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Significant Scots
Adamson, Patrick


ADAMSON, PATRICK, Archbishop of St Andrews. This prelate, whose name occupies so remarkable a place in the history of the Scottish Reformation, was born of humble parents, in the town of Perth, in the year 1543. Such is the date assigned; but we think it may be safely carried two or three years farther back, as we find his name in the roll of the first General Assembly held by the reformed church of Scotland, in 1560, as one of those persons belonging to St Andrews who were fit for ministering and teaching; while, only two years after, we find him minister of Ceres, in Fifeshire, with a commission to plant churches from Dee to Etham. Great as were the emergencies of the infant kirk at this time from the want of ministers, it is scarcely to be thought that it would have appointed to such important charges a youth who had not yet attained the age of twenty. Previous to this period he had studied at the university of St Andrews, where it is likely he was distinguished by those talents and literary acquirements that subsequently brought him into such notice, and, after having gone through the usual course, he graduated as Master of Arts. His name at this period was Patrick Consteane, or Constance, or Constantine, for in all these forms it is written indifferently; but how it afterwards passed into Adamson we have no means of ascertaining. At the close of his career at college, he opened a school in Fife, and soon obtained the notice and patronage of James M’Gill of Rankeillor, one of the judges of the Court of Session, who possessed considerable political influence. He had not long been minister of Ceres, when we find him impatient to quit his charge; and accordingly, in 1564, he applied to the General Assembly for leave "to pass to other countries for a time, to acquire increase of knowledge," but was inhibited to leave his charge without the Assembly’s license. That license, however, he seems at length to have obtained, and probably, also, before the meeting of the Assembly in the following year, when they published such stringent decisions against those ministers who abandon their spiritual charges. Patrick Constance, or, as we shall henceforth call him, Adamson, now appointed tutor of the son of M’Gill of Rankeillor, passed over with his young charge, who was destined for the study of the civil law, to Paris, at that time the chief school of the distinguished jurisconsults of Europe.

Adamson had not been long in Paris when such adventures befell him as might well make him sigh for the lowly obscurity of Ceres. In the course of events that had occurred in Scotland, during his absence, were the marriage of Queen Mary and Henry Darnley, and the birth of their infant, afterwards James VI., and Adamson, who at this time was more of a courtier than a politician, and more of a poet than either, immediately composed a triumphant "Carmen" on the event, entitled, Serenissimi et nobilissimi Scotiae, Angliae, Franciae, et Hiberniae, Principis, Henrici Stuarti Illustrissimi Herois, ac Mariae Reginae amplissimae Filii, Genethliacum. The very title was a startling one, both to France and England, the great political questions of which countries it at once prejudged, by giving them the Scottish queen for their lawful, indisputable sovereign. Had this poem, which was published a few days after the event, been produced in England, its author would scarcely have escaped an awkward examination before the Star Chamber; but as it was, he was within the reach of Catherine de Medicis, to the full as jealous of her authority as Elizabeth herself, and far more merciless in exercising it. Adamson was therefore rewarded for his Latin poetry by a six months’ imprisonment, which perhaps would have been succeeded by a worse infliction, had it not been for the mediation of Mary herself, backed my that of some of her chief nobles. It did not at that time suit the policy of France to break with Scotland, and the poet was set at liberty. Having thus had a sufficient sojourn in Paris, Adamson repaired with his pupil to Bourges, where both entered themselves as students of law, a science which the Scottish ministers of the day frequently added to that of theology. Even here, however, he was not long allowed to remain in safety. The massacre of St. Bartholomew—that foul national blot of France, and anomaly of modern history—burst out with the suddenness of a tornado across a tranquil sky; and, amidst the ruin that followed, no Protestant, over the whole extent of France, could be assured of his life for a single hour. Adamson had his full share of the danger, and narrowly escaped its worst, by finding shelter in a lowly hostelry; the master of which was afterwards flung from the top of his own house, and killed on the pavement below, for having given shelter to heretics. While immured in this dreary confinement, that continued for seven months, and which he fitly termed his sepulchre, Adamson appears to have consoled himself with Latin poetry upon themes suited to his condition; one attempt of this nature being the tragedy of Herod, and the other a version of the book of Job. We may notice here, that he had not been lost sight of during this protracted residence in France, by his brethren, or the church at home; and that, in the year previous to the massacre, the General Assembly had once and again desired him to return, and resume his ministry. But to this earnest request he, in the first instance, craved leisure for careful deliberation, and after, sent a full answer, evidently in the negative, as he did not see fit to comply. But the perils in which he was afterwards involved, and the long confinement he endured, had probably brought him to a more submissive, or at least a safer mode of thinking; for, as soon as he was able to emerge, one of the first uses which he made of his liberty was to make preparations for returning home, and resuming those ministerial labours which he had good cause to regret he ever had abandoned.

