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Arbroath and its Abbey
Appendix - No. II.—Sketch

Of the Life and Times of JAMES MELVILLE, Minister St Vigeans, during the period from 1560 to 1600, being a supplement to the Sketch of the Abbots of Arbroath.


As this minister was for many years the only ecclesiastic of note in the district of Arbroath, after the fall of the monastery and the dispersion of its inmates, and as he was contemporary with, and took a prominent part in, the greatest moral and religious revolution which this country has witnessed, a sketch of his life, and of his connection with the ecclesiastical occurrences of that stirring period, forms substantially a continuation of the religious history of Arbroath during the forty years which elapsed from the Reformation till the end of the sixteenth century. The following remarks on the transition from Romish priests to ministers, readers and teachers in the reformed church, will illustrate an obscure point in the history of the time, and explain some circumstances alluded to in these pages.

The question must have occurred to attentive readers of the history of Scotland in the sixteenth century:-

What became of all the Popish priests after the Reformation? It has been calculated, upon what appear to be fair data, that at that period the whole number of parish priests, monks, nuns, and preaching friars would amount at least to about two thousand; and, with the exception of the bishops and greater abbots, this body of ecclesiastics falls at the era in question as completely into oblivion, so far as our ordinary histories are concerned, as if they had then ceased to exist. A few of them, such as Walter Miln of Lunan, Dean Forrest of Dollar, and Knox, became famed as martyrs for the Protestant faith, or as successful reformers ; and a small number of monks and nuns were allowed to remain during their declining years in some of the monasteries, upon their conforming to the reformed religion. Thus, in 1562, 240 Scots of the rental of the Abbey of Newbottle in Mid-Lothian were set apart for the maintenance of six recanted monks. But the united numbers of both these classes were but a small proportion of the Scottish ecclesiastics of the time; and the state of the country was not such as to admit of their being readily absorbed into other professions, for which, indeed, from age and habit they would be generally unfitted.

Our church histories, however, contain certain allusions which afford an answer to the question not less creditable to many of the popish priests of Scotland than pleasing to the members of the reformed church, in which they found employment and bread, and to the edification of which they, though in a humble manner, helped to contribute. It is well known that from the scarcity of ministers able to preach the doctrines of the reformed faith, one minister had to take charge of various churches, while at each of these churches a reader was stationed, whose duty it was to read the Scriptures, conduct the psalmody, and, if qualified, to lead in prayer and join some observations with the passages read by him. The occasional unfitness or irregularities of this class of men when noticed in the judicatories of the stern reformers of the time bring to light the fact that to a large extent they had been Romish priests, and that from this cause the new wine was sometimes too strong for the old bottles. The number of priests who became readers in Angus and Mearns has been already alluded to as the occasion of a complaint against Erskine of Dun. The complaint is not founded on the fact that they had once been priests, but that they were then "unqualified and of vicious life." From the low state of literature in Scotland at that time it is probable that Erskine might find no one in the parish or vicinity, except a priest, able to read, and that he had little or no room for choice in the matter. On a subsequent occasion, in 1584, when the ministers and readers of the Synod of Merse and other districts of the south of Scotland were ordered by King James to subscribe a writing promising their obedience to Archbishop Adamson and to the statutes of that year, commonly called "the black acts," they all declined except a few ministers "with diverse readers, who were all preests before." (Cald. iv. 210.) The reformers were sometimes annoyed by the readers presuming to "minister the holie sacrament without having the word of exhortation in their mouths"—a fault very characteristic of Romish priests, especially such as were in Scotland at that period, and into which they would more readily fall from the extreme scarcity of ministers. Many of these readers, who exhibited the requisite qualifications, were, sooner or later, raised a step higher, to the office of "exhorter," and others were appointed to the full office of the ministry ; and even those who never rose above the subordinate rank of readers of Scripture were allowed, for many years after the Reformation, to reside in the parish manse, which, together with a small money salary—the possession of the glebe or kirk lands and the vicarage or small tithes—enabled them with frugality to live in circumstances of perhaps as much comfort and respectability as parochial teachers do in our time.

