Arbuthnot, Alexander

, principal of the university of Aberdeen, was the son of the baron of Arbuthnot, and was born in the year 1538. He studied philosophy and the classics in the university of Aberdeen, and civil law in France, where he was five years under the care of the famous Cujacius. Having taken the degree of licentiate, he returned home in 1563, and appeared very warmly in support of the reformed religion. At this time queen Mary was resident in her kingdom; but the earl of Murray having the supreme direction of all things, the reformed church of Scotland was in a very flourishing condition. The friends of Mr. Arbuthnot prevailed upon him to take orders, but whether he received them from a bishop or from presbyters is uncertain. In 1568, he assisted as a member of the general assembly, which was held in the month of July at Edinburgh. By this assembly he was intrusted with the care of revising a book which had given offence, entitled “The Fail of the Roman Church,” printed by one Thomas Bassenden, in Edinburgh. The exception taken to it was, that the king had the style of the supreme head of the church: at the s,ame time there was another complaint against this Bassenden, for printing a lewd song at the end of the Psalm book. On these matters an order was made, forbidding the printer to vend any more of his books till the offensive title was altered, and the lewd song omitted. The assembly also made an order, that no book should be published for the future, till licensed by commissioners of their appointment.

A little after, he was appointed minister of Arbuthnot and Logy-Buchan. The year following, viz. 1569, on a visitation of the King’s College at Aberdeen, Mr. Alexander Anderson, principal, Mr. Andrew Galloway, sub-principal, and three regents, were deprived. Their sentence was published on the third of July, and immediately Mr. Arbuthnot was made principal of that college. He was a member also of the general assembly which sat at St. Andrew’s in 1572, when a certain scheme of | church-government was proposed and called the Book of Policy, an invention of some statesmen, to restore the old titles in the church, but with a purpose to retain all the temporalities formerly annexed to them, amongst themselves. The assemhly, being apprized of this, appointed the archbishop of St. Andrew’s, and nineteen other commissioners, of whom Mr. Arbuthnot was one, to confer with the regent in his council; but these conferences either came to nothing, or, which is more probable, were never held. In the general assembly which met at Edinburgh the sixth of August 1573, Mr. Alexander Arbuthnot was chosen moderator. In the next assembly, which met at Edinburgh the sixth of March 1574, he was named one of the commissioners for settling the jurisdiction of the church, which seems to be no more than had been before done about the book of policy. This business required much time and pains, but at last some progress was made therein, and a plan of jurisdiction proposed. In the general assembly, which met at Edinburgh the first of April 1577, he was again chosen moderator. At this time the assembly were persuaded, upon some specious pretences, to appoint a certain number of their members to confer in the morning with their moderator, in order to prepare business. This committee had the name of the Congregation, and in a short time all matters of importance came to be treancd there, and the assembly had little to do but to approve their resolutions. At the close of this assembly, Mr. Arbuthnot, with other commissioners, was appointed to confer with the regent, on the plan of church policy before mentioned. In the general assembly held at Edinburgh the twenty-fifth of October 1578, he was again appointed of the committee for the same purpose, and in the latter end of the year, actually conferred with several noblemen, and other laycommissioners, on that important business. In 1582, Mr. Arbuthnot published Buchanan’s History of Scotland, in which, though he acted only as an editor, yet it procured him a great deal of ill-will, and in all probability gave his majesty king James VI. a bad impression of him. The practice of managing things in congregation still subsisting, the king forbad Mr. Arbuthnot to leave his college at Aberdeen, that he might not be present in the assembly, or direct, as he was used to do, those congregations which directed that great body. This offended the ministers very much, and they did not fail to remonstrate upon it to the | king, who, however, remained firm. What impression this might make upon Mr. Arbuthnot’s mind, a very meek and humble man, assisting others at their request, and not through any ambition of his own, is uncertain; but a little after he began to decline in his health, and on the 20th of October 1583, departed this life in the forty -fifth year of his age, and was buried in the college church of Aberdeen. His private character was very amiable: he was learned without pedantry, and a great encourager of learning in youth, easy and pleasant in conversation, had a good taste in poetry, was well versed in philosophy and the mathematics, eminent as a lawyer, no less eminent as a divine; neither wanted he considerable skill in physic. In his public character he was equally remarkable for his moderation and abilities, which gained him such a reputation, as drew upon him many calls for advice, which made kim at last very uneasy. As principal of the college of Aberdeen, he did great service to the church in particular, and to his country in general, by bringing over many to the former, and reviving that spirit of literature which was much decayed in the latter. These employments took up so much of his time, that we have nothing of his writing, except a single book printed at Edinburgh, in 4to, 1572, under this title, “Orationes de origine et dignitate Juris;” “Orations on the origin and dignity of the Law.” It was esteemed a very learned and elegant performance, as appears by a fine copy of Latin yerses on its publication, by Mr. Thomas Maitland, who was equally admired as a poet and a critic. Arbuthnot’s countryman and contemporary, Andrew Melvil, wrote an elegant epitaph on him, (Delit. Poet. Scot. vol. II. p. 120.) which alone would have been sufficient to preserve his memory, and gives a very just idea of his character. 1

1 Biog. Britannica, Mackenzie’s Scotch Writers, vol. III. p. 186.