Andrew Melville - Famous Scots Series
by William Morison
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The designs and ornaments of this volume are by Mr. Joseph Brown, and the printing from the press of Messrs. T. and A. Constable, Edinburgh.

Transcriber's notes: Minor typos have been corrected. Footnotes have been placed at the end of the paragraph to which they refer. Greek has been changed to Latin letters and placed in brackets.


Let it be understood that the quotations in Scots, where the author is not mentioned, are from the Autobiography and Diary of James Melville.

March 1899.
















While Andrew Melville has other claims on the lasting honour of his countrymen than the part he took in securing for Scotland the ecclesiastical system which has been the most powerful factor in her history, it may be held as certain that where this service which filled his life is disesteemed, his biography, if read at all, will be read with only a languid interest. It will be our first endeavour, therefore, to show that such a prejudice in regard to our subject is mistaken and misleading.

Melville, and all from first to last who joined in the Scottish resistance to Episcopacy, were persuaded that the controversy in which they were engaged was one not academic merely but vital, and that, as it was settled one way or the other, so would the people be left in a position in which they would be able to develop their religious life with freedom and effect, or in one which would incalculably cripple it. That is a contention which history has amply vindicated.

The best justification of the struggle carried on during the period from Melville to the Revolution (1574-1688) to preserve the Presbyterian system in the Church is to be found in the benefits which that system has conferred upon the country. It has penetrated the whole Christian people with a sense of their individual responsibility in connection with the principles and government of the Church; it has saved the Church from being dwarfed into a mere clerical corporation; it has laid for it a broad and strong basis by winning to it the attachment of its common members, and by exercising their intelligence, sympathy, and interest in regard to all its institutions and enterprises. It may be truly said of the Scottish people that their highest patriotism has been elicited and exercised over the religious problems of the nation; that they have shown more sensitiveness concerning their religious rights, liberties, and duties than concerning any other interest of their life; and that they have been more readily and deeply touched when the honour and efficiency of their Church was at stake than by any other cause whatever. How should an ecclesiastical system better vindicate its claim? Nothing so ennobles a people as the care of matters of high concern—such a care as Presbyterianism has laid on the Scottish people.

But it was not only the conviction of the excellence of their own economy that led the Presbyterians to maintain it at all hazards—it was also their fear of many tendencies in the rival system. They dreaded that the imposition of Episcopacy would ultimately undo the work of the Reformation, and bring the nation once more under the yoke of Rome. Here, too, history has justified them. Had it not been for the conjunction of the forces of the Scottish Presbyterians and the English Puritans during the reign of Charles the First, the designs of that monarch against the Protestantism of both kingdoms could not probably have been checked. The least that can be said with truth on this matter is, that the Protestantism of the country was gravely imperilled in his reign and in the reigns of his two immediate successors, and that the resolute attitude of Scotland counted more than any other one influence in preserving it.

Nor was it only the preservation of the freedom of the Church that was involved in the struggle. The cause of civil freedom was also at stake. 'True religion,' says a classic of the Scottish Church, 'and national liberty are like Hippocrates' twins—they weep or laugh, they live or die together. There is a great sibness between the Church and the Commonwealth. They depend one upon the other, and either is advanced by the prosperity and success of the other.' Where a people make a stand for spiritual liberty, they always by necessity advance civil freedom. Prelacy was bound up with the absolutism of the throne in the State as well as in the Church; Presbytery with the cause of free government and the sovereignty of the popular will, as declared in their laws by the chosen representatives of the nation.

But that is not the whole case for the Presbyterians. The opposing system was discredited in their mind by the policy by which it was promoted. It was a policy of coercion, of bribery, of dissimulation and artifice, of resort to every kind of influence that is intolerable to a free and high-spirited people. It was a policy that harassed the most faithful and honourable men in the Church, and preferred the most unscrupulous and obsequious to places of power. There was not one of those concerned in it, from the king downwards, who came out of the business with undamaged character. How could the Scottish Church but resist a system which it was sought to thrust upon it by such methods as these? If Melville's claims on our interest rested on no other ground than the services he rendered to the Church and to the nation in maintaining Presbyterianism in the land, that alone would make them good.

But Melville was not only the greatest ecclesiastical controversialist of his day; his name is pre-eminent in another sphere. He was the most learned Scot of his time; and our Universities never had a teacher within their walls who did so much to spread their reputation. His fame as a scholar not only checked the habit among the elite of Scottish students of resorting to the Continental Universities; it drew many foreign students to Glasgow and St. Andrews. His academic distinction has been overshadowed by his fame as the leader of the Church in one of the most momentous struggles in her history, but it was equally great in its own sphere. A Scottish historian—John Hill Burton—has sought, with a singular perversity, to belittle Melville as a scholar, and speaks of M'Crie as having endeavoured to make out his title to distinction in this respect from the natural ambition to claim such an honour for one of his own ecclesiastical forebears. The chapter which follows will show the value of such a judgment.

There is still another and a higher ground for our interest in Melville, namely, his massive personality. It is not so much in the polemic or in the scholar we are interested, as in the man. The appreciation of his character by his countrymen has suffered from his proximity to Knox. Had he not stood so close on the field of history to the greatest of Scots, his stature would have been more impressive. In historic picturesqueness his life will not compare with that of Knox, although it had incidents, such as his appearances before the King and Council at Falkland and Hampton Court, which are unsurpassed by any in Scottish history for moral grandeur. There were not the same tragic elements mixed up with Melville's career. His life fell on duller times and among feebler contemporaries. He had not such a foil to his figure as Knox had in Mary; there was not among his opponents such a protagonist as Knox encountered in Mary's strong personality. And yet it may be justly claimed for Melville that in the highest quality of manhood, in moral nerve, he was not a whit behind his great predecessor. He never once wavered in his course nor abated his testimony to his principles in the most perilous situation; in the long struggle with the King and the Court he played the man, uttered fearlessly on every occasion the last syllable of his convictions, made no accommodation or concession to arbitrary authority, and kept an untamed and hopeful spirit on to the very end. The work a man may do belongs to his own generation; the spirit in which he does it, his faith, his fortitude, to all generations. Melville conferred many signal and enduring benefits on his country: the one which transcended all others was the inspiration he left to her in his own rare nobility of character.



'Fashioned to much honour from his cradle.'

Henry VIII.

Melville's birthplace was Baldovy, an estate in the immediate neighbourhood of Montrose, of which his father was laird. He was born on 1st August 1545—a year memorable as that of Knox's emergence to public life—the youngest of nine sons, most of whom came to fill honourable positions in the Church and commonwealth.

Montrose and the district around it early showed sympathy with the Reformed Faith. George Wishart was a native of Angus, and his influence was nowhere greater than there. The family seat of John Erskine—Dun House—was in the same vicinity, and he too by his warm espousal of Protestantism strengthened its hold on the district. The Baldovy family itself had been identified with the Reformed movement from the beginning. Melville's eldest brother, Richard, who became minister of Maryton, was travelling tutor to Erskine, and the two studied together at Wittenberg under Melanchthon. The Melvilles were intimate with Wishart; and Baldovy and Dun House were the resorts of other leading spirits among the Reformers. In 1556 Knox was Erskine's guest when he was preaching in the district, and his personal influence intensified the attachment of the Melvilles to the cause to which they were already committed.

Melville was only two years old when his father was killed fighting among the Angus men on the field of Pinkie, a battle which made many orphans; and in his twelfth year he lost his mother, when he was taken by his eldest brother to Maryton Manse, and as tenderly cared for by the minister and his wife as though he had been a child of their own. One of the sons of the manse was James Melville, between whom and his 'Uncle Andro' the most endeared affection sprang up. The two lived in each other's lives and shared each other's work, alike as teachers in the two principal Universities, and as leaders in the Council of the Church. Corque unum in duplici corpore et una anima—so the elder, after the younger's death, described their relationship.

Melville's scholarly bent showed itself early. 'He was a sicklie, tender boy, and tuk pleasure in nathing sa meikle as his buik.' He began his education in the Grammar School of Montrose, which had great repute, and on leaving it he attended for two years the school in the same town, founded by Erskine of Dun, for the teaching of Greek. It was in the latter school that he learned the rudiments of Greek, in which he had afterwards few equals anywhere, and none in Scotland. In 1559 Melville entered the University of St. Andrews and joined St. Mary's College. Aristotle's Works were the only text-books used; and Melville was the only one in the University, whether student or professor, who could read them in the original. He was a favourite of the Provost of his College, John Douglas, who invited him often to his house and encouraged him in his studies, and discerned in him the promise of distinction as a scholar. 'He wad tak the boy betwix his legges at the fire in winter, and blessing him say—"My sillie fatherless and motherless chyld, it's ill to wit what God may mak of thee yet!"' Melville finished his curriculum at St. Andrews in 1564, and left with the reputation of being 'the best philosopher, poet, and Grecian of any young maister in the land.'

