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The Aberdeen Doctors
Appendix IX - The Closing Years of Dr. John Forbes


[Vit. Joh. Forb., p. 70.]

xcvu. The Equanimity with which Forbes bore his Dismissal.

But to return to our Forbes, he bore his dismissal with an equal and gentle mind, he never returned his enemies evil for evil, but with kindliness and true Christian charity, he always commended them to God in his prayers, as may be seen in his spiritual exercises. He handed over his own house for the use of his successors in that Chair of Theology, so as to be a residence for them in the future. He made no schism or separation from them, but joined with them in public worship, listened to the Presbyterian sermons, observed all the public fasts instituted by the Synods, always, when the occasion arose, took part in the Holy Communion when they administered it, and everywhere, by his shining example, showed what was the duty of a good man in such a distracted state of the Church, and from his Spiritual Exercises it is clear how anxiously he used every opportunity to promote in his own heart, to true conscientiousness, the devotion and love of God. It is to be noted also, that men's minds had not been mutually exasperated to that degree of hatred and spite against each other on account of the difference in opinion concerning ecclesiastical rule, to which they afterwards reached. For formerly, when Episcopacy was established in Scotland, the Presbyterians joined the Episcopalians in holy matters, and did not build a separate church and altar; so in like manner, when the Presbyterian rule was established in Scotland, the Episcopalians did not depart from communion with them, and again, when, on the restoration of Charles 11. Episcopacy was restored, Presbyterians and Ministers and Laity continued in the same communion with them, nor did they found a separate sect until the year 1666, about which time the Presbyterian ministers throughout the whole kingdom suddenly made a disruption from the public churches, and teaching the people to do the same, they made separate meeting-places, in order that in this way they might keep that sect distinct ; and now the other party in turn, and as it seems to them for a better reason, does the same thing ; and to what a degree of confusion and of all evil works this spirit of envy and contention will at length drive us, God only knows.

xcvin. Forbes Relies on the Purity of his own Heart.

John Forbes remained at home in a private capacity, giving himself up wholly to the purification of his own heart, to continual prayer, and to communing with God, striving to be a cause of offence to none, living at peace with everybody so far as in him lay, so that his true goodness and humility extorted the admiration of his enemies themselves and gained him peace and quietness. One day when some of the Presbyterian brethren were talking about him, one of them said that Forbes was a good man, another of them, of no great judgment, answered that he was a morally good man. (And even this is a rare kind of bird on earth.) Nay, answered the first, he is more than a moral man. This was one of Forbes' three antagonists in the dispute concerning the National Covenant, at that time Minister of Aberdeen, having greater authority, both over Presbyters and people, than any other Bishop there had ever exercised, as indeed is the custom in that Hierarchy. But when the flames of discord and commotion burst forth in Britain with greater heat, and when new oaths were imposed, the refusers of which were persecuted by the Covenanters as though they were enemies to their Religion and country, he was at length compelled for a short while to withdraw from his native country.

cvin. Forbes Sets out for Holland.

But I return to our author Forbes, whom, along with his father, Bishop Forbes, Archbishop Spots-wood held in high respect. Forbes would have liked to remain at Aberdeen, where, having been granted access to the public libraries, he would have finished the rest of the much-needed books of his Historical - Theological Instructions.But this favour could not be obtained, for besides the National Covenant, he was required to sign the Solemn League and Covenant also, otherwise to undergo the penalty of ecclesiastical censure or to leave the country. This last alternative Forbes chose, and on 5th April 1644 he left his native land and made sail for Belgium, and on the 10th of the same month he touched Campvere. From here he wandered through the whole Belgic Confederacy, and frequently preached, at the request of the pastors,in the churches of Englishmen and Scotsmen, to the very great consolation and edification of the people, who wondered what kind of a church the Scottish church was, if it ejected from the college of its pastors so reverend a man. While in Holland he stayed mostly at Amsterdam, and occupied himself there in editing hisHistorico-Theological Instructions, which he declined to publish unless with the approval of the most famous Theologians of the Academies of the Belgian Confederacy, and they willingly gave their approval to the edition of his work. In his diary Forbes mentions and praises (giving thanks to God) the singular candour and kindness of John Ger. Vossius, who thought fit to adorn the edition of this work by his testimony, although in the 28th and 29th chapters of the 8th Book of this work he had read certain opinions opposed to those which he had himself written in his Pelagian history. Among innumerable kindnesses of divine providence and protection, the following is memorable : On Friday (says Forbes) in the evening (25th June) while I was being carried in a skiff so as to get on board the passenger vessel plying from Amsterdam to Swartsluis, God bestowed on me this singular kindness of a gracious protection and release, blessed be His name for ever. The ship's anchor fell on the top of me, nevertheless I was uninjured, not killed, nor wounded, nor hurt, praise be to God. Amen and Amen.

cix. His Return to his Native Land, and Death.

After staying more than two years in Holland he returned to Scotland, and setting sail from Verea on the 8th July 1646 he'reached the port of Aberdeen on the 14th of that month, and lest the Ministers and Presbyterian party should harbour any suspicions concerning him, he at once retired to his country estate of Corse, giving his best thanks to God who had preserved him unhurt both going and returning, and inasmuch as he had found his house in peace and safety, where he passed the remainder of his life, in preparation for death, and he piously fell asleep in the Lord 29th April 1648, and he was buried in the cemetery of his own parish, without any funeral pomp or monument. Concerning his last illness and death, I can say nothing, since I have seen no memorial of it. His diary was continued only to the end of the year 1647.


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