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John Mason

MASON, John, clergyman, born in Linlithgowshire, Scotland, in 1734; died in New York city, 19 April, 1792. His early training was under the influence of the Associate, or Secession, church of Scotland in its best days. When it became divided in 1746 young Mason identified himself with the Anti-Burger party and pursued his theological studies at Abernethy. At the age of twenty he spoke Latin, and at twenty-four was assistant professor in logic and moral philosophy in the institution at which he had been graduated. In 1761 he was ordained to the ministry and sent to this country to take charge of the Cedar street church, New York city. Believing that the causes that divided the Presbyterians of Scotland did not exist in the United States, he labored for their union into one denomination. Although this course displeased his brethren at home and he was suspended by the Scotch synod, he persevered in his project, and on 13 June, 1782, a general union of the Reformed Presbyterians was effected under the title of the "Associate Reformed church." Of this body Dr. Mason was the first moderator. After laboring nearly thirty years in his first and only pastorate, his memory suddenly failed him in the midst of a sermon, and death occurred soon afterward. He received the degree of D.D. from Princeton in 1786, and served as a trustee of that institution from 1779 till 1785.--His son, John Mitchell, clergyman, born in New York city, 19 March, 1770; died there, 26 December, 1829, was graduated at Columbia in 1789. He went to Scotland in 1791 and studied theology at the University of Edinburgh, whence he was suddenly recalled the following year by his father's death. On his return he was installed pastor over his father's congregation. The Associate Reformed church had been wont to celebrate the Lord's Supper but once or twice annually ; but Dr. Mason believed in more frequent communion, and both with tongue and pen urged a reform in this respect. A pamphlet which he issued on the subject, entitled "Letters on Frequent Communion" (New York, 1798), first, brought him prominently before the religious public. He also believed that his denomination should not be dependent on foreign institutions for the education of her ministry, and thus began a movement that resulted in founding the Union theological seminary, of which he was appointed first professor on its opening in 1804. In 1806 he projected the "Christian Magazine," in the pages of which he conducted a friendly controversy with Bishop Hobart on the claims of the episcopacy. In 1810 he resigned his pastoral charge to form a new congregation. The intimate relations that he now established with the Presbyterians were objected to by many of his own denomination, and in 1811 a charge was brought against him; but the synod refused to censure him. The same year he was elected provost of Columbia college. In 1816 he severed his connection with the college on account of failing health and sailed for Europe. On his return in 1817 he again devoted himself to his ministerial duties, but in 1821 he accepted the presidency of Dickinson college, Pennsylvania In 1822 he became con-netted with the Presbyterian church. Finding the duties of his new office too onerous for his diminished strength, he resigned and returned to New York in 1824; but he was never again able to assume any official employment. As a pulpit orator Dr. Mason has had few equals in the United States. His physical and intellectual powers were of the most robust order, his theology was Calvinistic, and his style of eloquence irresistible. When Robert Hall first heard him in London, whither he had gone to raise money for the new seminary, on the occasion of his delivering his celebrated sermon, " Messiah's Throne," in 1802, he is said to have exclaimed : " I can never preach again." Robert McCartee thus describes the effect that was produced by one of Dr. Mason's fast-day sermons at a time of great political excitement, caused by a proposed alliance of the United States with France: " The doctor chose for his text Ezekiel ii. 3, and the whole chapter was read in the most impressive manner. Near the close of the discourse he broke forth in a solemn and impassioned apostrophe to Deity in nearly these words: ' Send us, if thou wilt, murrain upon our cattle, a famine upon our land, cleanness of teeth in our borders; send us pestilence to waste our cities; send us, if it please thee, the sword to bathe itself in the blood of our sons, but spare us, Lord God Most Merciful, spare us that direst and most dreadful of all thy curses--an alliance with Napoleon Bonaparte.' As he uttered these rousing sentences the blood gushed from his nostrils. He unconsciously put his handkerchief to his face, and the next instant made a gesture which looked as if he were designedly waving it like a bloody and symbolic flag. You can fancy better than I can describe the impression which this incident, coupled with the awful apostrophe, made upon the crowded assembly." He received the degree of D.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. Besides many essays, reviews, orations, and sermons, Dr. Mason published "A Plea for Sacramental Communion on Catholic Principles" (New York, 1816). His best-known orations are those on Washington and on Alexander Hamilton. See " The Writings of the Late John M. Mason, D. D.," by his son, Ebenezer (4 vols., New York, 1832; new ed., greatly enlarged, 1849), and "Memoirs of John M. Mason, D. D.," by his son-in-law, Jacob Van Vechten, D. D. (2 vols., 1856).--John Mitchell's son, Erskine, clergyman, born in New York city, 16 April, 1805: died there, 14 May, 1851, was graduated at Dickinson college in 1823, and became pastor of a Presbyterian church at Schenectady in 1827 and of the Bleecker street church in New York in 1830. Prom 1836 till 1842 he was professor of ecclesiastical history in Union theological seminary. In 1837 he received the degree of D.D. from Columbia. Dr. Mason's style of preaching was rigorously intellectual. He published several occasional sermons during his lifetime, and a collection of his discourses appeared after his death, under the title of "A Pastor's Legacy," with a sketch of his career by the Reverend William Adams, D. D. (New York, 1853).--Erskine's son, Erskine, surgeon, born in New York city, 8 May, 1837; died there, 13 April, 1882, was graduated at Columbia in 1857, and in 1860 at the College of physicians and surgeons in New York city, where he afterward practised his profession. From 1861 till 1870 he was assistant demonstrator and then demonstrator of anatomy in the latter institution. He was connected with various hospitals, and was adjunct professor of surgery in the medical department of the University of New York, which chair he resigned in June, 1876, and from 1879 till 1882 he was clinical lecturer on surgery in Bellevue hospital medical college. Dr. Mason was a member of various professional bodies and president of the Pathological society in 1873. Among his frequent contributions to medical periodical literature may be mentioned those on "Lumbar Colotomy" (1873); "The Operation of Laparotomy, with a Case" and "Perityphlitis" (1876) ; and "Amputation at the Hip-Joint."

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