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A good sentence found on Page 287 in McCrie’s Lives of the Scottish Reformers, which might be used as an opener on some post:

“The year 1596 is memorable in the history of the church of Scotland. “It had,” says James Melville, “a strange variety and mixture; the beginning thereof with a shew of profit in planting the churches with perpetual local stipends; the midst of it very comfortable for the exercise of reformation and renewing the covenant; but the end of it tragical in wasting the Zion of our Jerusalem, the church of Edinburgh, and threatening no less to many of the rest.”

James Melville (26 July 1556 – 1614) was a Scottish divine and reformer, son of the laird of Baldovie, in Forfarshire. He was educated at Montrose and St Leonard’s College, St Andrews.

In 1574 he proceeded to the University of Glasgow. There his uncle, Andrew Melville, the reformer and scholar, was principal. Within a year James became one of the regents.

When, in 1580, Andrew became Principal of St Mary’s College, St Andrews (then called New College), James accompanied him, and acted as Professor of Hebrew and Oriental Languages. For three and a half years he lectured in the university, chiefly on Hebrew, but he had to flee to Berwick in May 1584 (a few months after his uncle’s exile) to escape the attacks of his ecclesiastical enemy, Bishop Patrick Adamson. After a short stay there and at Newcastle-on-Tyne, and again at Berwick, he proceeded to London, where he joined some of the leaders of the Scottish Presbyterian party.

The taking of Stirling Castle in 1585 having changed the political and ecclesiastical positions in the north, he returned to Scotland in November of that year, and was restored to his office at St Andrews. From 1586 to his death he took an active part in Church controversy.

In 1589 he was moderator of the General Assembly and on several occasions represented his party in conferences with the court. Despite his antagonism to James’s episcopal schemes, he appears to have won the king’s respect. He answered, with his uncle, a royal summons to London in 1606 for the discussion of Church policy.

The uncompromising attitude of the kinsmen, though it was made the excuse for sending the elder to the Tower, brought no further punishment to James than easy detention within ten miles of Newcastle-on-Tyne. During his residence there it was made clear to him by the king’s agents that he would receive high reward if he supported the royal plans. In 1613 negotiations were begun for his return to Scotland, but his health was broken, and he died at Berwick in January 1614.

Melville has left ample materials for the history of his time from the Presbyterian standpoint, in (a) correspondence with his uncle Andrew Melville (MS. in the library of the university of Edinburgh), and (b) a diary (MS. in the Advocates Library, Edinburgh). The latter is written in a vigorous, fresh style, and is especially direct in its descriptions of contemporaries. His sketch of John Knox at St Andrews is one of his best passages. It is an original authority for the period, written with much naïveté, and revealing an attractive personality.

As a writer of verse he compares unfavourably with his uncle. All his pieces, with the exception of a libellus supplex to King James, are written in Scots. He translated a portion of the Zodiacus vitae of Palingenius, and adapted some passages from Scaliger under the title of Description of the Spainyarts naturall. His Spiritual Propine of a Pastour to his People (1598), The Black Bastill, a lamentation for the kirk (1611), Thrie may keip Counsell, give Twa be away, The Beliefe of the Singing Soul, Davids Tragique Fall, and a number of sonnets show no originality and indifferent technical ability.

The Diary was printed by the Bannatyne Club in 1829, and by the Wodrow Society in 1842. Large portions of it are incorporated in David Calderwood’s (1575-1650) History of the Kirk of Scotland (first printed in 1678). For the life and times, see Thomas McCrie’s Life of Andrew Melville.

 

Page 350 – death of Melville, January 19th, 1614.

