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THOSE transactions which have rendered the middle of the 17th century so famous in the history of Britain, aroused and drew forth to public view men of the most eminent talents, in the northern as well as the southern part of our island. Scotland could at that time boast of her patriots both in Church and State, inferior to those of no other nation;–of statesmen, able, disinterested, enlightened, jealous of the rights of their country, and at the same time loyal to their prince;—of ministers of religion, distinguished for learning and piety, and who counted nothing dear to them, provided that they might advance the kingdom of Christ, and secure their religious privileges. To that band of illustrious Reformers, who stood firm against the encroachments of tyranny and superstition, we owe, under God, whatever we enjoy most valuable in religion and liberty; although justice is seldom done to their character and actings in the histories of that period, and their memories have often been
loaded with the most odious charges and libellous abuse. Among these, the subject of the following memoir held a conspicuous place; and the stations to which he was called, and the important services which he performed, give a high interest to his character, and to the particulars of his life.
ALEXANDER HENDERSON was born about the year 1583. Of his parents, or the circumstances of the early part of his life, no authentic information has descended to us. Being intended for the service of the Church, he was sent to the University of St Andrews to complete his education, about the commencement of the 17th century. His abilities and application soon distinguished him in literary improvement; and, after having finished the usual course of studies, and passed his degrees with applause, he was chosen teacher of a class of philosophy and rhetoric in that University.
The Church of Scotland had, at this period, suffered a great change. The liberty of her Assemblies was infringed; Episcopacy, with its attendant evils, obtruded upon her, and, to make way for these innovations, her most able and faithful ministers were banished, imprisoned, silenced, or driven into obscure and distant corners. Particular care was taken to poison the sources of learning, by placing the tuition of youth under the care of time-serving and corrupt men. The learned and intrepid Andrew Melville, who had presided over the College of St Andrews with great success and renown, was removed, detained, and at last finally excluded from his station, under the most deceitful pretexts, and persons placed in his room, and that of his colleagues, who were fit instru