Douglas, Robert (1594-1674) (DNB00)


DOUGLAS, ROBERT (1594–1674), presbyterian divine, was son of George Douglas, governor of Laurence, lord Oliphant. There seems no doubt that the divine's father was an illegitimate son of Sir George Douglas of Lochleven, brother of Sir William Douglas, sixth earl of Morton [q. v.] Sir George helped Mary Queen of Scots to escape from Lochleven in 1567, and at the end of the seventeenth century the Scottish historians stated that Queen Mary was the mother of Sir George's illegitimate son. Burnet states, in the manuscript copy of his ‘History of his own Time’ in the British Museum, that the rumour that Robert Douglas was Queen Mary's grandson was very common in his day, and that Douglas ‘was not ill-pleased to have this story pass.’ Wodrow (Analecta, iv. 226) repeats the tale on the authority of ‘Old Mr. Patrick Simson,’ and suggests that it was familiar to most Scotchmen. But its veracity is rendered more than doubtful by the absence of any reference to it in contemporary authorities, and by Burnet's circumstantial statement that the child was born after Queen Mary's escape from Lochleven, during a period of her life almost every day of which has since been thoroughly examined, without revealing any confirmatory evidence. The report should probably be classed with the many whig fictions fabricated about Queen Mary to discredit the Jacobites in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Douglas was educated at the university of St. Andrews, where he took the degree of M.A. in 1614. He became minister of Kirkaldy in 1628, and a year later was offered a charge at South Leith, which he declined. It must have been after entering the ministry that he became chaplain to one of the brigades of Scottish auxiliaries sent with the connivance of Charles I to the aid of Gustavus Adolphus in the thirty years' war. Gustavus landed in Germany in June 1630. Wodrow, in his ‘Analecta,’ gives several anecdotes, showing how highly that monarch appreciated Douglas's wisdom and military skill. During the campaign he had no other book but the Bible to read, and is said to have committed nearly the whole of it to memory. Returning to Scotland, he was elected in 1638 member of the general assembly, and in the following year was chosen for the second charge of the High Church in Edinburgh. In 1641 he was removed to the Tolbooth Church, and in July of the same year preached a sermon before the Scotch parliament. In the following year he was chosen moderator of the general assembly—an honour also paid him in 1645, 1647, 1649, and 1651—and in 1643 he was named one of the commissioners of the assembly to the assembly of divines at Westminster. In 1644 he was chaplain to one of the Scotch regiments in England, an account of which he gives in his ‘Diary.’ Douglas was a leading member of the general assembly of the church of Scotland. In 1649 he was retransferred to the High Church, and with other commissioners presented the solemn league and covenant to the parliament, and was appointed a commissioner for visiting the universities of Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and St. Andrews. In the following year he was one of the ministers who waited on Charles II at Dunfermline to obtain his signature to a declaration of religion; but as this document reflected on his father, Charles refused to sign it. The result was a division in the Scotch church on the matter, Douglas being a leader of the resolutioners, the party which preferred to treat the king leniently. In January 1651 Douglas officiated at the coronation of Charles II at Scone, preaching a sermon in which he said that it was the king's duty to maintain the established religion of Scotland, and to bring the other religions of the kingdom into conformity with it. Douglas was sent prisoner to London by Cromwell, when he suppressed the Scotch royalists, but was released in 1653. In 1654 he was called to London with other eminent ministers to consult with the Protector upon the affairs of the church of Scotland. Douglas was now the acknowledged leader of the moderate presbyterians or ‘public resolutioners,’ and retained the position till the Restoration, which he largely helped to bring about. In 1659 he joined with the other resolutioners in sending Sharp to London to attend to the interests of the Scotch church, and Wodrow (Sufferings of the Church of Scotland) gives most of the correspondence which took place between them. In this year Douglas preached the sermon at the opening of Heriot's Hospital. After the Restoration Douglas was offered the bishopric of Edinburgh if he would agree to the introduction of episcopacy into Scotland, but indignantly declined the office, and remonstrated with Sharp for determining to accept the archbishopric of St. Andrews. Wodrow intimates that the archbishopric was offered first to Douglas, who contemptuously replied that he would not be archbishop unless he was made chancellor as well. He preached before the Scotch parliament in 1661, and 27 June 1662 was removed to the pastorate of Grey Friars' Church, Edinburgh. For declining to recognise episcopacy Douglas was deprived of this charge 1 Oct. following. In 1669 the privy council licensed him as an indulged minister to the parish of Pencaitland in East Lothian. He died in 1674, aged 80. He married (1) Margaret Kirkaldie, and (2) Margaret Boyd on 20 Aug. 1646. By the former he was father of Thomas, Janet, Alexander, minister of Logie, Elizabeth, Archibald, and Robert. He had also two children (Robert and Margaret) by his second wife. He is stated to have been a man of great judgment and tact, and one of the most eloquent and fearless preachers in Scotland in his day. Wodrow says he was ‘a great man for both great wit and grace, and more than ordinary boldness and authority, and awful majesty appearing in his very carriage and countenance.’ Burnet affirms that he had ‘much wisdom and thoughtfulness,’ but very silent and of ‘vast pride.’ Few men helped to bring about the Restoration with greater assiduity, yet few royalists fared less kindly at the hands of the restored government. His published works are: 1. ‘The Diary of Mr. Robert Douglas when with the Scottish Army in England,’ 1644. 2. ‘A Sermon preached at Scone, January the first, 1651, at the Coronation of Charles II,’ 1651. 3. ‘Master Douglas, his Sermon preached at the Down-sitting of the last Parliament of Scotland,’ 1661.

[Kirkton's Secret Hist. of the Church of Scotland, p. 288; Guthrey's Memoirs, p. 190; Stephen's Hist. of the Church of Scotland, pt. ii. p. 176 (1845); Johnstone's Collection, &c., pp. 328, 445–9; Hetherington's Hist. of the Church of Scotland (1852); Chambers's Eminent Scotsmen, vol. i.; Wodrow's Sufferings of the Clergy in Scotland; Wodrow's Analecta; Hew Scott's Fasti Ecclesiæ Scotic. i. 21, 26, &c.; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. iv. 299, 2nd ser. xi. 50–1.]

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