Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Eadie, John
EADIE, JOHN, D.D. (1810–1876), theological author, was born at Alva, Stirlingshire, 9 May 1810. His father, when on the verge of seventy, married a second wife, and Eadie was the only child of the marriage who survived infancy. As a boy he was lively and somewhat tricky, and at school showed a turn for languages and a remarkable memory. At one time he knew by heart the whole of ‘Paradise Lost.’ He studied at the university of Glasgow, attaining considerable distinction in several classes; but he had to contend with narrow means, and was thus thrown to a large degree on his own resources. At this time he was much engaged as a temperance lecturer, and obtained considerable fame in that capacity. In his theological classes he evinced a decided preference for studies which afforded some scope for investigation and discovery. Dogmatics, as not falling under this category, were much less interesting than exegetics, which already became his favourite study. He was licensed as a preacher in connection with the united secession church in 1835. His first sermon was preached just as his mother lay dying, and he had to hurry home to watch her last moments. The religious influence which she had already exercised on him was much deepened at her death. She was a strong-minded woman, well read in the popular theology of Scotland, and deeply imbued with its spirit.
Within a few weeks after being licensed, Eadie was chosen minister of the Cambridge Street united secession congregation, Glasgow, and entered without previous experience on a city charge, which, however, prospered greatly under his ministry. At a later period, and some time after the union of the secession and relief branches had constituted the united presbyterian church, he removed, with part of the congregation, to the outskirts of the city, and was thereafter known as minister of Lansdowne Church, a large and influential congregation, with which he was connected till his death.
In 1838–9 he taught the class of Hebrew in Anderson's College, Glasgow; and in 1843, after he had temporarily conducted for a session the class of biblical literature in the United Secession Divinity Hall, he was appointed by the synod professor of that department. He retained his ministerial charge along with this appointment, so that for the most part of his public life he had the double labour of a professor and a minister. At first the active duties of the chair lasted only for a couple of months each autumn; afterwards the session was made a winter session of between five and six months. Eadie was to have had a colleague in his ministerial charge, but died before the arrangement was completed. In 1844 he received the degree of LL.D. from the university of Glasgow, and in 1850 that of D.D. from the university of St. Andrews. In 1857 he was appointed moderator of synod, the highest court in the united presbyterian church.
His first acquaintance with the continent of Europe was made in 1846, when he was sent by his church with others to make inquiry respecting the reformation movement on the borders of the duchy of Posen, instituted by John Ronge, arising out of exhibitions of the ‘holy coat.’ The movement excited no small interest at the time, but after inquiry Eadie did not think very favourably of it.
By far the most important of his labours were conducted through the press. He combined in an unusual degree the power of writing for the people and writing for scholars; and his books, which nearly all bore on biblical subjects, were of both sorts. In 1840 he began his literary work by editing a magazine called the ‘Voluntary Church Magazine,’ which, however, had begun to decline before his time, and did not prove a success. He contributed several articles to the ‘North British Review,’ the ‘Eclectic Review,’ and the ‘Journal of Sacred Literature.’ A ‘Life of John Kitto,’ the biblical scholar, came from his pen, and in connection with ‘Mackenzie's Dictionary of Universal Biography’ he had charge of the ecclesiastical department, and contributed to it many lives. The earliest of a series of popular biblical works which he issued was a condensed edition of Cruden's ‘Concordance’ (1839), of which, about the time of his death, two hundred thousand copies had been sold. The next was a ‘Biblical Cyclopædia’ (1848), followed by a condensed ‘Bible Dictionary.’ ‘An Analytical Concordance to the Holy Scriptures’ followed in 1856, and an ‘Ecclesiastical Encyclopædia’ in 1861. In 1848 an article on ‘Oriental Church History’ was recast and partly rewritten for the ‘Encyclopædia Metropolitana,’ and in 1851 he edited a family bible, with selections from the commentaries of Thomas Scott and Matthew Henry, of which some two hundred thousand copies were sold. In 1855 he published a volume of pulpit discourses under the title of ‘The Divine Love,’ and in 1859 an exposition of St. Paul's sermons as contained in the Acts of the Apostles, which he called ‘Paul the Preacher.’ The series of works which Eadie wrote for scholars consisted of ‘A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians’ (1854), a similar work on Colossians (1856), on Philippians (1857), and on Galatians (1869). Since his death the last of the series (on Thessalonians) has been published. These works were the result of much scholarly labour, the basis of the commentary being laid on the grammatical structure of the Greek words, and the exegetical skill of the commentator applied to ascertain the precise meaning of the writer. As Eadie's theology was eminently Pauline, the subject suited him well. It was understood that had he lived longer he would have treated in the same manner the epistle of James. Bishop Ellicott considered that Eadie's exegesis was superior to his grammar; on which Eadie remarked that, like other students of Greek in Scotland, he had had to acquire his knowledge of the language by his own exertions, and that his work had been done, not in academic retirement, but amid the labours and distractions of a city congregation.
Eadie's biblical labours were crowned in 1876 by the publication of a work in two volumes—‘The English Bible: an external and critical history of various English translations of Scripture; with remarks on the need of revising the English New Testament.’ In the movement for a revision of the English New Testament he was greatly interested. He was one of the original members of the New Testament revision company, and while he was able he attended the meetings very diligently. He studied carefully the passages that were discussed, and made up his mind after thorough inquiry, but seldom spoke. He was held in great esteem by the chairman, Bishop Ellicott, and many other eminent members of the company.
In 1869, along with some personal friends, he paid a visit to Egypt and the Holy Land, and was able to verify by personal observation many geographical and other points on which he had expressed his opinion in some of his books. In 1873, along with Professor Calderwood, he received a commission from the synod of the united presbyterian church to visit the United States, and convey the fraternal salutations of his church to the presbyterians of that country.
So early as 1867 symptoms of heart derangement had begun to appear, brought on, doubtless, by his great and constant labours. In 1872 these symptoms returned in an aggravated form. But it was not possible to induce him to take the rest which he required. His last illness was in 1876; and his death occurred on 3 June of that year. Numberless letters of sympathy and resolutions of public bodies attested the remarkable esteem and affection in which he was held. Eadie used to say that there were three things he was fond of—bairns, birds, and books. His collection of books was a very remarkable one, and on his death some of his friends were taking steps to procure it for the use of the church, when a liberal gentleman, Mr. Thomas Biggart of Dalry, purchased it for 2,000l., presented it to the synod, and fitted up a room in the United Presbyterian College, where it now is, under the name of the Eadie Library.
[Rev. J. Brown's Memoir of John Eadie, D.D., LL.D.; Glasgow newspapers, 4 June 1876; Proc. of United Presb. Synod, 1877.]