We believe that many of these half-reformed priests were also employed as teachers, either in conjunction with their office as readers, or separately. In the Assembly of December 1562, Knox states that it was a subject of complaint "that wicked men war permitted to be schoolmaisteris, and so to infect the youth; amongis whom one Maister Robert Cumyn, schoolmaister in Aberbrothock, was compleaned upoun by the Laird of Dun, and sentence was pronounced against him." Calderwood, in allusion to the same matter, says that Cumyn was accused 'for infecting the youth committed to his charge with idolatrie." The nature of the accusation and the title " Maister," as then used, clearly show that this Arbroath teacher had been a Romish priest. It is not stated whether this school was at St Vigeans church or in the town of Arbroath. The latter view is most probable, as the magistrates of Arbroath had a school, of which, on 10th November 1564, they appointed David Black " maister," with x'10 of the Lady Chaplainry, and four shillings for "ilk freeman's bairn within the town," as salary. Numerous burgh schools were set up at this period, many years previous to the first state provision for parochial schools. Most probably, owing to its vicinity to Arbroath, St Vigeans possessed no parochial school during the next fifty years, till at least 1613, while the neighbouring parishes of Inverkeillor and Panbride then possessed such seminaries. In October 1573, about the time that Melville became minister of Arbroath, and very probably under his influence, the bailies and "hail neighbours" of the town resolved to establish a grammar school, and to pay the master eight shillings for "ilk bairn in the town," and 20 out of "Our Lady's benefice, or dirigie dues, with his clialmer maul free," that is, a free house. David Mychell was engaged as first teacher. (Burgh Court Book.) This grammar school was for a long period taught in a house still remaining on the east side of the High Street, a little distance north of the Parish Church, and now to be found in a narrow lane, called, in memory of the school-house, the School Wynd. The house retains a Latin inscription, built into the wall, but concealed from view by a coat of plaster. A quaint specimen of the Latin language and of the style of English poetry and prose possessed by one of its teachers, who describes himself as "John Carnegy, Doctor to the Cramer School of Aberbrothock," may be seen on a grave-stone erected by him in 1679, within the Arbroath burial-ground, to the memory of his wife, whom he compared to three eminent females, in the following manner:

"Uxor casta, parens felix, matrona pudic,
Sara viro, mundo Martha, Maria Den.
Here lyes wife was chast, a Mother Blest,
A modest woman, all these in on chest;
Sarah unto her niate, Mary to God,
Martha to men, whilst here she had abode.
As we be so shall ye."

Mr or Afagister James Melville was fifth son of Richard Melville of Baldovy in the parish of Craig, a family of eminence in the sixteenth century. Richard Melville was brother of John Melville, proprietor of the neighbouring estate of Dysart; and both were cadets of the house of the A elvilles of Glenbervie, who long held the office of hereditary sheriffs of Kincardineshire. He had nine sons, four of whom became ministers of the Reformed Church of Scotland, viz., Richard, the eldest (father of James the author of the well-known diary), who became minister of Inchbryock or Craig and Maryton; James, the subject of this sketch; John, the sixth son, who was minister of Craill; and Andrew, the youngest, the learned Professor of Theology at St Andrews, who became famed for his opposition to Prelacy. James Melville of St Vigeans was educated at St Andrews, of which university he was a graduate. At the first General Assembly of the Church, held in December 1560, where only six ministers were present, the names of James and Richard Melville, and John Erskine of Dun, were included in a list, along with other eight, of those who were "thought apt and able to minister;" and from the necessities of the time, it is evident that they were all without delay employed as preachers. James Melville continued to exercise the office of the ministry for at least thirty-six years after this date, during one of the brightest periods of our Church's history, between its emergency from the darkness of Popery, till its partial subjection to the arbitrary measures of King James. He during a long period, held a prominent part in the Reformed Church, and possessed. much of the confidence of his ministerial brethren. He does not bulk so largely to the eye as Knox, or his younger brother Andrew, or even his nephew James; but though he "attained not to the first three, he was honourable among the thirty." His name frequently occurs in commissions and remits under circumstances where only ministers of high respectability, learning, and tried faithfulness could be employed.

