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The Scottish Nation

FERME, or FAIRHOLME, CHARLES, a learned divine of the sixteenth century, and author of the Analytical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, was born and educated in Edinburgh. Crawford, in his History of the University of Edinburgh, says that he was of obscure parentage, and was bred up in the family of Mr. Alexander Guthrie. After he had acquired a knowledge of Latin, he was about the year 1584 transferred to the university, then recently opened under the auspices of the celebrated Robert Rollock, where he continued for four years. In 1587, after studying Greek, logic, philosophy, and Hebrew, he took his degree of M.A., and in October following he offered himself as a candidate for the office of regent or professor, but although on this occasion without success, early in 1589 he was, after a comparative trial, elected professor of theology in the room of Rollock, who had been appointed principal. He was also occasionally employed in preaching, and at one time was invited to be second minister at Haddington. Amongst others of his pupils, who distinguished themselves in afterlife, were John, earl of Gowrie; Robert Kerr of Newbattle, subsequently earl of Lothian; David Calderwood, the historian of the Church of Scotland; Principal Adamson; Robert Scott, minister at Glasgow; William Craig, professor of theology at Saumur; and Oliver Colt, professor of Latin in the same university, and afterwards minister at Fulden.

      In 1599 he was appointed by Sir Alexander Fraser of Philorth, minister of the town of Fraserburgh, with the view also of his holding the office of principal of a university which he had recently founded there. [See FRASER of Philorth.] The writer of his life in the Scottish Congregational Magazine for May 1850, says that he “probably hesitated before accepting a post of so much responsibility and labour; it is certain that he declared to the General Assembly of the Church that he would not accept it without their command to do so.” When the matter came before that venerable body at their session of 21st March 1600, in consequence of a ‘supplicatione given in be the presbytry of Deir, having considered the necessity of the said works, and how the said laird of Phillorthe hes refusit to sustain ane pastor at the said kirk, unless he undertake both the saids charges,’ they resolved to command and charge the said Mr. Charles Ferme to undertake both offices.

      On the establishment of episcopacy in 1600, Ferme distinguished himself by his opposition to the bishops, and in consequence became an object of persecution by the prelatical party. In the month of February 1605, he and Mr. John Forbes appeared before the council to justify their process of excommunication against the earl of Huntly. He was a member of the General Assembly held at Aberdeen the same year, and for his share in its proceedings was imprisoned in the castle of Doune, not Stirling, as Calderwood incorrectly states, [Hist. of Kirk of Scotland, vol. vi. p. 292]. Along with other imprisoned ministers he was summoned to appear before the privy council at Edinburgh, 24th October of that year. This summons they declined to obey, but sent under protest to the council a vindication of their conduct, both as to holding the Aberdeen assembly, and as to the business transacted during its sittings. After a confinement of more than a year in Doune castle, Ferme was banished to some remote place in the Highlands, the name of which has not been ascertained. Here he suffered the greatest severities, and a letter to Mr. Robert Bruce, in 1608, gives a lamentable account of his condition, as quoted by Calderwood. He continued in confinement till after 1609, but was afterwards restored to his parish, and died at Fraserburgh 24th September 1617. His Logical Analysis of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans, which he wrote during his residence at Fraserburgh, was printed by Principal Adamson in a small 8vo volume in 1651. A translation of it, by William Skae, A.M., has been printed in a volume of the Wodrow Society, issued in 1850, with a memoir by William Lindsay Alexander, D.D., F.S.A. Scot., the volume containing also a Commentary on the same epistle, by Andrew Melville, in the original Latin. Another work of Ferme’s, entitled ‘Lections in Esterem,’ (Prelections on Easter,) was never printed, and like other productions of his pen is supposed to have perished. After his death the college of Fraserburgh fell into decay, eclipsed in all probability by the superior advantages of Marischal college, then newly founded in Aberdeen.

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