Row's Historie of the Kirk of Scotland (1558–1637), left by him in manuscript, is an original authority for the period.
He was the third surviving son of John Row (1525?–1580), a Scottish reformer, and Margaret Beaton of Balfour; he was born at Perth about the end of December 1568, and baptised on 6 January 1569. He received early instruction from his father, and at the age of seven was reading Hebrew. Sent to the grammar school of Perth, he instructed the master in Hebrew, who on this account was accustomed to call him Magister John Row.
On the death of his father in 1580, Row, then about twelve years of age, received, as did his brother William Row, a friar's pension from the King's hospital at Perth. Subsequently he obtained an appointment as schoolmaster at Kennoway, and tutor to his nephews, the sons of Beaton of Balfour. He accompanied them in 1586 to Edinburgh, enrolling himself as student in the university. After taking his M.A. degree in August 1590, he became schoolmaster of Aberdour in Fife; he was towards the close of December 1592 ordained minister of Carnock, in the presbytery of Dunfermline.
Row signed on 1 July 1606 the protest of the Scottish Parliament against the introduction of episcopacy; and he was also one of those who in the same year met at Linlithgow with the ministers who were to be tried for holding an assembly at Aberdeen, contrary to the royal command. In 1619, and again in 1622, he was summoned before the court of high commission for nonconformity to the Articles of Perth, and required to confine himself within the bounds of his parish.
He was a member of the general assembly of 1638, when he was named one of a committee of ministers to inquire—from personal knowledge of the handwriting of the clerks and their own memory of events—into the authenticity of certain registers of the general assembly that had been missing for some time. He was able to establish their authenticity. By the same general assembly, he was also named to a committee to construct such constitutions and laws as might prevent corruptions like those that had troubled the kirk in the past.
He died on 26 June 1646, and was buried in the family burial-place at the east end of the church of Carnock, where there was a monument to his memory.
In his later years Row compiled a memorial of on the government of the Church of Scotland since the Reformation. For the earlier years of his Memorial he made use of the papers of his father-in-law David Ferguson. The work found its way into circulation in manuscript, and copies of it were made. In 1842 it was printed for the Wodrow Society, chiefly from a manuscript in the university of Edinburgh, under the title ‘Historie of the Kirk of Scotland, from the year 1558 to August 1637, by John Row, Minister of Carnock, with a Continuation to July 1639, by his son, John Row, Principal of King's College, Aberdeen.’ An edition was also printed in the same year by the Maitland Club.
- Stevenson. "Row, John (1568/9–1646)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/24186first=David.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Cousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: J. M. Dent & Sons. Wikisource.