A SON of the late Bailie William Coats, Paisley, and a
brother of the late Joseph Coats, Professor of Pathology in Glasgow University,
the minister of Govan Baptist Church was intended at first for commercial life.
He entered the Union Bank in his fifteenth year, and soon rose to the position
of accountant. Coming, however, under a strong religious influence, he
determined to enter the ministry. He matriculated at Glasgow University in 1867,
and showed himself a brilliant student, carrying off during his arts course no
fewer than seven prizes and two in Divinity. Among the professors who influenced
him most were Edward Caird, John Nichol, and E. L. Lushington, of whose
scholarship Tennyson has said he "wore his weight of learning like a flower."
Mr. Coats also became a student of the Baptist Union of Scotland, and, after
graduating in 1872, went to Germany, and attended the lectures of Albrecht
Ritschl at Göttingen, where he had for fellow-students the late Professor
Robertson Smith and Dr. Forsyth, now Principal of Hackney College, London. These
students met in his rooms for Biblical study, and they began an English service
which is still held in Göttingen.
In the autumn of the same year Mr. Coats was invited to form a church in Govan, where a mission station had previously been carried on by workers from Frederick Street and John Street churches. Four years later his church, was built at a cost of £4,600, and Dr. Coats has remained its pastor for thirty-seven years, notwithstanding various opportunities afforded him to go elsewhere. In 1897 the affection he has won from his people was testified in the address with which his congregation congratulated him on his semi-jubilee.
Dr. Coats has always taken a strong interest in the affairs of his denomination. He was a tutor under the auspices of the Baptist Union. In 1894 he was appointed to the chair of Apologetics and New Testament Exegesis in the Baptist Theological College of Scotland, and in 1903 he was elected president. Meanwhile in 1900 he was elected to the Chair of the Union, and on that occasion delivered an address on "Christian Union and the Denominational Spirit;" and in 1903 he was made the first president of the Glasgow Baptist Association. He is the author of a suggestive volume, "The Master's Watchword," and shortly after the appearance of that work in 1898, Glasgow University conferred upon him the degree of D.D.
Index of Glasgow Men (1909)