It was common at that time for Scottish students on leaving their own Universities to seek, at the Continental seats of learning, a more abundant education than their own country could afford. We shall see that when Melville came to be at the head in succession of our two principal Universities, he considerably modified this custom. He conformed to it, however, in his own case, and the same year in which he closed his course at St. Andrews left Scotland to prosecute his studies abroad. The next decade was his Wander-jahre. He went first of all to Paris, whose University was the most renowned in Europe. There was a truce at the time between the Catholics and the Reformers in France; a large measure of toleration was allowed by the Government, and the principal Professors were Protestants. In Paris, Melville sat at the feet of some of the most distinguished scholars of the day: he read diligently in Greek literature; acquired a knowledge of Hebrew; and at the same time studied Philosophy under Petrus Ramus, the great opponent of Aristotelianism, becoming a follower of this daring innovator, whose system he afterwards introduced in the Scottish Universities.

From Paris Melville went to Poitiers, where he studied jurisprudence and was also employed as tutor in the college of St. Marceon. In the 'Diary' of his nephew, who was a great literary impressionist, and whose pages preserve for us the very 'form and pressure' of the scenes he describes, many incidents are related of his Continental life which disclose his character as a youth. During the third year of Melville's residence in Poitiers the academic quiet of the town was broken by the clash of arms. Civil war had broken out afresh in France, and Poitiers, which was a Catholic town, held by the Duke of Guise, was invested by a Protestant army under Coligny. Melville, as a foreigner and a Protestant, found himself in a situation where he needed to use the greatest caution to escape the danger to which he was exposed. When the siege began the colleges were closed, and he was received into the family of a prominent citizen as tutor to his boy. There was a small party of the soldiery quartered in the house, and one day their corporal, who had observed Melville at his devotions, challenged him as a Huguenot, and threatened to deal with him by martial law as one who might betray the town. With a courage and an adroitness which were native to him, he at once turned round on his assailant and repudiated his imputations; and seizing on some armour that was lying by, donned it, and going to the stables took the best horse by the head, as if to join there and then the ranks of the army of defence, when the corporal, fairly nonplussed by the apparent vehemence of his loyalty, begged his forgiveness. He had no more trouble of this kind, but he never felt secure of his liberty, and it was a comfort to him to know that he had a good horse standing in the stable by which, if it should come to the worst, he could make his escape to Coligny's camp. During the siege his pupil, a bright boy, to whom he had become deeply attached, was killed by a cannon-ball which penetrated the wall of his room and struck him on the thigh. Melville was in the house at the time, and on entering the room the dying boy embraced him and passed away with the words of the Apostle on his lips—[Greek: didaskale, ton dromon mou teteleka]—'Master, I have finished my course.' 'That bern gaed never out of his hart.'

On the siege being raised, Melville left Poitiers for Geneva, footing it all the way in the company of a few fellow-students. If he was sickly as a child, he gathered vigour in his 'teens and grew up a manly youth. He was of short stature and great agility, high-spirited, brave, the cheeriest of companions, full of resource in emergencies, and with an artful humour by which he made his escape from many a difficult situation incident to Continental travel at the time. On the journeys from town to town on the way to Geneva he held out better than any of his comrades, stepping along with no impedimenta but his Hebrew Bible which he had slung at his side—the same Bible which he afterwards 'clanked' down on the board before the King and Council in Edinburgh,—the freshest of the company when the day's journey was ended, so that he 'wad out and sight' the towns and villages whithersoever they came while the others lay down 'lyk tired tykes.' On reaching Geneva he and one of his fellow-travellers, who was a Frenchman, presented themselves at the gates together, when they were challenged by the guard. 'The ports of Genev wer tentilie keipit, because of the troubles of France and multitud of strangers that cam. Being thairfor inquyrit what they war, the Franche man his companion answerit, "We ar puir scollars." But Mr. Andro, perceaving that they haid na will of puir folks, being alreadie owerlaid thairwith, said, "No, no, we ar nocht puir! [though he admitted afterwards that they had 'but a crown to the fore' between them]. We haiff alsmikle as will pey for all we tak, sa lang as we tarie. We haiff letters from his acquentance to Monsieur di Beza; let us deliver those, we crave na fordar."'

In Geneva Melville received a warm welcome from Beza, who reigned there in place of Calvin, and through his influence he at once obtained an appointment to the chair of Humanity in the College. During his residence in that city, which lasted for five years, he had the opportunity of mingling with many of the first scholars of the age, and of the leaders of the Reformed movement in Europe. After the massacre of St. Bartholomew in 1572, Geneva was filled with Protestant refugees from every Continental country. Never probably before or since has there been found within one city such an assemblage of masters of intellect and learning, or such a cloud of distinguished witnesses for truth and liberty. In Geneva, Melville, like Knox, received much of his invigoration for the work that awaited him on his return to his native land.

His residence there was made still more agreeable by the hospitality of a relative, Henry Scrymgeour, brother of his foster-mother. Scrymgeour had left Scotland in early life to study law on the Continent, and after acting as tutor and secretary to several noble families in France and Italy, he had come to Geneva, and been appointed to the chair of Civil Law in the College. He had 'atteined to grait ritches, conquesit a prettie room within a lig to Geneva, and biggit thairon a trim house called "The Vilet."' In 'the vilet,' where Scrymgeour and his wife and daughter composed the household, Melville was always a welcome guest.

During Melville's ten years' absence on the Continent he had little correspondence with his friends at home, and towards the end, as they had heard nothing of him since he had left Poitiers, they began to fear that he had perished like so many others in the civil wars in France. A countryman, however, who had come to Geneva to see Henry Scrymgeour in order to invite him in the name of well-known friends of learning in Scotland to become a teacher in one of the Universities, brought back news of Melville's welfare and reputation, when his relations immediately wrote and urged him to return to his own country, and bestow his services as a scholar in raising the low-fallen repute of Scottish education. With great regret, and bearing with him a letter of commendation from Beza, in which this distinguished friend used these words—'the graittest token of affection the Kirk of Genev could schaw to Scotland is that they had suffered thamselves to be spuiled of Mr. Andro Melville, wherby the Kirk of Scotland might be inritched'—he left the city where, like Knox before him, he spent his happiest days. He arrived in Edinburgh in the beginning of July 1574.



'He was a scholar, and a ripe and good one; ... Ever witness for him Those twins of learning that he raised in you.'

Henry VIII.

It was in the interests of education, and for the purpose of reviving Scottish learning, that Melville had been induced to come back to his native land, and it will be convenient to devote a chapter to this subject before we consider the graver, more crucial interests in which he was destined to take a decisive part. He had not been many days in the country when Regent Morton offered him an appointment as Court Chaplain, with the ulterior view of attaching him to his patron's ecclesiastical policy. Whether having this suspicion or no, Melville declined the post. He had returned to Scotland for educational work, and he determined to wait for an opening in one of the Universities. Meanwhile he wished a little repose with the friends from whom he had been so long separated; and he went to Baldovy, where he was received with much affection. It was at this time that the attachment between him and his nephew was formed and consecrated by a kind of sacramental act on the part of the father of the latter—'I was resigned ower be my father hailelie into him to veak[1] upon him as his sone and servant, and, as my father said to him, to be a pladge of his love. And surlie his service was easie, nocht to me onlie, bot even to the fremdest man that ever served him.'

[Footnote 1: Wait.]

