Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/223

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


demanded that any one who could make a charge against him should stand forward and give him an opportunity of vindicating himself before his sovereign. No one appeared. Melville was admitted to a long interview in the king's cabinet ; and " thus," says he, " I that came to Stirling the traitor, returned to Edinburgh a great courtier, yea a cabinet councillor."

At the opening of the General Assembly in 1590, James Melville preached. After the usual exordium, he insisted on the necessity of maintaining the strict- est discipline, he recalled to the memory of his audience the history of their country since the Reformation, the original purity of the church, and admonished them of its begun decline, the brethren were warned of the practices of " the belly-god bishops of England ;" and the people were exhorted to a more zealous support of the ecclesiastical establishment, and to a more liberal communication of temporal things to their ministers; lastly, he recommended a supplication to the king, for a free and full assembly, to be held in the royal presence, for the suppression of papists and sacrilegious persons. The activity of Melville, and indeed of the ministers generally, against the catholics, must be considered as one of the least defensible parts of their conduct. We are aware that those who believe religion to be supported by works of man's device, will find strong palliations for their actions in their peculiar circumstances ; and we do not mean to deny, that when the popish lords trafficked with foreign powers for the sub- version of the civil and religious institutions of the country, the government did right in bringing them to account. They then became clearly guilty of a civil offence, and were justly amenable for it to the secular courts. But when the catholics were hunted down for the mere piofession of their reli- gion, when their attachment to their opinions was considered the mere ef- fect of obstinacy, and thus worthy to be visited with the highest pains, the protestants reduced themselves to the same inconsistency with which they so justly charged their adversaries. If it be urged in defence, that their religion was in danger, we reply, that the conduct of the catholics, previous to the Keformation, was equally defensible on the very same grounds. In both cases was the church of the parties in imminent hazard ; and, if we defend the at- tempt of one party to support theirs by the civil power, with what justice can we condemn the other ? A remarkable passage occurs in the account which friar Ogilvie (a Jesuit, who was executed at Glasgow in 1615) has left of his trial. His examinators accused the kings of France and Spain of extermi- nating the protestants. Ogilvie immediately replied : Neither has Francis ban- ished, nor Philip burned protestants on account of religion, but on account of heresy, which is not religion but rebellion? Here, then, is the rock upon which both parties split, that of considering it a crime to hold certain religious opinions. Both parties were in turn equally zealous in propagating their ideas, both were justifiable in doing so, and both equally unjustifiable in their absurd attempts to control the workings of the human mind. Truth, which all parties seem convinced is on their side, must and shall prevail, and the intolerant zeal of man can only prove its own folly and its wickedness. We return to the nar- rative.

When the king, in October, 1594, determined on opposing the popish lords in person, he was accompanied at his own request by the two Melvilles and two other ministers. Following the Highland system of warfare, these noblemen retired into their fastnesses ; and . the royal forces, after doing little more than displaying themselves, were ready to disperse, for want of pay. In this

2 Relatio lucarcerationis et MarUrii P. Joaiinis Ogilbei, &c., Duad, 1615, p. 24. This is, of course, the Roman Catholic account. Ogilvie's trial, and a reprint of the Protestant ac- count of it set forth at the time, will be found in Pitcairn's Criminal Trials, rv. c