“A letter from Sir James Fullerton, which he received in the month of April, 1614, gave a shock to his feelings which it required all his fortitude to bear. His dearest friend, and most affectionate and dutiful nephew, James Melville, was no more. His health had for some time been in a state of decline, which was accelerated by grief at the issue of public affairs in Scotland, which his extreme sensibility disposed him to brood over with too intense and exclusive an interest. In consequence of the importunity of his friends and an apparent earnest invitation from archbishop Gladstanes, he set out for Edinburgh, in the beginning of the year 1614, to arrange matters for his return to Kilrinny, or, if this was found impracticable, to resign his charge and make permanent provision for that parish. But he had not gone far when he was taken so ill as to be unable to proceed on the journey, and with difficulty returned to Berwick. The medicines prescribed by the physicians failed in arresting the progress of the distemper, which soon exhibited alarming symptoms. He received the intimation of his danger with the most perfect composure, and told his friends that he was not only resigned to the will of God, but satisfied that he could not die at a more proper season. On Wednesday the 19th of January, he “set his house in order;” and all his children being present, except his son Andrew, (who was prosecuting his theological studies at Sedan,) he gave them his dying charge and parental blessing. His friend Joshua Drury, minister of St. Andrews, and Patrick Hume of Ayton, a gentleman who had shown him great kindness during his residence at Berwick, waited by his bed-side. The greater part of his time was spent in prayer. When he mentioned the Church of Scotland, he prayed for repentance and forgiveness to those who had caused a schism in it by overturning its reformed discipline; and, addressing those around him, he said: “In my life I ever detested and resisted the hierarchy, as a thing unlawful and antichristian, for which I am an exile, and I take you all to witness that I die in the same judgment.” He made particular mention of his uncle at Sedan; gave him a high commendation for learning, but still more for courage and constancy in the cause of Christ; and prayed that God would continue and increase the gifts bestowed on him. In the midst of the acute pain which he endured during that night and the succeeding morning, he expressed his resignation and confidence chiefly in the language of Scripture, and often repeated favourite sentences from the Psalms in Hebrew. Being reminded by some of his attendants of the Christian assurance which the apostle Paul had expressed in the prospect of his death, he replied: “Every one is not a Paul; yet I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, and I am assured that I shall enter into glory.” — “Do you not wish to be restored to health?” said one of the attendants. “No; not for twenty worlds.” Perceiving nature to be nearly exhausted, his friends requested him to give them a token that he departed in peace; upon which he repeated the last words of the martyr Stephen, and breathed gently away.

[McCrie, Life of Andrew Melville, pp. 350-351; cf. Calderwood, MS. vii. 505-513.]

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It is well also for another reason, that—if obliged to publish at present only a part of these records—Drs. Mitchell and Struthers should have selected the “Minutes,” beginning with November, 1644, for this first volume.  From “Lightfoot’s Journal of the Assembly of Divines,” extending from the opening of the Assembly, July 3d, 1648, to December 31st, 1644, and from George Gillespie’s “Notes of Proceeding of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster,” extending from February 2 to May 3, from September to December 31, 1644, we are enabled to form a much clearer conception of the course of discussion in the As­sembly, than could possibly be done from the imperfect memo­randa of these Minutes.  This will be very apparent on a com­parison of the jottings of these Minutes with the Notes of Lightfoot and Gillespie, covering, with several omissions, the brief period from November to December 31, 1644.  The three records of December 9th, 1644, are as follows:

  1. Lightfoot’s account is:

“We speedily fell upon the business about burial as soon as we were set ; and the matter was, whether to have anything spoken at the burial of the dead.

“Dr. Temple moved that something might be said at the very interment of the body ; but this was thought not fit to be given any rule for, but rather to pass it over in silence ; and so the minister left something to his liberty.  Dr. Temple moved again, whether a minister, at putting a body into the ground, may not say, ‘We commit this body to the ground,’ etc.  And it was conceived of the Assembly that he might ; and the words ‘without any ceremony more,’ do not tie him up from this.

“Then fell our great controversy about funeral sermons ; and here was our difficulty—how to keep funeral sermons is England for fear of danger by alteration, and yet to give content to Scotland that are averse from there.  It was the sense of the Assembly in general, that funeral sermons may be made, if a minister be called on for it; and the debate was now to find terms to fit and suit with both parties.  At last we fixed on this: ‘That the people should take up thoughts and conferences concerning death, mortality, etc.; and the minister, if he be present, shall put them in mind of that duty.’  Here I excepted at the last word, ‘duty,’ for that a little speech would put them in mind of medi­tating and conferring spiritually; therefore I moved an alteration, which was much backed by divers, and it was changed, ‘of their duty.’  The mind of the Assembly was that these words give liberty for funeral ser­mons.  And thus we had done the directory for burial.

