Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Reformation Day!


Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences
Commonly Known as "The 95 Theses."

by Dr. Martin Luther


Out of love and concern for the truth, and with the object of eliciting it, the following heads will be the subject of a public discussion at Wittenberg under the presidency of the reverend father, Martin Luther, Augustinian, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and duly appointed Lecturer on these subjects in that place. He requests that whoever cannot be present personally to debate the matter orally will do so in absence in writing. 
  1. When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said "Repent", He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance. 
  2. The word cannot be properly understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, i.e. confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy. 
  3. Yet its meaning is not restricted to repentance in one's heart; for such repentance is null unless it produces outward signs in various mortifications of the flesh. 
  4. As long as hatred of self abides (i.e. true inward repentance) the penalty of sin abides, viz., until we enter the kingdom of heaven. 
  5. The pope has neither the will nor the power to remit any penalties beyond those imposed either at his own discretion or by canon law. 
  6. The pope himself cannot remit guilt, but only declare and confirm that it has been remitted by God; or, at most, he can remit it in cases reserved to his discretion. Except for these cases, the guilt remains untouched. 
  7. God never remits guilt to anyone without, at the same time, making him humbly submissive to the priest, His representative. 
  8. The penitential canons apply only to men who are still alive, and, according to the canons themselves, none applies to the dead. 
  9. Accordingly, the Holy Spirit, acting in the person of the pope, manifests grace to us, by the fact that the papal regulations always cease to apply at death, or in any hard case. 
  10. It is a wrongful act, due to ignorance, when priests retain the canonical penalties on the dead in purgatory. 
  11. When canonical penalties were changed and made to apply to purgatory, surely it would seem that tares were sown while the bishops were asleep. 
  12. In former days, the canonical penalties were imposed, not after, but before absolution was pronounced; and were intended to be tests of true contrition. 
  13. Death puts an end to all the claims of the Church; even the dying are already dead to the canon laws, and are no longer bound by them. 
  14. Defective piety or love in a dying person is necessarily accompanied by great fear, which is greatest where the piety or love is least. 
  15. This fear or horror is sufficient in itself, whatever else might be said, to constitute the pain of purgatory, since it approaches very closely to the horror of despair. 
  16. There seems to be the same difference between hell, purgatory, and heaven as between despair, uncertainty, and assurance. 
  17. Of a truth, the pains of souls in purgatory ought to be abated, and charity ought to be proportionately increased. 
  18. Moreover, it does not seem proved, on any grounds of reason or Scripture, that these souls are outside the state of merit, or unable to grow in grace. 
  19. Nor does it seem proved to be always the case that they are certain and assured of salvation, even if we are very certain ourselves. 
  20. Therefore the pope, in speaking of the plenary remission of all penalties, does not mean "all" in the strict sense, but only those imposed by himself. 
  21. Hence those who preach indulgences are in error when they say that a man is absolved and saved from every penalty by the pope's indulgences. 
  22. Indeed, he cannot remit to souls in purgatory any penalty which canon law declares should be suffered in the present life. 
  23. If plenary remission could be granted to anyone at all, it would be only in the cases of the most perfect, i.e. to very few. 
  24. It must therefore be the case that the major part of the people are deceived by that indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of relief from penalty. 
  25. The same power as the pope exercises in general over purgatory is exercised in particular by every single bishop in his bishopric and priest in his parish. 
  26. The pope does excellently when he grants remission to the souls in purgatory on account of intercessions made on their behalf, and not by the power of the keys (which he cannot exercise for them). 
  27. There is no divine authority for preaching that the soul flies out of the purgatory immediately the money clinks in the bottom of the chest. 
  28. It is certainly possible that when the money clinks in the bottom of the chest avarice and greed increase; but when the church offers intercession, all depends in the will of God. 
  29. Who knows whether all souls in purgatory wish to be redeemed in view of what is said of St. Severinus and St. Pascal? (Note: Paschal I, pope 817-24. The legend is that he and Severinus were willing to endure the pains of purgatory for the benefit of the faithful). 
  30. No one is sure of the reality of his own contrition, much less of receiving plenary forgiveness. 
  31. One who bona fide buys indulgence is a rare as a bona fide penitent man, i.e. very rare indeed. 
  32. All those who believe themselves certain of their own salvation by means of letters of indulgence, will be eternally damned, together with their teachers. 
  33. We should be most carefully on our guard against those who say that the papal indulgences are an inestimable divine gift, and that a man is reconciled to God by them. 
  34. For the grace conveyed by these indulgences relates simply to the penalties of the sacramental "satisfactions" decreed merely by man. 
  35. It is not in accordance with Christian doctrines to preach and teach that those who buy off souls, or purchase confessional licenses, have no need to repent of their own sins. 
  36. Any Christian whatsoever, who is truly repentant, enjoys plenary remission from penalty and guilt, and this is given him without letters of indulgence. 
  37. Any true Christian whatsoever, living or dead, participates in all the benefits of Christ and the Church; and this participation is granted to him by God without letters of indulgence. 
  38. Yet the pope's remission and dispensation are in no way to be despised, for, as already said, they proclaim the divine remission. 
  39. It is very difficult, even for the most learned theologians, to extol to the people the great bounty contained in the indulgences, while, at the same time, praising contrition as a virtue. 
  40. A truly contrite sinner seeks out, and loves to pay, the penalties of his sins; whereas the very multitude of indulgences dulls men's consciences, and tends to make them hate the penalties. 
  41. Papal indulgences should only be preached with caution, lest people gain a wrong understanding, and think that they are preferable to other good works: those of love. 
  42. Christians should be taught that the pope does not at all intend that the purchase of indulgences should be understood as at all comparable with the works of mercy. 
  43. Christians should be taught that one who gives to the poor, or lends to the needy, does a better action than if he purchases indulgences. 
  44. Because, by works of love, love grows and a man becomes a better man; whereas, by indulgences, he does not become a better man, but only escapes certain penalties. 
  45. Christians should be taught that he who sees a needy person, but passes him by although he gives money for indulgences, gains no benefit from the pope's pardon, but only incurs the wrath of God. 
  46. Christians should be taught that, unless they have more than they need, they are bound to retain what is only necessary for the upkeep of their home, and should in no way squander it on indulgences. 
  47. Christians should be taught that they purchase indulgences voluntarily, and are not under obligation to do so. 
