The Jesuit New World Order

Monday, 25 June 2012


What was the Reformation?

One person has defined Church History as the story of the loss and recovery of the Gospel. In one sense it is impossible for the Gospel to be lost. The Gospel is God’s good news and He has promised that none of His words will be lost. The message of redemption is His message and He has promised that He will carry it out to a successful conclusion.
However, there is a sense in which the Gospel can be lost. History does not always advance directly, it can be cyclical in nature. For example, a study of the Book of Judges reveals a cycle of sin, chastening, the raising up of a judge, deliverance from the oppressor, and then a return to sin. This could be depressing reading but we can glean important lessons for our own day.
It was apparent that the Gospel was nearly lost during the times of the Middle Ages. There are a number of reasons for this: ignorance of the clergy, papal corruption, the Church becoming the mediator between God and man, and the teaching of non-biblical doctrines.
There was a universal cry for a correction of these abuses. Several groups and individuals arose who attempted to reform the Church. Included were persons and groups such as John Wyclif, John Hus, and the Brethren of the Common Life. Even the Humanists joined in the attempt to correct the abuses. However, they believed the key to the reformation of the Church was by education.
In discussing these things, we must never forget that God uses people to carry out His work. God often permitted the situation to come to a crisis point and then He prepared a person to combat that error. This can be illustrated from the Patristic Church when Arius attacked the deity of Christ in the fourth century. He claimed that Jesus was the first created being and not God. Athanasius was given the honor of defending the true deity and humanity of the Lord Jesus, thus preserving the Gospel itself. For if Christ were not God, then there could be no salvation.
There were a great number of doctrines that were not in dispute at the time of the Reformation. The Reformation did not debate the doctrines of the Trinity, the Person of Christ, man and his need of salvation, and the nature of the work of Christ. The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creeds defined the nature of the Trinity and the Person of Christ. Augustine did a masterful job in showing that man was lost in sin and incapable of saving himself by his own efforts. In 1529, the Council of Orange made his teachings on man part of the orthodox belief thus preserving the great truth that salvation is of God’s grace. Even in the 12th Century, Anselm of Canterbury demonstrated that the nature of Christ’s death was a penal sacrifice offered to God. While there was an application of the atonement that cancelled the power of the devil over man, it was directed primarily to God.
The crucial question of the Middle Ages was how the benefits of Christ’s death were applied to the sinner who needed to be saved. Over the course of centuries, the Roman Church had appropriated that power to itself. This power was located in the seven sacraments that the Church administered to its adherents. Theologians taught that God had bestowed His grace to the Church. The Church, then, became the custodian of grace and had the authority to mediate it to the faithful by means of the sacraments. There could be no salvation apart from the Church. As a result, people were in bondage to the Church. The Gospel was distorted, if not actually lost, by this incorrect teaching.
Martin Luther demonstrated that the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice were applied differently than what the Church taught. Through his personal struggle with sin, Luther realized that salvation came through faith in Christ. When Luther became aware of the sale of indulgences to release souls from Purgatory, he was incensed. To Luther, this was nothing less than trafficking in the souls of men. The Pope rejected Luther's appeal and determined to continue the practice that Luther proved was in direct contradiction to the Word of God. These historical events form the context of the Reformation.
The Reformation itself was the recovery of the Gospel. The Gospel, the power of God unto salvation, was liberated from its Medieval dross, and proclaimed once again to the world. The good news, that God in Christ had accomplished salvation for man and offered it to him as a free gift received by faith alone, thundered throughout Europe. This was the same Gospel that the Apostle Paul had proclaimed hundreds of years previously.
In this sense, the Reformation was an advance. It was not an advance in the Gospel itself because the Gospel is complete and perfect. The advance was in man's understanding of the Gospel. The Reformation was primarily the recovery of the doctrine of justification by faith. But the doctrine of justification by faith led to further teaching on the nature of the Christian life and how to live one's life coram deo, or in the presence of God Himself.
While the Reformation was a recovery of the Gospel, it was also the clarification of the components of the Gospel. These clarifications are phrases that emphasize certain aspects of the Gospel. They are Latin phrases commonly used to describe the Reformation emphases. These five phrases are: by faith alone (sola fide); by grace alone (sola gratia); by Christ alone (solus christus); to God alone the glory (soli deo gloria); and by Scripture alone (sola scriptura).
These are not five individual phrases that can be held in isolation from one another. One is not more important than any other. To speak of one is to speak of the other four.
We will look at each of the five phrases in turn. There may be some overlap because it is not possible to speak of one apart from the others. Together they give us insight into the nature of the Gospel and the importance of the Reformation.
The teaching of faith alone (sola fide) demonstrated that the Church could not function as the mediator between God and man. Although Medieval theologians gave credence to the biblical statement that salvation was by faith, they spoke of a faith that was directed toward the Church and what the Church provided. They also assigned to faith a value that God would reward. They spoke of unformed and formed faith. They believed that faith could advance from one degree to another of higher value. However, the Reformers showed decisively that the nature of faith, while it included both knowledge and conviction, was primarily trust or commitment. That trust or commitment was directed toward the person of Christ Himself. He was the one Mediator between God and man.
Faith was not a work, but an emptying of the person's confidence in his ability to save himself. The Reformers proved that faith was the instrumental means by which a person laid hold of Christ. What was important about saving faith was the object of faith, the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. They were intent in showing that genuine faith was shown in its fruits and resulted in a holy life.
By grace alone (sola gratia) spoke of the basis of salvation. Medieval theology spoke of merit or a right that a person had to approach God because of something in themselves or what they had done. The Reformers taught that the sole basis of salvation was God's free grace. The Church taught that if a person did certain things; this would obligate God to reward them. Through use of the Scriptures, the Reformers removed this false prop. They taught if one were to be saved, it would be by God's grace alone. There was no room for human merit in one's salvation. Did this mean that one should not strive for the salvation of his soul? If one waited until God extended His grace, would this not leave man in a dangerous position? He could be indifferent and give the excuse that, because he could not save himself, there was no reason to do anything. He could wait until God had mercy on him.
However, indifference is a distortion of grace. While Medieval theology emphasized that a person should seek salvation, the means were not in agreement with God's Word. He should go on a pilgrimage, pay money, or seek to do special works of merit. As a result, man became dependent on the Church and could never come to a place of settled assurance. On the other hand, the Reformers emphasized that God did extend His grace. Where was that grace offered? It was offered in the Gospel of His Son. God had demonstrated His grace and love to man in history by sending His Son. God now extended the Gospel invitation to all men to come to Him. When they came in response to the call of the Gospel, they would find that He was indeed a gracious God, willing to blot out their trespasses and sins. Should they remain obstinate and refuse to come, they would find to their sorrow they had refused the only offer of salvation.
Christ alone (solus christus) was the third element of the Gospel. Men were encouraged to look to Christ alone for salvation. The Scriptures declared that He was the only Mediator between God and man. The additions that the Church had placed on the Gospel distorted the part that Christ had in purchasing it on behalf of men. While the Church spoke of Christ and His work, the Mass emphasized the continual sacrifice of the Lord. However, the Scriptures emphasized its once for all nature and its efficacy to save men from the guilt and power of their sins. Reformation preaching sounded the note of Christ crucified as the answer to men's needs. They not only proclaimed His death, they spoke of His glorious resurrection and His ascension into heaven. Christ was now at the right hand of the Father, interceding for His people. The Gospel of the Reformation portrayed a living Christ Who ministered to His people, rather than an unfortunate victim of the cross.
To God alone the glory (soli deo gloria) emphasized the purpose of man's salvation. In reality, assurance of one's salvation was nearly impossible within the teaching of the Church. Rather than teaching justification as a legal change from condemnation to righteousness, Rome defined it as a moral change continually in process As a result, one could never come to the place where they could be certain they had done enough to please God. Rome combined sanctification, the progressive growth in holiness, with justification to the complete confusion of salvation itself.
The Reformers were explicit in their teaching on the Christian life. They avoided the extremes of no assurance of salvation and antinomianism or lawlessness that comes from the presumption of salvation. They taught a realistic view of man; that because he still lives in the world, he must battle against indwelling sin, he must oppose the world system, and he has a real spiritual enemy in the devil.
The Reformers also taught that it was possible to live victoriously and serve God in the world. This is the meaning of soli deo gloria. God receives all the praise for one's salvation and, out of thankfulness, one dedicates their entire life to the service of God. That service of God might consist in different types of work but was united in the Person Who was served. In contrast, the Roman Church taught that the clerical life was the only life that truly could please God. Thus one had to withdraw from the world in order to live for God. The Reformers, while stressing that salvation was entirely of God, were equally determined to show that one honored God by living for Him.
What was the key to these doctrines being proclaimed? How was the Gospel liberated from its chains? It was the recovery of the Scriptures themselves. For that reason one of the key statements of the Reformation was sola scriptura, the Scriptures alone. The Scriptures were the final authority in all matters of faith and practice. The Reformers did not cast off what the church had taught previously. They taught that the clear teaching of the Scriptures had been obscured by the additions of the Church.
The Scriptures were made available again in their original languages and the Reformers returned to a close study of them. In the view of the Reformers, all teachings were to be brought to the bar of the Scriptures to determine if they were correct. The final authority was not to be what the Church taught but what the Word of God said. The Church had replaced the Scriptures as the final authority in matters of faith and practice. The Reformers stressed clearly that ultimate authority was found in the Word of God alone and not in the Church.
What was the Reformation? It was the recovery of the Gospel. What is the Gospel? It is the good news of what God has done in Christ to save man from his sin. It is a Gospel that has its origin in the grace (sola gratia) of God through the work of Christ (solus christus) and received by faith (sola fide). Where is the Gospel to be found? It is found on the pages of the Scriptures (sola scriptura) so that not only may I come to a personal salvation in Christ, I will also be instructed in how to live a life that is to the glory and praise of God (soli deo gloria).
But there is the need to add a word of caution. The story of the Reformation teaches us that the Gospel was recovered in its glory. But subsequent events in history also teach us that this Gospel can also be lost again. We learn from the Reformation the need for constant reformation of the Church. How grateful we should be that the Gospel was recovered at that time. But how foolish to be deceived into thinking that it could not be lost again. How important it is that we make a personal appropriation of the Gospel and live for the Lord today. Today is the only opportunity we will have to serve the Lord. Let us live out the reality of the Gospel through our lives today.

John Hus: Bohemian Reformer

While we usually consider Luther's act of nailing his 95 theses on the chapel door of the church of Wittenburg to be the beginning of the Reformation, the fact remains that God began the work of reformation long before the days of Martin Luther.

Two men are called "Pre-reformers" by historians: John Wycliffe of England and John Hus of Bohemia. Perhaps to call them pre-reformers really does them no injustice; but they were more than pre-reformers; they were reformers in the truest sense of the word -- and perhaps Hus even more than Wycliffe. The reformation of the church in the 16th century would have been impossible without them.

The two men were different. Wycliffe was first of all a scholar for whom preaching was secondary. Hus was above all a preacher, and scholarly studies were subordinate to preaching. The dusty library was Wycliffe's home; the pulpit was Hus'. Wycliffe labored all his life for reform and left no movement that continued to the Reformation. Hus started a movement of reform that not only lasted to the Reformation, but has come down to the present in almost pure form, primarily in the Moravians. Wycliffe's teachings were almost identical to those of Luther and Calvin; Hus, apparently, was never able to condemn the Roman Catholic corruption of the Lord's Supper. Wycliffe reflected all his life the middle class gentility of his upbringing; Hus, after the pattern of Luther, was of rough peasant stock. Wycliffe, it seems, did not know what it meant to laugh; Hus could banter and joke with his students even while lecturing. Wycliffe went to the grave in peace; Hus was burned to death on a martyr's pyre. But God used them both.

In Luther's famous debate with John Eck at Leipzig, Eck charged Martin Luther with being a Hussite because Luther appealed to the supreme authority of Scripture. Luther was not sure about this, but spent the noon break reading what Hus had written. At the beginning of the afternoon session he surprised everyone by loudly proclaiming: "Ich ben ein Hussite!" (I am a Hussite.)

Early Life

John Hus was born in 1373 in the southern part of Bohemia (now Czechoslovakia) in the village of Husinec -- hence his surname, Hus. The name Hus means "goose," a word which Hus often used in referring to himself. While he was imprisoned in Constance, he wrote his friends in Bohemia that he hoped the goose might be released from prison and that "if you love the goose," try to secure the king's aid in delivering him from prison.