So great was Melville's scholarly reputation by this time that, at the General Assembly held a month after his return, the Universities of Glasgow and St. Andrews put in competing claims for his services as Principal. He decided in favour of Glasgow, on account of its greater need; and at the end of October he left Baldovy, accompanied by his nephew, to enter on his academic office. On the way two days were spent in Stirling, where the King, then a boy of nine, was residing; and the Melvilles saw him and were much struck with his precocity in learning: 'He was the sweitest sight in Europe that day for strange and extraordinar gifts of ingyne, judgment, memorie, and langage. I hard him discours, walking upe and doun in the auld Lady Marr's hand, of knawlage and ignorance, to my grait marvell and estonishment.' James never lost his fancy for discoursing at large and learnedly to the 'marvell and estonishment' of his hearers. But it was to visit the King's illustrious preceptor, George Buchanan, that Melville came by Stirling. The two were kindred spirits; they were like in their love of learning, in their scholarly accomplishments, in their passion for teaching, in their political and religious sympathies, in the ardour and vigour with which they maintained their convictions, in their valorous action for the defence of civil and religious freedom. At this time Buchanan was beginning the work which filled his closing years—his History of Scotland. Seven years afterwards the Melvilles paid him another visit, in Edinburgh, the account of which by the younger is one of the loci classici of Scottish history. It contains, like the same writer's description of the last appearance of Knox in the pulpit, one of the most living pieces of portraiture in our literature: 'When we cam to his chalmer, we fand him sitting in his chaire, teatching his young man that servit him in his chalmer a, b, ab; e, b, eb, etc. Efter salutation, Mr. Andro sayes, "I sie, sir, yie are nocht ydle." "Better this," quoth he, "nor stelling sheipe, or sitting ydle, quhilk is als ill!"' Buchanan put the proof of his Epistolary Dedication to the King into the hands of Melville, who read it and suggested some amendments. 'I may do no mair,' said the worn-out veteran, 'for thinking on another mater.' When Melville asked what he meant, he replied, 'To die.' Leaving him for a little, the Melvilles accompanied his nephew, Thomas Buchanan, on a visit to his printer, whom they found setting up the passage of the History relating the 'burial of Davie.'[2] Its boldness alarmed them, and they asked the printer to stop the passage meanwhile. Returning to the house, they found him in bed, and, asking how he did, he replied, 'Even going the way of weil-fare.' His nephew then mentioned their fear that the passage referred to would so offend the King that the work would be suppressed. 'Tell me, man,' Buchanan answered, 'giff I have tauld the treuthe?' 'Yes,' replied his nephew; 'sir, I think sa.' 'I will byd his fead[3] and all his kin's, then!'

[Footnote 2: Rizzio.]

[Footnote 3: Feud.]

Melville needed a stout heart for the task that lay before him in Glasgow. The University, which had never been prosperous, being always starved in its revenues and undermanned, had declined so far that its gates had to be closed for lack of students; so that when he entered on the Principalship he actually constituted the whole Senatus in his own person. He began by training a number of young men as regents, the course of study embracing classics, mathematics, and mental and moral philosophy, in each of which he carried his class as far as the highest standards of any University in Europe; and in addition to these labours he taught all the theological classes. When the regents were qualified he specialised their subjects—a great reform on the old system, under which the students passed through the entire curriculum under the same teacher.

Melville's teaching was not confined to his class-hours nor to his professor's desk; he sat with the students at the college table, and in his table-talk gave them some of his best instruction. The fame of the University rose so rapidly under his regime that the class-rooms were soon crowded: 'I dare say there was na place in Europe comparable to Glasgow for guid letters during these yeirs, for a plentifull and guid chepe mercat for all kynd of langages, artes an sciences.'

In 1580 Melville was translated to the Principalship of St. Mary's College, St. Andrews. Mainly through his own exertions a new constitution for the University had just been framed and sanctioned by Parliament, in accordance with which that College was to be henceforth set apart for theological education. The reforms made at this time in St. Andrews went on the same lines as those effected in Glasgow.

Before Melville's time the study of Greek never went beyond the rudiments: Hebrew and other Oriental languages were not taught at all; and in philosophy Aristotle held exclusive possession of the ground. His reforms applied particularly to these branches of learning: Greek, Hebrew, and Syriac were taught according to the best methods of the age; and the Platonic Philosophy was introduced. M'Crie, who always speaks with authority on such a subject, describes the reformed curriculum as the most liberal and enlightened plan of study in any University, whether at home or abroad.

Melville continued in the Principalship of St. Mary's for upwards of a quarter of a century—from the close of 1580 to 1606, when he was summoned by the King to London, never to return to his native land.

In St. Andrews and Glasgow he had not only teaching duties, he presided over the government of the University as well; and the same resolute respect for law, which set him so stoutly against the King's tyranny in the realm, made him a determined upholder of order in the University. He was at once a fearless subject and a born ruler of men. When he entered on his office in St. Andrews, some of the professors, chafed by the reforms which he introduced, became insubordinate, but soon succumbed to his authority; and more than once in Glasgow he quelled riots among the students at the risk of his life. On one occasion, when his friends urged him to condone an offence of a student of noble family from fear of revenge, he answered, 'Giff they wald haiff forgiffness let them crave it humblie and they sall haiff it; but or that preparative pass, that we dar nocht correct our scholars for fear of bangstars and clanned gentlemen, they sall haiff all the blud of my body first.'

In St. Andrews he was for some time Rector of the University as well as Principal of St. Mary's, and in his exercise of civil authority in that capacity he did more for public order than all the magistrates of the burgh. At one time the inhabitants were greatly plagued by a bad neighbour, the Laird of Dairsie, who had once been Provost, and who resented his ejection from that office. On more than one occasion associates of his, Balfour of Burley and others, had entered the city during the night and committed gross outrages. One day the report reached St. Andrews that Dairsie and his friends were approaching in force to make an assault on the citizens. The magistrates were panic-stricken; but on the report reaching the Rector's ears, he immediately summoned the whole University together and organised a party of resistance, placed himself at its head, bearing in his hand a white spear (one of the insignia of his office), and by his prompt action made the invaders glad to decamp.

During Melville's rectorship quarrels sometimes occurred between town and gown, and in these he always showed himself jealous in regard to the rights of the University. He had once a serious rupture with the magistrates, on account of their unjust administration and their rejection of eminent ministers whom he had commended for charges in the city. Preaching in his own pulpit in the College of St. Mary's, he spoke with such vehemence of their misdoings that he raised the town against him. Forthwith placards were affixed to the College gates threatening the Rector with dire revenge. Nothing daunted, Melville continued to fulminate against the authorities—'with ane heroicall spreit, the mair they stirit and bostit the mair he strak with that twa-eagit sword, sa that a day he movit the Provest, with sear rubbing of the ga of his conscience, to ryse out of his seatt in the middes of the sermont, and with some muttering of words to goe to the dure, out-throw the middes of the peiple.' Melville, instead of giving way to the irate magistrate, had him brought before the Presbytery, when he expressed his regret for disturbing the public worship, and craved forgiveness; and so peace was restored.

The academic labours of Melville caused a great revival in Scottish education. Not only did Scotland after this time keep her own students, but foreign students began to attend her Universities. A few years after Melville went to St. Andrews, names of students from all parts of the Continent began to appear on the matriculation registers, chiefly of St. Andrews, but of the other Universities as well. He gave an impetus to learning not only within academic circles, but throughout the country, as was shown in the great increase in the production of books in all branches of literature and science. The period enriched the nation with no names of literary genius, but the general intellectual activity of the country made a great advance, Melville himself left no permanent contribution to literature—his hands were too full of public cares for that; and his entire literary remains consist of sacred poems and fugitive pieces of verse in Latin. But he was very ready with his pen, and served as a kind of unofficial poet-laureate. It is a curious fact that on every occasion in the King's reign that called for celebration, even at those times when Melville was on the worst terms with James, an appropriate ode was forthcoming. He was a clever satirist, and it was a lampoon which he wrote on a sermon in the Royal Chapel at Hampton Court that was made the pretext for depriving him of his liberty.

Such were Melville's services to education and learning. Through all the stormy controversies into which he was plunged he never forsook his first love, but continued his work in our Universities up to the close of his career in Scotland.



'Who never looks on man Fearful and wan, But firmly trusts in God.'


We must go back to the year of Melville's return home, 1574, in order that we may review the supreme labours of his life. It was a time of confusion: Knox was dead, and the Church needed a leader to shape its discipline and policy in order to conserve the fruits of the Reformer's work. Two years before Melville's return, viz. in 1572, the electroplate Episcopacy—the Tulchan[4] Bishops—had been imposed on the Church by the Regent Morton. Up to this time the constitution of the Church had been purely Presbyterian. There was no office superior to that of the minister of a congregation. The Superintendents were only ministers, or elders appointed provisionally by the General Assembly, to whom such presbyterial functions were delegated as the exigencies of the Church required. They had no pretensions to the rank or functions of the Anglican bishops; they had no peculiar ordination, and no authority save such as they held at the pleasure of the Assembly.

[Footnote 4: A Tulchan was a calf's skin stuffed with straw placed near the cow to induce her to give milk.]

Side by side, however, with the Presbyterian ministry there still existed the old Roman Hierarchy, who had been allowed to retain their titles, the greater part of their revenues, and their seats in Parliament. The prelates had no place within the Church, their status being only civil and legal; and when any of them joined the Church they entered it on the same footing as the common ministry.

This was far from being a satisfactory or safe state of things. It had elements, indeed, which obviously threatened the integrity of the Presbyterian order; and it is little wonder that the Church was impatient of its continuance and eager to end it, to clear the Roman Hierarchy off the ground, and secure for its own economy a chance of developing itself without the entanglements that were inevitable to the existing compromise.

