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The Scot Abroad
Chapter 1 - The Scholar and the Author - Part 5


Alexander Ales, some four years older than Knox, has an authentic history as strange and eventful as almost any that even the shifting age of the Reformation can show. He was among the earlier preachers against the Romish hierarchy, and after being three times imprisoned, he escaped to England in 1534, and thence to Germany. He came back to England, carrying with him an introduction from Melanchthon to Cranmer. He was much liked both by the Archbishop and by Cromwell, and even advanced so far as to get within the favour of Henry VIII.—a dangerous position, apt to wax from pleasant warmth into deadly heat. Seeing the approach of his patron Cromwell’s fall, and disliking the Act of Supremacy and some other ecclesiastical measures of that wild reign, he fled to Germany again. In a document to be presently noticed, he gives the following account of his flight:-

"When I could not bear these with a good conscience, nor could my profession allow me to dissemble them (for I was filling the office of the ordinary reader in the celebrated University of Cambridge by the King’s orders), I came to the Court, and asked for my dismissal by means of Crumwell. But he retained me for about three years with empty hopes, until it was decreed and confirmed by law that married priests should be separated from their wives and punished at the King’s pleasure.

But before this law was published, the Bishop of Canterbury sent Lord Pachet [Paget] from Lambeth to me at London. (I understand that he afterwards attained a high position in the Court of your sister; Queen Mary.) He directed me to call upon the Archbishop early in the morning. When I called upon him, ‘Happy man that you are,’ said he, ‘you can escape! I wish that I might do the same; truly my see would be no hindrance to me. You must make haste to escape before the island is blocked up, unless you are willing to sign the decree, as I have, compelled by fear. I repent of what I have done. And if I had known that my only punishment would have been deposition from the archbishopric (as I bear that my Lord Latimer is deposed), of a truth I would not have subscribed- I am grieved, however, that you have been deprived of your salary for three years by Crumwell; that you have no funds for your travelling expenses, and that I have no ready money. Nor dare I mention this to my friends, lest the King should become aware that warning had been given by me for you to escape, and that I have provided you with the means of travelling. I give you, however, this ring as a token of my friendship. It once belonged to Thomas Wolsey, and it was presented to me by the King when he gave me the archbishopric.’

"When I heard what the Bishop had to say, I immediately caused my property to be sold, and I concealed myself in the house of a German sailor until the ship was ready, in which I embarked, dressed as a soldier, along with other German troops, that I might not be detected. When I had escaped a company of searchers, I wrote to Crumwell (although he had not behaved well towards me), and warned him of the danger in which he stood at that time, and about certain other matters. For this I can vouch the testimony of John Ales, Gregory, and the Secretary, and Pachet himself. But Christopher Mount said that Crumwell did not dare to speak to me when I was going away and soliciting my dismissal, nor could he venture to give me anything, lest he should be accused to the King, but that he would send the sum that he owed me into Germany."

He became Professor of Theology at Frankfurt-on-the-Ode; but getting up a great quarrel there, he found it convenient to go to Leipzig, refusing to take a chair offered to him at Konigsberg. He was active in the great ecclesiastical council at Naumburg, and other similar affairs. His pen had its own share in the business of his busy life; and the titles of his various theological and polemical works, about thirty in all, would fill a good many pages. Instead of enumerating them, however, I shall ask attention to a small fragment from his pen, lately brought to light, relating to certain momentous occurrences which passed under his eyes.

English history has the privilege of possessing an event which may stand as a fair rival to the murder of Darnley in tragic mystery—the execution of Anne Boleyn. Mr Froude got access to the Baga de Secretis itself, that secret depository of proceedings against royal personages, the keys of which are guarded by the Lord Chancellor and the Attorney-General; but he there found only materials for strengthening and deepening the mystery, and left it to the alternative either that the vain beauty was guilty of the horrible crimes laid to her charge, or that some sixty or seventy English gentlemen of high repute conspired to slander her character and put her to death. Ales saw at least a part of this tragedy. On the accession of Queen Elizabeth, he wrote to her a full account of it. He said he had been admonished in a vision that it lay upon him to write the history of the tragedy of the death of the Queen’s most holy mother, to illustrate the glory of God and afford consolation to the godly. Whether he ever wrote a book of this kind or not, it has not appeared to the world, and we must accept with thankfulness something that may be called an epitome of its contents, sent for the Queen’s immediate satisfaction. He sets down, in the first place, with great distinctness, his own view of the cause of the tragedy:— "I am persuaded that the true and chief cause of the hatred, the treachery, and the false accusations laid to the charge of that most holy Queen, your most pious mother, was this, that she persuaded the King to send an embassy into Germany to the Princes who had embraced the Gospel. If other arguments of the truth of this were wanting, a single one would be sufficient, namely, that before the embassy had returned, the Queen had been executed.

