SAGE, JOHN, a
learned Episcopalian divine, and controversial writer, the son of
Captain Sage, a royalist officer of merit, was born in the parish of
Creich, Fifeshire, in 1652. He received his education at the university
of St. Andrews, and obtained the degree of M.A. about 1672. He was
afterwards appointed schoolmaster of Bingry in his native county, and
subsequently of Tippermuir in Perthshire. In 1684 he was admitted into
priest’s orders by the archbishop of Glasgow, when he became minister of
one of the churches in that city, and soon after he was appointed clerk
of the diocesan synod. At the Revolution, when the Episcopalian clergy
were deprived of their charges, he went to Edinburgh, where he employed
himself in writing some of his controversial works. As he occasionally
preached in the Episcopalian chapels of that city, he was summoned
before the privy council to take the oath of allegiance; but refusing to
comply, he was prohibited from exercising his ministerial functions
within the city and suburbs, and formally banished from the metropolis.
He found a refuge at Kinross, in the house of Sir William Bruce, sheriff
of that county. In 1695 he published at London a work without his name,
entitled ‘The Fundamental Charter of Presbytery examined,’ directed
against the Presbyterian form of church government. “Although,” says his
biographer Gillan (Life of Sage, 1714, 8vo. Pp. 21, 22), “all care was
taken to conceal the author, yet it was to no purpose. In spite of all
the caution that was used, it was soon discovered by the Presbyterians
that Mr. Sage was the person who, to their eternal reproach, had thus
exposed their principles and practices; and this filled them with the
highest resentments against him, which they did not fail to express as
often as they had opportunity; for his affairs, and a passionate desire
of visiting his dear friends at Edinburgh, obliged him to venture
thither for a few days. But though some of his colleagues who had been
banished with him were allowed to stay there, or at least were connived
at, yet he no sooner came to the city than he was observed on the street
by a pricy councilor, whose greatest pleasure was to persecute the
Episcopal clergy, and by his order he was carried before the magistrates
of the city, and obliged to find bail to leave the town and never to
return thither.” The following year, when his friend, Sir William Bruce,
was imprisoned in the castle of Edinburgh, on suspicion of carrying on a
treasonable correspondence with the exiled monarch, an order was issued
for the apprehension of Mr. Sage, who had ventured to return to
Edinburgh. The captain of the town-guard, with a party of soldiers,
searched all the houses where he was accustomed to lodge or visit. After
being concealed for about eight days, he escaped in a boat from Leith to
Kinghorn, and subsequently, under the name of Jackson, lurked for many
months in concealment in the hills of Angus. He afterwards became
chaplain to the countess of Callendar and tutor to her son, the earl of
Linlithgow, and subsequently accepted the invitation of Sir John Stewart
of Grandtully, in Perthshire, to reside in his family as chaplain. To
preserve the Episcopal succession in Scotland, Mr. Sage was, on 25th
January 1705, consecrated a bishop, by the titular archbishop of Glasgow
and the bishops of Edinburgh and Dunblane; Mr. John Fullarton, formerly
Episcopal minister at Paisley, being also consecrated a bishop at the
same time. We are told that “they concealed their characters, and
performed no Episcopal deed, without special advice and authority from
the consecrators.” In consequence, Bishop Sage assumed no jurisdiction
over any body of presbyters, but only assisted the bishops who had been
consecrated before the Revolution. Being afflicted with consumptive
symptoms, in 1709 he proceeded to Bath, for the recovery of his health,
and afterwards visited London, where he formed the acquaintance of many
learned and eminent men of that age. He wrote, but never published, a
tract against Mr. Dodwell’s ‘Natural Mortality of the Soul’ He returned
to Scotland in 1710, and died at Edinburgh June 7, 1711. His works are:
The Second and Third Letters concerning the Persecution of the Episcopal
Clergy in Scotland. Lond. 1689, 4to. The Rev. Thomas Morer having
written the First, and Professor Monro the Fourth.
The Case of the Afflicted Clergy in Scotland. London, 1690, 4to.
An Account of the late Establishment of Presbyterian Government by the
Parliament of Scotland in 1690. Lond. 1693.
The Fundamental Charter of Presbytery, as it hath lately been
established in Scotland, examined and disproved; with a Preface in
answer to the Vindicator of the Kirk (Gilbert Rule). Lond. 1695, 8vo.
(Anon.). Lond. 1697, 8vo.
The Principles of the Cyprianic Age, with regard to Episcopal Power and
Jurisdiction, asserted. Lond. 1695, 4to.
A Vindication of the Principles of the Cyprianic Age, on answer to G.
Rule. Lond. 1701, 4to.
Some Remarks on a Letter from a Gentleman in the City to a Minister in
the Country, on Mr. David Williamson’s Sermon before the General
Assembly. Edin. 1703.
A brief Examination of some things in Mr. Meldrum’s Sermon against a
Toleration to those of the Episcopal Persuasion. Lond. 1703, 4to.
The Reasonableness of a Toleration of those of the Episcopal Persuasion,
inquired into purely on Church Principles. Lond. 1705, 8vo.
The Life of Gawin Douglas, Bishop of Dunkeld; prefixed to Ruddiman’s
edition of Douglas’s Virgil. 1710.
An Introduction to Drummond’s History of the Five James’s, with Notes by
Ruddiman. Edin. 1711.
He left in manuscript several treatises on various subjects, which were
published at London in 1714, and projected, among other things, the
publication of ‘An impartial and accurate Survey of the Westminster
Confession of Faith.’ He also intended to have employed his pen ‘on the
Rise and History of the Commission of the General Assembly,’ a design
which he did not live to execute.