He was born of poor peasant parents, all of which meant that his early life was one of hardship and cruel poverty under the crushing heel of lords and princes. The difficulties of such a life were, amongst a peasant population, broken only by wild and riotous orgies of drinking and fornication. While it is clear from Hus' later letters that he was as riotous as his fellows, nevertheless, he earnestly insisted that he was never guilty of the immorality of his peers. From this the Lord saved him in preparation for greater work.

While his parents were not noted in any way for their piety, and apparently gave little thought to John's spiritual instruction, they did want him to go to school because they saw education as the only way for John and for them to escape their grinding poverty. In fact, they apparently considered an education for the priesthood to be the surest way to wealth, an irony that spoke volumes concerning the sad state of affairs in the Romish Church.

Although John became a highly educated man, his peasant upbringing remained with him all his life, and his enemies repeatedly taunted him for his crude and rough origins.

In 1385, at thirteen years old, John began his formal education in elementary school at Prachatice. Finishing this part of his education in 1390, he went to the University of Prague, acquiring a B.A. degree in 1393 (at the age of 20); a M.A. in 1396; and a B.D. in 1404. Until he earned his M.A., life was financially difficult; and he earned a bit of money by singing and doing manual work. But upon gaining his M.A. degree, he was qualified to teach, which also he did in the university. He was soon the most popular teacher in the university, partly because he broke old traditions by refusing to be the stern and unbending professor, preferring to laugh, joke, and socialize with his students.

Hus, the Preacher

In 1402 John was appointed rector and preacher at the Chapel of the Holy Infants of Bethlehem in Prague. Thus John occupied two of the most strategic positions in all Bohemia -- although he was probably unaware of their importance. The city of Prague had a lengthy tradition of reform and could boast some outstanding preachers, who even preached from the Scriptures. To this tradition Hus fell heir. The University of Prague was in the very center of the reform movement and was a place of ferment as new ideas and programs for the church were constantly being discussed. The chapel to which Hus was appointed was raised in 1391 by a rich merchant as a center for reform preaching.

It was about the time that Hus began preaching that he also was converted. It seems as if his conversion was centered in his calling to preach. Prior to 1400 Hus had studied for the priesthood in the firm conviction that this was the way to escape from poverty. But when actually confronted with the task of preaching, his life underwent a fundamental change and he was overcome by the consciousness of the great task of preaching the gospel of Christ. He himself wrote of how important he considered preaching: "By the help of God I have preached, still am preaching, and if his grace will allow, shall continue to preach; if perchance I may be able to lead some poor, tired, or halting soul into the house of Christ to the King's supper."

The Reformer

The teachings of John Wycliffe had come to Bohemia as early as 1390. A close alliance had been established between England and Bohemia because England's king, Richard II, had married Anne of Bohemia, the sister of Bohemia's king. Scholars had traveled between the countries, and one eminent scholar, Jerome of Prague, had spent some time in Oxford, Wycliffe's school, where he had absorbed the teachings of Wycliffe. On his return, he had spread Wycliffe's writings and teachings throughout Prague and the university.

Although reform had been in the air for many years, the spread of Wycliffe's teachings gave it direction and a doctrinal foundation. John Hus had become thoroughly familiar with the teachings of Wycliffe and, convinced of their truth, he had himself begun to teach them in the university and preach them in the pulpit. it is not surprising that the full fury of the Roman Catholic Church was soon turned against him. When general reform, especially of clerical corruption, was preached, even many Roman Catholics supported the reform movement. But when Hus and others began to preach doctrinal reform as well as moral reform, Rome turned in a rage against the reformers, and especially against Hus.

It seems as if from the time Hus began preaching, Hus was under suspicion. A curious document turned up near the end of Hus' life which was a collection of quotes from Hus' preaching and teaching, taken secretly and obviously with the intent of using them to charge Hus with heresy. But the more Hus emphasized that at the root of Rome's evils lay doctrinal error, the more Hus lost the support of the church, of the politicians, and of most of those in authority. It was the students Hus taught in school and the common people who loved his preaching, who continued to support him.


As the opposition to Hus grew, pressure of many kinds was put on him. First 45 statements, purported to be Hus' teachings, were condemned. Then preaching was forbidden in all the chapels. Then, when Hus refused to stop preaching, he was excommunicated by the archbishop. Soon he was summoned to Rome for trial; but, knowing that he would never escape Rome alive, he refused to go and was excommunicated by the pope. Even this was not enough; Prague was put under the interdict so that no religious services could be performed in the entire city. Gradually the might of Rome was squeezing Hus into a corner.

In pity for the citizens of the city, and so that the interdict could be removed, Hus left and returned to the area of his hometown. But his new residence soon became a center for preaching in all the surrounding countryside and it gave him the quietness that he needed to write. Perhaps this move did not lessen his effectiveness, but was God's means of spreading Hus' teaching beyond the confines of Prague.

At any rate, Rome could tolerate Hus no longer. He was summoned to the Council of Constance in 1414, a council meeting called to settle the papal schism. Three popes were all claiming to be the legitimate pope, and the outrageous situation was making a mockery of the claims of the church.

Trial and Martyrdom

The Emperor Sigismund promised Hus a safe-conduct both to and from Constance regardless of the outcome of Hus' trial. And it was for this reason that Hus determined to go, although he was not at all certain that he would emerge from the trial alive. He told his friends, however, that a faithful testimony to his Lord and Savior required that he go.

Hus would have been safe in his hometown. He testified to this in Constance before his accusers when he told them: "I have stated that I came here of my own free will. If I had been unwilling to come, neither that king (Wenzel) nor this king (Sigismund) would have been able to force me to come, so numerous and so powerful are the Bohemian nobles who love me, and within whose castles I should have been able to lie concealed."

For one month, while in Constance, Hus was permitted to move about freely, even administering the Lord's Supper daily in his lodgings, the home of a widow whom he called his "widow of Zarephath." But Rome's godless and treacherous clerics could not permit Hus to remain free, and so he was imprisoned on the trumped-up charge that he had attempted to escape the city in a wagon.

Three months he was in a dungeon in a Dominican convent with a cell alongside the latrines. On March 24, 1414, he was chained and transferred to a castle dungeon at Gottelieven, where he was handcuffed and bound to a wall at night, while free to walk around in chains during the day. After 73 days, he was transferred to a Franciscan friary where he was subjected to cruel and heartless hearings in efforts to make him recant. Through all his imprisonment he was permitted no books, not even his Bible. He was nearly starved to death at times, and throughout he was so cruelly treated that he suffered from hemorrhage, headaches, vomiting, and fainting spells.

When finally he was brought before the council, he was permitted to say nothing, although repeatedly he made an effort to give the testimony to his faith he longed to give. God did not will that his testimony would be that of a confession of his mouth; his testimony was to be the far more powerful testimony of martyrdom.

The trial was a joke, a violation of every rule of justice, a farce of the worst sort. But during its proceedings, Hus was repeatedly made the object of mockery, derision, humiliating treatment of the worst sort, and a cruel deposition when he was stripped of all his clerical clothing and publicly defrocked.

Finally he was sentenced to burning at the stake, and the council, afraid of spilling the blood of a man, turned him over to the secular authorities to carry out the sentence.

One interesting sidelight gives a glimpse into the magnificent wisdom of God. When Hus was sentenced to death, he appealed to the Emperor Sigismund, who was present, to rescue him, reminding Sigismund of his promise of a safe-conduct. While Sigismund did not have the courage to keep his promise, he did have the grace to blush a fiery red at Hus' rebuke. All this would not mean so much in itself. But just over 100 years later, Luther went to Worms under the safe conduct of Charles V, emperor of Germany, and made his courageous stand for Scripture. Then too the Roman Catholic Church wanted Luther killed, but Charles insisted that the safe conduct be enforced. When Charles was later asked why he permitted the dastardly heretic, Luther, to escape, Charles replied that he remembered all too well the blush of shame on the face of Sigismund, when Sigismund treacherously went back on Hus' safe conduct. God used the blush of a shamed king to save Luther's life.

Several times on the way to the place of execution, Hus attempted to speak to the people, but was in every case silenced. Finally, when the crowd arrived at the stake, Hus, with tears in his eyes, kneeled in prayer. It was noon. Hus' hands were tied behind him and his neck bound to the stake with a sooty chain. The straw and wood were piled around him up to the chin and rosin was sprinkled on the wood. When he was asked to recant one last time, his response was: "I shall die with joy to-day in the faith of the Gospel which I have preached." As the flames arose around him, he sang twice: "Christ, thou Son of the living God, have mercy upon me." Praying and singing until the smoke began to choke him, he died a faithful martyr of Jesus Christ. To remove all possible opportunities for his relics to be preserved, his clothing were thrown into the fire and all the ashes were gathered and thrown into the Rhine River.

So died this faithful man of God sealing his testimony with his blood.


Hus was a godly man throughout his reformatory career, and he won the grudging praise of his enemies. A Jesuit testified: "John Hus was even more remarkable for his acuteness than his eloquence; but the modesty and severity of his conduct, his austere and irreproachable life, his pale and melancholy features, his gentleness and affability to all, even the most humble, persuaded more than the greatest eloquence." Another Roman Catholic, later a pope, wrote: "He was a powerful speaker, and distinguished for the reputation of a life of remarkable purity."

Hus was not the original thinker that Wycliffe was, and indeed borrowed most of this thoughts from Wycliffe -- especially Wycliffe's views of the church as the elect body of Christ and the sole authority of Scripture. But Hus became what Wycliffe never was, a powerful preacher of the gospel. By preaching he moved a nation. And by preaching he established a church in Bohemia which Rome could never destroy, but which joined the Reformation just over 100 years later.

Rome has the blood of countless people of God on her hands. She has never expressed one word of sorrow or regret for this. The blood of the martyrs still cries from under the altar against Rome: "How long, O Lord, holy and true, wilt thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?"

But to Hus, along with the other martyrs of Christ, was given a white robe and the testimony that they should rest a little while until their brethren should be killed as they were.

Part Two: Medieval Period (750-1517)

Extracts from Sermons
By John Wycliffe (1324–1384)

Cum turbæ innerunt ad Jesum.—L
UC. v. 1.

HE STORY of this gospel telleth good lore, how prelates should teach folk under them. The story is plain, how Christ stood by the river of Gennesaret, and fishers come down to wash therein their nets; and Christ went up into a boat that was Simon’s, and prayed him to move it a little from the land, and He sate and taught the people out of the boat. And when Christ ceased to speak, He said to Simon, Lead the boat into the high sea, and let out your nets to taking of fish. And Simon answering said to Him, Commander, all the night travailing took we nought; but in Thy word shall I loose the net. And when they had done this they took a plenteous multitude of fish, and their net was broken. But they beckoned to their fellows that were in the other boat to come and help them; and they came and filled both boats of fish, so that well nigh were they both dreynt. 1 And when Peter had seen this wonder, he fell down to Jesus’ knee, and said, Lord, go from me for I am a sinful man. For Peter held him not worthy to be with Christ, nor dwell in His company; for wonder came to them all in taking of these fishes. And so wondered James and John, Zebedee’s sons, that were Simon’s fellows. And Jesus said to Simon, From this time shalt thou be taking men. And they set their boats to the land, and forsook all that they had, and sued 2 Christ.
  Before we go to spiritual understanding of this gospel we shall wit that the same Christ’s disciple that was first cleped Simon, was cleped Peter after of Christ, for sadness of belief 3 that he took of Christ, which Christ is a corner stone, and groundeth all truth. Over this we shall understand that the apostles were cleped of Christ in many degrees; first they were cleped and accepted to be Christ’s disciples; and yet they turned again, as Christ Himself ordained, to live in the world. After they were cleped to see Christ’s miracles, and to be more homely with Him than they were before; but yet they turned again to the world by times, and lived worldly life, to profit of folk that they dwelt with. And in this wise Peter, James, and John went now to fish. But the third cleping and the most was this,—that the apostles forsook wholly the world and worldly things, and turned not again to worldly life, as after this miracle Peter and his fellows sued Christ continually. It is no need to dip us in this story more than the gospel telleth, as it is no need to busy us what hight Tobies’ hound. 4 Hold we us appeased in the measure that God hath given us, and dream we not about new points that the gospel leaveth, for this is a sin of curiosity that harmeth more than profiteth. The story of this gospel telleth us ghostly wit, both of life of the church and medeful works, 5 and this should we understand, for it is more precious. Two fishings that Peter fished betokeneth two takings of men unto Christ’s religion, and from the fiend to God. In this first fishing was the net broken, to token that many men be converted, and after break Christ’s religion; but at the second fishing, after the resurrection, when the net was full of many great fishes, was not the net broken, as the gospel saith; for that betokeneth saints that God chooseth to Heaven. And so these nets that fishers fish with betokeneth God’s law, in which virtues and truths be knitted; and other properties of nets tell properties of God’s law; and void places between knots betokeneth life of kind, that men have beside virtues. And four cardinal virtues be figured by knitting of the net. The net is broad in the beginning, and after strait in end, to teach that men, when they be turned first, live a broad worldly life; but afterward, when they be dipped in God’s law, they keep them straitlier from sins. These fishers of God should wash their nets in his river, for Christ’s preachers should chevely 6 tell God’s law, and not meddle with man’s law, that is troubled water; for man’s law containeth sharp stones and trees, by which the net of God is broken and fishes wend out to the world. And this betokeneth Gennesaret, that is, a wonderful birth, for the birth by which a man is born of water and of the Holy Ghost is much more wonderful than man’s kindly birth. Some nets be rotten, some have holes, and some be unclean for default of washing; and thus on three manners faileth the word of preaching. And matter of this net and breaking thereof give men great matter to speak God’s word, for virtues and vices and truths of the gospel be matter enough to preach to the people.  2

Simile est regnum cœlorum homini.—M
ATT. xviii. 23.

