Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Teaching Theology for 140 Years - VI.

William Moncrieff continued the tradition established by Professor Wilson of teaching from a textbook rather than drawing up his own system in lectures. While the Medulla of Markius of Leyden was retained, he added to it Turretin, and lectures on the Westminster Confession. There were four lectures every week, in addition to homiletics classes and the reading of exegetical and critical exercises by the students. For its day, this was a very thorough course, and Alloa students went forth into the ministry with a preparation that would be admired even today.

William Moncrieff died in August 1786, having held the Chair of theology in the Anti-Burgher Synod for twenty-five years. The Moncrieff United Free Church in Alloa is named in his memory, and we have used a picture of it as our illustration. The congregation meeting there is the direct descendent of that pastored by William Moncrieff.

His successor was Rev. Archibald Bruce of Whitburn, and of course the location of the Hall thus changed to Whitburn. He was paid £50 a year for his services, and although even then such a sum was not large, we must recall that he received the £50 in addition to his stipend. Mr. Bruce was forty years old at the time of his appointment, and his parents, of reasonable means, had been able to give him the best education that Scotland could offer. He was a graduate of Glasgow and undoubtedly the best scholar the Anti-Burger Synod had at the time. He was also the first Anti-Burgher professor to be a regular authour, ahving begun his career by the publication of a satire on the Church of Scotland called The Kirkiad at the age of twenty-eight. As minister of Whitburn, he was responsible for bringing a printer to the town solely to print his tracts, pamphlets and books! A devoted scholar, he was well-equipped to impart to the Anti-Burgher students the results of his years of study.

Bruce was, however, only professor in the Anti-Burgher Hall for some seventeen years before, in 1803, he withdrew from the Synod when they revised the 'Testimony' of the church to soften its stance on the relation of the civil magistrate to the Church. With a few other eminent men, including Dr. M'Crie, the biographer of Knox, Bruce formed the Original Secession Church, or Constitutional Associate Presbytery. He continued to teach students in connection with the Original Secession Church until his death in 1816.

For three years after the split of 1816 the Anti-Burger church tried to regain the services of Mr. Bruce, but at last it was realised that this was hopeless. During these years students were taught under the direction of their own presbyteries, and usually by their own ministers. A standard reading list was drawn up to be read in place of the lectures of the professor, and students were tested by their presbyteries. While there were no new students in 1804, there were seven in 1805 and eight in 1806. It was recognised that something had to be done to fill up the place of a professor.

But there were to greater changes than merely one of professor, and that we shall see, God willing, next time.



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