The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws,
changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.
—Isa. 24.5

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And Renunciation of Episcopacy

Subscribed by Mr. Patrick Adamson,

Pretended Bishop of St. Andrews.

X Editor’s Introduction.

This remarkable recantation of episcopacy and personal offences, by a (pretended) Bishop of the Church of Scotland, is to be found in various old publications.  It is here presented, because it is referred to in another item long ago provided on this website, The Reasons Agreed Upon by the Reformers of the Church of Scotland, &c. with its various appendices; and because when this document of Reasons was proofread long ago, it was recommended by John Withee of Lancaster that the referenced Renunciation be inserted out of Wodrow’s History, because “it is quite good.”  So, after twelve-and-a-half years, here is the recommended text.  It should be noted, for those less familiar with the history, that the document below is far from being a thorough account of the offensiveness of Mr. Adamson’s life.  Histories of the time, as well as the personal writings of particular individuals, such as James Melville’s Diary, shed more light on the depravity of the man whose recantation and submission to the Reformation Kirk of Scotland is described below.



THE Provincial Assembly convened at St. Andrews the sixth of April, 1591. Mr John Caldeleuche presented in Mr. Patrick Adamson’s name, certain articles written in Latin, containing his recantation, which being read, the Assembly directed the Rector of the University, Mr. Andrew Melville, and Mr. Robert Wilkie, David Ferguson, and Mr. Nicoll Dagleish, to him, to crave, in name of the Assembly, a clearer and ampler recantation in the vulgar tongue.  The bishop sent it subscribed with his own hand, the tenor whereof here followeth:


“BRETHREN,—Understanding the proceedings of the Assembly in my contrare, and being now withholden by sickness from presenting myself before you, that I might give confession of that doctrine, wherein I hope God shall call me, and that at his pleasure I might depart in an unity of Christian faith, I thought good by writ to utter the same unto your wisdoms, and to crave your godly wisdoms’ assistance, not for the restitution of any worldly pomp or pre-eminence, which I little respect, but to remove from me the slanders which are raised in this country concerning the variance of doctrine, specially on my part, wherein I protest before {120} God, that I have only a single respect to his glory, and by his grace I shall abide herein unto my life’s end.

“First, I confess the true doctrine of Christian religion to be publicly taught and rightly announced within this realm, and detest all papistry and superstition, like as, blessed be God, I have detested the same in my heart the space of 30 years, since it pleased God to give me the knowledge of the truth, wherein I have walked uprightly, as well here as in other countries, as the Lord beareth me record; until these last days, wherein, partly for ambition and vain glory, to be preferred before my brethren, and partly for covetousness, I have possessed the pelf of the kirk, I did undertake this office of archbishoprick, wherewith justly the sincerest professors of the Word have found fault, and have condemned the same, as impertinent to the office of a sincere pastor of God’s Word.  And albeit men would colour the same, and the imperfections thereof, by divers cloaks yet the same can not be concealed from the spiritual eyes of the faithful, neither yet can the men of God, when they are put to their conscience, dissemble the same.

“Next, I confess that I was in an erroneous opinion, that I believed the government of the kirk to be like unto the kingdoms of the earth; plain contrary to the commandment of our Master Christ; and the monarchy whereby the kirk is governed, not only to be in the person of our Saviour Christ, (as it is,) but in the ministers, who are nothing but vassals under him, in an equality among themselves.

“Thirdly, That I married [preformed the marriage of] the Earl of Huntlie, contrary to the command of the kirk, without the confession of his faith, and profession of the sincere doctrine of the Word, I repent and crave God pardon.

“That I travailed, both by reasoning and otherwise, to subject the kirk-men to the king’s ordinance in things that appertain unto ecclesiastical matters and things of conscience, I ask God mercy, whereupon great enormities have fallen forth in this country.

“That I believed, and so taught, the presbyteries to be a foolish {121} invention, and would have it so esteemed of all men, which is an ordinance of Christ, I crave God mercy.

“Farther I submit myself to the mercy of God, and judgement of the Assembly, not measuring my offences by my own self, nor infirmities of my own ingyne [ingenuity], but by the good judgment of the kirk, to the which always I subject my self; and beseech you to make intercession to God for me, and to the king, that I may have some moyen [strength, ability] to live, and consume the rest of this my wretched time, for winning of whose favours, (which foolishly I thought thereby to obtain,) I committed all these errours.

