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MACLAREN, ALEXANDER (1826–1910), baptist divine, born in Glasgow on 11 Feb. 1826, was youngest son of David McLaren (1785–1850) by his wife Mary (Wingate). The son always signed his name McLaren, though the spelling Maclaren is that of all his published works. His father, a business man and lay pastor (1823-36) of a congregation of Scottish baptists, was the pioneer manager (1836-40) of the South Australian Company, his family remaining in Glasgow; his name survives in the Maclaren wharf at Adelaide, and Maclaren Vale. While at the Glasgow High School, where Robert Rainy [q. v. Suppl. II] was his schoolfellow, Maclaren was baptised on 17 May 1840 (McLaren) by James Paterson, minister of Hope Street baptist chapel. He studied at Glasgow University 1838-9 (junior Latin) and 1839-40 (Greek). In 1842, the family having removed to London on the return of the father (1840), he entered Stepney College to study for the baptist ministry under William Harris Murch, D.D. (1784–1859), followed (1844) by Benjamin Davies, LL.D. [q. v.], who put Maclaren on the way to be a good Hebraist. At the London University, to which Stepney was affiliated, he graduated B.A. (Oct. 1845), and took a prize (1845) in the 'first scripture' examination. While at college he was much influenced by Thomas Binney [q. v.], who taught him to preach, and by Edward Miall [q. v.]. He left college (1846) for the ministry at Portland Chapel, Southampton, with a guaranteed stipend of 60l, room for three hundred hearers, and a membership of twenty. His dress was unclerical and his ways unconventional; Spurgeon thought him a 'dangerous man.' His preaching, always brief, had genius and fire, with great self-command. His chapel filled. Never given to pastoral visitation, he devoted much time to Sunday-school work and the preparation of teachers. At the Southampton Athenæum he became a popular lecturer, both on literary and on ecclesiastical topics. His Southampton ministry closed on 20 June 1858, in consequence of a call to Manchester.

On 27 June 1858 he began his ministry at Union Chapel (building now owned by United Free Methodists) in Oxford Road, Manchester. The trust-deed requires the pastor to be a baptist and recognises only 'believers' baptism' by submersion, but opens membership to others; though a convinced baptist, Maclaren's views about all 'ritual' approximated to those of Friends. The building soon proved to be inadequate, and the present Union Chapel (opened 16 Nov. 1869), and the adjoining lecture hall, were erected farther down Oxford Road at a cost of 22,000l.; school premises were added in 1880. From this church proceeded (1872) the People's Institute in Rusholme, and, by way of denominational extension, two churches in Gorton and three missions in poor districts, for Maclaren believed in 'denominational walls ' but not in 'the broken bottles on the top.'

Apart from his personal magnetism, Maclaren's pulpit power, which throughout his Manchester life placed him above all rivalry, is ascribed by his friend Alexander Mackennal, D D. [q. v. Suppl. II], to his 'rare exegetical skill, the power of illuminating his subject by side-lights, and focussing all side-lights on his central theme' (Life of J. A. Macfadyen, D.D., 1891, p. 115). The present Master of Peterhouse, when principal of Owens College, spoke of Maclaren's preaching as 'one of the chief hterary influences in the city of Manchester' (Carlyle). His 'exegetical skill' was based on a minute and accurate philology, to which his valuable version of the Psalms bears witness; he maintained the habit of reading every day, in the originals, a chapter of each Testament. He was a good German scholar, acquainted with the 'higher' criticism, but he deemed the 'most precious elements in the Psalms' to be 'very slightly affected' by 'questions of date and authorship' (preface to Psalms, 1893). While declining numerous invitations to leave Manchester, he preached for the Baptist Missionary Society at Surrey chapel (1864), for the London Missionary Society (same place, 1870), was president of the Baptist Union (1876, and again 1901), and was president of the Baptist World Congress (1905) in London. In 1877 he was made D.D. Edinburgh; in 1902, Litt.D.Manchester; on 23 April 1907, D.D. Glasgow.

