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The Scottish Nation

ROW, JOHN, a celebrated Reformer, and the first Protestant minister of Perth, was born in the neighbourhood of Stirling, about 1525. At that period there were in Scotland several families of the name, supposed to have come originally from England, but to which of them he belonged is not known. His parents were in good circumstances, and he received a liberal education. After being taught Latin at the grammar school of Stirling, he was sent to the university of St. Andrews, where he particularly addicted himself to the study of the civil and canon laws. Soon after taking the degree of M.A. he entered as an advocate in the diocesan court of St. Andrews, in which he is supposed to have commenced practicing about two years before the death of Cardinal Bethune. In 1550 his reputation as a pleader, and superior knowledge of the canon law, induced the Scottish Popish clergy to send him to Rome as their agent and representative there; and on his arrival in the papal city, he was graciously received by Pope Julius III. While he remained in Italy, his most intimate friend was Guido Ascanius Sforza, created by Paul III., cardinal of Sancta Flora, at the early age of fifteen; and, at his desire, Mr. Row took the degree of doctor of laws in the university of Padua, of which the youthful cardinal was chancellor. He returned to Scotland in September 1558, in the character of Nuncio or legate from the then reigning pontiff, Paul IV., with the view of opposing the progress of the Reformation. A wicked fraud practiced by the Popish priests on the credulity of the populace, whereby they pretended to have restored the sight of a supposed blind boy at Our Lady’s Chapel of Loretto, Musselburgh, in the beginning of 1559, was the means of directing Mr. Row’s mind to an impartial consideration of the new doctrines, the result of which, and his attending the preaching of John Knox, led to his conversion soon after to the Reformed religion, of which he became a zealous and influential minister.

For some time, like the rest of the Protestant clergy, he visited different parts of the country as an itinerant preacher, but especially Perth and the neighbourhood. In April 1560 he was one of the six ministers appointed to compile the old Confession of Faith, and the First Book of Discipline. In July of the same year he was nominated by the committee of parliament minister of Perth, where he was finally settled, after officiating for some time at Kennoway, in Fife. As minister of Perth, he was present in the first general assembly of the Church of Scotland, which met at Edinburgh, December 20, 1560. After this he took a prominent part in all the ecclesiastical transactions of the period, being almost constantly elected a member of the Assembly, and was at least four times chosen its moderator.

In July 1568 Mr. Row was appointed by the Assembly commissioner or ecclesiastical superintendent of Galloway; and in August 1569 he received from the Regent Moray the first foundation charter of King James VI.’s Hospital at Perth.

On the arrival of Andrew Melville from Geneva, in July 1575, a debate, of two days’ continuance, took place in a committee of the Assembly, on a question proposed by Mr. John Durie, one of the ministers of Edinburgh, as to “whether bishops, as now allowed in Scotland, had their function from the word of God,” when Mr. Row was chosen, with three others, to argue on the side of episcopacy. On the point being decided against him, however, he, with all that took part with him in the argument, yielded, and afterwards, says his manuscript history, “he preached down prelacy all his days.” That he fully approved of Presbyterianism is sufficiently evident, as is shrewdly remarked by Mr. James Scott, in his History of the Lives of the Reformers, from his being one of the compilers of the Second Book of Discipline, the eleventh chapter of which decidedly condemns the office of bishops. He died at Perth, October 16, 1580. He is said to have been the first who introduced the study of the Hebrew language into Scotland, a knowledge of which he had acquired on the Continent. He married, about 1560, Margaret Bethune, daughter of the laird of Balfour in Fife, and by her he is said to have had eight sons and two daughters. Three of the sons became eminent ministers of the Church of Scotland.

The eldest, James Row, born in 1562, was, in 1587, ordained minister of Kilspindy, in the Presbytery of Perth, and died suddenly in bed, December 29, 1614.

ROW, WILLIAM, the second son of John Row, the Reformer, is supposed to have been born at Perth, about 1568, although his name does not appear in the parish register. About 1590 he was appointed minister of Forgandenny, in the presbytery of Perth, in which he succeeded a person of the same name with his father, probably a relative of the family. Some writers state that he was at one time minister of Strathmiglo, in Fife; but this is evidently a mistake. For his declared disbelief of the truth of the Gowrie Conspiracy, in 1600, he was prosecuted by the king. In 1606 he joined, with his brother James and some other ministers, in a remonstrance to parliament against bishops; and in Calderwood’s History (vol. vi., pp. 645-651), will be found related at length his intrepid behaviour in a meeting of the Synod of Perth in April 1607, of which he was moderator, in opposition to the king’s wish for a constant moderator. We are told that as old moderator, “being commanded by the Assembly to proceed, and gather the votes for the choice of a new moderator, he took the catalogue in his hand. The comptroller (Sir David Murray, one of the three commissioners appointed by the king to be present), raged, and began to rise out of his chair, and take the catalogue out of the moderator’s hand per force; but he held it in his left hand, the comptroller sitting on his right hand. He held the comptroller with his right hand in his chair, till he called all the names.” For his contumacy on this occasion he was summoned to take his trial; but, not appearing, was put to the horn, and obliged for a time to keep himself concealed. By the favour of Alexander Lindsay, bishop of Dunkeld, patron of his parish, his son William was, June 29, 1624, ordained his assistant and successor in Forgandenny. He died in the beginning of October 1634. William, his son and successor, distinguished himself in the time of the civil wars, as a zealous Covenanter, and attended the Scots army into England as one of its chaplains. He died in 1660.