The financial arrangements that had been made at the first for carrying on the Church's work were unjust and inadequate. A portion of the third part of the benefices was all that had been assigned for the support of the ministry, and even this had not been fully or regularly paid, so that in many parishes the ministers' stipends had to be provided by their own people. In these circumstances the Church very naturally wished the ecclesiastical revenues of the country to be transferred to her own use, and she made the claim accordingly. But for this claim no party in the State would have resisted the sweeping away of the Hierarchy. The nobles, however, had set greedy eyes on the Church's patrimony, and so they became the determined opponents of this step. They could well have spared the bishops, but they could not forego the benefices, and to secure this plunder to the nobles was the main object of the Tulchan device. By this notable plan the benefices were taken from the old Hierarchy and bestowed on the nobles, who then conferred the titles without the functions on any of the clergy who could be bribed into compliance.

Morton, who was the chief supporter of the scheme, was notoriously avaricious—'wounderfully giffen to gather gear.' He hoped to enrich himself by it, and succeeded in doing so; but he had other motives. He wished—and this was always the main Governmental reason for the preference of Episcopacy—to keep the clergy under his control; and he sought also to please Elizabeth, on whom he was dependent for the stability of his own position, by bringing the Scottish Church into some degree of conformity with the Anglican.

The Assembly, while accepting the compromise had done what it could to safeguard its own constitution by putting it on record that it had assented to the continuance of the bishops only in their civil capacity, and in order to give a legal claim on the benefices to those who held them, and that it allowed the bishops no superiority within the Church over the ordinary ministers, or, at any rate, over the superintendents.

There is no doubt that it was only the hope, on the part of the Church, that she would secure a portion at least of her patrimony by it that reconciled her to this scheme. The ministers had little heart in the business, and the best of them did not conceal their dislike of the arrangement and their fear of the evils to which it would lead. It is easier to blame the Church for what she did than to say what she ought to have done. It would have been a more heroic, and probably a safer course, to refuse the compromise and at once to bring on the struggle with the Government which she had to face in the end. If Melville had been on the ground at the time, there is little doubt that one man at least would have had both the wisdom to recommend that course and the courage to pursue it.

The Tulchan system had only been in operation for two years when he came back from the Continent; but that was long enough to realise the Church's fears and to make her restive. The ministers who accepted the bishoprics became troublers of the Church, took advantage of their titular superiority over their brethren to push for a position of greater authority, and were more and more evidently the pliant tools of the Court. The Church, moreover, gained nothing in the way of a better provision for the ministry—the nobles seized the benefices and kept them.

On encountering the growing dissatisfaction of the ministers with his project, the Regent threatened the freedom of the Assembly, and put forward a claim on behalf of the Crown to supreme authority within the Church. There lay the crux of the situation, the great central issue in the controversy that was being thrust upon the Scottish people, that was to rend the nation for many a day, and that is not yet finally settled—Was the Church to be free to shape her own course and do her work in her own fashion, or was she to be subject to the civil government? Was the Church to be essentially the Church of Christ in Scotland, or was she to be the religious department, so to speak, of the Civil Service?

The first Assembly in which Melville sat met in Edinburgh in March 1575. Parliament had just appointed a committee to frame a more satisfactory polity for the Church, and the Assembly nominated some of its members as assessors to confer with it and report the proposals that might be made. At the same time it appointed a committee of its own, composed of its most competent and trusted men, to draft a constitution for its approval. This committee was reappointed from year to year; the result of its labours being the 'Second Book of Discipline,' which was laid before the Assembly and adopted by it at its meeting in the Magdalene Chapel, Edinburgh, in April 1578.

It was in the next Assembly, held in August of the same year, that the first blow was struck at the Tulchan Episcopate. This was done by a resolution brought forward by John Durie, one of the ministers of Edinburgh; but there is little doubt that it originated with Melville, who, although he had been home scarcely a year, had taken his place as the leader of his brethren, and by his teaching and personal influence had 'wakened up their spreits' to oppose the designs of the Court against the constitution of the Church. Durie's resolution raised the question of the scripturalness and lawfulness of the office of a bishop. In supporting it Melville made a powerful speech, in which he urged the abolition of the bishoprics and the restoration of the original Presbyterian order of the Church as the only satisfactory settlement of her affairs. The House resolved there and then to appoint an advisory committee to consider and report on the question, which committee reported against the office. No further step was taken at this time, the bishops being left as they were. At the next Assembly, however, held in April 1576, the committee's finding was adopted, and so far applied that all bishops who held their office 'at large' were required to allocate themselves to particular congregations.

The Assembly's decision was practically unanimous; its members were at one in wishing an end to the Tulchan scheme, and the people were of the same mind as the ministers. Against the ministers and people stood the Regent, the nobility, and all the clergy whose interests were threatened. Morton would fain have arrested the Assembly's action, but dared not; he could not afford at the time to drive the ministers into opposition, a powerful party of the nobles being hostile to his regency, and the combination would have shattered his government. His policy, therefore, was to manage the ministers for the accomplishment of his ends, and to attach as many of them as possible, and especially as many of the leaders as possible, to the Court. From the moment when he first met Melville he had the sagacity to perceive that this was the strongest man he would have to deal with: he accordingly did his utmost to secure Melville's support for the Government scheme. He offered him, as we have said, a Court Chaplaincy, and he would have made him Archbishop of St. Andrews on the death of Douglas. When he found him incorruptible by his favours, he tried to intimidate him. Calling him one day into his presence, he broke out in violent denunciation of those ministers who were disturbing the peace of the realm by their 'owersie'[5] dreams and setting up of the Genevan discipline; and on Melville turning the attack against himself and his government Morton flew into a rage—'Ther will never be quyetnes in this countrey till halff a dissone of yow be hangit or banished the countrey!' 'Tushe! sir,' retorted Melville, 'threaten your courtiers in that fashion. It is the same to me whether I rot in the air or in the ground. The earth is the Lord's: my fatherland is wherever well-doing is. I haiff bein ready to giff my lyff whar it was nocht halff sa weill wared, at the pleasour of my God. I leived out of your countrey ten yeirs as weill as in it. Yet God be glorified, it will nocht ly in your power to hang nor exyll His treuthe!' Sometimes, as here, words show a valour as great as doughtiest deeds of battle: they give the man who has uttered them a place for ever in the book of honour; they pass into the storehouse of our most cherished legends; and as often as crises occur in our history which make a severe demand upon our virtue, they are recalled to stir the moral pulse of the nation and brace it to its duty. No man in Scottish history has left his country a richer legacy of this kind than Melville.

[Footnote 5: Over the sea.]

Having failed with Melville, Morton found a ready tool to his hand in another minister of the Church, Patrick Adamson of Paisley. He was a man of some learning and eloquence and of great personal ambition, bent on climbing to a high place in the Church, and unscrupulous in his choice of means. At first he was a pronounced opponent of the new Church scheme, and often denounced it from the pulpit. His clever satire on the Tulchan bishops has never been forgotten—'There are three sorts of bishops: my Lord Bishop—he is in the Roman Church; my Lord's Bishop (the Tulchan), who while my Lord gets the benefice, serves for nothing but to make his title good; and the Lord's Bishop, who is the true minister of the Gospel.'

For some time Adamson cultivated an intimacy with Melville, who, however, never trusted him. Melville, ever shrewd in discerning character—'he had a wounderfull sagacitie in smelling out of men's naturalls and dispositions'—early saw that Adamson would prove a better servant of the Court than of the Church.

When the Assembly met in the autumn of 1576 it was reported that Adamson had been presented by Morton to the See of St. Andrews, and the question was put to him in open court whether he meant to accept it, when he declared he was in the hands of his brethren, and would act in the matter as they desired. The Assembly vetoed the appointment. Adamson, however, in violation alike of the Assembly's Act and of his own promise, entered on the See. The contempt his conduct awakened was universal, and was freely expressed even within the Regent's Court. One of the officers of the household, who had frequently heard Adamson come over the phrase, 'The prophet would mean this,' in his expositions of Scripture, remarked, on hearing that he had assumed the bishopric, 'For als aft as it was repeated by Mr. Patrick, "the prophet would mean this," I understood never what the profit means until now.' But to Adamson, who 'had his reward,' the titular primacy of Scotland was of more consequence than the respect of his countrymen: he retained his place in defiance of the Church, and was for many a day a troubler of its peace.