Melville was a parish minister in 1560; and like many others at that time, was destitute of stipend, in consequence of Queen Mary's courtiers having squandered the thirds of the Popish benefices, which had been promised to the Reformed preachers. James Melville, his nephew, when a child, remembered "the order of the fast, keipit in anno 1565—the evil handling of the ministeric be taking away of their stipends ; for Mr James Melville, my uncle, and Mr James Balfour, his cusing-german, [were] bathe ministers and stipendles, with gude, godlie and kynd Patrick Forbes of Cors." At that time Knox wrote "a comfortable letter, in name of the assemblie [which met December 1565], to encourage ministers, exhorters, and readers to continue in their vocation, which, in all likelihood, they were to leave off for laike of payment of their stipends; and to exhort the professors within this realme to supplie their necessities." About this period Melville appears to have been minister at Tannadice, a parish of which St Mary's College held the patronage. He was a Member of Assembly in December 1565, and signed along with other nine,—including Craig, Pont, Lindsay, William, Christison, Row, and Erskine of Dun, all men of eminence and learning,—an excellent letter written by Knox, and sent by the Assembly " to the Bishops of Ingland, that they wild be content gentlie to handle the brethren preachers, touching the habits, surpeloathes, and other abuilziements, wliilk appearantlie tend more to superstitioun nor to edificatioun." At the fourteenth General Assembly, held in June 1567, where the learned Buchanan was moderator, he, along with six of the most erudite ministers of the Church, were appointed to decide questions of a difficult and delicate kind, regarding marriage and similar points, and reported their answers to the Assembly, who recorded them as satisfactory solutions.

It is to Melville that the Church is indebted as the instrument of procuring the education of his nephew James Melville, as a minister, after which the boy had been anxiously, but hopelessly, aspiring in the face of his stern father's resolution to make him a farmer or tradesman. After narrating in the most artless style how, when his father had sent him to the smithy for "dressing of hewkes" (sickles), and some iron instruments, "he begoude to weirie soar of his lyff," and prayed God "that it wald please his guidnes to offer occasion to continow inc at the scholles, and inclyne my father's hart till use the saming," he adds, "Within a few dayes thairafter, Mr James Alelvill, my uncle, comes to Baldowy, and brings with him a godlie lernit man named Air Wilyeazn Collace, wha was that sam yeir to tak up the class as first Regent of St Leonards Collage within the Universitie of St Andros; after conference with whome that night, God moves my fathers hart to resolve to send me that sam yeir to the Collage." Thus, at the critical moment, his fortunes were decided by the well-directed influence of his uncle, who had discerned those rudiments of natural talent and worth to which his father, the minister of Maryton, with much better opportunity, had been blind. This family transaction took place about the year 1571. At the Assembly, which met at Stirling in August this year, we find Mr Melville assisting in the business, especially in the more learned departments, and acting in a committee for examining the commissioners' or superintendents' "bookes of visitations." While Melville was minister at Tannadice (1567 to 1571.) another James Melville was minister at Menmuir and Fearn. Some suppose that the latter, and not the former, as we believe, was afterwards the minister of St Vigeans.

In or before the year 1 574 James Melville was translated from Tannadice and settled as minister of St Vigeans. It is probable that he was a member of the Assembly which met at Edinburgh on 7th August of that year; and we are unable to account for the Assembly's intimate knowledge of the state of matters about Arbroath. except on the supposition of Melville's presence and active representations. Among other articles "proponed to my Lord Regent's grace" (Regent Morton), the Assembly craved "that his grace will tak a generall order with the poore, and especially in the abbeyes, suche as Aberbrothe and others, conforme to the act made at Leith, and in speciall, to discharge tithe-sybboes, leekes, kaill, unzeons [onions], by an act of secret counsell, whill [till] a parliament be convened, where they may be simply discharged." The minister of St Vigeans may be held entitled to much of the credit of this excellent overture in behalf of the poor, and for relief from the absurd tithing of leeks and other garden vegetables, which had been continued down to this time. In the register of minister and readers, made up in this year according to Morton's plan, the churches of "Aberbrothok, or Sanct Vigians, Athie, Kynnell," are placed under the charge of "Maister James Mailvile, minister," with a stipend of 160 Scots, besides the vicar's manse and glebe. This was considerably beyond the average stipends of the time, and formed a respectable income, although it now appears very small when converted into sterling money. From the collectors' books we can ascertain that about 1562 a small boll of meal could be purchased for 1 Scots, or twenty pence sterling, and in 1574 the average price of meal in Angus was twenty merks per chalder, or sixteen shillings and eightpence Scott per boll, thus showing that money was about twelve times scarcer, and of twelve times more value in the market than it is now. Melville had a reader stationed under his directions at each of these three churches. His "residare at Aberbrothok or Sanct Vigians," was Thomas Lindsay (a member of the Convent of Arbroath, and almoner of the Abbey), who had a salary of 17, 15s. 6 2/3d. Scots (equal to about 1, 9s. 7d. sterling), and eight bolls of bear. David Miln was his reader at Ethic, with a salary of 16 Scots, and the kirk-lands; and David Fyff was his reader at Kinnell, with a salary of 12 Scots.

