Mr Rollock was born about the year 1555. After finishing his studies at St. Andrews, he was chosen a professor of philosophy in that university. In this office he continued for four years, discharging its duties with much applause, when, about the year 1585, he was invited to a chair in the university of Edinburgh. In that institution he afterwards became principal, a station which he occupied till his death, in 1598. He was signally distinguished not only by the conscientious diligence with which he performed his public duties, but also by the peculiarly mild and Christian spirit, which adorned his private character, and which, as the following details evince, became especially prominent in his last sickness.
Perceiving that his end was approaching, he, with his wonted prudence, settled his domestic concerns, and solemnly commended his wife, at that time pregnant of her first and only child, to the care of his friends. Two of these friends, (Patrick Galloway and David Lindsay) who had always stood high in his regard, having come to him, he called them to witness that he professed himself to be a dying man, and as such, he implored them to go in his name to the king, and to exhort him to prosecute the path of religion in the same inoffensive course he had hitherto followed; proceed in it with an unfaltering step till the last hour of life, and not allow himself to be drawn from it, either by the hope of enlarging his authority, or by the evil advices of wicked men.
With respect to the pastors of the church, for which he felt an equal degree of reverence, he thus spoke: ' The ministry of Christ, though in human calculation a mean and humble office, was yet glorious in the sight of God; and though ministers are earthen vessels, the refuse and offscourings of the earth, they will hereafter shine in glorious splendour.'
Afterwards the ministers of Edinburgh having waited upon him, he discoursed to them as follows : ' Wearied out with a weight of sickness, and longing for rest and the end of my life, I continue to breathe and hope; yet I have not so learned nor preached Christ, but in Him to feel support under all my distresses. The care of the college, brethren, has always stood highest in my thoughts: God is my witness with what faithfulness and diligence He enabled me to look after its administration, and I am sensible to myself, you are not ignorant of the advantages that redound to the church and the commonwealth from the right management of that society.
The thread of my life is now breaking; I am fast hastening to my home, my country, my Father's house, long and much desired by me. I beg of you when I am taken away, let not the college mourn too bitterly and long, in widowhood. You, I hope, even you, my brethren, will not be stepmothers to her, but affectionate and kind parents, and nourish and cherish her in your bosom. The work of the ministry has also lain heavily on my spirit, and you are not ignorant of my motives in entering upon it. I dare not say I have ever done any thing worthy of that high office, but I dare say it was in my heart so to do. You will remember that I was chosen by the assembly at Dundee to watch for the interest of this church. In this, I had the glory of God and the safety of the church, miserably tossed with tempests and shaking, before mine eyes; and I can now declare, that my departure from duty, in doubling the number of the ministers of Edinburgh, and particularly in my activity to bring in two who studied under me, when I thought I saw gifts in them suitable to such a trust, and hoped God would bless their labours.
I am so far from repenting any share I had init, that to this hour it is satisfying to me. It was lately told me that a rumour is propagated, as if I were vexed in mind for the hand I had in this. But I can appeal to God, the witness and judge of secrets, before whose tribunal I am shortly to stand, that in all that matter, I had right and straight ends before me, according to the grace and prudence God has vouchsafed to me, and there is nothing that vexes and troubles me now. I am persuaded the wise Maker of the world has tied the church and state together, with a brotherly and adamantine chain, and it hath been my great care to advance the good of both; so that the temporal sword should not be perniciously drawn against the church, nor the church incited against the king and state, and that an inevitable war might be prevented. And yet the love of peace hath not so far bewitched me, that I could not distinguish between genuine and adulterous peace, neither hath my affection to my sovereign carried me that length as that, to please him, I would submit to the least stain on my conscience.
I hope the integrity and candour of my practice shall appear when I am dead. In a word, brethren, join together with the most intimate love and concord in the work of the Lord. What can be more unnatural than that the ambassadors of peace should be rending one another with strife and discord? Especially at a season when our enemies are so busy, and our forces ought not to be scattered by strife, but by all means united, that so we may thrust not at one another, but only at our enemies' hearts. Let me put you in mind to pay the most obsequious obedience to the king. You live in happy times, and enjoy a singular felicity. You are blessed with a prince who drunk in religion with his milk, who has guarded your doctrine with a right discipline, and covers both the doctrine and discipline of religion with his protection; who hath taken the church so much into his care, as by open and plain unanswerable documents to make it evident, that he will never desert her while he breathes.
Therefore, what you may easily and pleasantly enjoy, it will be folly to seek after by harsh methods. You will then take particular care that the church be not ruined by a fall from such high happiness. Paul might have retained Onesimus with him, but without Philemon he would do nothing, that his benefit should not be as of constraint, but willingly. It is my opinion, we should follow the apostle's pattern in matters of far greater weight. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, enrich you with all spiritual blessings, and furnish you with might and strength for the faithful discharge of your office.'
