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The Aberdeen Doctors
Appendix XI - Certain Personal Characteristics of Forbes and of the Manners of the Times in which he lived


[Vita J oh. Forb., pp. 70-2.]

He was of small stature, and his countenance somewhat dark in colour. He married an honourable lady, a Belgian, from Middelburg in Zeland, called Dulcie Rosa Arbor, who died in'the year 1640, a little before the expulsion of her husband by the Covenanters. He had nine children by her, of whom only one, George, survived his father, the heir of his lands but not of his learning and virtues, although that had been the dearest wish of his father's heart. He had no seat in his study, but always read standing, or wrote leaning on the table. He often used to walk about the meadows occupied with divine meditation. Sometimes, for the relaxation of his mind, he would play at (pila clavaria) golf, in the fields, but when he heard the sound of the bells calling to public prayers in church, forthwith giving up the game he hastened to the temple, not as a matter of form but out of true devotion ; and in his Diary it may be seen that many of his divine contemplations were given to him on the occasion of the reading of the Holy Scriptures at stated hours daily in the temple.

Even to the last he persisted in a pious aversion from the methods which the brethren used in promulgating their National League and Covenant. He was in the habit of saying that these covenants would not last longer than while they were sustained by the carnal arm. Moreover, he bade a friend say to a certain generous person, master of an ample fortune, but not a Covenanter, that he would like him to have the belief in him when dying, that he himself refused to subscribe and swear to those covenants, although he might gain as his reward his ample fortune. Indeed, he had seen such startling effects of these covenants, such deceitful arts on the part of the Covenanters, such frightful violation of every law (although before the last act of the tragedy he had been removed by the divine mercy from this theatre of strife), that it may well appear strange to no one, if so sincere and candid a soul, so great a lover of the true and the good, recoiled with horror from the spirit in which the Covenanters worked. He had seen those who, when they had bitterly complained of the neighbouring English Church, as if it wished to force its own rules and ecclesiastical ceremonies on them, afterwards striving utterly to overthrow the constitution of the same Church, and to introduce into it by force of arms their own discipline and rule : those who formerly used to complain of the constraint of scrupulous and religious persons, afterwards doing their utmost to force others, by extreme terrors and punishments, ecclesiastical and civil, to accommodate themselves to their constitutions and to swear to their solemn covenants, though their own conscience rebelled against it: Those who used to cry out against Bishops, as it were, lording it over the clergy, now lording it with a shameful tyranny over everybody and their National Synods, both clergy and people (Synods whose decrees not even a third part of the clergy and people really approved) :Those 'who in former times had railed against the King for violating the kingly rights of Christ, inasmuch as he had ordered certain ministers, as if charged with treason, to be cited before the King's Council, on account of words spoken from the pulpits; the ministers, when the charge was read to them, refusing to recognise the Judge, inasmuch as they were on the business of their Lord, and therefore could only plead their cause in the first instance before His Spiritual Courts, now usurping so great authority in the civil affairs of the Kingdom as not to allow the ordinances of the Kingdom to be of any effect, if they themselves were not in the first instance consulted and gave their consent: Those who in the beginning boasted that they took up arms only in self-defence against the King : at length, after all their demands, both as regards the Church and the Kingdom, had been conceded, attacking the King in his other Kingdom and allying themselves with the rebellious subjects of that Kingdom against him by a solemn oath : Those who had bound themselves by an oath to protect the person of the Royal Majesty, at length wickedly handing him over, after he had entrusted himself to their care, into the hands of his enemies, under the pretext that he had refused to be bound by the Covenant : protesting in the Synod against the new Scottish Expedition into England, undertaken by the decree of their own Parliament, for the purpose of restoring the King so basely captured, to liberty and dignity : forcing the Nobles and those generous persons who had undertaken it to undergo public repentance in sackcloth : and declaiming to the people from their pulpits that the mighty King was, as it were, an enemy to the cause of God (as they were blasphemously wont to say) : Those who boasted that they were Ministers of the Prince of Peace, who said that He had come not to destroy souls but to save them ; none the less thirsting for blood : demanding from the laws of the kingdom justice (i.e. capital punishment) against the captive malignants (i.e. those who had supported the Royal cause), and giving them solemn thanks when the scaffolds smoked with the blood of the Nobles and gentlemen of the kingdom : Those who had raved against the Roman Church, as the state of Antichrist and the Babylonian whore ; nevertheless transcribing her most pernicious dogmas and acts : Those who had inveighed against the Hierarchy of the Roman Church, now raising the most absolute Hierarchy which had ever existed in a Republic : Those who had condemned the doctrine of the Mohammedans concerning Religion propagated by the sword, doing the same thing : Those who persisted in holding fast to their National Synods, though the King prohibited them on account of the confusion and turmoil excited by them in the Kingdom, urging as a pretext the divine right and prerogative of the Royal authority of Christ : nevertheless, when Cromwell dissolved their National Synod, and prevented it by threats from again assembling, yielding obedience, and not daring again to assert this Royal prerogative of Christ : Surely these things do not become a Christian, much less those who call themselves ambassadors of Jesus Christ, since they are so entirely foreign to the life and spirit of His own Divine Gospel. If the question were asked of them, whether Jesus Christ Himself, if He were on earth, would do such things, such as forcing men to enter into covenants against certain ecclesiastical rites, by urging them to keep the same covenant by force of arms against their own Supreme Magistrate, and that they should hand him over to his enemies if he refused to sign the same and entrusted himself to their good faith, and should demand capital punishment against his supporters ? I scarcely think that they would go to such a pitch of insolence as to affirm that. Christ wished His enemies to be received neither with calumnies, nor punishments, nor any kind of force, but with pity, prayer, kindness, a laying down of His own life for them : whereby He defined the one characteristic of those who are His : so far from constraining any one, that He opens the door as widely as possible, for going away if they wish, even to His Apostles; you too wish to depart.

