Stanford Guthrie Burney

1814 - 1893

Cumberland Presbyterian Minister




Susan Gray Burney and Stanford Guthrie Burney


Stanford Guthrie Burney
Cumberland Presbyterian Minister
1814 born
1836 ordained by Nashville Presbytery
1839-1840 attended Cumberland College in Princeton, Kentucky
1841 graduated from Cumberland College in Princeton, Kentucky [A.B.]
1841-1842 pastor, Nashville
1843 Franklin Collegiate Institute for Young Ladies. The fourth Session of this Institution will commence Feb. 20, 1843, under the superintendence of Rev. S.G. Burney and J.M. Macpherson. [source: Banner of Peace, March 10, 1843]
1844 acted as an agent of the University
1844-1845 pastor, First Cumberland Presbyterian Church - Memphis, Tennessee
1848-1872 pastor, Cumberland Presbyterian Church - Oxford, Mississippi
1852 founded the College for Women in Oxford
1852-1861 president of Union Female College
1860 Moderator of the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church
1866-1872 elected to the chair of English Literature in the University of Mississippi
Professor of Philosophy in the University of Mississippi
1877 Professor of Biblical Literature in the Theological School of Cumberland University, Lebanon, Tennessee
1881-1893 Professor of Systematic Theology, Cumberland University, Lebanon, Tennessee
1893 died



This eminent clergyman and scholar, celebrated for his splendid abilities, his high character, and his modesty, presents a fine study as a student, teacher and pastor, yet, while his history is connected with some of the most important educational and religious enterprises of the day, he is also to be looked upon as an intellect shining with light for others to work by as well as being a worker himself. He is regarded by learned men, who have known him for thirty years, as one of the best thinkers in the State, advanced beyond his time, and a metaphysician of the highest class.

When Dr. Burney, as a young man, entered upon his active ministry, he made a profound impression on the public mind, as an eloquent speaker, of gentle and pleasant address, and remarkable earnestness. He was even then recognized by thoughtful men as an absstract and philosophical thinker, and a general conviction was then formed that he would reach, as he has done, the front rank among his brother ministers. Although he was fitted for the pulpit in a pre-eminent degree, and capable of gaining great popularity by his cultivated oratory, yet his intense application to the study of the Bible as the great book of Human Philosophy, necessarily carried him at an early day to the school-room and to literary pursuits. From these two callings he had access to the intelligence of the church, and has controlled that intelligence, next to the learned Dr. Richard Beard, more than any other man of his day. These pursuits made somewhat a change in his outward character. His manners became unobtrusive and quiet, and he now impresses one as a reserved student, but gentle and kind in all his relations with men. If he had been as aggressive in his efforts to gain distinction and the plaudits of the world as he has been in his profound study of man and his relations to his Creator, he could have gone to the highest place in that direction. But his ability was well recognized by active leaders in his church, and he was in due time called to the most important position in the leading theological school of his denomination, where to-day he stands among the first and ablest of her teachers. He has been not only a student of the Bible, but also a student of the great secular thinkers. This has freed him from these idiosyncracies usual with men who study only one side of a question, and has given to him a balanced character both in thought and expression. He combines the practical, philosophical character of a Solomon, with the poetic zeal and fire of an Isaiah. To splendid powers of statement as a writer, and of expression as a speaker, he has added wide powers of investigation of philosophy, human and divine, and is regarded as a capable critic of every phase of thought in the field of theology or of agnosticism. With a voice musical and soft, and a nature tender and gentle, he yet has underneath evidences of the fire and zeal of his early manhood. Every one can see and appreciate the actors on the field of great public matters, both in church and state, but only a few know that quiet and thoughtful men like Dr. Burney are at last in real control, and it is the unseen hand that keeps any system together.

Stanford G. Burney was born in Robertson county, Tennessee, April 16, 1814. He is the son of William Burney, a native of North Carolina, born in 1788, moved to Robertson county when twelve years old, became a successful farmer, and died in 1856. Twice married, he raised eleven sons, six by his first wife and five by his last. He first married Miss Annie Guthrie, daughter of Rev. Robert Guthrie, a native of North Carolina, who settled in Tennessee about 1800, and finally moved to Missouri, and died there. His wife was a Miss Smith. Rev. Robert Guthrie was one of the earliest preachers of the Cumberland Presbyterian church--one of the men excommunicated from the old church. He was of a distinguished Scotch-Irish family.