HIS gospel telleth by a parable how by right judgment of God men should be merciful.—“The kingdom of Heaven, saith Christ, is like to an earthly king that would reckon with his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was offered unto him that owed him ten thousand besants, and when he had not to pay of, the lord bade he should be sold, his wife and his children and all that he had, and that that he ought the lord 7 should be allgates 8 paid. This servant fell down and prayed the lord and said, Have patience in me, and I shall quit thee all. The lord had mercy on him, and forgave him all his debt. This servant went out and found one of his debtors, that ought him an hundred pence; and took him and strangled him, and bade him pay his debt. And his servant fell down and prayed him of patience, and he should by time yield him all that he ought him. But this man would not, and went out and put him in prison, till he had paid the debt that he ought him. And other servants of this man, when they saw this deed, mourned full much, and told all this to the lord. And the lord cleped him, and said unto him, Wicked servant, all thy debt I forgave thee, for thou prayedst me; behoved it not thee to have mercy on thy servant, as I had mercy on thee? And the lord was wroth, and gave him to tormentors, till he had paid all the debt that he ought him. On this manner, said Christ, shall My Father of heaven do to you, but if you forgive, each one to his brother, of your free heart, the trespass that he hath done him.”
  The kingdom of heaven is holy Church of men that now travail here; and this Church by his head is like to a man king, for Christ, head of this Church, is both God and man. This king would reckon with his servants, for Christ hath will without end to reckon with men at three times. First, Christ reckoneth with men when He teacheth them by reason how much they have had of Him, and how much they owe Him; the second time Christ reckoneth with men, when in the hour of man’s death He telleth them at what point these men shall ever justly stand; the third reckoning is general, that shall be at the day of doom, when this judgment generally shall be openly done in deed. As anent the first reckoning, Christ reckoneth with rich men of this world, and showeth them how much they owe Him, and showeth by righteousness of His law how they and theirs should be sold, and so make amends by pain of things that they performed not in deed. But many such men for a time have compunction in heart, and pray God of His grace to have patience in them, and they shall in this life serve to Christ truly. And so Christ forgiveth them upon this condition. But they wend out, and sue not Christ their Lord in mercy, but oppress their servants that owe them but a little debt, and put them in prison, and think not on God’s mercy; and other servants of God both in this life and in the other tell to God this fellness, 9 and pray Him of vengeance. No doubt, God is wroth at this, and at two reckonings with man He reasoneth this cruel man, and judgeth him justly to pain.  4
  And therefore, Christ biddeth, by Luke, all men to be merciful, for their Father of Heaven that shall judge them is merciful. But we should understand by this, that this mercy that Christ axeth 10 is nothing again reason, and so by this just mercy men should some time forgive, and some time should they punish, but ever by reason of mercy. The reason of mercy standeth in this; that (which) men might do cruelly they (may) do justly for God’s sake, to amendment of men; and men may mercifully reprove men, and punish them, and take of them their just debts for bettering of these debtors. On this manner doth God that is full of mercy, and saith that He reproveth and chastiseth His wanton children that He loveth; and thus Christ reproved Pharisees, and punished priests with other people, and punisheth mercifully all damned men in hell, for it standeth not with His right that He punish but mercifully. God giveth goods of kind by grace to these men that He damneth, and if He punished them more, yet He meddleth 11 mercy. But here men should be ware that all the goods that they have be goods of their God, and they naked servants of God; and thus should they warily flee to take their own vengeance, but venge injury of God, and intend amendment. Thus Christ, meekest of all, suffered His own injury in two temptations of the fiend, but in the third He said, Go, Satan, and reproved him sharply by authority of God. Thus Moses, mildest man of all, killed many thousand of his folk, for they worshipped a calf as they should worship God. And thus in our works of mercy lieth much discretion, for oft times our mercy axeth to venge and to punish men, and else justices of man’s law should never punish men to the death, but oft times they do amiss, and they wit not when they do well, and so religion of priests should leave such judgments.  5

Nisi granum frumenti.—J
OHN xii. 24.

N this short Gospel be doubts, both of conscience and of other. First philosophers doubt, whether (the) seed loseth his form when it is made a new thing, as the Gospel speaketh here; and some men think nay, for sith the same quantity or quality or virtue that was first in seed, liveth after in the fruit, as a child is often like to his father or to his mother, or else to his eld father, after that the virtue lasteth,—and sith all these be accidents, that may not dwell without subject,—it seemeth that the same body is first seed and after fruit, and thus it may oft change from seed to fruit and again. Here many cleped philosophers glaver 12 diversely; but in this matter God’s law speaketh thus, as did eld clerks, that the substance of a body is before that it be seed, and now fruit and now seed, and now quick and now dead. And thus many forms must be together in one thing, and specially when the parts of that thing be meddled together; and thus the substance of a body is now of one kind and now of another. And so both these accidents, quality and quantity, must dwell in the same substance, all if it be changed in kinds, and thus this same thing that is now a wheat corn shall be dead and turn to grass, and after to many corns. But variance in words in this matter falleth to clerks, and showing of equivocation, the which is more ready in Latin; but it is enough to us to put, that the same substance is now quick and now dead, and now seed and now fruit; and so that substance that is now a wheat corn must needs die before that it is made grass, and sith be made an whole ear. And thus speaketh holy writ and no man can disprove it. Error of freres in this matter is not here to rehearse, for it is enough to tell how they err in belief.

Homo quidam habuit duos.—L
UKE xv. 11.