“Then fell we upon the report of our votes concerning Church Gov­ernment, where we had left off the last day; and when we had done them, Mr. Burroughs entered his dissent against two or three propositions, viz. against the subordination of Assemblies one to another, and against the instance of the Church of Ephesus for a Presbytery ; and so did Mr. Nye, Mr. Carter, Mr. Sympson, and Mr. Bridges; and Mr. Sympson offered from Mr. Goodwin to enter his dissent ; but we would not admit of any proxies.”

  1. Gillespie’s account of the same debate, under date Decem­ber 9, 1644, is :

“The votes of Government were read and ordered to be transcribed, that they may be sent to the Parliament.

“Messrs. Burroughs, Nye, Bridges, Sympson, and Carter entered their dissent from three of the propositions :  1. That there is a subordination of congregational, classical, provincial, and national Assemblies for the government of the Church.  2. That the example of the Church of Ephesus proves the propositions concerning Presbyterial government.

  1. That no congregation which may associate ought to assume all and sole power of ordination. Mr. Goodwin and Mr. Greenhill were not present.”

It will be seen that he omits the debate on funerals altogether.

  1. Now, under the same date of December 9, 1644, the Minutes before us make the following record :

Sess. 337, Dec. 9, 1644, Monday Morning.

“ Protestation read.  Debate of the Directory for Burial…. Neverthe­less this doth not inhibit any minister at that time being present to give some seasonable word of exhortation.

Mr. Marshall offered a paper to express the affirmative part.

“ Debate about something to be added to the negative.

Dr. Temple made report of the alterations in the frame* of govern­ment.

“ Ordered, this draught of Government be transcribed, to be sent to both Houses of Parliament.

Mr. Burroughs enters his dissent from the subordination of Assem­blies in that proposition, ‘it is lawful and agreeable ;’ and that ‘of par­ticular congregations assuming the power of ordination ;’ and that ‘of the Church of Ephesus,’ if you mean [that they were congregations, fixed.]

Mr. Nye enters his dissent to the same propositions.

Mr. Carter desires the same.  Mr. Sympson desires the same.  He also desired that Mr. Goodwyn’s dissent may be entered, he being not well.

Ordered, That he have leave against to-morrow.

“ Mr. Bridges desired the same.”

This comparative exhibition of what is said in the “Journal” of Lightfoot, and the “ Notes” of Gillespie, and in these Mi­nutes,” touching the debate of December 9, selected by us at random, will enable the reader to form some conception of the general nature and style of these recently discovered records.

  • “Draught” is written above “frame” in the manuscript, which, as will be seen from Lightfoot, quoted already, is more proper.

The words in these brackets are crossed over with a black line.

 

 

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Our post today is drawn from Richard Webster’s History of the Presbyterian Church in America (1857).

ALEXANDER CUMMING
He was full of prayers.

WAS born at Freehold, New Jersey, in 1726.  His father, Robert Cumming, from Montrose, Scotland, was an elder, and often sat in synod.

He was educated under his maternal uncle, Samuel Blair, and studied theology with his pastor, William Tennent.  Licensed by the New-Side Presbytery of Newcastle, in 1746 or ‘’47, he was sent by the synod, in compliance with pressing supplications, and spent some time in Augusta county, Virginia.  He was the first Presbyterian minister that preached within the bounds of Tennessee.  Remaining some time in North Carolina, he married Eunice, daughter of Colonel Thomas Polk, the President (in May, 1775) of the Mecklenburg Convention.

He was a stated supply in Pennsylvania for some time.  Though not ordained, he opened the Synod of New York with a sermon, in September, 1750.  In the following month he was ordained, by New York Presbytery, and installed collegiate pastor with Pemberton, in New York.

Unanimously called, his clear, discriminating mind, his habits of close study, his instructive and excellent preaching, his happy faculty of disentangling and exhibiting difficult and abstruse subjects, peculiarly attracted and delighted his more cultivated hearers.  The Hon. William Smith, in writing to Bellamy, says, “His defect in delivery was not natural, but the effect of bad example:  his elocution, however, is not, and cannot ever be, as prompt as yours.”  But before the second year of his ministry closed, the presbytery was called to consider the difficulties which had arisen, and, in 1752, referred the case to the synod.  The complaints against him were, that, when disabled by sickness, he did not invite Pemberton to preach; that he insisted on his right as pastor to sit with the trustees, and manage the temporalities; for encouraging the introduction of Watts’s Psalms, and for insisting on family prayer as a necessary prerequisite in every one to whose child he administered baptism.