Of the six sons by the first wife, Dr. Burney, subject of this sketch, is the eldest. H. L. Burney is a preacher in the Cumberland Presbyterian church, and resides near Clarksville, Tennessee. J. H. Burney died a farmer. John F. Burney was a professional teacher, educated at Princeton College, Kentucky, and died twenty-six years old. Wesley Monroe Burney was a Confederate soldier, captured at Fort Donelson, and died at St. Louis. Eli Gunn Burney graduated from the Mississippi University; is now teaching at Oakland, Mississippi, and was for a time professor of languages in Cumberland University, Lebanon, Tennessee.

Dr. Burney's father's second wife was Miss Frances Donelson. Of the five sons by her, William Burney was a soldier among the first Confederate troops raised in Robertson county, and is now living on the old homestead. Hatcher Burney joined the army and was killed at Dalton during Gen. Johnston's retreat. Hatton Burney is now living on the old homestead in Robertson county. Marshall Burney died in 1872. Ewin Burney is now a lawyer at Nashville.

Dr. Burney's grandfather was John Burney, of a large family in the North and South Carolinas, of Scotch-Irish descent. He married Miss Mary Parks, daughter of George Parks, who was a colonel in the Revolutionary war from North Carolina.

Dr. Burney was raised a country boy, born feeble, always dyspeptic. He early evinced a marked taste for study and learning, and stook in advance in that time of the boys of his neighborhood, being particularly fond of the natural science. After receiving an exceptionally good common school and academic education, he attended, two and a half years, Princeton College, Kentucky, and graduated in 1841. On the 12th of August following, he married Miss Susan Gray, of Princeton, Kentucky, daughter of William and Lydia Gray, formerly from South Carolina. Mr. Gray was a wealthy farmer, trader and shipper. Mrs. Burney was educated at Elkton, Kentucky, and is a highly cultured lady, noted for fine practical sense, prudence and discreetness in her intercourse with society.

By this marriage Dr. Burney has had nine children: (1). Addison G. Burney, joined the Eleventh Mississippi Confederate regiment, and was killed at Spottsylvania Court-house, May 12, 1864, at the age of twenty-two. It was said of him "no better soldier ever shouldered a musket for the Confederate cause." He belonged to Col. Joe Davis's regiment, Early's division. (2). Theodore C. Burney, born January 1, 1845, left college with his brother, Addison, to join the army. Both were wounded in the battle of Seven Pines; both were furloughed home, both returned and rejoined the army. He was in the battle of Gettysburg, and on the retreat was killed in the battle of Falling Water. (3). Mary B. V. Burney, born June 6, 1847; was an exceptionally fine scholar, even when young; is highly educated; now the wife of James H. Howry, oldest son of Hon. J. M. Howry, of Mississippi, a distinguished member of the Masonic order in that State. They have five children, Mary Alice, Burney, Erle C., Eugene H., and Addison Theodore. (4). Herschel P. Burney, born December 25, 1850; educated at the University of Mississippi; spent several years managing his father's farm in Lafayette county, Mississippi; now engaged in teaching at Atkins, Pope county, Arkansas. He married Miss Nannie McKee, daughter of William S. McKee, for many years sheriff of Lafayette county, Mississippi. She is a graduate of the Oxford (Miss.) Female College, and is finely educated. They have three children, Nannie Clyde, Maggie Sue, and William Stanford. (5). Louella Clarissa Burney, graduated from Union Female College, Oxford, Mississippi; married S. S. Scales, graduate of the University of Mississippi, son of Dr. Nathan F. Scales, of Noxubee county, Mississippi; is now a successful merchant. They have two children, Lucie Anna and Nathaniel Fields. (6). Anna Z. Burney, graduated at Union Female College, Oxford; married Rev. W. R. Binkley, pastor of the Cumberland Presbyterian church at Oxford, Mississippi. (7). Susie F. Burney, graduated at Union Female College, Oxford, and is now living in Lebanon, Tennessee, with her father. (8). Geary D. Burney, now a student in Cumberland University, Lebanon. (9). Stanford Corinne Burney, now in school at Lebanon.

