Paton, John Brown (DNB12)
PATON, JOHN BROWN (1830–1911), nonconformist divine and philanthropist, son of Alexander Paton by his wife Mary, daughter of Andrew Brown of Newmilns, Ayrshire, was born on 17 Dec. 1830 at Galston, Ayrshire. On his father's side he was descended from James Paton (d. 1684) [q. v.], on his mother's from John Brown (1627?–1685) [q. v.], 'the Christian carrier.' Both his parents, who were brought up in distinct seceding bodies (burgher and anti-burgher), now belonged to the united secession church, Newmilns. The father ultimately joined the congregationalists. From Loudon parish school Paton passed in 1838 to the tuition of his maternal uncle, Andrew Morton Brown, D.D., congregational minister, then at Poole, Dorset. In 1844 Paton was at Kilmarnock, where he met Alexander Russel [q. v.], and came under the spell of James Morison (1816-1893) [q. v.]. Returning in 1844 to his uncle's care, now at Cheltenham, Paton's future career was determined by the influence of Henry Rogers (1806-1877) [q. v.]. Deciding to become a congregational minister, he entered in Jan. 1847 Spring Hill College, Birmingham (now Mansfield College, Oxford), in which Rogers held the chair of literature and philosophy. With his fellow-student, Robert William Dale [q. v. Suppl. I], he formed a close and lifelong friendship. He heard Emerson lecture on the 'Conduct of Life' in the Birmingham town hall, and attended (from 1850) the ministry of Robert Alfred Vaughan [q. v.], to whose 'intense spirituality' he owed much. During his college course he graduated B.A. at London University in 1849; gained the Hebrew and New Testament prize there (1850), and a divinity scholarship (1852) on the foundation of Daniel Williams (1643?-1716) [q. v.], and proceeded M.A. London in 1854, both in classics and in philosophy (with gold medal).
Leaving college in June 1854 he took charge of a mission in Wicker, a parish in the northern part of Sheffield. His ministry was eminently successful; the Wicker congregational church was built in 1855; in addition, the congregation in Garden Street chapel, Sheffield, was revived. In 1861 Cavendish College, Manchester, was started for the training of candidates for the congregational ministry; Paton went weekly from Sheffield to take part in its professorial work. In 1863 the institution was transferred to Nottingham as the Congregational Institute, with Paton as its first principal. Temporary premises were exchanged for a permanent building (1868), and the institute gained increasing reputation during the thirty-five years of Paton's headship. In his management of young men he was an ideal head; no feature of his teaching was more marked than the skill and judgment with which he conducted the work of sermon-making and delivery. In 1882 he was made D.D. of Glasgow University. On his retirement in 1898 his portrait by Amesby Brown, promoted by a committee headed by the archbishop of Canterbury (Temple), was presented on 26 Oct. 1898 by the bishop of Hereford (Percival) to the city of Nottingham, and is now in the Castle Museum (a replica was given to Paton).
Paton's beneficent activity took other than denominational directions. A visit to Kaiserswerth had impressed him with the idea of the co-operation of all creeds to bring the influence of religion to the regeneration of society. In conjunction with Canon Morse, vicar of St. Mary's, Nottingham, he promoted a series of university lectures which led the way to the establishment of the Nottingham University College in 1880. It was due to Paton's suggestion that the bishop of Lincoln (Wordsworth) sent a letter of sympathy in 1872 to the Old Catholics (Marchant, p. 289). Greatly interested in the Inner Mission, founded in 1848 by Dr. Wichern of Hamburg, he took an active share in plans for the raising of social conditions, e.g. home colonisation with small land-holders, the co-operative banks movement, the social purity crusade. Among societies of which he was the founder were the 'National Home Reading Union' (1889), suggested by the account given by Sir Joshua Girling Fitch [q. v. Suppl. II] of 'The Chautauqua Reading Circle' in the 'Nineteenth Century,' Oct. 1888. He also instituted the 'Bible Reading and Prayer Union' (1892); the 'English Land Colonisation Society,' 1892 (now the 'Co-operative Small Holders Association'); the Boys' (1900) and Girls' (1903) Life Brigades; the Young Men's and Young Women's Brigade of Service (1905); and the Boys' and Girls' League of Honour (1906). He was president of the Licensing Laws Information Bureau (1898-1902), and vice-president of the British Institute for Social Service (1904), and of the British and Foreign Bible Society (1907).
Paton, in conjunction with Dale, edited (1858-61) 'The Eclectic Review.' With F. S. Williams, his colleague, he edited a 'Home Mission and Tract Series' (1865). He was a consulting editor (1882–8) of the 'Contemporary Review,' to which, at his urgent request, Lightfoot previously contributed (1874–7) his articles on 'Supernatural Religion' (Marchant, p. 76). In conjunction with Sir Percy William Bunting [q. v. Suppl. II], editor of the 'Contemporary Review,' and the Rev. Alfred Ernest Garvie, he edited a series of papers entitled 'Christ and Civilisation' (1910), his last work.
He died at Nottingham on 26 Jan. 1911, and was buried in the general cemetery, where the service at the graveside (after a nonconformist service in Castlegate chapel) was conducted by the bishop of Hereford (Percival) and the dean of Norwich (Wakefield), now bishop of Birmingham. He married Jessie, daughter of William P. Paton of Glasgow, and was survived by three sons and two daughters; his son, John Lewis, is high master of the Manchester grammar school.
James Marchant, Paton's biographer, gives a bibliography of his publications to 1909, including leaflets. Among them may be noted: 1. 'The Origin of the Priesthood in the Christian Church,' 1877. 2. 'Christianity and the Wellbeing of the People. The Inner Mission of Germany,' 1885; 2nd edit. 1900. 3. 'The Two-fold Alternative . . . Materialism or Religion ... a Priestly Caste or a Christian Brotherhood,' 1889; 4th edit. 1909. 4. 'Criticisms and Essays,' vol. i. 1895; vol. ii. 1897. 5. 'Christ's Miracle of To-day,' 1905. 6. 'The Life, Faith and Prayer of the Church,' 1909, 16mo (four sermons). 7. 'Present Remedies for Unemployment,' 1909.
[James Marchant, J. B. Paton, 1909 (two portraits and autobiographical fragment); University of London General Register, 1860; W. J. Addison, Roll of Graduates, Glasgow, 1898; Who's Who, 1911; The Times, 27 and 30 Jan. and 1 Feb. 1911; R. Cochrane's Beneficent and Useful Lives, 1890, pp. 146-159 (for account of the National Home Reading Union).]