  48. Christians should be taught that, in granting indulgences, the pope has more need, and more desire, for devout prayer on his own behalf than for ready money. 
  49. Christians should be taught that the pope's indulgences are useful only if one does not rely on them, but most harmful if one loses the fear of God through them. 
  50. Christians should be taught that, if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence-preachers, he would rather the church of St. Peter were reduced to ashes than be built with the skin, flesh, and bones of the sheep. 
  51. Christians should be taught that the pope would be willing, as he ought if necessity should arise, to sell the church of St. Peter, and give, too, his own money to many of those from whom the pardon-merchants conjure money. 
  52. It is vain to rely on salvation by letters of indulgence, even if the commissary, or indeed the pope himself, were to pledge his own soul for their validity. 
  53. Those are enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid the word of God to be preached at all in some churches, in order that indulgences may be preached in others. 
  54. The word of God suffers injury if, in the same sermon, an equal or longer time is devoted to indulgences than to that word. 
  55. The pope cannot help taking the view that if indulgences (very small matters) are celebrated by one bell, one pageant, or one ceremony, the gospel (a very great matter) should be preached to the accompaniment of a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies. 
  56. The treasures of the church, out of which the pope dispenses indulgences, are not sufficiently spoken of or known among the people of Christ. 
  57. That these treasures are not temporal are clear from the fact that many of the merchants do not grant them freely, but only collect them. 
  58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, because, even apart from the pope, these merits are always working grace in the inner man, and working the cross, death, and hell in the outer man. 
  59. St. Laurence said that the poor were the treasures of the church, but he used the term in accordance with the custom of his own time. 
  60. We do not speak rashly in saying that the treasures of the church are the keys of the church, and are bestowed by the merits of Christ. 
  61. For it is clear that the power of the pope suffices, by itself, for the remission of penalties and reserved cases. 
  62. The true treasure of the church is the Holy gospel of the glory and the grace of God. 
  63. It is right to regard this treasure as most odious, for it makes the first to be the last. 
  64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is most acceptable, for it makes the last to be the first. 
  65. Therefore the treasures of the gospel are nets which, in former times, they used to fish for men of wealth. 
  66. The treasures of the indulgences are the nets which to-day they use to fish for the wealth of men. 
  67. The indulgences, which the merchants extol as the greatest of favours, are seen to be, in fact, a favourite means for money-getting. 
  68. Nevertheless, they are not to be compared with the grace of God and the compassion shown in the Cross. 
  69. Bishops and curates, in duty bound, must receive the commissaries of the papal indulgences with all reverence. 
  70. But they are under a much greater obligation to watch closely and attend carefully lest these men preach their own fancies instead of what the pope commissioned. 
  71. Let him be anathema and accursed who denies the apostolic character of the indulgences. 
  72. On the other hand, let him be blessed who is on his guard against the wantonness and license of the pardon-merchant's words. 
  73. In the same way, the pope rightly excommunicates those who make any plans to the detriment of the trade in indulgences. 
  74. It is much more in keeping with his views to excommunicate those who use the pretext of indulgences to plot anything to the detriment of holy love and truth. 
  75. It is foolish to think that papal indulgences have so much power that they can absolve a man even if he has done the impossible and violated the mother of God. 
  76. We assert the contrary, and say that the pope's pardons are not able to remove the least venial of sins as far as their guilt is concerned. 
  77. When it is said that not even St. Peter, if he were now pope, could grant a greater grace, it is blasphemy against St. Peter and the pope. 
  78. We assert the contrary, and say that he, and any pope whatever, possesses greater graces, viz., the gospel, spiritual powers, gifts of healing, etc., as is declared in I Corinthians 12 [:28]. 
  79. It is blasphemy to say that the insignia of the cross with the papal arms are of equal value to the cross on which Christ died. 
  80. The bishops, curates, and theologians, who permit assertions of that kind to be made to the people without let or hindrance, will have to answer for it. 
  81. This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult for learned men to guard the respect due to the pope against false accusations, or at least from the keen criticisms of the laity. 
  82. They ask, e.g.: Why does not the pope liberate everyone from purgatory for the sake of love (a most holy thing) and because of the supreme necessity of their souls? This would be morally the best of all reasons. Meanwhile he redeems innumerable souls for money, a most perishable thing, with which to build St. Peter's church, a very minor purpose. 
  83. Again: Why should funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continue to be said? And why does not the pope repay, or permit to be repaid, the benefactions instituted for these purposes, since it is wrong to pray for those souls who are now redeemed? 
  84. Again: Surely this is a new sort of compassion, on the part of God and the pope, when an impious man, an enemy of God, is allowed to pay money to redeem a devout soul, a friend of God; while yet that devout and beloved soul is not allowed to be redeemed without payment, for love's sake, and just because of its need of redemption. 
  85. Again: Why are the penitential canon laws, which in fact, if not in practice, have long been obsolete and dead in themselves,—why are they, to-day, still used in imposing fines in money, through the granting of indulgences, as if all the penitential canons were fully operative? 
  86. Again: since the pope's income to-day is larger than that of the wealthiest of wealthy men, why does he not build this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of indigent believers? 
  87. Again: What does the pope remit or dispense to people who, by their perfect repentance, have a right to plenary remission or dispensation? 
  88. Again: Surely a greater good could be done to the church if the pope were to bestow these remissions and dispensations, not once, as now, but a hundred times a day, for the benefit of any believer whatever. 
  89. What the pope seeks by indulgences is not money, but rather the salvation of souls; why then does he suspend the letters and indulgences formerly conceded, and still as efficacious as ever? 
  90. These questions are serious matters of conscience to the laity. To suppress them by force alone, and not to refute them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christian people unhappy. 
  91. If therefore, indulgences were preached in accordance with the spirit and mind of the pope, all these difficulties would be easily overcome, and indeed, cease to exist. 
  92. Away, then, with those prophets who say to Christ's people, "Peace, peace," where in there is no peace. 
  93. Hail, hail to all those prophets who say to Christ's people, "The cross, the cross," where there is no cross. 
  94. Christians should be exhorted to be zealous to follow Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and hells. 
  95. And let them thus be more confident of entering heaven through many tribulations rather than through a false assurance of peace.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Reformation Month: Biography of Andrew Melville (Part 3)