Dr. Burney was ordained in March, 1836, in Wilson county, Tennessee, a minister of the Cumberland Presbyterian church, in which he has preached, hardly missing a Sunday, every since. He first located in Nashville, August, 1841, and preached there eighteen months. In January, 1843, he took charge of the Female Academy at Franklin, Tennessee, and taught one year. He then became the first agent for the Cumberland University, and spent one year collecting money for the endowment of that institution. In December, 1844, he settled on a farm near Memphis, and preached several months for the First Cumberland Presbyterian church in Memphis, while the first church-house was building. He remained there three years preaching to a country church, and associated with Robert Fraiser as editor and publisher of the Religious Ark, a Cumberland Presbyterian paper. In 1848 he accepted the presidency of Mount Sylvan Academy, in Lafayette county, Mississippi, and conducted that institution two years. In January, 1850, he accepted the pastorate of the Cumberland Presbyterian church in Oxford, Mississippi, and filled the position twenty-five years, with the exception of the year 1860, when Dr. C. H. Bell was pastor. After the war Dr. Bell and Dr. Burney filled the pulpit, alternately, until 1873.

Dr. Burney has always held high position in his church, and has been connected with almost every important committee. He was once appointed on a committee to revise the discipline of the church; twice appointed to revise the theology of the church; was chairman of a committee on organic union with the Southern Presbyterian church; was twice a delegate to represent the Cumberland Presbyterians in the Evangelical Union conference in Scotland, and also a delegate to represent the Cumberland Presbyterian church in the Pan-Presbyterian council at Belfast, Ireland.

In 1852 Dr. Burney established the Union Female College at Oxford, Mississippi, and continued its president until 1860, when he resigned, and became president of the board of trustees of the college, which position he held until 1878. In October, 1866, he was elected professor of English literature in the University of Mississippi, a chair which he filled seven years, meantime performing the duties of the chair of metaphysics in that institution a part of the time, making in these positions a high reputation in the world of letters. In 1873 he resigned this position, and from January, 1874, to September, 1877, he preached at Jackson, Newbern, Dyersburg and other points, besides running his farm in Mississippi.

In September, 1876, he was elected to the chair of biblical literature in the theological department of Cumberland University, Lebanon, Tennessee; in September, 1877, he accepted that position, moved to Lebanon, and entered upon the duties of that chair. In December, 1880, he was elected to the chair of systematic theology in the same institution, Dr. Richard Beard, who had filled the chair twenty-seven years, having died. This position he now holds.

Dr. Burney was made a Mason at Nashville, in Janaury, 1844, and has taken all the York masonry degrees except Knight Templar, and has taken twenty-nine degrees in the Scotch rite. He has filled all the offices in the lodge, chapter and council.

Being a relative of tahe distinguished statesman, Hon. Hugh L. White, Dr. Burney gave his first vote to that eminent Whig for president, and may be regarded as a life-long Whig, though since the war has been voting with the Democrats. He has never held political office, though for two years accepted the postmastership at Mount Sylvan, Mississippi.

When a boy, Dr. Burney, although of delicate health, was full of vivacity, loving fun and pleasure, but avoided the extremes of dissipation. He loved wine, loved parties, attended balls, and on one occasion was present at a barn dance, where liquor was drank pretty freely, and men got to fighting. That night he reflected that, if this is the best a life of pleasure can do for a man, it is a poor thing; and he then and there resolved on a line of virtue and right living, and now, on the principle that a man's highest interest lies in the line of duty, his proud satisfaction is that his life has smoothly run ever since. He has not selected his fields of labor, but has been urged into them by friends and force of circumstnaces. His father, who was a man of some fortune, gave him two thousand dollars for a start; by his wife he got as much more, and during life he has made a good deal of money, but like most of students, has made money a secondary consideration. He professed religion at eighteen years of age, commenced preaching at twenty, was ordained at twenty-two, and has preached fifty years, mostly in Mississippi, from 1847 to 1874, preaching at Oxford, alone, some twenty-seven years. The Union Female College founded by him, is the oldest institution of its class in Mississippi.

