Simson, Archibald (DNB00)

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SIMSON, ARCHIBALD (1564?–1628), Scottish divine, probably born at Dunbar in 1564, was son of Andrew Simson (d. 1590?) [q. v.], by his wife Violet, sister of Patrick Adamson [q. v.], archbishop of St. Andrews. Patrick Simson [q. v.] was his brother. Archibald graduated at the university of St. Andrews in 1585, and in the following year became assistant to his father at Dalkeith in Midlothian. On his father's death he succeeded to the charge. He acquired some fame as a poet, and attracted the notice of Sir John Maitland [q. v.] of Thirlestane, chancellor of the kingdom. Through his good offices Dalkeith was definitely erected into a parish in 1592.

In the conflict between church and state Simson was found on the side of the theocratic presbyterians. In 1605 he arrived at Aberdeen too late to take part in the famous assembly which met in defiance of the royal wishes. But in company with the other ministers of his presbytery he declared, before departing homewards, his adhesion to all the acts of the late general assembly (Calderwood, Hist. of Scottish Kirk, vi. 444). For this he was summoned before the privy council, but dismissed on promising more moderate behaviour in future (Reg. of Scottish Privy Council, 1604–7, pp. 105–6). Notwithstanding, he was one of those who crowded to support the five ministers who were brought to trial for treason in convening a general assembly in defiance of the king's prohibition (ib. p. 479; Calderwood, vi. 457).

In 1615 a murderous assault was made on him by one Robert Strachan of Musselburgh, for which the assailant had to do penance by standing on consecutive Sundays, clad in sackcloth and barefoot, in the churchyards of Dalkeith and Musselburgh (Reg. Scottish Privy Council, 1613–16, p. 368).

In 1617 Simson again placed himself in opposition to the crown. An act was brought forward in the Scottish parliament to the effect that ‘whatever his majesty should determine in the external government of the church, with the advice of the archbishops, bishops, and a competent number of the ministry, should have the force of law.’ The more independent of the clergy at once took fright, and on 27 June a meeting was hastily held, at which a protest was drawn up and signed by fifty-five of the ministers present, to the effect that the proposed statute was a violation of the fundamental rule of the Scottish church that changes of ecclesiastical law should be by the ‘advice and determination’ of general assemblies of the church. This document they resolved to present to the king; but to render the procedure as mild as possible, Peter Hewat was instructed to give James a copy which contained only the signature of Archibald Simson, who had acted as secretary of the meeting (ib. 1616–1619, pp. xlviii–lvii, 166; Calderwood, vii. 253, 256). In consequence the bill was not proceeded with in parliament, but the weight of James's resentment fell on Simson and his confederates. On 1 July Simson was summoned before the court of high commission, deprived of his charge, and confined to the town of Aberdeen. On 11 Dec. he acknowledged his offence and obtained restoration to his charge (Reg. of Scottish Privy Council, 1616–19, pp. 183, 280; Calderwood, vii. 257, 260, 286). A summons was sent for his ‘recompearance’ before the same court, 7 June 1620, which he avoided through the intercession of William, earl of Morton (ib. vii. 444). He died in December 1628 at Dalkeith. He married Elizabeth Stewart, who survived him.

Simson may be credited with ‘Ad Comitem Fermolodunensem Carmen,’ 1610, 4to, which has also been ascribed to his father, and he contributed a congratulatory poem in praise of James VI, entitled ‘Philomela Dalkeithiensis,’ to the ‘Muses' Welcome,’ Edinburgh, 1618, fol. He has also been identified with the author of ‘A Commentary or Exposition upon the Divine Second Epistle Generall written by St. Peter, plainely and pithily handled by A. Symson’ (London, 1632, 8vo), which is, however, more generally ascribed to Andrew Simson, the lexicographer, father of Andrew Simson (1638–1712) [q. v.], author of the ‘Large Description of Galloway.’ Archibald Simson's other works are: 1. ‘Christes Testament unfolded; or seauen godlie and learned Sermons on our Lords seauen last Words spoken on the Cross,’ Edinburgh, 1620, 8vo. 2. ‘Heptameron; the Seven Days; that is, Meditations and Prayers upon the Worke of the Lords Creation,’ St. Andrews, 1621, 8vo. 3. ‘Samsons seaven Lockes of Haire allegorically expounded,’ St. Andrews, 1621, 8vo. 4. ‘Hieroglyphica Animalium, Reptilium, Insectorum, &c. quæ in Scripturis Sacris inveniuntur,’ 2 tom. Edinburgh, 1622–4, 4to. 5. ‘A Sacred Septenarie, or a Godly Exposition of the seven Psalmes of Repentance,’ London, 1623, 8vo. 6. ‘Life of Patrick Simson’ [q. v.], printed in ‘Select Biographies,’ ed. W. K. Tweedie for the Wodrow Society, Edinburgh, 1845, 8vo.

The following works by him remain in manuscript in the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh: 1. ‘Historia Ecclesiastica Scotorum.’ 2. ‘Annales Ecclesiæ Scoticanæ’ (Sibbald, Repertory of Manuscripts in the Advocates' Library, p. 122).

[Scott's Fasti Eccl. Scot. I. i. 262; New Statistical Account, i. 518; Scot's Apologetic Narrative, p. 424.]

E. I. C.