PERIOD IV.-Containing the Testimony of the first Contenders against Prelacy and Supremacy, from the Year 1570 to 1638.
Hitherto the conflict was for the concerns of Christ’s prophetical and priestly office against Paganism and Popery. But from the year 1570, and downward the testimony is stated, and gradually prosecuted for the rights, privileges and prerogatives of Christ’s kingly office; which hath been the peculiar glory of the church of Scotland, above all the churches in the earth, that this hath been given to her as the word of her testimony; and not only consequentially and reductively as all other churches may challenge a part of this dignity, but formally and explicitly to contend for this very head, the headship and kingship of Jesus Christ, the prince of the kings of the earth and his mediatory Supremacy over his own kingdom of grace, both visible and invisible. This is Christ’s supremacy, a special radiant jewel of his imperial crown, which, as it hath been as explicitly encroached upon in Scotland, by his insolent enemies, as ever by any that entered in opposition to him so it hath been more expressly witnessed and wrestled for, by his suffering servants in that land than in any place of the world. This was in a particular manner the testimony of that period, during the reign of king James the 6th; as it hath been in a great measure in our day, since the year l660. Which as it is the most important cause, of the greatest consequence that mortals can contend for; so it hath this peculiar glory in it, that it is not only for the truth of Christ, of greater value than the standing of heaven and earth, but also it is the very truth for which Christ himself died, considered as a martyr; and which concerns him to vindicate and maintain as a monarch. The witnesses of that day made such an high account of it, that they encouraged one another to suffer for it, as the greatest concern; "being a witness for Christ’s glorious and free monarchy, which, as it is the end of the other two offices, so the testimony is more glorious to God, more honourable to his Son, and more comfortable to them, than the testimony either for his prophetical office, or for his priesthood, because his kingdom was especially impugned at the time;" as Mr. Forbes and Mr. Welch wrote in a letter to the ministers at court. The corruptions and usurpations wronging this truth, that they contended against, were Prelacy and the king’s Supremacy in ecclesiastical matters; which will be useful to hint a little, how they prosecuted the conflict. When Satan (whose kingdom was then declining) by several instruments and means, both by force and fraud, did endeavour to put a stop to the reformation, by re-introducing the antichristian hierarchy of Prelacy, when he could not re-establish the antichristian doctrine of Popery; he left no means unessayed to effectuate it. And first he began to bring the name Bishop in request, that was now growing obsolete and odious, by reason of the abuse of it (as it ought to be still, for though the name he found in the scriptures, yet neither is that catachrestical [improper metaphorical] application of it to Prelates to be found, nor was there any other reason for the translation of it after that manner, except it were to please princes; seeing the native signification of it is an overseer, proper and common to all faithful pastors.) And indeed his first essay reached little further than the bare name, for they wee to be rejected to, and tried by assemblies, and hardly had so much power as superintendents before. But it was a fine court juggle for noblemen to get the church revenues into their hands, by restoring the ecclesiastical titles, and obtaining from the titulars either temporal lands, or pensions to their dependers; so they were only Tulchan bishops, "a calfskin to cause the cow give milk." Yet, though this in our day would have been thought tolerable; the faithful servants of Christ did zealously oppose it. Mr. Knox denounced Anathema to the giver, and Anathema to the receiver. And the following assembly condemned the office itself, "as having no sure warrant, authority nor ground in the book of God, but brought in by the folly and corruption of men’s invention, to the overthrow of the church; and ordained all that bruiked [possessed] the office, to demit simpliciter [unconditionally], and to desist and cease from preaching, while they received de novo [anew] admission from the General Assembly, under the pain of ex-communication." Hereby they were awakened and animated to a more vigorous prosecution of the establishment of the house of God in its due government. In pursuance whereof, the assemblies from that time, until the year 1581, did with much painfulness and faithfulness attend the work; until, by perfecting of the Second Book of Discipline, they completed their work, in the exact model of Presbyterial Government, in all its courts and officers; which was confirmed and covenanted to be kept inviolate, in the National Covenant, subscribed that year by the king, his court and council; and afterwards by all ranks of people in the land. Whence it may be doubted, whether the impudence of the succeeding Prelates, that denied this, or their perjury