tOn the downfall of Earl of Arran, Johne Davidson again returned from forced exile to Scotland; but declined returning to Liberton, and was chosen to deliver a morning lecture in one of the churches of Edinburgh. This was evidently the second charge at Holyrood. But, with his renewed preaching against the king's designs for a prelacy (king's bishops), denouncing the nobles as oppressors of their tenantry, and condemning the commons for imitating their vices, Edinburgh soon again got too hot to hold him. Again, he was counseled to leave Edinburgh and accept a rural charge.
In the spring of 1595, Johne was named for the second charge of Haddington. Haddington was the fourth largest town in Scotland at the time, and historically, it was the first chartered Royal Burgh in all of Scotland. But, proceedings for this settlement were suddenly broken off when John Maitland, 1st Lord Maitland of Thirlestane had a falling out with Queen Anne. She believed he had slandered her and accused her of being complicit with the Earl of Bothwell. Anne also believed she was the rightful owner of Musselburgh and Inveresk, lands belonging to Maitland, and these were to be transferred to her.
On the 5th November 1595, the Presbytery of Haddington took initiatory measures for Johne being called to the ministry "at South Preston and ye Panns, east and west, and ye hail bounds yairabout, belonging alswill to my Lord Newbattle as to ye Laird of Prestoun."
Mr Davidson demanded "a lawful call," and in order thereto preached at Salt Preston on the 19th November 1595, and again on the 17th December.
He was cordially invited by the people to become their pastor, and Lord Newbattle having expressed concurrence, his induction was proceeded with. That event took place on the 5th January 1596, when Mr Davidson made a long address to his flock, and proposed to them certain religious stipulations. Some time after his appointment to Prestonpans, Johne Davidson, along with five others, were appointed by the General Assembly to review the corruption of ministries at Nithsdale (the valley or dale on the River Nith), Annandale, Lauderdale, Eskdale, and Ewesdale.
Shortly afterwards he returns to the Presbytery of Haddington, not only lamenting the various corruptions in the Church, but trying to find a remedy for them. Initiating new measures connected with the foregoing corruptions, John Davidson’s proposal was approved of by the Presbytery of Haddington. It was thence transmitted as an overture to, and unanimously approved of by, the General Assembly.
The Presbytery Records, 1596, contain the following minute: “Th' haill (Holy) gentlemen being required to reform their houses and use prayers at morn and evening, with reading of the Scriptures after dinner and supper, promised to obey; and for execution thereof every minister was ordered to visit their houses and see whether it was so or not ; and for behoof of the unlearned.” Johne Davidson was ordained to pen short morning and evening prayers, with graces before and after meat, to be communicated to each minister for behoof of his flock. The Presbytery met on the 17th March, when the forms of prayer prepared by Mr Davidson were approved.
The Presbytery met on the 17th March, when the forms of prayer prepared by Mr Davidson were approved. These were as follows :— Grace Befoir Meit. "Blis us gude Lord and ther thi creatures quhilk the' pre- parest for our nurishment through Jesus Christ our Lord. .— Amen." Grace Efter Meit. "Bliss it be you, O Lord, for this nourishment of our bodies at this tyme and mekle mair for the continuall nurishment of our saull is by Christ crucefy it. To quham with the Father and the Haly Gaist be praise and gloire forever. God save the Kirk and countrey, King, Quene, and Prince.— Amen." Morning Prayer. "We hairtlie thank thi Hevinlie Father for all thi goodnes this nycht past beseiking thi to forgive us our sinnes for Christ Jesus thi sonnes saik, and blis our labour is and guid us this day in thi trewfeire. Contine wthetrew preaching of thi Word among us and give us grace to esteme mair of it than hitherto we have done, and save us from merciles strangeris, and tak notthipeacefromthisland. Send us sesonabul lwether and stay this greitd earth. Lord blis the Kirk, and King, Quene, and Prince, for Christ Jesus thi sonnes saik. To qu home with the, O Father and Haly Gaist, be all praise gloire and honour, for ever and ever.— Amen."