UKE saith that Christ told how a man had two sons; and the younger of them said unto his father, Father, give me a portion of the substance that falleth me. And the father de-parted him his goods. And soon after this young son gathered all that fell to him, and went forth in pilgrimage into a far country; and there he wasted his goods, living in lechery. And after that he had ended all his goods, there fell a great hunger in that land, and he began to be needy. And he went out and cleaved to one of the citizens of that country, and this citizen sent him into his town to keep swine. And this son coveted to fill his belly with these holes 13 that the hogs eat, and no man gave him. And he, turning again, said, How many hinds in my father’s house be full of loaves, and I perish here for hunger. I shall rise, and go to my father, and say to him, Father, I have sinned in Heaven and before thee; now I am not worthy to be cleped thy son, make me as one of thy hinds. And he rose and came to his father. And yet when he was far, his father saw him, and was moved by mercy, and running against his son, fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, Father, I have sinned in Heaven and before thee; now I am not worthy to be cleped thy son. And the father said to his servants anon, Bring ye forth the first stole, and clothe ye him, and give ye a ring in his hand, and shoon upon his feet. And bring ye a fat calf, and slay him, and eat we, and feed us; for this son of mine was dead, and is quickened again, and he was perished, and is found. And they began to feed him. And his elder son was in the field; and when he came and was nigh the house, he heard a symphony and other noise of minstrelsy. And this elder son cleped one of the servants, and asked what were these things. And he said to him, Thy brother is come, and thy father hath slain a fat calf, for he hath received him safe. But this elder son had disdain and would not come in; therefore, his father went out, and began to pray him. And he answered, and said to his father, Lo, so many years I serve to thee, I passed never thy mandement; and thou gavest me never a kid, for to feed me with my friends. But after that he, this thy son hath murthered his goods with hooris 14 is come, thou hast killed to him a fat calf. And the father said to him, Son, thou art ever more with me, and all my goods be thine. But it was need to eat and to make merry, for he this thy brother was dead, and liveth again; he was perished, and is found.PROTESTANT REFORMATION IN SCOTLAND
It would have been thought improbable that any very distinguished share awaited
Scotland in the great Protestant Reformation. A small country, it was parted by barbarism
as well as by distance from the rest of the world. Its rock-bound coast was perpetually
beaten by a stormy sea; its great mountains were drenched in rains and shrouded in mist;
its plains, abandoned to swamps, had not been conquered by the plough, nor yielded
aught for the sickle. The mariner shunned its shore, for there no harbor opened to receive
his vessel, and no trader waited to buy his wares. This land was the dwelling of savage
tribes, who practiced the horrid rites and worshipped, under other names, the deities to
which the ancient Assyrians had bowed down.
Scotland first tasted of a little civilization from the Roman sword. In the wake of the
Roman Power came the missionaries of the Cross, and the gospel found disciples where
Caesar had been able to achieve no triumphs. Next came Columba, who kindled his
evangelical lamp on the rocks of Iona, at the very time that Mohammedanism was
darkening the East, and Rome was stretching her shadow farther every year over the
West. In the ninth century came the first great step in Scotland's preparation for the part
that awaited it seven centuries later. In the year 838, the Picts and the Scots were united
under one crown. Down to this year they had been simply two roving and warring clans;
their union made them one people, and constituted them into a nation. In the erection of
the Scots into a distinct nationality we see a foothold laid for Scotland's having a distinct
national Reformation: an essential point, as we shall afterwards see, in order to the
production of an advanced and catholic Protestantism.
The second step in Scotland's preparation for its predestined task was the establishment
of its independence as a nation. It was no easy matter to maintain the political
independence of so small a kingdom, surrounded by powerful neighbors who were
continually striving to effect its subjugation and absorption into their own wealthier and
larger dominions. To aid in this great struggle, on which were suspended far higher issues
than were dreamed of by those who fought and bled in it, there arose from time to time
"mighty men of valor." Wallace and Bruce were the leaders in this war for national
In the twelfth century Iona still existed, but its light had waxed dim. Under King David
the Culdee establishments were suppressed, to make way for Popish monasteries; the
presbyters of Iona were driven out, and the lordly prelates of the Pope took their place;
the edifices and heritages of the Culdees passed over wholesale to the Church of Rome,
and a body of ecclesiastics of all orders, from the mitered abbot down to the begging
friar, were brought from foreign countries to occupy Scotland, now divided into twelve
dioceses, with a full complement of abbeys, monasteries, and nunneries. But it is to be
noted that this establishment of Popery in the twelfth century is not the result of the
conversion of the people, or of their native teachers: we see it brought in over the necks
of both, simply at the will and by the decree of the monarch. So little was Scottish Popery
of native growth that the men as well as the system had to be imported from abroad.
If in no country of Europe was the dominant reign of Popery so short as in Scotland, in
no country was the Church of Rome so powerful when compared with the size of the
kingdom and the number of the population. The influences which in countries like France
set limits to the power of the Church did not exist in Scotland. On her lofty height she
was without a rival, and looked down upon all ranks and institutions – upon the throne,
which was weak; upon the nobles, who were parted into factions; upon the people, who
were sunk in ignorance. Bishops and abbots filled all the great posts at court and
discharged all the highest offices in the state. They were chancellors, secretaries of state,
justiciaries, ambassadors; they led armies, fought battles, and tried and executed
criminals. They were the owners of lordships, hunting-grounds, fisheries, houses; and
while a full half of the kingdom was theirs, they heavily taxed the other half, as they did
also all possessions, occupations, and trades. Thus with the passing years cathedrals and
abbeys continued to multiply and wax in splendor; while acres, tenements, and tithing, in
an ever-flowing stream, were pouring fresh riches into the Church's treasury. In the midst
of the prostration and ruin of all interests and classes, the Church stood up in overgrown
arrogance, wealth, and power. Just before the era of Protestant Reformation, the Romish
Church stood at the apex of her power in Scotland.
The era of Protestant Reformation began in Scotland like it had in England: from the
message of John Wyckliffe. Followers of Wyckliffe took the gospel message into
Scotland, and from that time until the conclusion of the era of Protestant Reformation,
Protestantism was on the ascent. The first who suffered for the Reformed faith, so far as
can be ascertained, was James Resby, an Englishman, and a disciple of John Wyckliffe.
He taught that "the Pope was not Christ's Vicar, and that he was not Pope if he was a man
of wicked life." This was pronounced heresy, and for that heresy he had to do expiation
in the fire at Perth. He was burned in 1406 or 1407, some nine years before the
martyrdom of Huss. In 1416 the University of St. Andrews, then newly founded,
ordained that all who commenced Master of Arts should take an oath to defend the
Church against the insults of the Lollards, proof surely that the sect was sufficiently
numerous to render Churchmen uneasy. A yet stronger proof of this was the appointment
of a Heretical Inquisitor for Scotland. The office was bestowed upon Laurence Lindores,
Abbot of Scone. Prior Winton in his Metrical Chronicle (1420) celebrates the zeal of
Albany, Governor of Scotland, against Lollards  Murdoch Nisbet, of
Hardhill, had a manuscript copy of the New Testament (of Wyckliffe's translation
doubtless), which he concealed in a vault, and read to his family and acquaintance by
Gordon of Earlston, another early favorer of the disciples of Wyckliffe, had in his
possession a copy of the New Testament, in the vulgar tongue, which he read at meetings
held in a wood near to Earlston House. The Parliament of James I, held at Perth (1424),
enacted that all bishops should make inquiry by Inquisition for heretics, and punish them
according to the laws of "holy Kirk," and if need were they should call in the secular
power to the aid of "holy Kirk."
In 1431 we find a second stake set up in Scotland. Paul Crawar, a native of Bohemia, and
a disciple of John Huss, preaching at St. Andrews, taught that the mass was a worship of
superstition. This was no suitable doctrine in a place where a magnificent cathedral and a
gorgeous hierarchy were maintained in the service of the mass, and should it fall they too
would fall. To avert so great a “catastrophe”, Crawar was dragged to the stake and
burned, with a ball of brass in his mouth to prevent him from addressing the people in his
last moments.
The Lollards of England were the connecting link between their great master, Wyckliffe,
and the English Reformers of the sixteenth century. Scotland too had its Lollards, who
connected the Patriarch and school of Iona with the Scottish Reformers. The Lollards of
Scotland could be none other than the descendants of the Culdee missionaries, and such
of the disciples of Wyckliffe as had taken refuge in Scotland. In the testimony of both
friend and foe, there were few counties in the Lowlands of Scotland where these Lollards
were not to be found. They were numerous in Fife; they were still more numerous in the
districts of Cunningham and Kyle; hence their name, the Lollards of Kyle. In the reign of
James IV (1494) some thirty Lollards were summoned before the archiepiscopal tribunal
of Glasgow on a charge of heresy. They were almost all gentlemen of landed property in
the districts already named, and the tenets which they were charged with denying
included the mass, purgatory, the worshipping of images, the praying to saints, the Pope's
vicarship, his power to pardon sin – in short, all the peculiar doctrines of Romanism.
Their defense appears to have been so spirited that the king, before whom they argued
their cause, shielded them from the doom that the archbishop, Blackadder, would
undoubtedly have pronounced upon them.
These incidental glimpses show us a scriptural Protestantism already in Scotland, but it
lacks that diffusion into which the sixteenth century awoke it. When that century came
new agencies began to operate. In 1526, Hector Boece, Principal of King's College,
Aberdeen, and the fellow-student and correspondent of Erasmus, published his History of
Scotland. In that work he draws a dark picture of the manners of the clergy; of their greed
in monopolizing all offices, equaled only by their neglect of their duties; of their
promotion of unworthy persons, to the ruin of letters; and of the scandals with which the
public feeling was continually outraged, and religion affronted; and he raises a loud cry
for immediate Reformation if the Church of his native land was to be saved.
About the same time the books and tracts of Luther began to enter the seaports of
Montrose, Dundee, Perth, St. Andrews, and Leith. These were brought across by the
skippers who made annual voyages to Flanders and the Lower Germany. In this way the
east coast of Scotland, and the shores of the Frith of Forth, were sown with the seeds of
Lutheranism. By this time Tyndale had translated the New Testament into English, and
he had markets for its sale in the towns visited by the Scottish traders, who bought
numerous copies and carried them across to their countrymen.
When the New Testament entered, a ray from heaven had penetrated the night that
brooded over much of the country. The Bible was the only Reformer then possible in
Scotland. Had a Luther or a Knox arisen at that time, he would have been consigned
before many days to a dungeon or a stake. The Bible was the only missionary that could
enter with safety, and operate with effect. With silent foot it began to traverse the land; it
came to the castle gates of the primate, yet he heard not its steps; it preached in cities, but
its voice fell not on the ear of bishop; it passed along the highways and by-ways
unobserved by the spy. To the Churchman's eye all seemed calm; but in the stillness of
the midnight hour men welcomed this new Instructor, and opened their heart to its
comforting and beneficent teaching. The Bible was emphatically the nation's one great
teacher; it was stamping its own ineffaceable character upon the Scottish Reformation.
The movement thus initiated was helped forward by every event that happened, till at last
in 1543 its first great landing-place was reached, when every man, woman, and child in
Scotland was secured by Act of Parliament in the right to read the Word of God in their
own tongue.
As with Reformation elsewhere, the fire of Christian martyrdom was the flame from
which the gospel shined. Patrick Hamilton was destined to fulfill that great but arduous
task. Born in 1504, he was the second son of Sir Patrick Hamilton, and the greatgrandson,
both by the father's and the mother's side, of King James II. He received his
education at the University of St. Andrews, and about 1517 was appointed titular Abbot
of Ferne, in Ross-shire, though it does not appear that he ever took priest's orders. In the
following year he went abroad, and would seem to have studied some time in Paris,
where it is probable he came to the first knowledge of the truth; and thence he went to
pursue his studies at the College of Marburg, then newly opened by the Landgrave of
Hesse. At Marburg the young Scotsman enjoyed the friendship of a very remarkable man,
whose views on some points of Divine truth exceeded in clearness even those of Luther;
we refer to Francis Lambert, the ex-monk of Avignon, whom Landgrave Philip had
invited to Hesse to assist in the Reformation of his dominions.
The depth of Hamilton's knowledge, and the beauty of his character, won the esteem of
Lambert, and we find the ex-Franciscan saying to Philip, "This young man of the
illustrious family of the Hamiltons... is come from the end of the world, from Scotland, to
your academy, in order to be fully established in God's truth. I have hardly ever met a
man who expresses himself with so much spirituality and truth on the Word of the Lord."
Hamilton's preparation for his work, destined to be brief but brilliant, was now
completed, and he began to yearn with an intense desire to return to his native land, and
publish the gospel of a free salvation. He could not hide from himself the danger which
attended the step he was meditating.
The priests were at this hour all-powerful in Scotland. A few years previously (1513),
James IV and the flower of the Scottish nobility had fallen on the field of Flodden. James
V was a child: his mother, Margaret Tudor, was nominally regent; but the clergy, headed
by the proud, profligate, and unscrupulous James Beaton, Archbishop of St. Andrews,
had grasped the government of the kingdom. It was not to be thought that these men
would permit a doctrine to be taught at their very doors, which they well knew would
bring their glory and pleasures to an end, if they had the power of preventing it. The
means of suppressing all preaching of the truth were not wanting, certainly, to these
tyrannical Churchmen. But this did not weigh with the young Hamilton. Intent upon
dispelling the darkness that covered Scotland, he returned to his native land (1527), and
took up his abode at the family mansion of Kincavel, near Linlithgow.
With the sword of Beaton hanging over his head, he began to preach the doctrines of the
Reformed faith. The first converts of the young evangelist were the inmates of the
mansion-house of Kincavel. After his kinsfolk, his neighbors became the next objects of
