James Hamilton (1814–1867)

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James Hamilton (November 27, 1814 – November 24, 1867) was a Scottish minister and a prolific author of religious tracts.


Born in Paisley, Scotland, seven miles west-southwest of Glasgow, Hamilton was the eldest son of William Hamilton, a preacher and religious author of local renown.[1] James Hamilton was therefore destined from an early age to enter the ministry,[1] and to that end he studied at the universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. He enjoyed courses on the natural sciences, particularly chemistry and botany, and contemplated a career in one of those fields.[1] Although Hamilton enjoyed poetry, he once read a novel by Sir Walter Scott, had the following reaction:

No sooner had he entered the charmed circle than the spell of the mighty magician was upon him, and every object that had hitherto appeared commonplace and tame was invested with fresh beauty and grandeur. He saw the old world flooded with a new sunshine, and beheld its inhabitants as he had never seen them before. But when he recovered breath, which he did only at the close of the work, and found himself restored to the world of every-day life, he asked himself if all this was right, but found himself obliged to answer in the negative. His delight had resembled the intoxication of an opium dream, and was therefore sinful, and worthy of condemnation. Such was his conclusion after a close and severe retrospection, in consequence of which he never perused another novel.[1]

He became assistant to Robert Smith Candlish at St. George's Church in Edinburgh, in 1838, and upon finishing his college studies, he "commenced his clerical life as assistant minister in the small secluded parish of Abernyte, in Perthshire".[1] Early in 1841, he relocated to Roxburgh Church in Edinburgh, and in July of that year became pastor of the National Scotch Church, Regent Square, London, where he would remain until his death.[1] In 1849 he became editor of the Presbyterian Messenger, and in 1864 editor of Evangelical Christendom, the organ of the Evangelical Alliance. He was an incessant literary worker and the author of some of the most widely circulated books of his day.[1] His best known works were: Life in Earnest (London, 1845), of which 64,000 copies had been sold before 1852; The Mount of Olives (1846); The Royal Preacher (1851), a homiletical commentary on Ecclesiastes; and Our Christian Classics (4 vols., 1857–59). Following his death, his collected works were published in London (6 vols., 1869–73); and his Select Works appeared in New York (4 vols., 1875). In addition to his religious writings, Hamilton continued to have an interest in botany throughout his life, publishing several articles in journals on the subject.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Robert Chambers, Thomas Thomson, A Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Scotsmen, Volume 3 (1875), p. 214-216.
  2. ^ Ray Desmond, Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturists (1994), p. 311.


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