At this time the other churches in the district of Arbroath were clustered together in the following manner :—Dunnichen, Idvies (Kirkden), Guthrie, and Rescobie were served by Mr James Balfour as minister, with a stipend of 133, 6s. 8d. Scots, and the kirk lands; and readers officiated at each church. The churches of Mary-ton, Inchbriock, Lunan, and St Skay, were served by Richard Melville, already alluded to, as minister; whose stipend was 100. He had one reader for Maryton and Inchbriock, and another for Lunan. But the register bears that "Sanct Skaa or Dunnynaid neidis na reidare." Inverkeillor, by itself, had one minister, Mr Andrew Strathauchin, whose stipend was two chalders of meal and eight bolls of bear, and it also possessed a reader. The churches of Arbirlot, Panbride, and Monikie were under the care of three readers, and under Charles Michelson as minister, who had a stipend of 100. The churches of Barry, Monifieth, and Ak lurroes were under Andro Auchenleck as minister, with the ordinary stipend of 100 Scots; and readers officiated at each of the churches.

In further illustration of the ecclesiastical state of Scotland at this date, fourteen years after the Reformation, it may be stated that Edinburgh, including the Canongate and Duddingston,..possessed only four ministers in 1574, while no other town in. the kingdom (including New Aberdeen, Dundee, St Andrews, Perth, Leith, and Glasgow) possessed more than one each. In the large districts of Annandale, Eskdale, Ewesdale, and Wachopedale, containing thirty-eight parishes, there was only one settled minister, viz., at Lochmaben, and a reader at Ruthwell. The whole number of parishes in Scotland named in the register amounted to 988,—not including those in the Shetland and Western Isles and Argyleshire, of which no notice is taken. About 715 readers were employed in these parishes, which were arranged in 303 clusters ; and the total number of ordained ministers was only 289, while there were then probably few or none waiting for churches. To these 289 ministers, eleven may be added for Argyle and the Isles, and we thus find the whole regularly ordained Protestant clergy of the kingdom nearly three centuries ago not to exceed 300, or little more than one-tenth of the Protestant clergy of Scotland at the present day; as the printed lists shew that, in 1859, assuming temporary vacancies as supplied, the establishment employs about 1216, and other Protestant denominations employ about 1623 ordained, clergymen, making a total of 2839.

Soon after this period the minister of Arbroath is found attending at the death-bed of his elder brother Richard, the minister of Maryton, who "died the 53rd year of his age, in the moneth of June, anno 1575, in a icterik [bilious] fever; maist godlie, for, after manie most comfortable exhortations maid to the noble and gentler men of the county, who all resorted to visit him during his disease, and to his breither, and frinds who remeaned about him; about the verie hour of his death, he caused reid to him the 8 chapter of the Epistle to the Romans; and immediatlie after, his brother, Mr James, minister of Arbrothe, asking him what he was doing? Lifting upe eyes and handis toward heavin, with reasonable, might of voice, he answerit, 'I am glorifeing God for the light of his gospell,' and na mae intelligible words thairefter." (Melville's Diary.)

At the Assembly which met at Glasgow in April 1581, Melville, along with Erskine of Dun, William Christison of Dundee, and James Anderson of Bendochy and Kettins (both ministers of note), were appointed commissioners` to adjust and fix the bounds of the presbyteries in Angus and Mearns, which till that period were styled the presbyteries of Dundee, Kirriemuir, Kettins, Bervie, and Fordoun.

