ROBERT BAILLIE, D. D.
AN EMINENT PRESBYTERIAN DIVINE
AND ONE OF THE COMMISSIONERS FROM THAT CHURCH
TO THE ASSEMBLY OF DIVINES AT WESTMINSTER.
ROBERT BAILLIE was born in Glasgow, in the year 1599. His
father, Mr Thomas Baillie, was a citizen of that place, and son to Baillie of
Jerviston, who was a brother of the Family of Carphin, and a branch of the
ancient Family of Lamington, all in the county of Lanerk. Baillie of Hoprig and
Lamington was a branch of the Baliols, Lords of Galloway. Hoprig, by marrying
the daughter of the famous Sir William Wallace, Regent of Scotland, obtained
the estate of Lamington. Their second son was the first of the House of
Carphin; of whom Jerviston, the predecessor of our author, according to
Nisbets Heraldry. His mothers name was Helen Gibson, of the stock
of the Gibsons of Dune, several of whom were eminently distinguished by making
a great figure in the Law.
Our Robert Baillie received his education in the University of Glasgow, his native city, Robert Baillie, under the care and direction of Mr Sharp, who was then the head of that College. When at the University, he was a remarkable example of great literary diligence, giving always very close attention to his studies. Having taken his degrees in the arts, he turned his thoughts to the study of divinity, to which he applied with indefatigable industry. And having, about the year 1622, received orders from Archbishop Law, he was chosen a Regent of Philosophy in the University of Glasgow. While he was in that station, he had, for some years, the care of the education of Lord Montgomery, who, at length, carried him with him to Kilwinning; to which church he was presented by the Earl of Eglinton.
There he lived in the strictest friendship with that noble family, and with his people; as he did also with his ordinary, the Archbishop of Glasgow, with whom he kept up an epistolary correspondence. In the year 1633, he declined, from a principle of modesty, an offer which was made to him of a church in Edinburgh. Being requested, in 1637, by the Archbishop of Glasgow, to preach a sermon before the General Assembly, in recommendation of the Book of Common-Prayer, and the Canon of the Church, then published and established by authority, he declined the service; and wrote a handsome letter to the Archbishop, assigning the reasons of his refusal. The letter is dated at Kilwinning, Aug. 19th, 1657, and is as follows:
Please Your Lordship, Your Lordships letter of the 7th of this instant, I received the 13th, late, wherein I am desired to preach the last Wednesday of this instant, before the Assembly, and to frame my sermon to unite my hearers to the obedience and practice of the canon of our church and Service book, published and established by authority. I am much obliged to your Lordships estimation of my poor gifts, and do humbly thank your Lordship for intending to honour me with so great a service: but withal am sorry that my present disposition necessitates me to decline the charge. The truth is, that as yet I have not studied the matters contained in that Book of our Canons and Common-prayer, only I have taken a slight view of them; whereby, for the present, my mind is no ways satisfied; yea, the little plcasure I have in these books, and the great displeasure [find the most part have, both of pastors and people wherever I come, conceived of them, have filled my mind with such a measure of grief, that I am scarcely able to preach to my own flock: but to preach in another congregation, and so famous a meeting, upon these matters, I am at this time utterly unable.
This spirited refusal greatly served to establish his reputation with the party who opposed Episcopacy in the Church of Scotland, at that time. At the commencement of the Reformation, he had his own difficulties from his education and his delicacy respecting the Kings authority, in complying with some measures of the Covenanters; but after reasoning, reading and prayer, as he himself says, he came heartily into their measures. And being eminently distinguished by his peaceable and healing temper, his uncommon prudence, and solid judgment, he was much employed in the public and important affairs of the church from the year 1687.
He was chosen and appointed, in the year 1638, by his own Presbytery of Irvine, a member of the very famous and memorable Assembly at Glasgow, which was a prelude to the civil war, and of which the reader may see a particular account in Mr Hendersons life. In that Assembly, Mr Baillie displayed great wisdom, zeal, and learning. He eminently appeared as one of the most able and zealous advocates for the Presbyterian cause. And he was peculiarly distinguished, by his strong opposition to Prelacy and Arminianism. He was also a member of all the following General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland, until the year 1653, excepting when he attended the Assembly of Divines at Westminster.
