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)

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