"On account of this embassy, the Emperor Charles (who formerly had been so hostile to your most serene father, with whom he had a suit before the Pope and the Papal Legate in England, Campegio, on account of his aunt, Queen Catherine, whom the King had divorced, and because he had married your mother, and honoured her with the regal crown) most grievously threatened the Princes of Germany who were associated in the defence of the Gospel.

"It was chiefly on account of this embassy that he prepared for hostilities, and invoked the aid of the Pope, King Ferdinand, the nobles of Italy, Spain, Hungary, Bohemia, Lower Germany, and other nations.

"On account of this embassy all the Bishops who were opposed to the purer doctrine of the Gospel and adhered to the Roman Pontiff, entered into a conspiracy against your mother."

To those who have often regretted that there was no one present to sketch the secondary adjuncts when any great act in the historical drama is passing, the following record of minute particulars will have its due value:— "At this time I was in attendance upon Crumwell at the Court, soliciting the payment of a stipend awarded to me by the most serene King. I was known to the Evangelical Bishops, whom your most holy mother had appointed from among those schoolmasters who favoured the purer doctrine of the Gospel, and to whom she had intrusted the care of it. I was also upon intimate terms with the Archbishop of Canterbury and Latimer, to whom your most holy mother was in the habit of confessing when she went to the Lord’s Table. He it was for whom she sent when she was in prison and knew that she should shortly die. Although this most holy Queen, your very pious mother, had never spoken with me, nor had I ever received ought from any one in her name, nor do I ever expect any such thing (for all royal Courts have hitherto been opposed to me), yet in consequence of what I had shortly before heard respecting as well her modesty, prudence, and gravity, as her desire to promote the pure doctrine of the Gospel and her kindness to the poor, from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Bishop Latimer, and even from Crumwell himself, I was deeply grieved in my heart at that tragedy about to be enacted by the Emperor, the Pope, and the other enemies of the Gospel, whose intention it was, along with her, to bury true religion in England, and thus to restore impiety and idolatry.

"Never shall I forget the sorrow which I felt when I saw the most serene Queen, your most religious mother, carrying you, still a little baby, in her arms, and entreating the most serene King, your father, in Greenwich Palace, from the open window of which he was looking into the courtyard, when she brought you to him.

"I did not perfectly understand what had been going on, but the faces and gestures of the speakers plainly showed that the King was angry, although he could conceal his anger wonderfully well. Yet from the protracted conference of the Council (for whom the crowd was waiting until it was quite dark, expecting that they would return to London), it was most obvious to every one that some deep and difficult question was being discussed.

"Nor was this opinion incorrect. Scarcely had we crossed the river Thames and reached London, when the cannon thundered out, by which we understood that some persons of high rank had been committed to prison within the Tower of London. For such is the custom when any of the nobility of the realm are conveyed to that fortress, which is commonly called the Tower of London, there to be imprisoned.

"Those who were present (of whom, by God’s mercy, many are still alive, and have now returned into England from banishment) well know how deep was the grief of all the godly, how loud the joy of the hypocrites, the enemies of the Gospel, when the report spread in the morning that the Queen had been thrown in the Tower. They will remember the tears and lamentations of the faithful who were lamenting over the snare laid for the Queen, and the boastful triumphing of the foes of the true doctrine. I remained a sorrowful man at home, waiting for the result; for it was easy to perceive that, in the event of the Queen’s death, a change of religion was inevitable.

"I take to witness Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead, that I am about to speak the truth. On the day upon which the Queen was beheaded, at sunrise, between two and three o’clock, there was revealed to me (whether I was asleep or awake I know not) the Queen’s neck, after her head had been cut off, and this so plainly that I could count the nerves, the veins, and the arteries.

"Terrified by this dream or vision, I immediately arose, and crossing the river Thames I came to Lambeth (this is the name of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s palace), and I entered the garden in which he was walking.

"When the Archbishop saw me he inquired why I had come so early, for the clock had not yet struck four. I answered that I had been horrified in my sleep, and I told him the whole occurrence. He continued in silent wonder for awhile, and at length broke out into these words, ‘Do not you know what is to happen to-day?’ and when I answered that I had remained at home since the date of the Queen’s imprisonment, and knew nothing of what was going on, the Archbishop then raised his eyes to heaven and said, ‘She who has been the Queen of England upon earth will to-day become a Queen in heaven.’ So great was his grief that he could say nothing more, and then he burst into tears.

