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Robert Baillie

BAILLIE, ROBERT, one of the most eminent, and perhaps the most moderate, of all the Scottish presbyterian clergy during the time of the civil war, was born at Glasgow, in 1599. His father, Thomas Baillie, citizen, was descended from the Baillies of Lamington; his mother, Helen Gibson, was of the family of Gibson of Durie; both of which stocks are distinguished in presbyterian history. Having studied divinity in his native university, Mr Baillie, in 1622, received episcopal orders from Archbishop Law, of Glasgow, and became tutor to the son of the Earl of Eglintoune, by whom he was presented to the parish church of Kilwinning. In 1626 he was admitted a regent at the college of Glasgow, and, on taking his chair, delivered an inaugural oration, De Mente Agente. About this period he appears to have prosecuted the study of the oriental languages, in which he is allowed to have attained no mean proficiency. 

For some years he lived in terms of the strictest intimacy with the noble and pious family of Eglintoune, as also with his ordinary, Archbishop Law, with whom he kept up an epistolary correspondence. Baillie was not only educated and ordained as an episcopalian, but he had imbibed from principal Cameron of Glasgow, the doctrine of passive resistance. He appears, however, to have been brought over to opposite views during the interval between 1630 and 1636, which he employed in discussing with his fellow-clergymen the doctrines of Arminianism, and the new ecclesiastical regulations introduced into the Scottish church by Archbishop Laud. Hence, in the year 1636, being desired by Archbishop Law to preach at Edinburgh in favour of the Canon and Service-books, he positively refused; writing, however, a respectful apology to his lordship. Endeared to the resisting party by this conduct, he was chosen to represent the presbytery of Irvine in the General Assembly of 1638, by which the royal power was braved in the name of the whole nation, and episcopacy formally dissolved. In this meeting, Baillie is said to have behaved with great moderation; a term, however, which must be understood as only comparative, for the expressions used in his letter regarding the matters condemned, are not what would now be considered moderate. 

In the ensuing year, when it was found necessary to vindicate the proceedings of the Glasgow Assembly with the sword, Baillie entered heartily into the views of his countrymen. He accompanied the army to Dunse Law, in the capacity of preacher to the Earl of Eglintoune’s regiment; and he it was, who has handed down the well known description of that extraordinary camp.—"It would have done you good," he remarks in one of his letters, "to have cast your eyes athort our brave and rich hills, as oft as I did, with great contentment and joy; for I was there among the rest, being chosen preacher by the gentlemen of our shire, who came late with Lord Eglintoune. I furnished to half a dozen of good fellows, muskets and pikes, and to my boy a broad sword. I carried myself. as the fashion was, a sword, and a couple of Dutch pistols at my saddle; but I promise, for the offence of no man, except a robber in the way; for it was our part alone to pray and preach for the encouragement of our countrymen, which I did to my power most chearfully." (Letters, vol. i. p. 174.) He afterwards states, "Our soldiers grew in experience of arms, in courage, and favour, daily. Every one encouraged another. The sight of their nobles, and their beloved pastors, daily raised their hearts. The good sermons and prayers, morning and evening, under the roof of heaven, to which their drums did call them for bells; the remonstrance very frequent of the goodness of their cause; of their conduct hitherto, by a hand clearly divine; also Leslie’s skill, and prudence, and fortune, made them as resolute for battle as could be wished. We were feared that emulation among our nobles might have done harm, when they should be met in the field; but such was the wisdom and authority of that old, little, crooked soldier, that all, with an incredible submission, from the beginning to the end, gave over themselves to be guided by him, as if he had been great Solyman.— Had you lent your ear in the morning, or especially at even, and heard in the tents the sound of some singing psalms, some praying, and some reading Scripture, ye would have been refreshed. True, there was swearing, and cursing, and brawling, in some quarters, whereat we were grieved; but we hoped, if our camp had been a little settled, to have gotten some way for these misorders; for all of any fashion did regret, and all promised to do their best endeavours for helping all abuses. For myself, I never found my mind in better temper than it was all that time since I came from home, till my head was again homeward; for I was as a man who had taken my leave from the world, and was resolved to die in that service without return." This expedition ended in a treaty between the Scottish leaders and their sovereign, in terms of which hostilities ceased for a few months. 