Melville possessed a considerable share of that courage which was a special characteristic of the family to which he belonged. Although James Melville, his nephew, went to Perth on the occasion to which we are to refer, in order to strengthen the hands of his "uncle Andro," to whom he was so greatly attached, it was not he, but the minister of St Vigeans, who, along with Andrew Melville, Erskine of Dun, and about fifteen other commissioners from the General Assembly, presented to the young king at Perth, in July 1582, the "Grievances of the Kirk," caused chiefly by the measures of the Duke of Lennox and the profligate Earl of Arran, who were oppressing both the church and the nation. After the grievances were read, Arran exclaimed "with thrawn brow and boasting language, who dare subscribe these treasonable articles?" "We dare and will subscribe them, and will render our lives in the cause," replied Andrew Melville; and taking the pen from the clerk he and the other Commissioners adhibited their names to the document. They were dismissed with courtesy and respect, as Arran was confounded at their boldness; and the English strangers then present were unable to account for it, except on the supposition that they had an armed force in readiness to back their demands.

Nothing is fitted to give a higher idea of the character aid attainments of the minister of Arbroath than the circumstance of his being a regular member of the learned, select, and pleasant company, who at the time of the Assemblies in Edinburgh, before King James quarrelled with the church, usually met at the house of John Durie, then one of the Edinburgh ministers, father-in-law of James Melville the younger, who writes that he (Durie) "was of small literature, but haid seen and marked the great warks of God in the first Reformation, and was a doer therein, baith with tongue and hand. He was a verie guid fallow, and tuk delyt, as his speciall comfort, to haiff his table and houss filled with the best men. Tber ludgit in his house at all these assemblies in Edinbruche, for comoun, Mr Andro illelvill, Mr Thomas Smeton, Mr Alexander Arbuthnot (three of the lernedst in Europe), Mr James Mclvill [of Arbroath] my uncle, Air James Balfour, David Fergusone, David Home, ministers, with sum zelus and godlie barrones, and gentilinen." Durie himself was, like Andrew Melvill, of undaunted courage, and altogether a stranger to fear. It is his name which is now attached to the fine air to which the old version of the cxxiv. Psalm was formerly sung. This, as many are aware, arose from the following incident. After a temporary banishment from Edinburgh, through Lennox's influence, Durie, on his return, was escorted up the High Street by two thousand citizens, bareheaded, singing this Psalm in four parts "well known to the people." Lennox was more astonished at this scene than at anything which he had seen in Scotland.

The three first named ordinary guests of John Durie were the learned Principals of the Colleges of St Mary, Glasgow, and Old Aberdeen. Arbuthnott the Principal at Aberdeen was of the house of that name in the Mearns. He is well known as an elegant Latin poet. He was versed in mathematics, philosophy, theology, law, and medicine; and was much loved by all who knew him. Smeaton the Principal of Glasgow College was also a man of great learning and many acquirements. James Balfour, a relation of the Melvilles, and brother-in-law to James, the nephew, was the active, bold, and public-spirited minister of Guthrie and Idvies (Kirkden.) He was for many years afterwards one of the ministers of Edinburgh, along with Bruce, Pont, Balcanqual, and others, of whom King James' courtiers, and some of the Judges of the Court of Session, stood more in dread than of any other body in Britain. Balfour hesitated at first to preach his belief in the court version of the Gowirie conspiracy; and for this crime the Privy Council on 11th September 1600, appointed him to make public confession in the towns of Dundee, Arbroath, Montrose, and Brechin. When advanced in years, and "sore troubled with gout and deafness," he was one of the eight ministers whom King James compelled to travel to London, and kept there for nine months, in the most cowardly manner, principally on their own charges, till matters were fully put in train for the erection of Episcopacy in Scotland. When first ushered into the royal presence King James chatted familiarly with Balfour, and rallied him on the length of his beard. At the close of their residence in London, when Andrew Melville was imprisoned in the Tower, and James Melville confined at Newcastle, the king confined Balfour first at Cockburnspath, and then shortly afterwards commanded him to confine himself at Alford, in Aberdeenshire. "He was conveyed out of Edinburgh the 11th of August [1607] by the magistrates and some of the council. Being diseased, he stayed at Inverkeithing, and went not to Aufurd. Thus the ministers sent for to Court were used without any process, and against all law and order." Such is Calderwood's remark on the miserable usage which this old and deaf minister received at the hands of a monarch of three kingdoms, to whom he had been personally well known, for no other reason than his refusal to give public acquiescence to that new form of Church government which both he and the king had repeatedly sworn to repudiate.

