Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Scott, Archibald

SCOTT, ARCHIBALD (1837–1909), Scottish divine and leader of the general assembly of the Church of Scotland, born at Bogton, in the parish of Cadder, Lanarkshire, on 18 Sept. 1837, was sixth and youngest son of James Scott, farmer, by his wife Margaret Brown. From the parish school he passed to the High School of Glasgow, where Mr. James Bryce was a schoolfellow. Proceeding to the University of Glasgow, he graduated B.A. on 25 April 1856, and after taking the prescribed divinity course was licensed as a probationer of the Church of Scotland by the presbytery of Glasgow on 8 June 1859. Having served as assistant in St. Matthew's parish, Glasgow, and at Clackmannan, he was ordained by the presbytery of Perth, to East church, Perth, in Jan. 1860. In 1862 he was translated to Abernethy in the same county. In 1865 he was selected as first minister of a newly constituted charge, Maxwell church, Glasgow, where his vigorous work brought him into note throughout the west of Scotland. In 1867 he joined the Church Service Society, formed in 1865 for the better regulation of public worship. His next move was to Linlithgow in 1869, and thence in 1871 to Greenside, Edinburgh. In 1873 when James Baird [q. v.] made over 500,000l. for the benefit of the Church of Scotland he chose Scott, as a conspicuous example of the 'active and evangelical minister,' to be the clerical member of the governing trustees. Scott thereupon resigned his membership in the Church Service Society, but neither his doctrine, which inclined to be high, nor his form of service underwent any modification. In the controversy which was closed by the Scottish Education Act of 1872, and in the agitation for the abolition of patronage, Scott opposed the more conservative party, headed by Dr. John Cook of Haddington (1807–1874) [q. v.], believing that the Scottish people could be trusted to maintain religious instruction according to 'use and wont' — i.e. the Bible and Shorter Catechism — in the public schools. He sat on the first Edinburgh school board, and acted as chairman from 1878 to 1882. In 1876 the University of Glasgow conferred on him the degree of D.D. In 1890 he was made incumbent of St. George's church in the New Town of Edinburgh. There he held office till his death, working with exemplary fidelity and success.

Although no popular preacher, Scott exerted great influence in the church courts and especially in the general assembly. For a time convener of the assembly's committee on foreign missions, he was appointed in 1887 convener of the general assembly's joint committee and business committee, positions which carried with them the leadership of the general assembly. He remained leader for twenty-one years, to the end of his life. His power was helped to some extent by his position on the Baird Trust, but it was mainly due to the vigour of his personality, his great capacity for business, his wide knowledge of the church, his magnanimity towards opponents, and good humour in debate. Among the main matters with which he dealt effectually, although he did not always escape charges of opportunism, were the enlargement of the membership of the general assembly, church reform, a case of heresy (the Kilmun case), changes in the educational system, and the agitation for amending the formula of clerical subscription to the Westminster confession. In 1896 he was elected moderator of the general assembly; and in 1902 he visited South Africa as one of a delegation to the presbyterian churches there, which was sent out jointly by the Church of Scotland and the United Free Church. The visit confirmed Scott's older desire for the reunion of Scottish presbyterians. From the larger movement inaugurated, or revived, by Bishop Wilkinson of St. Andrews [q. v. Suppl. II] for a reunion which should embrace the episcopalians also, he kept aloof. Scott was the author of the proposal that the Church of Scotland should confer with the general assembly of the United Free Church (24 May 1907). But before the negotiations began Scott's health suddenly gave way, and he died at North Berwick on 18 April 1909, being buried in the Dean cemetery, Edinburgh.

Scott published:

  1. 'Endowed Territorial Work: the Means of Meeting Spiritual Destitution in Edinburgh,' Edinburgh, 1873.
  2. 'Buddhism and Christianity: a Parallel and Contrast,' the Croall lecture, 1889–90, Edinburgh, 1890.
  3. 'Sacrifice: its Prophecy and Fulfilment,' the Baird lecture, 1892-93, Edinburgh, 1894.
  4. 'Our Opportunities and Responsibilities,' the moderator's closing address to the general assembly of the Church of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1896.
  5. 'Lectures on Pastoral Theology.'

Scott was twice married: (1) to Isabella, daughter of Robert Greig, merchant, Perth; by her he had six children, of whom two survive, a daughter and a son, R. G. Scott, Writer to the Signet, Edinburgh; and (2) in 1883 to Marion Elizabeth, daughter of John Rankine, D.D., minister of Sorn, moderator of the general assembly 1883.

A portrait by Sir George Reid, P.R.S.A., painted in 1902, hangs in the offices of the Church of Scotland, 22 Queen Street, Edinburgh; a replica was presented to Scott at the same time. A bronze bust of him, the work of Pittendrigh Macgillivray, R.S.A., was placed in the vestibule of St. George's church by the kirk session and congregation, 1907.

[Private information; Scotsman, 19 April 1909; Layman's Book of the General Assembly, Edinburgh, 1907.]

J. C.