in breaking of it, be greater. This was but the first brush. A brisker assault follows; wherein, for the better establishment of Prelacy, that what it wants of divine right, might be supplied by the accession of human prerogative, and not only Diocesan but also Erastian Prelacy might be set up, to destroy Christ’s kingdom, and advance Satan’s; the earl of Arran, and his wicked complices mover the king, contrary both to the word and oath of God, to usurp the prerogative of Jesus Christ, and assume to himself a blasphemous monster of Supremacy, over all persons, and in all causes, as well ecclesiastical as civil. But this also the faithful servants of God did worthily and valiantly resist; and at the very first appearance of it, gave in a grievance to the king in the year 1582, "That he had taken upon him a spiritual power, which properly belongs to Christ, as only king and head of the church; the ministry and execution whereof is only given to such as bear office in the ecclesiastical government in the same: so that in the king’s person, some men press to erect a new Popedom, as though he could not be full king of this commonwealth, unless as well the spiritual as temporal sword be put in his hand, unless Christ be rest of his authority, and the two jurisdictions confounded, which God hath divided, which directly tendeth to the wreck of all true religion." Which being presented by the commissioners of the General Assembly, the Earl of Arran asked with a frowning countenance, who dare subscribe these treasonable articles? Mr. Andrew Melvin [Melville] answered, we dare, and will subscribe, and render our lives in the cause. And afterward, that same assembly presented articles showing, "That seeing the spiritual jurisdiction of the church is granted by Christ, and given only to them, that by preaching, teaching, and overseeing, bear office within the same, to be exercised, not by the injunctions of men but by the only rule of God’s word.——Hereafter, no other of whatsoever degree, or under whatsoever pretense, have any colour to ascribe, or to take upon them any part thereof either in placing or displacing of ministers, without the church’s admission, or in stopping the mouths of preachers, or putting them to silence, or take upon them the judgment of trial of doctrine, etc." But in contempt and contradiction to this, and to prosecute and exert this new usurped power, Mr. Andrew Melvin [Melville] was summoned before the secret council, for a sermon of his, applying his doctrine to the times corruptions; whereupon he gave in his declinature against them, as imcompetent judges, and told them, ‘They were too bold, in a constitute christian church, to pass by the pastors, prophets and doctors, and to take upon them to judge the doctrine, and to control the ambassadors of a greater than was there, which they neither ought nor can do. There are (saith he, loosing a little Hebrew bible from his girdle) my instructions and warrant: see if any of you can control me, that I have past my injunctions.’ For this he was decerned [decided] to be warded in the castle of Edinburgh; but he being informed, that if he entered in ward, he would not be released, unless it were for the scaffold, he conveyed himself secretly out of the country. Hereafter when the parliament 1584 had enacted this supremacy and submission to Prelacy to be subscribed by all ministers; the faithful first directed Mr. David Lindsay to the king, desiring, that nothing be done in parliament prejudicial to the church’s liberty, who got the prison of Blackness for his pains. And then when they could not bet access for shut doors to protest before the parliament; yet when the acts were proclaimed at the cross of Edinburgh, they took public documents in name of the church of Scotland (though they were but two) that they protested against the said acts, and fled to England, leaving behind them reasons that moved them to do so. And Mr. James Melvin [Melville] wrote against the subscribers at that time very pertinently; proving first, "That they had not only set up a new Pope, and to become traitors to Christ; and condescended to that chief error of papistry, whereupon all the rest depend; but further, in so doing, they had granted more to the king, than ever the popes of Rome peaceably obtained, etc." And in the end, as for those that lamented their own weakness and feebleness, he advises them, to remove the public slander, "by going boldly to the king and lords, and show them how they had fallen through weakness, but by God’s power and risen again; and there by public note and witness taken, free themselves from that subscription, and to will the same to be delete, renouncing and detesting it plainly, and thereafter publicly in their sermons; and by their declaration and retractation in writ, presented to the faithful, manifest the same, let them do with stipend, benefice, and life itself, what they list [choose]." This I insert, because this counsel is now condemned; and when poor people, offended with ministers subscriptions of bonds and other compliances, desire acknowledgments of the offense, they reject it as an impertinent imposition, and plead they are not obliged to manifest any retractation but to an ecclesiastical judicatory. To which I shall say nothing here, but this is no novelty. After this, it is known what bickerings the faithful witnesses of Christ had, in their conflicts with this supremacy, upon the account of Mr. David Black’s declinature, which they both advised him to, and approved when he gave it in, against the king and council, as judges of his doctrine. And the commissioners of the General assembly ordained all, to deal mightily with the power of the word, against the council’s encroachments; for which they were charged to depart forth of Edinburgh. After which he added a second declinature: "Declaring, there are two jurisdictions in this realm; the one spiritual, the other civil; the one respecting the conscience, the other externals, etc."