“As where [whereas] I am burdened to be the setter forth of the book called The King’s Declaration, wherein the whole order of the kirk is condemned and traduced, I protest before God, that so I was commanded to write the same by the Chancellor for the time; but chiefly by the Secretar, another great courtier, who himself penned the second act of parliament, concerning the power and authority of judicature to be absolutely in the king’s power, and that it should not be lawful to any subject to reclaim from the same, under the penalty of the act, which I suppose was treason.

Item, Where it is alleged that I should have condemned the doctrine announced and taught by the ministry of Edinburgh, and to have allowed only concerning obedience to the prince, I confess and protest before God, that I never understood, nor yet knew any thing but sincerity and uprightness in the doctrine of the ministry of Edinburgh, in that point nor in any other.

“Farther, I confess I was the author of the act, discharging the ministers’ stipends that did not subscribe these acts of parliament, wherewith God hath justly recompensed my self.

As for any violent course, it is known well enough who was the author thereof; and my part was tried at the imprisonment of Mr. Nicol Dagleish, Mr. Patrick Melville, Mr. Thomas Jack and others.

“Moreover, I grant I was more busy with some bishops of England, in prejudice of the discipline of our kirk, partly when I was there, and partly by our mutual intelligence sensyne [since], than {122} became a good Christian, much less a faithful pastor.  Neither is there anything that more ashameth me, than my often deceiving and abusing of the kirk heretofore, by confessions, subscriptions, protestations, &c., which be far from me now, and ever hereafter.  Amen.

“Your brother in the Lord,

(Sic subscribitur)     MR PATRIK ADAMSONE.”

“As where [whereas] your wisdoms desire to have my own opinion concerning the book of the Declaration of the King’s Intention, the same is at more length declared in the confession which I have exhibited already, wherein I have condemned all the whole articles therein contained, like as by these presents I condemn them.

“As where ye require, what became of the books of the Assembly? all which I had preserved whole unto the returning of the lords and ministry out of England; and if I had not preserved them, my Lord of Arran intended to have made them be cast into the fire.  And upon a certain day, in Falkland, before they were delivered to the king’s Majesty, the Bishop of N., accompanied with Mr. Henry Hammilton, rent out some leaves, and destroyed such things as made against our estate, and that not without my own special allowance.

“As for the books which I have set forth, I have set forth nothing except a commentary upon the First Epistle of Paul to Timothy, which I did direct to the king’s Majesty, and kept no exemplar beside me; and understands that Mr. John Geddie got the same from the king, and lent it to Mr Robert Hepburn.

“Farther, I wrote nothing, but only made mention in my preface upon the Apocalypse, that I should write a book called Psyllus, which (being prevented by disease) God would not suffer me to finish; and the little thing that was done I caused to destroy it.  And, likewise, I have set forth the Book of Job, with the Apocalypse, and the Lamentations of Jeremy, all in verse, to be printed in England.

“As for my intention, I am not disposed, or in ability to write {123} anything at this time; and if it please God I were restored to my health, I would change my style, as Cajetanus did at the Council of Trent.

“As for Sutlivius’ book against the form and order of the Presbyteries, so far am I from being partner in that work, that as I know not the man, nor had never any intelligence of the work before it was done, so, if it please God to give me days, I will write in his contrare, to the maintenance of the contrary confession.

“Prays the brethren to be at unity and peace with me, and in token of their forgiveness, because health suffereth me not to go over to the college, where ye are presently assembled, which I would gladly do, to ask God and you forgiveness; that it would please you to repair thither, that I may do it here.

“Moreover, I condemn, by this my subscription, whatsoever is contained in the Epistle Dedicatory to the king’s Majesty, before my book on the Revelation, that is either slanderous or offensive to the brethren.

“Also, I promise to satisfy the brethren of Edinburgh, or any other kirk of this realm, according to good conscience, in whatsoever they find themselves justly offended, and contrary to the Word of God, in any of my speeches, actions, or proceedings which have past from me.

“And concerning the Commentary upon the First Epistle of Paul to Timothy, because there are diverse things therein contained offensive, and that tend to allow of the estate of bishops otherwise than God’s Word can suffer, I condemn the same.

