Friday, July 14, 2006

Glasgow's School of the Prophets: The Free Church College. IV

The Free Church College, Glasgow, officially began on Tuesday, 4th November 1856. That day the Free Presbytery of Glasgow met in Free St. Matthew's Church to induct Professors Fairbairn and Gibson into their chairs. Fairbairn gave his inaugural address, and it was intimated that Professor Gibson would give his inaugural lecture in a building in Thistle Street formerly occupied by a training school. The following week regular lectures would begin in the same building. Five second-year students from Glasgow who had been at New College elected to complete the remaining two years of their course at the new Glasgow college, while either twenty or twenty-three students (we do not know why there should be confusion, but there is) entered the College. Rev. George C.M. Douglas of Bridge of Weir was engaged to conduct the Hebrew classes, beginning an association with the college that was to continue until 1902.
In 1857 the Assembly appointed two more professors. Mr. Douglas was appointed to the Chair of Old Testament Language and Literature, and Dr. William M. Hetherington, the historian of the Westminster Assembly, was appointed Professor of Apologetics, indicating a focus that was to distinguish the College for many decades. Dr. Hetherington also taught Systematic Theology, but sadly ill health would severely curtail his usefulness in his post.
Meanwhile building work was progressing rapidly. The Assembly on 1857 was informed that the building was externally complete apart from to soaring Campanile and the two smaller towers on the College Church. Internally work was progressing rapidly, and the building would be ready for the next session. While the Campanile proved more expensive than had been anticipated, its cost was paid by extra funds provided by the Memorialists.
The two new professors were inducted by a Presbytery meeting in Glasgow's Free St. George's (no relation) on 29th October 1857, and the opening ceremony of the College buildings was held on Wednesday, 4th November. The Moderator spoke, and Principal Fairbairn delivered an address outlining his ideas of a sound theological education. The building was complete apart from the belvedere atop the campanile, from which students and professors would be able to survey Glasgow. While the campanile undoubtedly adds presence and completeness to the College buildings, we are not entirely sure what it was for. Did Principal Fairbairn have an office in it? We would like to think so!
Next time, God willing, we shall see how students and professors fared when allegations of heresy were in the air!



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