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The Scottish Nation

SMETON, Smeaton, or Smythan, a surname, having the same derivative as SMITH, which see.

SMETON, THOMAS, a learned divine of the church of Scotland, was born at the village of Gask, near Perth, about 1536. He received the first part of his education at the school of Perth, and in 1553 was entered at St. Salvator’s College, St. Andrews, where he prosecuted his studies with so much success, that he was chosen one of the regents. When the reformed doctrines gained ground in the university, he went to France, and with the view of enquiring into the truth, he studied for some time in the Jesuits’ college at Paris, as the order of the Jesuits was the most learned and cunning in popish doctrines. By the advice of Edmond Hay, the Jesuit, who was anxious to secure him to his order, he next proceeded to Rome. On the way he visited Geneva, and had an opportunity of conversing with Mr. Andrew Melville, Mr. Gilbert Moncrieff, and the other reformers there.

On arriving at Rome he entered a Jesuits’ college, and, during his residence there, obtained permission to accompany in his visits the father appointed to wait upon such persons as were in prison for heresy. As they returned to the college, he would adopt the opinions of the prisoners, and maintain them against the Jesuit, as if for the sake of argument, but in reality to have his doubts resolved. The more he enquired, the stronger became his convictions of the truth of the protestant doctrines, and after residing there a year and a half, he became suspected, and was remitted back to Paris, through all the colleges of the Jesuits by the way. On his return to the French capital, Edmond Hay perceived the change that had taken place in his sentiments, and advised him to go to the college of Clermont, where, according to Dempster, he taught humanity with great applause. It appears, however, that on the way he was seized with a dangerous fever, on his recovery from which he resolved upon embracing Protestantism; and, returning to Paris, he began to mix openly with the reformers. This was in 1572, and at the time of the massacre of St. Bartholomew, which happened shortly after, his lodgings were narrowly searched. He took refuge in the house of Sir Francis Walsingham, the English ambassador, which, as Calderwood says, “was a girth to many” in that terrible time. He accompanied Walsingham to England, and at first settled as a schoolmaster in Colchester in Essex.

In 1578, Smeton returned to Scotland, and was appointed minister at Paisley. In October that year, he was named one of the assessors to the moderator of the General Assembly, and on 7th July following he was himself chosen moderator. At the desire of Mr. Andrew Melville, he wrote an answer to the book of Mr. Archibald Hamilton the apostate, ‘De Confusione Calvinianae Sectae apud Scotos.’ This answer, entitled ‘Respousio ad Hamiltonii Dialogum,’ was published at Edinburgh in 1579. When, in that year, the attention of the General Assembly was directed to the reformation and improvement of the universities, Smeton and Andrew Melville were the first to propose that the college of St. Mary’s, St. Andrews, which had been founded by Archbishop Bethune in 1537, should be exclusively appropriated to the study of theology. IN October 1580, when Andrew Melville was removed to the divinity college there, or New college, as it came to be called, as its first principal, Smeton was appointed his successor as principal of the university of Glasgow. He took a very active part in church matters, and was at every Assembly named one of the assessors to the moderator. At the General Assembly held 24th April 1583, he was again elected moderator, but died at Glasgow, December 13th, the same year, of a fever.

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