He was also one of those eminent ministers who attended the army of the Covenanters, as chaplain, in the years 1639, and 1640. He says, 1 furnished to half a dozen of good fellows, muskets and pikes, and to my boy a broad sword. I carried myself as the fashion was, a sword, and a couple of Dutch pistols at my saddle; but I promise for the offence of no man, excepting a robber in the way; for it was our part alone to pray and to preach for the encouragement of our countrymen, which I did most cheerfully to the utmost of my power.- Every company had, flying at the captains tent-door, a brave new colour, stamped with the Scottish arms, and this motto, "For Christs Crown and Covenant, in golden letters. - He adds: Had you lent your ear in the morning, or especially at even, and heard in the tents the sound of some signing psalms, some praying, and some reading Scripture, ye would have been refreshed. - For myself, I never found my mind in better temper than it was all that time since I came from home, till my head was again homeward; for I was as a man who had taken my leave from the world, and was resolved to die in that service, without return. I found the favour of God shining upon me, and a sweet, meek, humble, yet strong and vehement spirit leading me all along; but I was no sooner on my way westward, after the conclusion of the peace, than my old security returned.
Mr Baillie was present during the whole treaty with the King, which commenced at Kippon, and was concluded at London. And as one of the most able and zealous advocates for the Presbyterian cause, he was, in 1640, sent by the covenanting Lords of Scotland to London, to draw up an accusation against Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury. for attempting to obtrude unwelcome innovations upon the Church of Scotland. While he was in England upon that occasion, he wrote to the Presbytery of Irvine a large and regular account of the state of public affairs, and sent them, among other things, a particular Journal of the proceedings in the trial of the Earl of Strafford.
Not long after his return to his own country, in the year 1642, he was appointed Joint Professor of Divinity, with Mr David Dickson, in the University of Glasgow. And his reputation was become so high, that he had before this received invitations from the other three Scottish Universities, all of which he refused. He continued in his Professorship till the Restoration; but his discharge of the duties of it was interrupted, for a considerable time, by his residence in England.
As a divine eminently learned, and of approved orthodoxy, he was, in the year 1643, chosen one of the Commissioners from the Church of Scotland to the Assembly of Divines at Westminster. Though he did not distinguish himself by speaking much in the debates of that Assembly, he appears to have been very useful to it. He entirely concurred in the principles and views of its leading members; and gained great reputation by his writings. He wrote an account of the state of public af. fairs, and of the proceedings of the Assembly, while he was at London, which is very interesting. When he took his leave of the Assembly, the Prolocutor, in the name of the Assembly, gave him an honourable testimony, and thanks for his labours. He remained there almost all the time that the Assembly was sitting; and returned to his own country in the latter end of the year 1646. When that Assembly rose, the English Parliament made him a handsome present of silver-plate, with an inscription, intimating that it was a token of their great respect to him, and to be viewed as an acknowledgement of his good services. It was long carefully preserved in the house of Carnbrae, in the county of Lanerk, an ancient seat of the Baillies.
Mr Bailhie was an eminent confident of the Marquis of Argyle, of the Earls of Cassils, Eglinton, Lauderale and Loudon, of Lord Balmerino, Sir Archibald Johnston, Lord Warriston, and others of the chief managers among the Covenanters. He thereby obtained the most correct knowledge of the papers and most important transactions of those times, which he very carefully collected and preserved. He was exceedingly averse to Episcopacy, but he was not deficient in loyality. The General Assembly of Scotland had so much confidence in his attachment to the House of Stuart, that, after the execution o King Charles I. in 1649, they appointed him one of the embassy from their body to Charles II. at the Hague, after he was proclaimed in Scotland. Upon that occasion Mr Baillie addressed the King in a loyal speech, expressing in the strongest terms his joy and that of his brethren in his succession to the throne, and their great abhorrence of the murder of his royal father. In his sentiments on this event, it appears, that the Presbyterian Divines of that period, both at home and abroad, very generally agreed.
Under Cromwells usurpation, he joined with the party called Resolutioners, and wrote several of the papers on that side. He had a strong aversion to toleration, and availed himself of every opportunity in testifying against it. He seldom omits any oportunity of shewing his disapprobation of the doctrine of toleration, either in his Letters, or in his other writings.-After the Restoration of King Charles II. Mr Baillie, on the 2nd of Jan. 1661, by the interest of the Earl of Lauderdale, with whom he was a great favourite, was made Principal of the University of Glasgow, upon the removal of Mr Patrick Gillespie, who had been patronised by Cromwell. It is said, by several writers, that Mr Baillie had the offer of a Bishopric, which he absolutely refused. This is highly probable. He was very highly esteemed by some of the most eminent Biblical and classical scholars on the Continent in his time; as Spanheim, Salmasius, Rivet, Leusden, and Constantine L. Empereur.
