HENDERSON, EBENEZER, the
elder (1784–1858), Icelandic missionary, youngest son of George
Henderson, agricultural labourer, by Jean Buchanan, was born at The
Linn, in the parishes of Saline and Dunfermline, on 17 Nov. 1784, and
baptised in Queen Anne Street Church on 21 Nov. He was first educated at
Dunduff school and then at Dunfermline; but after three years and a half
schooling, he went in 1794 to work with his brother John, a clock and
watch maker. He afterwards kept cows, and in 1799 became a boot and shoe
maker. He entered Robert Haldane's seminary, Edinburgh, in 1803, and on
the completion of his theological studies was, on 27 Aug. 1805,
appointed to proceed to India as a companion missionary to the Rev. John
Paterson, his lifelong friend. At this period the East India Company did
not permit the entrance of missionaries into India. Paterson and
Henderson therefore sailed for Denmark, with the intention of landing at
Serampore, then a Danish settlement. Finding a difficulty in procuring a
passage to India, they began on 15 Sept. 1805 to preach in Copenhagen,
and ultimately, giving up all thoughts of Asia, devoted themselves to
founding Bible societies in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and
Russia. In January 1806 Henderson was settled as a minister at Elsinore,
and began teaching the English language to young people. By 1807 he had
learnt to preach in Danish, and had translated into that language the
‘Memoir of Catharine Haldane,’ a small work which became very popular.
The bombardment of Copenhagen, in September 1807, rendered further
residence at Elsinore impossible, and he removed to Gothenburg in
Sweden, where he ministered to the Danish prisoners, and translated for
their use a tract called ‘James Covey.’ In 1808 he travelled in Sweden,
Lapland, and Finland, in the latter country running great risk of being
captured by the Russian army. He had now become a competent scholar in
Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, German, Danish, and Swedish. After a visit
to England in 1810 he returned to his work, and in the following year
brought out ‘An Exposition of the Prophecies of Daniel, by the late Rev.
Magnus Frederick Ross, translated from the German.’ On 6 Oct. 1811 he
formed the first congregational church in Sweden. For two years
(1812–13) he was in Copenhagen superintending a translation of the New
Testament into Icelandic, and in 1814 he helped to establish the Danish
Bible Society. In June 1814 he proceeded to Iceland, where he
distributed the testaments and paid visits to many parts of the island,
an account of which he published in 1818. In 1816 he was elected a
corresponding member of the Scandinavian Literary Society, and received
from Kiel a diploma of doctor in philosophy. In October he went to St.
Petersburg, where, under the patronage of the Emperor Alexander, he
printed the Bible in upwards of ten languages or dialects. He returned
to England in 1817, and on 18 May 1818 married Susannah, second daughter
of John Kennion. On 28 Sept. he set out on his third journey, and
visited in succession Hanover, Schleswig, Russia, Astracan, and Tiflis.
While still abroad he resigned his connection with the British and
Foreign Bible Society in January 1822, owing to a disagreement about a
translation of the Scriptures which had been made in Turkish, and of
which he did not approve. Returning to Russia he resided in St.
Petersburg till 1825, when, through the interest of the Greek church,
the Bible Society was interdicted by imperial authority. Henderson came
back to England on 5 July 1825. He took charge in November of the
missionary students at Gosport, and removed with them to Hoxton College,
where he was resident and theological tutor from April 1826 to 1830. In
the latter year he removed to Canonbury, and was tutor of Highbury
College until 1850, when, on the amalgamation of Homerton, Coward, and
Highbury Colleges, he retired on a pension. He retained his office as
honorary secretary to the Religious Tract Society and to the British
Society for Propagating the Gospel among the Jews, and was minister of
Sheen Vale independent chapel at Mortlake (July 1852–September 1853). He
died at Mortlake on 16 May 1858, and was buried in Abney Park cemetery.
He was the author and editor of the following works: 1. ‘A Dissertation
on H. Mikkelson's Translation of the New Testament,’ Copenhagen, 1813.
2. ‘Iceland; or the Journal of a Residence in that Island,’ Edinburgh,
1818, 2 vols. 3. ‘An Appeal to the British and Foreign Bible Society on
the Turkish New Testament,’ 1824. 4. ‘The Turkish New Testament
incapable of Defence,’ 1825. 5. ‘Biblical Researches and Travels in
Russia,’ 1826. 6. ‘Elements of Biblical Criticism and Interpretation,
translated from the Latin of Ernesti, Keil, Beck, and Morus,’ 1827. 7.
‘The Great Mystery of Godliness; or Sir Isaac Newton and the Socinians
foiled,’ 1830. 8. ‘A Theological Dictionary, by C. Buck, enlarged by E.
Henderson,’ 1833; another edit. 1841. 9. ‘Æ. Gutbirii Lexicon Syriacum,’
1836. 10. ‘The Book of Isaiah Translated, with a Commentary,’ 1840. 11.
‘Baptism and the Bible Society,’ 1840. 12. ‘On the Conversion of the
Jews,’ a lecture, 1843. 13. ‘The Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets,’
translated from the Hebrew, 1845; another edit. 1858. 14. ‘The Vaudois,
a tour to the Valleys of Piedmont,’ 1845. 15. ‘The Book of Jeremiah and
that of the Lamentations,’ translated, 1851. 16. ‘Divine Inspiration,’
1847; third edit. 1852. 17. ‘The Book of Ezekiel,’ translated, 1855. 18.
‘The Book of Isaiah,’ translated, 1857. He also edited the following
works by Albert Barnes: ‘Job,’ 1851; ‘Revelations,’ 1852; ‘The Way of
Salvation,’ 1855; ‘Essays on Science and Theology,’ 1856. By J. M. Good:
‘The Book of Psalms,’ 1854. By G. B. Cheevers: ‘W. Cowper,’ 1856. By M.
Stuart: ‘The Epistle to the Romans,’ in conjunction with E. P. Smith. He
also printed charges, lectures, and sermons.
Memoir of The Rev. E. Henderson, D.D.,
Including his labours in Denmark, Iceland, Russia, etc., etc. by Thulia
S. Henderson (1859) (pdf)
Or The Journal of a Residence in that Island during the years 1814 and
1815, containing observations on the Natural Phenomena, History,
Literature, and Antiquities of the Island and the Religion, Character,
Manners, and Customs of its Inhabitants by Ebenezer Henderson in two
volumes (1818) (pdf)
Volume 1 | Volume 2