On the return of Patrick Adamson to Scotland, he seems to have been favourably received by his brethren, notwithstanding his previous recusancy. His reception, indeed, could scarcely have been otherwise than cordial, as he had so lately been all but a martyr for Protestantism in the midst of a terrible persecution. His return was at a critical period; for the archbishopric of St Andrews was at that time vacant, and, notwithstanding the Presbyterian doctrine of parity, which had been laid down as a fundamental principle of the Scottish church, the chief prelatic offices were still continued, through the overbearing influence of those nobles who now directed the government of the country. But it was from no love of Episcopacy in the abstract that these magnates continued such charges, obnoxious though they were to the church and the people at large, but that they might derive from them a profitable revenue, as lay proprietors of the livings. In this way the Earl of Morton had acquired a claim to the revenues of the archbishopric of St Andrews, and only needed some ecclesiastic who could wear the title, and discharge its duties, for a small percentage of the benefice. It was a degrading position for a churchman, and yet there were too many who were willing to occupy it, either from a vain-glorious love of the empty name, or an ambitious hope of converting it into a substantial reality. Among these aspirants for the primacy of Scotland, Patrick Adamson was suspected to be one; and it was thought that he expected to succeed through the influence of his patron, M’Gill of Rankeillor. These surmises, his subsequent conduct but too well justified. But Morton had already made his election in favour of John Douglas, who was inducted into the office, notwithstanding the earnest remonstrances of John Knox. The conduct of Adamson on this occasion was long after remembered when be would have wished it to be forgot. The week after the induction, and when the greatest concourse of people was expected, he ascended the pulpit and delivered a vehement and sarcastic sermon against the Episcopal office as then exercised in Scotland. "There are three sorts of bishops," he said; "My lord Bishop, my lord’s Bishop, and the Lord’s Bishop. My lord Bishop was in the papistry; my lord’s Bishop is now, when my lord gets the benefice, and the bishop serves for nothing but to make his title sure; and the Lord’s Bishop is the true minister of the gospel." He saw that, for the present at least, he could not be primate of St Andrews, and therefore he turned his attention to the more humble offices of the church. And there, indeed, whatever could satisfy the wishes of a simple presbyter was within his reach; for he was not only in general esteem among his brethren, but highly and justly valued for his scholarship, in consequence of his catechism of Calvin in Latin heroic verse, which he had written in France, and was about to publish in Scotland with the approbation of the General Assembly. He now announced his willingness to resume the duties of the ministry; but his intimation was coupled with a request that had somewhat of a secular and selfish appearance. It was, that a pension which had been granted to him by the late regent out of the teinds of the parsonage of Glasgow, should be secured to him; and that the procurators of the Assembly should be commissioned to aid him to that effect. His request was granted, and he once more became a minister. The town of Paisley was his sphere of duty, according to the appointment of the Assembly. In addition to this, he was subsequently appointed commissioner of Galloway, an office which resembled that of a bishop as to its duties, but divested of all its pre-eminence and emolument. Some of the best men of the kirk had undertaken this thankless office with alacrity, and discharged its duties with diligence; but such was not the case with Patrick Adamson; and when his remissness as a commissioner was complained of to the General Assembly, he acknowledged the justice of the accusation, but pleaded in excuse, that no stipend was attached to the office.

Of the labours of Adamson while minister of Paisley, no record has been preserved. His time there, however, was brief, as a new sphere was opened to his ambition. The great subject of anxiety at this period in the church, was the construction of the Book of Policy, otherwise called the Second Book of Discipline, and procuring its ratification by the government; but the chief obstacle in the way was the Earl of Morton, now regent, whose principal aim, besides enriching himself with the ecclesiastical revenues, was to bring the two churches of England and Scotland into as close a conformity as possible, in order to facilitate the future union of the two kingdoms under the reign of his young master, James VI. Here it is that we find Adamson busy. He became an active negotiator for the Book of Policy, and while he managed to secure the confidence of the leading men in the church, he ingratiated himself into the favour of the regent; so that when the latter chose him for his chaplain, the brethren seem to have hoped that the accomplishment of their purpose would be facilitated by having such an advocate at court. But never were ecclesiastics more thoroughly disappointed in their hopes from such a quarter. The archbishopric of St Andrews had again become vacant, and Morton nominated Adamson to the see; who, on receiving the appointment, began even already to show that he would hold it independently of the authority of the church, by refusing to submit to the usual trial and examination of the Assembly. In this he persisted, and entered office against the acts and ordinances of the Assembly provided for such occasions. While chaplain to the regent, he had been wont, while preaching, and giving his glosses upon texts of Scripture, to say, "The prophet would mean this"—a phrase so usual with him on such occasions, that his hearers could not help noticing it. At length, when he became primate of Scotland, Captain Montgomery, one of the regent’s officers, exclaimed, with dry humour, "I never knew what the prophet meant till now!" As Adamson’s entering into the archbishopric was such an act of contravention to the authority of the church, the Assembly, at one of its meetings in 1577, resolved to institute proceedings against the offender. But even this formidable danger he was able to avert for the time with his wonted craft. He professed the utmost humility, and offered to lay down his office at the feet of the Assembly, and be ordered at their pleasure, but represented how desirable it would be to postpone all such proceedings until the Book of Policy had been finished, and ratified by the regent. The matter was thus reduced to a mere question of time, and his suggestion prevailed.

