Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Henderson, Ebenezer (1784-1858)
HENDERSON, EBENEZER, the elder (1784–1858), Icelandic missionary, youngest son of George Henderson, agricultural labourer, by Jean Buchanan, was born at The Linn, in the parishes of Saline and Dunfermline, on 17 Nov. 1784, and baptised in Queen Anne Street Church on 21 Nov. He was first educated at Dunduff school and then at Dunfermline; but after three years and a half schooling, he went in 1794 to work with his brother John, a clock and watch maker. He afterwards kept cows, and in 1799 became a boot and shoe maker. He entered Robert Haldane's seminary, Edinburgh, in 1803, and on the completion of his theological studies was, on 27 Aug. 1805, appointed to proceed to India as a companion missionary to the Rev. John Paterson, his lifelong friend. At this period the East India Company did not permit the entrance of missionaries into India. Paterson and Henderson therefore sailed for Denmark, with the intention of landing at Serampore, then a Danish settlement. Finding a difficulty in procuring a passage to India, they began on 15 Sept. 1805 to preach in Copenhagen, and ultimately, giving up all thoughts of Asia, devoted themselves to founding Bible societies in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and Russia. In January 1806 Henderson was settled as a minister at Elsinore, and began teaching the English language to young people. By 1807 he had learnt to preach in Danish, and had translated into that language the ‘Memoir of Catharine Haldane,’ a small work which became very popular. The bombardment of Copenhagen, in September 1807, rendered further residence at Elsinore impossible, and he removed to Gothenburg in Sweden, where he ministered to the Danish prisoners, and translated for their use a tract called ‘James Covey.’ In 1808 he travelled in Sweden, Lapland, and Finland, in the latter country running great risk of being captured by the Russian army. He had now become a competent scholar in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, German, Danish, and Swedish. After a visit to England in 1810 he returned to his work, and in the following year brought out ‘An Exposition of the Prophecies of Daniel, by the late Rev. Magnus Frederick Ross, translated from the German.’ On 6 Oct. 1811 he formed the first congregational church in Sweden. For two years (1812–13) he was in Copenhagen superintending a translation of the New Testament into Icelandic, and in 1814 he helped to establish the Danish Bible Society. In June 1814 he proceeded to Iceland, where he distributed the testaments and paid visits to many parts of the island, an account of which he published in 1818. In 1816 he was elected a corresponding member of the Scandinavian Literary Society, and received from Kiel a diploma of doctor in philosophy. In October he went to St. Petersburg, where, under the patronage of the Emperor Alexander, he printed the Bible in upwards of ten languages or dialects. He returned to England in 1817, and on 18 May 1818 married Susannah, second daughter of John Kennion. On 28 Sept. he set out on his third journey, and visited in succession Hanover, Schleswig, Russia, Astracan, and Tiflis. While still abroad he resigned his connection with the British and Foreign Bible Society in January 1822, owing to a disagreement about a translation of the Scriptures which had been made in Turkish, and of which he did not approve. Returning to Russia he resided in St. Petersburg till 1825, when, through the interest of the Greek church, the Bible Society was interdicted by imperial authority. Henderson came back to England on 5 July 1825. He took charge in November of the missionary students at Gosport, and removed with them to Hoxton College, where he was resident and theological tutor from April 1826 to 1830. In the latter year he removed to Canonbury, and was tutor of Highbury College until 1850, when, on the amalgamation of Homerton, Coward, and Highbury Colleges, he retired on a pension. He retained his office as honorary secretary to the Religious Tract Society and to the British Society for Propagating the Gospel among the Jews, and was minister of Sheen Vale independent chapel at Mortlake (July 1852–September 1853). He died at Mortlake on 16 May 1858, and was buried in Abney Park cemetery.
He was the author and editor of the following works: 1. ‘A Dissertation on H. Mikkelson's Translation of the New Testament,’ Copenhagen, 1813. 2. ‘Iceland; or the Journal of a Residence in that Island,’ Edinburgh, 1818, 2 vols. 3. ‘An Appeal to the British and Foreign Bible Society on the Turkish New Testament,’ 1824. 4. ‘The Turkish New Testament incapable of Defence,’ 1825. 5. ‘Biblical Researches and Travels in Russia,’ 1826. 6. ‘Elements of Biblical Criticism and Interpretation, translated from the Latin of Ernesti, Keil, Beck, and Morus,’ 1827. 7. ‘The Great Mystery of Godliness; or Sir Isaac Newton and the Socinians foiled,’ 1830. 8. ‘A Theological Dictionary, by C. Buck, enlarged by E. Henderson,’ 1833; another edit. 1841. 9. ‘Æ. Gutbirii Lexicon Syriacum,’ 1836. 10. ‘The Book of Isaiah Translated, with a Commentary,’ 1840. 11. ‘Baptism and the Bible Society,’ 1840. 12. ‘On the Conversion of the Jews,’ a lecture, 1843. 13. ‘The Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets,’ translated from the Hebrew, 1845; another edit. 1858. 14. ‘The Vaudois, a tour to the Valleys of Piedmont,’ 1845. 15. ‘The Book of Jeremiah and that of the Lamentations,’ translated, 1851. 16. ‘Divine Inspiration,’ 1847; third edit. 1852. 17. ‘The Book of Ezekiel,’ translated, 1855. 18. ‘The Book of Isaiah,’ translated, 1857. He also edited the following works by Albert Barnes: ‘Job,’ 1851; ‘Revelations,’ 1852; ‘The Way of Salvation,’ 1855; ‘Essays on Science and Theology,’ 1856. By J. M. Good: ‘The Book of Psalms,’ 1854. By G. B. Cheevers: ‘W. Cowper,’ 1856. By M. Stuart: ‘The Epistle to the Romans,’ in conjunction with E. P. Smith. He also printed charges, lectures, and sermons.
[Memoir of Ebenezer Henderson, by Thalia S. Henderson, 1859, with portrait; Congregational Year-Book, 1859, p. 200; John Paterson's Book for Every Land, 1858, p. 1 et seq.]