Fleming, Robert (1630-1694) (DNB00)

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FLEMING, ROBERT, the elder (1630–1694), Scottish ejected divine, was born in December 1630 at Yester, Haddingtonshire, of which parish, anciently known as St. Bathan's, his father, James Fleming (d. 8 April 1653), was minister. James Fleming's first wife was Martha, eldest daughter of John Knox, the Scottish reformer; Robert was the issue of a second marriage with Jean Livingston. His childhood was sickly, and he nearly lost his sight and life owing to a blow with a club. He speaks of an ‘extraordinary impression’ made upon him as a boy by a voice which he heard when he had climbed up into his father's pulpit at night; but he dates the beginning of his religious life from a communion day at Greyfriars Church, Edinburgh, at the opening of 1648. At this time he was a student of Edinburgh University, where he graduated M.A. on 26 July 1649, distinguishing himself in philosophy. He pursued his theological studies at St. Andrews under Samuel Rutherford. At the battle of Dunbar (3 Sept. 1650) he was probably in the ranks of the Scottish army, for he speaks of his ‘signal preservation.’ After license he received a call to Cambuslang, Lanarkshire, and was ordained there in 1653. His health was then so bad that ‘it seemed hopeless,’ and on the day of his ordination there was an ‘extraordinary storm,’ which he deemed an assault of Satan.

Fleming's ministry was popular and successful. On the restoration of episcopacy the Scottish parliament passed an act (11 June 1662) vacating benefices that had been filled without respect to the rights of patrons, unless by 20 Sept. the incumbent should obtain presentation (this patrons were enjoined to grant) and episcopal collation, and renounce the covenant. Failing to comply with these conditions, Fleming was deprived by the privy council on 1 Oct. During the next ten years he remained in Scotland, preaching wherever he found opportunity. Indulgences were offered to the ejected ministers in 1669 by the king, and on 3 Sept. 1672 by the privy council. By the terms of this latter indulgence Fleming was assigned to the parish of Kilwinning, Ayrshire, as a preacher. He disobeyed the order; when cited to the privy council on 4 Sept. he did not attend, and a warrant was issued for his apprehension. He fled to London, where his broad Scotch ‘idiotisms and accents’ somewhat ‘clouded’ his usefulness. In 1674 he was again in Scotland, at West Nisbet, Roxburghshire, where he had left his wife. She died in that year, and Fleming returned to London.

In 1677 he removed to Rotterdam, having been called to a collegiate charge in the Scots Church there. Next year he visited Scotland for the purpose of bringing over his children. While there he held conventicles in Edinburgh, and was thrown into the Tolbooth. Brought before the privy council in June 1679, he agreed to give bail, but declined to promise a passive obedience. He was sent back to prison, but soon obtained his liberty and returned to Rotterdam. On 2 April 1683 proceedings were taken against him in the high court of judiciary at Edinburgh, on suspicion of harbouring some of the assassins of Archbishop Sharpe; his innocence appearing, the accusation was dropped on 17 April 1684. He did not formally demit the charge of Cambuslang till March 1688, on the death of David Cunningham, who had been appointed in his place. The act of April 1689 restored him to his benefice, but he preferred to remain in Holland. During a visit to London he was seized with fever on 17 July, and died on 25 July 1694. His funeral sermon was preached by Daniel Burgess (1645–1713) [q. v.] He married Christian, daughter of Sir George Hamilton of Binny, Linlithgowshire, and had seven children. His son Robert [q. v.] succeeded him at Rotterdam. In 1672 Fleming had the infeftment of the lands of Marbreck and Formontstoun.

Fleming's ‘Fulfilling of the Scripture,’ his best-known work, is a treatise on particular providences; it is rich in illustrative anecdote, and contains valuable material mixed with legend relating to the puritan biography of Scotland and the north of Ireland.

He published: 1. ‘The Fulfilling of the Scripture,’ &c., Rotterdam, 1669, fol. Second part, ‘The Faithfulness of God,’ &c. Third part, ‘The Great Appearances of God,’ &c. [1677?] All three parts, Lond., 1681, 12mo, two vols.; third edit., 1681, 8vo; fourth edit., 1693, 8vo; fifth edit., 1726, fol.; last edit., Edinb., 1845, 8vo, two vols.; an abridgment is published by the Religious Tract Society. 2. ‘An Account of the Roman Church and Doctrine,’ 1675, 8vo (not seen). 3. ‘A Survey of Quakerism,’ &c., 1677, 8vo (anon.) 4. ‘Scripture Truth confirmed and cleared,’ 1678, 8vo (not seen). 5. ‘The Truth and Certainty of the Protestant Faith,’ 1678, 8vo (not seen). 6. ‘The Church wounded and rent,’ &c., 1681, 4to (not seen). 7. ‘The One Thing Necessary,’ 1681 (not seen). 8. ‘Joshua's Choice,’ 1684 (previously printed in Dutch, not seen). 9. ‘The Confirming Worke of Religion,’ Rotterdam, 1685, 12mo. 10. ‘True Statement of Christian Faith,’ 1692, 8vo (not seen). 11. ‘The Present Aspect of our Times,’ &c., 1694 (not seen). Also two separate sermons, 1692. Hew Scott adds, ‘A Discourse on Earthquakes,’ 1693, by his son; also, without dates, ‘The Healing Work,’ &c., and ‘Epistolary Discourse,’ two parts (this is by his son).

[Fleming left a diary, which was not published; his rather confused list of thirty-eight memorable occurrences of his life, entitled A Short Index, &c., is printed at the end of Memoirs by Daniel Burgess, prefixed to the 1726 edition of the Fulfilling; a fuller memoir is prefixed to the 1845 edition; Hew Scott's Fasti Eccles. Scot.; Wilson's Dissenting Churches, 1808, ii. 469; Grub's Ecclesiastical History of Scotland, 1861, iii. 200; Anderson's Scottish Nation, 1870, ii. 221 sq.]

A. G.