Mr. Robert Bailey was born at Glasgow anno
1539. His father was a citizen there, being lineally descended from Bailey of Jerviston, a brother of the house of Carphin, and a branch of the ancient house of Lamington, all in the county of Lanerk; and by his mother's side, he was of the same stock with the Gibsons of Durie, who have made such a figure in the law. He received his education at Glasgow, and, at that university, plied his studies so hard, that, by his industry and uncommon genius, he attained to the knowledge of twelve or thirteen of the languages, and could write a Latin style that, in the opinion of the learned, might well become the Augustan age.
After his study of divinity, he took orders from arch-bishop Law, about the year 1622, and was soon after presented by the earl of Eglinton to the church of Kilwinning. When the reformation began anno 1637, he wanted not his own difficulties, from his education and tenderness of the king's authority, to see through some of the measures then taken. Yet after reasoning, reading and prayer, (as he himself exprest it) he came heartily into the covenanters interest about that time.
Being a man of distinct and solid judgment, he was often employed in the public business of the church. In 1638, he was chosen by his own presbytery, to be a member of that memorable assembly held at Glasgow, where he behaved himself with great wisdom and moderation.
He was also one of those who attended as chaplains to the army in 1639, and 1640, and was present during the whole treaty begun at Rippon and concluded at London. -- -- What comfort he had in these things he describes in these words, |As for myself, I never found my mind in a better temper than it was all that time, from my outset until my head was again homeward. I was one who had taken leave of the world, and resolved to die in that service. I found the favour of God shining on me, and a sweet, meek and humble, yet strong and vehement spirit leading me along.| The same year 1640, he was by the covenanting lords sent to London to draw up an accusation against arch-bishop Laud, for the innovations he had obtruded upon the church of Scotland.
He was translated from Kilwinning to be professor of divinity at Glasgow, when Mr. David Dickson was translated from thence to the divinity chair at Edinburgh. And he was one of those commissioners sent from the church of Scotland to the Westminster assembly anno 1645, where he remained almost the whole time of that assembly. And after they rose, as an acknowledgment of his good services, the parliament of England made him a handsome present of silver plate, with an inscription, signifying it to be a token of their great respect to him, which not long since was to be seen in the house of Carnbrue, being carefully preserved, and perhaps it remains there to this day.
By his first wife Lillias Fleming he had one son and four daughters, by his second wife, principal Strang's daughter he had one daughter who was married to Walkinshaw of Barrowfield.
About this time he was a great confident of the marquis of Argyle, the earls of Cassils, Eglinton, Lauderdale, and Loudon, lord Balmerino, and Sir Archibald Johnston lord Warriston, with others of the chief managers among the covenanters, whereby he obtained the most exact knowledge of the transactions of that time, which he has carefully collected in his letters; as he expresses himself, there was not any one from whom his correspondent could get a more full narrative under Cromwell's usurpation. He joined with that party called resolutioners, and composed several of the papers belonging to that side anno 1661. He was by Lauderdale's interest, made principal of the college of Glasgow, upon the removal of Mr. Patrick Gillespie, about which time it is commonly said, he had a bishopric offered him, but that he refused it, because, says the writer of the memorial, he did not choose to enter into a dispute with those, with whom he had formerly lived in friendship. But this was only a sly way of wounding an amiable character, for Mr. Bailey continued firmly attached to presbyterian government, and in opposition to prelacy to his very last; several instances could be brought to this purpose, but a few excerpts from some of his own letters, particularly one to Lauderdale a little before his death, may effectually wipe away that reproach. |Having the occasion of this bearer, I tell you my heart is broken with grief, and I find the burthen of the public weighty, and hastening me to my grave. What need you do that disservice to the king, which all of you cannot recompense, to grieve the hearts of all your godly friends in Scotland, with pulling down all our laws at once, which concerned our church since 1633? Was this good advice, or will it thrive? Is it wisdom to bring back upon us the Canterburian times, the same designs, the same practices? Will they not bring on the same effects, whatever fools dream?| And again, in the same letter downward, he says, |My lord, you are the nobleman in all the world I love best, and esteem most -- -- I think I may say I write to you what I please. If you have gone with your heart to forsake your covenant; to countenance the re-introduction of bishops and books, and strengthen the king by your advice in those things, I think you a prime transgressor, and liable among the first to answer for that great sin, &c.| And when the arch-bishop came to visit him, when on his death-bed, he would not so much as give him the appellation of lord: yea it appears, that the introduction of prelacy was a means of bringing on his death, as appears evident from his last public letter to his cousin Mr. Spang, dated May 12, 1662, some weeks before his death. After some account of the west country ministers, being called in to Edinburgh, he says, |The guise is now, the bishops will trouble no man, but the states will punish seditious ministers. This poor church is in the most hard taking that ever we have seen. This is my daily grief; this hath brought all my bodily trouble on me, and is like to do me more harm.| And very quickly after that, in the month of July, he got to his rest and glorious reward, being aged 63 years.