During the previous autumn of 1595, it became known that King Philip II of Spain, had begun to prepare a second Armada. His descent on this occasion was to be on the Irish Coast. The English Government prepared for resistance and the Scottish Privy Council promised its cooperation. This required the levying of a tax which could only be carried out with the approval of the Church.
On the 24th March 1596 the General Assembly was convened, and the Moderator Robert Bruce entreated the brethren to sanction the civil arrangement for defending the kingdom. On this Davidson submitted an overture from the Presbytery of Haddington contending that deep humiliation on account of sin was the first and best preparation against national disaster.
A resolution embodying this view was passed by acclamation, and Mr Davidson was empowered to ”give up the particular catalogue of the chief offences and corruptions in the estates." The enumeration of evils to be reformed came under the following heads: " Corruptions in the persons and lives of ministers of the gospel." " Offences in His Majesty's house." “ The common corruptions of all estates." “ And offences in the Courts of Justice.”
However, upon hearing this, and not forgetting Johne’s previous pointedly sharp admonishment towards the King, “that he was present as a Christian and not as president of the Assembly.” The King, was clearly under the impression that this resolution had a special reference to himself. On the very next day the King entered the Assembly, and proceeded to entreat the House to sanction his proposed tax. The King was then firmly informed by Davidson, that "the purging of offences" had been resolved upon; and with the approval of the House. Mr Davidson insisted that the estates of the exiled Popish, very pro-Catholic lords— Huntly, Errol, and Angus— still held by their families, should be confiscated and the proceeds applied to national use.
The leadership of the movement for much of 1596 was the commission of the general assembly. This was a standing committee of sixteen ministers who were empowered to take executive action on behalf of the church in between meetings of the general assembly of the church (which occurred once or twice a year). The commissioners gained centre stage as the presbyterian campaign intensified during 1596. They campaigned against the Catholic earls, lobbying the king, councillors, and courtiers, and rallying grassroots support.
The 1596 covenant was not just an affair for the ministers. It was to be adopted by at least some individual congregations, the laity too. In the presbytery of St Andrews, the covenant was renewed "be a verie frequent assemblie of gentilmen and burgesses, prepared for the purpose befor be thair ministers in everie paroche." The result could be a military muster. Protestant Scotland spent 1596 under military threat, externally from the second Spanish Armada, and internally from the "Catholic earls," a pro-Spanish political faction headed by the earl of Huntly. The Catholic earls had been exiled in 1595, but the king was planning to rehabilitate them on terms that the presbyterians feared would be far too lenient. Protestants were thus divided as to how to respond politically to the Catholic threat. To this demand the King gave an evasive answer, but expressed he, himself willing to undergo ecclesiastical discipline, if the censure was privately administered and not in the church. James was held at his word, and a few days afterwards was informed by a deputation from the Assembly that King James was "blotted with banning and swearing; and that the Queen Anne was guilty of frivolity and forsaking ordinances.”
King James Queen Anne
On the 9th December Johne Davidson had preached a valedictory discourse at Edinburgh. In that discourse he used these words: "I came not hither by haphazard, but sent of God more than sevin yeers since. So long as I had place to teache, I dealt faith fullie according to the meane measure of knowledge bestowed on me, after a rude and familiar way, of verie purpose for edificatioun's sake; whereas I could have done otherwise if my conscience would have suffered me. It was compted rude and rough by manie ; but I thanke God I wist what I spake; so that I have uttered nothing against Prince, preacher, or people which I have not my warrant for, and bye the helpe of God will stand to the defence of it in face of man or angell. So that my first preaching and last are one, without differing, to witt, that the Princes of the land, the King, the chiefe prince, with the rest of the rebellious nobilitie, … The profane ministrie are negligent for the most part to winne soules, and the rebellious multitude shall be severlie punished except they repent. I have sought to be away, but could not till that it has pleased the Lord to ryppin my departure. It was nather a drinke of the Muse Well nor anie other benefite in Edinburgh that drew me to it like an adamant stone, as some speeke, or that keeped me here; but the mightie hand of God sent me hither, for causes known to Him, and so having cleered my ministrie hitherto I take my leave of you in Christ." Johne Davidson