Robert Gordon (minister)

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Robert Gordon

The Rev. Dr Robert Gordon FRSE (1786–1853) was a Scottish minister and writer. He was a prominent minister in the Disruption of the Free Church of Scotland from the Church of Scotland on18 May 1843.[1]

He was the inventor of a self-registering hygrometer.[2]


He was born 5 May 1786 at Old Crawfordto, Glencairn, Dumfriesshire, where his father was parochial schoolmaster. Aged fifteen, he was appointed parish teacher, his father having died some years before. Gordon decided to enter the ministry, and, after studying for some time at Edinburgh University, migrated in 1809 to Marischal College, Aberdeen, where he proceeded D.D. in November 1823. After holding several tutorships, and acting for a time as master in the Perth Academy, he was licensed by the presbytery of Perth on 27 July 1814, and was ordained to Kinfauns, 12 September 1816.[3]

In February 1821 he was promoted to St. Cuthbert's chapel of ease, on Buccleuch Street in Edinburgh, and in January 1824 to the Hope Park chapel of ease, which was built for him. In September 1825 he moved to the New North Church, collegiate charge, and in 1830 to the High Church. From 1836 till 28 November 1843 he was collector of the Ministers' Widows' Fund.[3] In the 1830s he is listed as living at 27 Lauriston in the Tollcross area of the city.[4]

When the conflict which led to the disruption of the Scottish church began, Gordon sided with the non-intrusionists, and was one of the committee appointed in 1839 to consider the case of the seven suspended ministers of Strathbogie; and during the same year he appeared in the court of session to support the presbytery of Dunkeld, then threatened with censure for disregarding the interdict in the Lathendy case. When the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland met at Edinburgh on 20 May 1841, Gordon was chosen Moderator, both parties uniting in his election; in this capacity he had to pronounce the deposition of the Strathbogie ministers.[3]

Gordon presided at the public meeting in St. Cuthbert's Church, 25 August 1841, and delivered an address. He was one of the deputation which waited on Sir Robert Peel in the following month to state the case for the church. At the general assembly in 1842 Gordon seconded the adoption of the claim of right moved by Thomas Chalmers. During the convocation held in Roxburgh Church in the following November, Gordon presided, and delivered a speech, which has been described as the best apology for the Free Church movement.[3]

On the disruption in May 1843, he left the established church, together with almost the whole of his congregation; from this time he was minister of the Free High Church till his death, after a short illness, in Northumberland Street, Edinburgh, on 21 October 1853. Gordon was a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and of the Royal Scottish Society; he was also one of her majesty's master-printers for Scotland.[3]


Early in life he devoted himself to scientific studies, invented a self-registering hygrometer, and was the author of the articles on 'Euclid,' 'Geography,' and 'Meteorology' in the Edinburgh Encyclopædia. He also wrote introductory essays for The Redeemer's Tears, by John Howe, in 1822, 2nd edit. 1825; for the Mourner's Companion, edited by him, with works by John Flavel and others;[5] and for 'Emmanuel,' by Samuel Shaw, in 1829.[3]

A volume of his sermons was published at Edinburgh in 1825, and after his death a selection appeared under the title, 'Christ as made known to the Ancient Church,' vols. i. and ii. on the historical books of scripture in 1854, and vols. iii. and iv. on the prophetic books in 1855. Reports of some of his speeches were also preserved.[3]


He married Isabella Campbell, by whom he had a large family. Two of his sons, Robert and Donald Campbell, became ministers in the Free Church.[3]



 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Gordon, Robert (1786-1853)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.