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The Scottish Nation

MAIR, or MAJOR, JOHN, a scholastic divine and historian, was born at the village of Gleghornie, parish of North Berwick, in 1469. He went to the university of Paris in 1493, and studied at the colleges of St. Barbe and Montacute. In 1496 he became M.A., and 2 years after removed to the college of Navarre. In 1508 he was created D.D. It appears from some passages in his writings that in the early part of the 16th century he was a member of Christ’s college, Cambridge. He returned to Scotland in 1518, in which year he became a member of the university of Glasgow, being then styled canon of the chapel royal and vicar of Dunlop. In 1521 he was professor of theology in the university of Glasgow. He subsequently held also the office of treasurer of the royal chapel of Stirling, and about 1523 he became professor of divinity in the college of St. Salvator, St. Andrews, where he remained five years. He was certainly there in 1528, when, at the dawn of the Reformation in Scotland, a friar who had preached a sermon at Dundee against the licentious lives of the bishops, and against the abuse of cursing from the altar and false miracles, being accused of heresy, “went,” says Calderwood, “to Sanct Andrewes, and communicated the heads of his sermoun with Mr. Johne Maior, whose word was then holdin as an oracle in maters of religioun. Mr. Johne said, his doctrine might weill be defended, and conteaned no heresie.” The friar ultimately was compelled to fly to England, where he was cast into prison by command of Henry the Eighth.

Mair himself, although he remained a churchman, in consequence of the religious distractions of the times, went back to Paris, when he resumed his lectures in the college of Montacute. While in France he had among his pupils several who were afterwards eminent for their learning. One of the most distinguished of them was his countryman, George Buchanan, who had studied logic under him at St. Salvator’s college, and had followed him to Paris. In 1530 he returned once more to Scotland, and resumed his lectures as professor of theology in the university of St. Andrews. He was present, with the other heads of the university, in the parish church of that city, when John Knox, who had been one of his students, preached his first sermon in public in 1547. Mr. Tytler, in his History of Scotland, (vol. v. p. 211) referring to Patrick Hamilton the martyr, speaks of him as having been “educated at St. Andrews, in what was then esteemed the too liberal philosophy of John Mair, the master of Knox and Buchanan.” It was no small honour to have infused into the minds of these three men, the foremost, in their respective provinces, of their age, ideas and principles far in advance of the narrow and bigoted tenets of the churchmen. He was thus, perhaps unconsciously to himself, a not unimportant instrument in helping forward the great work of the Reformation in Scotland, and in promoting the sacred cause of civil and religious liberty.

He is said to have died about 1549, at “a great age, for,” says Dr. Mackenzie, in his ‘Lives of Eminent Scots Writers,’ “in the year 1547, at the national council of the Church of Scotland at Linlithgow, he subscribed by proxy, in quality of dean of theology of St. Andrews, not being able to come himself by reason of his age, which was then seventy-eight, and shortly after he died.”

His works were all written in Latin. His Logical Treatises form one immense folio. His Commentary on the Physics of Aristotle makes another. His Theological works, among which is an Exposition of St. Matthew’s Gospel, amount to several volumes of the same size. He is best known, however, by his history, “De Gestis Scotorum,’ in which he gives an account of the Scots nation from the earliest antiquity, and rejects many of the fables and fictions of previous historians, such as Wyntoun and Fordoun.

The titles of his works are as follows:

Introductorium in Aristotelicam Dialecticen, totamque Logicam. Par. Apud Joannem Lambert. – Quaestio de complexo Significabili. – Primus Liber Terminorum, cum figura. – Secundus Liber Terminorum. – Summulae, cum figura quatuor Propositionum et earum Conversionum. – Praedicabilia, cum Arbore Porphyiana. – Praedicamenta, sua, cum figura. – Syllogismi. – Posteriora, cum textu Aristotelis primi et secunda Capitis, libri primi. – Tractatus de Locis. – Tractatus Elenchorum. – Tracatus consequentiarum. – Exponibilia. – Insolubilia. – Obligationes. – Argumenta Sophistica. – Propositum de Infinito. – Analogus inter duos Logicos et Magistrum. The above were all printed in one volume at Lyons, 1514, folio.

In quartum Sententlarum. Commentarius. Par. Apud Joannem Granjonium, 1509. Par. 1516. Again, apud Jodocum Badium Ascensium.

In Primum et Secundum Sententiarum totidem Commentarii. Par. Apud Jod. Bad. Ascensium, 1510.

Commentarius in Tertiam. Paris. 1517.

Commentarius in Secundum. Paris, apud Joannem Granjonium, 1519.

Literalis in Matthaeum Expositio, una cum Trecentis et Octo Dubiis et Difficultatibus ad ejus Elucidationem admondum Conducentibus passim insertis; quibis Prelectis, pervia erit quatnor Evangelistarum Series. Paris, apud Joan. Granjonium, 1518.

De Auctoritate Concilii supra Pontificem Maximum liver, Excerptus ex ejus Commentariis in S. Matthaeum. Paris, 1518, folio.

De Historia Gentis Scotorum, libri sex, sen Historia Majoris Britanniae, tam Angliae quam Scotiae, è Veterum Monimentis concinnata. Paris. Apud Jod. Badium, 1521. Edin. Spud Rob. Freebairn. 1740, 4to.

Commentarius in Physica, Aristotelis. Paris, 1526.

Luculentae in quatuor Evangelia, Expositiones, Disquisitiones, et Disputationes, contra Haereticos; ad Calcem hujusce Operis. Par. 1529, fol.

Catalogus Episcoporum Lucionensium. Apud Antonium Democharem.

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