Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Thomson, Andrew Mitchell

THOMSON, ANDREW MITCHELL (1779–1831), Scottish divine, second son of the Rev. John Thomson, D.D., by his first wife, Helen Forrest, was born at Sanquhar, Dumfriesshire, where his father was minister, on 11 July 1779. Educated at the parish school, Markinch, Fife, whither his father had moved, and at Edinburgh University, which he left in 1800, he was licensed to preach by the presbytery of Kelso; but before receiving a clerical charge he was schoolmaster at Markinch. In 1802 he was appointed parish minister at Sprouston, Roxburghshire. In 1808 he was transferred to the East Church, Perth; in 1810 to New Greyfriars, Edinburgh; and in 1814, on the opening of the church, to St. George's of that city. Here he remained until his death.

When the Edinburgh town council presented him to Greyfriars there was strong opposition, but immediately after his appointment he became one of the most powerful of the Edinburgh preachers. He insisted on high efficiency in the singing at his church, and was largely responsible for an improved psalmody in Scottish church worship. He issued a new set of tunes, some of which he composed himself, ‘Redemption’ and ‘St. George's, Edinburgh,’ being among them. He belonged to the evangelical section of the church of Scotland, and was strongly opposed to the interference of the state in matters spiritual. For the last few years of his life he was indisputably leader of the evangelical party. In the general assembly he identified himself with the reformers, and took part in the debates against pluralities in livings and the abuses of lay patronage. Like Dr. Chalmers, his ecclesiastical successor, he was keenly interested in social questions. He was one of the pioneers of the modern education movement, and founded in Edinburgh a weekday school, known as ‘Dr. Andrew Thomson's.’ He also took a prominent part in the agitation against slavery in the British colonies, advocating immediate and not gradual abolition. His public spirit is aptly illustrated by the fact that, when an alarm was spread that the French had landed, he gathered the Sprouston volunteers and marched into Kelso at their head.

He was mainly responsible for the famous ‘Apocrypha controversy,’ which he originated in 1827 by surrendering his membership of the British and Foreign Bible Society, and assailing it in the pages of his ‘Christian Instructor’ for having bound up the Apocrypha with the Bible. He declined the offer of the degree of D.D. from the Columbia College, New York, in 1818, but accepted the same honour when Aberdeen University offered it in 1823.

He died suddenly in the street, when returning from a meeting of presbytery, on 9 Feb. 1831. Dr. Chalmers preached one of his funeral sermons, and he was buried in St. Cuthbert's churchyard, Edinburgh. In 1802 he married Jane Carmichael, who survived him and had by him seven children. His eldest son, John Thomson (1805–1841), is separately noticed.

He edited and wrote in the ‘Christian Instructor,’ which he started in Edinburgh in 1810, and he contributed to Brewster's ‘Edinburgh Encyclopædia,’ of which he was part proprietor. His chief works are: 1. ‘A Catechism for the Instruction of Communicants,’ Edinburgh, 1808. 2. ‘Lectures Expository and Practical,’ 2 vols. Edinburgh, 1816. 3. ‘Lovers of Pleasure more than Lovers of God,’ Edinburgh, 1818; edited, with an introduction, by Dr. Candlish, Edinburgh, 1867. 4. ‘Sermons on Infidelity,’ London, 1821. 5. ‘A Collection in Prose and Verse for Use in Schools,’ Edinburgh, 1823. 6. ‘Sermons on Hearing the Word,’ Edinburgh, 1825. 7. ‘The Scripture History,’ Bristol, 1826. 8. ‘Scripture History of the New Testament,’ London, 1827. 9. ‘Sermons on various Subjects,’ Edinburgh, 1829. 10. ‘Sermons and Sacramental Exhortations,’ Edinburgh, 1831. 11. ‘The Doctrine of Universal Pardon,’ Edinburgh, 1830.

[Life by J. L. Watson; Hew Scott's Fasti Ecclesiæ, vol. i. pt. i. p. 74, pt. ii. p. 473; art. by Dr. McCrie in Blackwood's Magazine, 1831, i. 577; Life of Dr. Chalmers by Dr. Hanna.]

J. R. M.