James Ferguson

(1621—1667) Church of Scotland minister

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James Fergusson died in Kilwinning, Ayrshire on 13 March 1667. A descendant of the landed family of Fergussons of Kilkerran, Ayrshire, Fergusson received his university education at Glasgow, graduating from Glasgow University in 1638. In June 1643 Fergusson was ordained minister of Kilwinning in Ayrshire, a post which he subsequently held for more than twenty years. In 1661 Fergusson was invited to take up an appointment as Professor of Divinity at Glasgow University. However, as Wodrow notes in volume 3 of his Analecta (1843), the patron of the parish of Kilwinning, the Earl of Eglinton: ‘was so disoblidged at this, that it was never put in execution’ (, 1843, vol.3, p.41). As a result, Fergusson did not in fact take up the appointment and remained in Kilwinning for the rest of his life. The Earl of Eglinton's ‘disobligement’ at Glasgow's offer to Fergusson was a result of the high regard in which the earl held Fergusson. By all accounts, Fergusson was very highly esteemed during his lifetime both for his piety and his extensive learning. Wodrow, for example, reports a typical assessment by Fergusson's successor at Kilwinning, Ralf Rogers, which indicates that Fergusson was a very high achiever in intellectual terms: ‘[Fergusson was] a man of as feu infirmitys as any person that ever [I] kneu. He was much admired for his great and singular wisdome and prudence, being reckoned one of the wisest men in a nation, most fitt to be a counsellor to any Monarch in Europ’ (, 1843, vol.3, p.41). Fergusson's philosophical acumen and skill in debate are accurately reflected in another of Wodrow's records:He was one day at the Earl of Eglington's table, where were severall Noblmen and they were fearfully running doun godly and faithfull Ministers, because they alleged they wer guilty of such and such things. The Noblman enquired at Mr Ferguson what he thought of what they wer nou saying. He answered, ‘what [you would] inferr from Ministers being guilty of such and such faults is no good consequence, nor any way consistent with the rules of good logick to say, because some men that are Ministers, are guilty of such faults, therefor ther must be no Ministers in the Church: Even as I would nou argue against you that are Noblmen, and say, Such a Noblman there is guilty of great swearing and profaning the name of God … therefor there must be no Noblmen in the land!’ (, 1843, vol. 3, pp. 43–4)During the conflict between the resolutioners and the protestors in the 1650s Ferguson supported the former side vigorously. He is recorded as representing the resolutioners' interest against the protestors on at least one occasion, at a debate or ‘conference’ held between the two parties. On that occasion, Wodrow reports: ‘the Protestors appointed Mr [Ralf] Rodgers on their side to conferr and debate with that great and worthy man, Mr James Ferguson; and … Mr Rodgers nottably acquitt himself, and nottably held to Mr Ferguson, and … Mr Ferguson did not gain any ground at Mr Rodger's hand’ (, 1843, vol.3, p.45). Fergusson's support for the resolutioners may have harmed his reputation at the time and Wodrow records that Fergusson later regretted his position in this debate: ‘He appeared too much for the Publick Resolutions. He seemed to regrate this … at his death [he] said “Dear Brother, we wer all wrong”’ (, 1843, vol.3, p.41).


From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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