In his Letters, he writes as a man of great piety and intellect, and is found inquiring at his correspondent in Holland for the best and most recent publications on Hebrew, Syriac, and Arabic, literature, and even on mathematical science; all which shews at once the great variety and extent of his own attainments, and also his earnest desire to promote the interests of that academical institution with which he was intimately connected.
He was an excellent linguist. By his indefatigable industry, he acquired the knowledge of twelve of or thirteen languages; and he could write a Latin style, which, in the opinion of learned men, might well become the Augustan age, and of which his Opus chronoloicum is a decisive proof. Mr Bailile was averse to funeral sermons, when he was in London. Speaking of Mr Pyms funeral, he says; Marshall had a most elioquent and pertinent funeral sermon; which we would not hear; for funeral sermons we must have away.
He was twice married. By his first wife, Lilias Fleming, he had several children; and by his second wife, Principal Strangs daughter, he had one daughter, Margaret, who was married to Mr Walkingshaw of Barrowfield. Principal Baillie continued most firmly attached to the Presbyterian government, and in opposition to Prelacy, to the end of his life. As a proof of this, an eminent historian says; I have it from an unquestionable hand, one of his scholars, who afterward was his successor, and waited on him a few weeks before his death, that he died a firm Presbyterian, and under a rooted aversion to Prelacy in this church. My author desired Mr Baillies judgment of the courses which this church was so fast running into. His words to him were; Prelacy is now coming in like a land-flood; for my share, 1 have considered that controversy as far as I was able, and after all my inquiry I find it, (Prelacy) and am persuaded that it is inconsistent with Scripture, contrary to pure and primitive antiquity, and diametrically opposite to the true interest of those lands.
And during his last illness, when he was visited by the newly.made Archbishop of Glasgow, he is said to have addressed himself to him in the following words: Mr Andrew, I will not call you my Lord. King Charles would have made me one of these Lords: but I do not find in the New Testament, that Christ has any Lords in his house. However, he treated the Archbishop very courteously. The coming in of Prelacy, like a land-flood, brake his heart, and had a strong tendency to hasten his dissolution. This is evident from two original letters under his own hand, to the Earl of Lauderale, the one dated, June 16th, 1660, and the other April 18th, 1661, which are still preserved in Wodrows History. His health failed him in the Spring of the year in 1662, and he died in the month of July that same year, aged 63 years.
The Author of the Appendix to Archbishop Spottiswodes History, speaking of Principal Baillie, says respecting him; Robert Baillie, Professor of Divinity, and afterward Principal, a learned and modest man; though he published some very violent writings, yet these flowed rather from the instigation of other persons than his own inclinations. He has left a great evidence of his diligence and learning in his Opus Chronologicum.
And the celebrated Mr Wodrow, in his History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland, has given the following character of Principal Baillie. Mr Robert Baillie may most justly be reckoned among the great men of this time, and was an honour to his country, for his profound and universal learning, his exact and solid judgement, that vast variety of languages which he understood, to the number of twelve or thirteen, and his writing a Latin style which might become the Augustan age. But I need not enlarge on his character; his works do praise him in the gates.
Mr Baillies Writings are: A Defence of the Reformation of the Church of Scotland, against Mr Maxwell, Bishop of Ross.
A Parallel between the Scottish Service-Book, and the Romish Missal,
Queries anent the Service- Book
The Canterburian Self-Conviction.
Antidote to Arminanism
A Treatise on Scottish Episcopacy.
Satan the Leader in chief to all who resist the Reparation of Zion.
A sermon preached from Zech. iii. I to the House of Commons, at their solemn Fast, Feb. 28th, 1644.
A. sermon from isa. lxiii. 17. before the Lords, July 30th, 1645.
A Dissuasive from the Errors of the time, especially of the Independents,
A second part of the Dissuasive, 4to. pp. 179, and a long Preface, London, 1647
A Reply to the Modest Inquirer.
Opus Historicum and Chronologicum; folio, B. 1. pp. 507. B. 2. pp. 15!. with a frontispiece, printed at Amsterdam, 1668. It is written in classical and elegant Latin, and clearly proves that the author was a man of deep research and of very extensive knowledge.
Letters, and Journals, in 2 vols. 8vo. vol. i. pp. 436. vol. ii. pp. 462. Edinburgh, 1775. The Journals contain a History of the General Assembly at Glasgow in ltsR; an Account of the Earl of Straffords Trial; of the General Assemblies, in 1641, and in 1645.
(From Memoirs of the Westminster Divines" by James Reid)
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