Mr. Robert Bailey may very justly, for his profound and universal learning, exact and solid judgment, be accounted amongst the great men of his time. He was an honour to his country, and his works do praise him in the gates; among which are, his scripture-chronology, wrote in latin; his Canterburian self-conviction; his parallel or comparison of the liturgy with the mass-book; his dissuasive against the errors of the times; and a large manuscript collection of historical papers and letters, consisting of four volumes folio, beginning at the year 1637, and ending at the restoration, never hitherto published. To him is, by some, ascribed that book, intitled, Historia motuum in regno Scotiae, annis 1634, -- -- 1640.; and if he was the author of that, then also of another anonymous paper called, a short relation of the state of the kirk of Scotland, from the reformation of religion to the month of October 1638. For, from the preface of the last mentioned book, it appears, that both were wrote by the same hand. He also wrote Laudensium, an anecdote against Arminianism; a reply to the modest enquirer, with other tracts and some sermons on public occasion.
N. B. In the life and now published letters of principal Bailie, we have a recent proof of human frailty. -- Nay, more, that even great and good men will be biassed in judgment, and prejudiced in mind at others more faithful than themselves: for instance, these very noblemen and ministers to whom he gives the highest elogiums of praise, for being the prime instruments in God's hand for carrying on the work of reformation betwixt 1638, and 1649, -- As soon as they took the remonstrators side, he not only represents some of them to be of such a character as I shall forbear to mention; but even gives us a very diminutive view of their most faithful contendings about that time; wherein the gallant Argyle, -- courageous Loudon, -- the able statesman Warriston, -- faithful Guthrie, -- godly Rutherford, -- peaceable Livingston, -- honest M'Ward, &c. cannot evite their share of reflections; which no doubt add nothing to the credit of the last ten years of his history; and all from a mistaken view of the controversy betwixt those protestors and his own party the resolutioners; taking all the divisions and calamities that befel church, state and army at that time to proceed from the protestors not concurring with them; whereas it is just the reverse; the taking in Charles II. that atheistical wretch, and his malignant faction into the bosom of the church, proved the Achan in the camp, that brought all these evils upon the church, state, and army, at and since that time. -- These protestors could not submit their consciences to the arbitrary dictates of the public resolutioners: they could not agree to violate their almost newly sworn covenant, by approving of the admission of these wicked malignants into public places of power and trust; -- in defence of which many of them faced the awful gibbet, banishment, imprisonment, and other excruciating hardships; -- whereas several hundreds of the resolutioners, on the very first blast of temptation, involved themselves in fearful apostacy and perjury; some of them became violent persecutors of these their faithful brethren, and not a few of them absolute monsters of iniquity. -- The dreadful effects of which have almost ruined both church and state in these lands; and perhaps this same malignant faction will utterly do it at last, if the Lord in mercy prevent not. For the above, see Bailie's letters, Vol. II. page 350, -- -- 448.