These terrible deeds of the Covenanters, alleging as a pretext the cause of God and Religion, should be recalled to memory, for this reason that our present age may be warned not to allow itself to be led aside by such impostures. Since even at this day there are not wanting some who extol the above mentioned covenants even to the stars, and openly assert that we are bound by those covenants from the force of the oath of our ancestors (or of the majority), and are anxious that our necks should be again subjected to the yoke of all of them: moreover,also in a pamphlet recently brought out, entitled The Hind let Loose, the most wicked crimes, namely the murder perpetrated on Charles the First, and the slaughter by assassins of James Sharp, Primate of all Scotland and Archbishop of St. Andrews, are boasted of as though they were heroic deeds, and their murderers as though they were pillars of their native land; neverthel® the Presbyterian Synod, which, in matters of less moment, is accustomed to raise so great a dust, during the last ten years in which it has yearly met, laid no blame on this pamphlet, or him whom (received by them into the Order of Ministers) common rumour held to be the author, nor did they condemn them with any ecclesiastical censure.

Would that the experience of such grave evils under which the whole Christian world groaned for so many generations, while Christians, split into so many parties, keep watch now here, and now there, on account, accidentals, accessories, surroundings, externals, speculations, opinions, systems, rites, particular forms of ecclesiastical discipline and rule; meanwhile driving away the mutual love of one's neighbour, without which the love of God cannot exist, and so showing the whole of their religion to be vain, by which blind and diabolic zeal mutual hate and insult are in turn generated: a false and dangerous presumption of the favour of God and of the conversion of the soul towards Him, and, in most cases, a plain apostacy from all religion, as vain and false. Would that, I say, this calamitous experience throughout the whole Christian world, might at last, and henceforward, open the eyes of ecclesiastics, so that they may be moved to follow the true aim of the Gospel, the true love of God and of one's neighbour, not in word, but in deed, in the spirit and gentleness of Jesus Christ.


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