The great subject now at issue was the Book of Ecclesiastical Policy, the Magna Charta of the Church of Scotland, upon the passing of which its rights and liberties as a national church were at stake. It was, as might have been expected, completely Presbyterian in its discipline, and subversive of that episcopal rule which the court was labouring to establish. Among these enactments, it was decreed, that no bishop should be designated by his title, but his own name, as a brother, seeing he belonged to a church that has but one Lord, even Christ—that no bishops should thenceforth be appointed in it; and that no minister should accept the office on pain of deprivation. Against such conclusions it is not wonderful that Adamson demurred. But as himself and the bishop of Aberdeen constituted the entire minority in the Assembly, his opposition went no farther than to procrastinate any final conclusion. But the Policy was at length concluded, and ready to be presented to the government, and for this, Adamson had reserved his master stroke. The book was to be subscribed by every member individually, but this form the archbishop opposed. "Nay," he said, "we have an honest man, our clerk, to subscribe for all, and it would derogate from his faithfulness and estimation if we should all severally subscribe." The difference appeared so trivial, that the brethren assented to the proposal, although some of them seem to have entertained a lurking suspicion that all was not right; so that Mr Andrew Hay, minister of Renfrew, could not help exclaiming, "Well, if any man comes against this, or denies it hereafter, he is not honest." He soon showed at whom his suspicions pointed, by stepping up to Adamson, and saying to him in the presence of three or four by-standers, "There is my hand, Mr Patrick; if you come against this hereafter, consenting now so thoroughly to it, I will call you a knave, were it never so publicly." The other accepted the challenge, and thus the matter ended for the present. The Book of Policy was to be presented to the Lords of Articles for ratification on the part of the government; and strangely enough, Adamson was commissioned to present it. Morton and the lords asked him if he had given his assent to these enactments; to which he answered that he had not, and that he had refused to subscribe to them. Here was a loop-hole of escape for the council: the Archibishop of St Andrews had withheld his assent, and they could do no less than follow the example. The Book was rejected, and the ministers were left to divine the cause of the refusal. But Andrew Hay, on inquiring of several members of council, who told him the particulars, and laid the whole blame of the refusal on Adamson, soon saw that he had a pledge to redeem; and on the archbishop passing by at that instant, he gripped him by the hand, looked him angrily in the face, and exclaimed, in presence of the others, "O knave, knave, I will crown thee the knave of all knaves!" It is enough to add here, that the Book of Policy, after having been delayed three years longer, was in 1581 thoroughly ratified and ordained in every point, and ordered to be registered in the books of the Assembly. As for Adamson, we find him employed during this interval in preaching in St Andrews, lecturing in the college, and attending the meetings of the General Assembly, but with no greater authority than that of the ordinary brethren. But symptoms even already had occurred to show, that the court favour upon which he was willing to build, was but a sandy foundation, for his powerful patron, the earl of Morton, had been brought to the block. He forthwith prepared himself, therefore, to recognize the authority of the kirk in the doctrine of bishops, to which he had hitherto been opposed, and even gave his subscription to the articles of the Book of Policy, which he had hitherto withheld. This was in St Andrews, before the celebrated Andrew Melville, and a party of his friends, who were assembled with him. But all this was insufficient: he must also secure the countenance of the party in power, whatever for the time it might be; and for this purpose he passed over to Edinburgh, and took his seat in the Convention of Estates. Here, however, his reception was so little to his liking, that he found he must side wholly with the kirk. He therefore addressed himself to the ministers of Edinburgh, with professions which his subsequent conduct showed to be downright hypocrisy. He told them that he had come over to the court in the spirit of Balsam, on purpose to curse the kirk, and do evil; but that God had so wrought with him, that his heart was wholly changed, so that he had advocated and voted in the church’s behalf—and that henceforth he would show further and further fruits of his conversion and good meaning. This self-abasing comparison of himself to Balaam must have staggered the unfavourable suspicions of the most sceptical; at all events, it did so with the apostolic John Dune, who rejoiced over the primate’s conversion, and wrote a flattering account of it to James Melville. The latter, in consequence, visited Adamson upon his return, and told him the tidings he had received, for which he heartily thanked God, and offered the archbishop the right hand of Christian fellowship. The other, still continuing his penitent grimace, described the change that had passed upon him at great length, which he attributed to the working of the Spirit within him. Perhaps he overacted his part, for Melville only observed in reply, "Well, that Spirit is an upright, holy, and constant Spirit and will more and more manifest itself in effects; but it is a fearful thing to lie against him!"

It was indeed full time for the Archbishop of St Andrews not only to recover his lost credit with the kirk, but the community at large. He was generally accused of the vices of intemperance and gluttony; he was noted as an unfaithful paymaster, so that he stood upon the score of most of the shopkeepers in the town; and what was still worse, he was accused of consorting with witches, and availing himself of their unlawful power! We of the nineteenth century can laugh at such a charge, and imagine it sufficient not only to disprove itself, but weaken all the other charges brought against him. But in the sixteenth century it was no such laughing matter; for there were not only silly women in abundance to proclaim themselves witches, but wise men to believe them. Even the pulpits of England as well as Scotland resounded with sermons against witchcraft; and a learned prelate, while preaching before Elizabeth, assured her Majesty, that the many people who were dying daily, in spite of all the aid of leechcraft, were thus brought to their end by spells and incantations. [The preacher was no other than the learned Bishop Jewel. "Witches and sorcerers within these last few years," he said, "are marvelously increased within your Grace’s realm. These eyes have seen most evident and manifest marks of their wickedness. Your Grace’s subjects pine away even unto the death; their colour fadeth, their flesh rotteth, their speeches behumbed, their senses are bereft. Wherefore yon poor subjects’ most humble petition to your Highness is, that the laws touching such malefactors may be put in due execution. For the shoal of them is great, their doing horrible, their malice intolerable, their examples most miserable: and I pray God they never practise further than upon the subject."] While this was the prevalent belief, a person having recourse to such agency was wilfully and deliberately seeking help from the devil, and seeking it where he thought it could best be found. Now, Adamson, among his other offences, had fallen into this most odious and criminal predicament. He was afflicted with a painful disease, which he called a "foedity;" and being unable to obtain relief from the regular practitioners, he had recourse to the witches of Fife, and among others, to a notable woman, who pretended to have learned the art of healing from a physician who had appeared to her after he was dead and buried! This wretched creature, on being apprehended and convicted of sorcery, or what she meant to be such, was sentenced to suffer death, as she would have been in any other country of Europe, and was given in charge to the Archbishop for execution. But the woman made her escape, and this, it was supposed she did, through Adamson’s connivance. After this statement, it needs scarcely be wondered at, that foremost in the accusations both from the pulpit and in church courts, the crime of seeking aid from Satan should have been specially urged against him. The man who will presumptuously attempt "to call spirits from the vasty deep," incurs the guilt of sorcery whether they come or not.

While such was the evil plight to which the archbishop was reduced, and out of which he was trying to struggle as he best could, the condition of public affairs was scarcely more promising for his interests. In the Assembly held in April, 1582, he had seen Robert Montgomery, Archbishop of Glasgow, who was his constant ally in every Episcopal movement, arraigned at their bar, reduced to the most humbling confessions, and dismissed with the fear of deposition hanging over him. In the same year, the Raid of Ruthven had occurred, by which the royal power was coerced, and presbytery established in greater authority than ever. Dismayed by these ominous symptoms, Adamson withdrew from public notice to his castle of St Andrews, where he kept himself "like a tod in his hole," giving out that his painful "foedity" was the cause of his retirement. But at length the sky began to brighten, and the primate to venture forth after a whole year of concealment. The king emancipated himself from his nobles of the Raid, and came to St Andrews, upon which the archbishop, flinging off his sickness like a worn-out cloak, resumed his abandoned pulpit with royalty for an auditor, and preached such sermons as were well fitted to ingratiate himself into the favour of the young sovereign. They were furious declamations against the lords of the Raid, against the ministers of the kirk by whom they had been countenanced, and against all their proceedings by which the headlong will of James had been reduced within wholesome limits; and these, too, were delivered in such fashion, as, we are informed by James Melville, "that he who often professed from the pulpit before that he had not the spirit of application, got the gift of application by inspiration of such a spirit as never spoke in the scriptures of God." Among the other effects of the Raid of Ruthven, was the banishment of the king’s unworthy favourites, the Earl of Arran, and the Duke of Lennox, the former from the royal presence, and the latter from the country; and Lennox took his exile so much to heart, that he died soon after he had arrived in France, while James continued to bewail his loss. Here then was a favourable theme for the archbishop. The chief offence alleged against Lennox was, that though outwardly a Protestant, he had not only lived, but even died a Papist; and from this stigma it was Adamson’s main effort to clear the memory of the departed. He therefore boldly asserted, in his sermon, that Lennox had died a good Protestant, and in proof of this he exhibited in the pulpit a scroll, which he called the Duke’s testament. It happened unluckily for the preacher, however, that an honest merchant woman, who sat near the pulpit, looked narrowly at this important document, and saw with astonishment that it was an account of her own, which she had sent to the archbishop for a debt of some four or five years’ standing, but which, like other reckonings of the kind, he had left unpaid!

Adamson’s loyalty was soon rewarded, and in a way that best accorded with his wishes. He was to be employed as ambassador or envoy from the king to the court of London. What was the ostensible object of his mission does not appear; but its real purport was, the suppression of Presbyterianism in Scotland, and the establishment of such a form of Episcopacy in its stead, as might make the union of the two countries more complete, when James should become king of both. But in such an office the messenger behoved to go wisely and warily to work, as Elizabeth was apt to take fire at every movement that pointed to a succession in her throne. Another serious difficulty interposed in the very threshold of the archbishop’s departure. He had already been charged before the presbytery of St Andrews, as corrupt both in life and doctrine: the trial was removed to the synod, and was finally remitted to the General Assembly, at whose bar he must justify himself, or be deposed for non-appearance; and he thus felt himself between the horns of a dilemma in which his compearance or absence might be equally fatal. If, however, he could only get the trial delayed until he had accomplished his mission, he might then brave it, or quash it with impunity. He therefore called sickness to his aid, and pretended that he was going to the wells of Spa, in Germany, for the recovery of his health; and this was nothing more than reasonable, even though he should take London by the way. Forth therefore he went, unhindered and unsuspected; and, if there is any truth in "The Legend of the Lymmar’s Life," a satirical poem, written by Robert Semple, the archbishop’s conduct during this embassy was anything but creditable to his employers. His chief aim, indeed, seems to have been to replenish his extenuated purse; and, provided this was accomplished, he was by no means scrupulous about the means. Even horses, books, and gowns came into his permanent possession under the name of loans. His approach to the palace for his first, and, as it turned out, his last audience, was equally unseemly, for he advanced to the hallowed walls of the virgin Queen with as little fastidiousness, as if he had been about to enter the dingy habitation of some Scottish baron in one of the closes of the Canongate, so that a porter, who espied him from the gate, rushed out and rebuked his indecorum with a cudgel. But, amidst all his Scapin-like tricks in the English metropolis, from which he seems to have derived for the time a comfortable revenue, Adamson was not unmindful of the real object of his journey, which he pursued with a diligence worthy of a better cause. He endeavoured to enlist the prejudices of the Queen against the ministers of Scotland, and such of the nobility as favoured them; he consulted with the bishops upon the best means of conforming the Scottish to the English church; and, aware of the purpose of his own court to banish or silence the best of the clergy, he wished them to send learned and able ministers to supply the pulpits of those who were to be displaced. But, not content with this, he endeavoured to bring the kirk of Scotland into discredit with the foreign Reformed churches of France, Geneva, and Zurich, by sending to them a list of garbled or distorted passages, as propositions extracted from the Scottish confession, and craving their opinion as to their soundness. It was a crafty device, and might have been attended with much mischief, had it not been that an antidote to the bane was at this time in England, in the person of Mr Andrew Melville, a more accomplished scholar, as well as a more able and eloquent writer, than Adamson himself. He drew up a true statement of the subjects propounded, and sent them to the foreign churches, by which the archbishop’s design was speedily frustrated. But the work of mere ecclesiastical diplomacy does not seem to have been sufficient for the restless and scheming mind of Adamson, so that he was suspected of intriguing with the French and Spanish ambassadors, and connecting himself with the plot of Throckmorton, the object of which was the liberation of Mary, and the restoration of Popery. It was a strange period of plots and conspiracies, where Protestant, Papist, and Puritan, priest and layman, foreigner and Englishman, were often mingled together as in a seething and bubbling cauldron, for the concoction of a charm by which a cure for every public evil was to be effected. It was immediately on the detection of this Throckmorton conspiracy, and the apprehension of its author, that the archbishop secretly withdrew from England and returned home, after having been employed fully six months in these, and other such devices, in London.

