John Bonar

(1721—1761) Church of Scotland minister

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David Hume (1711—1776) philosopher and historian

Henry Home (1696—1782) judge and writer

Hugh Blair (1718—1800) Church of Scotland minister and literary critic


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John Bonar was born in Clackmannan, Scotland on 4 November 1722 and died in Perth on 21 December 1761. He attended school in Torphichen, Linlithgowshire, and matriculated at Edinburgh University on 27 April 1742, at rather a late age for boys attending university in eighteenth-century Scotland. He studied divinity and was ordained minister of the parish of Cockpen, near Dalkeith, on 22 August 1746. In 1756 he was called to the collegiate church of Perth. He was noted for a strong, evangelical style. He published some sermons, but his best-known publication was an attack on David Hume and Henry Home, Lord Kames, An Analysis of the Moral and Religious Sentiments containing in the Writings of Sopho and David Hume, Esq. (1755). This work appeared while the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland was considering excommunicating Hume and Kames. If nothing else, Bonar exhibits a good knowledge of their writings, though his adverse summaries of their works are highly tendentious. His attitude towards them seems ambivalent, as if he wished to acknowledge their right to publish their views, but at the same time wanted to have their work suppressed and the authors vilified as dangerous heretics. An answer written by Hugh Blair and others, Observations on a Pamphlet, intitled An Analysis of the Moral and Religious Sentiments …, appeared shortly after Bonar's publication. Bonar seems by this time to have lost interest in the controversy. During the rest of his short life he published one more sermon.

From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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