There are other instances of the magnanimity of this faithful witness of Christ, which are worthy of notice. In the year 1606, he, and seven of his brethren, who stood most in the way of having Prelacy advanced in Scotland, were called up to England, under pretence of having a hearing granted them by the King, who had now succeeded to that throne, with respect to religion, but rather to be kept out of the way, as the event afterwards proved, until Episcopacy should be better established in Scotland. Soon after their arrival they were examined by the King and Council, at Hampton Court, on the 20th of September, concerning the lawfulness of the late Assembly at Aberdeen. The King, in particular, asked Andrew Melville, whether a few clergy, meeting without moderator or clerk, could make an Assembly? He replied, there was no number limited by law; that fewness of number could be no argument against the legality of the court; especially when the promise was in God's word given to two or three convened in the name of Christ; and that the meeting was ordinarily established by his Majesty's laws. The rest of the ministers delivered themselves to the same purpose; after which Andrew Melville, with his usual freedom of speech, supported the conduct of his brethren at Aberdeen, recounting the wrongs done them at Linlithgow, whereof he was a witness himself He blamed the King's Advocate, Sir Thomas Hamilton, who was then present, for favouring Popery, and maltreating the ministers, so that the Accuser of the brethren could not have done more against the saints of God than had been done; that prelatists were encouraged, though some of them were promoting the interests of Popery with all their might, and the faithful servants of Christ were shut up in prison: and, addressing: the Advocate personally, he added, "Still you think all this is not enough, but you continue to persecute the brethren with the same spirit you did in Scotland." After some conversation betwixt the King and the Archbishop of Canterbury, they were dismissed, with the applause of many present for their bold and steady defence of the cause of God and truth; for they had been much misrepresented to the English.

