CALDERWOOD, DAVID, an
eminent divine and ecclesiastical historian. The year of his birth, the
place of his education, and the character of the family from which he
was descended, are all alike unknown. The earliest ascertained fact of
his life is his settlement, in 1604, as minister of Crailing, in
Being a zealous supporter
of the principles of presbytery, he set himself with all his might to
oppose the designs of the court, which aimed at the introduction of a
moderate episcopacy. In 1608, when the Bishop of Glasgow paid an
official visit to the synod of Merse and Teviotdale, Mr. Calderwood gave
in a paper declining his jurisdiction. For this act of contumacy, he was
confined for several years to his parish, so as to prevent his taking
any share in the public business of the church. In the summer of 1617,
king James paid a visit to Scotland, for the purpose of urging forward
his episcopal innovations. On this occasion, while the parliament was
considering how to intrust powers of ecclesiastical supremacy to the
king, the clergy were convened to deliberate in a collusive manner, so
that every thing might appear to be done with the consent and
approbation of the church. This assemblage was attended by the bishops,
who affected to consider it an imitation of the convocations of
the English church.
Calderwood, being now
permitted to move about, though still forbidden to attend synods or
presbyteries, appeared at this meeting, which he did not scruple to
proclaim as in no respect a convocation, but simply a free assembly of
the clergy. Finding himself opposed by some friends of the bishops, Mr.
Calderwood took leave of them in a short but pithy speech, allusive to
the sly attempts of the king to gain the clergy, by heightening their
stipends: - "It was absurd," he said, "to see men sitting
in silks and satins, crying poverty in the kirk, while purity was
departing." He assisted, however, at another meeting of the clergy,
where it was resolved to deliver a protest to parliament, against a
particular article, or bill, by which the power of framing
new laws for the church was to be intrusted to an ecclesiastical council
appointed by the king. This protest was signed by Mr. Archibald Simpson,
as representing all the rest, who, for his justification, furnished him
with a roll containing their own signatures. One copy of the document
was intrusted to a clergyman of the name of Hewat, who, having a seat in
parliament, undertook to present it. Another remained with Mr. Simpson,
in case of accident. Mr Hewat's copy having been torn in a dispute with
Archbishop Spottiswoode, Mr. Simpson presented his, and was soon after
called before the tyrannical court of High Commission, as a stirrer up
Being pressed to give up
the roll containing the names of his abettors, he acknowledged it was
now in the hands of Mr. David Calderwood, who was then cited to exhibit
the said roll, and, at the same time, to answer for his seditious and
mutinous behaviour. The Commission court sat at St. Andrews, and the
king having come there himself, had the curiosity to examine Mr.
Calderwood in person. Some of the persons present came up to the peccant
divine, and, in a friendly manner, counselled him to "come in the
king's will," that his majesty might pardon him. But Mr. Calderwood
entertained too strong a sense of the propriety and importance of what
he had been doing, to yield up the point in this manner. "That
which was done," he said, "was done with deliberation."
In the conversation which ensued betwixt the king and him, the reader
will be surprised to find many of the most interesting points of modern
liberty, asserted with a firmness and dignity worthy of an ancient
moved you to protest?
article concluded among the laws of the articles.
what fault was there in it?
cutteth off our General Assemblies.
inquiring how long Mr. Calderwood had been a minister,) Hear me, Mr.
David, I have been an older keeper of General Assemblies than you. A
General Assembly serveth to preserve doctrine in purity, from error, and
heresy, the kirk from schism, to make confessions of faith, to put up
petitions to the king in parliament. But as for matters of order, rites,
and things indifferent in kirk policy, they may be concluded by the
king, with advice of bishops, and a choice number of ministers.
a General Assembly should serve, and our General Assemblies have served
these fifty-six years, not only for preserving doctrine from error and
heresy, but also to make canons and constitutions of all rites and
orders belonging to the kirk. As for the second point, as by a competent
number of ministers may be meant a General Assembly, so also may be
meant a fewer number of ministers than may make up a General Assembly.
The king then challenged
him for some words in the protestation.
was the phrase of speech, we meant nothing but to protest that we would
give passive obedience to his majesty, but could not give active
obedience to any unlawful thing which should flow from that article.
and passive obedience!
is, we will rather suffer than practise.
will tell thee, man, what is obedience. The centurion, when he said to
his servants, to this man, go, and he goeth, to that man, come, and he
cometh: that is obedience.
suffer, Sir, is also obedience, howbeit, not of that same kind. And that
obedience, also, was not absolute, but limited, with exception of a
countermand from a superior power.