Towards the evening of the same day, he appeared to feel that death was fast approaching, and fell out into a most rapturous discourse, which edified all that heard him. The physicians having attempted by some prescriptions to alleviate his trouble, he turned himself and said.' Thou O lord, wilt be my Physician.' He then prayed most fervently for the pardon of sins, through the redeemer's merits, declaring that he counted all things dross and dung, be they ever so great, for the excellency of the cross of Christ. He then beseeched God that He would give him a comfortable and happy end to his life, that being covered under the wings of mercy, he might sleep in Christ, and enjoy the face of God, which he most violently longed to see. ' I have seen Thee,' added he, ' in the faint glass of the word, as through a glass darkly; allow me that long and much wished for enjoyment, of the light of Thy countenance for eternity.' He then discoursed of the resurrection and eternal life, as if he were already in heaven; and taking all present by the hand, like the patriarchs of old, he blessed them, adding exhortations, suited to the temper and office of each individual.
Next day, the magistrates and counsellors of the city having waited on him, he addressed them as follows: ' As far as I can conjecture, I am going over the threshold of time, and entering into my native country and my Father's house. This is not uneasy to me: I have frequently longed for the end of this life. I have still been most anxious about the college; and now when I am about to leave it, were I silent in giving my opinion about my successor to be set over it, I could scarcely be free of the stain of negligence. It would be of little use, in my judgement, to go abroad and bring in a stranger to preside in that society, who would know little of the doctrine and discipline of this college. You have at home a person richly fitted with gifts and qualifications for this station - Mr Henry Charters - who, while a scholar of mine, made vast advances in learning, and hath now for ten years filled the place of a professor of philosophy, with the greatest reputation. Place him in the principal's place, set him at the helm of the college, and you will see God favouring him, and blessing his labours. By your office, you are patrons and cherishers of the college; permit me to wish you may be sincerely careful of it.'
When he had ended what he had said to the magistrates and maters, he spoke as follows, with reference to his spiritual state: 'I thank my God that my memory, sight, hearing, and the rest of my senses are as perfect as ever; but my heart is loosed from this world. Lord Jesus, when wilt Thou come and take full possession of my heart? Thou hast the sole claim upon it. It was my main study through my life to dedicate and consecrate it to thee. O, come and take it, that I may for ever be Thine!' When he had said this, he fell into a soft rest for a little; but on awakening, he thus resumed, 'Come, Lord Jesus,' said he, ' break the thread of this miserable life! Haste, Lord and make no tarrying; Thou hast redeemed me not to enjoy this frail life, but life eternal. Come, Lord Jesus, grant that life to which Thou hast redeemed me.'
When some about him regretted their loss in his removal, he said, ' I have gone through all the stages of life. I am come to the last step of my race - why do you hinder me? Lord Jesus, with Thy help, I will comfortably step this last step. take me to that glory which I have seen only as through a glass. O, to be for ever with Thee!' And when it was told him that the day following was the Sabbath, he exclaimed, ' Lord may my everlasting Sabbath have its happy beginning from Thy Sabbath!'
From this time, he got tolerable rest, till the middle of the night, when his trouble having increased, he began to expect his last struggle. having desired Mr Balcanquall to be sent for, he addressed him thus: ' Sir, because you are the oldest minister in Edinburgh, and my friendship with you is not of late, I have sent for you, that I may show the reverence with which, from my youth, I have venerated Christ's ministers. I have, according to the measure God hath bestowed upon me, been pouring out my prayer before the Lord - pray you for me, and with me: I'll join with you in heart and affection, only let me beg you'll not ask the lengthening out of my life.'
When all present had kneeled, Mr Balcanquall prayed; and having among other things entreated that the Lord would yet allow the enjoyment of such a valuable person, whom the church and commonwealth so much needed, Mr Rollock said, ' I am fully weary of this life, and only desire the heavenly life which is hid in Christ with God.'
When prayer was ended, he broke out in raptures, commending the preached Gospel. ' The preached word,' said he. ' is life - without it none can be saved. Believe me, it is not a light matter to preach the word. It is quite another matter than to explain the text of Plato or Aristotle, or make an oration with the paint and softness of words. The preaching of the word takes in sanctity, humility, and the demonstration of the Spirit.' And turning again unto prayer, he said, ' Come, Lord Jesus, break the nerves of my eyes - grant me new eyes! I long to be dissolved, and to be with Thee. Hasten to come, Lord Jesus, do not delay - poor life, remove! That the better, infinitely better life of God may enter in. Lay hands, Lord Jesus, on this body, arrest it, and take to Thyself this soul!'
