Scottish Protestant divine; b. Baldovy, Aug. 1, 1545;d. Sedan, 1622. Melville was educated at Montrose grammar school and at the University of St. Andrews. In 1564 he left St. Andrews for Paris where he perfected his knowledge of Greek, studied Oriental languages, and attended the lectures of Peter Ramus, whose philosophical method and plan of teaching he afterward introduced into the universities of Scotland. Melville later studied law at Poitiers and, in the face of political troubles, sought refuge at Geneva where he was welcomed by Theodore beza (1569) and appointed to the chair of humanity in the academy of that city.
Upon returning to Scotland in 1574, Melville was appointed principal of Glasgow University, which had been largely reduced to ruin by the change of religion. There he expanded the scope of the university's teaching; the new chairs that he established were confirmed in 1577, in the Nova Erectio, the charter of James VI. He helped in the reconstitution of Aberdeen University in 1575 and, in 1580, he was appointed principal of St. Mary's College at St. Andrews. Melville was moderator of the General Assembly in 1582; and in the great issue of the day, the position of bishops in the Church of Scotland, he advocated a purely presbyterian system of Church government. The question became acute through the attempt of the court to force the acceptance of certain bishops on the reformed church. When summoned before the Privy Council in February 1584, Melville fled to England, but he returned after a few months and, in March of 1586, resumed his lectures at St. Andrews.
For the next 20 years he was the vigilant protagonist of the presbyterian system and the liberties of the Scottish Church. In 1606 Melville, with seven other clergy of the Scottish Church, was summoned to London in order "that his majesty (James VI and I) might treat with them of such things as would tend to settle the peace of the Church." Melville's overbearing assertion of the general assembly's independence of the Crown and his sarcastic Latin epigrams on the ritual of the royal chapel gave King James an excuse to commit Melville to the Tower where he was imprisoned for four years. He was released on condition that he accept a professional chair at the University of Sedan, where he taught for the last 11 years of his life.
Melville's intellectual gifts and his courage have never been in dispute, but like all autocrats, he identified his own will with the honor of Christ and His Church. His opposition to the Crown, however, grew into a legend and became the ideal that Scottish Presbyterians ever afterward admired. Melville is the true author of the presbyterian system of church government that has become an essential part of the established Church of Scotland.
Bibliography: a. m. mackenzie, The Scotland of Queen Mary and the Religious Wars (London 1936). t. mccrie, Life of Andrew Melville, 2 v. (2d ed. Edinburgh 1824). m. schmidt, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart (Tübingen 1957–65) 4:847–848. a. gordon, The Dictionary of National Biography from the Earliest Times to 1900 (London 1885–1900) 13:230–237.
Revd Dr William M. Marshall