Friday, October 17, 2014

Reformation Month: Biography of William Row (Part 2)

Again, being deputed to open the Synod of Perth, in 1607, to which King James sent Lord Scone, captain of his guards, to force them to accept a Constant Moderator, Scone sent notice to Row, that if, in his preaching, he uttered aught against constant moderators, he should cause ten or twelve of his guards to discharge their culverins at his nose; and when he attended the sermon which preceded that synod, he stood up in a menacing posture to outbrave the preacher. But Row, no way dismayed, knowing what vices Scone was charged with, particularly that he was a great belly-god, drew his picture so like the life, and condemned what was culpable with so much severity, that Scone thought fit to sit down, and even to cover his face. After which Row proceeded to prove, that no constant moderator ought to be suffered in the Church; but knowing that Scone understood neither Latin nor Greek, he wisely avoided naming the constant moderator in English, and always gave the Greek or Latin name for it. Sermon being ended, Scone said to some of the nobles attending him, "You see I have scared the preacher from meddling with the constant moderator; but I wonder who he spoke so much against by the name of pr┼ôstes ad vitam." They told him that it was Latin for the constant moderator; which so incensed him, that when Row proceeded to constitute the Synod in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Scone said, "the devil a Jesus is here:" and when Row called over the roll to choose their moderator after the ancient form, Scone would have pulled it from him, but he, being a strong man, held off Scone with one hand, and holding the synod-roll in the other, called out the names of the members. 

After this William Row was put to the horn, and on the 11th of June following, he and Henry Livingstone, the moderator, were summoned before the Council, to answer for their proceedings at the Synod above mentioned. Livingstone compeared, and with great difficulty obtained the favour to be warded in his own parish. But Row was advised not to compear, unless the Council would relax him from the horning, and make him free of the Scone comptrollers, who had letters of caption to apprehend him, and commit him to Blackness. This was refused, and a search made for him; which obliged him to abscond, and lurk among his friends for a considerable time.

Row was subjected to several other hardships during the remainder of his life, but still maintained that steady faithfulness and courage in the discharge of his duty, which is exemplified in the above instances, until the day of his death, of which, however, we have no certain account.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Reformation Month: Biography of William Row (Part 1)

WILLIAM ROW was a son of Mr. John Row, minister at Perth, who gave him a very liberal education under his own eye. [As this family occupies a very prominent place in the ecclesiastical history of Scotland, a few additional particulars may be furnished regarding it. The founder of the family was John Row, who in his earlier years was a staunch and zealous adherent of the Romish Church. At the commencement of the Reformation in Scotland, he was residing in Rome, where he had been for seven or eight years; and so great was the confidence reposed in him by the Pope and Cardinals, that, on his proposing to return to his native country, he was invested with the character of Legate or Nuncio, and was instructed to inquire minutely into the nature and causes of the prevailing disaffection, and report. As his son remarks, however, he proved "a corbie messenger to his master;" for not only did he not return to Rome, but he speedily embraced the great principles of the Reformation himself, and became one of their ablest and most strenuous supporters. He was one of the six ministers selected to draw up the Confession of Faith, and the First Book of Discipline; and for a period of twenty years, besides discharging his ordinary pastoral duties in Perth, he took an active and prominent part in all the proceedings of the Church. On his death, which occurred at Perth on the i6th October 1580, he left several children, five of whom afterwards became ministers. One of these was John, who for fifty years was minister of Carnock in Fife, and is known as the author of the "History of the Kirk of Scotland," and as the father of John Row, principal of King's College, Aberdeen. Another was William, the subject of the present memoir. —Ed.]

William Row was settled minister at Forgandenny, in the shire of Perth, about the year 1600, and continued there for several years. He was one of those ministers who refused to give public thanks for King James VI. 's deliverance from his danger in Cowrie's conspiracy, until the truth of that conspiracy was made to appear. This refusal brought upon him the King's displeasure. He was summoned to appear before the King and Council at Stirling, soon after. On the day appointed for his compearance, two noblemen were sent, the one before the other, to meet him on the road, and, under the pretence of friendship, to inform him that the Council had a design upon his life, that he might be prevailed on to decline going up thither. The first met him near his own house, the second a few miles from Stirling; but Row told them that he would not, by disobedience to the summons, make himself justly liable to the pains of law, and proceeded to Stirling, to the amazement of the King and his Court. When challenged for disbelieving the truth of the Cowrie conspiracy, he told them one reason of his hesitation was, that Henderson, who was said to have confessed that Cowrie hired him to kill the King, and to have been found in his Majesty's chamber for that purpose, was not only suffered to live, but rewarded: "Whereas," said he, "if I had seen the King's life in hazard, and not ventured my life to rescue him, I think I deserve not to live."

The two following anecdotes will show what an uncommon degree of courage and resolution he possessed. 