They had scarcely retired from before the King, until they received a charge not to return to Scotland, nor come near the King's, Queen's, or Prince's Court, without special license, and being called for. A few days after, they were again called to Court, and examined before a select number of the Scots nobility; where, after Mr. James Melville's examination, Mr. Andrew being called, told them plainly, "That they knew not what they were doing; they had degenerated from the ancient nobility of Scotland, who were wont to hazard their lives and lands for the freedom of their country, and the Gospel which they were betraying and overturning." But night drawing on, they were dismissed.

Another instance of his resolution is this: He was called before the Council for having made a Latin epigram upon seeing the King and Queen making an offering at the altar, whereon were two books, two basins, and two candlesticks, with two unlighted candles, it being a day kept in honour of St. Michael. The epigram is as follows:

"Cur stant clausi Anglis, libri duo, regia in ara,
Lumina coeca duo, pollubra sicca duo?
Num sensum cultumque Dei tenet Anglia clausum
Lumine coeca suo, sorde sepulta sua,
Romano et ritu, Regalem dum instruit Aram?
Purpuream pingit religiosa lupam!"

The following is an old and literal translation:
"Why stand there on the Royal Altar hie,
Two closed books, blind lights, two basins drie?
Doth England hold God's mind and worship closse,
Blind of her sight, and buried in her dross?
Doth she, with Chapel put in Romish dress,
The purple whore religiously express!"

When he compeared, he avowed the verses, and said, he was much moved with indignation at such vanity and superstition in a Christian church, under a Christian King, born and brought up under the pure light of the Gospel, and especially before idolaters, to confirm them in idolatry, and grieve the hearts of true professors. The Archbishop of Canterbury began to speak, but Andrew Melville charged him with a breach of the Lord's-day, with imprisoning, silencing, and bearing down of faithful ministers, and with upholding Antichristian hierarchy and Popish ceremonies; shaking the white sleeve of his rochet, he called them Romish rags, told him that he was an avowed enemy to all the Reformed Churches in Europe, and therefore he would profess himself an enemy to him in all such proceedings, to the effusion of the last drop of his blood; and said, he was grieved to the heart to see such a man have the King's ear, and sit so high in that honourable Council. He also charged Bishop Barlow with having stated, after the conference at Hampton Court, that the King had said he was in the Church of Scotland, but not of it; and wondered that he was suffered to go unpunished, for making the King of no religion. He refuted the sermons, which Barlow had preached before the King, and was at last removed; and order was given to Dr. Overwall, Dean of St Paul's, to receive him into his house, there to remain, with injunctions not to let any have access to him, till his Majesty's pleasure was signified. Next year he was ordered from the Dean's house to the Bishop of Winchester's, where, being not so strictly guarded, he sometimes kept company with his brethren; but was at last committed to the Tower of London, where he remained for the space of four years.