At the Assembly held in April 1578 a second blow was struck at the bishops: it was enacted that they should cease to be styled by lordly names, and that no more bishops should be elected. Two years later, at the Dundee Assembly of 1580, the Church took the final step against the Tulchan system by abolishing the Episcopate and requiring all bishops to demit their office and give in their submission to the provincial synods. The resolutions of the Assembly were carried without a single dissenting voice, and within a year the bishops with only five exceptions had surrendered their sees.

During the six years Melville had been the leader of the Assembly great results had been reached. The Church had gradually withdrawn from the Tulchan compromise, and had at the same time elaborated a constitution for itself on the basis of pure Presbytery. Mention has already been made of the adoption of this constitution—the Second Book of Discipline—in 1578. It is not necessary to describe it, as it is seen in its living embodiment in all the Presbyterian churches of Scotland to-day; though there is one important part of it which was never carried out, namely, the allocation of the patrimony of the Church to the purposes of religion, education, the maintenance of the poor, and the undertaking of public works for the common good. It enunciates the principle of the two jurisdictions—'the two swords'—which has played so important a part in Scottish history, and it protects the rights of the people in the election of their ministers. One significant difference between the Second Book of Discipline and the First may be mentioned—the abolition of the office of Superintendent. This office had been used as a handle by those who wished to introduce an order in the Church above the ministry; it thus lent itself as an inlet to Episcopacy, and so it was resolved to put an end to it.

The unanimity of the Assembly in the adoption of the 'Discipline,' and in all the steps towards the deposition of the bishops, was remarkable. The House never once divided. In all its counsels and labours Melville had the principal share, and it was mainly by his learning, by his energy, by his mastery in debate, by his unyielding attitude to the Court, that they issued as they did in the re-establishment of the Church on its original Presbyterian and popular basis.

James Melville has left us some charming pictures of the Assemblies of that period and of the private intercourse of its members. 'It was a maist pleasand and comfortable thing to be present at these Assemblies, thair was sic frequencie[6] and reverence; with halines in zeall at the doctrine quhilk soundit mightelie, and the Sessiones at everie meiting, whar, efter ernest prayer, maters war gravlie and cleirlie proponit; overtures maid be the wysest; douttes reasonit and discussit be the lernedest and maist quik; and, finalie, all withe a voice concluding upon maters resolved and cleirit, and referring things intricat and uncleired to farder advysment.'

[Footnote 6: Large attendance.]

In the inmost circle of Melville's friends were such men as Arbuthnot, Principal of Aberdeen, and Smeton, his own successor as Principal of Glasgow—both, like himself, eminent in learning; David Ferguson, minister of Dunfermline, the patriarch of the Assembly, and one of the six original members of the Reformed Church; and the four ministers of Edinburgh—all notable men—John Durie, James Lawson, James Balfour, and Walter Balcanquhal. At Assembly times he and his nephew met these brethren daily, for the most part, at John Durie's table. The group contained the very flower and chivalry of the Church. At their meals they discussed the incidents of the day's sittings, and their conversation was enlivened with many a pleasantry—it was always Melville's 'form' at table to 'interlase' discourse on serious subjects with 'merry interludes.' When the company rose from table they held lengthened devotional exercises: in the reading of Scripture each in his turn made his observations on the passage; and we can well believe the estimate of some of those who were present, that had everything been taken down they could not have wished a fuller and better commentary than fell at these times from this company of ripe and ready interpreters of the Word. When the exercises were over, the brethren entered into deliberation on the causes to be brought before the Assembly, and came to an understanding as to the course they would pursue in dealing with them. Those who would come to the secret of the noble part so often played by the ministers of the Scottish Church in crucial periods of its history, will fail to find it where they leave out of account the inward correspondence which these men, by such fellowship, sought to maintain with one another and with the Master of Assemblies.



'To deal with proud men is but pain, For either must ye fight or flee, Or else no answer make again, But play the beast and let them be.'

The Raid of the Reidswyre.

In March 1578, James, then in his twelfth year, assumed the government. In Morton he had had an adviser who was not friendly to the Church, but those who displaced Morton and brought him before long to the scaffold were its determined and avowed enemies. During the few years with which we have to deal in this chapter, the Government was directed by two men whose character and policy were detested by the nation, and who filled up their short tenure of power with as many exasperating acts of despotism as it was possible to crowd into it. The more prominent of the two, Esme Stewart, a kinsman of the King, cousin of his father Darnley, was a foreigner and had been trained in the French Court. He had a brief and inglorious career in Scotland. He had no sooner joined the King's Council than he became the master of its policy, being the first of the gratae personae who in succession established themselves in the Court of James and brought him under their control. There is little wonder that the boy-king, who had passed through the stern hands of George Buchanan and had spent his time for the most part with men of our austere Scottish character, should have felt the seductiveness of the gay foreigner 'with his French fasons and toyes.' Esme Stewart had not been long in the country before James began to decorate him with honours and enrich him with gifts of lands and money. He was created Duke of Lennox and made Lord High Chancellor, in which latter capacity he had the custody of the King's person—a pawn which in this reign was often decisive in the contest for political supremacy. He soon filled the Court with men of his own stamp. One of these, only second to himself in influence with the King, was another Stewart—James, the infamous son of Lord Ochiltree. Like his patron, James Stewart soon received high promotion, being made Earl of Arran.

Lennox had come to Scotland as an emissary of the French Government and as an agent of the Guises, in order to induce James to break off his alliance with England in favour of the old alliance with France, and to restore the Roman Church in the country; but the ministers having become informed of his designs, raised such a storm against him that he was driven to make a public renunciation of Popery, and obliged to prosecute his mission by more cautious and circuitous methods than he intended to use. Lennox's evil influence on James in ecclesiastical affairs soon became apparent. On the See of Glasgow becoming vacant, the benefice was appropriated by himself and the title bestowed on Robert Montgomery, minister of Stirling. The Church at once rose up in arms against this flagrant violation of its authority, put Montgomery on his trial for contumacy, found him guilty, and sentenced him to deposition and excommunication. It was at the instance of Melville, who, in this as in many another crisis in the Church's history in his time, was called to the Moderator's chair, that the Assembly took action against Montgomery, and this was done in defiance of a royal inhibition. The inferior courts to which the judicial process at different stages was remitted showed the same determined spirit, so deep and widespread was the indignation that was roused against Lennox by his attempt to thrust bishops anew upon the Church, and against the minister of the Church who had so basely lent himself to it. When the case came before the Presbytery of Glasgow, Montgomery himself appeared, accompanied by the provost and bailies and an escort of soldiers, and produced an interdict under the King's hand against its proceeding. The Presbytery paid no heed to the intruders, and was going on with the business, when the Moderator was ejected from the chair, assaulted, and taken off to prison. Still the Presbytery proceeded till it finished the case and carried out the injunction of the Assembly. Among the crowd gathered at the Presbytery house was a band of students from the University, who in making a demonstration of their sympathy with the ministers were charged by the soldiery, and some blood was shed. The ministers of the East vied with those of the West in supporting the action of the Assembly. John Durie, the most powerful and popular among them, distinguished himself by the boldness with which he spoke against Lennox as the disturber of the peace of the Church. The sentence of excommunication, which had been transmitted to the Edinburgh Presbytery, was pronounced by John Davidson, minister of Liberton, and read in most of the pulpits in Edinburgh and Glasgow on the following Sabbath. A meeting of the Privy Council was immediately called, in which proceedings were taken against the ministers of Edinburgh, and John Durie was banished from the city.

A special meeting of Assembly was called to deal with this serious state of affairs, Melville being still in the chair. In his opening sermon he made a vehement attack on the Court for its renewed attempt to overthrow the Church's order and restore Episcopacy, and spoke of the King's claim to spiritual authority as a 'bludie gullie' thrust into the Commonwealth—a description which the later history of Scotland has sufficiently verified. The House, at one with the Moderator, drew up a statement of the Church's recent grievances, and appointed Melville and some other members to present it to the King at Perth, where he was residing at the time. To Perth accordingly they went. This was a daring step in the circumstances, when there was such exasperation in the Court, and when its councils were led by two such men as Lennox and Arran. 'News was sparpelet athort[7] the cuntry that the ministers war all to be thair massacred.' Melville was warned by a friendly courtier, his namesake Sir James Melville of Halhill, of the risk he ran in carrying out the Assembly's commission. 'I thank God,' he answered, 'I am nocht fleyed nor feible-spirited in the cause and message of Christ. Come what God please to send, our commission sal be dischargit.' When he and the other members of the deputation appeared before the King in Council and read their remonstrance, Arran interfered, when there occurred another of those historic scenes associated with Melville's name, in which he displayed such splendid courage in the resistance of tyranny. An arrogant assailant, like steel striking against flint, always elicited a flash of his noblest manhood. 'Arran began to threttin with thrawin[8] brow and bosting langage. "What," says he, "wha dar subscryve thir treasanable Articles?" "We dar, and will subscryve them,"' answered Melville, taking, as he spoke, the pen from the clerk and putting his name to the document; and then, beckoning to his fellow-deputies, he bade them follow his example, which they all did. The boldness of the deed cowed even Lennox and Arran. They saw that day that 'the Kirk had a bak,' and were glad to dismiss the deputies without further debate.

