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Biographia Scoticana Scots Worthies by John Howie

The Life of Mr. JOHN DAVIDSON.

He was minister at Salt-Preston (now known by the name of Preston-pans), and began very early to discover uncommon piety and faithfulness in the discharge of his duty. He was involved in the sufferings brought upon several ministers on account of the raid of Ruthven, and the enterprise at Stirling anno 1584, on which account he fled for England, and remained there some considerable time.

Being returned to Scotland, in the year 1596, when the ministers and other commissioners of the general assembly were met at Edinburgh for prayer, in order to a general and personal reconciliation (they were about four hundred ministers, besides elders and private Christians), Mr. Davidson was chosen to preside amongst them. He caused the 33d and 34th chapters of Ezekiel to be read, and discoursed upon them in a very affecting manner, shewing what was the end of their meeting, in confessing sin and resolving to forsake it, and that they should turn to the Lord, and enter into a new league and covenant with him, that so, by repentance, they might be the more meet to stir up others to the same duty. In this he was so assisted by the Spirit working upon their hearts, that, within an hour after they had conveened, they began to look with another countenance than at first, and while he was exhorting them to these duties, the whole meeting were in tears, every one provoking another by his example, whereby that place might have justly been called Bochim.

After prayer, he treated one Luke xii.22. wherein the same assistance was given him. Before they dismissed, they solemnly entered into a new league and covenant, holding up their hands, with such signs of sincerity as moved all present. That afternoon, the assembly enacted the renewal of the covenant by particular synods.

In the general assembly held at Dundee 1598. (where the king was present), it was proposed, Whether ministers should vote in parliament in the name of the church. Mr Davidson intreated them not to be rash in concluding so weighty a matter; he said, |Brethren, ye see not how readily the bishops begin to creep up.| Being desired to give his vote, he refused, and protested in his own name and in the name of those who should adhere to him; and required that his protest should be inserted in the books of assembly. Here the king interposed, and said, |That shall not be granted, see if you have voted and reasoned before:| |never Sir,| said Mr. Davidson, |but without prejudice to any protestation made or to be made.| And then presented his protestation in writing, which was handed from one to another, till it was laid down before the clerk. The king, taking it up and reading it, shewed it to the moderator and others about, and at last put it in his pocket, (see this protest and a letter sent by him to the assembly 1601, in Calderwood, pages 420 and 450.) This protest and letter was the occasion of farther trouble to him. For in the month of May following, he was charged to compear before the council on the 26th, and answer for the same, and was by the king committed prisoner to the castle of Edinburgh; but, on account of bodily infirmity, this place of confinement was changed to his own dwelling house; after which he obtained liberty to exercise his office in his own parish. When the king was going for England anno 1603, as he was passing through Preston-pans, the laird of Ormiston intreated him to relieve Mr Davidson from his confinement to the bounds of his own parish, but this could not be obtained. -- -- He likewise, in some instances, shewed that he was possessed in a considerable measure of the spirit of prophecy. -- He was, while in Preston, very anxious about the building of a church in that parish, and had, by his own private interest, contributed liberally to it; Lord Newbattle, having considerable interest in that parish, likewise promised his assistance, but afterwards receded from his engagements; upon which Mr. Davidson told him, That these walls that were there begun should stand as a witness against him, and that, ere long, God should root him out of that parish, so that he should not have one bit of land in the same; which was afterwards accomplished. At another time being moderator at the synod of Lothian, Mr John Spotswood minister at Calder, and Mr James Law minister at Kirkliston were brought before them for playing at the foot-ball on the sabbath. Mr Davidson urged that they might be deposed, but the synod, because of the fewness of the ministers present, &c. agreed that they should be rebuked, which, having accordingly done, he turned to his brethren and said, |Now let me tell you what reward you shall have for your lenity, these two men shall trample on your necks, and on the necks of the ministers of Scotland.| How true this proved was afterwards too well known, when Spotswood was made arch-bishop of St Andrews, and Law of Glasgow. Being at dinner one time with Mr Bruce, who was then in great favour with the king, he told him, he should soon be in as great discredit; which was likewise accomplished. At another time, when dining in the house of one of the magistrates of Edinburgh with Mr Bruce, in giving thanks, he brake forth in these words, |Lord, this good man hath respect, for thy sake, to thy servants, but he little knoweth, that in a short time, he shall carry us both to prison;| which afterwards came to pass, although, at the time, it grieved the baillie exceedingly. Mr Fleming, in his fulfilling of the scriptures, relates another remarkable instance of this kind -- A gentleman nearly related to a great family in that parish, but a most violent hater of true piety, did, on that account, beat a poor man who lived there, although he had no manner of provocation. Among other strokes which he gave him, he gave him one on the back, saying, |Take that for Mr Davidson's sake.| This mal-treatment obliged the poor man, to take to his bed; he complained most of the blow which he had received on his back. In the close of his sermon on the sabbath following, Mr. Davidson, speaking of the oppression of the godly, and the enmity which the wicked had to such, and, in a particular manner, mentioned this last instance, saying, |It was a sad time, when a profane man would thus openly adventure to vent his rage against such as were seekers of God in the place, whilst he could have no cause but the appearance of his image,| and then said, with great boldness, |He, who hath done this, were he the laird or the laird's brother, ere a few days pass, God shall give him a stroke, that all the monarchs on earth dare not challenge.| Which accordingly came to pass in the close of that very same week, for this gentleman, while standing before his own door, was struck dead with lightening, and had all his bones crushed to pieces.

A little before his death, he happened occasionally to meet with Mr Kerr, a young gentleman lately come from France, and dressed in the court fashion. Mr Davidson charged him to lay aside his scarlet cloke and gilt rapier, for, said he, |You are the man who shall succeed me in the ministry of this place;| which surprized the youth exceedingly, but was exactly accomplished, for he became an eminent and faithful minister at that place.

Such as would see more of Mr Davidson's faithful labours in the work of the ministry may consult the apologetical relation, Sec.2. p.30. and Calderwood, p.310, -- 373.

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