"Terrified at this announcement, I returned to London sorrowing. Although my lodging was not far distant from the place of execution, yet I could not become an eyewitness of the butchery of such an illustrious lady, and of the exalted personages who were beheaded along with her.

"Those persons, however, who were present (one of whom was my landlord), and others, told me at noon, that the Earl of Wiltshire (the Queen’s father) had been commanded to be an assessor along with the judges, in order that his daughter might be the more confounded, and that her grief might be the deeper. Yet she stood undismayed; nor did she ever exhibit any token of impatience, or grief, or cowardice.

"The Queen was accused of having danced in the bedroom with the gentlemen of the King’s chamber [cum cubiculariis regis], and of having kissed her brother, Lord Rochfort. When she made no answer to these accusations, the King’s syndic or proctor, Master Polwarck, produced certain letters, and bawled out that she could not deny she had written to her brother, informing him that she was pregnant. Still she continued silent.

"When the sentence of death was pronounced, the Queen raised her eyes to heaven, nor did she condescend to look at her judges, but went to the place of execution. Kneeling down, she asked that time for prayer should be granted her. When she had ceased praying, she herself arranged her hair, covered her eyes, and commanded the executioner to strike.

"The Queen exhibited such constancy, patience, and faith towards God, that all the spectators, even her enemies, and those persons who previously had rejoiced at her misfortune out of their hatred to the doctrine of the religion which she had introduced into England, testified and proclaimed her innocence and chastity."

He then narrates the conversation at table, which would require more comment than can be here afforded to render it distinct. Then,

"While the guests were thus talking at table in my hearing, it so happened that a servant of Crumwell’s came from the Court, and sitting down at the table, asked the landlord to let him have something to eat, for he was exceedingly hungry.

"In the mean time, while the food was being got ready, the other guests asked him what were his news? Where was the King? What was he doing? Was he sorry for the Queen? He answered by asking why should he be sorry for her? As she had already betrayed him in secrecy, so now was he openly insulting her. For just as she, while the King was oppressed with the heavy cares of state, was enjoying herself with others, so he, when the Queen was being beheaded, was enjoying himself with another woman.

"While all were astonished, and ordered him to hold his tongue, for he was saying what no one would believe, and that he would bring himself into peril if others heard him talking thus, he answered, ‘You yourselves will speedily hear from other persons the truth of what I have been saying.’

"The landlord, who was a servant of Crumwell’s, hearing this, said, ‘It is not fitting for us to dispute about such affairs. If they are true they will be no secret. And when I go to Court I will inquire carefully into these matters.’

"The person, however, who had first spoken, answered that he had the King’s orders that none but the councillors and secretaries should be admitted, and that the gate of the country-house should be kept shut in which the King had secluded himself.

"Some days afterwards, when the landlord returned from the Court, before any one asked him a question, he called out with a loud voice, ‘I have news to tell you.’ The guests anxiously waited to know what he had to say, whereupon he added, that within a few days the King would be betrothed, and shortly afterwards would be married, but without any state, in the presence of the councillors only; for he wished to delay the coronation of his new spouse until he should see whether she would give birth to a boy.

"The issue of events proved that this was the truth, for the Lady Jane was crowned Queen when she was upon the eve of the confinement in which she died.

"The birth of a son gave immense satisfaction to the King. But as he was afraid that he himself would not live so long as to see the child grown up, he removed out of the way all those persons of whom he was apprehensive, lest, upon his death, they should seize the crown."

So much for the exiled Scottish clergyman’s account of what he saw in the shifting Court of Henry VIII.

The early Reformers, and the leaders of the predominant ecclesiastical party in Scotland for a considerable period after the Reformation, were eminently learned. The example of a foreign education was set to them by their political head, the Regent Murray, who studied in Paris under the renowned Peter Ramus.