[Footnote 7: Spread athwart.]

[Footnote 8: Frowning.]

The firmness with which the two Court favourites were handled by the ministers inspirited the nobles to execute a plot that had been laid to get the King out of their hands and end their intolerable supremacy. As soon as the King's person had been secured by the Raid of Ruthven, Lennox was banished from the realm, and Arran enjoined to confine himself to his own estate.

For a while the Church had rest and breathed freely after the strain that had been put upon it. A few days after the Raid of Ruthven a great outburst of popular feeling in favour of Presbyterianism took place in Edinburgh, the occasion being the return of John Durie from banishment. 'Ther was a grait concurs of the haill town, wha met him at the Nather Bow; and, going upe the streit, with bear heads and loud voices, sang to the praise of God, and testifeing of grait joy and consolation, the 124th Psalm, "Now Israel may say," etc., till heavin and erthe resoundit. This noyes, when the Duc [of Lennox] being in the town, hard, and ludgit in the Hie-gat, luiked out and saw, he rave his berde for anger, and hasted him af the town.'

The peace of the Church was short-lived. In midsummer of 1583 the King made his escape from the Ruthven lords and betook himself to the Castle of St. Andrews. The old gang at once returned to Court. Lennox had died in exile; but Arran was reinstalled at the Council-board, and immediately renewed the old measures against the ministers, whose part in causing his recent fall made him more than ever determined to crush them. He began with Melville, who was summoned before the Council—it was in February 1584—on a trumped-up charge of using treasonable language in the course of one of his sermons. Melville declined the jurisdiction of the Council on the ground that he was not accused of a civil offence, but of doctrine uttered in the pulpit. His declinature was taken so hotly by the King and Arran that all who were present felt he was as good as a dead man; but 'Mr. Andro, never jarging[9] nor daschit[10] a whit, with magnanimus courage, mightie force of sprit and fouthe[11] of evidence of reason and langage, plainly tauld the King and Council that they presumed ower bauldlie ... to tak upon them to judge the doctrine and controll the ambassadors and messengers of a King and Counsall graiter nor they, and far above tham! "And that," sayes he, "ye may see weakness, owersight, and rashness in taking upon you that quhilk yie nather aught nor can do" (lowsing a litle Hebrew Byble fra his belt and clanking it down on the burd before King and Chancelar), "thair is," says he, "my instructiones and warrand."' A number of witnesses, well-known enemies of Melville, who had been brought from St. Andrews to support the accusation, gave their evidence, but to no purpose. Instead of being discharged, however, he was condemned for the boldness of his defence—which was construed as a new offence,—and sentenced to imprisonment in the Castle of Edinburgh during his Majesty's pleasure.

[Footnote 9: Swerving.]

[Footnote 10: Abashed.]

[Footnote 11: Abundance.]

Rulers who could so outrage justice as to deprive a subject of his liberty on such a ground were not to be trusted with his life. So all Melville's friends and Melville himself thought. They were persuaded that Arran, at least, was bent on silencing the man who was his most formidable opponent. His friends, quoting the proverb, 'lowes and leiving,'[12] urged him to flight, and he himself resolved on it, having not only his personal safety but also the interests of the Church and the commonweal to consider and safeguard. During the few days he was still left free, he appeared as usual among his friends, and in the best of spirits. At dinner in James Lawson's manse, where many of his friends gathered to meet him, he seemed the only light-hearted man in the company. 'He ate and drank and crakked als merrelie and frie-myndit as at anie tyme and mair,' drinking to his gaoler and fellow-prisoners, and bidding his brethren make ready to follow. While seated at table, the macer of the Council appeared with a warrant charging him to enter the Castle of Blackness within twenty-four hours. When the macer had withdrawn, Melville left the manse, and, confiding his intention to only a few friends, made his escape from the city, accompanied by his brother Roger, and within the twenty-four hours was safely over the Border and lodged in Berwick.

[Footnote 12: Loose and living.]

Melville's exile at this juncture, when he was so much needed at home to meet the tyranny of the Court, was a severe blow to his brethren in the ministry and to all the friends of the Church. They were entering a heavy battle when they were deprived of their trusted captain. More than James Melville could have said at that time that they felt a 'cauld heavie lumpe' lying on their hearts. The ministers of Edinburgh showed their characteristic spirit in this crisis, and raised such a storm against the King and Council on account of their treatment of Melville that the Court had to defend itself by an apologetic proclamation.

Within a few months after Melville's flight measures were passed through Parliament which upset all that the Church had done during the previous decade to extricate itself from the confusion of the Tulchan Episcopacy. They were devised by Arran and by Archbishop Adamson, who persistently used his influence at Court for the subversion of Presbytery. These measures—'The Black Acts'—declared the supremacy of the King in all matters—ecclesiastical and civil—and made all rejection of his authority a treasonable act: they deprived the Church of the rights of free assembly, free speech, and independent legislation; and they empowered the bishops to reestablish their order in every part of the kingdom. A clause was added requiring all ministers to sign an act of submission to the bishops on penalty of losing their offices and their livings.

On these Acts being proclaimed at the Cross of Edinburgh, the ministers of the city—James Lawson, Walter Balcanquhal, and Robert Pont—appeared and made protest against them, when Arran was so incensed by their conduct that he at once ordered their arrest, and swore he would make Lawson's head 'leap from its halse though it was as big as a haystack.' More than they were in jeopardy of their lives; every man in the country who had been a pronounced friend of liberty had cause to fear. Lawson, Balcanquhal, and Pont fled, with many others. A warrant had been procured by Archbishop Adamson for the apprehension of James Melville, when he made his escape by open boat to Berwick.

The course of events showed that the ministers had reason for their flight. Some of the most zealous of those left in the country were thrown into prison for refusing to conform to the Acts, or for remembering their banished brethren in public prayer. One minister was tried and sentenced to death on a charge that a letter from one of these brethren had been found in possession of his wife; and though the sentence was not executed, the scaffold was put up, and kept up for some time, before his prison window. Nor were the ministers the only sufferers. Glasgow University, which Melville's teaching and influence had leavened with the principles of liberty, was made to feel the heavy hand of the Government: its professors were imprisoned, its rector was banished, and its gates were closed.

Popular indignation began to break forth in many quarters. In St. Andrews the students went in a body to the Archbishop's palace and warned him that he was courting the fate of Hamilton and Beaton; while visiting Edinburgh, Adamson had to be protected by the police; Montgomery was mobbed at Ayr; and wherever the bishops appeared there were hostile demonstrations on the part of the people.

The Court, however, defied public opinion, and went on with its coercive policy, rigidly enforcing submission to the authority of the bishops. At first the great majority of the ministers refused; but on a clause being added to the deed of submission, to the effect that it required them only to conform 'according to the Word of God,' most of them gave way. The clause was suggested by Adamson, and it reflects his character. It was one of those shrewd devices for causing division among the ministers, and providing a middle way for men distracted by the desire to be faithful to their consciences on the one hand, and the wish to escape persecution on the other, which were often resorted to by the Court throughout the entire course of the struggle against prelacy. Some of the stalwarts of the Church fell into the trap which Adamson had set for them in this shallow compromise, and their example led many others to yield. One of the banished brethren, in a letter written at the time, states that all the ministers in the Lothians and the Merse, with only ten exceptions, had subscribed; that John Erskine of Dun had not only subscribed, but was making himself a pest to the ministers in the North by importuning them to follow his example; that John Craig, so long Knox's colleague, had given in and was speaking hotly against those who held out; that even the redoubtable John Durie had 'cracked his curple'[13] at last; and that the pulpits of Edinburgh were silent, except a very few 'who sigh and sob under the Cross.'

[Footnote 13: Crupper.]