Being at Edinburgh, before the Assembly there, at which the King wanted to bring in some innovation, and meeting with James Melville, who was sent for by the King, he accompanied him to Holyrood House. While Melville was with the King, Row stood behind a screen, and not getting an opportunity to go out with his brother undiscovered, he overheard the King say to some of his courtiers, "This is a good simple man; I have stroked cream on his mouth, and he will procure me a good number of voters, I warrant you." This said, Mr. Row got off, and overtaking James Melville, asked him what had passed. Melville told him all; and said, "the King is well disposed to the Church, and intends to do her good by all his schemes." Row replied, "the King looks upon you as a fool and a knave, and wants to use you as a coy-duck to draw in others;" and told him what he had overheard. Melville suspecting the truth of this report, Mr. Row offered to go with him and avouch it to the King's face. Accordingly, they went back to the palace, when Melville, seeing Row as forward to go in as he was, believed his report, and stopped him ; and next day, when the Assembly proceeded to voting, Melville having voted against what the King proponed, his Majesty would not believe that such was his vote, till he, being asked again, did repeat it.

This biography is from, The Scot's Worthies, by John Howie (1736-1793) 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Reformation Month: Biography of David Black (Part 2)

A decree of council was passed against him, upon which his brethren of the Commission directed their doctrines against the Council. The King sent a message to the commissioners, signifying that he would rest satisfied with Black's simple declaration of the truth; but Robert Bruce and the rest replied: That if the affair concerned Mr. Black alone, they should be content; but the liberty of Christ's kingdom had received such a wound by the proclamation of last Saturday, that if Mr. Black's life, and a dozen of others besides, had been taken, it had not grieved the hearts of the godly so much, and that either these things behooved to be retracted, or they would oppose so long as they had breath. But, after a long process, no mitigation of the Council's severity could be obtained; for Black was charged by a macer to enter his person in ward on the north of the Tay, there to remain at his own expense during his Majesty's pleasure; and though he was next year restored to his place at St. Andrews, yet he was not suffered to continue, for, about the month of July that same year, the King and Council again proceeded against him; and he was removed to Angus, where he continued until the day of his death. He had always been a severe check on the negligent and unfaithful part of the clergy, but now they had found means to get free of him.

After his removal to Angus, he continued the exercise of his ministry, preaching daily unto such as resorted to him, with much success, and an intimate communion with God, until a few days before his death. In his last sickness, the Christian temper of his mind was so much improved by large measures of the Spirit, that his conversation had a remarkable effect in humbling the hearts, and comforting the souls of those who attended him, engaging them to take the easy yoke of Christ upon themselves. He found in his own soul also such a sensible taste of eternal joy, that he was seized with a fervent desire to depart and to be with the Lord, longing to have the earthly house of this his tabernacle put off, that he might be admitted into the mansions of everlasting rest. In the midst of these earnest breathings after God, the Lord was wonderfully pleased to condescend to the importunity of His servant, to let him know that the time of his departure was near. Upon this, he took a solemn farewell of his family and flock, with a discourse, as Melville says, that seemed to be spoken out of heaven, concerning the misery and grief of this life, and the inconceivable glory which is above.

The night following, after supper, having read and prayed in his family with unusual continuance, strong crying, and heavy groans, he went a little while to bed: and the next day, having called his people to the celebration of the Lord's Supper, he went to church.

Having brought the communion service near a close, he felt the approach of death, and all discovered a sudden change in his countenance, so that some ran to support him. But pressing to be on his knees, with his hands and eyes lifted up to heaven, in the very act of devotion and adoration, as in a transport of joy, he was taken away, with scarcely any pain at all. Thus this holy man, who had so faithfully maintained the interest of Christ upon earth, breathed forth his soul in this extraordinary manner, so that it seemed rather like a translation than a real death. See more of him in Calderwood's History; De Foe's Memoirs; and "Hind Let Loose."

This biography is from: The Scot's Worthies, by John Howie (1736-1793)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Reformation Month: Biography of David Black (Part 1)

DAVID BLACK was for some time colleague to the worthy Mr. Andrew Melville, minister of St. Andrews. He was remarkable for zeal and fidelity in the discharge of his duty as a minister, applying his doctrine closely against the corruptions of that age, whether prevailing among the highest or lowest of the people; in consequence of which, he was, in the year 1596, cited before the Council, for some expressions uttered in a sermon, alleged to strike against King James VI and his Council, but his brethren in the ministry thinking that, by this method of procedure with him, the spiritual government of the house of God was intended to be subverted, resolved that Black should decline answering the citation; and that, in the meantime, the brethren should be preparing themselves to prove from the Holy Scriptures that the judgment of all doctrine, in the first instance, belonged to the pastors of the Church.