—"Therefore, in so far as he was none of the spiritual office bearers, and had discharged his spiritual calling in some measure of grace and sincerity, should not, nor could not be lawfully judged for preaching and applying the word, by any civil power; he being an ambassador and messenger of the Lord Jesus, having his commission from the king of kings, and all his instructions set down and limited in the book of God, that cannot be extended, abridged, or altered by any mortal wight [warrior], king or emperor; and seeing he was sent to all sorts, his commission and discharge of it should not, nor cannot be lawfully judged by them to whom he was sent; they being sheep, and not pastors, to be judged by the word, and not to be judges thereof in a judicial way." The Interlocutor [judgment or court order] being passed against him for this, the brethren thought it duty, that the doctrine of preachers should be directed against the said Interlocutor [judgment], as against a strong and mighty hold set up against the Lord Jesus and the freedom of the gospel; and praised God for the force and unity of the spirit that was among themselves. And being charged to depart out of the town, they leave a faithful declaration at large, showing how the liberties of the church were invaded and robbed. But all this was nothing, in comparison of their wrestlings for the royalties of their princely master, and privileges of his kingdom, against the tyrant’s insolencies, after he obtained the crown of England; for then he would not suffer the church to indict her own assemblies. And when the faithful thought themselves obliged to counteract his encroachments, and therefore convened in an assembly at Aberdeen in the year 1605, they were forced to dissolved and thereafter, the most eminent of the ministers there assembled were transported prisoners to Blackness. Whence, being cited before the council, they decline their judicatory. And one of their brethren, Mr. Robert Youngson, who had formerly succumbed, being moved in conscience, returned; and when the rest were standing before the council, desired to be heard, and acknowledged his fault; and therefore, howbeit not summoned by the Lords, was charged by the living God, and compelled to compear that day, to justify that assembly, to the great astonishment of the lords, and comfort of his brethren; he subscribed the declinature with the rest; and for this they were arraigned, and condemned, as guilty of treason, and banished. Before the execution of which sentence, Mr. Welch wrote to the lady Fleming, to this effect: "What am I, that he should first have called me, and then constituted me a minister of glad tidings of the gospel of salvation, these fifteen years already, and now last of all to be a sufferer of his cause and kingdom? To witness that good confession, that Jesus Christ is the King of the saints, and that his church is a most free kingdom; yea, as free as any kingdom under heaven, not only to convocate, hold and keep her meetings, conventions and assemblies; but also to judge of all her affairs in all her meetings and conventions among his subjects. These two points, (1) That Christ is the head of his church. (2) That she is free in her government from all other jurisdiction except Christ’s, are the special cause of our imprisonment, being now convict as traitors, for maintaining thereof. We have now been waiting with joyfulness to give the last testimony of our blood in confirmation thereof, if it would please our God to be so favourable, as to honour us with that dignity." After this, the king resolving by parliament to advance the estate of bishops again, as in the time of popery, without cautions as before; and further to establish not only that Antichristian Hierarchy, but an Erastian Supremacy: the faithful ministers of Christ thought themselves bound in conscience to protest; and accordingly they offered protestation to the parliament July—1606, obtesting, "That they would reserve into the Lord’s own hands, that glory which he will communicate neither to man nor angel, to wit, to prescribe from his holy mountain a lively pattern, according to which his own tabernacle should be formed: remembering always, that there is no absolute and undoubted authority in this world, except the sovereign authority of Christ the King; to whom it belongeth as properly to rule the church, according to the good pleasure of his own will, as it belongeth to him to save his church by the merit of his own sufferings: all other authority is so entrenched within the marches of Divine command, that the least overpassing of the bounds, set by God himself, brings men under the fearful expectation of temporal and eternal judgment.