Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Burns, Islay

BURNS, ISLAY, D.D. (1817–1872), theological writer, brother of William Chalmers Burns [q. v.], was born in 1817 at the manse of Dun in Forfarshire, where his father (afterwards translated to Kilsyth, near Glasgow) was minister. He received the chief part of his education at the grammar school of Aberdeen, under Dr. James Melvin, a celebrated teacher of Latin, and at Marischal College and University, Aberdeen, and the university of Glasgow. Studying for the ministry, he was ordained in 1843 to the charge of St. Peter's Free church, Dundee, in succession to the Rev. R. M. M'Cheyne, a man of eminent spirituality and power. In 1863 he received the degree of D.D. from the university of Aberdeen, and in 1864 was chosen to a professor's chair in the theological college of the Free church, Glasgow. In this office he remained during the rest of his life. Burns was remarkable for a combination of evangelical fervour with width of culture and sympathy, a strong æsthetic faculty and a highly charitable spirit. To the diligent and successful discharge of his duties, first as a minister of the gospel and then as a professor, he added considerable literary activity. His chief writings were:

  1. ‘A Series of Essays on the Tractarian and other Movements in the Church of England,’ published in the ‘British and Foreign Evangelical Review.
  2. ‘History of the Church of Christ, with special reference to the delineation of faith and life.’
  3. ‘The Pastor of Kilsyth,’ a sketch of the life of his father.
  4. Memoir of his brother, Rev. W. C. Burns, M.A., missionary to China. A posthumous volume of ‘Select Remains’ was published in 1874.

[Blaikie's Memoir, prefixed to Select Remains of Islay Burns, D.D., London, 1874; personal knowledge.]

W. G. B.