his care. He visited at the houses of the gentry, where his birth, the grace of his manners,
and the fame of his learning made him at all times welcome, and he talked with them
about the things that belonged to their peace. Going out into the fields, he would join
himself to groups of laborers as they rested at noon, and exhort them, while laboring for
the "meat that perisheth," not to be unmindful of that which "endures unto eternal life."
Opening the Sacred Volume, he would explain to his rustic congregation the "mysteries
of the kingdom" which was now come nigh unto them, and bid them strive to enter into
it. Having scattered the seed in the villages around Linlithgow, he resolved to carry the
gospel into its Church of St. Michael. The ancient palace of Linlithgow, "the Versailles of
Scotland," as it has been termed, was then the seat of the court, and the gospel was now
brought within the hearing of the priests of St. Michael's, and of the members of the royal
family who repaired to it. Hamilton, standing up amid the altar and images, preached to
the polished audience that filled the edifice, with that simplicity and chastity of speech
which were best fitted to win his way with those now listening to him. It is not, would he
say, the cowl of St. Francis, nor the frock of St. Dominic, that saves us; it is the
righteousness of Christ. It is not the shorn head that makes a holy man, it is the renewed
heart. It is not the chrism of the Church, it is the anointing of the Holy Spirit that
replenishes the soul with grace. What doth the Lord require of thee, O man? To count so
many beads a day? To repeat so many paternosters? To fast so many days in the year, or
go so many miles on pilgrimages? That is what the Pope requires of thee; but what God
requires of thee is to do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly. Pure religion, and
undefiled, is not to kiss a crucifix, or to burn candles before Our Lady; pure religion is to
visit the fatherless and the widow in their affliction, and to keep one's self unspotted from
the world. "Knowest thou," he would ask, "what this saying means? Christ died for thee?"
Verily that thou shouldest have died perpetually, and Christ, to deliver thee from death,
died for thee, and changed thy perpetual death into his own death; for thou madest the
fault, and he suffered the pain."
Among Hamilton's hearers in St. Michael's there was a certain maiden of noble birth,
whose heart the gospel had touched. Her virtues won the heart of the young evangelist,
and he made her his wife. His marriage was celebrated but a few weeks before his
A little way inland from the opposite shores of the Forth, backed by the picturesque chain
of the blue Ochils, was the town of Dunfermline, with its archiepiscopal palace, the
towers of which might almost be descried from the spot where Hamilton was daily
evangelizing. Archbishop Beaton was at this moment residing there, and news of the
young evangelist's doings were wafted across to that watchful enemy of the gospel.
Beaton saw at a glance the difficulty of the case. A heretic of low degree would have
been summarily disposed of; but here was a Lutheran with royal blood in his veins, and
all the Hamiltons at his back, throwing down the gage of battle to the hierarchy. What
was to be done? The cruel and crafty Beaton hit on a device that but too well succeeded.
Concealing his dark design, the primate sent a pressing message to Patrick, soliciting an
interview with him on points of church reformation. Hamilton divined at once what the
message portended, but in spite of the death that almost certainly awaited him, and the
tears of his friends, who sought to stay him, he set out for St. Andrews. He seemed to feel
that he could serve his country better by dying than by living and laboring.
This city was then the ecclesiastical and literary metropolis of Scotland. As the seat of the
archiepiscopal court, numerous suitors and rich fees were drawn to it. Ecclesiastics of all
ranks and students from every part of the kingdom were to be seen upon its streets. Its
cathedral was among the largest in Christendom. It had numerous colleges, monasteries,
and a priory. As the traveler approached it, whether over the long upland swell of Fife on
the west, or the waters of the German Ocean on the east, the lofty summit of St. Regulus
met his eye, and told him that he was nearing the chief seat of authority and wealth in
On arriving at St. Andrews, Hamilton found the archbishop all smiles; a most gracious
reception, in fact, was accorded him by the man who was resolved that he should never
go hence. He was permitted to choose his own lodgings; to go in and out; to avow his
opinions; to discuss questions of rite, and dogma, and administration with both doctors
and students; and when he heard the echoes of his own sentiments coming back to him
from amid the halls and chairs of the "Scottish Vatican," he began to persuade himself
that the day of Scotland's deliverance was nearer than he had dared to hope, and even
now rifts were appearing in the canopy of blackness over his native land. An incident
happened that specially gladdened him. There was at that time, among the Canons of St.
Andrews, a young man of quick parts and candid mind, but enthralled by the
scholasticism of the age, and all on the side of Rome. His name was Alane, or Alesius – a
native of Edinburgh. This young canon burned to cross swords with the heretic whose
presence had caused no little stir in the university and monasteries of the ancient city of
St. Andrew. He obtained his wish, for Hamilton was ready to receive all, whether they
came to inquire or to dispute. The Sword of the Spirit, at almost the first stroke, pierced
the scholastic armor in which Alesius had encased himself, and he dropped his sword to
the man whom he had been so confident of vanquishing.
There came yet another, also eager to do battle for the Church – Alexander Campbell,
Prior of the Dominicans – a man of excellent learning and good disposition. The
archbishop, feeling the risks of bringing such a man as Hamilton to the stake, ordered
Prior Campbell to wait on him, and spare no means of bringing back the noble heretic to
the faith of the Church. The matter promised at first to have just the opposite ending.
After a few interviews, the prior confessed the truth of the doctrines which Hamilton
taught. The conversion of Alesius seemed to have repeated itself. But, alas! no; Campbell
had received the truth in the intellect only, not in the heart. Beaton sent for Campbell, and
sternly demanded of him what progress he was making in the conversion of the heretic.
The prior saw that on the brow of the archbishop which told him that he must make his
choice between the favor of the hierarchy and the gospel. His courage failed him: the
disciple became the accuser.
Patrick Hamilton had now been a month at St. Andrews, arguing all the time with
doctors, priests, students, and townspeople. From whatever cause this delay proceeded,
whether from a feeling on the part of Beaton and the hierarchy that their power was too
firmly rooted to be shaken, or from a fear to strike one so exalted, it helped to the easy
triumph of the Reformed opinions in Scotland. During that month Hamilton was able to
scatter on this center part of the field a great amount of the "incorruptible seed of the
Word," which, watered as it was soon thereafter to be with the blood of him who sowed
it, sprang up and brought forth much fruit. But the matter would admit of no longer delay,
and Patrick was summoned to the archiepiscopal palace, to answer to a charge of heresy.
Before accompanying Hamilton to the tribunal of Beaton, let us mention the
arrangements of his persecutors for putting him to death. Their first care was to send
away the king. James V was then a youth of seventeen, and it was just possible that he
might not stand quietly by and see them ruthlessly murder one who drew his descent
from the royal house.
Accordingly the young king was told that his soul's health required that he should make a
pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Duthac, in Ross-shire, whither his father had often gone to
disburden his conscience. It was winter, and the journey would necessarily be tedious;
but the purpose of the priests would be all the better served thereby. Another precaution
taken by the archbishop was to cause the movements of Sir James Hamilton, Patrick's
brother, to be watched, lest he should attempt a rescue. When the tidings reached
Kincavel that Patrick had been arrested, consternation prevailed at the manor-house; Sir
James, promptly assembling a body of men-at-arms, set out at their head for St. Andrews.
The troop marched along the southern shore of the Forth, but on arriving at Queensferry,
where they intended to cross, they found a storm raging in the Frith. The waves, raised
into tumult in the narrow sea by the westerly gale, would permit no passage; and Sir
James, the precious hours gliding away, could only stand gazing helplessly on the
tempest, which showed no signs of abating. Meanwhile, being descried from the opposite
shore, a troop of horse was at once ordered out to dispute their march to St. Andrews.
Another attempt to rescue Patrick from the hands of his persecutors was also
unsuccessful. Duncan, Laird of Ardrie, in the neighborhood of St. Andrews, armed and
mounted about a score of his tenants and servants, intending to enter the city by night and
carry off his friend, whose Protestant sentiments he shared; but his small party was
surrounded, and himself apprehended, by a troop of horsemen. Hamilton was left in the
power of Beaten.
The first rays of the morning sun were kindling the waters of the bay, and gilding the
hilltops of Angus on the other side of the Tay, when Hamilton was seen traversing the
streets on his way to the archiepiscopal palace, in obedience to Beaton's summons. He
had hoped to have an interview with the archbishop before the other judges had
assembled; but, early as the hour was, the court was already met, and Hamilton was
summoned before it and his accusation read. It consisted of thirteen articles, alleged to be
heretical, of which the fifth and sixth may be taken as samples. These ran: "That a man is
not justified by works, but by faith alone," and "that good works do not make a good
man, but that a good man makes good works." Here followed a discussion on each of the
articles, and finally the whole were referred to a committee of the judges chosen by
Beaton, who were to report their judgment upon them in a few days. Pending their
decision, Hamilton was permitted his liberty as heretofore; the object of his enemies
being to veil what was coming till it should be so near that rescue would be impossible.
In a few days the commissioners intimated that they had arrived at a decision on the
articles. This opened the way for the last act of the tragedy. Beaton issued his orders for
the apprehension of Patrick, and at the same time summoned his court for the next day.
Fearing a tumult should he conduct Hamilton to prison in open day, the officer waited till
night-fall before executing the mandate of the archbishop. A little party of friends had
that evening assembled at Patrick's lodgings. Their converse was prolonged till late in the
evening, for they felt loath to separate. The topics that engaged their thoughts and formed
the matter of their talk, it is not difficult to conjecture. Misgivings and anxieties they
could not but feel when they thought of the sentence to be pronounced in the cathedral
tomorrow. But with these gloomy presentiments there would mingle cheering hopes
inspired by the prosperous state of the Reformation at that hour on the continent of
Europe. When from their own land, still covered with darkness, they turned their eyes
abroad, they saw only the most splendid triumphs. In Germany a phalanx of illustrious
doctors, of chivalrous princes, and of free cities had gathered round the Protestant
standard. In Switzerland the new day was spreading from canton to canton with an
effulgence sweeter far than ever was day-break on the snows of its mountains. Farel was
thundering in the cities of the Jura, and day by day advancing his posts nearer to Geneva.
At the polished court of Francis I, and in the halls of the Sorbonne, Luther's doctrine had
found eloquent expositors and devoted disciples, making the hope not too bold that the
ancient, civilized, and. powerful nation of France would in a short time be won to the
gospel. Surmounting the lofty banner of snows and glaciers within which Italy reposes,
the light was circulating round the shores of Como, gilding the palaces of Ferrara and
Florence, and approaching the very gates of Rome itself. Amid the darkness of the Seven
Hills, whispers were beginning to be heard, "The morning cometh."
Turning to the other extremity of Europe, the prospect was not less gladdening. In
Denmark the mass had fallen, and the vernacular scriptures were being circulated through
the nation. In Sweden a Protestant king filled the throne, and a Protestant clergy
ministered to the people. In Norway the Protestant faith had taken root, and was
flourishing amid its fjords and pine-covered mountains. Nay, to the shores of Iceland had
that blessed day-spring traveled. It could not be that the day should break on every land
between Italy's "snowy ridge" and Iceland's frozen shore, and the night continue to cover
Scotland. It could not be that the sunrise should kindle into glory the Swiss mountains,
the German plains, and the Norwegian pine-forests, and no dawn light up the straths of
No! the hour would strike: the nation would shake off its chains, and a still brighter lamp
than that which Columba had kindled at Iona would shed its radiance on hill and valley,
on hamlet and city of Scotland. Whatever tomorrow might bring, this was what the future
would bring; and the joy these prospects inspired could be read in the brightening eyes
and on the beaming faces of the little company in this chamber, and most of all on those
of the youthful and noble form in the center of the circle.
But hark! the silence of the night is broken by a noise as of hostile steps at the door. The
company, startled, gaze into one another's faces, and are silent. Heavy footsteps are now
heard ascending the stair; the next moment there is a knocking at the chamber door. With
calm voice Hamilton bids them open the door; nay, he himself steps forward and opens it.
The archbishop's officer enters the apartment. "Whom do you want? " inquires Patrick. "I
want Hamilton," replies the man. "I am Hamilton," says the other, giving himself up,
requesting only that his friends might be allowed to depart unharmed.
A party of soldiers waited at the door to receive the prisoner. On his descending, they
closed round him, and led him through the silent streets of the slumbering city to the
castle. Nothing was heard save the low moaning of the night-wind, and the sullen dash of
the wave as it broke against the rocky foundations of the sea tower, to the dungeons of
which Hamilton was consigned for the night.
It is the morning of the last day of February, 1528. Far out in the bay the light creeps up
from the German Ocean: the low hills that run along on the south of the city, come out
in the dawn, and next are seen the sands of the Tay, with the blue summits of Angus
beyond, while the mightier masses of the Grampians stand up in the northern sky. Now
the sun rises; and tower and steeple and, proudest of all, Scotland's metropolitan cathedral
began to glow in the light of the new-risen luminary. A terrible tragedy is that sun to
witness before he shall set. The archbishop is up betimes, and so too are priest and monk.
The streets are already all astir. A stream of bishops, nobles, canons, priests, and citizens
is roiling in at the gates of the cathedral. How proudly it lifts its towers to the sky! There
is not another such edifice in all Scotland; few of such dimensions in all Christendom.
And now we see the archbishop, with his long train of lords, abbots, and doctors, sweep
in and take his seat on his archiepiscopal throne. Around him on the tribunal are the
Bishops of Glasgow, Dunkeld, Brechin, and Dunblane. The Prior of St. Andrews, Patrick
Hepburn; the Abbot of Arbroath, David Benton; as also the Abbots of Dunfermline,
Cambuskenneth, and Lindores; the Prior of Pittenweem; the Dean and Sub-Dean of
Glasgow; Ramsay, Dean of the Abbey of St. Andrews; Spens, Dean of Divinity in the