While Adamson had thus been occupied in England, in the establishment of Episcopacy, the government at home had not been idle; and the worthless Earl of Arran, who, since the suppression of the Raid of Ruthven, had returned to court, and acquired a greater ascendancy over the weak mind of James than ever, proceeded to put his plan in execution of silencing, imprisoning, and banishing the best and most distinguished of the Scottish clergy. It was thus that the flocks were to be brought to helplessness, and a new order of shepherds introduced. The list of the persecuted was a large one; but among the most illustrious of these were some of the most distinguished lights of the Scottish Reformation, such as Andrew Melville, John Davidson, Walter Balcanquhal, and James Lawson. Of these we can only particularize the last, as his closing scene was but too intimately connected with the history of Patrick Adamson. Lawson had been the friend and fellow-labourer of Knox, whom he succeeded as minister of Edinburgh; and in this important charge, while he was closely connected with all the principal ecclesiastical movements of the period, he was distinguished by his gentleness, self-denial, and piety. But these were the very qualities that now marked him out as a victim; and the imperious Arran did not hesitate to threaten that, though his head were as big as a hay-stack, he would make it fly from his shoulders. Lawson knew that his life was aimed at, and, like several of his brethren thus circumstanced, he fled to England, and took up his residence at London, in one of the lanes leading from Cheapside. But the uncongenial climate, and, above all, the defection of many of his flock during his absence, so heavily afflicted him, that he fell into a disease, of which he died in little more than a month. Upon his death-bed, the English who visited him were edified with his pious remarks, which they carefully treasured up for their families and acquaintances; and his last prayers were for mercy to those who would neither enter the kingdom of God themselves, nor suffer others to enter therein. And will it be believed that Patrick Adamson, the man for whom in especial he had so prayed, conceived the idea of perverting such a death-bed to his own political purposes? But so it was. He sat down with the pen of a ready writer, and composed an elaborate testament in Lawson’s name, in which the dying man was made to abjure all his Presbyterian principles, to grieve over them as deadly sins, to recommend the government of the church by bishops, and enjoin implicit obedience to the king’s authority. It was indeed a bold exploit in literary forgery; but, at this period and afterwards, when the pen outran the activity of the press, and communities were so separated, it was easy to make a fraud of this kind, where the locality was transferred to London, to pass current in the streets of Edinburgh. There is no doubt that thus the archbishop had calculated; but, like many very cunning people, he, in this instance, betrayed himself by his over-scrupulous dexterity, and wove the web so finely, that in many places it was quite transparent. Thus, not content with making Lawson recant all the principles of his well-spent life with a hurry that was inconceivable, and laud Episcopal rule with an unction and earnestness which the Archbishop of Canterbury himself could not have surpassed, he also made him, in exhorting his old co-presbyters, to vent a malignity of sentiment, and drolling bitterness of satire, such as, whether living or dying, Lawson could not and would not have used. But it fortunately happened that proof still stronger than inferential evidence was at hand, to convict this impudent forgery; for Lawson himself had written his last testament, which was witnessed with the honoured names of Andrew Melville, James Carmichael, John Davidson, and Walter Balcanquhal.