Accordingly David Black, on the 18th November 1596, gave in a declinature to the Council to this effect: that he was able to defend all that he had said; yet, seeing his answering before them to that accusation might be prejudicial to the liberties of the Church, and would be taken for an acknowledgment of his Majesty's jurisdiction in matters merely spiritual, he was constrained to decline that judicatory —1. Because the Lord Jesus Christ had given him His word for a rule, and that, therefore, he could not fall under the civil law, only in so far as, after trial, he should be found to have passed from his instructions, which trial only belonged to the prophets, etc. 2. The liberties of the Church, and discipline presently exercised, being confirmed by divers acts of Parliament, approved of by the Confession of Faith, and the office-bearers of the Church being now in the peaceable possession thereof, the question of his preaching ought first, according to the grounds and practice foresaid, to be judged by the ecclesiastical senate, as the competent judges thereof at the first instance. This declinature, with a letter sent to the different presbyteries, was, in a short time, subscribed by between three and four hundred ministers, all assenting to and approving of it.

The Commissioners of the General Assembly, then sitting at Edinburgh, knowing that the King was displeased at this proceeding, sent some of their number to speak with his Majesty, unto whom he answered, that if Mr. Black would pass from his declinature, he would pass from the summons. This they would not consent to do. Upon which, the King summoned Mr. Black again, on the 27th of November, to the Council to be held on the 30th. This summons was given with sound of trumpet, and open proclamation at the Cross of Edinburgh; and the same day, the Commissioners of the Assembly were ordered to depart thence in twenty-four hours, under pain of rebellion.

Before the day of David Black's second citation before the Council, he prepared a still more explicit declinature, especially as it respected the King's supremacy, declaring, that there are two jurisdictions in the realm, the one spiritual, and the other civil: the one respecting the conscience, and the other concerning external things; the one persuading by the spiritual word, the other compelling by the temporal sword ; the one spiritually procuring the edification of the Church, the other by justice procuring the peace and quiet of the commonwealth. The latter being grounded in the light of nature, proceeds from God as He is Creator, and is so termed by the Apostle (1 Pet. 2), but varies according to the constitution of men; the former, being above nature, is grounded upon the grace of redemption, proceeding immediately from the grace of Christ, the only King and only Head of His Church (Eph. 1; Col. 2). Therefore, in so far as he was one of the spiritual office-bearers, and had discharged his spiritual calling in some measure of grace and sincerity, he should not, and could not lawfully be judged for preaching and applying the Word of God by any civil power, he being an ambassador and messenger of the Lord Jesus, having his commission from the King of kings; and all his commission is set down and limited in the Word of God, that cannot be extended or abridged by any mortal king or emperor, they being sheep, not pastors, who are to be judged by the Word of God, and not to be the judges thereof.

This biography is from, The Scot's Worthies, by John Howie (1736-1793)

Friday, October 3, 2014

My review of James Bannerman's "The Church of Christ."

Bannerman’s work is truly a masterpiece. He provides not only a solid Biblical presentation of the doctrine of the Church, he also gives a capable defense of Presbyterian polity. One gets more than one bargains for in this volume. Bannerman covers a wide array of subjects. His treatment of Church Officers is perhaps the best I have encountered. 

Bannerman destroys the theory that Scripture says nothing directly related to Church polity. He simply argues that if the Church truly is Christ's, since it is an institution of Divine origin, then it is inconceivable that God took no thought to its organization and decided to leave that up to us. While one may read this work and come away still holding to Prelacy or Independency (Bannerman's two primary targets), and not sold 100% on Presbyterianism, one cannot read it and come away thinking Scripture does not address Church government.

By way of criticism, I can only remark that the book seems unnecessarily long. (It is 2 volumes, actually.) This seems to be a result of two factors. On the one hand, Bannerman treats several subjects, at length no less, which are only perhaps tangentially related to his main subject. There are lengthy treatments of the Sacraments (in general, and considered separately) which, interesting and profitable as they are, really have no place in a work on church polity. Because Bannerman devotes so much space to these subjects, others which could stand more explication, get brief treatment, with the standard caveat that to treat these issues sufficiently would carry one too far afield and would unnecessarily expand his book. The second reason for the length of the volume(s) is Bannerman’s loquacity. He repeatedly crafts complex, yet beautiful sentences comprised of multiple dependent and independent clauses, strung together with numerous colons and semi-colons. This is fine. He is, after all, a very deft wordsmith. But on countless occasions, after having crafted an elaborate sentence in order to establish a point, he follows it up with something like: “Having demonstrated the foregoing point, namely _____,” whereupon he inserts the entire previous sentence and an introductory clause.

Perhaps this is a bit nit-picky when reading classic. I don’t mind loquacity. In fact, I rather enjoy it. But coupled with the unnecessary treatment of certain subjects, Bannerman’s habit of repeating himself tends to inflate the size of his work.

Overall, this truly is a classic and it is hard to feel critical of anything in it. It's just that because of multiple digressions, his real purpose (that of defending Presbyterian polity) doesn't really get the full treatment it deserves until well into Volume 2.

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