Letter to the Archbishop of Glasgow

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 1638, 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, 1637, and is as follows:
“Please Your Lordship, Your Lordship’s letter of the 7th of this instant, I received the 18th, 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 Lordship’s 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 pleasure I have in these books, and the great displeasure I 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 King’s authority, in complying with some measures of the Covenancers; 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 1637. 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 Henderson’s life.

Home | Links | Hall | Writings | Biography