| CHAPTER V.
JOHN DAVIDSON MINISTER OF PRESTONPANS
AND HIS TIMES.
Davidson—Place of Birth—Brilliant Career—Studying at Paris—Head
of the Catholic College in Glasgow—Joins the Reformers—Minister
at Liberton—Excommunicates Montgomery—Royal Interposition—Ministers
and Associated Lords at loggerheads—Davidson's advice to the
King— Compelled to fly to England—Forbidden to preach in London—Returns
to Scotland—Appointment at Holyrood—Melvile and Davidson—Prosecuted
by the King—Appointed to South Preston—His Protest and Persecution—Extracts
from Session Records, 1596—Names of the first twelve Children
Baptised under Davidson—Names of Witnesses—Names of the first
Elders at Prestonpans Church.
IN a Charter of Mortification, by John Hamilton of Preston,
dated 19th November 1615, in keeping of the Kirk Session of
Prestonpans, we learn that John Davidson was born about the
year 1549 at Dunfermline, where his parents were owners of
property in houses and land. Whether he spent his early years
at his native place, or how they were spent, is quite unknown:
that he must have been studiously inclined, however, is evident
from the fact that he was destined for the Church.
The earliest notice we have of this eminent divine is on reaching
manhood, is even after he had completed his ecclesiastical
studies and had received an appointment.
"John Davidson, " says M'Crie, "who was Melville's
predecessor at Glasgow, was a clergyman before the Reformation,
and had studied at Paris along with Quintin Kennedy, Abbot
of Crossraguel (who died in 1564). Having returned to Scotland,
he was placed in 1557 at the head of the college in Glasgow.
When religious controversy first arose, Davidson adhered to
the Roman Catholic Church, but afterwards changed his views
and joined the Reformers. Shortly after this he was compelled
to seek refuge in England, and returned to his native land
only on the decease of the Regent Morton. He is next heard
of as parish minister of Liberton, on being appointed by the
Presbytery of Edinburgh to excommunicate Montgomery. Montgomery
was parish minister at Stirling. The Bishopric of Glasgow
had become vacant through the decease of Archbishop Boyd.
An attempt, by those in power, was again being made to thrust
Episcopacy upon an unwilling people. M'Crie says, "though
the regulations recognising Episcopacy, which were made at
Leith in 1572, had been formally abrogated by the General
Assembly, and abandoned, and virtually annulled by the Court,
yet were they now revived by an Act, October 28, 1581, of
Privy Council. "
The disposal of the See of Glasgow was given to Lennox, who
offered it to different ministers upon condition of their
making over to him its revenues and contenting themselves
with an annual pension. The offer was at last accepted by
Montgomery, —" A man, " says Dr Robertson, "
vain, feeble, presumptuous, and more apt, by the blemishes
of his character, to have alienated the people from an order
(Presbyterian) already beloved, than to reconcile them to
one (Episcopacy) which was the object of their hatred. "
This "vile bargain" (Spottiswoode so designates
it), made at a time when the episcopal office stood condemned
by the Assembly, and tending directly to place the church
at issue with the government, excited universal indignation.
At the Assembly which met in October 1581, the affair was
warmly taken up and Montgomery put to the bar. Royal authority
at this juncture interposed and the case was delayed. "John
Davidson, who was chosen to preside on the occasion, preached
so much to the conviction of his hearers, and made confession
of their sins to heaven with such devout fervour, that the
whole Assembly melted into tears before him; and rising from
their seats at his desire, and lifting up their right hands,
they renewed their covenant with God. The scene, which continued
during three hours, was solemn and affecting beyond anything
that the oldest person present had witnessed. "
Again, when the king seemed determined to introduce Episcopacy
into the church, "at a. meeting of the Provincial Synod
of Fife shortly after the dissolution of Parliament, ' Davidson,
'says Melville, 'whose zeal had prompted him to attend the
meeting, showed that the parliamentary voter was a bishop
in disguise, and, catching enthusiasm from the speech of his
aged brother (Ferguson), exclaimed 'Busk ye, busk,