——If ye should authorize bishops, ye should bring into the church the ordinance of man, which experience hath found to have been the ground of that Antichristian Hierarchy, which mounted up on the steps of bishops pre-eminence, until that man of sin came forth, as the ripe fruit of man’s wisdom, whom God shall consume with the breath of his own mouth. Let the sword of God pierce that belly, which brought forth such a monster; and let the staff of God crush that egg, which hath hatched such a cockatrice: and let not only that Roman Antichrist be thrown down from the high bench of his usurped authority, but also let all the steps, whereby he mounted up to that unlawful pre-eminence, be cut down and utterly abolished in this land: and beware to strive against God with an open displayed banner, by building up against the walls of Jericho, which the Lord hath not only cast down, but also hath laid them under an horrible interdiction and execration so that the building of them again must needs stand to greater charges to the builders, than the re-edifying of Jericho, to Hiel the Bethelite in the days of Ahab." Yet notwithstanding of all opposition, Prelacy was again restored in parliament. And to bring all to a compliance with the same, presbyteries and Synods universally charged, under highest pains, to admit a constant moderator without change; which many refused resolutely, as being the first step of Prelacy. Upon this followed a great persecution of the faithful, for their non-conformity, managed by that mongrel and monstrous kind of court, made up of clergymen and statesmen, called the high commission court, erected in the year 1610, whereby many honest men were put violently from their charges and habitations; the generality were involved in a great and fearful defection. But the cope-stone of the wickedness of that period was the ratification of the five articles of Perth, kneeling at the communion; private communion to be given to the sick, private baptism; and confirmation of children by the bishop; and observation of festival days. Which were much opposed and testified against by the faithful, from their first hatching in the year 1618, to the year 1621, when they were ratified in parliament; at what time they were also witnessed against from heaven; by extraordinary lightnings and tempests. And against this the testimony of the faithful continued, till the revolution in the year 1638. Here we see how the cause was stated in this period; and may gather also wherein it agrees; and how far it differs from the present testimony, now suffered for under all rage and reproach.
I. The matter of the testimony was one with that we are suffering for, against popery, Prelacy and supremacy; except that it was not so far extended against tyranny, because that tyrant was not such an usurper, nor such a violator of the fundamental constitutions of the civil government, as these that we have had to do withal. But as to the managing the testimony; they far outstripped their successors in this generation, in conduct and courage, prudence and zeal, as is above hinted in many instances; to which we may add some more. When several plots of papist lords had been discovered, conspiring with the king of Spain, and they were by the king’s indulgence favoured, and some were also persuaded to treat with them, famous Mr. Davidson opposed with great resolution; declaring before the Synod of Lothian, "That it favoured much of defection in these days, that such notorious rebels to God, his church, and the country, should be so treated with; we should not rashly open a door to God’s enemies, without better proof of their manners nor were yet seen." And when a convention in Falkland was consulting to call home these conspiring traitors, Mr. Andrew Melvin [Melville] went thither uncalled; and when found fault with by the king for his boldness, he answered, "Sir, I have a call to come here from Christ and his church, who have special interest in this turn, and against whom this convention is assembled directly; I charge you, and your estates, in the name of Christ and his church, that ye favour not his enemies whom he hateth, nor go about to call home, nor make citizens of these, who have traitorously sought to betray their city and native country, with the overthrow of Christ’s kingdom." And further challenged them of treason against Christ, his church and the country, in that purpose they were about. About the same time, in a private conference with the king, he calls the king God’s silly vassal; and taking him by the sleeve, told him, "Sir, you, and church and country is like to be wrecked for not telling the truth, and giving you faithful counsel; we must discharge our duty, or else be enemies to Christ and you: therefore I must tell you, there are two kings and two kingdoms; there is Christ and his kingdom, whose subject king James VI. is, and of whose kingdom he is not a king, nor a head, nor a lord, but a member; and they whom Christ hath called to watch over and govern his church, have sufficient authority and power from him, which no christian king should control, but assist, otherwise they are not faithful subjects to Christ. Sir, when you were in your swaddling clouts [clothes], Christ reigned freely in this land, in spite of all his enemies; but now the wisdom of your council, which is devilish and pernicious, is this that you may be served of all sorts of men to your purpose and grandeur, Jew and Gentile, Papist and Protestant, because the ministers and Protestants in Scotland are too strong, and control the king, they must be weakened and brought low, by stirring up a party against them; and the king being equal and indifferent, both shall be fain to flee to him, so shall he be well settled: but, Sir, let God’s wisdom be the only wisdom, this will prove mere and mad folly; for his curse cannot but light upon it; so that in seeking both, you shall lose both." To the like effect Mr. Robert Bruce, in a sermon upon Psal. 51. gives faithful warning of the danger of the times. "It is not we (says he) that are party in this cause; no, the quarrel is betwixt a greater prince and them. What are we but silly men? Yet it has pleased him to set us in this office, that we should oppone [oppose] to the manifest usurpation that is made upon his spiritual kingdom. Is there a more forcible mean to draw down the wrath of God, that to let Barabbas that nobilitate [renowned] malefactor pass free, and to begin the war against Christ and his ministry. It putteth on the cope-stone, that so many of our brethren should not be so faithful, as their calling and this cause craveth. Fy [shame] upon false brethren, to see them dumb, so faint-hearted, when it comes to the shock; not only are they ashamed to speak the thing they think, which is a shame in a pastor, but speak directly against their former doctrine. They will speak the truth a while, till they be put at, but incontinent they will turn, and make their gifts weapons to fight against Christ; for there is no so malicious as an apostate, when he begins to slide back, etc." The same faithful witness, because he would not preach as the king would have him, against his own conscience, to justify and proclaim the king’s innocency, in a forged conspiracy against him, was put from his church in Edinburgh; and being requested in an insinuating manner to desist from preaching but for nine or ten days; he condescended at first, thinking the matter of no great importance; yet that night his body was cast in a fever with the terror of his conscience, and he promised he should never obey their commandments any more. These were faithful men, yet we find they challenge themselves, in deep humiliation, for their short-comings and defections. At the renovation of the national covenant March 30th, 1596, was the greatest solemnity ever had been seen in Scotland before that time; so that he place might worthily have been called Bochim. O when shall we see such a day, when even the most faithful among us, shall mourn over our far more aggravated defections; we may say, How heavily would these valiant men groan, who formerly contended so stoutly for the liberty of the church of Scotland, if they beheld this our laziness (that I may call it by no worse name!) I know notwithstanding of all this, that some encourage themselves in a base compliance with the present corruptions of our church, from the practice of these worthies; alleging, they did not scruple to hear and join with prelatical men, dispensing the ordinances. But this objection will be easily refelled [refuted], if we consider, first, the period wherein they were but growing up to a more perfect reformation, and therefore might bear with many things which we cannot, after we have been reformed from them: they were then advancing, and still gaining ground, we are now declining, and therefore should be more shy to lose what we have gained. They had then of a long time enjoyed their judicatories, unto which they might recur for an orderly redress of such grievances that offended them; and when they were deprived of them, yet they were still in hopes of recovering them; and so suspended their total secession from that corrupt church, until they should recover them; in the mean time still holding their right, and maintaining their cause against these invaders. But we were, at the very first beginning of this unhappy revolution, totally deprived of our judicatories, and denuded of all expectation of them in an ordinary way, and of all place, but what they are masters of to contend with them that way; therefore must keep ourselves free of their communion. But next, if we consider their practice, we shall find these worthies were not such conformists, as our compliers would make them. What if we find among them meetings, that were called and counted as seditious and schismatic, as ours are now? We find a field meeting, yea, a General Assembly, at Dumfermling, without and against the king’s warrant, when the ports were shut against them, in the year 1585. But that is not so pat to the purpose, as that we find private meetings at Edinburgh, and that in the very time of public service in the churches, discharged by open