John Forbes (preacher)

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John Forbes (c.1568–1634) was a Scottish minister exiled by James VI and I.


John Forbes was born around 1568, probably at his father's main residence, Corse Castle, and was educated at the University of St. Andrews, where he earned the degree of M.A. in 1583, and was ordained minister of Alford, Aberdeenshire in 1593. When the proceedings of the synods of Aberdeen and Moray against George Gordon, 1st Marquess of Huntly were interfered with by the privy council, he was sent by them to London to seek redress from the king, James I. He went to court in March 1605, was graciously received by the king, and succeeded in the object of his mission.[1]

In July 1605 he was appointed moderator of the Aberdeen assembly, which was held contrary to the king's orders; and when he and others were summoned before the privy council to answer for their disobedience, they declined its jurisdiction, as the matter was spiritual, and offered to submit their conduct to the judgment of the church. For this Forbes and five others were imprisoned in Blackness Castle (the so-called "warded minsters", who included also John Welsh of Ayr, and other participants in the assembly, namely Andrew Duncan, Robert Dury, John Sharp, and Alexander Strachan.).[2][3][4] They were tried for high treason, found guilty by a packed jury, and banished from the king's dominions for life.[1]

The exiles sailed from Leith for Bordeaux on 7 November 1606. On reaching France Forbes visited James Boyd of Trochrig at Saumur Academy, and then went to the Academy of Sedan. For some years he travelled, visiting the reformed churches and universities. In 1611 he was settled as pastor of a British congregation at Middelburg. He was offered release from banishment on conditions which he could not accept. In 1616 he was in London for several months, and saw the king, who promised to revoke his sentence of exile, but the promise was not fulfilled.[1]

After a ministry of ten years at Middelburg, he became pastor of the British church at Delft. In 1628 Charles I of England, influenced by William Laud, began to interfere with the worship and discipline of the English and Scottish churches in the Netherlands, and Forbes was ultimately removed from his charge. He died in 1634, aged about sixty-six.[1]


He was the author of:

  • The Saint's Hope, and infallibleness thereof, Middelburg, 1608.
  • Two sermons, Middelburg, 1608.
  • A Treatise tending to the clearing of Justification, Middelburg, 1616.
  • A Treatise how God's Spirit may be discerned from Man's own Spirit, London, 1617.
  • Four sermons on 1 Tim. vi. 13-16, 1635.
  • A sermon on 2 Tim. ii. 4, Delft, 1642.
  • Certain Records touching the Estate of the Kirk in 1605 and 1606, Edinburgh, Wodrow Society, 1846.[1]


He was the third son of William Forbes of Corse, Aberdeenshire. an early adherent of the Protestant Reformation, and Elizabeth, daughter of Alexander Strachan of Thornton. Patrick Forbes, the eldest son, became bishop of Aberdeen, William, the second, founded the family of Craigievar, and Arthur, the fourth, that of the Earls of Granard in Ireland.[1]

He married Christian, daughter of Barclay of Mathers. Two of his sons were colonels in the Dutch service, one of whom afterwards fought on the side of the covenanters, a third, Patrick, became bishop of Caithness, and a fourth minister of Abercorn. His three daughters married in Scotland.[1]



 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Forbes, John (1568?-1634)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Chris de Jong. John Forbes (c.1568-1634), Scottish minister and exile in the Netherlands. Nederlands Archief voor Kerkgeschiedenis, 69 (1989), 17-53. ISSN 00282030.