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Andrew Melville

Born: 1-Aug-1545
Birthplace: Baldovie, Angus, Scotland
Died: 1622
Location of death: Sedan, France
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Religion: Presbyterian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Religion

Nationality: Scotland
Executive summary: Scottish Reform Church

Scottish scholar, theologian and religious reformer, was the youngest son of Richard Melville (brother to Melville of Dysart), proprietor of Baldovy near Montrose, at which place Andrew was born on the 1st of August 1545. His father fell at the battle of Pinkie (1547), fighting in the van of the Scottish army, and, his wife having died soon after, the orphan was cared for by his eldest brother Richard. At an early age Melville began to show a taste for learning, and his brother did everything in his power to give him the best education. The rudiments of Latin he obtained at the grammar school of Montrose, after leaving which he learned Greek for two years under Pierre de Marsilliers, a Frenchman whom John Erskine of Dun had induced to settle at Montrose; and such was Melville's proficiency that on going to the university of St. Andrews he excited the astonishment of the professors by using the Greek text of Aristotle, which no one else there understood. On completing his course, Melville left St. Andrews with the reputation of "the best poet, philosopher, and Grecian of any young master in the land." He then, in 1564, being nineteen years of age, set out for France to perfect his education at the university of Paris. He there applied himself to Oriental languages, but also attended the last course of lectures delivered by Turnebus in the Greek chair, as well as those of Peter Ramus, whose philosophical method and plan of teaching he afterwards introduced into the universities of Scotland. From Paris he proceeded to Poitiers (1566) to study civil law, and though only twenty-one he was apparently at once made a regent in the college of St. Marceon. After a residence of three years, however, political troubles compelled him to leave France, and he went to Geneva, where he was welcomed by Theodore Beza, at whose instigation he was appointed to the chair of humanity in the academy of Geneva. In addition to his teaching, however, he also applied himself to studies in Oriental literature, and in particular acquired from Cornelius Bertram, one of his brother professors, a knowledge of Syriac. While he resided at Geneva the massacre of St. Bartholomew in 1572 drove an immense number of Protestant refugees to that city, including several of the most distinguished French men of letters of the time. Among these were several men learned in civil law, and political science, and their society increased Melville's knowledge of the world and enlarged his ideas of civil and ecclesiastical liberty. In 1574 Melville returned to Scotland, and almost immediately received the appointment of principal of Glasgow University, which had fallen into an almost ruinous state, the college having been shut and the students dispersed. Melville, however, set himself to establish a good educational system. He enlarged the curriculum at the college, and established chairs in languages, science, philosophy and divinity, which were confirmed by charter in 1577. His fame spread through the kingdom, and students flocked from all parts of Scotland and even beyond, until the classrooms could not contain those who came for admission. He assisted in the reconstruction of Aberdeen University in 1575, and in order that he might do for St. Andrews what he had done for Glasgow, he was appointed principal of St. Mary's College, St. Andrews, in 1580. His duties there comprehended the teaching, not only of theology, but of the Hebrew, Chaldee, Syriac and Rabbinical languages. The ability of his lectures was universally acknowledged, and he created a taste for the study of Greek literature. The reforms, however, which his new modes of teaching involved, and even some of his new doctrines, such as the non-infallibility of Aristotle, brought him into collision with other teachers in the university. He was moderator of the General Assembly in 1582, and took part in the organization of the Church and the Presbyterian method. Troubles arose from the attempts of the court to force a system of Episcopacy upon the Church of Scotland, and Melville prosecuted one of the "tulchan bishops" (Robert Montgomery, d. 1609). In consequence of this he was summoned before the Privy Council in February 1584, and had to flee into England in order to escape an absurd charge of treason which threatened imprisonment and not improbably his life. After an absence of twenty months he returned to Scotland in November 1585, and in March 1586 resumed his lectures in St. Andrews, where he continued for twenty years; he became rector of the university in 1590. During the whole time he protected the liberties of the Scottish Church against all encroachments of the government. That in the main he and his coadjutors were fighting for the constitutionally guaranteed rights of the Church is admitted by all candid inquirers. The chief charge against Melville is that his fervor often led him to forget the reverence due to an "anointed monarch." Of this, however, it is not easy to judge. Manners at that time were rougher than at present. When the king acted in an arbitrary and illegal manner he needed the reminder that though he was king over men he was only "God's silly vassal." Melville's rudeness (if it is to be called so) was the outburst of just indignation from a man zealous for the purity of religion and regardless of consequences to himself. In 1599 he was deprived of the rectorship, but was made dean of the faculty of theology. The close of Melville's career in Scotland was at length brought about by James in characteristic fashion. In 1606 Melville and seven other clergymen of the Church of Scotland were summoned to London in order "that his majesty might treat with them of such things as would tend to settle the peace of the Church." The contention of the whole of these faithful men was that the only way to accomplish that purpose was a free Assembly. Melville delivered his opinion to that effect in two long speeches with his accustomed freedom, and, having shortly afterwards written a sarcastic Latin epigram on some of the ritual practiced in the chapel of Hampton Court, and some eavesdropper having conveyed the lines to the king, he was committed to the Tower of London, and detained there for four years. On regaining his liberty, and being refused permission to return to his own country, he was invited to fill a professor's chair in the university of Sedan, and there he spent the last eleven years of his life. He died at Sedan in 1622, at the age of seventy-seven.

Father: Richard Melville (d. 1547 war)
Brother: Richard Melville (b. 1522, d. 1575)

    University: University of St. Andrews
    University: University of Paris
    Administrator: Principal, Glasgow University
    Administrator: Principal, St. Mary's College, University of St. Andrews (1580-84)
    Administrator: Rector, University of St. Andrews (1590-)
    Professor: University of Sedan

    Exiled to England (1584-85)

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