Dr. Burney's writings have been mostly review articles, which have made him quite famous. The late Dr. Thomas O. Summers, of the Methodist church, regarded him, as a polemic, among the first men of the age. His published disquisitions on subjects connected with psychology, metaphysics and theology, and his reviews of books have given him a place distinctively his own in the world of letters.

[Source: Speer, William S. Sketches of Prominent Tennesseans: Containing Biographies and Records of Many of the Families who have attained Prominence in Tennessee. Nashville: A.B. Tavel, 1888, pages 158-160]


The report of the Committee on Deceased Ministers of Lebanon Presbytery has the following in reference to Dr. Burney:

Stanford Guthrie Burney, D.D., was born in the year 1814, in the State of Tennessee. He died at Lebanon, Tenn., March 1, 1893. At the meeting of presbytery held at the old Beech church in 1836 he was ordained to the full work of the gospel ministry. He graduated at Cumberland College, Princeton, Ky., in 1841. He was pastor of the church at Memphis during 1845. As teacher and pastor he spent a series of years at Oxford, Miss. From 1852 to 1861 he was president of Union Female College. In 1866 he was elected to the chair of English Literature in the University of Mississippi, which position he held for seven years. In 1877 he was chosen to the chair of Biblical Literature in the Theological Department of Cumberland University. On the death of Richard Beard, D.D., in 1881 he was transferred to the chair of Systematic Theology, which he filled most honorably until the day of his death. He was moderator of the General Assembly in 1869.

As a preacher he had no superior in the Cumberland Presbyterian church. As a teacher he was clear and forcible. He was not dogmatic, but generous. He was a profound thinker, a faithful student, and an earnest seeker after the truth. As a writer he possessed rare gifts and remarkable powers. Among his printed works are "Atonement and Law Reviewed," "Soteriology," "Psychology," "Studies in Moral Science," "Baptismal Regeneration," "Election," and his powerful articles on "Modern Episcopacy," "Beecher's Works," and "Dr. John E. Matthews' Theology." He was a man of spotless Christian character, meek in spirit, and full of Christ.

Speaking to this report, C.H. Bell, D.D., reviewed his long and intimate acquaintance with Dr. Burney, paying tribute to him as preacher, pastor, teacher, and writer. Judge John Frizzell reviewed the life of Dr. Burney as a presbyter and the virtual author of the revised Confession of Faith. Both addresses contained affectionate references to the deceased as a devoted friend, faithful, gentle, strong.

The theological students of Cumberland University in joint meeting, March 8, adopted the following:

Whereas, the great Source of all philosophy has taken to rest and complete understanding the venerable minister, teacher, and philosopher, S.G. Burney, the nobility of whose life was to us a very inspiration to a better and nobler life, and whose earnest desire was to know the truth as it is in Christ Jesus and whose constant aim and endeavor was to teach it to his pupils and lead them therein; therefore, be it

Resolved, 1. That we have lost in him not only an able teacher, but a loving friend, solicitous for the welfare of all his pupils, receiving with gentlemanly deference and answering with painstaking care the questions of the humblest.

2. That we cherish him in memory as an honest, conscientious seeker after truth, and an earnest, forcible expounder of what he believed, combining the acuteness of the logician and the profundity of the philosopher with the simplicity of a child and the gentleness of a woman.

3. That we feel our sorrow lessened inasmuch as it seems in answer to his prayers for him and his faithful wife to lie down in death together.

4. That we offer our earnest sympathy to his family and point them to the Comforter.

A letter, dated March 8, from the venerable Laban S. Locker, of Birmingham, Ky., says affectionately:

I am filled full to-day on reading of the death of Dr. Burney. In early life, when he was a student at old Cumberland College, at Princeton, Ky., 1839-'40, he used to come down and preach to us at Eddyville, Ky., twelve miles away. I became particularly interested in him, and must say that if I ever had any spiritual father he was the man. I do further say that the Cumberland Presbyterian church has no brighter light than he was, neither do I believe that any church in this country has any man who can surpass him. God bless the memory of dear Dr. Burney. I named my first son for him. That son has been gone home nearly five years and I am sure that they are together now and that they knew each other when they met.