David Ferguson was the old minister of Dunfermline, one of the first Reformers, who "spak verie plesandlie and comfortablie of the beginning and success of the ministrie; how that a few number,—viz., only sax, wharof he was ane—sae mightilie went fordwart in the wark, but [without] fear or cair of the warld, and prevalit, when ther was nae name of stipend heard tell of; when the authoritie, baith ecclesiastik and civill oponnit themselves, and skarslie a man of name and estimatioun to tak the cause in hand." Ferguson was a collector of Scottish proverbs, and had so much humour that he could not resist giving expression to a caustic joke, whether in the presence of the king, at an Assembly or Presbytery, or in reference to the inauguration of a tulchan bishop at St Andrew, where the hoarse notes of a "corbie, crouping on the roof of the kirk," was explained by him to mean, Corrupt! corrupt! corrupt! It was he who, in the palace of Dunfermline, administered to King James the reproof, "Sir, ban not," when the king had lost his temper, and swore by the devil, because Ferguson worsted him in a conversation about bishops. During another conversation the king gave to Ferguson as a poser, if with all his learning, he could explain why the house of the Master of Gray (an unprincipled but favourite courtier) had lately shaken during the night, to which Ferguson instantly replied, "Why should not the devil rock his ain bairns?" He and the three Principals were all old moderators of Assembly, each of them having at least presided twice in that venerable court, and Andrew Melville ultimately no less than six times. The Principals exercised their wit and learning in the composition of Latin verses and epigrams, and quoted Ovid and Horace in the original as readily as some can now quote Shakspeare or Burns; and although Ferguson could both joke and reason in Latin, he and Durie preferred to express their strong common sense, and intimate acquaintance with their Bibles, in quaint and good old doric Scotch. It is not surprising that James Melville the younger should delight in his admission to such a society, and love to dwell on the recollection of the piety, learning, and wit which it contained.

During a trying period, when civil and religious liberty was at a low ebb, under the baleful administration of Stuart Earl of Arran, and in consequence of the Acts of Parliament, 1584, passed by his influence, Erskine of Dun, in his old age, bent to the storm, and prevailed on most of the ministers of Angus to subscribe their approval of these obnoxious Acts. The compliance of many excited no remarks, but it was considered matter of surprise when James Melville of Arbroath, and James Balfour, the most uncompromising clergymen in the district, went to Edinburgh and subscribed the deed of approbation in the year 1583.

Melville soon afterwards acted a prominent part in one of the most singular and picturesque scenes that ever took place during the long and varied contest between the Prelatists and Presbyterians of Scotland. St Vigeans parish being within the diocese of St Andrews, its minister was a member of what was then termed the Synodical Assembly of Fife, although it included many parishes in Angus and Perthshire. At a meeting of that body held at St Andrews in April 1586, James Melville the younger, as last moderator, "made the exhortation," the bishop (Patrick Adamson, Archbishop of St Andrews), CC placing himself hard besyde me, with it grait pontificalitie and big countenance; as he braggit he was in his awin citie, and paid the king his maisters favour, he neidit to fear no man." After discoursing on the duty of every man not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, Melville turned to the bishop, sitting at his elbow, and directing his speech to him personally, he "recompted to him schortlie his lyff, actiones, and procedings against the Kirk, taking the Assemblie there to witnes and his awin conscience before God, if he was not an evident proof and example of that doctrine, whom, being a minister of the Kirk; the dragon had sae stangit with the poison and venom of averice and ambition, that, swalling exhorbitantlie out of measure, he threatened the wrack and destruction of the haill bodie in case he were nocht tymouslie, and with courage, cut off." The bishop tried to reply to this extraordinary application of the discourse, but was "so dashed and stricken with terror and trembling that he could scarce sit, let be to stand on his feet," and ultimately left the synod. After repeatedly requesting his attendance to answer other charges, the synod, in a manner too summary, resolved to excommunicate the bishop for contumacy. But, in the meantime, they appointed "Mr James Melvill, minister at Arbrothe, Mr James Balfour, minister at Edvie," and other two members, "to passe again to the said Mr Patrick, earnestly to travell with him, according to the effect of the former admonitiouns, and to intimat that lie was judged worthy of excommunication, and decerned to be excommunicated instantlie in case he continued still disobedient." Upon their returning and reporting their interview with the bishop, the minister of Arbroath and other two were sent back to confer with him at his request, and to repeat the former message ; after which the bishop personally came to the synod, where much procedure of a very unpleasant nature took place, which was ultimately concluded by the synod formally excommunicating the archbishop "as an ethnick [a heathen] or publican." The bishop retaliated the sentence in his own way, as Melville writes: "A day or twa after, he penned an excommunication, and, in a bishoplie manner, sent out a boy with ane or twa of his jackmen, and red the sam in the kirk, wherby, be his archiepiscopall authoritie, he excommunicated Mr Andro Mclvill, me, and a certain mae of the brethren." As the bishop looked on the Atelvilles as the main leaders of the opposition to him, it is more than probable that James Melville of Arbroath was one of the certain mae of the brethren included in the decree of excommunication, and was delivered over to satan along with his brother and nephew. The synod's excommunication of the bishop was removed at the next General Assembly, where no notice was taken of his retaliatory sentence.

