Blackwell, Thomas (1660?-1728) (DNB00)


BLACKWELL, THOMAS, the elder (1660?–1728), a learned Scotch minister, is sometimes confounded with his more celebrated son of the same name. He was called to the charge as presbyterian minister at Paisley, Renfrewshire, on 5 April 1693, but his ordination was delayed to 28 Aug. 1694 for various reasons, one being his own ‘unclearness’ about accepting the call. He was translated to Aberdeen on 9 Oct. 1700, and in 1710 he was elected professor of divinity in the Marischal College of the university of Aberdeen. In the same year he published ‘Ratio Sacra, or an appeal unto the Rational World about the reasonableness of Revealed Religion … directed against the three grand prevailing errors of Atheism, Deism, and Bourignonism,’ Edin. 12mo. The same year his second work appeared: ‘Schema Sacrum, or a Sacred Scheme of Natural and Revealed Religion, making a Scriptural-Rational Account of these Three Heads … of Creation … of Divine Predestination … and of the Wise Divine Procedure in accomplishing the Scheme,’ Edin. 8vo, pp. 340. A second edition in 12mo was published at Paisley in 1800. An American edition was brought out by a New Hampshire minister, with a list of over 700 names of subscribers, under the altered title of ‘Forma Sacra, or a Sacred Platform of Natural and Revealed Religion … by the pious and learned Thomas Blackwell’ (with a lengthy introduction on the position and prospects of religion in America), by Simon Williams, M.A., 12mo, Boston, 1774. The latter was minister of the gospel at Wyndham, New Hampshire, and he speaks of Blackwell as ‘a minister much esteemed in Peasley, North Britain,’ his informant, the Rev. Dr. Withersnoon, then president of the college in the Jerseys, having been one of his successors in the church at Paisley. Blackwell appears to have taken a prominent part in the disturbed affairs of the Scottish church. The first of the ‘Tracts concerning Patronage by some eminent Lairds; with a candid inquiry about the constitution of the Church of Scotland in relation to the Settlement of Ministers,’ 8vo, Edin. 1770, is entitled, ‘Representation by Mr. William Carstairs, Thomas Blackwell, and Robert Baillie, Ministers of the Church of Scotland, offered by them in the name and by appointment of the General Assembly against the bill for restoring patronages,’ 1712. Another work of his was published in 1712 entitled ‘Methodus Evangelica,’ 8vo, London.

Blackwell's appointment as professor of divinity in the Marischal College was by presentation vested in the Marischal family—George Keith, fifth Earl Marischal, being the founder—but on the forfeiture of their rights consequent upon their adherence to the cause of the Stuarts, the patronage in 1715 was vested in the crown; and the office of principal being vacant in 1717, George I recognised the merits of Blackwell by appointing him to the same, a position which, along with his previous professorship, he held until his death in 1728. The names associated with this famous institution in Blackwell's time and during his son's career, or early in the eighteenth century, are of great eminence. Among many others, there occur to us those of Bishop Burnet, Dr. Arbuthnot, Dr. Reid, the poet Beattie, Bishop Keith, Dr. Turnbull, the Fordyces (his grandsons), Gibbs the architect, and Professors Maclaurin, Duncan, Stewart, Gerard, and George Campbell.

Blackwell married a sister of Dr. Johnston, many years professor of medicine in the university of Glasgow, and by her had two sons, Alexander [q. v.] and Thomas [q. v.]; and one daughter, married to Provost Fordyce of Aberdeen, by whom she had nineteen children, some of whom became well known: David Fordyce the professor, James Fordyce the popular preacher, and Sir William Fordyce the physician.

[Blackwell's works; Williams's Forma Sacra; New Statist. H. of Scotland, vii. 235, xii. 11, 1190; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ii. 93]

J. W.-G.