“The pages before written dytted [indited] by me, Mr. Patrick Adamson, and written at my commandment, by my servant Mr. Samuel Cuninghame, and by his hand drawn in the blanks, I subscribe with my own hand, as acknowledged by me in sincerity of conscience, as in the presence of God, before these witnesses, directed to me from the Synodal Assembly, because of my inability to repair toward them; James Monypennie, younger of Pitmillie, Andrew Wood of Strawithie, David Murey portioner of Ardeit, {124} Mr. David Russell, Mr. William Murrey, minister at Dysert, Mr. Robert Wilkie, David Fergusone, with others diverse.

(Sic subscribitur)     MR P. ADAMSONE.

David Fergusone, witness.

David Murrey, with my hand witness.

Mr. Nicoll Dagleish.

Mr. David Russell.

James Monypennie of Pitmillie, witness.

Mr. David Spence.

Andrew Wood of Strawithie, witness.

Mr. Johne Caldeleugh.

Mr. Robert Wilkie, witness.

Mr. William Murrey.”


“I have enterprised, of mere remorse of conscience, to write against a book called A Declaration of the King’s Majestie’s Intentions, albeit it containeth little or nothing of the king’s own intention, but my own, at the time of the writing thereof; and the corrupt inventions of such as for the time were about the king, and abused his minority.  Of the which book, and contents thereof, compiled by me at the command of some chief courtiers for the time, (as is before written,) I shall shortly declare my opinion, as the infirmity of my sickness, and weakness of memory will permit.

“First, In the whole book is nothing contained but assertions of lies, ascribing to the king’s Majesty that whereof he was not culpable.  For albeit as the time went, his Majesty could have suffered these things to have been published in his realm, yet his Majesty was never of that nature to have reviled any man’s person, or to upbraid any man with calumnies, whereof there is a number contained in that thing.

“Secondly, In the declaration of the second act of Parliament, there is mention made of Mr. Andrew Melville, and his preachings, {125} most wrongfully condemned in special, as factious and seditious; albeit his Majesty hath had a lively trial of that man’s fidelity and truth in all proceedings, from time to time.  True it is he is earnest and zealous, who can abide no corruption, (which most unadvisedly I attributed to a fiery and salt humour,) which his Majesty findeth by experience to be true.  For he alloweth well of him, and knoweth things that were alleged upon him to have been false and contrived treacheries.

“There are contained in that second act of Parliament diverse others false intentions, for to defame the ministry, and to bring the kirk of God into hatred and envy with their prince and nobility; burdening and accusing the ministers falsely of sedition, and other crimes whereof they were innocent.  As likewise, it is written in the same act and declaration thereof, that sovereign and supreme power pertaineth to the king in matters ecclesiastical, which is worthy to be condemned, and not to be contained among Christian acts, where the power of the Word is to be extolled above all the power of princes, and they to be brought under subjection to the same.

“The fourth Act condemned the Presbyteries, as a judgement [or authority] not allowed by the king’s law, which is a very slender argument.  For as concerning the authority of the Presbytery, we have the same expressed in the Gospel of St. Matthew, cap. 18, where Christ commandeth to shew the kirk; which authority being commanded by Christ, and the acts of Parliament forbidding it, we should rather obey God than man.  And yet the Presbytery lacked never the king’s authority for the allowance thereof from the beginning, save only at that hour of darkness, when he was abused through evil company.  As for any other thing that is contained in this act against any order or proceeding of the Presbytery, it is to be esteemed that nothing was done by the Presbytery without wisdom, judgement, and discretion; and so hath received approbation again by the kirk; whereunto, also, I understand his Majesty hath given allowance, ratified and approved the same; which should be a sufficient reason to repress all men’s curiosity, that either have or yet would find fault with the same. {126}