Events took such a course that the ministers who subscribed might, after all, have held out with a whole skin. They capitulated to their enemies on the very eve of their enemies' fall; for the exasperation of the nation under such insolent tyranny as Arran's could no longer be held in. Davison, the English Ambassador, writing to the Court at this time, says: 'It is incredible how universally the man is hated by all men of all degrees, and what a jealousy is sunken into the heads of some of the wisest here of his ambitious and immoderate thoughts.... His usurp power and disposition of all things, both in Courts, Parliaments, and Sessions, at the appetite of himself and his good lady, with many other things do bewray matter enough to suspect the fruits of ambition and inordinate thirst for rule'; and he adds, 'I find infinite appearances that the young King's course ... doth carry him headlong to his own danger and hazard of his estate. He hath, since the change at St. Andrews, continually followed forth implacable hatred and pursuit against all such as in defence of his life and crown have hazarded their own lives, living, fortunes in all that they have, and now throws himself into the arms of those that have heretofore preferred his mother's satisfaction to his own surety, and do yet aim at that mark, with the apparent danger of religion which hath already received a greater wound by the late confusions and alterations than can be easily repaired.' Other satellites of the Court helped to make the country restive. Adamson especially provoked the people by many petty acts of tyranny, such as the ejection from the manses of the wives of the banished ministers on account of a spirited defence of their husbands, which they had published in reply to charges made against them by the Archbishop.

At the same time the country was visited by two great calamities which were interpreted as divine judgments on the misdeeds of the Government. The harvest was destroyed by heavy rains, and there was an outbreak of the plague of such virulence as to spread terror in all the larger cities. Edinburgh was so desolated, that when James Melville and others of the banished ministers passed through the streets on their return home, they found them empty,—'About alleavin hours he cam rydding in at the watergett of the Abbay, upe throw the Canow-gett, and red in at the Nether Bow, throw the graitt street of Edinbruche to the Wast Port, in all the quhilk way we saw nocht three persons, so that I miskend Edinbruche, and almost forgot that ever I had seen sic a toun.' The people felt that 'the Lord's hand wald nocht stay unto the tyme the Ministers of God and Noble-men war brought hame again.' The banished lords, emboldened by the dissatisfaction of the people and the support of the English Government, and joining with several Border chiefs who had old scores of their own against Arran, invaded the country, marched to Stirling, where the King and Court had retired on hearing of their approach, and took possession of the town. Arran fled, and James was glad to come to terms with the lords.



'The love of kings is like the blowing of winds ... or the sea which makes Men hoist their sails in a flattering calm, And to cut their masts in a rough storm.'


This coup d'etat left Melville and the other exiled brethren free to return to Scotland, as they did in November 1585. During his stay of nearly two years in England Melville had not been idle. He carried on a correspondence with Protestant ministers in France and Switzerland for the purpose of correcting misrepresentations which Archbishop Adamson had been industriously circulating among them in regard to the conduct of the ministers in Scotland. In all its struggles, from the Reformation to the time of Renwick, the Scottish Church sought to keep the churches of the Continent informed of its affairs and to secure their sympathy. When in London Melville diligently used his influence with leading English statesmen in favour of the cause which he represented. He also took advantage of his proximity to Oxford and Cambridge to visit those Universities, where he was received with the greatest courtesy and respect.

The other ministers who had fled to England had likewise been fully occupied; they had preached in Berwick, in Newcastle, in London, and wherever they found an open door. James Melville had, for a while, most of the banished Ruthven lords in his congregation at Newcastle, and he had sought to invigorate them as the supporters of the liberties of the Church in the event of their returning home to take part again in political life; but, as it proved, with little effect.

The Church soon found that it had gained little by the change of Government. If Arran and his set were its bitter enemies, the new Councillors, the Ruthven lords, were, at the best, indifferent friends. Though they owed their restored power largely to the courageous resistance of the ministers to the Arran administration, and though they had pledged themselves during their exile to use their influence, when opportunity should come, to undo the evils of that administration as they had affected the Church, they were content to secure their own interest and left the Church to look after itself.

Parliament having been summoned to meet in Linlithgow in December 1585, for the purpose of reponing the nobles in their estates and giving its sanction to their administration, the ministers resolved to hold a meeting of Assembly beforehand in Dunfermline to prepare a representation of the Church's interests for the Parliament. When the members of Assembly reached that city they found that the Provost had closed the gates against them, by order, it was said, of the Court. The meeting was held, but adjourned, after resolving that it should be resumed at Linlithgow. James Melville, fresh from his journey from England, arrived in Linlithgow on the eve of the Assembly, and found his brethren much dispirited. They had almost come to a rupture among themselves, high words having passed between those of them who had subscribed the deed of submission to the bishops and those who had refused. This dispute had caused much trouble to Andrew Melville. In a letter of James Melville written at the time to a friend, he says: 'Mr. Andro hath been a traicked[14] man since he cam hame, ryding up and doun all the countrie to see if he might move the brethren to repent and joyne together.' The Assembly had little hope of Parliament doing anything towards the repeal of the Black Acts. If the nobles now in power would not press the King to redress the Church's grievances, it was certain that he would do nothing in that direction of his own accord. James was not in a mood to oblige the Church. He could not conceal his revengeful feelings towards the ministers who had fled with the Ruthven lords, and especially towards Melville. The Assembly, however, did its duty. It sent a deputation to the nobles to urge them to put the Church's claims before the King. The nobles refused, and the deputation went to the King himself. Melville was its spokesman, and many sharp and hot words passed between him and James. At length the King ordered the Assembly to lay before him a statement of its objections to the Black Acts. This was done, and within twenty-four hours James issued a reply from his own pen, in which he showed a conciliatory spirit, and made explanations to take the edge off the harshness with which the Acts had been framed, but made no alteration in their substance.

[Footnote 14: Overtoiled.]

If Parliament did not know when to take occasion by the hand to win concessions from the King in the interests of liberty, he knew how to use his opportunity for strengthening his own prerogatives. He brought forward a measure which the Parliament passed, constituting it a capital offence to criticise the King's conduct or government, and making it unlawful for his subjects to enter into any association for political ends without the consent of the throne.

At this time a fresh casus belli between the Church and the Crown arose through the Church's severe but well-merited handling of Archbishop Adamson. No man in the kingdom was more responsible for the recent troubles than Adamson, except Arran, whom he encouraged and supported in all his arbitrary measures. The minister of the Church who first opened fire on the Archbishop was James Melville. He had consulted beforehand with his uncle; but those who think he was too amiable to have any fight in him, or that on this or any other occasion he was only doing his uncle's bidding, do not know the man. His courage was as great as his uncle's, if he had a milder manner and a calmer temper; and his action on this occasion was the irrepressible outburst of his honest indignation at Adamson's treachery in the affairs of the Church ever since his elevation to the See of St. Andrews.

In March 1586 the Synod of Fife met at St. Andrews, and James Melville as the retiring Moderator had to preach the opening sermon. It was a full meeting. The Archbishop with a 'grait pontificalite and big countenance' was seated by the preacher's side. The subject of discourse was the evil that had been done to the Church from the time of its planting by the ambitious spirit and corrupt lives of men holding its highest offices. On reaching his application, the preacher, turning to the Archbishop and directing his speech to him personally, recalled his long course of disloyalty to the Church and his persistent efforts to overthrow its discipline, as well as all the injuries he had done to religion by his avarice and ambition: he spoke of him as a dangerous member who needed to be courageously cut off in order to save the body; and then, addressing himself to the Assembly, exhorted it to 'play the chirurgeon!' This bold and unexpected attack unmanned the Archbishop—'he was sa dashit and strucken with terror and trembling that he could skarse sitt, to let be stand on his feet.' It was manifest that the Moderator had the whole House at his back, and it at once entered on a process against Adamson. At first he declined its jurisdiction, boasting that it was rather his place to judge the Assembly. At length, however, he condescended to defend himself; and the process ended in his excommunication. A day or two after he retaliated by excommunicating, on his own authority, within his own church, Andrew Melville and other brethren. He also despatched to the King an appeal against the Synod's sentence, defying the sentence at the same time by appearing in his own pulpit on the following Sabbath. On the same Sabbath Melville was preaching in his own college chapel to a crowded congregation; and a neighbouring laird, with a number of his friends, having come to the city on that Sabbath to hear Melville, there was an unusual stir which drew most of the townsfolk to the chapel. When the last bell was ringing, and Adamson was about to enter the pulpit, a canard reached him to the effect that a body of local gentry and the citizens gathered within the college gates had formed a conspiracy to seize him and hang him on the spot. Calling to his servants to guard him, he ran out of the church and sought refuge in the steeple, and it took the magistrates all their skill to persuade him to leave his hiding-place and accept their convoy to the palace—'he was halff against his will ruggit[15] out, and halff borne and careit away' amid the derision of the onlookers.

[Footnote 15: Pulled.]

