Craig, John (1512?-1600) (DNB00)

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CRAIG, JOHN (1512?–1600), Scottish divine, was born about 1512, and next year lost his father, one of the Aberdeenshire family of Craigs of Craigston, at Flodden. Educated at St. Andrews, and dependent on his own exertions for his support, Craig became tutor of the children of Lord Darcy, the well-known English warden of the north. Returning to St. Andrews after two years, he joined the Dominican order, but soon fell under suspicion of heresy and was imprisoned. On his release he went in 1536 to England, where he hoped to get a place at Cambridge through Lord Darcy's influence. Failing in this he proceeded to Rome, where the patronage of Cardinal Pole obtained his admission to the Dominican convent at Bologna as master of novices. He was employed in various missions on behalf of his order in Italy and the island of Chios, and on returning to Bologna became rector, an office he held for several years. Chance having thrown in his way a copy of the ‘Institutes of Calvin,’ it was said in the library of the Inquisition, his attention was again directed to the tenets of the reformed church, and this becoming known he was sent to the prison of the Inquisition at Rome. Condemned to be burnt, he escaped execution of his sentence by the jubilee at the accession of a new pope on the death of Paul IV, or by a riot which set free the prisoners of the Inquisition. He was on the point of being re-arrested when wandering in the neighbourhood of Rome, and owed his escape to the commander of a band of soldiers, who recognised him as a monk who had rendered him services when lying wounded in Bologna. After a short stay in Bologna and Milan he went to Vienna, having received the necessary viaticum, according to a story told by his widow, but probably legendary, from a dog, which insisted, though repulsed, in forcing on him a purse it had found. At Vienna he preached as a Dominican, and was befriended by Maximilian, then archduke, who showed some leaning towards the reformed doctrines. Pius IV wrote, requiring the restitution of the two escaped prisoners of the Inquisition, but Maximilian, who had become his friend, gave him a safe-conduct through Germany to England. Reaching England in 1560, Craig preferred returning to his native country, where the reformation had been accomplished. Offering his services to the reformed church, he preached in Latin with much acceptance in the chapel of St. Magdalene, in the Cowgate of Edinburgh, and the following year was appointed minister of Holyrood. In April 1562 Knox requested that he might become his colleague in the high church, and this was carried out in 1563. His bold preaching against the nobles who seized the revenues of the church, so that ‘we can nocht discern the earl from the abbot,’ provoked the anger of Lethington, and in the memorable conference between that statesman and Knox in 1564 Craig backed his colleague's argument with a telling precedent of a discussion in the university of Bologna, where he had been present in 1554, and heard the thesis maintained ‘that all rulers, be they superior or inferior, may and ought to be refused or deposed by them by whom they are chosen, empowered, and admitted to their office, as oft as they break their promise made by oath to their subjects, because the prince is no less bound to his subjects than subjects to their princes.’ This had been applied, he said, in the case of a pope, whose governor had exceeded his limits and attempted to alter the law in part of his temporal dominions. ‘Then started up,’ narrates Knox, ‘ane lawbreaker of that corrupt court, and said, “Ye know nocht what ye say, for you tell us what was done in Bononia; we are ane kingdom and thou are but ane commonwealth;” to which Craig had the ready answer, “My lord, my judgment is that evrie kingdom is, or at least should be, ane commonwealth, albeit that evrie commonwealth be nocht ane kingdom.”’

Craig's name appears with that of Knox in the list of persons privy to Rizzio's death, sent by the Earl of Bedford and Randolph to Cecil. Proof of actual complicity is wanting, but there can be little doubt that the ministers of the reformed church approved the act after it was done, as Mary did the assassination of her brother Moray. The refusal by Craig to publish the banns between Mary and Bothwell is probably the act of his life most widely known. It certainly showed courage to remonstrate when Edinburgh was in the hands of Bothwell's followers. At an interview with Bothwell and the privy council Craig laid to his charge ‘the law of adultery, the law of ravishing, the suspicion of collusion between him and his wife, the sudden divorcement and proclaiming within the space of four days, and last, the suspicion of the king's death, which her marriage would confirm.’