He requested to be dismissed, October 25, 1753, because his low state of health would not allow him to go on with his work in the divided, confused state of the congregation.  No opposition was made, and he was dismissed.

Cumming joined with his parishioners, Livingston, Smith, and Scott, in publishing the “Watch-Tower,” the “Reflector,” the “Independent Whig,”—spirited, patriotic appeals against the steady encroachments of the royal prerogative on our constitutional liberties.

In feeble health, and with little prospect of usefulness, he remained without charge till February 25, 1761, when he was installed pastor of the Old South Church in Boston.  He preached on that occasion, and Pemberton gave the charge, and welcomed him.  “I do it with the greater pleasure, being persuaded, from a long and intimate acquaintance, that you are animated by the spirit of Christ in taking this office upon you, and that you desire no greater honour or happiness than to be an humble instrument to promote the kingdom of our adorable Redeemer.”

William Allen,[1] of Philadelphia, Chief-Justice of Pennsylvania, wrote to Dr. Mayhew, of Boston, in 1763, and thanked him for the gift of two sermons, “which, you hint, were preached on account of Mr. Cumming’s reveries; for I can call nothing that comes from him by a better name, nor ought I, if he continues to be the same man he was with us.  He offered himself to the congregation here, of which I am a member:  though the greater part are moderate Calvinists, they could not relish his doctrines.” After charging Cumming with teaching that works are dangerous to the soul, faith being every thing, he adds, “He may be a pious, well-disposed man, but I believe he is a gloomy, dark enthusiast, and a great perverter of the religion of Jesus Christ as taught in the gospel.”

To Allen and Mayhew, Cumming seemed “an extravagant fanatic.”  It was a wonder how he could have been admitted a minister in Boston.  Yet he was condemned as a Legalist by the favourers of the other extreme.

Andrew Croswell, a zealous follower of Davenport, had settled in Boston.  He published a sermon, with the title, “What is Christ to me if he is not mine?” presenting the view—perhaps distorted—of Marshall, in his “Gospel Mystery of Sanctification,” and Hervey, in his “Theron and Aspasio.”  Cumming replied, taking the ground of Bellamy.  It was perhaps his earnestness on this point that arrayed his Scottish hearers against him in New York. They had the Erskines in great reverence:  they loved the doctrines which rallied Scotland’s best men against the Assembly’s decision in the Marrow controversy. Smith speaks, in his history, contemptuously of the opposition, as of the lower class; and Robert Philip brands it as a cabal of ignorance and bigotry. The fact that these persons called the Rev. John Mason from Scotland, and that they and their children constituted the congregation of Dr. John M. Mason, is a sufficient refutation of these charges.

Cumming died on this day, August 23, in 1763.  “He was full of prayers, with a lively, active soul in a feeble body.”  This was the testimony of the excellent Dr. Sewall, with whom he was joined as colleague in Boston.

Words to Live By:
We pray this can be said of you as well, that you are “full of prayers.” It is the mark of a true Christian and the blessing of a Christian who is being used in the Lord’s kingdom, seeking His will upon earth.

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Beginnings can be Interesting

Beginnings of anything can be interesting. This author once planted a mission church in  a sizeable Midwest city. He had done all the preliminary preparation for the mission. Several families committed themselves to the endeavor. The first worship service was planned in a spacious worship center of an evangelical church, rented for the occasion. We all went with expectations of a good beginning, but only one family showed up for the beginning worship time.  It is true that God did some extraordinary things in the first six years of our ministry there. I rejoice that this established church is progressing ahead by means of being a mother church to several congregations.  But it was anything but encouraging in the early years, especially that first Lord’s Day.

In 1560, a Scottish Reformation Parliament abrogated and annulled the papal jurisdiction for Scottish churches, ending all the authority flowing from Rome.