While Andrew Melville was in the Tower, a gentleman of his acquaintance got access to him, and found him very pensive and melancholy concerning the prevailing defections among many of the ministers of Scotland, having lately got account of the proceedings at the General Assembly held at Glasgow in 16 10, where the Earl of Dunbar had an active hand in corrupting many with money. The gentleman desired to know what word he had to send to his native country, but got no answer at first; but upon a second inquiry, he said, "I have no word to send, but am heavily grieved that the glorious government of the Church of Scotland should be so defaced, and a Popish tyrannical one set up; and thou, Manderston (for out of that family Lord Dunbar had sprung), hadst thou no other thing to do, but to carry such commissions down to Scotland, whereby the poor Church is wrecked ? The Lord shall be avenged on thee; thou shalt never have that grace to set thy foot in that kingdom again!" These last words impressed the gentleman to such a degree, that he desired some who attended the Court to get their business, which was managing through Dunbar's interest, expedited without delay, being persuaded that the word of that servant of Christ should not fall to the ground; which was the case, for the Earl died at Whitehall a short time after, while he was building an elegant house at Berwick, and making grand preparations for his daughter's marriage with Lord Walden.

In 1611, after four years' confinement, Andrew Melville was, by the interest of the Duke de Bouillon, released, on condition that he would go with him to the University of Sedan; where he continued enjoying that calm repose denied him in his own country, but maintaining the usual constancy and faithfulness in the service of Christ, which he had done through the whole of his life.

The reader will readily observe, that a high degree of fortitude and boldness appeared in all his actions; where the honour of his Lord and Master was concerned, the fear of man made no part of his character. He is by Spottiswoode styled the principal agent, or Apostle of the Presbyterians in Scotland. He did, indeed, assert the rights of Presbytery to the utmost of his power against diocesan Episcopacy. He possessed great presence of mind, and was superior to all the arts of flattery that were sometimes tried with him. Being once blamed as being too fiery in his temper, he replied, "If you see my fire go downward, set your foot upon it; but if it goes upward, let it go to its own place." He died at Sedan, in France, in the year 1622, at the advanced age of 77 years.
This biography is from, The Scot's Worthies, by John Howie (1736-1793)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Reformation Month: Biography of Andrew Melville (Part 2)

After the storm had abated, he returned to St. Andrews in 1586, when the Synod of Fife had excommunicated Patrick Adamson, pretended Archbishop of St. Andrews, on account of some immoralities. Adamson having drawn up the form of an excommunication against Andrew Melville, and James, his nephew, sent out a boy with some of his own creatures to the kirk to read it, but the people paying no regard to it, the Archbishop, though both suspended and excommunicated, would himself go to the pulpit to preach; whereupon some gentlemen, and others in town, convened in the new college, to hear Andrew Melville. The Archbishop being informed that they were assembled on purpose to put him out of the pulpit and hang him, for fear of this called his friends together, and betook himself to the steeple ; but at the entreaty of the magistrates and others, he retired home.

This difference with the Archbishop brought the Melvilles again before the King and Council, who, pretending that there was no other method to end that quarrel, ordained Mr. Andrew to be confined to Angus and the Mearns, under pretext that he would be useful in that country in reclaiming Papists. Because of his sickly condition, Mr. James was sent back to the new college; and the University sending the Dean of Faculty and the masters with a supplication to the King in Mr Andrew's behalf, he was suffered to return, but was not restored to his place and office until the month of August following.

