PURVES, JAMES: Scotch sectary; b. at Blackadder (10 m. w. of Berwick upon Tweed) Sept. 23, 1734; d. at Edinburgh Feb. 1 (or 15), 1795. His father was a shepherd, and the son in 1755 united with a religious society belonging to certain "fellowship societies" founded in Berwickshire by a James Fraser, connected with the "Reformed presbytery" from 1743 to 1753. After reading Isaac Watts' Dissertation on the Logos he adopted the doctrine of the preexistence of the human soul of Christ; gaining influence in the societies, he was sent as a commissioner to Ireland to certain societies there of like faith. Meanwhile the societies were without a stated ministry, but in 1769 Purves was selected by lot to prepare for this work. He was sent to Glasgow College in 1769, where he gained some knowledge of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. In 1771 a statement of the theology of the societies was drawn up by Purves, involving Arian positions and free examination of the Scriptures untrammelled by creeds. In 1776 one of these societies was founded in Edinburgh, and Purves was called as pastor, and in 1792 the name "Universalist Dissenters" was adopted. The congregations were small, but Purves supplemented his pulpit work by a considerable literary activity, printing himself some of the tracts which embodied his views, even casting the Hebrew type. He issued in all about twenty publications, of which the most important are A Short Abstract of the Principles . . . of the United Societies in Scotland (n.p., 1771); Observations on Prophetic Times and Similitudes (2 parts, Edinburgh, 1777-1778); A Hebrew Grammar without Points (Edinburgh, 1779; has some very excellent qualities); An Humble Attempt to Investigate . . . the Scripture Doctrine concerning the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (1784); An Humble Enquiry into Faith and Regeneration (1788); Observations on the Visions of the Apostle John (2 vols., 1789-93); and A Declaration of the Religious Opinions of the Universalist Dissenters (1793).