University; and among the rest sits Prior Alexander Campbell, the man who had
acknowledged to Hamilton in private that his doctrine was true, but who, stifling his
convictions, now appears on the tribunal as accuser and judge.
The tramp of horses outside announced the arrival of the prisoner. Hamilton was brought
in, led through the throng of canons, friars, students, and townspeople, and made to
mount a small pulpit erected opposite the tribunal. Prior Campbell rose and read the
articles of accusation, and when he had ended began to argue with Hamilton. The prior's
stock of sophisms was quickly exhausted. He turned to the bench of judges for fresh
instructions. He was bidden close the debate by denouncing the prisoner as a heretic.
Turning to Hamilton, the prior exclaimed, "Heretic, thou saidst it was lawful to all men to
read the Word of God, and especially the New Testament." "I wot not," replied Hamilton,
"if I said so; but I say now, it is reason and lawful to all men to read the Word of God,
and that they are able to understand the same; and in particular the latter will and
testament of Jesus Christ." "Heretic," again urged the Dominican, "thou sayest it is but
lost labor to call on the saints, and in particular on the blessed Virgin Mary, as mediators
to God for us."
"I say with Paul," answered the confessor, "there is no mediator between God and us but
Christ Jesus his Son, and whatsoever they be who call or pray to any saint departed, they
spoil Christ Jesus of his office."
"Heretic," again exclaimed Prior Campbell, "thou sayest it is all in vain to sing soulmasses,
psalms, and dirges for the relaxation of souls departed, who are continued in the
pains of purgatory. "Brother," said the Reformer, "I have never read in the scripture of
God of such a place as purgatory, nor yet believe I there is anything that can purge the
souls of men but the blood of Jesus Christ." Lifting up his voice once more Campbell
shouted out, as if to drown the cry in his own conscience, "Heretic, detestable, execrable,
impious heretic!" "Nay, brother," said Hamilton, directing a look of compassion towards
the wretched man, "thou dost not in thy heart think me heretic – thou knowest in thy
conscience that I am no heretic."
Not a voice was there on that bench but in condemnation of the prisoner. "Away with
him! away with him to the stake!" said they all. The archbishop rose, and solemnly
pronounced sentence on Hamilton as a heretic, delivering him over to the secular arm that
is, to his own soldiers and executioners – to be punished.
This sentence, Beaton believed, was to stamp out heresy, give a perpetuity of dominion
and glory to the Papacy in Scotland, and hallow the proud fane in which it was
pronounced, as the high sanctuary of the nation's worship for long centuries. How would
it have amazed the proud prelate, and the haughty and cruel men around him, had they
been told that this surpassingly grand pile should in a few years cease to be – that altar,
and stone image, and archiepiscopal throne, and tall massy column, and lofty roof, and
painted oriel, before this generation had passed away, smitten by a sudden stroke, should
fall in ruin, and nothing of all the glory on which their eyes now rested remain, save a
few naked walls and shattered towers, with the hoarse roar of the ocean sounding on the
beach beneath, and the loud scream of the sea bird, as it flew past, echoing through their
Escorted by a numerous armed band, Hamilton was led back to the castle, and men were
sent to prepare the stake in front of St. Salvator's College.
The interval was passed by the martyr in taking his last meal and conversing calmly with
his friends. When the hour of noon struck, he rose up and bade the governor be admitted.
He set out for the place where he was to die, carrying his New Testament in his hand, a
few friends by his side, and his faithful servant following. He walked in the midst of his
guards, his step firm, his countenance serene.
When he came in sight of the pile he halted, and uncovering his head, and raising his eyes
to heaven, he continued a few minutes in prayer. At the stake he gave his New Testament
to a friend as his last gift. Then calling his servant to him, he took off his cap and gown
and gave them to him, saying, "These will not profit in the fire; they will profit thee.
After this, of me thou canst receive no commodity except the example of my death,
which I pray thee bear in mind. For albeit it be bitter to the flesh, and fearful before man,
yet is it the entrance to eternal life, which none shall possess that denies Christ Jesus
before this wicked generation."
He now ascended the pile. The executioners drew an iron band round his body, and
fastened him to the stake. They piled up the fagots, and put a bag of gunpowder amongst
them to make them ignite. "In the name of Jesus," said the martyr, "I give up my body to
the fire, and commit my soul into the hands of the Father."
The torch was now brought. The gunpowder was exploded; it shot a fagot in the martyr's
face, but did not kindle the wood. More powder was brought and exploded, but without
kindling the pile. A third supply was procured; still the fagots would not burn: they were
green. Turning to the deathsman, Hamilton said, "Have you no dry wood? " Some
persons ran to fetch some from the castle; the sufferer all the while standing at the stake,
wounded in the face, and partially scorched, yet "giving no signs of impatience or anger."
So testifies Alesins, who says, "I was myself present, a spectator of that tragedy."
Hovering near that pile, drawn thither it would seem by some dreadful fascination, was
Prior Campbell. While the fresh supplies of powder and wood were being brought, and
the executioners were anew heaping up the fagots, Campbell, with frenzied voice, was
calling on the martyr to recant.
"Heretic," he shouted, "be converted; call upon Our Lady; only say, Salve Regina." "If
thou believest in the truth of what thou sayest," replied the confessor, "bear witness to it
by putting the tip of thy finger only into the fire in which my whole body is burning."The
Dominican burst out afresh into accusations and insults. "Depart from me, thou
messenger of Satan," said the martyr, "and leave me in peace." The wretched man was
unable either to go away or cease reviling. "Submit to the Pope," he cried, "there is no
salvation but in union to him." "Thou wicked man," said Hamilton, "thou knowest the
contrary, for thou toldest me so thyself. I appeal thee before the tribunal-seat of Jesus
Christ." At the hearing of these words the friar rushed to his monastery: in a few days his
reason gave way, and he died raving mad, at the day named in the citation of the martyr.
Patrick Hamilton was led to the stake at noon: the afternoon was wearing, in fact it was
now past sunset. These six hours had he stood on the pile, his face bruised, his limbs
scorched; but now the end was near, for his whole body was burning in the fire, the iron
band round his middle was red-hot, and the martyr was almost burned in two. One
approached him and said, "If thou still holdest true the doctrine for which thou diest,
make us a sign." Two of the fingers of his right hand were already burned, and had
dropped off. Stretching out his arm, he held out the remaining three fingers till they too
had fallen into the fire. The last words he was heard to utter were, "How long, O Lord,
shall darkness overwhelm this realm? How long wilt thou suffer this tyranny of men?
Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
We have given prominence to this great martyr, because his death was one of the most
powerful of the instrumentalities that worked for the emancipation of his native land.
Between the death of Hamilton and the appearance of Knox there intervenes a period of a
checkered character; nevertheless, we can trace all throughout it a steady onward march
of Scotland towards emancipation from Romish lies. Hamilton had been burned; Alesius
and others had fled in terror; and the priests, deeming themselves undisputed masters,
demeaned themselves more haughtily than ever. But their pride hastened their downfall.
The nobles combined to set limits to an arrogance which was unbearable; the greed and
profligacy of the hierarchy discredited it in the eyes of the common people.
The burning of Patrick Hamilton began immediately to bear fruit. From his ashes arose
one to continue his testimony, and to repeat his martyrdom. Henry Forrest was a
Benedictine in the monastery of Linlithgow, and had come to a knowledge of the truth by
the teaching and example of Hamilton. It was told the Archbishop of St. Andrews that
Forrest had said that Hamilton "was a martyr, and no heretic," and that he had a New
Testament in his possession, most probably Tyndale's, which was intelligible to the Scots
of the Lowlands. "He is as bad as Master Patrick," said Beaton; "we must burn him." A
"merry gentleman," James Lindsay, who was standing beside the archbishop when
Forrest was condemned, ventured to hint, "My lord, if ye will burn any man, let him be
burned in how [hollow] cellars, for the reek [smoke] of Patrick Hamilton has infected as
many as it did blow upon." The rage of Beaton blinded him to the wisdom of the advice.
Selecting the highest ground in the immediate neighborhood of St. Andrews, he ordered
the stake of Forrest to be planted there (1532), that the light of his pile, flashing across
the Tay, might warn the men of Angus and Forfarshire to shun his heresy.
The next two martyrs were David Straiton and Norman Gourlay. David Straiton, a
Forfarshire gentleman, whose ancestors had dwelt on their lands of Laudston since the
sixth century, was a great lover of field sports, and was giving himself no concern
whatever about matters of religion. He happened to quarrel with Patrick Hepburn, Prior
of St. Andrews, about his ecclesiastical dues. His lands adjoined the sea, and, daring and
venturous, he loved to launch out into the deep, and always returned with his boat laden
with fish. Prior Hepburn, who was as great a fisher as himself, though in other waters and
for other spoil, demanded his tithe. Straiton threw every tenth fish into the sea, and
gruffly told the prior to seek his tithe where he had found the stock. Hepburn summoned
the laird to answer to a charge of heresy. Heresy! Straiton did not even know what the
word meant. He began to inquire what that thing called heresy might be of which he was
accused. Unable himself to read, he made his nephew open the New Testament and read
it to him. He felt his sin; "he was changed," says Knox, "as if by miracle," and began that
course of life which soon drew upon him the eyes of the hierarchy. Norman Gourlay, the
other person who now fell under the displeasure of the priesthood, had been a student at
St. Andrews, and was in priest's orders. The trial of the two took place in Holyrood
House, in presence of King James V, "clothed all in red;" and James Hay, Bishop of
Ross, acting as commissioner for Archbishop Beaton. They were condemned, and in the
afternoon of the same day they were taken to the Rood of Greenside, and there burned.
This was a high ground between Edinburgh and Leith, and the execution took place there
"that the inhabitants of Fife, seeing the fire, might be stricken with terror." To the martyrs
themselves the fire had no terror, because to them death had no sting.
Four years elapsed after the death of Straiten and Gourlay till another pile was raised in
Scotland. In 1538, five persons were burned. Dean Thomas Forrest, one of the five
martyrs, had been a canon regular in the Augustinian monastery of St. Colme Inch, in the
Frith of Forth, and had been brought to a knowledge of the truth by perusing a volume of
Augustine, which was lying unused and neglected in the monastery. Lest he should infect
his brethren he was transferred to the rural parish of Dollar, at the foot of the picturesque
Ochils. Here he spent some busy years preaching and catechizing, till at last the eyes of
the Archbishop of St. Andrews were drawn to him. There had been a recent change in
that see -- the uncle, James Beaton, being now dead, the more cruel and bloodthirsty
nephew, David Beaton, had succeeded him. It was before this tyrant that the diligent and
loving friar of Dollar was now summoned. He and the four companions who were tried
along with him were condemned to the stake, and on the afternoon of the same day were
burned on the Castle-hill of Edinburgh. Placed on this elevated site, these five blazing
piles, proclaimed to the men of Fife, and the dwellers in the Lothians, how great was the
rage of the priests, but how much greater the heroism of the martyrs which overcame it.
If the darkness threatened to close in again, the hierarchy always took care to disperse it
by kindling another pile. Only a year elapsed after the burning of the five martyrs on the
Castle-hill of Edinburgh, when two other confessors were called to suffer the fire. Jerome
Russel, a Black Friar, and Aleander Kennedy, a gentleman of Ayrshire, were put on
their trial before the Archbishop of Glasgow and condemned for heresy, and were burned
next day. At the stake, Russel, the more courageous of the two, taking his youthful
fellow-sufferer by the hand, bade him not fear. "Death," he said, "cannot destroy us,
seeing our Lord and Master has already destroyed it."
The blood the hierarchy was spilling was very fruitful. For every confessor that perished,
a little company of disciples arose to fill his place. The martyr-piles, lit on elevated sites
and flashing their gloomy splendor over city and shire, set the inhabitants a-talking; the
story of the martyrs was rehearsed at many a fire-side, and their meekness contrasted
with the cruelty and arrogance of their persecutors; the Bible was sought after, and the
consequence was that the confessors of the truth rapidly increased.
The first disciples in Scotland were men of rank and learning; but these burnings carried
the cause down among the humbler classes. The fury of the clergy, now presided over by
the truculent David Beaton, daily waxed greater, and numbers, to escape the stake, fled to
foreign countries. Some of these were men illustrious for their genius and their
scholarship, of whom were Gawin Logic, Principal of St. Leonard's College, the
renowned George Buchanan, and McAlpine, or Maccabaeus, to whom the King of
Denmark gave a chair in his University of Copenhagen. The disciples in humble life,
unable to flee, had to brave the terrors of the stake and cord.
The greater part of their names have passed into oblivion, and only a few have been
preserved. In 1543, Cardinal Beaton made a tour through his diocese, illustrating his
pride by an ostentatious display of the symbols of his rank, and his cruelty by hanging,
burning, and in some cases drowning heretics, in the towns where it pleased him to set up
his tribunal. The profligate James V had fallen under the power of the hierarchy, and this
emboldened the cardinal to venture upon a measure which he doubted not would be the
death-blow of heresy in Scotland, and would secure to the hierarchy a long and tranquil
reign over the country. He meditated cutting off by violence all the nobles who were
known to favor the Reformed opinions. The list compiled by Beaton contained above 100
names, and among those marked out for slaughter were Lord Hamilton, the first peer in
the realm, the Earls of Cassillis and Glencairn, and the Earl Marischall – a proof of the
hold which the Protestant doctrine had now taken in Scotland. Before the bloody plot
could be executed the Scottish army sustained a terrible defeat at the Solway, and the
king soon thereafter dying of a broken heart, the list of the proscribed was found upon his
person after death. The nation saw with horror how narrow its escape had been from a
catastrophe which, beginning with the nobility, would have quickly extended to all the
favorers of the Protestant opinions. The discovery helped not a little to pave the way for
the downfall of a hierarchy which was capable of concocting so diabolical a plot.
Instead of the nobility and gentry of Scotland, it was the king himself whom the priests
had brought to destruction; for, hoping to prevent the Reformed opinions entering
Scotland from England, the priests had instigated James V to offer to Henry VIII the
affront which led to the disaster of Solway-moss, followed so quickly by the death-bed
scene in the royal palace of Falkland. The throne now vacant, it became necessary to
appoint a regent to govern the kingdom during the minority of the Princess Mary, who
