Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hall, James (1755-1826)

HALL, JAMES, D.D. (1755–1826), presbyterian divine, was born at Cathcart, near Glasgow, on 5 Jan. 1755. His parents belonged to the middle class, and were zealous adherents of the secession church. From his father, who died in his infancy, was obtained the feu on which was built the meeting-house of Shuttle Street, afterwards Greyfriars, Glasgow, the earliest secession congregation in the city. His mother presented the seceders of Kirkintilloch with land which she owned there for a meeting-house and manse, and to her James and his brother Robert, afterwards minister of the secession church in Kelso, owed their early training. Hall studied in the university of Glasgow, under Professors Young, Jardine, and Dr. Thomas Reid, and finally proceeded to the theological course under John Brown (1722–1787) of Haddington [q. v.] In the spring of 1776 he was licensed to preach by the associate presbytery of Glasgow. An offer of a good living in the established church was rejected with scorn, and on 16 April 1777 he was ordained pastor of the associate congregation at Cumnock. A call to the congregation of Wells Street, London, in 1780 was set aside by the synod, which then decided calls to ordained ministers; but on 15 June 1786 Hall was translated to the congregation of Rose Street, which had seceded from the first associate congregation in Edinburgh. In 1800 he declined a call to Manchester.

Hall took a high place as a preacher and minister, while his general intelligence and polished manners gave him good standing in Edinburgh society. The meeting-house in Rose Street was filled to overflowing, and a more spacious church was erected in Broughton Place in 1820–1. In 1792 a pulpit gown was presented to him, but the use of such robes was distasteful to strict seceders, and a few of his hearers left. He died on 20 Nov. 1826, and was buried in the New Calton cemetery, in a tomb purchased by the congregation. A marble tablet was placed in the lobby of the church.

From 1786 onwards Hall was always conspicuous on the side of progress in the religious movements of his time. His knowledge of business, ready utterance, and combination of suavity and dignity made him a useful member of ecclesiastical courts. He encouraged bible and missionary societies, and was chairman of the committee which, on 8 Sept. 1820, brought about a union among seceders after a separation of more than seventy years.

[History of Broughton Place Church, 1872, including biographical sketch appended to funeral sermon on Hall by the Rev. John Brown; private information.]

J. T.