Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Buchanan, James

BUCHANAN, JAMES, D.D., LL.D. (1804–1870), preacher and theological writer, was born in 1804 at Paisley, and studied at the university of Glasgow. In 1827 he was ordained minister of Roslin, near Edinburgh, and in 1828 he was translated to the large and important charge of North Leith. In this charge he attained great fame as a preacher, being remarkable or a clear, vigorous, and flowing style, a graceful manner, a vein of thrilling tenderness, broken from time to time by passionate appeals, all in the most pronounced evangelic strain. Most of his parochial duties being discharged by assistants, he read and wrote much in his study. While at North Leith he wrote:

  1. ‘Comfort in Affliction,' a series of meditations, of which between 20,000 and 30,000 copies were issued.
  2. ‘Improvement of Affliction.’
  3. ‘The Office and Work of the Holy Spirit,'

In 1840 Buchanan was translated to the High Church (St. Giles’), Edinburgh, and in 1813, after the disruption, he became first minister of St. Stephen‘s Free Church. In 1815 he was appointed professor of apologetics in the New College (Free church), Edinburgh, and in 1847, on the death of Dr. Chalmers, he was transferred to the chair of systematic theology, continuing there till his resignation in 1868. During this time he published:

  1. ‘On the Tracts for the Times.’
  2. ‘Faith in God and Modern Atheism compared,’ 2 vols. 8vo, 1855.
  3. ‘Analogy: considered as a Guide to Truth, and applied as an Aid to Faith,’ 2nd edit. 1867.
  4. ‘The Doctrine of Justification,’ being the Cunningham Lectures for 1866.

In 1844 the degree of D.D. was conferred on him by Princeton College, New Jersey, and some time after that of LL.D. by the university of Glasgow. Though not eminent for his powers of original thought, Buchanan had a remarkable faculty of collecting what was valuable in the researches and arguments of others, and presenting it in clear form and lucid language. His work on ‘Faith in God’ is a very valuable summary of facts and reasonings applicable to the state of the apologetic question, both in natural and revealed religion, some thirty years ago. The book on ‘Analogy’ follows so far the lines of Butler, but makes much wider application of the principle than Butler's purpose required. Owing to delicate health and a retiring disposition, Buchanan did not enter much into the public business of the church. He threw himself very cordially, however, into the disruption controversy. On the question of union between the Free church and the United Presbyterian his views were against the proposal. He died in 1870.

[Disruption Worthies. 1881; College Calendar of the Free Church, 1870-1; Records of General Assembly of The Free Church, 1871.]

W. G. B.