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Significant Scots
Robert Douglas


DOUGLAS, ROBERT, an eminent clergyman, is said to have been a grandson of Mary queen of Scots, through a child born by her to George Douglas, younger of Lochleven, while she suffered confinement in that castle. Nothing else has come to our knowledge respecting his parentage and early history. It would appear that he accompanied, in the capacity of chaplain, one of the brigades of auxiliaries sent over from Scotland, by connivance of Charles I., to aid the protestant cause under Gustavus Adolphus, in the celebrated thirty years’ war. Wodrow, in his manuscript Analecta, under date 1712, puts down some anecdotes of this part of Douglas’s life, which, he says, his informant derived from old ministers that had been acquainted with him.

"He was a considerable time in Gustavus Adolphus’s army, and was in great reputation with him. He was very unwilling to part with Mr Douglas, and when he would needs leave the army, Gustavus said of him that he scarce ever knew a person of his qualifications for wisdom. Said he, ‘Mr Douglas might have been counsellor to any prince in Europe; for prudence and knowledge, he might be moderator to a general assembly; and even for military skill,’ said he, ‘I could very freely trust my army to his conduct.’ And they said that in one of Gustavus’s engagements, he was standing at some distance on a rising ground, and when both wings were engaged, he observed some mismanagement in the left wing, that was like to prove fatal, and he either went or sent to acquaint the commanding officer, and it was prevented, and the day gained."

Mr Wodrow further mentions that Douglas, while in the army, having no other book than the Bible to read, committed nearly the whole of that sacred volume to memory, which was of immense service to him in his future ministrations in Scotland. In 1641, Douglas was one of the ministers of Edinburgh, and probably of considerable distinction. On the 25th of July that year, he preached before the parliament, an honour to which he was frequently preferred throughout the whole course of the civil war. According to Wodrow, he was "a great state preacher, one of the greatest we ever had in Scotland, for he feared no man to declare the mind of God to him." He was a man of such authority and boldness, that Mr Tullidaff, himself an eminent preacher, declared he never could stand in the presence of Douglas without a feeling of awe. Nevertheless, says Wodrow, "he was very accessible and easy to be conversed with. Unless a man were for God, he had no value for him, let him be never so great or noble." Mr Douglas was moderator of the general assembly which met in 1649, and was in general a leading member of the standing committee of that body, in company with Mr David Dickson, Mr Robert Blair, and others. In August, 1650, he was one of the commissioners sent by the clergy to Dunfermline, to request Charles II. to subscribe a declaration of his sentiments for the satisfaction of the public mind. As this document threw much blame upon his late father, Charles refused to subscribe it, and the commissioners returned without satisfaction, which laid the foundation of a division in the Scottish church. Douglas became the leading individual of the party which inclined to treat Charles leniently, and which obtained the name of the resolutioners. In virtue of this lofty character, he officiated at the coronation of king Charles at Scone, January 1, 1651: his sermon on that occasion was published at the time, and has since been reprinted. It contains ample evidence of his qualifications as a "state preacher," that is, a preacher who commented on state affairs in the course of his sermons; a fashion which rendered the pulpit of the seventeenth century equivalent to the press of the present day. When the royal cause was suppressed in Scotland by Cromwell, Douglas, among other members of the church commission, was sent prisoner to London, whence he was soon after released. At the departure of general Monk from Scotland in 1659, Mr Douglas joined with several other distinguished resolutioners in sending Mr James Sharp along with that commander, as an agent to attend to the interests of the Scottish church in whatever turn affairs might take. Sharp, as is well known, betrayed his constituents, and got himself appointed archbishop of St Andrews under the new system. While conducting matters to this end, he maintained a correspondence with Mr Douglas, for the use of his constituents in general; and this correspondence is introduced, almost at full length, into Wodrow’s "History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland." It is said that Mr Douglas was offered high episcopal preferment, if he would have acceded to the new church-system, but that he indignantly refused. Wodrow, in his manuscript diary, gives the following anecdote: "When Mr Sharp was beginning to appear in his true colours, a little before he went up to court and was consecrate, he happened to be with Mr Douglas, and in conversation he termed Mr Douglas ‘brother.’ He checked him, and said, ‘Brother! no more brother, James: if my conscience had been of the make of yours, I could have been bishop of St Andrews sooner than you." At another place, Wodrow mentions that, "when a great person was pressing him (Mr Douglas) to be primate of Scotland, he, to put him off effectually, answered, ‘I wilt never be archbishop of St Andrews, unless the chancellor of Scotland also, as some were before me;’ which made the great man speak no more to him about that affair." This great man was probably the earl of Glencairn, who had himself been appointed chancellor. Kirkton, another church historian, says that when Mr Douglas became fully aware of Sharp’s intention to accept the primacy, he said to him, in parting, "James, I see you will engage. I perceive you are clear, you will be made archbishop of St Andrews. Take it, and the curse of God with it." So saying, he clapped him on the shoulder, and shut the door upon him. In a paper which this divine afterwards wrote respecting the new introduction of prelacy, he made the quaint but true remark, that the little finger of the present bishops was bigger than the loins of their predecessors. After this period, Mr Douglas appears to have resigned his charge as a minister of Edinburgh, and nothing more is learned respecting him till 1669, when the privy council admitted him as an indulged clergyman to the parish of Pencaitland in East Lothian. The period of his death is unknown; nor is there any certain information respecting his family, except that he had a son, Alexander, who was minister of Logie, and a correspondent of Mr Wodrow.


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