This set the grounds for the establishment of the Church of Scotland that same year. Let W. M. Hetherington in his book “History of the Church of Scotland” pick up the account. He writes on page 53, “They (the Reformation Parliament) enacted no ecclesiastical jurisdiction whatever in its stead. This it left the reformed Church to determine upon and effect by its own intrinsic powers. And this is a fact of the utmost  cannot be too well known and kept in remembrance. It is, indeed, on e of the distinctive characteristics of the Church of Scotland, that it owes its origin, its form, its jurisdiction, and its discipline, to no earthly power. And when the ministers and elders of the church of Scotland resolved to meet in a General Assembly, to deliberate on matters, which might tend to the promotion of God’s glory and the welfare of the Church, they did so in  virtue of the authority which they believed the Lord Jesus Christ had given to the Church. The parliament which abolished the papal jurisdiction made not the slightest mention of  General Assembly. In that time of comparatively simple and honest faith, even statesmen seem instinctively to have perceived, that to interfere in matters of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, so as to appoint ecclesiastical tribunals, specify  their nature, and assign their limits, was not within their province. It had been well for the kingdom if statesmen of succeeding times, certainly not their superiors in talent and in judgment, had been wise enough to follow their example.”

The first meeting of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland was held on this day, December 20, 1560. Forty delegates were in attendance. For that number, only six were ministers. They were John Knox (Edinburgh), Christophere Gudman (St. Andrews), John Row (Perth), David Lindesay (Leith), William Harlaw (St. Cuthberts), and William Christesone (Dundee). While their names with the exception of Knox and possible Row are unknown to many of our readers, Hetherington remarks that “they were men of great abilities, of deep piety, fitted and qualified by their Creator for the work which he had given them to do.” (p. 53)

Words to Live By:
Not only had the Creator fitted and qualified them, but so had their Great Redeemer fitted and acquired them to raise up a Church faithful and true to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. It may have been small in man’s estimation at the beginning, but the Spirit of God judged it otherwise. He would bring the increase in His time. So be faithful, dear reader, to where God has planted you. He will accomplish His will through you to the area where you have been planted to serve our Lord and Savior.

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Revive Us Again
written by David T. Myers

It is a remarkable true story of God’s redemptive work.

Reared in a Scottish home, William Paton MacKay was born on May 13, 1839. We know nothing of his family except that his mother was a godly Scottish woman. All during his younger years, she endeavored to place the principles of biblical Christianity into his heart, but was met with only resistance by her son. When the latter went away to Edinburgh to attend the university, she handed him a Bible with his name on the inside cover which she had written, followed by John 3, verse 16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (KJV) She obviously commended him to the God of redemption.

Upon arriving at the University, William soon fell into the company of some aggressive unbelievers, joining the local infidel’s club, and began to live a godless life. To feed his drinking habit, he even sold the Bible which his mother has given to him, using the money to buy whiskey.

Fast forward to his graduation from the University of Edinburgh and his subsequent training to become a medical doctor. Now engaged in his medical practice, William was using those gifts of healing in a local city hospital when a dying man entered the hospital as a patient. The patient knew he would soon die and began to urgently request that the hospital staff get his landlady, as he yet owed her money for his rent. But also weighing heavy on his mind is a book in his apartment; he needed that book brought to him. “I need my book,” was his dying request. But alas, he perished without the book.

Curious, Dr. MacKay went to the apartment and asked the landlady about his patient’s great desire for this book. So they searched the apartment and found his Bible. But it was not just any Bible. It was the very same Bible which Dr. MacKay’s mother had given to him when he left for the university years before! Evidently, the dying man had bought the Bible from the pawn shop where young William had sold it years before.

Returning to his office at the city hospital, Dr. MacKay found his mother’s familiar writing in both his name and the text of John 3:16 on the inside cover. The pages were worn and weathered, but he could still note the texts which his mother had marked for him to read. The medical doctor read them that whole night in his medical office, and at the end of it the next mornng, his life was changed for good from a state of sin to a state of salvation.

He left the medical profession, went to a theological college, and became a minister. He served the Prospect Street Presbyterian Church, in Hull, Scotland, as their pastor. To the blessing of the wider Church, he wrote 17 hymns, always full of gospel truths. He departed to heaven on this day, August 22, in 1888.

Words to Live By:
His best known hymn is still familar today, entitled “Revive Us Again.” Oddly, it is not found in either edition of the Trinity hymnbook. That is to our loss, for it is most biblical, based both on Psalm 85:6 and Habakkuk 3:2. The fourth verse describes Rev. MacKay’s spiritual beginning when it states, “All glory and praise To the God of all grace Who has bought us and sought us and guided our ways.” God did purchase with His blood, seeking and guiding Thomas MacKay. Now, can you, the reader, trace how the God of all grace bought, sought, and guided your way to salvation?

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