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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 65

Testimonials [James Macgregor - part 2]

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The statements now submitted were sent by the various writers every one for himself, without knowing what was being said by the others. Some of them go beyond the point to which their testimony was requested, viz.—of teaching qualification as known to them thtough personal experience; and have spoken of the distinct matter of the now vacant chair. It is known to them and others that in relation to this matter I have sought no support nor countenance on account of personal friendship, or Church connexion. But their testimonies are very valuable to one in this country who is a comparative stranger, and may have become known to some only as seen of certain angles from the outside.

I have come forward deliberately, on my own responsibility. Of this an intended effect is, to place the matter simply on the footing of qualification, as if I had not belonged to the Presbyterian Church here. The evidence now in hands of members of Synod may by them be regarded as preventing occasion for suspicion of section partidity in appointing to a national University office. The state of philosophical speculation, in Britain and elsewhere, does not [unclear: rarrant] ministers and elders in abnegating their right of personally judging according to evidence, in a matter of which they constitutionally are judges in the providence of God by the law of the land.

The newspaper article appended to this note will show how, apart from the evidence in their hand, the matter can be regarded from the view-point of the general public.

The present Testimonies, under periods, extend with curious completeness over the whole extent of the career to which they refer.

Yours truly,

James Macgregor.

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Professor Duncan McGregor, as our readers are aware, is to succeed Dr. Grabham as Inspector of Lunatic Asylums in New Zealand, and the chair of Logic and Moral Philosophy in the University of Otago will in consequence become vacant. Already the question of a new Professor has become an exciting one, and is being discussed in several lights, and already the names of two candidates have been placed before the public. The importance of the appointment is manifest without any argument, too much care cannot be exercised by the body in whose hands it lies Of all the Arts classes in a University course there is no other in which the mind of the student receives so distinct and permanent a mould as it does in the class of Mental Science. The teacher in that class, if he be a man of any originality or force of character will have disciples as well as scholars, and will leave his mark perhaps on a generation of thinkers. Hence the imperative necessity of selecting a man not only of gifts and attainments but of sound and trustworthy opinions on philosophy and ethics. A dull exponent of the different schools and systems of metaphysical thought is not the person we I want; and neither is a brilliant theorist tainted with the materialism and steeped in the pseudo-philosophy of the time. There are circumstances in connection with the chair that ought to safeguard it from any us worth-intrusion in respect at least of pernicious opinion. From the funds of the Church of Otago and Southland comes the endowment of the chair, and with the Synod of that Church the appointment practically rests. As we understand the matter, the Synod nominates or recommends to the University, and it is usual for the Council to accept the Synod's nomination. At any rate the appointment cannot be made without the consent of the Synod. Not misled by any bigoted restrictiveness, but true to its own broad views of philosophical soundness, it may be expected that such a body will provide at all times a safe teacher for the chair of Logic and Moral Philosophy. That it will also provide an able and accomplished one may, we think, be as confidently assumed. Of course, on one hand, there should be no limitation of the area of choice; but on the other, it is time that we in New Zealand were freeing ourselves from the imagination that in order to get efficient teachers we must go beyond the limits of the colony. We publish elsewhere in this issue a letter bearing on this branch of the question, and we are much in accord with the views of the writer. We believe it is unnecessary to go out of the colony—we believe it is unnecessary to go out of Otago—to find a fitting occupant for the vacant chair. We understand two candidates have announced themselves—Dr James Macgregor of Oamaru, and Dr James Copland of Dunedin. Both are well known the general community, having long occupied and continuing to occupy, prominent public positions.. Dr Copland has given proof of his ethical and dialectic skill in a small volume published some years ago, and re-stating the Christian Evidences and generally stands well as a thinker and debater. Dr. James Macgregor is a man of 'high intellectual mark—it might be more just to say, of striking and singular genius. It is well-known that he held in Scotland a high academic position, having been Professor of Systematic Theology in the New College, Edinburgh. His learning is vast and varied and no one knows better how no make use of it for illustration and argument. Besides the keenest logical faculty he has a wealth of imagination eminently fitted to make metaphysics fascinating to the student mind. In short, it would be difficult to find even beyond the colony any one more richly furnished for the chair in question Dr. Macgregor delivered not long ago in Dunedin a lecture "Regarding Evolutional, which has been published and is an excellent reflex of his mind and example of his method of reasoning. It is certainly an admirable production, and in its scornful strength and eloquence is strikingly suggestive of Thomas Carlyle. We have of course, no right to say that Dr. Macgregor will turn out the most worthy candidate for the Moral Philosophy Chair that may yet be in the choice of the Synod, but we are at least entitled to congratulate the public that one so eminently suitable will be at command when the day of selection arrives.

Southland Times.

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Statements by Former Pupils Now Ministers in this Country.

I.—Referring to the First Period.

1. Rev. Robert Ewan, Limestone Plains, Southland.

I have received your note asking testimony of my personal experience of your qualification for teaching.

I was a member of the first class taught by you after your appointment to the Chair of Systematic Theology in the New College, and can testify that the students of that year were Enthusiastic in their appreciation of your lectures, and that the interest in the work of the class was sustained throughout.

2. Rev. John M'Ara, sometime of Balclutha, now of Gisborne.

I am pleased to know that you are a candidate for the Chair of Mental and Moral Philosophy in the Otago University, and I most gladly bear testimony to your ability as a teacher. It was my privilege to be a student of yours for two sessions in the New College, Edinburgh. I was a member of your Systematic Theology class during the first two years of your occupancy of that Chair, and can well remember the delight with which we listened to the three lectures you gave every week—so fresh and unique in style and so earnestly delivered.

Your anxiety to enable your students, as far as possible, to master the subjects brought under their notice was very marked. Your intercourse with the students was of the most cordial description, and we still remember with gratitude the kindly interest you always took in us individually, both as a teacher and our friend.

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3. Rev. Tames Skinner, M.A., Waitdhuna.

I have much pleasure in bearing testimony to the qualifications of Dr. Macgregor as a teacher. For two sessions, immediately after his appointment to the Chair of Systematic Theology in the New College, Edinburgh, I was a student under him and can speak from personal experience.

As a Professor, Dr. Macgregor's talent and scholarship were universally acknowledged. He had a thorough grip of his subject, and his power of imparting knowledge was marked from the very first. In his lectures he was clear systematic and vigorous, while his written examinations showed that he fully understood the difficulties of the subject and could test the knowledge of his students.

In his class there was always an enthusiasm which, only a powerful thinker and earnest teacher could inspire, and I can testify with the utmost confidence to the benefit which I myself received as a student.

II.—Middle Period.

1. Rev. John M. Sutherland, North Taieri.

In reply to your note saying that you purposed being a candidate for the vacant Chair of Mental and Moral Philosophy—Otago University, I know that I render myself liable to the charge of presumption when I speak of your eminent fitness for the position. I first made acquaintance with your remarkable teaching gifts when I joined the New College, Edinburgh, shortly after your appointment to the Professorship by the General Assembly. Reviewing generally one's old impressions of the character of your work, and looking at it in the light of an extensive experience in teaching, I cannot but see on every hand your distinguished ability in organising, in managing, in teaching, and in exciting interest and enthusiasm among the students in their work per se.

Your manner and bearing were such as secured the esteem and affection of your students. You were ever courteous and easy of access, and your deep and kindly sympathy with the feelings and aspirations of the students awakened in them a thrill of filial regard. Your elegant scholarship and varied page 5 erudition lent a charm to the high themes which wore the subjects of your prelections, while your examinations, oral and written, both on the lectures and text-books, testified to the thorough character of the work done in the class of Systematic Theology.

There are many who like myself are under special obligations for the warm encouragement and judicious advice given by you during our student career. While at Home lately I met" not a few who notably came under your influence and were imbued by your spirit and are continuing the high tradition of the lofty teaching of their Master in Theology. I bear thus very imperfectly the tribute of a friend and pupil to your keen interest in and devotion to education both on its practical and professional side.

2. Rev. Alex. M. Fixlayson, Blueskin.

Understanding that the Rev. Dr. Macgregor, of Oamaru, is a candidate for the Professorship of Mental and Moral Science in the University of Otago, I take the liberty of expressing my utmost confidence that Dr. Macgreger is eminently well qualified to occupy that important position, and that his appointment would prove a great advantage to the cause of higher education in the colony. Dr. Macgregor possesses most extensive information, of which his published writings on various subjects afford ample evidence. He is also a man of wide and varied experience which could he turned to good account in a University Chair. A characteristic excellence of Dr. Macgregor's mind is that of dear and sharp discrimination, with corresponding accuracy of expression, a quality which is of the highest value in the discussion of those psychological and metaphysical questions which lie at the basis of Mental and Moral Science. Having been a student of Theology under Dr. Macgregor, I can testify to the great benefit I derived from his instructions, particularly in respect to the habit of discrimination, and the stimulus to accurate thought and study, which his method of teaching were fitted to create and foster.

I trust the Board of Property, with whom the appointment rests, will take the high qualifications of Dr. Macgregor into their most favourable consideration, together with the circum- page 6 stance that there is one among us, and known to us, who is at least as well qualified to occupy this Chair as any one likely to be obtained by a Commission in Great Britain.

3. Rev. R. R. M. Sutherland, Kaikorai.

As one who sat at your feet during two sessions in the Free Church College, Edinburgh, I have great pleasure in bearing testimony to the very remarkable power you exercise over the minds of your students, leading them up to the high things, down to the deep things, and far afield among the great things of Theological truth and speculation. I have no hesitation in saying that none of my teachers either in the University or in the New College showed your power for making crooked things straight, difficult things easy, and dark things luminous. This I know was also the opinion of many of my fellow students.

III.—Last Period.

1. Rev. John Ferguson, First Church, Invercargill.

I am very glad to know that you intend to offer yourself for the Chair of Mental Science in the Otago University. When I heard that the vacancy was probable, I at once thought of you as the man most likely and most fit. All your students within reach will be ready enough to testify to your qualifications as a teacher. I was in both your classes, and during my entire course in Edinburgh you took a very kindly interest in me. I am able to say that you are an effective teacher. You could invest the driest subject with interest; your statements on matters speculative, historical, or dogmatical, were as a rule, clear, comprehensive and weighty-well worth remembering, and from the way they were put likely to be remembered. It was, I think, the general opinion of your students that you excelled in speculative discussion. You always tried to make them see into things, and if you did not always succeed the fault was not yours.

I do hope you will be nominated for the Chair. You have my warmest support.

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2. Rev. James H. Mackenzie, Wallacetown.

I understand that the Rev. James Macgregor, D.D., Osmaru. is a candidate for the vacant Chair of Mental Science and Moral Philosophy in the Otago University. It was ray good fortune to study under Dr. Macgregor during the usual course in the New College, Edinburgh, and I deem it a pleasure to state the Dr. Macgregor is an able and effective teacher and specially so when occupying a Professor's chair, hie critical power which Dr. Macgregor brought to bear on every subject discoursed on before his class was universally confessed, and his success in interesting the students in the questions discussed was equally acknowledged.

Dr. Macgregor's distinguished career in Mental Philosophy is well known.

3. Rev. Andrew Mackay, Gore.

It was with very great pleasure I learnt of your intention to offer yourself as a candidate for the Chair of Mental Philosophy in the Dunedin University. Now you must pardon me if what I am to say seems flattery; while I must assure you that that is an offence of which I am innocent.

During the four years of my Theological studies you were Professor of Divinity in the Edinburgh College, and in due I tine I came into your classes. As you are aware, in one year we hill men from Ireland, Scotland, America, New Zealand, and the Continent of Europe. With a great number of these I become personally acquainted Naturally, amongst other things discussed, we talked of our Professors, and not a man to whom I spoke of the effects of teaching to which they were subjected, but acknowledged the strong obligations under which you had placed them by the instruction you imparted.

For myself, I have only to add that by your kindness to me when—as a student—I lay at the point of death at Leith, and the lectures I had the pleasure of listening to from you, together with your uniform kindness since then, you have laid me under a debt of gratitude which I am unable to pay.

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Since I left College, and during my ministry in Scotland many opportunities have been taken by me of talking over College days with many of my old fellow students, as well as with others who sat at your feet before me, and every one of them expressed themselves strongly on what was then deemed "The loss of Professor Macgregor"; but what was the Free Church students' loss has been New Zealand's gain. And my earnest hope is that whatever good you may have done as a minister the Synod will put it in your power to do a greater. by placing you where you ought to be, in the Chair of Mental Science in the University of Dunedin.

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Printed at the "North Otago Times" Office, Thames Street, Oamaru.