1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Alexander Gerard

Alexander Chalmers, in General Biographical Dictionary (1812-17) 15:411-12.



ALEXANDER GERARD, an eminent divine of the church of Scotland, eldest son of the rev. Gilbert Gerard, minister of Chapel-Garioch, in Aberdeenshire, was born there Feb. 22, 1728; he was educated partly at the parish school of Foveran, whence he was removed to the grammar-school at Aberdeen, after his father's death. Here he made such rapid progress, that he was entered a student in Marischal-college when he was but twelve years of age. He devoted his first four years to the study of Greek, Latin, the mathematics, and philosophy, and was at the close of the course admitted to the degree of M.A. He now commenced his theological studies, which he prosecuted at the universities of Aberdeen and Edinburgh. Immediately on the completion of his twentieth year, in 1748, he was licensed to preach in the church of Scotland, and in 1750 was chosen assistant to Mr. David Fordyce, professor of philosophy in the Marischal college at Aberdeen, and in two years afterwards, upon the death of the professor, Gerard was appointed to succeed him. Here, after a short time, the department assigned to Mr. Gerard was confined to moral philosophy and logic, the duties of which he discharged with conscientious and unwearied diligence, and with equal success and reputation. He was a member of a literary society at Aberdeen, consisting of Drs. Blackwell, Gregory, Reid, Campbell, Beattie, &c. which met very regularly every fortnight during the winter, when the members communicated their sentiments with the utmost freedom, and received mutual improvement from their literary discussions; and hence originated those well-known works, Reid's Inquiry into the Human Mind; Gregory's Comparative View; Gerard's Essay on Genius; Beattie's Essay on Truth; and Campbell's Philosophy of Rhetoric. In 1759 Mr. Gerard was ordained a minister of the church of Scotland, and in the following year he was appointed professor of divinity in the Marischal college, and about the same period he took his degree of D. D. He continued to perform the several duties attached to his offices till 1771, when he resigned the professorship, together with the church living, and was preferred to the theological chair in the university of King's-college, a situation which he held till his death, which happened on his birth-day, Feb. 22, 1795. Dr. Gerard's attainments were solid rather than brilliant, the effect of close and almost incessant study, and a fine judgment. He had improved his memory to such a degree, that he could in little more than an hour get by heart a sermon of ordinary length. He was author of An Essay on Taste, which was published in 1759, and which obtained for him the prize of a gold medal, from the society of Edinburgh. This work was afterwards much enlarged, and reprinted in 1780. His Dissertations on the Genius and Evidences of Christianity, published in 1766, are well known and highly appreciated; so also are his Essay on Genius, and his sermons in 2 volumes. In 1799 his son and successor, Dr. Gilbert Gerard, gave the world a posthumous work of much merit, which had been left among the papers of his father, entitled The Pastoral Care, which made a part of his theological course of lectures. As a clergyman the conduct of Dr. Gerard was marked with prudence, exemplary manners, and the most punctual and diligent discharge of his ministerial duties; his sermons were simple and plain, adapted to the common class of hearers, but so accurate as to secure the approbation of the ablest judges. As a professor of divinity, his great aim was not to impose by his authority upon his pupils any favourite system of opinions; but to impress them with a sense of the importance of the ministerial office; to teach them the proper manner of discharging all its duties; and to enable them, by the knowledge of the scriptures, to form a just and impartial judgment on controverted subjects. Possessing large stores of theological knowledge, he was judicious in selecting his subjects, happy and successful in his manner of communicating instruction. He had the merit of introducing a new, and in many respects a better plan of theological education, than those on which it had formerly been conducted. Having a constant regard to whatever was practically useful, rather than to unedifying speculations, he enjoined no duty which he was unwilling to exemplify in his own conduct. In domestic life he was amiable and exemplary; in his friendships steady and disinterested, and in his intercourse with society, hospitable, benevolent, and unassuming; uniting to the decorum of the Christian pastor, the good breeding of a gentleman, and the cheerfulness, ability, and ease of an agreeable companion.