13 MAY 1882, Page 21

A SCOTTISH MINISTER.* Jr only in respect of the length

of time covered by this bio- graphy, and the importance to Scotland, at least, of the ecclesiastical events which took place within the period, this biography is of great interest. More, perhaps, than in any other country of Christendom, ecclesiastical affairs in Scotland attract the attention and arouse the interest of the people. It has always been so, and in large measure it is so still. The genius and constitution of Presbyterianism, in virtue of which

laymen have an equal share in the administration of affairs, the fact that in Scotland the Church has been the sphere in which the fight for freedom has been fought and won, and the further fact that the Scottish Church has ever been the Church of the people, go to explain the importance of ecclesiastical bio- graphy to the people of Scotland. When Englishmen.recount the history of the past, they dwell with pride on such names as Hampden, Russell, and others found in the glorious record of former struggles ; in Scotland, the great names of her heroes are the names of Knox, Melville, Henderson, and many others of more recent date. England's freedom was won in the House of Commons. The freedom of Scotland was won in the General Assembly. If readers of Scottish history would only bear this in mind, they would more readily understand the ecclesiastical hues which strangely colour the records of Scotland. With his usual quickness of perception, the late Dean Stanley perceived this fact, and with his fondness for artistic effect, and pictur- esque simplicity of outline, represented it as the whole. The Church of Scotland was, indeed, what now is known as Her Majesty's Opposition, but only in that sense which was also true of the Hebrew prophets. The stream of popular life ran full and clear and strong in ecclesiastical channels ; the main interest of the people was in the Church, and thus they were able to ensure the practical working of what has been called the worst possible civil constitution ever possessed by any country. To a large extent, this state of things has changed. The life of Scotland has flowed into other channels. But in a measure it is still true that much of Scottish energy and thought are devoted to the administration of the affairs of the Churches. Laymen take an equal share of the burden, and within the sphere of the Church itself it thus comes to pass that the will of the people must, in the long-run, be done.

Thus it happens that the biographies of prominent divines in Scotland have 'a wider sweep of interest than is usual in other countries. The share which ministers in Scotland have in the discussion of public questions necessarily involves the biographer in a description of the national life of the period. This appears prominently in the biography before us. No doubt, Mr. Thomson has done full justice to the personal characteristics of Dr. Harper. In this biography, Dr. Harper appears as a true specimen of the earnest, zealous, hard-working, Scottish minister. Far above the average of such ministers in mental power, in general culture, and extent of influence, he undoubtedly was; but the power, the culture, and the influence are precisely of the same kind as those usually characteristic of the Scottish clergy. Brought up at the feet of him whom Carlyle has called "the Scottish Socrates," settled in early life at Leith, he continued for many years to preside over a large congregation. He became Professor of Theology to his denomination ; and when the teaching of the college was reorganised, in accordance with the larger views of modern life, he was appointed its Principal. The story of his life is here told, and, in order to tell it, Dr. Thomson has been constrained to describe with some fullness the causes of the controversies in which Dr. Harper had a share, and to narrate in sufficient outline the ecclesiastical history of Scotland for the time. If the figure of Dr. Harper seems to many to be of grander proportions, and of a more majestic stature, than is justified by the facts recorded in the biography, they will remember that something of this is due to the enthusiasm of friendship on the part of the * We of Principal Harper. D.D. By the Rev. Andrew Thomson, Edinburgh. Edinburgh : A. Elliot.

biographer. In fact, outsiders can hardly be proper judges, for Dr. Harper did not publish much, and what he did publish was mainly of a fugitive character.

We take the biography, then, as representing the estimate formed of Dr. Harper by those who have the best means of forming a judgment. On any view, the biography brings before us the portrait of a man who took a prominent part in Scottish affairs, and bulked largely in the eyes of the people of Scotland, for more than half-a-century. He was a true representative of the Secession Church, which has been so conspicuous a factor in Scottish life for a century and a half. He stood on the old ground, and held fast by the lines of Scottish theology, yet in all the controversies in which he took a part he was ever on the side which made for freedom and charity. He took a large share in those movements towards union which are as marked a feature of recent Scottish ecclesiastical life, as movements which issued in separation were of the ecclesiastical life of Scot- land daring the last century. What his attitude might have been towards the larger theological questions which have arisen in Scotland within the last five years, we do not know. But every question of doctrine with which he had to deal during his life-time—and these were neither few nor unimportant— received from him the largest solution possible at the time. The contributions he made to the solutions of such questions were mainly in the shape of committee reports and synod speeches. But these indicate power of such a sort, such ability, general culture, theological knowledge, and ripeness of judgment, as cause us to regret that Dr. Harper had not suffi- cient leisure to make those contributions to the scanty stock of Scottish theology which he was well fitted to make. As it is, his influence is to be sought for, not in the world of books, but in the world of men, and chiefly in the pulpit of the Presbyterian Church all over the world. The monument which Dr. Thomson has raised in this biography to the memory of his friend, will enable the readers of it to understand in some measure the worth of the man and the value of his work. It is a book which will receive a warm welcome in Presbyterian circles. It ought also to be read by all who desire to understand the different phases of ecclesiastical life. It gives a true and trustworthy picture of the conditions of ecclesiastical life in Scotland during a large part of the present century. It reveals what kind of training Scotland gives her children, what are the relations of a minister to his people, what are the relations of various sections of the Presbyterian Churches to each other, and to the country ; and, if only as a matter of scientific curiosity, this biography must be full of interest to other than Presbyterian or ecclesias- tical readers.