After his return from England, Adamson did not lie idle; he zealously joined the king and Arran in their persecution of the best adherents of the kirk, under which, not only the principal ministers, but also the chief of the nobility, were fugitives in England. His pen also was soon in requisition for a more dignified work, at least, than that of blackening the memory of a departed brother; it was to advocate, defend, and justify certain obnoxious measures of James and his favourite, that had passed through the parliament in 1584, and were generally unpopular, both on account of their anti-presbyterian spirit in religion, and their despotic tendencies in civil rule. This task Adamson accomplished, and with such plausibility and ingenuity, that his apology was not only in high favour with the king, but widely popular in England, so that it was inserted in the appendix of Holinshed’s History as a true picture of the religious state of Scotland. But this was not his only reward. Although he was still a suspended presbyter, with his trial by the General Assembly hanging over him, and accounted a very Julian the Apostate by his former brethren, yet he was now to be confirmed in his primacy, with all the high rights and immunities that could be comprised within the office. This was announced by a royal letter, under the great seal, and, as such, was indignantly termed by the ministers the King’s Bull, "giving and granting to his well-beloved clerk and orator, Patrick, archbishop of St Andrews, power, authority, and jurisdiction to exercise the same archbishoprie by himself, his commissioners, and deputies, in all matters ecclesiastical, within the diocese of St Andrew; and sheriffdoms which have been heretofore annexed thereto." In this way he would be able to sit as presiding moderator in that Assembly where he should have stood as a culprit, and silence the charges which he could not have answered. But this, his culminating point, was also that of his downfall. The banished lords, who had withdrawn themselves to England, now took counsel upon the oppressed state of their country, and resolved to redress it after the old Scottish fashion. They therefore approached the border, where they could communicate with their allies, and appoint musters of their retainers; and at length, all being in readiness, Angus, Mar, Glammis, and the Hamiltons entered Scotland, and rapidly marched to Stirling, at the head of eight thousand armed men, to reason with their misguided sovereign. He soon found himself, like many of his ancestors, the pupil of Force and Necessity, and was compelled to yield to their stern remonstrances; while Arran was again, and for the last time, banished into that obscurity from which he should never have been summoned.

The return of the exiled lords, and the banishment of Arran from court, produced a breathing interval to the kirk; and the ministers who had been dispersed, warded, or silenced, were enabled to resume their charges unquestioned. It was now time, therefore, to redress the evils that had been inflicted upon the church, and these too by members of its own body, during the last two years of trial, if its polity and discipline were to be something more than an empty name. It was a stern duty, as Adamson was soon to feel. He had laboured for the eversion of the kirk, and the persecution of its ministers, under an unconstitutional authority against which he had protested and subscribed; and for all this he must answer before the court to which the assize of such delinquencies pertained. The synod of St Andrews, which had been closed during the persecution, was to be re-opened, and their first work was to be the trial of their own archbishop, whom their laws recognized as a simple presbyter, and nothing more. This solemn meeting was therefore convoked in April, 1688, to which a great concourse assembled; and thither also came the archbishop, "with a great pontificality and big countenance," for he boasted that he was in his own city, and possessed of the king’s favour, and therefore needed to fear no one. He also placed himself close by the preacher, who was Mr James Melville, as if determined to outbrave the whole assembly. The discourse was a vindication of the polity of the church, and a rehearsal of the wrongs it had suffered; and then, "coming in particular," says Melville himself, "to our own kirk of Scotland, I turned to the bishop, sitting at my elbow, and directing my speech to him personally, I recounted to him, shortly, his life, actions, and proceedings against the kirk, taking the assembly there to witness, and his own 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 so stung with the poison and venom of avarice and ambition, that, swelling exorbitantly out of measure, threatened the wreck and destruction of the whole body, unless he were timeously and with courage cut off." To this formidable appeal, the archbishop endeavoured to answer, but it was only with frivolous objections, and threats of the king’s displeasure, while his courage was so utterly gone that he could scarcely sit, far less stand on his feet. But the business commenced, the process was entered into, and Adamson left the meeting. He was invited to return, but he sent for answer that the synod was no judge to him, but he to it. He not only persisted in refusing to appear, but sent such answers to the charges against him as only aggravated the offence. Nothing remained but to inflict upon him the final sentence of the church, which was done accordingly. After numerating his offence; it thus concluded:—"Therefore, and for divers other notorious slanders whereof he was to be accused, and refused to underly any lawful trial, the assembly, in the fear of God, and in the name of Christ Jesus, moved by zeal to the glory of God, and purging of His kirk, ordains the said sentence of excommunication instantly to be put into execution in the face of the assembly; and, by the mouth of Mr Andrew Hunter, minister at Carnobie, at command and appointment of the assembly, declares him to be one of those whom Christ commandeth to be holden by all and every one of the faithful as an ethnic or publican."

The doom so long suspended had thus fallen at last; but still the primate would not yield. He rallied himself for a desperate counter-movement, and penned, by his own sole authority, a sentence of excommunication against the two Melvilles, and some of his principal accusers in the synod, which he sent by a boy, accompanied by two of his jackmen; but when this strange and most informal missive was read in the church, the audience were as little moved by it, as if he had excommunicated the stones of the building. He also sent a complaint against these proceedings to the king, with an appeal from the authority of the synod to his majesty, the estates, and the privy council. On the arrival of Sabbath, he prepared for a decisive effort, by preaching in the church in spite of the sentence. But just when he was about to ascend the pulpit, a mischievous rumour reached his ear, that several gentlemen and citizens had assembled in the New College, to take him out of the pulpit, and hang him; and terrified with the tidings, he not only called his friends and jackmen to the rescue, but fled from the church, and took refuge in the steeple. And yet, the whole cause of the stir was nothing more than the assembling of a few gentlemen and citizens in the New College, to attend the preaching of Andrew Melville, instead of that of an excommunicated man! The archbishop’s friends followed him to the steeple, to assure him of his safety; but so desperate was his fear, that they could scarcely drag him out by force. While he was half-led, half-carried down the High Street, and through the north gate towards his castle, an unlucky stray hare, terrified at the coming din, suddenly started up, and fled before them. Even this incident could impart some gravity to the scene. It was a popular belief at that time in Scotland that a witch, when pursued, usually assumed the form of a hare, more effectually to ensure her escape; and the appearance of the poor animal at such a time and place, made the people declare that it was no other than the prelate’s witch, abandoning her master, to make good her own safety.

