Robert Bruce (moderator)

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Robert Bruce (1554 – 27 July 1631) was Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland which was called on 6 February 1588 to prepare defences against a possible invasion by the Spanish Armada.


He was born in 1554, the second son of Sir Alexander Bruce of Airth. His mother Janet was the great, grand daughter of King James I of Scotland. In 1572, he graduated M.A. from St Andrews University, where he had been a student at St Leonard's College. He then went to Paris where he studied law, returning to Edinburgh to practice. However, during the night of 31 August 1581 he had a remarkable religious experience, which made him decide to study for the Church. He was licensed by the Presbytery of St Andrews in 1587 and immediately took up the post of Minister of St Giles, Edinburgh. In October 1589, in very disturbed times, King James VI appointed him as Privy Councillor. He so helped keep the peace while the King was away in Norway (where he had gone to bring home bride Anne of Denmark) that he got a personal letter of thanks on his return.[1]

He crowned the Queen 17 March 1590, and was again elected Moderator in May 1592. In 1596, he was banished from Edinburgh for opposing the King’s religious policy. He was allowed to return after a time, and in May 1598 was appointed Minister to the Little Kirk, a division of St Giles, though he quibbled a bit about the admission ceremony. In August 1600 the Gowrie Conspiracy took place. Bruce was one of those who doubted there was a real threat, so he did not offer prayers of thanksgiving for the King’s safe delivery. For this, he was banished from Edinburgh and forbidden to preach publicly anywhere in Scotland under pain of death.[1]

This did not seem to stop him. From 1605 he was in Inverness, where he seemed to have continued preaching, at least to friends. He even acted as Minister at Forres’ In 1609, his son managed to persuade the King to let Bruce return to his own lands at Kinnaird, near Stirling. There, he paid for the repair of the Kirk at Larbert, where he also acted as Minister. Sometimes he preached in Stirling. He had property in Monkland near Glasgow where he also preached, apparently to great acclaim. “Wherever he had an opportunity of preaching, great crowds attended; he preached with remarkable power, and his own life being in full accord with his preaching, the influence lie attained was almost without parallel in the history of the Scottish Church." Inevitably, he was, in 1620, again banished to Inverness, where he remained until 1624, growing increasing infirm. King James died in 1625. His son King Charles I allowed Bruce to return to Kinnaird, where he died 27 July 1631. Andrew Melville described him as a "hero adorned with every virtue, a constant confessor and almost martyr to the Lord Jesus”. [1]



  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainBlaikie, William Garden (1886). "Bruce, Robert (1554-1631)". In Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography. 7. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  • Kirk, James. "Bruce, Robert (1554–1631)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/3756. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  • Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae The succession of Scottish ministers in the Church of Scotland from the Reformation, by the Rev. Hew Scott, D.D. Edinburgh 1911

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