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)

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