4822Andrew Melville vs. Prelacy
- Aug 5, 2002It's been a while since I've posted on Covenanter History, so I'll
briefly state what we're trying to do here. There have been far too
many critics saying nasty nasty things against the Covenanters, who
have not one shred of knowledge about who they are and what their
distinctives are. I have a belief that if you are going to hang
someone, you should hang him for the right reasons. So, I've
undertaken to provide a brief overview touching on some key points in
Covenanter history. I'm bound to miss some things, as I'm
condenscing years and years and years into small posts. But overall,
I hope these posts are helpful.
The posts in this series so far are:
1. A Short History of the Covenanted Reformation (Introduction):
2. The Reformation Hits Scotland: Post 4432.
3. John Knox: From St. Andrew's to Exile: Post 4439.
4. John Knox: From Exile to the Covenant of Dun: Post 4445.
5. John Knox and "The Most Perfect School of Christ": Post 4464.
6. John Knox: The Church of Scotland and Her Documents: 4521.
7. John Knox and Mary, Queen of Scots: Post 4649.
(I think I got 'em all).
We last looked at John Knox and his duels with Mary Queen of Scots.
Next up is Andrew Melville. Here goes:
When Knox died, the Reformation torch was passed to Andrew Mellvile.
Like Knox, Melville saw Calvinism first hand at Geneva, though
Melville studied under Calvin's successor, Theodore Beza. He was
well-learned man who had an illustrious school career, and he was
well renowned as an instructor abroad in France and Switzerland.
While Melville spent nearly 10 years teaching on the continent, the
schools of his homeland suffered from rather poor standards. In
1574, Melville returned to Scotland where he served as administrator
of the universities of Glasgow, Aberdeen, and St. Andrews. He
completely reformed the educational system in Scotland. He would
likewise have a hand in the Reformation of the Church.
Prior to the death of Knox, in 1572, the Convention of Leith met and
proposed that officers be set up in the Church of Scotland which
would hold the title of "bishop." They were not full blown
in the prelatical sense (they were to hold equal voting powers with
other members of the presbytery), and they became known as
Bishops" (a tulchan was a fake calf used to induce the production
milk in cows). For Knox and Melville, that was unacceptable. It was
too close to Prelacy, which is Church Government by the rule of
Bishops (which error in the early Church eventually gave rise to
Knox refused to install one of the "bishops," and went as far
pronouncing an anathema against him! So, while Melville is often
credited with being the father of Jus Divinum Presbyterianism
(Presbyterian Church Government by divine right), I'm not sure
is fair to Knox who was vehemently opposed to the ecclesiastical
tyranny of Prelacy.
Thrice, Melville served as the moderator of the General Assembly of
the Church of Scotland. He often and repeatedly defended
Presbyterial Church Government, not as merely as A biblical form of
Church Government, but as THE biblical form of Church Government
(this concept will be EXTREMELY important as we continue to survey
the Scottish Reformation). Under Melville's leadership, the
Assembly adopted the Second Book of Discipline in 1578, which holds
forth this form of Government. It can (and should be) be read at
http://www.swrb.com/newslett/actualnls/BOD_ch04.htm . In 1580, the
General Assembly condemned the office of Bishop (Presbyterians
believe that all Gospel ministers have a right to the
title "bishop"). In 1582, they passed an act forbidding
magistrates or patrons from admitting people to ecclesiastical
offices (a favorite way of kings and wealthy people to gain control
in the Church).
In 1587, James VI of Scotland took the throne earlier vacated by his
mother, Mary (James VI of Scotland would eventually become James I of
England). Just as Knox battled his mother, so Melville would crack
heads with James.
Melville believed that the King schemed "to pull the crown from
Christ's head, and wrest the Sceptre out of His hand." And
James considered himself to be the supreme head of both Church and
State by divine right (and why not? After all, in 1584 Parliament
enacted "the Black Acts" which required that no
assembly was to meet without the King's approval, and that all
officers acknowledge the authority of prelatic bishops). The King
demanded that the affairs of the State be excluded from sermons, that
church assemblies obtain permission by him before meeting, and that
Church courts not involve themselves in cases which were punishable
in the civil realm.
Melville is said to have grabbed King James IV by the sleeve, calling
him "God's sillie vassal" to his face. He went on to
King, "Sir, there are two kings and two kingdoms in Scotland:
is King James the head of this commonwealth, and there is Christ
Jesus, the King of the Church, whose subject James the Sixth is, and
of Whose kingdom he is not a king, nor a lord, nor a head, but a
The "Black Acts" were eventually overturned by the "Act
Abolishing of the Acts Contrary to the True Religion." This act
1592 became known as "the Great Charter of Presbytery" (Note:
act of Parliament also banned Christmas and Easter!). Alas, King
James VI did not relent from his tyranny over Christ's Church,
the problems of prelacy and intrusions by the civil government would
crop up again and again in the history of Presbyterianism.
As for Melville, in 1606 he wrote a Latin work in which he mocked and
ridiculed the rites practiced in High Church Anglicanism, and as a
result, he was declared guilty of scandalum magnatum. He spent the
next year under house arrest, and the four years following in the
Tower. In 1611 he was released and exiled to Sedan, France, where he
finished out his years teaching at the Huguenot Seminary in Sedan.
He died in 1622.
An example of Melville's writing can be perused here:
http://covenanter.org/CivilGovt/melvilleonrom13.htm . It provides a
glimpse of the Reformation view of Romans 13 as it relates to
obedience to tyrants.
There is another very important thing that also happened during this
time period, which, Lord willing, we will look at in our next
installment: The swearing of the National Covenant of Scotland.
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