Andrew Melville - Examined (1607-1611)

Another instance of his resolution is this: He was called before the Council for having made a Latin epigram upon seeing the king and queen making an offering at the altar, on which were two books, two basins, and two candlesticks, with two unlighted candles, it being a day kept in honour of St Michael. The epigram is as follows:

Why stand there on the Royal Altar high,

Two closed books, blind lights, two basins dry?

Doth England hold God’s mind and worship closse,

Blind of her sight, and buried in her dross?

Doth she, with Chapel put in Romish dress,

The purple whore religiously express!

This epigram was not published; it was stolen by a spy. When he appeared, he confessed openly about the verses, and said he was much moved with indignation at such vanity and superstition in a Christian church, under a Christian king, born and brought up under the pure light of the Gospel, and especially before idolaters, to confirm them in idolatry, and grieve the hearts of true ministers. The archbishop of Canterbury began to speak, but Andrew Melville charged him with a breach of the Lord’s Day, with imprisoning, silencing, and attacking faithful ministers, and with upholding Antichristian hierarchy and Popish ceremonies; shaking the white sleeve of his vestment, he called them Romish rags, told him that he was an avowed enemy to all the Reformed Churches in Europe, and therefore he would profess himself an enemy to him in all such proceedings, to the effusion of the last drop of his blood; and said, he was grieved to the heart to see such a man have the King’s ear, and sit so high in that honourable Council. He also charged bishop Barlow with having stated, after the conference at Hampton Court, that the king had said he was in the Church of Scotland, but not of it; and wondered that he went unpunished, for making the king of no religion. He refuted the sermons which Barlow had preached before the king, and then he was at last removed; and an order was given to Dr Overwall, Dean of St Paul’s, to receive him into his house, there to remain, with injunctions not to let any have access to him, until his Majesty’s pleasure was signified. Next year he was ordered from the Dean’s house to the Bishop of Winchester’s, where, being not so strictly guarded, he sometimes kept company with his brethren; but was at last committed to the Tower of London, where he remained for the space of four years.

For about ten months Melville was imprisoned under very harsh conditions. He was not allowed to see anyone, he was allowed no servant and worst of all he was denied paper, pen and ink. He was then allowed to live in a more comfortable cell, he had paper, pen and ink and his friends were allowed to visit. In 1607 the French Protestants at Rochelle wanted him as professor of theology, but he was not permitted to go. In 1610 James achieved his ambition when the General Assembly voted in Episcopacy. The archbishop of St Andrew’s said that it would not have been possible if Melville had been in the country. He might have added the names of Robert Bruce and John Welch, those indomitable enemies of Episcopacy who were also in exile.

In 1611, after four years’ confinement, Andrew Melville was, with the help of the Duke de Bouillon, released, on condition that he would go with him to the University of Sedan; where he enjoyed that calm life denied him in his own country, but maintained the usual constancy and faithfulness in the service of Christ, which he had done through the whole of his life. He died at Sedan, in France, in the year 1622, at the advanced age of 77 years.