Adamson had appealed to the Assembly which was to meet in May. The King, being indignant at the treatment the Archbishop had received, was resolved to get the sentence annulled, and he set himself to tune the Assembly to his mind. He called a meeting by royal proclamation, and gave it out that he would attend it himself. The temper of the Assembly was such that the resolutions that were to effect the King's object had to be cautiously framed, and were carried by a bare majority of votes. The Court, without judging the Synod's proceedings and sentence, and only after Adamson had made an apology for his pretentions to authority in the Church, and had given a promise to drop them for the future, resolved to restore him. The case had been no sooner disposed of than Melville was summoned before the King and commanded to go into ward north of the Tay, that the Archbishop might have a better chance of recovering his lost prestige—a restriction which, however, was soon removed on a strong representation being made to the King of the loss which the University was suffering by the banishment of Melville.

From this time the Archbishop fell into disgrace, both for his shameful public career and for the offences of his private life, especially his extravagance and consequent debts. Two years later he was deposed by the Assembly, when the King cast him off, and gave the temporalities of his see to one of the Court favourites. After that Adamson never lifted his head. When he had fallen into poverty and sickness he made a pitiful appeal to Melville, which was most generously met. His old opponent visited him, and for months provided for him out of his own purse; and it was through the good offices of both the Melvilles that he was able to make his peace with the Church before he died. Perhaps it is this last act of humbleness, when he had lost all repute with the world, that gives him his best claim on our respect.

For some months previous to the Assembly in which Adamson's case was disposed of, the King had been exerting himself so to manage the members amenable to his influence, that he should not only secure his object in this particular business, but at the same time prevail with the Assembly to take a step backward in its general polity. He dared not propose much more than titular precedence for the bishops—a concession only wrung from the Assembly; and for a quid pro quo he had to give his consent to a measure for carrying out the provisions of the Second Book of Discipline by organising presbyteries and synods throughout the country. This was of course another compromise, but the Church's concessions were reduced to a minimum. James could only secure a footing for the bishops, and bide his time for restoring their supremacy.

In the Parliament of 1587, when Melville was present as a commissioner from the Assembly, a measure was passed, which, though it originated with the Court and was not so intended, dealt a serious blow to the hopes of the promoters of Episcopacy. The King had just attained his twenty-first year, and there was a law in the statute-book providing that all heirs of estates which had been forfeited through any cause should, on reaching their majority, have the opportunity of reclaiming them. Advantage was taken of this law to revoke grants of Crown lands made during the King's minority; and all the Church lands were annexed to the Crown. This measure stripped the bishops of their benefices and abolished their legal status, and so cancelled the chief ground on which the Court had contended for the maintenance of their order. By this measure the King, in his need or greed, or both, played for once into the hands of the Church.

In the following year, 1588, the prodigious attempt of Philip to invade England and overthrow the Protestant power in the two kingdoms very greatly strengthened the Presbyterian cause in Scotland, and made Episcopacy more than ever repugnant to the people, as having in it so much of the leaven of the Old Church. Whatever roused the Protestant spirit of the country gave Presbytery a firmer hold as the Church system most antagonistic to Popery, and also to arbitrary government which seeks in Popery its natural ally. At every crisis such as that which now arose, it made a fresh appeal to the deepest feelings of the nation.

At the time when the Armada was approaching our shores the country had no confidence in the patriotism of the King. There were sinister suspicions of his attitude to Romanism, caused by the favours shown at Court to nobles of that faith; by his retention of many of its adherents in his service, and his reluctance to take action against the Romish priests, the Jesuits, and the rest of the army of Papal emissaries who were sowing treason throughout the land. All through his life James was characterised by a singular unseasonableness in his activity. 'There is a time,' says the preacher, 'to every purpose under the heaven,' but with James there was always an incongruity between the time and the purpose. The year before, he had scandalised the Court by dancing and giggling at a levee held immediately after his mother's death; and now, when he should have been arming the country against the Spanish invasion, he was engaged in writing an academic treatise against the Pope. Perhaps his conduct was due to a deeper fault in his character—his ingrained duplicity. As, after his accession to the English throne, he sought to thwart the anti-Papal policy of his own Government when Spain was threatening the Protestant power in Germany, so now he may have been dissembling his real sympathies in writing against the Papacy. At all events, he never showed by any act of his reign that he dreaded the Papal power as much as he dreaded that of the Scottish Presbyterians or the English Puritans.

The Armada brought Melville once more to the front. It was his voice that roused the nation to a sense of its danger, and his energy that organised the nation to meet it. He summoned the Assembly, being Moderator at the time: the Assembly stirred up the nobles and the burgesses, and the whole nation joined to offer resistance to the invasion.

From this time the favourable tide for the fortunes of Presbytery which had set in previous to the Armada flowed with a rush, which within a few years carried it to undisputed ascendency in the land. The people's attachment to it was too strong for James, and even within his own Council it had come to be recognised that acquiescence in it was inevitable. Maitland, Lethington's brother, the Chancellor of the kingdom, who was the strongest man in the Council, and for long a supporter of the King's policy in ecclesiastical affairs, was now won over, by the logic of events, to its support. He had the sense to perceive that the kingdom could never prosper till the Church was satisfied, and that the Church could never be satisfied with any other than its own freely chosen economy. He also saw that if the King was to maintain friendship with the English Government, he must sever himself from those forces in the country that were opposed to the Church, as they were all under the suspicion of working in the interests of the power which had made so determined an attempt at the overthrow of the neighbouring kingdom. 'He helde the King upon twa groundes sure, nather to cast out with the Kirk nor with England.' Prelacy, he knew, was but the King's choice for the nation: Presbytery was the nation's choice for itself. Maitland's influence was great with the King, and from this time it was used steadily in favour of a new departure in his Church policy.

At the same time there arose, in the person of Robert Bruce, minister of Edinburgh, one who rendered powerful service to the Presbyterian cause, and who, in the whole history of the struggle, was singular in this respect, that while possessing the entire confidence of his brethren he also carried great weight in the Council of the King. Of good family, second son of the Laird of Airth, he had studied for the Bar and then abandoned it for the Church. For many years of his life he had been conscious of striving against the work of grace in his heart, and against the conviction that he ought to devote himself to the ministry, and had thereby suffered sore trouble of conscience. At last a crisis came, which he describes as 'a court of justice holden on his soul,' which 'chased' him to his grace. Immediately thereafter he sought the counsel of Melville, to whom he had been greatly attracted, who encouraged him to enter the ministry, and under whom he was trained for it. Bruce commanded respect from all classes and on all hands; 'the godlie for his puissant and maist moving doctrine lovit him; the wardlings for his parentage and place reverenced him; and the enemies for bath stude in awe of him.' Bruce was a special friend of Chancellor Maitland, through whom he was received with favour at the Court; and he brought Maitland and Melville together and made them friends.

His marriage, which took place in 1589, was used by James as an occasion for a public demonstration of his reconciliation to the Church. Before leaving for Denmark to fetch his bride, he made Bruce an extraordinary member of his Council, professing at the same time such confidence in him as he might have given to a viceroy, which indeed Bruce virtually became. During the King's absence the nation enjoyed a tranquillity unknown before in his reign, chiefly due to the influence of Bruce and his brethren. James Melville had good ground for what he said at the Assembly in August 1590: 'We, and the graittest and best number of our flockes, halff bein, ar, and mon be his [the King's] best subjects, his strynthe, his honour. A guid minister (I speak it nocht arrogantlie, but according to the treuthe!) may do him mair guid service in a houre nor manie of his sacrilegious courteours in a yeir.' At the Queen's coronation the ministers took the chief part in the ceremony. It was Bruce who anointed her, and, with David Lindsay, minister of Leith, placed the crown on her head. Melville was chosen by the King to prepare and recite the Stephaniskion, as the coronation ode was called, and the King was so pleased with it that he gave him effusive thanks. On the following Sabbath James was present in St. Giles', and in the presence of the congregation acknowledged the services rendered by Bruce and the ministers to the country and the crown during his absence, and promised to turn a new leaf in the government of the kingdom. He was also present at the next General Assembly, when he broke forth in such fervent laudation of the Church that he might have made the oldest and staunchest adherents of Presbytery reproach themselves for the coldness of their own attachment to it: 'He fell furth in praising God, that he was borne in suche a tyme as the tyme of the light of the Gospell, to suche a place as to be king in suche a Kirk, the sincerest Kirk in the world. "The Kirk of Geneva," said he, "keepeth Pasche and Yule; what have they for them?—they have no institutioun. As for our nighbour Kirk in England, it is an evill said masse in English, wanting nothing but the liftings.[16] I charge you, my good people, ministers, doctors, elders, nobles, gentlemen, and barons, to stand to your puritie, and to exhort the people to doe the same; and I forsuith, so long as I bruike my life and crowne, sall mainteane the same against all deidlie," etc. The Assemblie so rejoiced, that there was nothing but loud praising of God, and praying for the King for a quarter of an houre.'[17]

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