He got no explanation on any of these points, but a letter from Mary having been shown him denying that she was under restraint, he in the end proclaimed the banns with a protest that ‘he abhorred and detested the marriage.’ In the general assembly Craig was blamed by some of his brethren for his compliance, but a resolution was passed absolving him, while Adam Bothwell, the bishop who performed the ceremony, was suspended.

In 1571 Knox, who had quarrelled with Mary, left Edinburgh for St. Andrews, but Craig, of a more conciliatory disposition, remained, and even lamented in a sermon ‘that there was no neutral man to make agreement between the two parties, seeing whatsoever party shall be overthrown the country shall be brought to ruin.’ Although he gave offence by this lukewarm attitude, he was chosen by the convention of the kirk at Leith one of the deputies to wait upon the queen's friends in the castle. The outspoken part he took in the conference, when he was again pitted against Lethington, is recorded in the ‘Memorials of Bannatyne,’ who was himself present. Next year he was sent by the assembly to Montrose ‘for the illuminating the north, and when he had remained two years thence to Aberdeen to illuminate those dark places in Mar, Buchan, and Aberdeen, and to teach the youth of the college there.’ In Aberdeen Craig remained six years, acting as a sort of superintendent of that district. Always a member of assembly, he was twice moderator. As a member of the committee of the assembly of 1575, to consider the question of the episcopal office, he reported against it, and this report was followed by the abolition of episcopacy in 1581. In 1579 Craig, having been appointed one of the king's chaplains, returned to Edinburgh, when he took part in the composition of ‘The Second Book of Discipline’ and ‘The National Covenant’ of 1580.

In 1581, to meet a panic of a revival of papacy caused by the arrival of the Duke of Lennox from France, he wrote: ‘Ane Shorte and Generale Confession of the true Christian Fayth and Religion, according to God's Worde and Actes of our Parliamentes.’ This confession was signed by the king and his household, from which circumstance it received the name of the king's confession. It was required to be signed by all parish ministers, and in 1585 by all graduates. It was confirmed in 1590 and 1595, and became the basis of the covenant of 1638 as well as the solemn league and covenant of 1643. In October 1581 Craig was sent by the assembly to intimate their approval of the seizure of the king by the Earl of Gowrie in the raid of Ruthven, and boldly rebuked James for his conduct, drawing tears from him as Knox had done from Mary.

When parliament in 1584 passed the Black Acts restoring episcopacy and recognising the royal supremacy, Craig denounced them from the pulpit, and in answer to Arran and the court declared that ‘he would find fault with everything that is repugnant to the word of God.’ A conference at Falkland, where he was summoned by the king, gave rise to a stormy scene between him and Arran, who then ruled the court. Interdicted from preaching and threatened with banishment for refusing submission to the royal ordinance, Craig again tried to act the part of a mediator between the king and the extreme presbyterian party led by Melville, and proposed an addition to the oath required as to the king's supremacy in matters ecclesiastical ‘as far as the word of God allows.’ This compromise was accepted by the king, and the oath was so taken by Craig and the other royal chaplains, Erskine of Drum, and many of the ministers of the north. In 1585 a sermon he preached before parliament from the text, ‘God sitteth among the assembly of the gods,’ from which he deduced the duty of obedience to kings, was severely condemned. A curious discussion of it between the Earl of Angus and David Hume of Godscroft is given by Calderwood (History, iv. 466).

Craig was now in the decline of life, and his moderation did not please more youthful zealots. But he showed no signs of departing from the reformed doctrines. In 1590 he composed, at the request of the assembly, ‘A Form of Examination before Communion,’ and in 1593 James requested the assembly to choose a list from which he might select two in respect ‘of Mr. Craig's decrepit age,’ but he continued to hold his office of chaplain for some time longer. He died on 12 Dec. 1600. His wife and his son William were named executors of his will, but are requested to take the advice of his relative, Thomas Craig, advocate [see Craig, Sir Thomas]. This son was a professor in the college of Edinburgh in 1599, but in the year of his father's death went to St. Andrews as professor of divinity, from which he afterwards returned to Edinburgh, where he died in 1616.

[Knox's History of the Reformation; Calderwood's History of the Kirk; Richard Bannatyne's Memorials; Craig's Catechism, reprinted with a valuable introduction by Mr. T. Graves Law, librarian of the Signet Library, 1885.]

Æ. M.