David Dickson - Church Turriff (1622-1623)




But whenDavid Dickson'sopinion became known, James Law, archbishop of Glasgow, summoned him to appear before the High Commission Court, January 29, 1622. Dickson, at the beginning of his ministry at Irvine, had preached upon 2 Cor 5:11, ‘Knowing the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men;’ and when he realised that he was going to be away from the parish for a time, on the Sunday before his appearance at the Commission, he chose the next words of that verse, ‘But we are made manifest unto God.’ Extraordinary power and singular movings of the emotions accompanied that parting sermon.

David Dickson appeared before the Commission, where, after the summons was read, and after some discussion among the bishops, he gave in his declinature; upon which, some of the bishops whispering in his ear, as if they had favoured him upon the good report they had heard of him and his ministry, said to him, ‘Take it up, take it up.’ He answered calmly, ‘I laid it not down for that end, to take it up again.’ Spottiswoode, archbishop of St Andrews, asked if he would subscribe to it. He said that he was ready. The clerk, at the archbishop’s request, began to read it; but had scarcely read three lines, when the archbishop burst out in railing speeches, full of gall and bitterness; and turning to Mr David, he said, ‘These men will speak of humility and meekness, and talk of the Spirit of God, but ye are led by the spirit of the devil; there is more pride in you, I dare say, than in all the bishops of Scotland. I hanged a Jesuit in Glasgow for the like fault.’ Mr David answered, ‘I am not a rebel; I stand here as the King’s subject; grant me the benefit of the law, and of a subject, and I crave no more.’ But the archbishop seemed to take no notice of these words.

Aberdeen asked him, whether he would obey the king or not. He answered, ‘I will obey the king in all things in the Lord.’ ‘I told you that,’ said Glasgow, ‘I knew he would seek to his limitation.’ Aberdeen asked again, ‘May not the king give the same authority that we have, to as many suitors and tailors in Edinburgh, to sit, and see whether ye be doing your duty or not?’ Mr David said, ‘My declinature will answer to that.’ Then St Andrews fell again to railing, ‘The devil,’ said he, ‘will devise; he has Scripture enough;’ and then called him knave, swinger, young lad; and said he might have been teaching bairns in the school. ‘Thou knowest what Aristotle saith,’ said he, ‘but thou hast no theology.’ Because he perceived that Dickson gave him no titles, but once called him Sir, he gnashed his teeth, and said, ‘Sir! you might have called me Lord; when I was in Glasgow long since, ye called me so, but I cannot tell how, ye are become a puritan now.’

All this time he stood silent, and once lifted up his eyes to heaven, which St Andrews called a proud look. So after some more discussion between him and the bishops, St Andrews pronounced his sentence, in these words: ‘We deprive you of your ministry at Irvine, and ordain you to enter in Turriff, in the north, in twenty days.’ ‘The will of the Lord be done,’ said Mr David; ‘though ye cast me off, the Lord will take me up. Send me whither ye will, I hope my Master will go with me; and as He has been to me heretofore, He will be with me still, as with His own weak servant.”’

Dickson continued preaching until the twenty days had expired, and then began his journey. The earl of Eglinton persuaded the archbishop of Glasgow that he might come to Eglinton and preach there. However, people from all quarters came to hear him speak in Eglinton’s hall and court-yard, so he enjoyed that freedom for only two months; for the archbishop then sent him another charge, this time to Turriff..

While in Turriff he was daily employed to preach by the minister, Thomas Mitchell, but he found it more difficult to study or preach than in the past. Some time after, his friends persuaded the archbishop of Glasgow to release him upon condition that he would take back his declinature; and for that purpose he wrote to Dickson to come to Glasgow. He came as requested; but though many wise and gracious people urged him to give in, he could not be persuaded. At last it was granted to him, that if he, or any friend he pleased, would go to the archbishop’s castle, and either remove the paper, or get one of his friend to take it off the hall table, without seeing the archbishop at all, he would be allowed to return to Irvine. However, he considered this idea to be unacceptable, so he decided to return to his confinement. Accordingly, he began his journey, and was hardly a mile out of town, when his soul was filled with such joy and approbation from God, in a way that he had seldom experienced before.

Some time later, through the continued intercession of Eglinton, and the town of Irvine, with the archbishop, the earl got a license to send for him, and a promise that he should stay until the king challenged him. He therefore returned to his flock without any condition on his part, at the end of July, 1623.