Kidd, James (DNB00)


KIDD, JAMES (1761–1834), presbyterian divine, born on 6 Nov. 1761, was the youngest son of poor presbyterian parents residing near Loughbrickland, co. Down. His father dying soon after his birth, the family removed to Broughshane, co. Antrim. A friendly farmer sent him to a good classical school, and before long enabled him to open a school of his own at Elginy, a neighbouring farm-town. The school was successful, but Kidd found means to go to Belfast to study English. He next set up a school at Kildownie, twenty miles from Belfast. He stayed there about four years, and married Jane, second daughter of Robert Boyd, farmer, of Carnlea, near Ballymena. Kidd and his wife emigrated to America in April 1784; he soon joined Little, a fellow-countryman, in a school at Philadelphia, and next became usher to Pennsylvania College, where he also studied and corrected for the press. The sight of the Hebrew character set him upon learning the language; he bought a Hebrew bible, and with the help of a Portuguese Jew, and by dint of attending the Jewish synagogue in Philadelphia, acquired some fluency in the language. Oriental tongues became thenceforward his favourite study; he returned to Edinburgh, became a student at the university, read chemistry and anatomy, and joined the theological classes of the university, supporting himself by forming extra-collegiate classes in the oriental languages. In the autumn of 1793 he was appointed professor of oriental languages in Marischal College, Aberdeen. He there completed his theological courses, obtained formal license as a preacher from the presbytery of Aberdeen on 3 Feb. 1796, and was appointed evening lecturer in Trinity Chapel in the Shiprow. On 18 June 1801 he became minister of Gilcomston Chapel of Ease, in the immediate suburbs of Aberdeen, where he preached for above a quarter of a century to one of the most numerous congregations in Scotland. His popularity as a preacher continued undiminished to the end. He was at pains to secure variety and freshness in his preaching, constantly looking out for new illustrations, and keeping up his student's habit of rising at three o'clock every morning. In October 1818 the College of New Jersey conferred on him the honorary degree of D.D. (Hew Scott, Fasti Eccl. Scot. vol. iii. pt. ii. pp. 489–90).

Kidd's powerful preaching and vigorous character overcame violent opposition, and ultimately gained for him an extraordinary popularity. It became an article of popular belief that no one who ever resisted ‘the Doctor’ had prospered. Stories of his courage, benevolence, and eccentricity are numerous. On the accession of George IV he prayed in public that he ‘might be a better king than he had been a prince regent,’ and when the local authorities complained, asked, ‘And where's the man that can't improve?’ Kidd not only lectured on vaccination from the pulpit, but employed a medical man to vaccinate his converts, and finally forced hundreds into his own house and vaccinated them himself. He is said to have given a stimulus to the study of Hebrew in the north of Scotland, but was not a very profound hebraist.

Kidd died on 24 Dec. 1834. By his wife, who died on 4 June 1829, he had two sons and three daughters. He was a strenuous supporter of the Anti-patronage Society, and eagerly advocated the popular election of ministers. He was author of:

  1. ‘A Course of Sermons,’ 8vo, Aberdeen, 1808.
  2. ‘An Essay on the Doctrine of the Trinity: attempting to prove it by reason and demonstration, founded upon duration and space: and upon some of the divine perfections; some of the powers of the human soul; the language of scripture; and tradition among all nations,’ 8vo, London, Aberdeen (printed), 1813.
  3. ‘A Short Treatise on Infant Baptism,’ 8vo, Aberdeen, 1822 (also appended to Peter Edwards's ‘Candid Reasons for Renouncing the Principles of Antipædobaptism,’ 8vo, Aberdeen, 1830).
  4. ‘A Dissertation on the Eternal Sonship of Christ,’ 8vo, Aberdeen, 1822 (new edition, with an introduction, biographical and theological, by R. S. Candlish, 8vo, London, Aberdeen (printed), 1872).
  5. ‘A Catechism for Assisting the Young preparing to Approach the Lord's Table for the first time,’ 18mo, Aberdeen, 1831.
  6. ‘Rights and Liberties of the Church vindicated against Patronages,’ 8vo, Aberdeen, 1834.
  7. ‘Sermons and Skeletons of Sermons,’ 12mo, Aberdeen, 1835.
  8. ‘A FareFarewell Address (Recollections),’ 12mo, Aberdeen, 1835.

He also edited Park's ‘Rights and Liberties of the Church,’ 1834, and wrote the second part of the preface to ‘Memoirs, Diary, and other Writings of Alexander Wood,’ 12mo, Aberdeen, 1818.

[Prof. David Masson in Macmillan's Mag. ix. 143–59; Candlish's biog. introduction as above; article in Aberdeen Evening Gazette, 28 March 1892; Hew Scott's Fasti, v. 491.]

G. G.