Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bonar, John (1722-1761)

BONAR, JOHN, the elder (1722–1761), Scottish divine, was born at Clackmannan on 4 Nov. 1722. His father—also John Bonar—was then tutor at Kennet. His mother was Jean Smith, daughter of William Smith of Clackmannan. His father was ordained minister of the united parishes of Fetlar and North Yell, in Shetland, in 1729, and John was sent to his grandfather's manse at Torphichen, Linlithgowshire. There he received the usual parish-school education, and then proceeded to the university of Edinburgh where he matriculated 27 April 1742. He was licensed as a preacher of the gospel 5 June 1745, and ordained 22 Aug. 1746 as the minister of the parish of Cockpen, near Dalkeith. Whilst there he married, November 1746, Christian, daughter of Andrew Currier, W.S., Edinburgh (she died 22 Nov. 1771). In 1756 he received and declined a presentation to the parish or abbey church of Jedburgh. He was called to the second or collegiate church of Perth, and was settled there 29 July 1756. He came to the front as a persuasive preacher of the gospel on the old evangelical lines. In 1750 he printed anonymously ‘Observations on the Conduct and Character of Judas Iscariot’ (reprinted in 1822); and in 1752 a noticeable sermon on the ‘Nature and Necessity of Religious Education,’ which was preached before the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. In 1755 he published anonymously ‘An Analysis of the mural and religious Sentiments contained in the writings of Sopho [i.e. Lord Kames] and David Hume, Esq.’ It was addressed to the ‘General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.’ This work is sometimes wrongly attributed to Rev. George Anderson. It was replied to angrily in ‘Observations upon the Analysis,’ but never answered. In 1760 he preached his ‘Nature and Tendency of the Ecclesiastical Constitution in Scotland’ before the synod of Perth and Stirling, which afterwards formed an important publication, and was reprinted in the ‘Scots Preacher.’ He was at his death engaged on a work, which he left unfinished, to have been entitled ‘The Example of Tyre, a Warning to Britain.’ He died at Perth 21 Dec. 1761, in the fortieth year of his age.

[Dr. Hew Scott's Fasti Ecclesiæ Scoticanæ; Memoir prefixed to vol. ii. of Sermons of the Rev. Archibald Bonar of Cramond, and Memoir prefixed to ‘Judas Iscariot,’ 1822; communications from Rev. Andrew Whyte, M.A., Clackmannan, the Rev. John Calder, presbytery clerk of Stirling. and Horatius Bonar. Esq., of Edinburgh. Rev. Dr. Andrew A. Bonar, Glasgow, grandson of John Bonar, possesses a manuscript of his grandfather, which contains interesting jottings of two visits paid by him to the scenes of the scenes of revival in Kilsyth and Cambuslang.]

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