The next winter, he laboured to give the students in divinity under his care a thorough knowledge of the discipline and government of the Church; which was attended with considerable success. The specious arguments of Episcopacy vanished, and the serious part, both of the town and University, repaired to the college to hear him and Robert Bruce, who began preaching about this time.

After this he was chosen moderator in some subsequent Assemblies of the Church; in which several acts were made in favour of religion, as maintained at that period.

When the King brought home his Queen from Denmark in 1590, Andrew Melville made an excellent oration upon the occasion in Latin, which so pleased the King, that he publicly declared, he had therein both honoured him and his country, and that he should never be forgotten; yet such was the instability of this prince, that, in a little after this, because Melville opposed his arbitrary measures in grasping after an absolute authority over the church, he conceived a daily hatred against him ever after, as will appear from the sequel.

When Andrew Melville went with some other ministers to the Convention of Estates at Falkland in 1596 (wherein they intended to bring home the excommunicated lords who were then in exile), though he had a commission from last Assembly to watch against every imminent danger that might threaten the Church, yet, whenever he appeared at the head of the ministers, the King asked him, who sent for him there? To which he resolutely answered, "Sire, I have a call to come from Christ and His Church, who have a special concern in what you are doing here, and in direct opposition to whom ye are all here assembled ; but, be ye assured, that no counsel taken against Him shall prosper; and I charge you, Sire, in His name, that you and your Estates here convened favour not God's enemies, whom He hateth." After he had said this, turning himself to the rest of the members, he told them, that they were assembled with a traitorous design against Christ, His Church, and their native country. In the midst of this speech, he was commanded by the King to withdraw. 

The Commission of the General Assembly was now sitting, and understanding how matters were going on at the Convention, they sent some of their members, among whom Andrew Melville was one, to expostulate with the King. When they came, he received them in his closet. James Melville, being first in the commission, told the King his errand; upon which he appeared angry, and charged them with sedition. Mr. James, being a man of cool passion and genteel behaviour, began to answer the King with great reverence and respect; but Mr. Andrew, interrupting him, said, "This is not a time to flatter, but to speak plainly, for our commission is from the living God, to whom the King is subject;" and then, approaching the king; said. "Sire, we will always humbly reverence your Majesty in public, but having opportunity of being with your Majesty in private, we must discharge our duty, or else be enemies to Christ. And now. Sire, I must tell you, that there are two kings and two kingdoms in Scotland: there is King James, the head of the Commonwealth, and there is Christ Jesus, the Head of the Church, whose subject King James VI is, and of whose kingdom he is not a head, nor a lord, but a member; and they whom Christ hath called, and commanded to watch over His Church, and govern His spiritual kingdom, have sufficient authority and power from Him so to do, which no Christian king nor prince should control or discharge, but assist and support, otherwise they are not faithful subjects to Christ. And, Sire, when you was in your swaddling clothes Christ reigned freely in this land in spite of all His enemies; His officers and ministers were convened for ruling His Church, which was ever for your welfare. Will you now challenge Christ's servants, your best and most faithful subjects, for convening together, and for the care they have of their duty to Christ and you? The wisdom of your counsel is, that you may be served with all sorts of men, that you may come to your purpose, and because the ministers and Protestants of Scotland are strong, they must be weakened and brought low, by stirring up a party against them. But, Sire, this is not the wisdom of God, and His curse must light upon it; whereas, in cleaving to God, his servants shall be your true friends, and He shall compel the rest to serve you."

There is little difficulty to conjecture how this discourse was relished by the King. However, he kept his temper, and promised fair things to them for the present; but it was the word of him whose standard maxim was “Qui nescit dissimulare, nescit regnare.” (He who knows not how to dissemble, knows not how to reign.) In this sentiment, unworthy of the meanest among men, he gloried, and made it his constant rule of conduct; for in the Assembly at Dundee in 1598, Andrew Melville being there, he discharged him from the Assembly, and would not suffer business to go on till he was removed.

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Reformation Month: Biography of Andrew Melville (Part 1)


ANDREW MELVILLE, after finishing his classical studies, went abroad, and taught for some time, both at Poitiers in France, and at Geneva. He returned to Scotland in July 1574, after having been absent from his native country nearly ten years. Upon his return, the learned Beza, in a letter to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said, "The greatest token of affection the kirk of Geneva could show to Scotland was, that they had suffered themselves to be spoiled of Mr. Andrew Melville."