“The last article containeth the establishing of a bishop, which hath no warrant of the Word of God, but is grounded upon the policy of the invention of man, whereupon the primacy of the Pope or Antichrist is risen; which is worthy to be disallowed and forbidden, because the number of the eldership that hath jurisdiction and oversight, as well of visitation as admission, will do the same far more authentickly, godly, and with greater zeal than a bishop, whose care commonly is not upon God and his duty, but upon the world, whereupon his chief attendance is.  Consider how that office hath been used these five hundred years bygone, with what cruelty and tyranny it hath been exercised, ye shall find it to have been the chief cause that hath in every country suppressed the Word of God; which shall be evident to all that read the history of the kirk.  As for my own opinion, it seemeth to be nearest the truth, and farthest from all kind of ambition, that the brethren in equal degree assemble themselves under their head, Christ; and there, every man discharge his office carefully as he is commanded.  And because weakness of memory and sickness suffereth me not at length to discourse upon these matters as I would, I must request the good reader to assure himself that I have written this without compulsion or persuasion of any man; with an upright heart, and have delivered the same with a perfect sincerity of mind, so far as infirmity of flesh and blood did suffer, as God shall judge me at the latter day; and that the same reader account of whatsoever things are omitted, that they are to be imputed to my imbecility of memory, and the present sickness, and not to any good will, which was (I protest) to have condemned every point, yea, even to the false narration of the banquet, and all the rest contained in that little treatise, called The Declaration of the King’s Majesty’s Intention; as, I acknowledge, they deserve to be condemned by the censure and judgement of the kirk; to the which also I submit myself, in whatsomever thing I have either in word or writ attempted, either in that foresaid Declaration or otherwise: By these presents, subscribed with my hand at St. Andrews, the 12th of May, 1591.  Before these witnesses, Mr. David {127} Black, minister at St. Andrews, Mr. Robert Wilkie, Principal of St. Leonard’s College, Mr. John Aitton of Enmath, Mr. William Russel.

(Sic subscribitur)     PATRIK ADAMSONE.

Mr. David Black, witness.

William Learmonth

George Ramsey.

Patrick Guthrie.

Mr. John Auchinfleck.

Charles Watson, Scribe.”

“I Mr. Patrik Adamsone, declare that this confession and declaration before written is my own confession, given with my heart, and subscribed with my hand, before the witnesses underwritten, undersubscribing with me at my request and desire.  At St. Andrews, the 10th day of June, 1591.

(Sic subscribitur)     MR P. ADAMSONE.

David Carnegie of Colluthie, witness.

William Learmonth.

William Scot of Abbotshall, witness.

Thomas Kingzo.

Alexander Bruce of Earleshall, witness.

Mr. Robert Wilkie.

Borthwick of Gordounshall.

Mr. Andrew Muncreif.

Mr. William Russel.

Mr. David Blacke.

Mr. Andrew Hunter, Scribe
of the Provinciall Assemblie.”

The above recantation has been taken from volume 5 of the History of the Kirk of Scotland collected and composed by David Calderwood, as it was printed by the Wodrow Society in 1844.  Spelling has been updated and the text edited using the 1678 edition of The True History of the Church of Scotland, as it was revised and approved for the press at the appointment of the General Assembly.  Another publication of this recantation can be found in The Autobiography and Diary of Mr. James Melvill, which was also printed by the Wodrow Society.  Mr. Melville, who is of no little fame in the Presbyterian Church, offers the following reflections in his diary, to help us toward a proper spiritual appreciation of this recantation, and of the Presbyterian ministers who graciously received it.

Pastor James Melville’s Reflections on Mr. Adamson’s Recantation.

This man had many great gifts, but especially excelled in the tongue and pen; and yet for abusing of the same against Christ, all use of both the one and other was taken from him, when he was in greatest misery, and had most need of them.  In the latter end of his life his nearest friends were no comfort to him, and his supposed greatest enemies, to whom indeed he offered greatest occasion of enmity, was his only friends, and cased not to recompense good for evil, namely, my uncle, Mr. Andrew [Melville], but found small tokens of any spiritual comfort in him, which specially he would have wished to have seen at his end.

Thus God delivered his Kirk from a most dangerous enemy, who, if he had been endowed both with a common civil piece of honesty in his dealing and conversation, he had more means to have wrought mischief in a church or country than any I have known or heard of in our island.

Mr. David Black, a man mighty in doctrine, and of singular fidelity and diligence in the ministry, had, by the careful procurement of my uncle at the General Assembly, been appointed Minister of St. Andrews, Mr. Robert Wilkie taking him to a part thereof within the College of St. Leonard’s, as most agreeable with his natural [disposition] and gifts.  He attended most charitably upon the Bishop, furnishing him comfort both for body and soul, to whom the Bishop promised divers days to come to the pulpit, and supplying his room to make public confession; but so often was Mr. David disappointed, and made to occupy his own room [place and responsibility in the pulpit] with the less preparation.  He craved of his wife, and them that waited on him, that in any case he should be advertised of the time when they saw him weakest, for Mr. David would have fellon fean sein [very fain have seen] some comfortable mark of God’s Spirit working with him; but being warned, came and found him, as he lived, senseless of spiritual sanctification, so to die; therefore, commending him to the mercy and good pleasure of God, with a heavy heart, departed.