At the General Assembly, which was held in Edinburgh on 10th May 1586 (referred to in our last article), James Melville of Arbroath was one of seven members appointed for Angus and Mearns to try and take probation of bishops and commissioners if they found occasion of slander to arise by them in life, doctrine, or conversation. At the same time, reports as to the bounds of Presbyteries (formerly adverted to) were given and disposed of ; and the Presbytery seats of Angus and N earns were appointed by. this Assembly to beat Dundee, Brechin, Montrose, and Bervie. Arbroath was not a Presbytery seat at this period. It is about this time, or between 1576 and 1586, that we have the first indication of a separate ministerial charge in the town of Arbroath. In a general list of churches made up at this Assembly, we find "Athe, Aberbrothe, and St Vigeans," all named separately and apart from one another. There is no reason to believe that Ethie ever possessed a separate minister since the Reformation; but the town church of Arbroath was provided with a minister at this period or soon afterwards; and as James Melville of St Vigeans evidently possessed much of the spirit of James his nephew (who most disinterestedly laboured for and effected the separation of the charges of Anstruther and Kilrenny), we may safely give to him much of the credit of getting the new charge established in the town of Arbroath, where, by that time, it would be greatly needed. A new arrangement as to Presbyteries was made at the Assembly of April 1593, when those of Angus and Mearns were named the Presbyteries of Dundee, Arbroath, Brechin, Meigle, and Cowie. Mr Melville was the first of eight ministers within the Sheriffdom of Forfar, who were appointed by the Privy Council on 5th March 1589, to take active measures "for suppressing the traffic of Jesuits and seminary priests," in consequence of the alarm occasioned by the discovery of the letters called the Spanish blanks. A few years afterwards at the General Assembly, held in Montrose in June 1595, his name appears in the history of the councils of the Church, so far as we can trace, for the last time. He and John Durie, who was now minister at Montrose (having been forced by the king to leave Edinburgh), were appointed commissioners for Angus to examine and report as to dilapidation of benefices by tacks or otherwise. After this period he did not appear prominently in the public transactions of the times. King James was now commencing those schemes for the exaltation of arbitrary power, which were ended fifty years later by his son being brought to the block; and James Melville seems to have left the maintenance of the struggle for the liberties of the Church to the exertions of younger men, such as his brother Andrew, and his nephew James, both of whom that struggle has immortalised. And the king, on the, other hand, did not lack young ministers, especially in Forfarshire, willing to abet and forward his plans.
The latest notices of this worthy minister are given by Dr M'Crie in his Life of Andrew Melville. He quotes from the Commissary Records of St Andrews that, on 27th April 1591, Thomas Ramsay in Kirkton (East Kirkton of St Vigeans) bound himself "to pay to the richt worchipful Mr James Melvill, minister of Aberbrothock, four bolls beir, with one pek to the boll, and twa bolls aitmaill, with the cheritie, guid and sufficient stuff—the mail to be for the said Mr James awin acting, all guid and fyne, as ony gentill man sail eat in the countrie adjacent about him; or, failzeing deliverie, to pay for every boll 4 lib. money." The increased money value of the meal at this time, when compared with the prices of 1562, affords a striking view of the increase of national wealth and prosperity during the first thirty' years after the Reformation. About five years later (March 1596) he obtained decree against John Richardson "for the feu farme of the kirk-lands of Aberbrothock, assigned to him by the Lords of Counsel—viz., 2 bolls wheat, 28 bolls bear, and 20 bolls ait meal."

