GEORGE HORNE, (1730-1792)
from
A History of Preaching
by
F. R. Webber

George Horne, bishop of Rochester and author of a famous commentary on the Psalms, was also one of the able preachers of the Established Church. He was born in Otham, Kent, near Rochester. His father was a clergyman, and he gave his son a careful elementary education. So well was this done that the headmaster of Maidstone grammar school said, when the boy sought to enter, "he is fitter to go from school than to come to it." He was graduated from University College, Oxford, in 1749, and received his master's degree from Magdalen College, in the same city, in 1752. In 1750 he was awarded a fellowship at Magdalen, in 1769 he became president and in 1776 vice-chancellor of the university.

In 1771 he became chaplain-in-ordinary to King George III, a position which he filled for ten years. In 1781 he was made dean of Canterbury and in 1790 bishop of Rochester.

Dr. Horne was not only one of the able preachers of his day, but he was an excellent Hebrew scholar and well versed in science. It was a time in which scientists were attacking revealed religion, and Horne became involved in controversies with Priestley, Hume and others. He was a witty man, but even in the heat of controversy he managed to maintain utmost good humor, and his wit never became sarcasm. He proved himself more than a match for Priestley and his other opponents.

From 1756 to 1776 he was at work on his famous Commentary on the Psalms. Although a fine Hebrew scholar, yet he chose to write this memorable work in a simple, devotional way, with very little direct reference to the Hebrew text. The commentary is remarkable because of the fact that its author mentions the Saviour on practically every page, and finds in the Psalms so many references to salvation.

Dr. Horne was an evangelical preacher, and with Methodist sympathies. The Methodist group, in his day, had not yet separated from the Established Church. His sermons are not marked by great depth of thought, for whether in preaching, writing a commentary or engaging in a theological controversy, it was always his object to express the results of careful scholarship in simple language.

Of his sermons the famous London Nonconformist preacher, Edward Irving, has said: "it may be safely affirmed that he has been equalled by few and excelled by none; for his style is remarkably vigorous, and yet so perfectly simple, that the plainest understanding cannot avoid being immediately convinced by the arguments, and affected by the exhortations." Speaking of the sermons delivered by Dr. Horne while dean of Canterbury, Irving declares that they reveal "with what zeal he could plead for the indigent; with what energy he could point out the means of obtaining true wisdom; and with what strength he could 'contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints'."

Bishop Horne died at the age of 62, and was buried at Eltham, in Kent, where the inscription on his headstone reads in part: "With his discourses from the pulpit, his hearers, whether of the University, the city or the country parish, were edified and delighted. His Commentary on the Psalms will continue to be a companion to the closet, till the devotion of earth shall end in the hallelujahs of Heaven." A memorial tablet, with a copy of this inscription, has been placed in Canterbury cathedral.


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