BORN in Glasgow 11th April, 1844. Professor Orr spent his boyhood in Manchester and Leeds, but on the death in the latter city of his father, a rising young engineer, in 1853, he returned to Glasgow. Entering Glasgow University in 1865, he took numerous scholarships, fellowships, and prizes, and in 1870 graduated M.A. with first-class honours in Mental Philosophy. He acted likewise for several years as assistant to the late Professor Veitch. His theological course was taken at the U.P. Hall in Edinburgh, but he also took Hebrew and Theology at Glasgow University, carrying off high-class prizes, and securing the degree of B.D. In 1874 he was ordained minister of East Bank U.P. Church, Hawick, where he remained till 1901, notwithstanding several invitations and at least one definite call to go elsewhere. From 1876 to 1879 he acted as Examiner for degrees in Philosophy in Glasgow University, and besides taking a deep interest in other public affairs, was for a time Chairman of Hawick School Board. He contributed also to various theological magazines and reviews, and wrote largely in several volumes of the "Pulpit Commentary." taking an active part in the business of the U.P. Synod, he had a prominent share in obtaining and framing the Declaratory Act of that Church. In 1885 he received the degree of D.D. from Glasgow University, and in 1890-91, as Kerr Lecturer, delivered the course of lectures since published as "The Christian View of God and the World," a standard work now in its eighth edition. His election as Professor of Church History in the U.P. College took place in 1891; and he visited America several times, lecturing on German Theology in Chicago in 1895, and at Alleghany and Auburn, N.Y., in 1897, under the auspices of the Elliot and Morgan Trusts.
Professor Orr took an active part in the union of the U.P. and Free Churches, and he acted as Joint-Convener on the U.P. side in the Union Committee till 1900. He was then transferred to Glasgow U.F. College as Professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology. Within recent years he has been a frequent contributor to such magazines as the Expositor, Contemporary Review, London Quarterly Review, and Expository Times. Among his theological works have been "The Ritschlian Theology," "The Progress of Dogma" (Elliot Lectures), "Neglected Factors in Study of Early Church History" (Morgan Lectures), "David Hume, his Influence on Philosophy and Theology," "The Supernatural in Christianity," "Ritschlianism," and "Early Church History and Literature" (students' manual). In October, 1905, he gained a prize of six thousand dollars offered by the Lake Forest University Ill., for a work entitled "The Problem of the Old Testament."
Index of Glasgow Men (1909)