Something of John Welch, Knox’s son-in-law, we have seen already. Alexander Arbuthnot, Principal of King’s College in Aberdeen, and an ecclesiastical leader of eminence in the reign of King James, studied under Cujacius at Bourges. Erskine of Dun, one of the early lay leaders of the Reformation, studied under Melanchthon at Wittenberg, and passed over to Denmark. Here we are told that he attended the lectures of John Maccabeus, a Scotsman, of whom we would know scarcely anything, had he not been excavated by the labours of the indefatigable Dr M’Crie, who makes out that he was a Macalpine who changed his name, and served with credit as a professor in the University of Copenhagen. Andrew Melville, not less known to fame from his place in ecclesiastical history than from the excellent biography of him by Dr M’Crie, studied at Paris, and went afterwards to Poictiers, where he became regent in the College of St Marceau. He succeeded Knox in the friendship of Beza, and was so sedulously the disciple of the venerable scholar, that his enemies called him Bern’s ape. Several of the succeeding leaders of the Scottish Church, such as Boyd of Trochrig, Thomas Smeton, Robert Baillie, Alexander Henderson, and William Spang, had intimate relations with Continental scholars. Daub published his folio on Scriptural and Classical Chronology at Amsterdam. Concerning Spang, it is necessary to lift up a protestation, since a great historian of mirage, who is rather fond of wakening with a rattling peal of thunder any contemporary whom he finds napping, has endeavoured to deprive him of existence, suggesting that he is altogether a mistake for Strang. But Spang was the respected name of a very considerable scholar and an acute observer, as any one will find who chooses to peruse his ‘Rerum nuper in Regno Scoticae Gestarum Historia,’ &c., published at Dantzic in 1641, of which the present writer has the privilege to possess a tall clean copy bound in vellum.

The Covenanting contest was doubtless inimical to learning, but there was more of it among the Covenanters themselves than they generally get credit for. The letters of Samuel Rutherford have a hold on the affections of two classes of people— the one, those like-minded with himself; who enjoy the excessive luxuriance of his metaphorical piety; and the free and easy way in which he claps on the shoulder and takes a chat with the existences most sacred in the thoughts of Christian people; the other class are those who are in search of the scandals of Puritanic literature, for the purpose of holding them up to odium or ridicule. In this way Rutherford was very valuable to the compiler, whoever he was, of the ‘Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence Displayed, or, The Folly of their Teaching Discovered;’ and he was not unacceptable to the late Mr Buckle, who would have thought such writings as his less amazing if he had been more accustomed to them. Rutherford, no doubt, was an ardent fanatic, but this did not prevent him from being a scholar, known abroad by his work on Armenianism, which was carefully re-edited at Utrecht. His familiars might have questioned whether the author of the ‘Examen’ would have rested peacefully in his grave had he known that his Dutch editor dedicated the book to so heterodox a person as that female Crichton, the celebrated Anna Maria Schurman.

The Dutch seem to have taken a strong liking to him. He was offered a professor’s chair at Harderwyck, which he declined; and afterwards his brother, Captain James Rutherford, garrisoned with the Scotch Dutch contingent at Grave, was sent over to press him to accept the Professorship of Divinity at Utrecht, vacant in 1651 by the death of the celebrated Detnatius, or Charles de Maets. His reasoning for declining foreign employment is expressed in his own peculiar way in one of his letters, in which he urges a brother clergyman to follow his example: "Let me entreat you to be far from the thoughts of leaving this land. I see it and find it, that the Lord hath covered the whole land with a cloud in his anger; but though I have been tempted to the like, I had rather be in Scotland beside angry Jesus Christ, than in any Eden or garden in the earth." And here I am reminded of the illogicality of discoursing under the title of the Scot abroad, concerning a Scotsman who would not go abroad. My excuse is, that his fame and his works travelled afar, and created a desire for his presence.

John Brown of Wamphrey was a voluminous writer on religion and theology. His books may still be picked up, sorely thumbed and stained, and odorous of peat-reek, after the fashion of seventeenth-century religious literature in Scotland. Whoever would know thoroughly the history of the time, must. follow for information, on the steps of those who have read such books with the relish of devotees; for how shall we know the nature of a people unless we trace their religious influences to the very fountain-heads? Perhaps the most animated of his works is the quarto, in which he lifts his testimony against the Quakers, proving that they are on the highway to paganism. He is known through foreign printing-presses as Joannes Broun, Scoto - Britannus. He died minister of the Scots Church at Amsterdam some years before the Revolution, and was zealous against Erastianism - a favourite enemy of the Scottish Presbyterian pulpit - attacking it even within the native stronghold of the Dutch vernacular, and dragging it into the light of the language of learning for just condemnation

There was, in fact, a little nest of Covenanting refugee clergy at Rotterdam, whose mouths Charles II. had influence enough in Holland to stop. Two of them - M’Ward, a great correspondent of Baillie’s, and John Nevay, the author of a Latin paraphrase of the Song of Solomon - were considerable scholars, and as such esteemed among the scholarly Dutch. But King Charles would not probably have repented of the act which put them to silence, if he had read M’Ward’s lamentation over the event, meekly though it is expressed - "Oh! when I remember that burning and shining light, worthy and warm Mr Livingstone, who used to preach as within the sight of Christ and the glory to be revealed: acute and distinct Nevay; judicious and neat Sympson; fervent, serious, and zealous Trail. When I remember, I say, that all these great luminaries are now set," &c.

