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Significant Scots
John Row


ROW, JOHN, a celebrated divine, was descended of a family of some note for the part they had borne in the ecclesiastical history of their country. His grandfather, John Row, had gone abroad in early youth, and the fame of his talents and learning having reached the Vatican, he was in 1559, selected by the Pope as an emissary to watch over the dawning reformation in Scotland. But, in a short time after his return to his native country, he embraced the principles of the reformed religion, and advocated them with much zeal and ability. He was in 1560, appointed minister of Perth, and from that time enjoyed considerable influence in the councils of the reformed clergy, sharing the friendship of Knox, and other distinguished men of that age. His eldest son was for fifty-two years minister of Carnock in Fife, and died at the advanced age of seventy-eight. He was partly author of "The Historie of the Kirk of Scotland from the year 1558, to August in Anno 1637, written by Mr John Row, late minister at Carnock, in the province of Fife and presbyterie of Dunfermline." This is preserved in MS. in the Advocates’ library, and has been pronounced by one well fitted to judge, "a very valuable but rather prolix work." The date of the birth of John Row, his second son, the subject of the present memoir has not been preserved, but it may be referred to the latter years of the sixteenth, or more probably to the beginning of the seventeenth century. [The learned editor of "Memorials of the Family of Row," (a work to which we are indebted for much of the information given in the following memoir) erroneously calls John Row the eldest son of his father.] At a very early period of life he was appointed rector of the grammar school at Perth, and for many years discharged that office with much reputation. He was the first Hebrew scholar of that day, an accomplishment which seems to have been hereditary in the family; his father, it is reported, having "discovered some genius for Hebrew when he was only a child of four or five years old," and his grandfather having been, it is said, the first who publicly taught Hebrew in Scotland. While rector of the Perth school, Row composed his "Hebreae Linguae Institutiones Compendiosissimae et facillimae in Discipulorum gratiam primum concinnatae," which was published at Glasgow in 1644. This work was dedicated to lord chancellor Hay of Kinnoul, to whom he expresses himself obliged for benefits conferred on his father, and for having procured himself the situation he held. After the fashion of the day, the book was prefaced by several commendatory verses, and of these some are from the pen of the celebrated Alexander Henderson, Samuel Rutherford and John Adamson. The work also bore the record of the unanimous approbation of the faculty of the college of St Leonard in the university of St Andrews. Three years previous to the publication of the "Hebreae Linguae Institutiones" Row was by the influence of the famous Andrew Cant appointed one of the ministers of Aberdeen. In 1643, he published a Vocabulary of the Hebrew language, which he dedicated to his new patrons, the town council of Aberdeen. This mark of respect was rewarded by the following ordinance of that body: "20th September, 1643, the counsell considering the panes taken be Mr John Row in teaching the Hebrew tongue, and for setting forth ane Hebrew dictionar, and dedicating the same to the counsell, ordanes the thesaurar to delivar to the said Mr John Row for his paines four hundreth merk Scotts money." [Council Register of Aberdeen, vol. iii. p. 771.] In his office of minister of Aberdeen, Row supported the principles of his coadjutor Andrew Cant, and was with him highly obnoxious to the more moderate party of the presbyterians, and to those who still favoured episcopacy. The amusing annalist Spalding, who attended his prelections, loses no opportunity of holding him up to ridicule or detestation; and language seems sometimes to fail him for the expression of his horror at Row’s innovations. "One of the town’s officers," he relates, "caused bring a bairn to the lecture lesson, where Mr John Row had taught, to be baptized; but because this bairn was not brought to him when he was baptizing some other bairns, he would not give baptism; whereupon the simple man was forced to bring back this child unbaptized. The wife lying in child-bed, hearingthe child was not baptized, was so angry, that she turned her face to the wall, and deceased immediately through plain displeasure, and the bairn also ere the morn; and the mother, and her bairn in her oxter, were both buried together. Lamentable to see,"writes the indignant chronicler, "how the people are thus abused!" In 1644, Row waschosen moderator of the provincial assembly at Aberdeen; and the next year, on the approach of Montrose at the head of the royalist forces, he, with Cant and other "prime covenanters," sought refuge with the earl Marischal in the castle of Dunottar. In 1649, the Scottish parliament appointed a committee to remonstrate against the contemplated murder of Charles I., and Row was one of six clergymen nominated to act with the committee. In 1651, a commission, consisting of five colonels from the army of Monk, visited the king’s college of Aberdeen, and, among other acts, deposed the principal, Dr Guild; and the next year, Row was chosen his successor. He seems to have filled the principal’s chair with much credit; he maintained strict discipline, and added to the buildings of the college, while his own learning extended the reputation of the university. On the 8th October, 1656, being a day appointed for a public thanksgiving, he preached in Westminster abbey before the parliament, and his sermon was afterwards printed by their orders, under the title of "Man’s Duty in magnifying God’s Work." On the Restoration, principal Row lost no time in paying his court to the new authorities. In 1660, he published at Aberdeen, a work which was laudatory of the king, and abusive of Cromwell, who is styled "Trux vilis vermes," being the anagram of "O vile cruel worm" (Oliver Cromwell) latinized. This panegyric, however, availed him little. Some of his works, which contained reflections on the royal family, were taken from the college, and burned at the cross of Aberdeen by the hands of the hangman: and in 1661, Row resigned his office of principal. He soon after established a school at Aberdeen, and lived for some years on the scanty emoluments derived from this source, eked out by charitable donations. Thereafter he retired to the family of a son-in-law and daughter in the parish of Kinellar, about eight miles from Aberdeen, where he spent the remainder of his days. He was interred in the churchyard of the parish, but no monument marks his grave. Besides the works we have mentioned, and some others which seem to be lost, principal Row wrote a continuation of his father’s History of the Church, which is extant in the Advocates’ library, under the title of "Supplement to the Historie of the Kirk of Scotland, from August, anno 1637, and thenceforward to July, 1639; or ane Handful of Goates Haire for the furthering of the Building of the Tabernacle: a Short Table of Principall Things for the promoving of the most excellent Historie of this late blessed Work of Reformation, in the hands of such as are employed therein by the General Assemblie; written by Mr John Row, Minister at Aberdene." Mr James Row, minister of Monivaird and Strowan, a younger brother of principal Row, is well known to the curious in Scottish literature, as the author of the celebrated "Pockmanty Sermon," preached in Saint Giles’s, in 1638, and which has been lately reprinted under the titles of "The Red-Shanke’s Sermon;"and "A Cupp of Bon-Accord."


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