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David Dickson
And the protests against the prayer book

David Dickson was born in 1583 and was minister in Irvine before becoming a Professor of theology at Glasgow University. Along with Alexander Henderson, David Dickson led the protests against the Book of Common Prayer in 1637 after the first attempt to read it had been interrupted by Jenny Geddes. They had planned the opposition to the prayer book in the months before it was introduced, and now Dickson helped organise petitions to the privy council against the prayer book. These protests condemned the prayer book as containing errors and being forced on the church without having the approval of a General Assembly or Parliament. The privy council wrote to the king telling him of the opposition to the prayer book from all sorts of people from different parts of the country.

On the 17th of October, the king ordered that all the protestors were to leave Edinburgh within 24 hours. However the nobles, lairds and ministers stayed on to present another protest. They handed in this ‘Supplication’, signed by many of the most important people in Scotland, and then returned home. The Supplication protested not just against the prayer book, but also the Book of Canons and the bishops themselves.

In November, the protestors came back to Edinburgh and set up “The Four Tables” (made up of nobles, lairds, burgesses and ministers) which would meet to represent them. Dickson played an important role in their organisation. The Tables blamed the bishops for the situation rather than the king and in December they wrote another protest which said they rejected the bishops’ authority. However the king still wouldn’t listen to their complaints, and took full responsibility for ordering the bishops to write the Book of Canons and Book of Common Prayer. He declared that any more meetings of the protestors would be seen as treason. Now the Presbyterians knew that their teachings and worship of their church were not just being attacked by the bishops, but by the king himself. Dickson and others realised that something had to be done, and they wrote to their supporters telling them to come to Edinburgh.

David Dickson died in 1662. His last words were:
“I have taken all my good deeds, and all my bad deeds, and cast them in a heap before the Lord, and fled from both to the Lord Jesus Christ, and in him I have sweet peace”

Further Reading:
John Howie,
David Dickson’ in The Scots Worthies (Edinburgh, 2001 [1775]), pp 288-97
David Stevenson,
The Scottish Revolution, 1637-44 (2nd edn, Edinburgh, 2003), pp 64-79.
DSCHT: David Dickson.

Robert Wodrow, 'A short account of the life of the Rev. David Dickson' in W. K. Tweedie, Select Biographies (2 vols, Edinburgh, 1845-7), ii, 1-32. Dickson's works are available on the PRDL.


David Dickson
Dickson wrote a commentary on the Westminster Confession
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