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Cunningham, William, Theologian

CUNNINGHAM, WILLIAM, THEOLOGIAN (1805-1861), Scottish theologian and ecclesiastic, was born at Hamilton, in Lanarkshire, on the 2nd of October 1805, and educated at the university of Edinburgh. He was licensed to preach in 1828, and in 1830 was ordained to a collegiate charge in Greenock, where he remained for three years. In 1834 he was transferred to the charge of Trinity College parish, Edinburgh. His removal coincided with the commencement of the period known in Sco.ttish ecclesiastical history as the Ten Years' Conflict, in which he was destined to take a leading share. In the stormy discussions and controversies which preceded the Disruption the weight and force of his intellect, the keenness of his logic, and his firm grasp of principle made him one of the most powerful advocates of the cause of spiritual independence; and he has been generally recognized as one of three to whom mainly the existence of the Free Church is due, the others being Chalmers and Candlish. On the formation of the Free Church in 1843 Cunningham was appointed professor of church history and divinity in the New College, Edinburgh, of which he became principal in 1847 in succession to Thomas Chalmers. His career was very successful, his controversial sympathies combined with his evident desire to be rigidly impartial qualifying him to be an interesting delineator of the more stirring periods of church history, and a skilful disentanglerof the knotty points in theological polemics. In 1859 he was appointed moderator of the General Assembly. He had received the degree of D.D. from the university of Princeton in 1842. He died on the 14th of December 1861. He was one of the founders of the Evangelical Alliance. A theological lectureship at the New College, Edinburgh, was endowed in 1862, to be known as the Cunningham lectureship.

A Life of Cunningham, by Rainy and Mackenzie, appeared in 1871.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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