We have already stated that Adamson appealed against the sentence of excommunication, to the authority of the king. In this singular appeal, he declaimed with great learning and marvellous plausibility about the right of royalty to interpose against ecclesiastical, as well as civil tyranny; and as he had already made out, as he thought, his own case to be one of undue ecclesiastical oppression on the part of his enemies, the conclusion was plain, that the king could lawfully release him from the spiritual sentence. He wound up his reasoning with the following supposition to which, he well knew, James would not be insensible "Beseeching your majesty to consider and weigh with your Highness self, nobility, and council how dangerous a thing it is to put such a sword in such men’s hands, or to suffer them to usurp further than their duty, whereby it may come to pass, that as rashly and unorderly they have pretendedly excommunicated the firstman of your majesty’s parliament (albeit unworthy), so there rests nothing of their next attempt to do the same to your majesty’s self." The king’s pride was roused at such a thought, as well as his kingcraft for the restoration of Episcopacy, now at a stand through the jeopardy of his archbishop and therefore he arrogantly required the ministers to rescind their sentence, threatening them with the deprivation of their rights and stipends in the event of a refusal. The General Assembly met in May the same year, when these conditions were proposed, and the members were in sore strait how to act in such a dilemma; for most of the restored lords, after being replaced in their possessions, had left the church to shift for itself. At length, a medium course was adopted by the Assembly, and that, too, only by a small majority. It was, that the archbishop "should be holden and repute in the same case and condition that he was in before the holding of the Synod of St Andrews, without prejudice, decerning, or judging anything of the proceedings, process, or sentence of the said synod." It was a strange decision, by which Adamson was allowed to teach, preach, and exercise his clerical functions, excommunicated though he still was while the pulpits, by royal decree, were not only to be patent to his entrance, but the students of St Andrews were commanded to attend his lectures in the Old College as heretofore. This violence, as might be expected, produced counter-violence, so that libels were thrown not only into the archbishop’s chamber, but the pulpits in which he officiated, threatening him with death for his intrusion. And as if all this had not been enough, he added to his further disqualifications, by inability to pay his debts, in consequence of which he was, according to the practice of the Scottish law, denounced a rebel, and put to the horn. This case was brought before the Assembly of June, l587, because many people had demurred to attend his ministrations, while he laboured under such degrading disabilities. The Assembly, however, decided that these were of a civil, rather than an ecclesiastical character, and referred them to the king for adjustment.

In the very same year and month, while Adamson was in this miserable plight - an excommunicated minister and an outlawed prelate—the first man in the parliament, and yet a denounced rebel because he could not pay his debts—a gleam of royal sunshine fell upon him, which was destined to be the last. The celebrated Du Bartes visited Scotland; and James, delighted with the arrival of so distinguished a scholar and poet, received him with princely distinction, and entertained him as his guest. While they were in Fife, the king was desirous that Du Bartes should see the two most accomplished scholars in Scotland—and these were incontestibly to be found at St Andrews, in Andrew Melville and Patrick Adamson. Thither accordingly the royal cortege repaired; and the first notice which Melville had of the visit was from the king himself, who bluntly told him that he had come with the illustrious foreigner, to have a lesson from him in his class-room. Startled, by such a brief warning, Melville would have excused himself, on the plea that he had already delivered his ordinary lecture in the forenoon. "That is all one," said the king, "I must have a lesson, and be you here within an hour for that effect." In less than an hour, the professor was in readiness; the distinguished visitors and the students were assembled; and Melville commenced such a lecture, as made the king wish himself once more among the deer in Falkland. It was an eloquent extemporaneous oration, in which he vindicated Christ’s right of sovereignty over his own church, and refuted and exposed the acts of parliament that had been lately enacted subversive of the kirk’s authority. James went home in no very pleasant mood, and remained in a fume the whole evening. On the next morning it was Adamson’s turn, who was not likely to trespass in the same fashion. During the interval, he had prepared a "tightened-up abridgement" of his previous year’s lectures, in which he attempted to vindicate the royal supremacy in ecclesiastical affairs, and justify the steps that had been taken for that purpose. Andrew Melville, who attended as an auditor, took notes of the archbishop’s arguments; and without further study, caused the college bell to be rung after a short interval, to announce a new lecture. The king, who had not yet digested the lesson of yesterday, sent a warning to Melville to be moderate, otherwise he would discharge him; to which the other replied, that his majesty’s ear had already been abused by Adamson’s errors and untruths, which he could not allow to pass unquestioned, unless his breath were stopped by death itself – but that still, he should be careful to behave himself most moderately and reverendly to his majesty in all respects. The king was satisfied with this assurance, and repaired to the class-room, where Adamson was also in attendance; and he craved and obtained the royal permission to reply, should any thing be alleged against his doctrine. The two strong champions were now standing front to front in the lists – and never had king of Scotland so delighted in the hurtling together of man and horse, and the shivering of spears, as did James in the prospect of an intellectual tournament, where dexterous syllogisms and home-thrust arguments were the only blows in circulation. But here, Melville changed his tactics, in a way that would have puzzled the most experienced master of fence. He had no longer a controversy with Episcopacy, but with Popery, the great common enemy of Protestantism at large; and thus secure of the sympathy of his audience, he extracted from the works of the Popish authors the strongest arguments they had adduced in defence of their system, for the purpose of refuting them. But these arguments were the very same which Adamson had used in the forenoon, in favour of the spiritual government of kings and bishops! There, however, they stood among the ranks of the uncircumcised; and as such, they were attacked with an amount of scripture and learning, and a force and fervour of eloquence, as completely swept them off the field. It was now the archbishop’s turn to bestir himself, but he was dumb – dumb as the bench he sat upon. At last, the king advanced to the rescue; and after making several logical distinguos, upon which he harangued for some time, he ended by commanding the students to reverence and obey his archbishop. When James departed, Du Bartes stayed behind a whole hour, conversing with Andrew Melville, after which, he mounted his horse, and rejoined his majesty. The king wished to know the opinion of the foreigner upon the two men they had heard; to which Du Bartes replied, That they were both learned men, but that the prelate’s lectures were conned and prepared, while Melville had a great and ready store of all kinds of learning within him; and that his spirit and courage were far above the other. In this correct estimate James completely agreed.