On the renewal of the insurrectionary war next year, Baillie accompanied the Scottish army on its march into England, and became the chronicler of its transactions. Towards the end of the year 1640, he was selected by the Scottish leaders as a proper person to go to London, along with other commissioners, to prepare charges against Archbishop Laud, for his innovations upon the Scottish church, which were alleged to have been the origin of the war. He had, in April, before the expedition, published a pamphlet, entitled, "Ladensium ---: the Canterburian’s Self-conviction; or an Evident Demonstration of the avowed Arminianisme, Poperie, and Tyrannie of that Faction, by their own confessions," which perhaps pointed him out as fit to take a lead in the prosecution of the great Antichrist of Scottish presbytery. Of this and almost all the other proceedings of his public life, he has left a minute account in his letters and journals, which are preserved entire in the archives of the church of Scotland, and in the university of Glasgow, and of which excerpts were published in 2 vols. 8vo. Edinburgh, 1775. These reliques of Mr Baillie form valuable materials of history. 

Not long after his return to his native country, in 1642, he was appointed joint professor of divinity at Glasgow, along with Mr David Dickson, an equally distinguished, but less moderate divine. It affords some proof of the estimation in which he was now held, that he had the choice of this appointment in all the four universities of Scotland. He performed his duties from this period till the restoration, and at the same time attended all the General Assemblies as a member, except during an interval in 1643-6, when he was absent as a delegate to the Westminster assembly of divines. In this latter capacity, he conducted himself in an unobtrusive manner, but fully concurred in the principles and views of the more prominent men. It is observable from his letters, that, with the pardonable earnestness of his age and party, he looked upon toleration as a thing fatal to religion, and strenuously asserted the divine right of the presbyterian church to be established in complete ascendancy and power as a substitute for the church of England. 

From 1646 to 1649, he discharged his ordinary duties as a theological teacher, without taking a leading part in public affairs. But in the latter year, he was chosen by the church, as the fittest person to carry its homage to king Charles II. at the Hague, and to invite that youthful monarch to assume the government in Scotland, under the limitations and stipulations of the covenant. This duty he executed with a degree of dignity and propriety, which could have been expected from no member of his church, but one, who, like him had spent several years in conducting high diplomatic affairs in England. Indeed, Mr Baillie appears in every transaction of his life, to have been an accomplished man of the world; and yet retaining, along with habits of expediency, the most perfect sincerity in his religious views. When the necessary introduction of the malignants into the king’s service, caused a strong division in the church, in 1651, Baillie, as might have been expected from his character and former history, sided with the yielding or Resolutionist party, and soon became its principal leader. On this account he, and many other sincere men, were charged by the Protesting and less worldly party, with a declension from the high principles of the covenant; a charge to which he, at least, certainly was not liable. 

After the Restoration, though made Principal of his college through court patronage, he scrupulously refused to accept a bishopric and did not hesitate to express his dissatisfaction with the re-introducion of episcopacy. His health now declining, he was visited by the new-made archbishop, to whom he thus freely expressed himself: "Mr Andrew," said he, "I will not now call you my lord. King Charles would have made me one of his lords; but I do not find in the New Testament that Christ has any lords in his house." He considered this form of religion and ecclesiastical government as "inconsistent with Scripture, contrary to pure and primitive antiquity, and diametrically opposed to the true interest of the country." He died, July, 1662, in the 63d year of his age.

Mr Baillie, besides his Letters and Journals, and a variety of controversis pamphlets, suitable to the spirit of the times, was the author of a respectable and learned work, entitled, "Opus Historicum et Chronologicum," which was published in folio at Amsterdam. He was a man of extensive learning—understood no fewer than thirteen languages, among which were Hebrew, Chaldee, Syriac, Samaritan, Arabic, and Ethiopic,—and wrote Latin with almost Augustinian elegance. He left a large family: one of his daughters, becoming the wife of Walkinshaw of Barrowfield, was, by a strange chance, the ancestress of Miss Clementina Walkinshaw, well known from her connexion with the history of Prince Charles Stuart—and also grandmother to the celebrated Henry Home, better known under the judicial designation of Lord Kames.

The Letters and Journals of Robert Baillie, A.M.
Principle of the University of Glasgow in three volumes
Volume 1  |  Volume 2  |  Volume 3

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