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Biographia Scoticana Scots Worthies by John Howie

The Life of Mr. JAMES WOOD.

He was, some time after the year 1651, made provost or principal of the old college of St. Andrews, and one of the ministers there, and being one who in judgment fell in with the resolution party, it occasioned some difference betwixt him and Mr. Rutherford at that time professor of divinity in the new college there, and yet he had ever a great and high esteem for Mr. Wood, as appears from a message he sent him when on his death-bed, wherein he said, |Tell Mr. James Wood from me, I heartily forgive him all the wrongs he hath done, and desire him from me to declare himself the man he is still for the government of the church of Scotland.| And truly he was not deceived in him; for Mr. Wood was true and faithful to the presbyterian government; nothing could prevail upon him to comply in the least degree with abjured prelacy. So far was he from that, that the apostacy and treachery of others (viz. Mr. Sharp), whom he had too much trusted, broke his upright spirit, particularly the aggravated defection and perfidy of him whom he termed Judas, Demas and Gehazi all in one, after he had found what part he had acted to the church of Scotland under trust.

Mr. Wood continued in the exercise of the foresaid offices, until 1663, when, by the instigation of bishop Sharp, he got a charge to appear before the council on the twenty-third of July, to answer to several things laid to his charge; and though Mr. Sharp was indebted to Mr. Wood for any reputation he had, and was under as great obligations to him as one man could be to another, for they had been more than ordinarily familiar, yet now the primate could not bear his continuing any longer there, and he caused cite him before the council.

When he compeared he was interrogate, -- How he came to be provost of the college of St. Andrews? -- When he began to answer, he was interrupted, in a very huffing manner, and commanded to give in his answer in a word, for the arch-bishop and others present could not endure his telling some truths he was entering upon. He told them, He was called by the faculty of that college, at the recommendation of the usurpers, as some here, added he (meaning bishop Sharp), very well know. Whereupon he was removed, and a little after called in again, and his sentence intimate unto him; which was, |That the lords of council, for the present, do declare the said place to be vacant, and ordain and command him to confine himself within the city of Edinburgh, and not to depart from thence until farther orders.| -- When his sentence was intimate to him, he told them, He was sorry they had condemned a person without hearing him, whom they could not charge with the breach of any law. In September following, bishop Sharp got the charge and privileges of that office; which shews that he had some reason for pushing Mr. Wood from that place.

Upon the 30th of the same month, Mr. Wood presented a petition to the council, shewing -- -- That his father was extremely sick, that he had several necessary affairs at St. Andrews, and desired liberty to go there for that effect. Which petition being read, with a certificate of his father's infirmity, the council granted licence to the petitioner to go to St. Andrews, to visit his father, and perform his other necessary affairs; always returning when he should be called by the council.

Thus he continued, till toward the beginning of the year 1664, when he took sickness, whereof he died; and tho' he suffered not in his body, as several of his brethren did, yet the arch-bishop, it appears, was resolved to ruin his name and reputation after his death, if not sooner, in order to which the primate saw good, once or twice, to give him a visit, when on his death-bed in St. Andrews. He was now extremely low in his body, and spoke very little to Mr. Sharp, and nothing at all about the changes made in the state of public affairs; however the consequence of these visits was, -- -- The primate spread a rumour, That Mr. Wood, being now under the views of death and eternity, professed himself very indifferent as to church-government, and declared himself as much for episcopacy as for presbytery: and in all companies Sharp talked, that Mr. Wood had declared to himself, Presbyterian government to be indifferent and alterable at the pleasure of the magistrate, and other falsehoods; yea, he had the impudence (says the historian) to write up an account of this to court, even before Mr. Wood's death. -- Which reports coming to the ears of this good man, they added grief unto his former sorrow, and he could have no rest till he vindicated himself from such a false calumny, by a solemn testimony, which he dictated himself, and subscribed upon the 2d of March before two witnesses and a public notary; which testimony, being burnt by order of the high commission in April following, deserves a place here.

|I James Wood, being very shortly, by appearance, to render up my spirit to the Lord, find myself obliged to leave a word behind me, for my vindication before the world. -- -- It hath been said of me, That I have, in word at least, departed from my wonted zeal for the presbyterian government, expressing myself concerning it, as if it were a matter not to be accounted of, and that no man should trouble himself therefore in matter of practice -- Surely any Christian that knows me in this kirk, will judge that this is a wrong done to me. -- It is true, that I being under sickness, have said sometimes, in conference about my soul's state, that I was taken up about greater business, than any thing of that kind; and what wonder I said so, being under such wrestling anent my interest in Jesus Christ, which is a matter of far greater concernment than any external ordinance. But for my estimation of presbyterian government, the Lord knoweth, that since the day he convinced my heart, which was by a strong hand, that it is the ordinance of God, appointed by Jesus Christ, for governing and ordering his visible church, I never had the least change of thought concerning the necessity of it, nor of the necessity of the use of it. -- And I declare before God and the world, that I still account so of it, and that, however there may be some more precious ordinances, that is so precious, that a true Christian is obliged to lay down his life for the profession thereof, if the Lord shall see meet to put him to the trial; and for myself, if I were to live, I would account it my glory to seal this word of my testimony with my blood. Of this declaration I take God, angels and men to be my witness, and have subscribed these presents at St. Andrews on the 2d of March 1664, about seven hours in the afternoon, before these witnesses, &c.|

Mr. William Tullidaff,
Mr. John Carstairs,
John Pitcairn, writer.


After this he uttered many heavenly expressions, to several persons who came to see him, all setting forth the sweet experience of his soul, until, upon the 5th of March, he made a happy and glorious exit, exchanging this present life for a crown of righteousness.

Mr. Wood was among the brightest lights of that period. He had been colleague to Mr. Sharp, and, after the restoration, he lamented much, that he had been deceived by that unhappy man. He refuted the independents and asserted presbyterial government, as is evident from that work of his, wrote in opposition to Nicolas Lockier's little stone hewed out of the mountain, and his other books that are in print. It is also said, that before his death, he lamented his taking his part with the public resolutioners very much.

'I have been informed (says Wodrow) that he left some very valuable manuscripts behind him, particularly a complete refutation of the Arminian scheme of doctrine, ready for the press, which doubtless if published would be of no small use in this age, when Arminianism hath so far got the ascendant.'

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