Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Forbes, John (1568?-1634)
FORBES, JOHN (1568?–1634), minister of Alford, Aberdeenshire, was the third son of William Forbes of Corse, Aberdeenshire, whose ancestor, a son of the second Lord Forbes, received Corse and other lands from James III, to whom he was armour-bearer. William Forbes, an early adherent of the Reformation, married Elizabeth, daughter of Alexander Strachan of Thornton. Of their sons, Patrick, the eldest [q. v.], became bishop of Aberdeen, William, the second, founded the family of Craigievar, and Arthur [q. v.], the fourth, that of the Earls of Granard in Ireland. John was born about 1568, educated at the university of St. Andrews, where he took the degree of M.A. in 1583, and was ordained minister of Alford in 1593. He soon rose to distinction in the church, and when the proceedings of the synods of Aberdeen and Moray against the Marquis of Huntly–the pillar of Romanism in the north–were interfered with by the privy council, he was sent by them to London to seek redress from the king. In their letter to James they state that Forbes had been specially chosen because of 'his fidelity and uprightness, and his sincere affection borne to the kingdom of God, his majesty's ser- vice and peace of the land.' He went to court in March 1605, was graciously received by the king, and succeeded in the object of his mission. In July following he was appointed moderator of the Aberdeen assembly, which was held contrary to the king's orders ; and when he and others were summoned before the privy council to answer for their disobedience, they declined its jurisdiction, as the matter was spiritual, and offered to submit their conduct to the judgment of the church. For this Forbes and five others were imprisoned in Blackness, tried for high treason, found guilty by a packed jury, and banished from the king's dominions for life. After taking an affecting farewell of their friends the exiles sailed from Leith for Bordeaux 7 Nov. 1606. On reaching France Forbes visited Boyd of Trochrig at Saumur, and then went to Sedan. For some years he appears to have travelled much, visiting the reformed churches and universities, in which many of his countrymen then held professorships. In 1611 he was settled as pastor of a British congregation at Middelburg, and in the following year he and his brother Arthur, then an officer in the Swedish service, spent several weeks at Sedan with their kinsman, Andrew Melville. Soon after this he was offered release from banishment on conditions which he could not accept. In 1616 he was in London for several months, and saw the king, who promised to revoke his sentence of exile, but the promise was not fulfilled. After a ministry of ten years at Middelburg, where he was greatly respected, he became pastor of the British church at Delft. In 1628 Charles I, influenced by Laud, began to interfere with the worship and discipline of the English and Scots churches in the Netherlands, and Forbes was ultimately removed from his charge. He died in 1634, aged about sixty-six. He was held in honour by the reformed churches abroad for his character, talents, and learning, and was revered by many of his own countrymen as one who had suffered for righteousness' sake. He married Christian, daughter of Barclay of Mathers. Two of his sons were colonels in the Dutch service, one of whom afterwards fought on the side of the covenanters, a third, Patrick (1611?-1680) [q. v.], became bishop of Caithness, and a fourth minister of Abercorn. His three daughters married in Scotland.
He was the author of the following: 1 . 'The Saint's Hope, and infallibleness thereof,' Middelburg, 1608. 2. Two sermons, Middelburg, 1608. 3. 'A Treatise tending to the clearing of Justification,' Middelburg, 1616. 4. 'A Treatise how God's Spirit may be discerned from Man's own Spirit,' London, 1617. 5. Four sermons on 1 Tim. vi. 13-16, 1635. 6. A sermon on 2 Tim. ii. 4, Delft, 1642. 7. 'Certain Records touching the Estate of the Kirk in 1605 and 1606,' Edinb. Wodrow Soc. 1846.[Scott's Fasti; Lumsden's House of Forbes; Life by Laing prefixed to Certain Records, &c.; Young's Life of Welsh; Wodrow MSS. in Libr. of Glasg. Univ.; Calderwood's Hist.; J. Melville's Autob.; M'Crie's Life of A. Melville.]