The pastor at Marshall, Texas, W. B. Farr, D.D., writes:

Our service here on Sunday, March 5, at 11 A.M., was in memory of Dr. and Mrs. Burney. Our audience room had been recently draped for the funeral of one of our excellent members, and so the surroundings were favorable for the memorial service. Our people were very deeply impressed by the service. How suddenly these dear old people were taken away! Mrs. Burney was dead before I got home from my recent visit to Lebanon and Dr. Burney's death occurred a few hours after I had arrived here. How little did I think as he sat immediately in front of the pulpit on the Sunday before he was taken ill and looked up into my face as I preached that he was hearing the last sermon he would hear in this world! At the close of the service he came and took me by the hand and thanked me for the sermon, saying it had done him good. And now the question throughout the denomination is, "Who shall take Dr. Burney's chair in the Seminary, so that the work of training our dear young men will go on with as little interruption as may be?"

Following is a report of the action of the Oxford, Miss., church, of which Dr. Burney was so long pastor and in which he had ever the deepest interest:


In obedience to an action of the session of the Oxford congregation, where the late Dr. Burney was pastor for so many years, Sunday evening, March 5, was devoted to a memorial service. The service was largely attended. One painful feature of the service was that so many of those whom Dr. Burney served as pastor in other days were not present; they had either crossed the river or else were scattered to other parts. One by one the pastor and flock are being gathered home. The following was ordered by the church session:

Oxford, March 5, 1893. Whereas, The late Rev. S. G. Burney, D.D., LL.D., of Cumberland University, Tennessee, was for a period of over twenty years (1848-1872) pastor of this church, and who, during that long and trying period, walked blamelessly before all the flock; therefore, be it

Resolved. 1. By the session of this church that we hereby give expression to our sorrow at his sudden death, and at the same time record our high appreciation of his services to the general public as a teacher in our theological seminary, while giving special emphasis to our appreciation of him as teacher, pastor, and preacher in our midst in the years long past.

2. That as a token of this appreciation the services this evening be held in his memory, the same to be conducted by the pastor.

Oxford, Miss. B.G. Mitchell.

[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, March 16, 1893, page 548.]

Stanford Guthrie Burney, D.D., LL.D., born near Murfreesboro, Rutherford County, Tennessee, April 16, 1814, was the able successor of Dr. Richard Beard as Professor of Systematic Theology. From Cumberland College, Princeton, Kentucky, he received the A.B. degree in 1841. During 1844 he acted as an agent of the University. In 1877, he came to Cumberland University as Professor of Biblical Literature in the Theological School. For a number of years he had been Professor of Philosophy in the University of Mississippi, and was widely known as an able teacher and writer, and as an eloquent preacher. Dr. Burney was a pastor in Nashville a year and a half, beginning in 1841; in December, 1844, he became the pastor of the First Church in Memphis; in 1850 he became pastor in Oxford, Mississippi, and preached there for twenty-five years. In 1852 he founded the College for Women in Oxford, and was its president until 1860. He was a great logician, an acute thinker, a metaphysician of the first rank, and had a wonderful capacity to get other men to think. From his facile pen came the following books: Soteriology, Atonement and Law, Psychology, and Moral Science. In 1860 he was made Moderator of the General Assembly of his Church. Ripe in years and having made a profound impression upon his fellows, he quietly passed away on March 1, 1893. [See Speer's Prominent Tennesseans, pp. 158, 160.]

[Source: Bone, Winstead Paine. A History of Cumberland University, 1842-1935. Lebanon, Tennessee: Published by the author, 1935, pages 228-229.]