Soon after his return, the General Assembly appointed him to be the Principal of the College of Glasgow, where he continued for some years. In the year 1576, the Earl of Morton being then Regent, and thinking to bring Andrew Melville into his party, who were endeavouring to introduce Episcopacy, he offered him the parsonage of Govan, a benefice of twenty-four chalders of grain yearly, besides what he enjoyed as Principal, providing he would not insist against the establishment of bishops; but Melville rejected his offer with scorn.

He was afterwards translated to St. Andrews, where he served in the same station as he had done at Glasgow; and was likewise a minister of that city. Here he taught the divinity class, and, as a minister, continued to witness against the encroachments then making upon the rights of the Church of Christ.

When the General Assembly sat down at Edinburgh in 1582, Andrew Melville inveighed against the absolute authority which was making its way into the Church: whereby, he said, they intended to pull the crown from Christ's head, and wrest the sceptre out of His hand. When several articles, of the same tenor with his speech, were presented by the commission of the Assembly to King James VI and Council, craving redress, the Earl of Arran cried out, "Is there any here that dare subscribe these articles." Melville went forward and said, "We dare, and will render our lives in the cause;" and then took up the pen and subscribed. We do not find that any disagreeable consequences ensued at this time.

But in the beginning of February 1584, he was summoned to appear before the Secret Council, on the 11th of that month, to answer for some things said by him in a sermon on a fast-day, from Dan. iv. At his first compearance, he made a verbal defence; but being again called, he gave in a declaration, with a declinature, importing that he had said nothing, either in that or any other sermon, tending to dishonour King James VI, but had regularly prayed for the preservation and prosperity of his Majesty; that, as by acts of Parliament and laws of the Church, he should be tried for his doctrine by the Church, he therefore protested for, and craved, a trial by them, and particularly in the place where the offence was alleged to have been committed; and that as there were special laws in favour of St Andrews to the above import, he particularly claimed the privilege of them. He further protested, that what he had said was warranted by the word of God; that he appealed to the congregation who heard the sermon; that he craved to know his accusers; that, if the calumny was found to be false, the informers might be punished; that the rank and character of the informer might be considered, etc., after which he gave an account of the sermon in question; alleging that his meaning had been misunderstood, and his words perverted.

When he had closed his defence, the King, and the Earl of Arran, who was then Chancellor, raged exceedingly against him. Melville remained undisquieted, and replied, "You are too bold, in a constituted Christian kirk, to pass by the pastors, and take upon you to judge the doctrine, and control the messengers of a Greater than any present. That you may see your rashness, in taking upon you that which you neither ought, nor can do" (taking out a small Hebrew Bible, and laying it down before them), "there are," said he, "my instructions and warrant,—see if any of you can control me, that I have passed my injunctions." The Chancellor opening the book, put it into the King's hand, saying, "Sire, he scorneth your Majesty and the Council." "Nay," said Andrew Melville, "I scorn not, but I am in good earnest." He was, in the time of this debate, frequently removed, and instantly recalled, that he might not have time to consult with his friends. They proceeded against him, and admitted his avowed enemies to prove the accusation; and though the whole train of evidence which was led proved little or nothing against him, yet they resolved to involve him in troubles, because he had declined their authority, as the competent judges of doctrine, and therefore remitted him to ward in the Castle of Edinburgh, during the King's will. Being informed, that if he entered into ward, he would not be released, unless it should be to bring him to the scaffold, and that the decree of the Council being altered, Blackness was appointed for his prison, which was kept by some dependants of the Earl of Arran, he resolved to get out of the country. A macer gave him a charge to enter Blackness in twenty-four hours; and, in the meanwhile, some of Arran's horsemen were attending at the West Port to convoy him thither; but, by the time he should have entered Blackness, he had reached Berwick. Messrs Lawson and Balcanquhal gave him the good character he deserved, and prayed earnestly for him in public, in Edinburgh; which both moved the people and galled the Court exceedingly.

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

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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