Thomas Gillespie,
Lrewer in Peffer-Miln, and sister of the Eev. Thomas Gillespie, who was deposed
by the General Assembly from the parish of Carnock in 1752, for refusing to concur
in the settlement of a minister in opposition to the will of the people. He was
afterwards, for several years, minister at Dunfermline, and died in 1 774.

f The following notice of this amiable youth appeared in one of the journals of
the day :— " Died on the 29th July 1796, Mr. Wm. Wardlaw Jun., of Charlotte
Street, a young man of distinguished worth and excellence. Though only in the
noon of life, his mind was richly stored with various and useful knowledge. His
manners were gentle and engaging ; his air and personal appearance in a high
degree modest and graceful. Deeply convinced of the truth of Christianity, he
manifested its benign influence in a cheerful serenity of temper, diffusive benevolence,
and genuine, unaffected piety. These, embellished by other pleasing and ornamental
accompHshments, form the outlines of this singularly amiable character, which will
long remain deeply impi'intcd in the memory of his friends, and of all who knew


be noticed subsequently. The subject of this memoir survived
the entire family of which he was a member.

It may be proper here to notice, as there will be occasion
afterwards to refer to the connection, that a sister of Mrs. Ward-
law, Margaret Fisher, was married to Walter Ewing Maclae, of
Cathkin, Esq., who thus stood in the relation of uncle to Mr.
Wardlaw's children.

About six months after the birth of his son Kalph, Mr. Ward-
law removed to Glasgow, where the remainder of his life was
passed. He became a burgess and guild brother of that city in
1786, and a matriculated member of the Merchants' House in the
following year. Univeiisally respected as a citizen and as a mer-
chant, he attained civic honours as one of the bailies of the city,
at a time when such honours were a tolerably certain index both
of personal character and social status.

Of Ralph Wardlaw's early years 1 have been able to collect
only a few scattered notices. His education was conducted at
the public schools of the city. His first teacher was a Mr.
Cunningham, whose school was reached by a street bearing the
unpropitious name of " Balaam's Passage ; " and here he learned
his alphabet, on the same form with a little girl who afterwards
became the endeared partner of his life.* He entered the grammar
school when eight years of age. Here he was under the instruc-
tions of Mr. D. MacArthur, a diligent teacher, as well as a sound
scholar. To what extent his studies were carried in this insti-
tution 1 am not able precisely to state ; but I presume that, in
addition to the ordinary elementary branches, he Vvas conducted
some length into the domain of classical learning. That he was
a well conducted scholar, whose attendance was punctual,
demeanour respectful, and appointed work conscientiously pre-
pared, is attested by the prizes he won, and the commendations
he received from his teacher. His severer studies were diversified
by lessons in drawing, of which he was very fond, and in which
he gave promise of excellence had he continued to cultivate the

* Ficcnlk'ctions of Dr. Wardlaw, in the Glasgow Young Men's Magazine for

Online LibraryWilliam Lindsay AlexanderMemoirs of the life and writings of Ralph Wardlaw → online text (page 1 of 55)