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Boston, Thomas (1713-1767) (DNB00)


BOSTON, THOMAS, the younger (1713–1767), Scottish relief minister, the youngest son of Thomas Boston (1677–1732) [q. v.], was born at Ettrick on 3 April 1713, After receiving the rudiments from his father and an elder brother, he went to the grammar school at Hawick, and thence to Edinburgh University. He was licensed on 1 Aug. 1732 by the Selkirk presbytery, presented to Ettrick in the room of his father in November 1732, and ordained there on 4 April 1733. On 25 Oct. 1748 he was released from the charge, having a call to Oxnam, Roxburghshire, and admitted there on 10 Aug. 1749. He inherited his father's theology, and created for himself a popularity which fully sustained the special repute of the family name. A vacancy having occurred in the parish church of the neighbouring town of Jedburgh, the inhabitants were very desirous of having him as their minister, but the presentation was given to an other. Hereupon the elders of the church and most of the parishioners, including the town council, withdrew from the parish church and built a meeting-house, being determined to secure Boston’s services at any cost. As a preliminary to accepting their call, he tendered his demission to the presbytery on 7 Dec. 1757. On 30 May 1758 the general assembly accepted his demission, and in doing so declared him henceforth incapable of receiving a presentation, and prohibited all ministers from employing him in any office. This did not prevent him from pursuing his ministry at Jedburgh in an independent capacity, and it was not long before he found coadjutors. The successor of his father's friend at Carnock was Thomas Gillespie, who in 1752 had been deposed by the general assembly. Gillespie continued to minister at Carnock, at first in the open fields, afterwards in a meeting-house erected by his people. In 1761 Boston and Gillespie joined in admitting a minister to a congregation at Colinsburgh, and the three constituted themselves into a new ecclesiastical body, under the name of the ‘presbytery of relief.’ Boston was the first moderator. The name selected for this new organisation explains why its founders did not cast in their lot with the seceders, who, having formed the ‘associate presbytery’ in 1733, had constituted it an ‘associate synod’ in 1744, and were now (since 1747) divided into two sections, known as the burgher and anti-burgher synods, one admitting, the other disallowing. the lawfulness of the burgess oath to defend ‘the true religion presently professed within this realm.’ Boston and his friends were averse to assuming any attitude of antagonism to the church of their fathers; the one grievance which they hoped to do something to redress was the case of congregations wronged by intrusive patronage. For these they permitted a refuge in the existing distress. As Grub says, they and their followers ‘retained a strong feeling of attachment to the established church, and regarded themselves ‘rather as auxiliary to it than as arrayed in opposition against it.’ In 1773, six years after Boston’s death, the relief presbytery formed itself into a ‘synod of relief,' consisting of two presbyteries. The burgher and anti-burgher synods, having each suffered from subordinate secessions, reunited on 8 Sept. 1820, and on 13 May 1847 joined with the relief synod to form the existing ‘united presbyterian church.’ Boston died at Jedburgh on 13 Feb. 1767. He had married on 26 April 1738 Elizabeth Anderson, who died at Dysart on 21 June 1787. His son Michael was minister of the relief congregation at Falkirk; his daughter Christiana, married Dr. Tucker Harris, of Charlestown, South Carolina. Boston's publications consisted of four single sermons, of which the first was printed in 1745, the last in 1762. His ‘Select Discourses on a variety of practical subjects,‘ Glasgow, 1768, 8vo, were issued posthumously. Some of these are maintained in ‘Select Sermons by . . . Boston and James Baine, M.A., first Relief minister at Edinburgh; with introductory essay by N. McMichael, D.D.,’ Edin. 1850, 8vo.

[Hew Scott’s Fasti Eccl. Scot.; Grub's Eccl. Hist. of Scotland (1861), iv. 79, &c.]

A. G.