The bright rays of Reformation light which, at an early period had emanated from the towns of Dundee and Montrose, and spread over a large part of Angus and Mearns, were at this time becoming gradually obscured, and were succeeded by a night of comparative ignorance and subserviency. This change of matters in Angus did not escape the notice of King James, who, in order to obtain the full benefit of it for the advancement of his plans, and in the exercise of his boasted kingcraft, forthwith removed the General Assemblies of the Church to Dundee and Montrose, where they were held in the years 1593, 1595, 1597, 1598, and 1600; and in these Assemblies he at last succeeded after much opposition in getting the church to consent to certain measures which ushered in the establishment of Prelacy. That opposition, however, did not arise from the ministers of Forfarshire, at least after the death of Erskine of Dun, Melville of Arbroath, Durie of Montrose, and Christison of Dundee; for, as the readers of our church histories are aware, the Synod of Angus and Mearns was the only Synod within Scotland which in 1607 tamely submitted to the imposition of a constant moderator, in obedience to a clause inserted by King James into an Act of the Convention of ministers, who had met at his command at Linlithgow during the previous year. Whether this state of matters originated from the number of partially reformed priests, who may have obtained ministerial charges in Forfar-shire, as complained of in 1562, and who, according to the usual course of things, would beget a succession of professional sons in their own likeness—or whether it arose from other causes—it is not now easy to decide, but it is certain that during a long period after these assemblies the ecclesiastics of Forfarshire in general held an obscure position, and did not exercise that influence in the church which they had previously done, and which the natural situation, size, and wealth of the district would have warranted one to expect.

We have been unable to ascertain the exact date or the circumstances of James Melville's death, and there is no inscription to his memory about the Church of St Vigeans. It is evident that this event took place at the close of the sixteenth or the beginning of the seventeenth century. The end of the sixteenth century was a critical period in the history of the church, which had at the same time to mourn the loss of several other reformers of eminence, such as David Ferguson, John Dury, Thomas Buchanan, Principal Rollock, Adam Johnston, David Black, and John Lindsay, some of whom were, like Melville of Arbroath, thereby saved from soon afterwards appearing on the stage of persecution, by being convicted as traitors for 2proro,qating a General Assembly, and declining the authority of the Privy Council as incompetent judges in the matter; or by undergoing the ungenerous treatment to which King James at the same period subjected a number of their. brethren in England.

The clergyman of whose life we have given a rapid sketch deserves the grateful remembrance of the inhabitants of Arbroath and St Vigeans. He was one of the band of early reformers who, amid much privation and opposition, during the forty years between 1560 and 1600 sowed broadcast those precious seeds of civil and religious liberty of which we are now reaping the fruit. This period of our history is by far too little studied. That at its commencement they achieved our freedom from ignorance and superstition no sound Protestant will doubt. Their actings and sufferings, during the latter portion of the period referred to, in behalf of civil liberty (which they clearly saw must stand or fall with religious freedom) were neither sufficiently appreciated in their own day nor are even now properly understood. But if they had not boldly maintained the liberty of the pulpit in its reference to state affairs—few or none of which are, perhaps, altogether neutral toward Christianity and civilization—it is probable that our singular and much-valued liberty of "the press" (which then had no existence) would have been yet to contend for. The reformed ministers were sometimes banished or imprisoned for the liberties which they used; but if some of our modern periodicals had then existed in Scotland, and had used such freedoms as they now do with the acts and characters of statesmen, their publishers would, under the exercise of similar powers, have been speedily consigned to the dungeons of Blackness Castle, or confined in the remotest of the Shetland Islands. No doubt the old Scottish pulpit liberty was, like other kinds of liberty, occasionally liable to run into licentiousness, but not at least on the wrong side of morality, and this is more than can be said for some portions of what has been considered its antitypethe modern press. It was Melville and his compeers in Scotland who laid the foundation of that free expression of opinion under the British Constitution which is so justly prized at the present day.


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