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The Rising Burgh: 1560 to 1770s


Andrew Melville

By John R Young

Andrew Melville Andrew Melville (1545-1622) was the most famous radical Presbyterian minister of the latter phase of the Scottish Reformation in the late 16th century. He was born at Baldovie, Forfarshire, and educated at the local grammar school at Montrose before entering St Mary's College, St Andrews, in 1559. After graduation he studied in Paris and taught at Poitiers and Geneva. He acquired a European reputation as a renowned classical scholar. At Geneva he was appointed to the Humanity Chair in 1568.

Defence of the Cathedral In 1574 he was invited back to Scotland to take up the position of Principal of the University of Glasgow. Melville's period of tenure as Principal was an important time for the development of the University. James VI granted a new charter, the Nova Erectio, in 1577. Under Melville's leadership, the curriculum at Glasgow was expanded and extended. He also helped in the reform of King's College, Aberdeen (1575) and in 1580 he moved from Glasgow to St Andrews as Principal of St Mary's College.

Melville played a crucial role in the ideological, administrative and structural development of the post-Reformation Church of Scotland following the death of John Knox in 1572. He was largely responsible for ensuring that it was a Presbyterian form of church government which prevailed, with authority lying with the church courts that included both laymen and ministers of the General Assembly, the regional presbyteries and the congregation kirk sessions. He believed in the parity of ministers and was opposed to episcopacy by which bishops, appointed by the Crown, had authority over the clergy. To Melville the head of the church was not the monarch, but Jesus Christ. Melville's Second Book of Discipline of 1578 laid out the blueprint for a Presbyterian church structure. It also advocated the two kingdoms theory whereby the "church" and the "state" were deemed separate spheres of influence. These ideas led to a clash with James VI in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Melville was often Moderator of the General Assembly. In 1606 he was sent to the Tower of London after ridiculing the king. He was released in 1611 and thereafter returned to France where he became Professor of Biblical Theology at the University of Sédan. He died in Sédan in 1622. Remembered as the father of Scottish Presbyterianism, he also played an important role in the development of the University of Glasgow.

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