David, let alone [cease]; confess your error.
lord, I cannot see that I have committed any fault.
Mr. Calderwood, I will let you see that I am gracious and favourable.
That meeting shall be condemned before ye be condemned; all that are in
the file shall be filed before ye be filed, provided ye will conform.
I have answered my libel. I ought to be urged no further.
is true, man, ye have answered your libel; but consider I am here; I may
demand of you when and what I will.
Sir, I get great wrong, if I be compelled to answer here in judgment to
any more than my libel.
Sir! ye are a refractor: the Bishop of Glasgow, your ordinary, and the
Bishop of Caithness, the moderator of your presbytery, testify ye have
kept no order; ye have repaired neither to presbyteries nor synods, and
in no wise conform.
I have been confined these eight or nine years; so my conformity or
non-conformity, in that point, could not be well known.
faith, thou art a very knave. See these self-same puritans; they are
ever playing with equivocations.
Finally, the King asked,
"If ye were relaxed, will ye obey or not?"
Calderwood. Sir, I
am wronged, in that I am forced to answer questions beside the libel;
yet, seeing I must answer, I say, Sir, I shall either obey you, or give
a reason wherefore I disobey; and, if I disobey, your Majesty knows I am
to lie under the danger as I do now.
King. That is, to
obey either actively or passively.
Calderwood. I can
go no further.
He was then removed.
Being afterwards called up, and threatened with deprivation, he declined
the authority of the bishops to that effect; for which contumacy, he was
first imprisoned in St. Andrews, and then banished from the kingdom.
When we read such conversations as the above, we can scarcely wonder at
the civil war which commenced twenty years afterwards, or that the
efforts of the Stuarts to continue the ancient arbitrary government of
England were finally ineffectual.
Mr. Calderwood continued
to reside in Holland from the year 1619, till after the death of king
James, in 1625. Before leaving his country, he published a book
on the Perth assembly, for which he would certainly have been visited
with some severe punishment, if he had not been quick to convey himself
beyond seas. In 1623, he published, in Holland, his celebrated treatise,
entitled, "Altare Damascenum," the object of which was to
expose the insidious means by which the polity of the English church had
been intruded upon that of Scotland. King James is said to have been
severely stung in conscience by this work. He was found very pensive one
day by an English prelate, and being asked why he was so, answered, that
he had just read the Altar at Damascus. The bishop desired "his
majesty not to trouble himself about that book, for he and his brethren
would answer it. "Answer that, man!" cried the king sharply;
"how can ye? there is nothing in it but scripture, reason, and the
fathers." An attempt was made, however, to do something of this
kind. A degraded Scottish gentleman, named Scott, being anxious to
ingratiate himself at court, published a recantation as from the pen of
Mr. Calderwood, who, he believed, and alleged, was just dead. There was
only one unfortunate circumstance against Mr. Scott. Mr. Calderwood soon
let it be known that he was still alive, and of the same way of thinking
as ever. The wretched impostor is said to have then gone over to Holland
and sought for Mr. Calderwood, in order to render his work true by
assassinating him. But this red ink postscript was never added, for the
divine had just returned to his native country.
Mr. Calderwood lived in a
private manner at Edinburgh for many years, chiefly engaged, it is
supposed, in the unobtrusive task of compiling a history of the church
of Scotland, from the death of James V. to that of James VI. His
materials for this work lay in Knox's History, Mr. James Melville's
Observations, Mr. John Davidson's Diary, the Acts of Parliament and
Assembly, and other state documents. The work, in its original form, has
hitherto been deemed too large for publication; but manuscript copies
are preserved in the archives of the church, Glasgow University, and in
the Advocates' Library. On the breaking out of the troubles in 1638, Mr.
Calderwood appeared on the public scene, as a warm promoter of all the
popular measures. At the Glasgow assembly in that year, and on many
future occasions, his acquaintance with the records of the church proved
of much service. He now also resumed his duty as a parish minister,
being settled at Pencaitland, in East Lothian. In 1643, he was appointed
one of the committee for drawing up the directory for public worship;
and, in 1646, an abstract of his church history was published under the
care of the General Assembly. At length, in 1651, while Cromwell’s
army occupied the Lothians, Mr. Calderwood retired to Jedburgh, where,
in the immediate neighbourhood of the scene of his earliest
ministrations, he sickened and died at a good old age.
Both his "Altare
Damascenum," and his "True History of the Church of
Scotland," have been printed oftener than once; but an edition of
his larger history, is still a desideraturm in Scottish literature.