Menzies, John (1624-1684) (DNB00)

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MENZIES, JOHN (1624–1684), Scottish divine and professor, born in 1624, entered Marischal College, Aberdeen, in 1638, and after graduating held the office of regent till 1649. He is said to have been brought up a Roman catholic, but he early connected himself with the reformed church. In 1649 he was ordained and admitted to the second charge of St. Nicolas, Aberdeen, and in the same year was appointed professor of divinity in Marischal College and translated to the Greyfriars Church, which was connected with it. Joining the protesters, he became one of their leaders, and with the rest of that party separated from the church in 1651. Soon after he espoused the interests of Cromwell, and avowed himself an independent. He was processed in consequence by the synod of Aberdeen, but their proceedings against him were stopped by order of the commandant of the English garrison. Cromwell, having put an end to the meetings of the general assembly, called up Menzies and other protesters to London in 1654 to assist in preparing an ordinance for the admission of ministers to parishes in Scotland similar to that of the tryers in England, and Menzies was appointed a tryer for his own part of the country. After a time he lost faith in independency, in reference to which system he said, ‘It is dangerous to slip a buckle,’ and became again a presbyterian. At the Restoration he refused to conform to episcopacy, but when summoned before the privy council, and threatened with deposition by the bishop and synod if he did not comply before January 1663, he accepted the change and retained his offices. He afterwards took an active part in controversy with the Roman catholics and with the quakers, who had then obtained a footing in the north, and made himself so acceptable to the authorities that he was several times spoken of for a bishopric. The professorship of divinity in King's College, Old Aberdeen, he accepted from the bishop and synod, after some hesitation, in January 1679; but very soon he resigned, and was reinstated in his professorship in Marischal College and in the charge of Greyfriars Church. In 1681 he refused the test imposed by parliament, with many others of the clergy, and was deprived of his office in consequence. The following year, however, he changed his mind, and was continued in his post.

He died 1 Feb. 1684, much troubled in conscience for having fallen into independency, for having conformed to episcopacy, and most of all for having taken the test. He professed penitence for his vacillation, and charged his brother-in-law to publish his declaration to that effect. Menzies was a man of much ability and learning, a zealous controversialist, and a most fervent preacher, but his pliability injured his influence and reputation.

He married Margaret, eldest daughter of Sir W. Forbes of Craigievar, Aberdeenshire, and had one son, whom he survived. His publications were: 1. ‘Papismus Lucifugus,’ Aberdeen, 1668. 2. ‘Roma Mendax,’ London, 1675. 3. ‘A Sermon on the Death of Sir Alexander Fraser of Doores,’ Edinburgh, 1681.

[Scott's Fasti Eccl. Scot.; Records of Marisch. Coll.; Wodrow's Hist. and Analecta; Eccles. Rec. of Aberdeen (Spalding Club); Baillie's Letters; Jaffray's Diary.]

G. W. S.