In 1865 he made a tour in Italy, and although his strictures on the Roman church were severe, ho believed that 'true and devout souls 'dwelt in that communion. With Cardinal Vaughan [q. v. Suppl. II], when bishop of Salford, Maclaren was on excellent terms, as he was with James Fraser [q. v.], bishop of Manchester, and the Anglican clergy generally. In 1881 reasons of health led to his resting for nearly a year. In 1883 he visited the baptist churches of Australia. He revisited Italy early in 1903.

On 28 June 1903 he retired from active duty, but was made pastor emeritus and occasionally preached; an annuity of 200l. he declined. He left Manchester for Edinburgh in June 1909, presenting his library to the Baptist College, Manchester. At 4 Whitehouse Terrace, Edinburgh, he died on 5 May 1910; a funeral service was held at Union Chapel on 9 May; the remains, after cremation, were buried in Brooklands cemetery near Manchester. His portrait, painted in 1896 by Sir George Reid, is in the Manchester Art Gallery; a replica by Sir George is in the deacons' vestry at Union Chapel. He married on 27 March 1856 his cousin Marion Ann (b. 18 Aug. 1828; d. 21 Dec. 1884), daughter of James Maclaren of Edinburgh; of their five children, a son, Alister Maclaren, and two daughter's survived him.

In addition to single sermons and addresses he published:

  1. 'The Student: his Work and … Preparation,' 1864, 12mo.
  2. 'Sermons preached in Manchester,' series 1-3, 1865.
  3. 'A Spring Holiday in Italy,' 1865.
  4. 'Sermons preached in Union Chapel' [1872], three series.
  5. 'Week-day Evening Addresses … in Manchester,' 1877.
  6. 'The Union Psalter … selected' [1878].
  7. 'The Life of David as reflected in his Psalms,' 1880.
  8. 'The Secret of Power, and other Sermons,' 1882.
  9. 'A Year's Ministry,' 1884; 2nd series, 1885 (reprinted from the 'Christian Commonwealth').
  10. 'Christ in the Heart,' 1886.
  11. 'The Epistles … to … Colossians and Philemon,' 1887 (in 'Expositor's Bible').
  12. 'The Unchanging Christ, and other Sermons,' 2nd edition, 1890.
  13. 'The Holy of Holies,' 1890 (sermons on John xiv.- xvi.).
  14. 'The God of the Amen, and other Sermons,' 1891.
  15. 'After the Resurrection,' 1892 (sermons).
  16. 'The Conquering Christ, and other Sermons,' 1892.
  17. 'Bible Class Expositions,' 1892-4, six vols, (covers Gospels and Acts).
  18. 'The Wearied Christ, and other Sermons,' 1893;
  19. 'Paul's Prayers, and other Sermons,' 1893 (revised).
  20. 'The Psalms,' vols. 1 and 2, 1893; vol. 3, 1894 (in 'Expositor's Bible,' with original translation).
  21. 'Christ's "Musts," and other Sermons,' 1894.
  22. 'The Victor's Crowns,' 1895.
  23. 'The Beatitudes,' 1895.
  24. 'Triumphant Certainties, and other Sermons' [1897].
  25. 'Leaves from the Tree of Life,' 1899; 1906.
  26. 'Last Sheaves, Sermons,' 1903.
  27. 'Expositions of Holy Scripture,' three series, 6 vols, in each, 1904r-10.
  28. 'Pulpit Prayers,' 1907 (taken in shorthand).

Selections from his sermons were made by J. H Martyn in 'Pictures and Emblems' [1885]; by George Coates in 'Creed and Conduct,' 1897; in 'Music for the Soul,' 1897; and by F. A. Aitkins in 'A Rosary of Christian Graces,' 1899.

[University of London, General Register, 1860; brief sketch from the Freeman, 1875; J. C. Carlile, A. Maclaren, the Man and his Message, 1901 (portrait); D. Williamson, Life of A. Maclaren, 1910 (5 portraits); E. T. McLaren, Dr. McLaren, of Manchester, 1911 (six portraits); Baptist Handbook, 1911 (memoir by J. E. R[oberts]; portrait); information from Mr. W. Innes Addison, assistant clerk of senate, Glasgow.]

A. G.