Cloud of witnesses – A champion of Biblical Church government who was imprisoned, banished, and died in exile


Andrew Melville

(born August 1, 1545, Baldovie, Angus, Scotland—died 1622, Sedan, France)

The reason for his banishment is clear from how he dealt with his king, that is, he did not please men but God. 


James VI
The commission of the general assembly was now sitting, and understanding how matters were going on at the convention, they sent some of their members, among whom Mr. Melvil [Melville] was one, to expostulate with the king (James VI of Scotland, James I of England). When they came, he received them in his closet. Mr. James Melvil being first in the commission, told the king his errand, upon which he appeared angry, and charged them with sedition, &c. Mr. James being a man of cool passion and genteel behaviour, began to answer the king with great reverence and respect; but Mr. Andrew, interrupting him, said,

“This is not a time to flatter, but to speak plainly, for our commission is from the living God, to whom the king is subject;” and then approaching the king, said, “Sire, we will always humbly reverence your majesty in public, but having opportunity of being with your majesty in private, we must discharge our duty or else be enemies to Christ: and now, Sire, I must tell you, that there are two kingdoms, the kingdom of Christ, which is the church, whose subject K. James VI. is, and of whose kingdom he is not a head, nor a lord, but a member, and they, whom Christ hath called, and commanded to watch over his church, and govern his spiritual kingdom, have sufficient authority and power from him so to do, which no Christian king nor prince should controul or discharge, but assist and support, otherwise they are not faithful subjects to Christ; and, Sire, when you was in your swaddling clothes, Christ reigned freely in this land; in spight of all his enemies, his officers and ministers were conveened for ruling his church, which was ever for your welfare, &c. Will you now challenge Christ’s servants, your best and most faithful subjects, for conveening together, and for the care they have of their duty to Christ and you, &c. the wisdom of your council is, that you may be served with all sorts of men, that you may come to your purpose, and because the ministers and protestants of Scotland are strong, they must be weakened and brought low, by stirring up a party against them, but, Sire, this is not the wisdom of God, and his curse must light upon it, whereas, in cleaving to God, his servants shall be your true friends, and he shall compel the rest to serve you.” 

There is little difficulty to conjecture how this discourse was relished by the king; however, he kept his temper, and promised fair things to them for the present, but it was the word of him whose standard maxim was, _Qui nescit dissimulare, nescit regnare_, “He who knows not how to dissemble, knows not how to reign:” In this sentiment, unworthy of the meanest among men, he gloried, and made it his constant rule of conduct; for in the assembly at Dundee _anno_ 1598, Mr. Melvil being there, he discharged him from the assembly, and would not suffer business to go on till he was removed.


John Howie

Biographia Scoticana (Scots Worthies)
A Brief Historical Account of the Lives, Characters, and Memorable Transactions of the Most Eminent Scots Worthies


Short bios

Andrew Melville
Who should run the church and how?

Andrew Melville, Scottish clergymen and scholar



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