was just eight days old when her father died in 1542. The man whose name was first on
the list of nobles marked for slaughter, was chosen to the regency, although Cardinal
Beaton sought to bar his way to it by producing a forged will of the late king appointing
himself to the post. The fact that Arran was a professed Reformer contributed quite as
much to his elevation as the circumstance of his being premier peer. Kirkaldy of Grange,
Learmonth of Balcomy, Balnaves of Halhill, Sir David Lindsay of the Mount, and other
known friends of the Reformed opinions became his advisers. He selected as his
chaplains Thomas Guilliam and John Rough, and opening to them the Church of
Holyrood, they there preached "doctrine so wholesome," and so zealously reproved
"impiety and superstition," that the Gray Friars, says Knox, "rowped as they had been
ravens," crying out, "Heresy! Heresy!”
Guilliam and Rough will carry the governor to the devil!" But the most important of all
the measures of the regent was the passing of the Act of Parliament, 15th of March, 1543,
which made it lawful for every subject in the realm to read the Bible in his mother
tongue. Hitherto the Word of God had lain under the ban of the hierarchy; that
obstruction now removed, "then might have been seen," says Knox, "the Bible lying upon
almost every gentleman's table. The New Testament was borne about in many men's
hands." And though, as Knox tells us, some simulated a zeal for the Bible to make court
to the governor, "yet thereby did the knowledge of God wondrously increase, and God
gave his Holy Spirit to simple men in great abundance. Then were set forth works in our
own tongue, besides those that came from England, that did disclose the pride, the craft,
the tyranny and abuses of that Roman Antichrist."
It was only four months after Scotland had received the gift of a free Bible, that another
boon was given it in the person of an eloquent preacher. We refer to George Wishart,
who followed Patrick Hamilton at an interval of seventeen years. Wishart, born in 1512,
was the son of Sir James Wishart of Pitarrow, an ancient and honorable family of the
Mearns. An excellent Grecian, he was the first who taught that noblest of the tongues of
the ancient world in the grammar schools of Scotland. Erskine of Dun had founded an
academy at Montrose, and here the young Wishart taught Greek, it being then not
uncommon for the scions of aristocratic and even noble families to give instructions in
the learned languages. Wishart, becoming "suspect" of heresy, retired first to England,
then to Switzerland, where he passed a year in the society of Bullinger and the study of
the Helvetic Confession. Returning to England, he took up his abode for a short time at
Cambridge. Let us look at the man as the graphic pen of one of his disciples has painted
him. "He was a man," says Tylney – writing long after the noble figure that enshrined so
many sweet virtues, and so much excellent learning and burning eloquence, had been
reduced to ashes – "he was a man of tall stature, polled-headed, and on the same a round
French cap of the best. Judged of melancholy complexion by his physiognomy, blackhaired,
long-bearded, comely of personage, well-spoken after his country of Scotland,
courteous, lowly, lovely, glad to teach, desirous to learn, and was well-traveled; having
on him for his habit or clothing never but a mantle, frieze gown to the shoes, a black
Milan fustian doublet, and plain black hosen, coarse new canvass for his shirts, and white
falling bands and cuffs at the hands."
Wishart returned to Scotland in July of 1543. Arran's zeal for the Reformation had by this
time spent itself; and the astute and resolute Beaton was dominant in the nation. It was in
the midst of perils that Wishart began his ministry. "The beginning of his doctrine" was
in Montrose, at that time the most Lutheran town perhaps in Scotland. He next visited
Dundee, where his eloquence drew around him great crowds.
Following the example of Zwingle at Zurich, and of Calvin at Geneva, instead of
discoursing on desultory topics, he opened the Epistle to the Romans, and proceeded to
expound it chapter by chapter to his audience. The gospel thus rose before them as a
grand unity. Beginning with the "one man" by whom sin entered, they passed on to the
"one Man" by whom had come the "free gift." The citizens were hanging upon the lips of
the greatest pulpit orator that had arisen in Scotland for centuries, when they were
surprised by a visit from the governor and the cardinal, who brought with them a train of
field artillery. Believing the town to be full of Lutherans, they had come prepared to
besiege it. The citizens retired, taking with them, it is probable, their preacher, leaving the
gates of the city open for the entrance of the churchman and his unspiritual
accompaniments. When the danger had passed Wishart and his flock returned, and,
resuming his exposition at the point where the cardinal's visit had compelled him to break
off, he continued his labors in Dundee for some months. Arran had sunk into the mere
tool of the cardinal, and it was not to be expected that the latter, now all-powerful in
Scotland, would permit the erection of a Lutheran stronghold almost at his very door. He
threatened to repeat his visit to Dundee if the preacher were not silenced, and Wishart,
knowing that Beaton would keep his word, and seeing some of the citizens beginning to
tremble at the prospect, deemed it prudent to obey the charge delivered to him in the
queen's name, while in the act of preaching, to "depart, and trouble the town no more."
The evangelist went on his way to Ayr and Kyle. That was soil impregnated with seed
sown in it by the hands of the Lollards. The church doors were locked against the
preacher, but it was a needless precaution, no church could have contained the
congregations that flocked to hear him. Wishart went to the market crosses, to the fields,
and making of a "dry dyke" a pulpit, he preached to the eager and awed thousands seated
round him on the grass or on the heather. His words took effect on not a few who had
been previously notorious for their wickedness; and the sincerity of their conversion was
attested, not merely by the tears that rolled down their faces at the moment, but by the
purity and consistency of their whole after-life. How greatly do those err who believe the
Reformation to have been but a battle of dogmas!
The Reformation was the cry of the human conscience for pardon. That great movement
took its rise, not in the conviction of the superstitions, exactions, and scandals of the
Roman hierarchy, but in the conviction of each individual of his own sin. That conviction
was wrought in him by the Holy Spirit, then abundantly poured down upon the nations;
and the gospel which showed the way of forgiveness delivered men from bondage, and
imparting a new life to them, brought them into a world of liberty. This was the true
Reformation. We would call it a revival were it not that the term is too weak: it was a
creation; it peopled Christendom with new men, in the first place, and in the second it
covered it with new churches and states.
Hardly had Wishart departed from Dundee when the plague entered it. This was a visitant
whose shafts were more deadly than even the cardinal's artillery. The lazar-houses that
stood at the "East Port," round the shrine of St. Roque, the protector from pestilence,
were crowded with the sick and the dying. Wishart hastened back the moment he heard
the news, and mounting on the top of the Cowgate the healthy inside the gate, the plaguestricken
outside – he preached to the two congregations, choosing as his text the words of
the 107th Psalm, "He sent his Word and healed them." A new life began to be felt in the
stricken city; measures were organized, by the advice of Wishart, for the distribution of
food and medicine among the sick, and the plague began to abate. One day his labors
were on the point of being brought to an abrupt termination. A priest, hired by the
cardinal to assassinate him, waited at the foot of the stairs for the moment when he
should descend. A cloak thrown over him concealed the naked dagger which he held in
his hand; but the keen eye of Wishart read the murderous design in the man's face. Going
up to him and putting his hand upon his arm, he said, "Friend, what would ye?" at the
same time disarming him. The crowd outside rushed in, and would have dispatched the
would-be assassin, but Wishart threw himself between the indignant citizens and the man,
and thus, in the words of Knox, "saved the life of him who sought his."
On leaving Dundee in the end of 1545, Wishart repaired to Edinburgh, and thence passed
into East Lothian, preaching in its towns and villages. He had a deep presentiment that
his end was near, and that he would fall a sacrifice to the wrath of Beaton. Apprehended
at Ormiston on the night of the 16th of January, 1546, he was carried to St. Andrews,
thrown into the Sea-tower, and brought to trial on the 28th of February, and condemned
to the flames. Early next morning the preparations were begun for his execution, which
was to took place at noon.
It was Wishart," says Dr. Lorimer, "who first molded the Reformed theology of Scotland
upon the Helvetic, as distinguished from the Saxon type; and it was he who first taught
the Church of Scotland to reduce her ordinances and sacraments with rigorous fidelity to
the standard of Christ's Institutions."
It is at the stake of Wishart that we first catch sight as it were of Knox, for the parting
between the two, so affectingly recorded by Knox himself, took place not many days
before the death of the martyr. John Knox, descended from the Knoxes of Ranferly, was
born in Gifford-gate, Haddington, in 1505. From the school of his native town he passed
(1522) to the University of Glasgow, and was entered under the celebrated John Major,
then Principal Regent or Professor of Philosophy and Divinity. After leaving college he
passes out of view for ten or a dozen years. About this time he would seem to have taken
priest's orders, and to have been for upwards of ten years connected with one of the
religious establishments in the neighborhood of Haddington. He had been enamored of
the scholastic philosophy, the science that sharpened the intellect, but left the conscience
unmoved and the soul unfed; but now loathing its dry crusts, and turning away from its
great doctors, he seats himself at the feet of the great Father of the West. He read and
studied the writings of Augustine. Rich in evangelical truth and impregnate with the fire
of Divine love, Augustine's pages must have had much to do with the molding of Knox's
mind, and the imprinting upon it of that clear, broad, and heroic stamp which it wore all
his life long.
Augustine and Jerome led Knox to the feet of a Greater. The future Reformer now opens
the Sacred Oracles, and he who had once wandered in the dry and thirsty wilderness of
scholasticism finds himself at the fountain and well-head of Divine knowledge. The
wonder he felt when the doctrines of the schools vanished around him like mist, and the
eternal verities of the gospel stood out before him in the clear light of the Bible, we are
not told. Did the day which broke on Luther and Calvin amid lightning and great
thundering dawn peacefully on Knox? We do not think so. Doubtless the Scottish
Reformer, before escaping from the yoke of Rome, had to undergo struggles of soul akin
to those of his two great predecessors; but they have been left unrecorded.
From the doctors of the Middle Ages to the Fathers of the first ages, from the Fathers to
the Word of God, Knox was being led, by a way he knew not, to the great task that
awaited him. His initial course of preparation, begun by Augustine, was perfected
doubtless by the private instructions and public sermons of Wishart, which Knox was
privileged to enjoy during the weeks that immediately preceded the martyr's death. That
death would seal to Knox all that had fallen from the lips of Wishart, and would bring
him to the final resolve to abandon the Roman communion and cast in his lot with the
Reformers. But both the man and the country had yet to pass through many sore conflicts
before either was ready for that achievement which crowned the labors of the one and
completed the Reformation of the other.
On Saturday morning, the 29th of May, the Castle of St. Andrews was surprised by
Norman Leslie and his accomplices, and Cardinal Beaton slain. This was a violence
which the Reformation did not need, and from which it did not profit. The cardinal was
removed, but the queen-dowager, Mary of Guise, a woman of consummate craft, and
devoted only to France and Rome, remained. The weak-minded Arran had now
consummated his apostasy, and was using his power as regent only at the bidding of the
priests. Moreover, the see which the dagger of Leslie had made vacant was filled by a
man in many respects as bad as the bloodthirsty and truculent priest who had preceded
him. John Hamilton, brother of the regent, did not equal Beaton in rigor of mind, but he
equaled him in profligacy of manners, and in the unrelenting and furious zeal with which
he pursued all who favored the gospel. Thus the persecution did not slacken.
The cardinal's corpse flung upon a dung-hill, the conspirators kept possession of his
castle. It had been recently and strongly repaired, and was well mounted with arms; and
although the regent besieged it for months, he had to retire, leaving its occupants in
peace. Its holders were soon joined by their friends, favorers of the Reformation, though
with a purer zeal, including among others Kirkaldy of Grange, Melville of Raith, and
Leslie of Rothes. It had now become an asylum for the persecuted, and at Easter, 1547, it
opened its gates to receive John Knox. Knox had now reached the mature age of fortytwo,
and here it was that he entered on that public career which he was to pursue without
pause, through labor and sorrow, through exile and peril, till the grave should bring him
That career opened affectingly and beautifully. The company in the castle had now grown
to upwards of 150, and "perceiving the manner" of Knox's teaching, they "began
earnestly to travail with him that he would take the preaching place upon him," and when
he hesitated they solemnly adjured him, as Farel had done Calvin, "not to refuse this holy
vocation." The flood of tears, which was the only response that Knox was able to make,
the seclusion in which he shut himself up for days, and the traces of sore mental conflict
which his countenance bore when at last he emerged from his chamber, paint with a
vividness no words can reach the sensibility and the conscientiousness, the modesty and
the strength of his character. It is a great office, it is the greatest of all offices, he feels, to
which he is called; and if he trembles in taking it upon him, it is not alone from a sense of
unfitness, but from a knowledge of the thoroughness of his devotion, and that the office
once undertaken, its responsibilities and claims must and will, at whatever cost, be
Knox preached in the castle, and at times also in the parish church of St. Andrews. In his
first sermon in the latter place he struck the key-note of the Reformation in his native
land. The Church of Rome, said he, is the Antichrist of Scripture. No movement can rise
higher than its fundamental principle, and no doctrine less broad than this which Knox
now proclaimed could have sustained the weight of such a Reformation as Scotland
"Others sned [lopped] the branches of the Papistrie," said some of his hearers, "but he
strikes at the root to destroy the whole." Hamilton and Wishart had stopped short of this.
They had condemned abuses, and pointed out the doctrinal errors in which these abuses
had their source, and they had called for a purging out of scandalous persons – in short, a
reform of the existing church. Knox came with the ax in his hand to cut down the rotten
tree. He saw at once the point from which he must set out if he would arrive at the right
goal. Any principle short of this would but give him an improved Papacy, not a scriptural
church – a temporary abatement to be followed by a fresh outburst of abuses, and the last
end of the Papacy in Scotland would be worse than the first. Greater than Hamilton,
greater than Wishart, Knox took rank with the first minds of the Reformation, in the
depth and comprehensiveness of the principles from which he worked. The deliverer of
Scotland stood before his countrymen. But no sooner had he been revealed to the eyes of
