IN preparing this volume
of Select Biographies for the Members of the Wodrow Society, the
principle of selection adopted was that of singling out individuals who
acted a prominent part in their eventful times, but whose histories were
not so generally known as it appeared they ought to be. Acting on this
principle, chronological order has in general been followed, and the
Life of John Welsh readily occurred as the most appropriate for
commencing the Series. The present Memoir is a reprint of the Life first
published at Edinburgh, by George Mosman, in 1703; and universally
ascribed to the Rev.* James Kirkton, himself a sufferer in those
troublous times, and related by marriage to Welsh. But it must be
confessed that the Life is neither so full of incident, nor so
satisfactory in its details, as the character of him who forms its
subject demands. Indeed, it may be regarded rather as sketching some
passages of Welsh’s history, than as presenting a full delineation of
his character, and the Life of John Welsh has yet to be written.
To compensate, in some degree, for the meagreness or defects of the work
here reprinted, an attempt has been made to collect, from various other
sources, facts which were unknown to Kirkton, or unnoticed by him, and
to introduce them as notes to the work. The Members of the Wodrow
Society are thus presented with all that is easily accessible, or
accurately known, of one who certainly ranked among the most remarkable
men of his time, at once for learning, piety, and zeal. It has not been
deemed necessary to offer any remarks on the claims to prophetic power
put forth on this Reformer’s behalf. The Editor, in accordance with the
constitution of the Society, reckoned it his province merely to embody
the statements of others—not to speculate concerning them.
Regarding the Life of Welsh, we would only farther add, that the most
common mode of spelling his name is that which is here adopted. He wrote
it differently himself at different periods, and it has passed through
various changes, from Welsche to Welshe, Welche, Welch, and Welsh.
The Life of Patrick Simson, the second in the Series, is printed from
one of the Wodrow MSS., in the Library of the Faculty of Advocates.
Though less known than Welsh, the character of Simson is scarcely less
admirable than his; and whether for his learning, his judiciousness in
counsel, or his boldness in opposing what he reckoned error, few of his
contemporaries surpassed Patrick Simson.
Concerning the Life here published, it may be remarked, that the MS.
from which it is printed differs in some places from other sources of
information regarding him : for example, from Row’s Coronis. In some
instances also, the MS. could not be easily pointed,—or the meaning
accurately discovered,—but the perusal of the Life, in the form in which
it now appears, will perhaps suggest the desire that we knew more of the
personal history and habits of such a master in Israel as this sketch
exhibits Simson to have been. It is not improbable that some additional
information concerning him might be gleaned from the Records of the
Presby-tery of Stirling, from those of his parish, or of the burgh where
he laboured for so many years as a minister of Christ.
The third Life in the Series—that of John Livingstone—an interesting
autobiography, is also printed from a MS. in the Advocates’ Library,
carefully collated with other MSS. by Rev. James Anderson, especially
with one now in the possession of Rev. Thomas M‘Crie. The latter, at one
period, belonged to Anna Elizabeth Lundin, and was bequeathed to her by
her mother, Anna Livingstone, daughter of William Livingstone, the
eldest son of John. This MS. is said to be taken “from the principall
writ by himself, [John Livingstone,] and compaired.” It seems, however,
to be verbally less correct than Wodrow’s, and the latter was,
therefore, adopted as the basis of the present edition. It will be seen
that it differs considerably from editions formerly printed.
Besides The Autobiography and Characteristics of Livingstone, this
volume contains various othei’ productions of that distinguished man,
some of which, we believe, are printed for the first time. The object
was to bring together all that could throw light on the life and
character of one who occupied so conspicuous a sphere in the times in
which he lived; and it is scarcely too much to say, that the documents
here laid before the Members of the Wodrow Society perhaps embody all
that can now be known regarding him.
But in order to exhibit as fully as possible the character of
Livingstone himself, of his times, and his friends, there are appended
to his own productions some Letters from one of his correspondents,—a
lady who stood very high in his estimation, Elizabeth Melville, Lady
Colville of Culross. They indicate not merely the estimate in which
Livingstone was held, but present us indirectly with instructive
glimpses of the manners and spirit of his times. The views expressed by
Lady Colville in these letters, as well as the sentiments recorded by
another lady in the “ Soliloquies” which close this volume, exhibit to
us how perfect was the sympathy, and how vigorous the co-operation, of
the female mind in the sufferings and events of the times when Israel
As a Prefatory Note introduces, and in some degree explains, nearly all
the other portions of the volume, it is needless to refer to them here
in detail; and we only remark, in reference to the spelling, which
varies so much in different MSS., or even in the same at different
places, that we have generally followed the original words when editing
from MSS., and been less particular in reference to what had formerly
been printed, and in a great measure modernized.
The Members of the Wodrow Society are indebted to the Rev. Thomas M‘Crie
for the use of several MSS., which will be found frequently referred to
in this volume; to the Rev. J. Stevenson of Newton-on-Ayr, for his
kindness in procuring extracts illustrative of the Life of Welsh, from
the Records of the Kirk-Session of Ayr; to James Paterson, Esq., of that
town, for his kindness and pains in decyphcring and transcribing them;
to William Brown, Esq., surgeon, Edinburgh, for the use of a valuable
MS. of Livingstone’s Life and two MSS. of his Characteristics, and to
other friends for the use of works, which tended to throw light on
various passages of the different Biographies, especially those of Welsh
The Second Volume of Select Biographies will form part of the issue to
the Members for the year 1846.
W. K. T.
Edinburgh, 15, George Square,
4th December 1845.
Volume 1 |
The Miscellany of the
Containing Tracts and Original Letters, chiefly relating to the
Ecclesiastical Affairs of Scotland during the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries, selected and edited by David Lang, Esq. (1844) (pdf)