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XXXVIII. Angels : The Holy Angels,
The Fallen Angels,
The subject of the following memoir was the son of the Rev. Alexander Dick, of Aberdeen, Scotland. His father was descended from a very respectable family in the county of Kinross, and connected with the church of Scotland. He
pursued his literary course at the University of St. Andrew's, and prepared for the ministry at the Theological Seminary of the Secession Church at Glasgow, then under the care of the Rev. James Fisher. Shortly after his licensure he was installed pastor of a church in Aberdeen. At the time of his settlement in that city, the spiritual condition of the north of Scotland generally, and of this city in particular, was lamentable indeed. Beside himself, there was not known to be another minister who preached the gospel in its purity in that place or the immediate neighbourhood. Mr. Dick was not distinguished for his extraordinary talents nor his extensive literary attainments; but he was eminent for what is far better-holiness, and devotion to the cause of Christ, for primitive simplicity of character, and unwearied diligence in the duties of his office. “His life,” according to the inscription on his monument, “was a perpetual commentary on the purity of his doctrine.” After labouring in that city successfully for thirtyfour years, he died in 1793, universally lamented. His memory, as the writer of this memoir can testify, is still precious in Aberdeen
His eldest son, John Dick, was born in Aberdeen, on the 10th of October, 1764. Mrs. Dick, who possessed a remarkably vigorous and well-cultivated mind, and who seems to have been fully aware of the extent of maternal influence and responsibility, watched with much anxiety the progress of his early education. And if the excellence of the scholar is any proof of the qualifications of the teacher, we may be certain that his education could not have been committed to better
hands. Dr. Dick always dwelt with peculiar delight on her memory, and never spoke of her but with enthusiasm. It is but proper to add, that she was permitted to reap the reward of her labours, as she lived to witness the distinction and the eminent usefulness of her son.
Dr. Dick received his early education in the grammarschool of Aberdeen; and there, at a very early age, gave proof of those abilities by which he afterwards rose to eminence. There is an incident connected with his entering the university of Aberdeen, and in proof of this, which is worthy of being related. At the commencement of the session he presented himself, without the knowledge of his father, as a candidate for a scholarship, which was to be determined by open competition. The exercise prescribed to the candidates was to translate two passages, the one from a Latin and the other from an English author, into the opposite languages respectively: and to preclude the possibility of unequal aid, each candidate was sent to a room by himself, without books or any other assistance; and though by much the junior competitor, he carried off the prize. He was then only in his twelfth year. While at the university, the late Rev. Robert Hall of Bristol, Sir James Macintosh, and the eminent Greek scholar, Dr. Charles Burney, were among his fellow students. With the former he at that time became but slightly acquainted; the two latter gentlemen were among his intimate associates and friends. It is rather an uncommon coincidence, that three such men as Robert Hall, Sir James Macintosh, and Dr. Dick should have been brought together to the same college at the same time; and still more, that they should have been all spared to a good old age, and cease from their labours within little more than a year of each other.
Dr. Dick was a particular favourite with all the professors whose classes he attended. Professor Ogilvy, under whom he studied Latin, entertained a very special attachment for him and was very desirous, knowing that his pupil was designed for the ministry, that he should enter the Established church. As he could not conscientiously unite with the Establishment, he resolved to connect himself with the Secession church, of which his father was a minister, although strongly urged also by family relatives belonging partly to the church of
Scotland and partly to the Episcopal church, to join one or the other of these denominations. To the professor's credit it deserves to be related, that the independence of his pupil was not allowed to terminate their friendship.
He completed his course at the University in 1780, when only sixteen years old, and immediately afterwards entered the Theological Seminary of the Secession Church, then under the care of the celebrated Rev. John Brown of Haddington.
In 1785, he was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Perth and Dunfermline. His talents, which had hitherto been known only among his particular friends, now began to attract very general attention. Soon after his licensure, he received invitations from a number of congregations to become their pastor. His first settlement was in Slateford, a village in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh. Here he was ordained, in 1786, to the high gratification of the people of his charge, and much to his own satisfaction, as the rural charms of the spot, one of the most beautiful in Scotland, delighted his imagination; and the retirement of the village afforded him the best opportunity for study. While at Slateford, though burdened with the cares, and subject to the many interruptions of the pastoral life, he formed a plan of study to which he ever afterward most scrupulously adhered, and by which he was doubtless enabled to gather those rich literary and theological stores, of which we have an example in these volumes. It will be interesting to all, and may be of service to some, to know what was the plan of study of such a man, who, while most diligent in the discharge of all his ministerial duties, was still enabled to make those attainments which gave him a place among the first theological scholars of Great Britain. “ His plan,” says his son, “was to rise in the morning before six o'clock, and immediately to begin the study which it may be said formed the business of the day. It was of course interrupted by his duties as a parent and head of a family; and in addition to such intervals, he regularly allowed himself two or three hours about midday, which he spent in visits of duty or friendship. His afternoon and evening studies were commonly suspended, or intermingled by conversation with his family or friends. At least one day of each week was devoted to the pastoral visitation of the families of
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