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Prestonpans and Vicinity

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Davidson—Place of Birth—Brilliant Career—Studying at Paris—Head of the Catholic College in Glasgow—Joins the Reformers—Minister at Liberton—Excommunicates Montgomery—Royal Interposition—Ministers and Associated Lords at loggerheads—Davidson's advice to the King— Compelled to fly to England—Forbidden to preach in London—Returns to Scotland—Appointment at Holyrood—Melvile and Davidson—Prosecuted by the King—Appointed to South Preston—His Protest and Persecution—Extracts from Session Records, 1596—Names of the first twelve Children Baptised under Davidson—Names of Witnesses—Names of the first Elders at Prestonpans Church.
IN a Charter of Mortification, by John Hamilton of Preston, dated 19th November 1615, in keeping of the Kirk Session of Prestonpans, we learn that John Davidson was born about the year 1549 at Dunfermline, where his parents were owners of property in houses and land. Whether he spent his early years at his native place, or how they were spent, is quite unknown: that he must have been studiously inclined, however, is evident from the fact that he was destined for the Church.
The earliest notice we have of this eminent divine is on reaching manhood, is even after he had completed his ecclesiastical studies and had received an appointment.
"John Davidson, " says M'Crie, "who was Melville's predecessor at Glasgow, was a clergyman before the Reformation, and had studied at Paris along with Quintin Kennedy, Abbot of Crossraguel (who died in 1564). Having returned to Scotland, he was placed in 1557 at the head of the college in Glasgow. "
When religious controversy first arose, Davidson adhered to the Roman Catholic Church, but afterwards changed his views and joined the Reformers. Shortly after this he was compelled to seek refuge in England, and returned to his native land only on the decease of the Regent Morton. He is next heard of as parish minister of Liberton, on being appointed by the Presbytery of Edinburgh to excommunicate Montgomery. Montgomery was parish minister at Stirling. The Bishopric of Glasgow had become vacant through the decease of Archbishop Boyd. An attempt, by those in power, was again being made to thrust Episcopacy upon an unwilling people. M'Crie says, "though the regulations recognising Episcopacy, which were made at Leith in 1572, had been formally abrogated by the General Assembly, and abandoned, and virtually annulled by the Court, yet were they now revived by an Act, October 28, 1581, of Privy Council. "
The disposal of the See of Glasgow was given to Lennox, who offered it to different ministers upon condition of their making over to him its revenues and contenting themselves with an annual pension. The offer was at last accepted by Montgomery, —" A man, " says Dr Robertson, " vain, feeble, presumptuous, and more apt, by the blemishes of his character, to have alienated the people from an order (Presbyterian) already beloved, than to reconcile them to one (Episcopacy) which was the object of their hatred. " This "vile bargain" (Spottiswoode so designates it), made at a time when the episcopal office stood condemned by the Assembly, and tending directly to place the church at issue with the government, excited universal indignation. At the Assembly which met in October 1581, the affair was warmly taken up and Montgomery put to the bar. Royal authority at this juncture interposed and the case was delayed. "John Davidson, who was chosen to preside on the occasion, preached so much to the conviction of his hearers, and made confession of their sins to heaven with such devout fervour, that the whole Assembly melted into tears before him; and rising from their seats at his desire, and lifting up their right hands, they renewed their covenant with God. The scene, which continued during three hours, was solemn and affecting beyond anything that the oldest person present had witnessed. "
Again, when the king seemed determined to introduce Episcopacy into the church, "at a. meeting of the Provincial Synod of Fife shortly after the dissolution of Parliament, ' Davidson, 'says Melville, 'whose zeal had prompted him to attend the meeting, showed that the parliamentary voter was a bishop in disguise, and, catching enthusiasm from the speech of his aged brother (Ferguson), exclaimed 'Busk ye, busk,
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