Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 07.djvu/139

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Bruce
Bruce
133

bers at Dublin in 1733, and was reprinted in 1751 as the first of a collection of ‘Scarce and Valuable Tracts and Sermons’ by Abernethy.

[Essay on the Character of the late Mr. W. Bruce in a Letter to a Friend, Dublin, 1755 (by Gabriel Cornwall, dared ll Aug.; prefatory letter to Stewart by James Duchal, D.D.). reprinted, Monthly Rev. vols. xiii. xiv.; Armstrong's Appendix to James Martineau's Ordination Service, 1829. pp, 64, 96; Hincks's Notices of W. Bruce and Contemporaries in Chr. Teacher, January 1843 (also issued separately); Reid's Hist. Presb. Ch. in Ireland (Killen), 1867, ii. 405, iii. 234, 289 sq.]

A. G.


BRUCE, WILLIAM (1757–1841), presbyterian minister, the second son of Samuel Bruce, presbyterian minister, of Wood Street, Dublin, and Rose Rainey of Magherafelt, co. Derry, was born in Dublin on 30 July 1757. He entered Trinity College, Dublin, in 1771. In 1775 he obtained a scholarship, and afterwards graduated A.B., supporting himself by private tuition. In 1776 he went to Glasgow for a session, and in 1777 to the Warrington Academy for two years. Bruce, in presbyterian matters, favoured the looser administration prevalent among his English brethren. His first settlement was at Lisburn. He was ordained on 4 Nov. 1779 by the Bangor presbytery. Bruce was long enough at Lisburn to acquire considerable reputation as a public man. His father's old congregation at Strand Street, Dublin, called him on 24 March 1782 as colleague to John Moody, D.D., on the death of Thomas Plunket, great-grandfather of the present (1886) archbishop of Dublin. Bruce took part in the volunteer movement of 1782, serving in the ranks, but declining a command. At the national convention which met in November 1783, in the Rotunda at Dublin, he sat as delegate for the county of the town of Carrickfergus, and was the last surviving member of this convention. In 1786 he received the degree of D.D. from Glasgow. His Dublin congregation was increased by the accession to it, on 25 or 29 March 1787, of the Cooke Street congregation, with its ex-minister, William Dunne, D.D. In October 1789 he was called to First Belfast, as colleague to James Crombie, D.D. (1730-1790). This call he did not accept, but on Crombie’s death he was again called (11 March 1790) to First Belfast, and at the same time elected principal of the Belfast Academy. His Dublin congregation released him on 18 March. In the extra-synodical Antrim presbytery, to which his congregation belonged, he was a commanding spirit; his broad view of the liberty which may consist with presbyterian discipline is seen in the supplement ‘by a member of the presbytery of Antrim’ to the Newry edition, 1816, 12mo, of Towgood’s ‘Dissenting Gentleman's Letters.’ In practice he did not favour the presence of lay-elders in church courts. His congregation, which comprised many of the best families of Belfast, increased rapidly, and it was necessary to provide additional accommodation in his meeting-house. He had a noble presence and a rich voice. He drew up for his congregation a hymn-book in 1801 (enlarged 1818 and still in use), but while he paid great attention to congregational singing he resisted, in 1807, the introduction of an organ, not, however, on religious grounds. He broke the established silence of presbyterian interments by originating the custom of addresses at the grave. The Belfast Academy chiefly owed its reputation to him. But though Bruce, from 1802, delivered courses of lectures on history, belles lettres, and moral philosophy, his main work as principal, from 1 May 1790, when he entered on his duties, till he resigned his post in November 1822, was that of a school-master. He taught well, and ruled firmly, not forgetting the rod; early in his career the famous barring out of 12 April 1792, which roused the whole town, tried his mettle and proved his mastery. In the troubles of 1797 and 1798 Bruce enrolled himself as a private in the Belfast Merchants' Infantry; he despatched his family to Whitehaven; and regularly occupied his pulpit throughout the disturbances. Many of the liberal presbyterians had been active in urging the insurrection; hence Bruce's attitude was of signal importance. His influence with the government in 1800 was exerted to secure adequate consideration for the presbyterians at the Union. At this period) Bruce’s advice was much sought by the leaders of the general synod. In November 1805 there were negotiations for the readmission of his presbytery to the synod without subscription, but in May following the idea was abandoned as inopportune. Bruce penned the address presented to George IV at Dublin (1821) in the name of the whole presbyterian body. He sought no personal favours; at the death of Robert Black [q. v.] in 1817 the agency for the reqium donum was ooen to him, but he forwarded the claims of another, The Widows’ Fund, founded in 1751, through the exertions of his granduncle, William Bruce (1702-1755) [q. v.], was greatly improved by his efforts and judgment. Protestants of all sections welcomed his presence on the committee of the Hibernian Bible Society, aninstitution which he recommended in letters (signed ‘Zuinglius’) to the ‘Newry Telegraph’