Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Dickson, David (1754-1820)

DICKSON, DAVID, the elder (1754–1820), theologian, was born in 1754, at Newlands in Peeblesshire, where his father was minister. He studied at the universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, and was ordained minister of Libberton, in his native county, in 1777. ‘There,’ says his biographer in Kay's ‘Portraits,’ ‘he began that course of faithful and zealous labour among all classes of the people, not in the pulpit only, but from house to house, by which he was so peculiarly distinguished throughout the remainder of his life.’ In 1783 he was translated to Bothkennar in Stirlingshire; in 1795 to the chapel in New Street, Edinburgh; and thereafter to the College Church, and finally to the New North Church in the same city. After enlarging on the qualities of his preaching, which was thoroughly in the evangelical spirit, the writer above quoted says: ‘Of this, the general strain of his sermons, more particularly the addresses at their conclusion, of which the volume that he published in 1817 furnishes a number of interesting and valuable specimens, afforded the most unequivocal proofs. But perhaps his correspondence by letter with a number of private individuals in every rank of society—with youthful inquirers and aged believers, with doubting and afflicted and sorrowful, as well as confirmed and prosperous and rejoicing believers—attests the fact still more powerfully.’

Dickson was a cordial supporter of the measures in the church of Scotland promoted by the evangelical party. He was one of those who voted in the general assembly against receiving the explanation of Dr. m'Gill of Ayr as a satisfactory explanation of the heresy with which he was charged. This was the case referred to in the well-known poem of Robert Burns, ‘The Kirk's Alarm.’ ‘On two several occasions also, viz. the settlements of Biggar and Larbert, he actually braved the highest censure of the ecclesiastical courts rather than surrender the dictates of his conscience to what he had thought their time-serving policy and unconstitutional decisions.’ Dickson, who was also proprietor of the estate of Kilbucho in Peeblesshire, died in 1820.

[Scott's Fasti; Kay's Portraits, ii. 310; Sermons preached on different occasions, by the Rev. David Dickson, Edinb. 1818.]

W. G. B.