Andrew Melville: The Thorn in the King’s Side. Part Two, An Argument Between Professors


The King and Court, as you recall, had proceeded against Andrew Melville…

…and they had even admitted his avowed enemies to prove against him, the Court’s accusations; and though the whole train of evidence given had proved little or nothing against him, yet they resolved to involve him in troubles and grievous injury.  But because the good pastor had declined their authority, as the competent judges of doctrine, they therefore remitted him to ward in the Castle of Edinburgh, where he was to await the King’s will. However, Melville was informed, that if he entered into this ward, he would not be released, unless it should be to bring him to the scaffold.  Worse, it seems that the decree of the Council was even further altered, and the castle prison, aptly named Blackness, was now appointed for his ward. This castle prison was in that day the very description of hell, and it was well-known that this castle was kept by some dependants of the Earl of Arran, who were some of Melville’s most ardent enemies, so he resolved to get out of the country. About that time, an officer of the court, called a macer, gave him a charge to enter Blackness in twenty-four hours; and, in the meanwhile, some of Arran’s horsemen were sent from West Port to convoy him there; but, by the time he should have eentered Blackness, he instead, had reached Berwick. There, Messrs Lawson and Balcanquhal gave him the good character he deserved, and prayed earnestly for him in public, and in Edinburgh; “which both moved the people and galled the Court exceedingly.”

After a while things died down for Andrew, and in the year (1587) in the month of May, Guillaume Saluat, Seignor du Bartas, came into Scotland to see the king; of whom he was received according to his worthiness, entertained honorably, and liberally gifted and dismissed in the harvest, to his majesty’s great praise so long as the French tongue is use; and understood in the world.

About the end of June, his majesty came to St. Andrews, and brought with him the said Du Bartas; and coming first without any warning to the New College, he calls for Mr. Andrew Melville, saying, he was come together with that gentleman to have a lesson. Mr Andrew answers, that he had taught his ordinary lesson that day in the forenoon. “That is all one,” says the king, “I must have a lesson, and be you here within an hour to that effect.” And, indeed, within less than an hour his majesty was in the school, and the whole university convened with him; before whom Mr. Andrew, extempore, treated most clearly and mightily of the right government of Christ, and, in effect, refuted the whole acts of Parliament made against the discipline thereof, to the great instruction and comfort of his listeners, except the king alone, who was very angry all that night.

Upon the morrow, the bishop (Bishop Adamson) “had both a prepared lesson and feast made for the king. His lesson was a tight abridgment of all he had taught the year past, especially concerning the corrupt grounds which he had put into the king’s head, papal doctrines contrary to the true discipline. To the which lesson Mr. Andrew went, contrary to his own customs, and with his pen marked all his false grounds and reasons, and without further delay, caused his bell to ring at two of the afternoon the same day; whereof the king hearing, he sent to Mr. Andrew, desiring him to be moderate, and have regard to his presence, otherwise, he would discharge him.

He answered courageously that his majesty’s ear and tender breast were pitifully and dangerously filled with errors and untruths by that wicked man (Bishop Adamson), which he could not suffer to get away unanswered, to save his life; otherwise, except the stopping of the breath of God’s mouth, and prejudging of his truth, he should behave himself most moderately and reverently to his majesty in all respects. The king sent again to Bishop Adamson and me, desiring it should be so, and showing that he would have his four hours in the college. So he came to that lesson with the bishop, who requested the king for permission to answer instantly, in case anything was spoken against his doctrine.  But at this point, Mr. Andrew making as though he had nothing to do but with the Papists, brings out their works, and reads out of them all the bishop’s grounds about how he was an inveterate enemy of the Melvilles, and a supporter of the king in the introduction of Prelacy into Scotland, as well as all the papal reasons.

After he had done this at length and most clearly shown that the reasons the Bishop gave to be plain Papistry, Andrew Melville then sets against those same Papal reasons with all his might; and with invincible force of reason, and from clear grounds of Scripture. And with a mighty boldness and flow of eloquence, he beats down all those reasons so that the bishop was dashed, and stricken as dumb as the stock he sat upon. After the lesson, the king, in his mother tongue, made some distinctions, and discoursed a while thereon, and gave certain injunctions to the university for reverencing and obeying of his bishop; who from that day forth began to tire of his teaching, and fall more and more into disgrace and confusion.

The king, with Monsieur du Bartas, came to the college hall, where I prepared and had in readiness a banquet of wet and dry confections, with all sorts of wine, whereat his majesty caroused very merrily a good while, and thereafter went to his horse. But Monsieur du Bartas tarried behind, and conferred with my uncle and me a whole hour, and then followed after the king; who inquiring of him that night, told me, man to man, what his judgment was of the two he had heard in St Andrews, he had answered the king, that they were both learned men; but the bishop’s answers had been contrived, whereas Mr. Andrew had a great ready store of all kinds of learning within him; and besides that, Mr. Andrew’s spirit and courage were far above the other. Upon which judgment the king approved.—Melville’s Diary.

Taken and adapted from, Select Extracts for the Young, and other extraneous sources
Published for the Free Church of Scotland


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