Burney, S.G. Anthropology: A Discussion Chiefly of the Problem of Evil; of Man as a sinner; The Relation of the First Man and His Posterity; Sin and Physical Evil, etc. Edited by R.W. Binkley. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House, 1894. [2 copies in archives] [BT701.B965]

Burney, S.G. Atonement. Review of "Atonement and Law." Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House, 1887. [6 copies in archives] [BT265.B965]

Burney, S.G. Atonement. Soteriology; The Sacrificial, in Contrast with the Penal, Substitutionary, and Merely Moral or Exemplary Theories of Propitiation. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House, 1888. [4 copies in archives] [BT751.B965]

Burney, S.G. Baptismal Regeneration. Originally published in the Cumberland Presbyterian Quarterly, January 1880. Privately printed, n.d. [1 copy in archives]

Burney, S.G. The Chart of Duty. An Exposition of the Ten Commandments. Being Part II. of the Author's Work on Moral Science. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House, 1890. [2 copies in archives] [BS1285.B965]

Burney, S.G. Studies in Moral Science. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House, 1890. [7 copies in archives] [BV4611.B965]

Burney, S.G. Studies in Psychology. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House, Published for the author, 1890. [2 copies in archives] [BF38.B965]

Burney, S.G. A Treatise on Election. Nashville, Tenn.: Board of Publication of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1879. [1 copy in archives]


Burney, S.G. "Baptismal Regeneration." Cumberland Presbyterian Quarterly 1 (January 1880): 42-75.

Burney, S.G. "Baptismal Regeneration." Cumberland Presbyterian Quarterly 1 (April 1880): 160-195.

Burney, S.G. "Christian Institutions." Cumberland Presbyterian Quarterly Review 2 (October 1881): 445-454.

Burney, S.G. "A Critic Reviewed." The Theological Medium IX (January 1878): 40-62.

Burney, S.G. "The Divine Purpose Examined." The Theological Medium IV (July 1873): 303- 328.

Burney, S.G. "The Divine Purpose Examined." The Theological Medium IV (October 1873): 462-480.

Burney, S.G. "Divine Purpose Examined." The Theological Medium V (January 1874): 1-23.

Burney, S.G. "Election." The Theological Medium 10 (October 1879): 385-424.

Burney, S.G. "Fatherhood and Sovereignty." Cumberland Presbyterian Review 3 (January 1891): 116-117.

Burney, S.G. "Funeral Sermon: Brief Biographical Sketch, and Funeral Sermon of the Late Col. John D. White, delivered by Rev. S.G. Burney, in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, in the City of Memphis, Tenn., Sept., 1850." The Theological Medium 6 (April 1851): 161-183.

Burney, S.G. "Future Happiness and Misery--In What They Chiefly Consist." The Cumberland Presbyterian Review 5 (April 1884): 121-138.

Burney, S.G. "Inaugural Exercises in Cumberland University, Lebanon, Tenn.: Address of Professor Burney. The Theological Medium 8 (October 1877): 451-474.

Burney, S.G. "The Late Richard Beard, D.D." The Cumberland Presbyterian Review 2 (January 1881): 102-105.

Burney, S.G. "Modern Episcopacy." The Theological Medium I (October 1870): 467-486.

Burney, S.G. "Modern Episcopacy." The Theological Medium I (April 1870): 219-244.

Burney, S.G. "The Plymouth Pulpit." The Theological Medium II (July 1871): 342-365.

Burney, S.G. "Prof. James MacGregor, D.D., of Scotland, on the Cumberland Presbyterian Confession of Faith." The Cumberland Presbyterian Quarterly Review II (April 1881): 202-227.

Burney, S.G. "Rev. Thomas C. Anderson, D.D." The Cumberland Presbyterian Quarterly Review III (October 1882): 425-448.

Burney, S.G. "Rev. Thomas C. Anderson, D.D., II" The Cumberland Presbyterian Quarterly Review IV (January 1883): 1-16.

Burney, S.G. "Rev. John Miller and Some of His Books." Cumberland Presbyterian Review II (October 1890): 415-429.

Burney, S.G. "Third Chapter of Romans." The Theological Medium III (January 1872): 72- 98.

Burney, S.G. "Rev. J. L. Dillard, D.D." Cumberland Presbyterian, need date, 2.

Burney, S.G. "Propositions Briefly Stated." Cumberland Presbyterian, 10 November 1887, 1.

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