ROW, JOHN, a well-known ecclesiastical historian, third surviving son of John Row, the Reformer, was born at Perth, about the end of December 1568. He was a twin, but his brother of the same birth was still-born. Being very weakly in his earlier years, he was at first instructed at home, and when only seven years of age he had acquired a knowledge of the Hebrew language. Subsequently put to the grammar school at Perth, he taught his master to read the Hebrew. After his father’s death, both he and his brother, William, enjoyed a friar’s pension from King’s Hospital, Perth. He was first employed as tutor to his uncle’s children, Bethune of Balfour, and in 1586 was enrolled a student in the then newly created college of Edinburgh. He took the degree of M.A. in August 1590, and was for two years schoolmaster at Aberdour. In the end of 1592 he was ordained minister of Carnock in Fife, and three years afterwards he married Grissel, a daughter of the Rev. David Fergusson, minister of Dunfermline, and by her had a numerous family. In 1619 he was summoned before the court of high commission at St. Andrews for nonconformity and opposition to prelacy, and on 6th February 1622, he was charged by the council to keep within his own parish bounds. (Calderwood, vol. vii. P. 543.) He was a member of the famous Glasgow Assembly of November 1638, and was one of the four oldest of the ministers present put in nomination with Alexander Henderson, as a mark of respect to their years, for the moderatorship. At this assembly he was appointed one of the committee to report upon the state of the church registers, and upon their report, which is contained in the printed acts of the assembly, these volumes were received as authentic registers. In this and subsequent assemblies he took an active interest. He died 26th June 1646, having been for 54 years minister of Carnock. His ‘Historie of the Kirk of Scotland from the year 1558 to August 1637, with a continuation to July 1639, by his son, John Row, principal of King’s College, Aberdeen,’ was printed in 1842, for the Wodrow Society. In compiling it, he made use of the papers of his father-in-law, Mr. David Fergusson, minister of Dunfermline. An edition of Row’s History has also been printed for the Maitland Club of Glasgow.

ROW, JOHN, a learned and eminent divine, grandson of John Row the Reformer, and second son of the preceding, was born about the year 1598. He studied at the university of St. Andrews, and on leaving it, became tutor to George Hay, afterwards second earl of Kinnoul. He was subsequently for some time master of the grammar school of Kirkcaldy. On the recommendation of the father of his pupil, who was then lord-chancellor of Scotland, he was, in 1632, appointed rector of the grammar school of Perth. In 1634 he published the first edition of his Hebrew Grammar, to which were prefixed some commendatory verses from Alexander Henderson, Samuel Rutherford, and others of his friends. In 1641 he was persuaded by the celebrated Andrew Cant to remove to Aberdeen, and become minister of the church of St. Nicholas in that city. In 1643 he published a vocabulary of the Hebrew language, which he dedicated to the Town Council of Aberdeen, for which he received, “for his paines, four hundred merk Scotts money.” In 1644 he brought out, at Glasgow, the second edition of his Hebrew Grammar, under the title of ‘Hebreae Linguae Institutiones Compendiosissime,’ &c.; the work being dedicated to George, earl of Kinnoul. About the same period he wrote some other books, relating chiefly to the political controversies of the times. In 1645, on the approach to Aberdeen of the marquis of Montrose with the royalist forces, Row, with Cant, and others of the Presbyterian party, took refuge in the castle of Dunnottar. In 1651 he was appointed principal of King’s college, Old Aberdeen, in the room of Dr. Guild, deposed by Monk’s military commission, for his opposition to the Covenants. It has been incorrectly stated in some of the biographies of him, that on October 8, 1656, Principal Row preached before the parliament in Westminster Abbey, on a day appointed for a public thanksgiving, but the John Row who preached on that occasion was an Independent minister in London.

At the Restoration, with the view of ingratiating himself with the new authorities, he published at Aberdeen, in small quarto, a poetical address in Latin to the king, which was no less laudatory of his majesty than abusive of Cromwell, whom he characterized as “Trux vilis vermis,” being the anagram of “O vile cruel worm,” (Oliver Cromwell,) Latinised. This truckling, however, did not save him, as some of his works, which reflected severely on the royal family, were taken from the college and burnt at the cross of Aberdeen, by the common hangman. In 1661 he resigned his office of principal, and removed to New Aberdeen, where he endeavoured to maintain himself by keeping a school, being occasionally assisted by donations from charitable persons. In his latter years he took up his residence with his son-in-law, Mr. John Mercer, minister of Kinellar, where he died about 1672. He enlarged his father’s History of the Church already referred to; his continuation bearing the following quaint title: ‘Supplement to the Historie of the Kirk of Scotland, from August, anno 1637, and thenceforward to July 1639; or ane Handfull of Goate’s Haire for the furthering of the Building of the Tabernacle; a Short Table of Principall Things for the promoting of the most excellent Historie of this late blessed work of Reformation; written by John Row, Minister at Aberdene.’ His younger brother, James Row, minister of Monivaird and Strowan, in Perthshire, was the author of the famous ‘Pickmanty Sermon,’ preached in St. Giles’ church, Edinburgh, on the last Sunday of July 1638, first printed at London in 1642, as ‘The Red-Shanke’s Sermon,’ and reprinted from an original manuscript in the library of David Laing, Esq., in 1828, under the title of ‘A Cupp of Bon Accord,’ with, prefixed, ‘Memorials of the Family of Row,’ taken from a manuscript account by Robert Milne, jun., a descendant of the family.

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