Harper, James (DNB00)

HARPER, JAMES, D.D. (1795–1879), theologian, was born at Lanark 23 June 1795. His father was a secession minister, a descendant of Sir John Harper of Cambusnethan and Craigcrook, who was sheriff of Lanarkshire in the time of Charles II, and a friend and associate of Archbishop Leighton. Harper was educated at the university of Edinburgh, where, besides the ordinary curriculum of arts, he took several of the medical classes, and thereafter he attended the divinity hall of the secession church, which at that time was held at Selkirk under the charge of Dr. Lawson. In 1818 he was licensed by the united secession presbytery of Lanark, and in 1819 was ordained to the charge of the secession congregation in North Leith. His connection with this large congregation was maintained for sixty years, though latterly the duties were discharged by a colleague. In 1826 he became editor of a journal started under the auspices of members of the united secession church, the 'Edinburgh Theological Magazine,' which he conducted with ability and independence. During the controversy about the British and Foreign Bible Society Harper opposed Dr. Andrew Thomson, the champion of the anti-apocrypha cause. He was called to the chair of the secession synod in 1840. In 1843 he received the honorary degree of D.D. from Jefferson College in the United States. In the same year he was appointed professor of pastoral theology for the secession church, but retained his charge. Harper took an active part in promoting the union of the secession and relief bodies, which was effected in 1848. In that year he was transferred from the chair of pastoral to that of systematic theology. He also promoted a commemoration of the Westminster Assembly in 1843, and of the evangelical alliance which sprang out of that commemoration. In 1850 he was appointed editor of the 'United Presbyterian Magazine,' which took the place of the journals of the Secession and the Relief. In 1860 he became moderator of the united presbyterian synod. He supported the proposal of union between the united presbyterian and free churches, and was an active member of the committee which strove to effect that union, but unsuccessfully, owing to the opposition of Dr. Begg and others. In 1876, when the theological hall of the united presbyterian church was reconstructed, and the period of study changed and enlarged, he was associated with Dr. Cairns in the chair of apologetical and systematic theology, and likewise called to preside over the college. In 1877 the university of Glasgow conferred on him the honorary degree of D.D. He died on 13 April 1879.

Harper made no important contributions to literature, but enjoyed an excellent reputation as a scholar and theologian.

[Andrew Thomson's Memoir of James Harper, D.D., 1880 ; Edinburgh newspapers, 14 April 1879 ; personal knowledge.]

W. G. B.