Nisbet, Charles

Nisbet, Charles D.D., a noted Presbyterian divine and educator, was born at Haddington, Scotland, Jan. 21, 1736. His father's worldly circumstances were so straitened that he was- barely able to pay the expense of fitting Charles for college; but the youth surmounted all difficulties, and finally entered the University of Edinburgh in 1752, supporting himself as a private tutor in a gentleman's family. After leaving the university he passed to the divinity hall, where he remained six years, depending for a living upon his contributions to some of the periodicals of the day. He was licensed to preach the Gospel by the presbytery of Edinburgh on Sept. 24, 1760, and was made pastor of a Church in the Gorbals of Glasgow; but after remaining. there two years he received a call from Montrose, which he thought proper to accept. He was ordained on May 17, 1764, by the Presbytery of Brechin, within whose bounds the Church of which he became pastor was situated. He was settled as a co-pastor with the Rev. John Cooper; but the senior pastor was so old and infirm that nearly all the labor devolved upon the junior colleague. Nesbet engaged with great zeal and alacrity in his work, and very soon intrenched himself in the confidence and good-will of his large and intelligent congregation. As a divine he sided with the orthodox body of Scotch Presbyterians — by no means a popular class; yet he enjoyed the universal respect of his associates, and counted many friends even among the Moderates (q.v.). In April, 1784, Dr. Nisbet was chosen president of the newly founded Dickinson College, at Carlisle, Pa., and reached Philadelphia with his family on June 9, 1785. Almost immediately after he had entered on the duties of his office, both himself and several of his family were attacked by a fever, which threatened for some time a fatal termination. The doctor finally resolved to return to his native country, and the trustees consented with great regret and reluctance to accept his resignation of the office. As the season was unfavorable for crossing the ocean, he determined to delay his voyage till spring; and before that time he had so far recovered his health and spirits that he was not unwilling to return to the presidential chair. Accordingly, on May 10, 1786, he was unanimously chosen again to the office, and he resumed his labors with great alacrity. He immediately commenced four different courses of lectures: one on logic; another on the philosophy of the mind; a third on moral philosophy; and a fourth on belles-lettres, including a view of the principal Latin and Greek classics. In addition to this, he delivered a course of lectures on systematic theology, for the special benefit of those students who had in view the Christian ministry, and he shared equally with Dr. Davidson the labor of supplying the pulpit of the Presbyterian Church in Carlisle. Dr. Nisbet died Jan. 18, 1804. He was remarkable for integrity, simplicity, frankness, and disinterestedness. His mind was of a very superior order; his facility in acquiring almost unparalleled; his memory suffered nothing to escape from it; his wit was alike effective and inexhaustible. His sermons were rich in evangelical truth, logically and perspicuously presented; but his manner was not specially attractive. He had great individuality, and his character, in all its peculiarities, is not likely to be reproduced. Dr. Nisbet's posthumous works were published about 1806, and his Memoirs, by Dr. Samuel Miller, appeared in 1840. See Duyckinck, Encyclop. of Amer. Lit. 2:59; N. Y. Observer, Sept. 27, 1866.

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