The History of Leith

February 18, 2005

THE RECENTLY DISCOVERED REFORMATION CATECHISM

Preface to Catechism by David Lindsay.
Some years ago, on Saturday 7th October 1922, the Ecelesiological Society of Edinburgh visited the Church of South Leith.

A paper on the History of the Church was read by Mr Robert son, and an account of the proceedings of the afternoon was published, in the Scotsman of the following Monday. Following on this report, a letter was received from Sands & Co., the Roman Catholic publishers, in which there was offered for sale a small MSS. volume neatly bound, with three forms of Catechism in it. Two of them were quite definitely assigned to authors. One of these was David Lindsay, the other was James Nicholson. They were all written in one hand, and therefore one at least of thorn was not in the authors handwriting. The other two conceivably might have been. The style of writing was that in use between 1560 and 1630. Before advising the Kirk Session to purchase the volume, the minister thought it wise to have it submitted to the eminent Scottish scholar, Dr. Hay Fleming. He gave it as Iris opinion that the volume was undoubtedly ancient, but not in all probability by the older David Lindsay. As his son, also named David Lindsay, succeeded him in the First Charge in 1613, and lived until 1627, and as, besides, he was known as an author of several works, it was considered a likely thing that he might possibly have been the author of the Catechism. It was accordingly purchased, and added to the many ancient possessions of our historic church.
It is only fair to say that there was still another David Lindsay, who was practically a contemporary of the younger David Lindsay of South Lcith. He was minister of the First Charge of Dundee for many years, continuing in the Charge even after he had accepted the Bishopric of Brechin. He lived until after 1640, having beon deprived of his Bishopric by the Covenanting Glasgow Assembly of 1638. Against his claim to be the author of our Catechism is not only the general character of the man, which was hard and worldly, but also the fact that he has not been mentioned anywhere as the author of a Catechism, although some other
writings are set down to him. Rather in his favour, however, is the fact that James Nichol son, whose Catechism is bound up with that attributed to Mr David Lindsay, was a brother- in-law of his own. It is at least a striking coincidence that Catechisms to which the names of brothers-in-law are attached appear in the same MSS. So far as a somewhat careful enquiry can discover, there are no other facts which can help us to a solution of the problem.
David Lindsay, the second of the name to occupy the Charge of South Leith, was born about 1566. Educated at St. Andrews, he was ordained to Forar in I590. Translated to the Second Charge of St. Andrews in 1597, he was instituted Rector of St. Olave, Southwark, London, in 1803. Corning back to Forgan in Fife, he worked there until he was appointed to the Second Charge of South Leith in 1609, He succeeded his father in the First Charge in 1613. l published, from St. Andrews, in 1622, The Heavenly Chariot Laid Open and from London in 162-3 The Godly Mans Journey to Heaven.He appears to have been a man gentle and meditative in character, while delicate in health.
The story of James Nicholson, who died Bishop of Dunkeld in 1607, is deeply affecting. Born in a good station of life in 1570, he spent his early days at Court. James Melville induced him to offer for the ministry, and at the early age of 19 he became minister of a Parish. In 1597 he and Melville were having interviews with the King. whose steadfast purpose was to make Scotland Episcopal, like the England on the Throne of which he hoped so soon to sit. James succeeded in seducing Nicholson from his allegiance to Presbyterianism, and the inter view between Nicholson and his bedfellow and friend Melville that same evening was a full revelation to each of the n of the character of the other. While Nicholson proved most useful to the King, nevertheless his disloyalty to the higher truth seems to have preyed on his mind. First of all, he does not seem to have left Meigle for the Chapel Royal at Stirling, to which ho was appointed in 1602, By 1607,
when he was appointed Bishop of Dunkeld, melancholy and disease combined to make him refuse both confirmation in the Bishopric and also all its worldly emoluments. He lived only a few weeks after the appointment. He would not allow the name and style of Bishop to be put in his letters, will, and testament, nor the rents thereof to come in reckoning among the goods and gear left to his wife and children. To his brother-in-law, David Lindsay of Dundee, he said,Be never a Bishop, for if you be Bishop, you must resolve to take the will of your sovereign for the Law of your conscience.He further gave the advice, “not to haunt the Court, and to eschew all the Kings employments.But neither his grief nor his admonition made any good effect on Mr David, for he made no scruple to accept of the Bishopric of Brechin, and defend all the corruptions and innovations it pleased the King to obtrude upon our Kirk.
No sermon, exposing the insinuating power of worldliness on the human heart, could possibly be more impressive. It is quite clear that James Nicholson was torn in two. On the one side was a tender conscience, which seems to have acted a little too late on critical occasions. On the other was the fascination of worldly place, power, and pelf. It is satisfactory that he recognised his sin and made his peace with God before dying. 0! Let us learn from him and his suffering of soul “to count all things but loss for the excellency of the know ledge of Christ Jesus our Lord.Let us be ready to surrender everything rather than be separate in soul from Him! The following quaint and homely verse exposes his agony of soul
His wife and friends comfort in vain
Did bring a doctor hillier:
None but King James can give me health
By taking off my mitre.
My body down into the grave,
My soul to lowest Hell
It presseth down. 0! Take it off
Or else it will me kill.
Search me, 0 Lord and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there he any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
At the time of the Reformation many Catechisms were published both on the Continent and also in Britain. In Scotland all such publications were brought to an end when the Church adopted not only the Westminster Confession hut also the Larger and the Shorter Catechisms. Luther and Calvin issued works which were known in this country? and also, in the case of Calvin, authorised for Church and family use. I mention also The Palatine Catechism, Craigs Catechisms (the first great Scottish Catechism), Davidsons Catechism, and finally Adamsons and Ponts Latin Metrical Catechisms. These are all fully printed, with essays and explanatory notes, in a book by the greatest of all Scottish hymn writers—Horatius Bonar. It is entitled Catechisms of the Scottish Reformation.(P. Nisbet & Co., London, 1866.)
Source-South Leith Records 1925

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