From this period, the life of Adamson was but a brief and mournful record. After his late discomfiture, he became weary of teaching in the college, and seems to have remitted it in a great measure to his successful rival. The ministrations of the pulpit could not console him, as the audiences either avoided him as an excommunicated man, or tarried and listened as to the voice of an intruder. Fresh complaints were made against him in the church courts, of having collated unworthy persons to benefices within his diocese. And, to crown all, he finally lost the favour and protection of the king, whom he had served only too well, but who was now weary of an archbishop buried under debt and disgrace, and whose season of working seemed well nigh over. Broken in health as well as in spirit, it might have been thought that James would at least have suffered such a faithful servant to depart in peace; but as if his own ungrateful hand, and no other, ought to deal the final blow, he alienated from him whatever of the revenues of his diocese he was still permitted to enjoy, and bestowed them upon the young Duke of Lennox, the son of his early favourite. In 1591, Adamson was dying a heart-broken man, and unable to procure for himself and his family even the common necessaries of life. But besides hollow friends, he had generous enemies, and these last came forward in the hour of his extremity. Such especially were the two Melvilles, whom he had persecuted in the season of his ascendancy, but who now supported him for several months, at their own expense. At last, he was reduced to such miserable shifts, that he entreated a charitable collection to be made for him among the brethren in the town of St Andrews; and as an inducement, he offered to repair to the pulpit, and there make open confession of his offences. This, indeed, his sickness prevented him from accomplishing; but he rendered an equivalent, in a distinct "Recantation," which he subscribed, and sent to the synod of St Andrews. Besides thus showing how little he had cared for Episcopacy, and how much he had used it for his own aggrandizement, he evinced the force of his early and long-concealed convictions in favour of Presbyterianism, by the remorse which he now felt at the thought of his excommunication, and his earnestness to be absolved from the sentence; and to this effect he sent a supplication to the presbytery of St Andrews. They deputed two of the brethren, one of whom was James Melville, to examine him, and, if they judged fit, to release him. As soon as the dying man saw Melville, he rose up in bed, plucked the night-cap from his head, and exclaimed, "Forgive, forgive me, for God’s sake, good Mr James, for I have offended and done wrong to you many ways!" Melville spoke to him of his sin against Christ and his church, exhorted him to repentance, with the assurance of mercy from God if he repented, and forgave him with all his heart. His excommunication was then spoken of, and he was asked if he acknowledged its lawfulness. To this, his emphatic reply, which he repeated again and again, was, "Loose me, for Christ’s sake!" His state and petition were fully reported to the presbytery, and he was forthwith absolved. Even yet, as appears from his "Recantation," he had hoped to struggle through this his last illness; and he professed in it his earnest desire and purpose to commence a better life, and repair the evils he had inflicted upon religion and the church. But his newborn sincerity was not to be thus tried, and he died in the lowest depths of his humiliation and repentance. His character is thus strongly and briefly summed up by James Melville, who knew him well, and witnessed his career from its height to its mournful termination:- "This man had many great gifts, but especially excelled in the tongue and pen; and yet, for abusing of the same against Christ, all use of both the one and the other was taken from him, when he in greatest misery, and had most need of them. In the latter end of his life, nearest friends were no comfort to him, and his supposed greatest enemies whom indeed he offered greatest occasion of enmity, were his only friends, and recompenced good for evil, especially my uncle Andrew, but found small tokens of any spiritual comfort in him, which chiefly he would have wished to have seen at his end. Thus God delivered his kirk of a most dangerous enemy, if he had been endowed with a common civil piece of honesty in his dealing and conversation, he had more means to have wrought mischief in a kirk or country, than any I have known or heard of in our island."

As will be surmised from the foregoing account, Patrick Adamson was an able and a voluminous writer; but most of his productions were merely written for the day, and have passed away with the occasions in which they originated. Some of them he never purposed to acknowledge, while others remained unpublished in manuscript. Most of these he confessed and regretted in his "Recantation," declaring, that if it should please God to restore his health, he would change his style, "as Cajetanus did at the Council of Trent." His principal writings were collected and published, in one quarto volume, by Thomas Volusenus (Wilson) in 1619; but notwithstanding their undoubted excellence, it may be questioned if they are now at all known beyond the library of antiquary. It appears, that on becoming minister of Paisley, Adamson married the daughter of a lawyer, who survived him, and by whom he had a family; but all record of them has passed away, so that he may be said to have been the last, as he was the first of his race. The precise date of his death has not been mentioned; but it was in the latter part of the year 1591. Such was the career and end of the great antagonist and rival of Andrew Melville.


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