proclamation, in the year 1624. wherein it is charged, that they had no respect to the ordinary pastors, contemned and impugned their doctrine, disobeyed and controlled their discipline, abstained to hear the word preached, and to participate of the sacraments. And long before that, we find the sincerer sort scrupled to hear bishop Adamson, nothwithstanding that he was absolved in the assembly. And that afterwards, the doubt being proponed to the assembly, if it be a slander to a christian, to absent himself from the sermons of them that are suspended from all function in the ministry? The assembly answered, there is no slander in the case but rather it is slanderous to resort. And why is not this ground to think it slanderous, or scandalous to resort to them, who deserve to be suspended (all of them by a spiritual cognizance, and some of them to be suspended corporally for their villainy) when there can be no access orderly to do it. And the rather, because we find in this period, that sometimes ministers were so faithful and zealous against the corruptions of the ministry, that they decerned [decided] ministers to be suspended for far smaller faults, than many now could exempt themselves from, viz. if they were not powerful and spiritual; if they did not apply their doctrine to corruptions; if they were obscure and too scholastic before the people; cold and wanting zeal, flatterers, dissembling at public sins for flattery or fear, etc. As we may read in the Advice of the Brethren, deputed for penning the corruptions in the ministry, in the year 1596. I wish our silent prudent ministers now would consider the justness of this censure, and what ground people have to be offended at such censurableness. But not only this may answer the false imputation of conformity on these witnesses of Christ at that time; but I shall set down a part of a letter of one of the banished ministers at that time, discovering his mind about hearing these men, that were then serving the times. Mr. John Welch, writing to Mr. Robert Bruce,—"What my mind is concerning the root of these branches, the bearer will show you more fully. They are no more to be counted orthodox, but apostates; they have fallen from their callings, by receiving an antichristian, and bringing in of idolatry, to make the kingdom culpable, and to expose it to fearful judgments, for such an high perfidy against an oath so solemnly enacted and given; and are no more to be counted christians, but strangers, apostates, and persecutors; and therefore, not to be heard anymore, either in public, or in consistories, colleges, or Synods; for what fellowship hath light with darkness?" We see then as to that part of the testimony, they were not dissonant to the witness of the present reproached sufferers.
II. As the matter and manner of their testimony against all the invaders of the churches privileges, did speak forth a great deal of sincere and pure zeal; so their practice was conform, showing forth a great deal of strictness, and averseness from all sinful compliances, even with things that would be now accounted of every minute an inconsiderable consequence, and for which honest sufferers now are flouted at as fools. When that oath was formed for acknowledging the supremacy, there was a clause added which might have been thought to salve the matter, according to the word of God. I fear many now would not stand to subscribe, with such a qualification. Yet, the faithful then perceived the sophistry, that it made it rather worse, affirming that that brat of hell was according to the word of God: and therefore, though there were several eminent men to persuade them to it, both by advice and example, yet they could not, in conscience, comply; and pleaded also from the illegality of that imposition, that they should be charged with the subscription of laws, a thing never required before of any subject; if they offended against the laws, why might they not be punished according to the laws? When many honest faithful patriots, for their attempt at Ruthven to deliver the country from a vermin of villains that abused the king, to the destruction of the church and kingdom were charged to crave pardon, and take remission; they would do neither, judging it a base condemning of duty; which puts a brand upon our sneaking supplicators, and petitioners, and pardon-mongers, as unworthy to be called the race of such worthies, who scorned such baseness, and chose rather to endure the extremity of their unjust sentences of intercommuning and banishment, etc. And when the Earl of Gowrie accepted of a remission, he afterwards condemned himself for it, and desired that his old friends would accept of his friendship, to whom he had made himself justly suspected. Mr. Black, when he had the same favour offered him, refused altogether, lest so doing he should condemn himself, and approve the courts proceedings; and the brethren, conferring with the counselors, craving that some penalty should be condescended unto for satisfying his majesty in his honour, would not condescend to any, how light soever; lest thereby they should seem to approve the judicatory and their proceedings. The imprisoned ministers, for declining the council, had it in their