August 1: Birth of Andrew Melville

Knox’s Number Two

We begin, readers, with a quick quiz this day.  Name the Reformers who followed men like Luther, Calvin, and Knox in their respective countries of ministry.  In other words, who was number two?  In Germany, it was Martin Luther and ________________,  Geneva’s John Calvin was followed by ________________.  And in our country of interest, Scotland, it was John Knox and _________________.

If you answered Martin Luther and Phillipp Melanchthon for Germany, John Calvin and Theodore Beza for Geneva, and John Knox and Andrew Melville for Scotland, give yourself a treat, for all three of these are the identities for Number Two Reformers.

melvilleAndrewOur focus today is Andrew Melville, who was born this day, August 1, 1545 in Baldovy, Scotland.  He had more than a little hardship in that before  he was five years old, both his father and mother died.  One of his nine brothers, Richard, took charge of Andrew, giving him the best schooling he could bring to bear upon the situation.  By the age of 14, Andrew went to and graduated from St. Andrews University, having the reputation of being “the best philosopher, poet, and Grecian of any young master in the land.”

In 1564, Andrew left Scotland to study in France, and after training in Hebrew and the legal profession, went to Geneva, where he sat under Theodore Beza.  At the urging of his fellow students, he returned to Scotland.  He was influential of introducing European methods of education, where one professor taught only those students who were interested in his expertise, rather than having one professor teaching every topic to a group of students.  The reputation of the Scottish universities grew until students from all over flocked to the schools.

The age-old issue of Presbyterianism versus Anglican government and doctrine was still being debated in the land.  Who was the head of the church?  Was it the king of England, or was it King Jesus?  Melville clearly believed the latter and was prepared to oppose the former all of his days of ministry in the land.

Andrew Melville went on to serve the Lord of the church as an educator, pastor, and churchman as the Apostle of Presbyterianism.  Elected Moderator of the General Assembly five times, he was the key author of the Second Book of Discipline.   Unmarried,  his life and ministry was always for the glory of Jesus and the advancement of His church.

He is the author of that famous “Two Kingdom” speech which he delivered to King James the Sixth.  While this author will treat it by a separate post, a few words will keep us in anticipation now.  Taking the king by the sleeve, he said “Sire, I must tell  you that there are two kings and two kingdoms in Scotland: there is King James, the head of the Commonwealth, and there is Christ Jesus, the Head of the Church, who subject King James VI is, and of whose kingdom he is not a head, nor a lord, but a member . . . .”

Sent to the Tower of London as a prisoner for four years for alleged wrongs to the king, he was let out only to be banished to France, where he lived the rest of his life as a professor at the University of Sedan.  He died in 1622.

Words to Live By: Wylie paid Andrew Melville the tribute that Protestantism would  have perished were it  not for the incorruptible, dauntless and  unflinching courage of Andrew Melville.  King Jesus, give us men and women today in our land who will stand up for the gospel, come what may.  Reader, pray much for the church, your particular congregation, the churches of your presbytery, and the national denomination of which you are a part, that they will stand up for the Scriptures, the Reformed Faith, and the Great Commission.


For Further Study:
The PCA Historical Center has among its resources a number of bound volumes of The Covenanter, a 19th-century periodical. These were purchased by a founding father of the PCA, ruling elder Kenneth S. Keyes, when he discovered them at an antiques store in North Carolina in 1986. He later donated them to the Historical Center. Browsing through one of these volumes, I came across the following this evening, and copy it here for its obvious relevance.


The Wodrow Society have closed their series of valuable publications with a volume containing a Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, by Andrew Melville. It is in the original Latin, and has never been before published. We give a literal translation of his comment upon the above passage. It will be found very unlike those of the advocates of the validity of immoral power—and very like the views of the Covenanters. We have marked a few words in italics. ED. COV.

“This precept concerning obedience to magistrates, in which, in consequence of the mutual relation of subjects towards magistrates, and magistrates towards subjects, every civil duty is contained, is a universal precept, (verse 1,) no man of any class being excepted. Subjection (υποταγη) is enjoined to the supereminent (υπερεχουσαις) authorities; in which word is tacitly presumed an argument for subjection; that is, in the antithesis between the prepositions υπερ and υπο : if rulers are placed in the higher grade, subjection is due to them from inferiors. A second argument is, that a legitimate magistracy is from God, whose authority Paul calls εξουσιανlawful, not without law, or an unrestrained license. As Melancthon said, ‘The authority is to be distinguished from the person; for Paul loved civil organization and authority, but Nero and Caligula he execrated as monsters of nature, instruments of the devil, and pests of the human race.’ A third argument is derived from the fact that it is an order divinely constituted, under God, for the glory of God. For so I interpret υπο τον θεον τεταγμεναι, as meaning, not so much ‘by God,’ which had already been said, as ‘powers ordained’ under God:* [*Melville here adduces a number of instances from classical writers confirming his interpretation.] which he calls, with the article, τας ουασας εξουσιας, as if he would say τας οντως εξουσιαςpowers that are really such, and deserve the name. Hence an impious and unjust tyranny, which is neither from God, as such, nor at all according to the divine ordination, he excludes as illegitimate from this legitimate obedience, unless at any time it may seem good to God to impose even upon his own people a tyrannical government as a paternal rod for their chastisement,—for then, indeed, they should obey it, provided it enjoin nothing impious towards God, or unjust towards others—for in such cases its authority is to be disregarded.* [*It is plain that Melville had in his eye such a case as that of the Jews under the Babylonish captivity, and that the obedience to which he refers is a mere submission to a painful infliction. In a word, a submission to God’s hand laid upon them in providence.]

“In verse 2 he concludes, from the second and third arguments, that they who resist God and the ordinance of God, resist the divine power, and consequently bring upon themselves judgment—that is, condemnation and ruin; which itself constitutes a fourth argument—the uselessness and hurtfulness of disobedience. In verse 3 he renders a reason why those authorities which are not to be resisted are from God and ordained of God; adding a fifth argument for obedience—’Magistrates are not a terror to good works, but to the evil,’ therefore they are of God, and are his ordinance, and are to be obeyed; for the magistrates of whom we speak are not unreasonable tyrants, but kind and just princes, by whom punishments have been appointed for the wicked, and rewards for the good. This he proves (verse 4) from the fact that the magistrate is the minister of God for the good of the church and of good men, nor less of vengeance upon the wicked by inflicting punishment upon them. Hence he concludes (verse 5) that subjection is necessary for a twofold reason—to escape this vengeance, and for the preservation of a good conscience, and more for conscience’ sake, than through fear of suffering.” “Therefore it is good princes and legitimate magistrates, of whom the apostle here treats and so graphically describes, to whom all legitimate obedience is due.” 


  1. Ted Jones’s avatar

    You say Andrew Melville was born in 1545, and died in FRance in 1662. Very long life!

  2. archivist’s avatar

    Thanks for catching that slip of the keyboard, Ted. 1662 has been on our minds. The correct death date for Andrew Melville is 1622. He died in Sedan, France. There does not appear to be a more exact date of death readily available.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *

110,463 Spam Comments Blocked so far by Spam Free Wordpress

%d bloggers like this: