John Macleod (1872-1948), was born of Free Church parentage in Fort William, Argyll. He was schooled in his home town, and – from the age of thirteen – at the Old Grammar School of Aberdeen, where he was Dux in his final year (1887). He studied classics with distinction at Aberdeen University 1887-90, graduating with first class honours at the age of just eighteen years. He then spent a year at New College, Edinburgh, studying divinity. There followed two years on the staff of the Nicolson Public School in Stornoway, Lewis, which enabled him to become fluent in Gaelic, of which he had had only a rudimentary knowledge.
He resumed divinity in 1894 at the Belfast Theological College of the Irish Presbyterian Church, having meanwhile affiliated himself with the Free Presbyterian Church, for he was one of the Free Church students who sided with the Free Presbyterian secession after the passing of the Free Church Declaratory Act of 1892. Ever the brilliant student, Macleod’s final examinations at Belfast saw him take first place in Ecclesiastical History and Biblical Criticism.
Licensed by his Church’s Northern Presbytery in 1897, John Macleod’s first charge was Lochbroom, Ullapool, in Ross and Cromarty (1897-1901), where he met and married (April, 1898) Margaret Macleod Matheson, who would be his help-meet for thirty-four years. He was then called to Kames in Argyll, where he ministered for five years from the beginning of 1901.Towards the end of his time at Kames, Macleod was amongst those sent to Canada to minister to the churches there; the trip included some time in the United States, and a memorable visit to Princeton Seminary, where they met B. B. Warfield.
When the remnant Free Church of Scotland, after the union in 1900 between the United Presbyterians and the Free Church majority, repealed the Declaratory Act of 1892, Macleod and several colleagues felt it their duty to return to their old church, into which they were admitted in December 1905.
At the General Assembly in 1906 John Macleod was appointed Professor of Greek and New Testament Exegesis in the Free Church College, Edinburgh. During his time there, he ably represented his Church in delegations to South Africa (1907) and the Netherlands (1911).
In 1913 he accepted a call to the pastorate of the Free North Church, Inverness. While in the northern capital, he served for several years as Chairman of the then Inverness-shire Education Authority, in which role he particularly encouraged the use of Gaelic and the teaching of Domestic Science. He was for some time also an Inspector of Religious Instruction in various Highland counties. During his Inverness ministry, he and his wife were able to make a long-desired trip to the Holy Land (1926), and a visit to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the USA. (1928).
In 1920 John Macleod was made Moderator of the Free Church General Assembly, and he was further honoured when his alma mater conferred the degree of Doctor of Divinity upon him in 1927. That same year he was appointed Principal of the Free Church College, following the death of Dr J D MacCulloch.
After seventeen years ministry in Inverness, in 1930 Macleod was recalled to the teaching staff of the College as Professor of Apologetics and Pastoral Theology, a position which he was to hold until ill-health forced his retirement in 1943. The loss of his wife, Margaret, in 1932, was a severe blow, but that same year he was delighted by a visit paid to him by J. Gresham Machen of Westminster Theological Seminary. Associations with other defenders of the Reformed faith were maintained – some through a special lectureship set up in 1937 in the College – men such as Oswald T. Allis, William Childs Robinson, Cornelius Van Til, John Murray, Auguste Lecerf, and Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Another overseas trip was made to Canada in 1935, when he was accompanied by his daughter, Isabel.
In 1939, on the tenth anniversary of the founding of Westminster Theological Seminary, he was invited to deliver a series of special lectures on the subject ‘Scottish Theology in Relation to Church History since the Reformation’, in Philadelphia. An edition of the lecture series, first published in 1943, was reprinted by the Trust in 1974 and 2015 as Scottish Theology. During this trip he also preached for W. Childs Robinson at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, and gave addresses in various other locations in the USA and Canada.
John Macleod celebrated his jubilee in the ministry in 1947. He died suddenly and peacefully on the Sabbath morning of 11 July 1948, and after a simple funeral service in his home was buried in Edinburgh’s Grange cemetery.
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