offer, that if they would without any concession of offense, only submit themselves to his majesty, for scandal received, not given, they should be restored to their places: but it pleased God so to strengthen them, that they stopped their mouths, and convinced them in their consciences, that they could not do it without betraying of the cause of Christ. Again, in another case, we have instances of such strictness, as is much scorned nowadays. The ministers of Edinburgh were committed to ward for refusing to pray for the queen, before her execution in Fothringham castle 1586. they refused not simply to pray for her, but for the preservation of her life, as if she had been innocent of the crimes laid to her charge, which had imported a condemnation of the proceedings against her. Afterwards, in the year 1600. the ministers of Edinburgh would not praise God for the delivery of the king from a pretended conspiracy of the Earl of Gowrie at that time, of which they had no credit nor assurance; and would not crave pardon for it neither. For this Mr. Robert Bruce was deprived of the exercise of his ministry, and never obtained it again in Edinburgh: but now, for refusing such compelled and imposed devotion, to pray or praise for the king, poor people are much condemned. I know it alleged, that these faithful sufferers in those days, were not so strict as they are now, in submitting to unjust sentences, and obeying and keeping their confinements. I shall grant, there was much of this, and much might be tolerated in their circumstances, when the court’s procedure against them was not so illegal, their authority was not so tyrannical, nor so necessary to be disowned, and they were so stated, that they were afraid to take guilt upon them, in making their escapes; whereas it is not so with us. Yet we find very faithful men broke their confinements; as Mr. John Murray, confined at Dumfries, perceiving there was no end of the bishop’s malice, and that he would be in no worse case than he was, he resolved without license, either of king or council, to transport himself: so did also Mr. Robert Bruce.
III. For resistance of superior powers, we have in this period, first the practice of some noblemen at Ruthven, in the year 1582. who took the King, and seized on that arrant traitor, enemy to the church and country the Earl of Arran; declaring to the world the causes of it, the King’s correspondence with papists, his usurping the supremacy over the church, and oppressing the ministers, all by means of his wicked counselors, whom therefore they removed from him. The king himself emitted a declaration allowing this deed. The general assembly approved of it, and persuaded to a concurrence with it, and nothing was wanting to ratify it, as a most lawful and laudable action. At length the fox escapes, and changes all, and retracts his former declaration. The lords again rally, and enterprise the taking of the castle of Stirling, and gain it; but afterward surrender it: after which the Earl of Gowrie was executed, and ministers are commanded to retract the approbation of Ruthven business, but they refused; and many were forced to flee to England, and the lords banished. But, in the year 1585, they return with more success, and take the castle of Stirling. The cowardly king does again acknowledge and justify their enterprise, that they needed no apology of words, weapons had spoken well enough, and gotten them audience to clear their own cause: but his after carriage declared him as crafty and false, as he was cowardly and fearful. Again, we have the advice of the General Assembly, for resisting, when the ministers were troubled upon Mr. Black’s business, and there was an intention to pull them out of their pulpits: they advised them to stand to the discharge of their calling, if their flocks would save them from violence was expected from the king and his emissaries. As to that point then there can be no dispute.
IV. There was little occasion for the question about the king’s authority in this period, but generally all acknowledged it; because they were not sensible of his usurpation, and his cowardice made him incapable of attempting anything that might raise commotions in civil things. Yet we remark, that whatsoever authority he usurped beyond his sphere, that was disowned and declined by all the faithful, as the supremacy. Next that they resented, and represented very harshly, any aspiring to absoluteness; as Mr. Andrew Melvin [Melville] could give it no better name, nor entertain no better notion of it, than to term it, The bloody gully [house of fools], as he inveighs against it in the Assembly 1582. And next, in this same period, we have a very good description of that authority, which the king himself allows not to be owned, which out of a kings mouth abundantly justifies the disowning of the present tyranny: this same king James, in a speech to the parliament, in the year 1609, saith, A king degenerateth into a tyrant, when he leaveth to rule by law, much more when he beginneth to invade his subjects persons, rights and liberties, to set up an arbitrary power, impose unlawful taxes, raise forces, make war upon his subjects, to pillage, plunder, waste, and spoil his kingdoms.