Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
The Adventures of Mr. John Craig
By John Spottiswoode (15651639)
From the History of the Church of Scotland
IN the end of the year (1600) Mr. John Craig, that had been minister to the king, but through age was compelled to quit the charge, departed this life. This man whilst he lived was held in good esteem, a great divine and excellent preacher, of a grave behaviour, sincere, inclining to no faction, and, which increased his reputation, living honestly, without ostentation or desire of outward glory. Many tossings and troubles he endured in his time; for being left young and his father killed at Flodden, after he had got an entrance in letters and passed his course in philosophy in St. Andrews, he went to England, and waited as pedagogue on the Lord Dacres his children, the space of two years. Wars then arising betwixt the two realms, he returned home, and became one of the Dominican order; but had not lived long among them when, upon suspicion of heresy, he was put in prison. Being cleared of that imputation, he went back again into England, and thinking by the Lord Dacres means to have got a place in Cambridge, because that failed, he went to France, and from thence to Rome. There he found such favour with Cardinal Pole, as by his recommendation he was received among the Dominicans of Bononia, and by them first appointed to instruct the novices of the cloister: afterwards, when they perceived his diligence and dexterity in businesses, he was employed in all their affairs throughout Italy, and sent in commission to Chios, an isle situated in the Ionic sea, to redress things that were amiss amongst those of their order.
Therein he discharged himself so well, that at his return he was made rector of the school, and thereby had access to the libraries, especially to that of the Inquisition; where falling on the Institutions of John Calvin, he was taken with a great liking thereof, and one day conferring with a reverend old man of the monastery, was by him confirmed in the opinion he had taken, but withal warned in any case not to utter himself, or make his mind known, because the times were perilous. Yet he, neglecting the counsel of the aged man, and venting his opinions too freely, was delated of heresy,1 and being sent to Rome, after examination imprisoned. Nine months he lay there in great misery; at the end whereof, being brought before the judge of the Inquisition, and giving a clear confession of his faith, he was condemned to be burnt the next day, which was the nineteenth of August.
It happened the same night Pope Paul the Fourth to depart this life; upon the noise of whose death the people came in a tumult to the place where his statue in marble had been erected, and pulling it down, did for the space of three days drag the same through the streets, and in the end threw it in the river of Tiber. During the tumult all the prisons were broken open, the prisoners set free, and among those Mr. Craig had his liberty. As he sought to escape (for he held it not safe to stay in the city), two things happened unto him not unworthy of relation. First, in the suburbs, as he was passing, he did meet a sort of loose men, whom they called banditti; one of the company, taking him aside, demanded if he had been at any time in Bononia. He answered that he had been some time there. Do you not then remember, said he, that walking on a time in the fields with some young noblemen, there came unto you a poor maimed soldier, entreating some relief? Mr. Craig replying that he did not well remember. But I do, said he, and I am the man to whom you showed kindness at that time: be not afraid of us, ye shall incur no danger. And so conveying him through the suburbs, and showing what was his safest course, he gave him so much money as might make his charge to Bononia, for he intended to go thither, trusting to find some kindness with those of his acquaintance; yet at his coming he found them look strange, and fearing to be of new trapped, he slipped away secretly, taking his course to Milan.
By the way another accident befell him, which I should scarce relate, so incredible it seemeth, if to many of good place he himself had not often repeated it as a singular testimony of Gods care of him, and this it was. When he had travelled some days, declining the highways out of fear, he came into a forest, a wild and desert place, and being sore wearied lay down among some bushes on the side of a little brook to refresh himself. Lying there pensive and full of thoughts (for neither knew he in what part he was, nor had he any means to bear him out the way), a dog cometh fawning with a purse in his teeth, and lays it down before him. He stricken with a fear riseth up, and looking about if any were coming that way, when he saw none, taketh it up, and construing the same to proceed from Gods favourable providence towards him, followed his way till he came to a little village, where he met with some that were travelling to Vienna in Austria, and changing his intended course went in their company thither.
Being there, and professing himself one of the Dominican order, he was brought to preach before Maximilian the Second, who, liking the man and his manner of teaching, would have retained him, if by letters from Pope Pius the Third he had not been required to send him back to Rome, as one that was condemned for heresy. The emperor not liking to deliver him, and on the other part not willing to fall out with the Pope, did quietly dimit him with letters of safe conduct. So travelling through Germany he came to England, and being there informed of the Reformation begun at home, he returned into Scotland, and made offer of his service to the Church. But his long desuetude of the country language (which was not to be marvelled, considering that he had lived abroad the space of twenty-four years,) made him unuseful at first; now and then to the learneder sort he preached in Latin in the Magdalens Chapel at Edinburgh, and in the year 1561, after he had recovered the language, was appointed minister at Halyrudhouse. The next year he was taken to Edinburgh, and served as colleague with Mr. Knox the space of nine years. Then by the ordinance of the Assembly he was translated to Montrose, where he continued two years, and upon the death of Adam Heriot was removed to Aberdeen, having the inspection of the Churches of Mar and Buchan committed to his care. In the year 1579 he was called to be the Kings minister, and served in that charge till, borne down with the weight of years, he was forced to retire himself. After which time, forbearing all public exercises, he lived private at home, comforting himself with the remembrance of the mercies of God that he had tasted in his life past; and this year, on the twelfth of December, without all pain died peaceably at Edinburgh in the eighty-eighth year of his age.