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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Of which Melville was Moderator


With him and his contemporaries the second generation of the reformers came to an end. They had fought out the battle against the papacy, and had established the foundations of a divergent system: now however a third generation arose, which had to encounter violent storms within the pale of the new confession itself.

In Scotland the Regents Mar and Morton now thought it necessary, even for the sake of the constitution, in which the higher clergy formed an important element, to restore episcopacy, which had been laid low in the tumult of the times; and to fill the vacant offices with Protestant clergy, appointed however in the old way, by the election of the chapters on the recommendation of the Government: it was desired at the same time to invest them with the power of ordination and a certain jurisdiction. Knox was at least not hostile to this measure. The resolution to convene an assembly of the Church at Leith was formed while he was still alive, and was ratified by Parliament in January 1573.

But in the Church, which had formed itself in perfect independence by means of free association, this project, which besides was spoiled by many blunders in the execution, necessarily provoked strong opposition. Andrew Melville may be regarded as Knox's successor in the exercise of the authority of leader; a man of wide learning, who had in his composition still more of the professor than of the preacher, and united convictions not less firm than those of Knox with an equal gift of eloquence. He however on principle excluded episcopacy in any form from the constitution, as, in his opinion, the Scriptures recognised only individual bishops: he especially disapproved of the connexion between the bishops and the crown. The spiritual and the temporal powers he considered to be distinct kinds of authority, of which the one was as much of divine right as the other. But he did not regard the clergy or ministry of preaching as alone charged with spiritual authority: he thought that the lay elders formed the basis of this authority: that, once elected, they were permanent, had themselves a spiritual rank, watched over the purity of doctrine, took the lead in the call of the preachers, and, together with these, formed assemblies by whose conclusions every member of the congregation was bound. A General Assembly erected on this basis had the legislative authority in the Church, with the right of visitation and of spiritual correction. It was incumbent on the King to protect them; but he was amenable to their sentence. Such is the discipline laid down in the Second Book, which was approved in the year 1578, in a General Assembly, of which Melville was Moderator.[296]

With these opposite principles before his eyes, the young King grew up. He showed himself to be imbued with the reformed doctrine, but he was decidedly averse to this form of church government, which created a power in the nation intended to counterbalance and withstand that of the monarch. The political views of his teachers, highly popular as they were, awoke in him, as was natural, the inborn feelings of a king. He longed with all his soul for the restoration of episcopacy, which, according to his view, was of almost chief importance for both Crown and Church.


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