After this, he lay silent till about daybreak, on Sabbath morning, when he broke out in these words: ' Come, Lord Jesus and do not tarry: I am weary with my trouble, day and night. Come, Lord Jesus, that I may come to Thee. O how sweet would the end of this life be to me! My sweet Lord, come, divorce my soul from this body, that I may enjoy Thee, my Husband. Separate this soul of mine from all things, that it may fly to Thee, its head and centre! Here one of the bystanders said, ' Do not weary, your Lord will come: ' to whom he replied, ' Most welcome to me is that news. I wish that tomorrow may be my funeral day.' Then another having observed, ' Happy is the soul which is so near to God as yours is; ' he said, ' In myself there is nothing which I do not regard as dung, that I may win Christ. Christ is my source of comfort: all my own righteousness is as filthy rags.'
Being asked if he desired the presence of a minister, he replied, that he wished not to trouble them whilst preparing for public service. ' allow me,' said he, ' like a parrot, to keep speaking with my Lord!' Being informed that the public service had commenced, he said, ' Give me, O Lord, to see and feel the things which others are at this moment hearing.' About midday, a certain person spoke thus to him: ' Throughout your whole life, with unwearied diligence and constant labour you have promoted the glory of God:' to which he replied, ' my soul ground of glorying is the mercy of God through Christ Jesus: all other things I regard as loss.'
After this he fell into a soft sleep, which lasted till the evening; upon awaking from which, he was visited by the lord provost of Edinburgh, and thus addressed him: ' I have already seriously commended to the care of the magistrate, of which you, my lord are chief, the interests of the college: do you also take it under your protection; let it experience in you a parent and a benefactor. Seeing by the high station in which you preside over the city, and the august office with which God has invested you, you are able to give support to the church, do not, I beseech you, withdraw such support: on the contrary, do you exert your power and influence towards its protection; apply yourself to it with the utmost vigour, that so you may attain salvation through Jesus Christ. All worldly things are perishable, and will soon perish; but God will enrich you, your wife, and your family, out of the treasure of His goodness.'
During the same night he let fall such expressions as these, ' In a diseased body I have a tranquil mind: I am not troubled with the fear of death, of sin, or of Satan, for over me these have no power: but yet I am so borne down with a weight of sickness, that I am preserved to this hour, far beyond hope. The Lord is as it were breaking me in His mortar, with the pestle of affliction, that He may make me anew for His own kingdom'
On the Monday following, he thus spoke: ' It is wonderful,' said he, ' that afflicted as I am with such acute pain, my life should be so long protracted; but yet I shall wait in patience the good pleasure of the Lord: I shall bear with it, I shall bear with it - let Him do with me as seems good to Him; I shall not contend with Him. What is man, that he should contend with God? Nay, even should He thrust him into hell, He ought to be obeyed, and not opposed! Be gracious to me, O Lord, for the sake of Jesus Christ. I blush not to confess, that never as during this affliction, have I arrived as such a height of divine knowledge! O how dreadful to fall into the hands of Jehovah! But, for me, there is mercy laid up in Christ. Why then art thou disquieted, my soul? Why art thou cast down within me? In a very little thou shalt have the light of His countenance, and a sweet meeting!'
Again. on morning of the following day: 'Now,' said he, reciting some of its words, ' now do I experience the truth of the 6th Psalm - ' Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am oppressed with pain. save me, O Lord, for my bones are sore vexed.' Then, after a short pause, ' Christ shall bear my yoke, and I, upheld by His grace, shall follow in His footsteps.' When the bystanders, perceiving him convulsed with the violence of the pain, began to weep and mourn, he thus chided them: ' Weep not on my account, but for your sins: since no one is free from sin, no one is without good cause for tears. With regard to myself, I shall ere long behold the end and conclusion of all these things.' Towards evening, one of his relatives having come to him, excited his displeasure by this impious request: that, when received into heaven, he would mediate in behalf of him and his other friends. Immediately on hearing it, as if boiling with indignation, he suddenly raised up his emaciated and almost lifeless body, and said, ' I disclaim that office: Christ is the alone Mediator.' Not long after this, he was visited by his elder brother, whom he thus addressed: ' Do you, ' said he, 'carry a reproof to our kinsman: - admonish him to adopt a different line of conduct, otherwise there can be to him no safety for him; but on the contrary, inevitable destruction.' From this time forward he refused all sustenance, saying, ' I shall no more eat or drink, until I am translated to the kingdom of heaven.' He entrusted the care of his funeral to two intimate and long tried friends. ' why, ' said he, ' should I not have a concern for my body, since it is yet to be glorified and made like unto Christ's own glorious body? Looking to his hands, 'these very hands, ' he exclaimed, ' shall then shine with effulgent glory!'
After this his speech became gradually more constrained and difficult. His short sentences, yet impressive and powerful - breathing and savouring of heavenly joy - by degrees gave place to a gentle slumber, in which, having continued for a while, he placidly and quietly commended his spirit to His Creator and Redeemer. His death took place on the 8th of February, 1598.