A Robert Douglas served as chaplain to the Scots troops in the army of Gustavus Adolphus. The tradition of his birth is one of the most romantic on record. He was esteemed to be a son of Mary Queen of Scots and George Douglas her admirer, born during her captivity in Lochleven Castle. The Swedish warrior was said to have had a high esteem for him, saying he was fit to be a prime minister as well as an ecclesiastical leader; nay, that he would trust his army in the hands of Robert Douglas: but these testimonials are vouched for only by Wodrow, who thought there was nothing beyond the capacity of "a great state preacher," as he calls Douglas—a term very expressively applicable to a class of men whose sermons shook thrones and sent armies to battle.

All these spiritual heroes were on the side of Calvinism. The old Church, however, was not entirely without testifiers. Hamilton, Chambers, Cone, Laing, Dempster, and Burne, have already stepped across the stage, and we have seen in some measure how Knox fared at the hands of some of these. One of his chief controversial opponents was Ninian Winzeat, or Wingate, Abbot of the Scots Monastery of St James, at Batisbon, already referred to. To this office he was driven by losing one that sounds lowly enough beside it—that of parish schoolmaster in Linlithgow. But he seemed to carry with him regrets for his severance from that, "his kindly town," and a lively sense of the importance of the functions there fulfilled by him, judging "the teaching of the youthhead in virtue and science, next after the authority with the ministers of justice, under it and after the angelical office of godly pastors, to obtain the third principal place most commodious and necessary to the Kirk of God." Winzeat was the author of the ‘Flagellum Sectariorum,’ and of a precious tract called ‘The Last Blast of the Trompet of Godis Worde aganis the vsurpit auctoritie of Johne Knox, and his Caluiniane Brether.’ This, of course, was not a kind of production to be published with impunity in the sixteenth century, in a place where the object of the attack was supreme in power; and it completed that measure of Winzeat’s iniquity which compelled him to seek safety and find promotion abroad.

Another opponent figures in Knoxian literature as Tyrie the Jesuit. Little is known of him but the fact that he belonged to the great Society of Jesus, unless we accept also as a fact the statement of his friend George Cone, whom we have already met with, that his accomplishments exhausted all human knowledge. His tone is moderate, and in his gentleness he administers some hard bits. He possessed the vantage-ground which the early defenders of Catholicism held, in the fact that most of their opponents were converts, and he knew how to touch this chink in his antagonists’ armour.

Had they not been dealt with otherwise, Blackwood and the worthy Bishop Leslie might have been brought in here as champions of the old Church. Another Scotsman of the same family name, George Leslie, enjoyed a more astounding but less substantial fame than the bishop’s as a champion of Catholicism. John Benedict Rinuccini, Archbishop of Fermo, wrote his life and marvellous adventures under the name of the "Scottish Capuchin "—II Cappucchiue Scozzese; who, returning to his native towers at Monymusk, there executed miraculous conversions, for the particulars of which we refer, as official people say, to the document itself. It was translated into several languages, dramatised, and acted; and an abridgment of it by Lord Hailes, written with his usual dry succinctness, is to be found among his biographical tracts.

The shortness of the period during which Episcopacy was the Establishment in Scotland after the Reformation, afforded few opportunities for its clerical members connecting themselves with foreign countries, before the period when Scotland became less conspicuous for the migration of her sons. Yet the Episcopal Church showed the Continent more than one eminent ecclesiastic. Patrick Adamson, a man highly unpopular in ecclesiastical politics, in his latter days wrote some clever Latin poems at Bourges, to beguile his time while in hiding from the slaughterers of St Bartholomew. Dr John Forbes, of Gorse, whose ‘Tractatus de Simonia,’ and other works, in two portly folios, are an element in every complete theological library, left his paternal acres in Aberdeenshire, and for some years wandered among the universities of France, Germany, and Holland, passing so far north as Upsala. He married at Middelburg a Dutch wife, bearing the name of Soete Roose Boom, which, being translated, means, it appears, Sweet Rose Tree.

Spottiswood, the historian-archbishop, adapted himself so much to the customs of Paris, that he was under the accusation of having there attended mass. The good Bishop Leighton lived long enough in France to speak like a Frenchrnan. Burnett, who belongs more to literature and history than to theology, had more to do than he desired with the other side of the Channel. He is not the only man whom Scotland sent, with the advantages of foreign intercourse and training, to get preferment in the English Church. One very eminent instance may be taken. Patrick Young (Patricius Junius), the great biblical critic, who introduced the Alexandrian version of the Bible to the learned world, lived much in Paris, and corresponded with fellow-labourers in Holland and Germany.


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