Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/222

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16 JAMES MELVILLE.


determined on their disjunction, at whatever pecuniary loss. When this was ef- fected, he willingly resigned the proportions of stipend in favour of the minis- ters provided for three of the parishes, while he himself undertook the charge of the fourth (Kilrenny), he obtained an augmentation of stipend, built a manse, purchased the right to the vicarage and teind fish for the support of himself and his successors, paid the salary of a schoolmaster, and maintained an assistant to perform the duties of the parish, as he was fre- quently engaged in the public affairs of the church. Such instances of disin- terested zeal are indeed rare ; but even this was not all. Many years afterwards he printed for the use of his people a catechism which cost five hundred merks, of which, in writing his Diary, he mentions that he could never regain more than one fifth part. While he was thus anxiously promoting the moral and religious improvement of the parishioners, he was also dis- tinguished by the exemplification of his principles in the ordinary affairs of life. An instance of his generosity occurred soon after his settlement in his new charge. In the beginning of 1588, rumours were spread througli the country of the projected invasion by the Spaniards. Some time before the de- struction of the Armada was known, Melville was waited on, early in the morning, by one of the baillies of the town, who stated that a ship filled with Spaniards had entered their harbour in distress, and requested his advice as to the line of conduct to be observed. When the day was further advanced, the officers (the principal of whom is styled general of twenty hulks) were per- mitted to land, and appear before the minister and principal men of the town. They stated that their division of the squadron had been wrecked on the Fair Isle, where they had been detained many weeks under all the miseries of fatigue and hunger ; that they had at length procured the ship which lay in the harbour ; and now came before them to crave their forbearance towards them. Melville replied that, although they were the supporters of Christ's greatest enemy the pope, and although their expedition had been undertaken with the design of desolating the protestant kingdoms of England and Scotland, they should know by their conduct that the people of Scotland were professors of a purer religion. Without entering into all the minute facts of the case, it may be enough to say, that the officers and men were all at length received on shore, and treated with the greatest humanity. " Bot we thanked God with our heartes that we had sein tham nmangs ws in that forme," is the quaint con- clusion of James Melville, alluding to the difference between the objects of the expedition and the success which had attended it.

But, however disinterested James Melville's conduct might be, it was not des- tined to escape the most unjust suspicions. When subscriptions were raised to assist the French protestants and the inhabitants of Geneva, (cir. 1588), lie had been appointed collector for Fife, and this appointment was now seized upon by his enemies at court, who surmised that he had given the money thus raised to the earl of Bothwell to enable him to raise forces. The supposition is so ab- surd that it seems incredible that any one, arguing merely on probabilities, should believe that money intended for Geneva, the very stronghold of his be- loved presbytery, should be given to an outlaw and a catholic. Luckily Mel- ville was not left to prove his innocence even by the doctrine of probabilities. He had in his hands a discharge for the money granted by those to whom lie had paid it over, and it was, besides, matter of notoriety that he had been the most active agent in the suppression of Both well's rebellion. Still, however, his enemies hinted darkly where they durst not make a manly charge, and it was not till 1594, when sent as a commissioner to the king by the Assembly on another mission, tliat he had an opportunity of vindicating himself. He then