those who waited for deliverance than he was withdrawn. The first gun in the campaign
had been fired; the storming of the Papacy would go vigorously forward under the
intrepid champion who had come to lead. But so it was not to be; the struggle was to be a
protracted one. On the 4th of June, 1547, the French war-ships appeared in the offing. In
a few hours the castle, with its miscellaneous occupants, was enclosed on the side
towards the sea, while the forces of Arran besieged it by land. It fell, and all in it,
including Knox, were put on board the French galleys and, in violation of the terms of
capitulation, borne away into foreign slavery. The last French ship had disappeared below
the horizon, and with it had vanished the last hope of Scotland's Reformation. The priests
loudly triumphed, and the friends of the gospel hung their heads.
The work now stood still, but only to the eye – -it was all the while advancing
underground. In this check lay hid a blessing to Scotland, for it was well that its people
should have time to meditate upon the initial principle of the Reformation which Knox
had put before them. That principle was the seed of a new church and a new state, but it
must have time to unfold itself. The people of Scotland had to be taught that Reformation
could not be furthered by the dagger; the stakes of Hamilton and Wishart had advanced
the cause, but the sword of Norman Leslie had thrown it back; they had to be taught, too,
that to reform the Papacy was to perpetuate it, and that they must return to the principle
of Knox if they were ever to see a scriptural church rising in their land.
To Knox himself this check was not less necessary. His preparation for the great task
before him was as yet far from complete. He wanted neither zeal nor knowledge, but his
faculties had to be widened by observation, and his character strengthened by suffering.
His sojourn abroad shook him free of those merely insular and home views, which cling
to one who has never been beyond seas, especially in an age when the channels of
intercourse and information between Scotland and the rest of Christendom were few and
contracted. In the French galleys, and scarcely less in the city of Frankfort, he saw deeper
than he had ever done before into the human heart. It was there he learned that selfcontrol,
that parlance of labor, that meek endurance of wrong, that calm and therefore
steady and resolute resistance to vexatious and unrighteous opposition, and that selfpossession
in difficulty and danger that so greatly distinguished him ever after, and which
were needful and indeed essential in one who was called, in planting religion in his native
land, to confront the hostility of a Popish court, to moderate the turbulence of factious
barons, and to inform the ignorance and control the zeal of a people who till that time had
been strangers to the blessings of religion and liberty. It was not for nothing that the hand
which gave to Scotland its liberty, should itself for nearly the space of two years have
worn fetters.
It was another advantage of his exile that from a foreign stand-point Knox could have a
better view of the drama now in progress in his native land, and could form a more just
estimate of its connection with the rest of Christendom, and the immense issues that hung
upon the Reformation of Scotland as regarded the Reformation of other countries. Here
he saw deeper into the cunningly contrived plots and the wide-spread combinations then
forming among the Popish princes of the age – a race of rulers who will remain renowned
through all time for their unparalleled cruelty and their unfathomable treachery. These
lessons Knox learned abroad, and they were worth all the years of exile and wandering
and all the hope deferred which they cost him; and of how much advantage they were to
him we shall by-and-by see, when we come to narrate his supreme efforts for his native
Nor could it be other than advantageous to come into contact with the chiefs of the
movement, and especially with him who towered above them all. To see Calvin, to stand
beside the source of that mighty energy that pervaded the whole field of action to its
farthest extremities, must have been elevating and inspiring. Knox's views touching both
the doctrine and the polity of the church were formed before he visited Calvin, and were
not altered in consequence of that visit; but doubtless his converse with the great
Reformer helped to deepen and enlarge all his views, and to keep alive the fire that
burned within him, first kindled into a flame during those days of anguish which he
passed shut up in his chamber in the Castle of St. Andrews. In all his wanderings it was
Scotland, bound in the chains of Rome, riveted by French steel, that occupied his
thoughts; and intently did he watch every movement in it, sometimes from Geneva,
sometimes from Dieppe, and at other times from the nearer point of England; nor did he
ever miss an opportunity of letting his burning words be heard by his countrymen, till at
length, in 1555, eight years from the time he had been carried away with the French
fetters on his arm, he was able again to visit his native land.
Knox's present sojourn in Scotland was short, but it tended powerfully to consolidate and
advance the movement. His presence imparted new life to its adherents; and his counsels
led them to certain practical measures, by which each strengthened the other, and all were
united in a common action.
Several of the leading nobles were now gathered round the Protestant banner. Among
these were Archibald, Lord Lorne, afterwards Earl of Argyle; John, Lord Erskine,
afterwards Earl of Mar; Lord James Stuart, afterwards Earl of Murray; the Earl
Marischall; the Earl of Glencairn; John Erskine of Dun; William Maitland of Lethington,
and others. Up to this time these men had attended mass, and were not outwardly
separate from the communion of the Roman Church; but, at the earnest advice of the
Reformer, they resolved not to participate in that rite in future, and to withdraw
themselves from the Roman worship and pale; and they signalized their secession by
receiving the sacrament in its Protestant form at the hands of Knox. We see in this the
laying of the first foundations of the reformed Church of Scotland. In the days of
Hamilton and Wishart the reformation in Scotland was simply a doctrine; now it was a
This was all that the times permitted the Reformer to do for the cause of the gospel in
Scotland; and, feeling that his continued presence in the country would but draw upon the
infant community a storm of persecution, Knox retired to Geneva, where his English
flock anxiously waited his coming. But on this second departure from Scotland, he was
cheered by the thought that the movement had advanced a stage. The little seed he had
deposited in its soil eight years before had been growing all the while he was absent, and
now when a second time he goes forth into exile, he leaves behind him a living
organization – a company of men making profession of the truth.
From this time the progress of the Reformation in Scotland was rapid. In the midland
counties, comprehending Forfar, Fife, the Lothians, and Ayr, there were few places in
which there were not now professors of the reformed faith. They had as yet no preachers,
but they met in such places, his such times, as circumstances permitted, for their mutual
edification. The most pious of their number was appointed to read the scriptures, to
exhort, and to offer up prayer. They were of all classes – nobles, barons, burgesses, and
peasants. They felt the necessity of order in their meetings, and of purity in their lives;
and with this view they chose elders to watch over their morals, promising subjection to
them. Thus gradually, stage by stage, did they approach the outward organization of a
church, and at it is interesting to mark that in the reformed Church of Scotland elders
came before ministers. The beginning of these small congregations, presided over by
elders, was in Edinburgh. The first town to be provided with a pastor, and favored with
the dispensation of the sacraments, was Dundee, the scene of Wishart's labors, of which
the fruits were the zeal and piety that at this early stage of the Reformation distinguished
its citizens. Dundee came to be called the Geneva of Scotland; it was the earliest and
loveliest flower of that spring-time. The next step of the "lords of the Congregation" was
the framing of a "band" or covenant, in which they promised before "the Majesty of God
and his Congregation" to employ their "whole power, substance, and very lives" in
establishing the gospel in Scotland, in defending its ministers, and building up its
"Congregation." The earliest of these "bands" is dated the 3rd December, 1557; and the
subscribers are the Earls of Argyle, Glencairn, Morton, Lord Lorne, and Erskine of Dun.
Strengthened by this "oath to God" and pledge to one another, they went forth to the
The year that followed (1558) witnessed a forward movement on the part of the
Protestant host. The lords of the Congregation could not forbid mass, or change the
public worship of the nation; nor did they seek to do so; but each nobleman within his
own jurisdiction caused the English "Book of Common Prayer," together with the lessons
of the Old and New Testament, to be read every Sunday and festival-day in the parish
church by the curate, or if he were unable or unwilling, by the person best qualified in the
parish. The reformed teachers were also invited to preach and interpret scripture in
private houses, or in the castles of the reforming nobles, till such time as the government
would allow them to exercise their functions in public. The latter measures in particular
alarmed the hierarchy.
It began to be apparent that destruction impended ever the hierarchy unless speedy
measures were taken to avert it. But the priests unhappily knew of only one weapon, and
though their cause had reaped small advantage from it in the past, they were still
determined to make use of it.
They once more lighted the flames of martyrdom. Walter Mill, parish priest of Lunan,
near Montrose, had been adjudged a heretic in the time of Cardinal Beaton, but effecting
his escape, he preached in various parts of the country, sometimes in private and
sometimes in public. He was tracked by the spies of Beaton's successor, Archbishop
Hamilton, and brought to trial in St. Andrews. He appeared before the court with tottering
step and bending figure, so that all who saw him despaired of his being able to answer the
questions about to be put to him. But when, on being helped up into the pulpit, he began
to speak, "his voice," says Knox, "had such courage and stoutness that the church rang
again." "Wilt thou not recant thy errors?" asked the tribunal after he had been subjected to
a long questioning. "Ye shall know," said he, looking into the faces of his enemies, "that I
will not recant the truth, for I am corn and not chaff. I will not be blown away with the
wind, nor burst with the flail, but I will abide both."
He stood before his judges with the burden of eighty-two years upon him, but this could
procure him no pity, nor could his enemies wait till he should drop into the grave on the
brink of which he stood. He was condemned to the flames. A rope was wanted to bind the
old man to the stake, but so great was the horror of his burning among the townsmen that
not a merchant in all St. Andrews would sell one, and the archbishop was obliged to
furnish a cord from his own palace. When ordered by Oliphant, an officer of the
archbishop, to mount the pile, "No," replied the martyr, "I will not unless you put your
hand to me, for I am forbidden to be accessory to my own death." Whereupon Oliphant
pushed him forward, and Mill ascended with a joyful countenance, repeating the words of
the Psalm, "I will go to the altar of God." As he stood at the stake, Mill addressed the
people in these words: "As for me, I am fourscore and two years old, and cannot live long
by course of nature; but a hundred better shall rise out of the ashes of my bones. I trust in
God that I shall be the last that shall suffer death in Scotland for this cause."He expired
on the 28th of August, 1558.
These few last words, dropped from a tongue fast becoming unable to fulfill its office,
pealed forth from amid the flames with the thrilling power of a trumpet. They may be
said to have rung the death-knell of Popery in Scotland. The citizens of St. Andrews
raised a pile of stones over the spot where the martyr had been burned. The priests caused
them to be carried off night by night, but the ominous heap rose again duly in the
morning. It would not vanish, nor would the cry from it be silenced. The nation was
roused, and Scotland waited only the advent of one of its exiled sons, who was day by
day drawing nearer it, to start up as one man and rend from its neck the cruel yoke which
had so long weighed it down in serfdom and superstition.
It was now thirty years since the stake of Patrick Hamilton had lighted Scotland into the
path of Reformation. The progress of the country had been slow, but now the goal was
being neared, and events were thickening. The two great parties into which Scotland was
divided stood frowning at each other: the crime of burning Mill on the one side, and "the
oath to the Majesty of Heaven" on the other, rendered conciliation hopeless, and nothing
remained but to bring the controversy between the two to a final issue.
The stake of Mill was meant to be the first of a series of martyrdoms by which the
Reformers were to be exterminated. Many causes contributed to the adoption of a bolder
policy on the part of the hierarchy. They could not hide from themselves that the
Reformation was advancing with rapid strides. The people were deserting the mass; little
companies of Protestants were forming in all the leading towns, the scriptures were being
interpreted, and the Lord's Supper dispensed according to the primitive order; and many
of the nobles were sheltering Protestant preachers in their castles. It was clear that
Scotland was going the same road as Wittemberg and Geneva had gone; and it was
equally clear that the champions of the Papacy must strike at once and with decision, or
surrender the battle.
But what specially emboldened the hierarchy at this hour was the fact that the queen
regent had openly come over to their side. A daughter of the House of Lorraine, she had
always been with them at heart, but her ambition being to secure the crown-matrimonial
of Scotland for her son-in-law, Francis II, she had poised herself, with almost the skill of
a Catherine de Medici, between the bishops and the lords of the Congregation. She
needed the support of both to carry her political objects. In October, 1558, the Parliament
met; and the queen regent, with the assistance of the Protestants, obtained from "the
Estates" all that she wished. It being no longer necessary to wear the mask, the queen
now openly sided with her natural party, the men of the sword and the stake. Hence the
courage which emboldened the priests to re-kindle the fires of persecution; and hence,
too, the rigor that now animated the Reformers. Disenchanted from a spell that had kept
them dubiously poised between the mass and the gospel, they now saw where they stood,
and, shutting their ears to Mary's soft words, they resolved to follow the policy alike
demanded by their duty and their safety.
They assembled at Edinburgh, and agreed upon certain demands, which they were to
present by commissioners to the convention of the nobility and the council of the clergy.
The reforms asked for were three: that it should be lawful to preach and to dispense the
sacraments in the vulgar tongue; that bishops should be admitted into their sees only with
the consent of the barons of the diocese, and priests with the consent of the parishioners;
and that immoral and incapable persons should be removed from the pastoral office.
These demands were rejected, the council having just concluded a secret treaty with the
queen for the forcible suppression of the Reformation. No sooner had the Protestant
nobles left Edinburgh than the regent issued a proclamation prohibiting all persons from
preaching or dispensing the sacraments without authority from the bishops.
The Reformed preachers disobeyed the proclamation. The queen, on learning this,
summoned them to appear before her at Stirling, on the 10th of May, and answer to a
charge of heresy and rebellion. There were only four preachers in Scotland, namely, Paul
Methven, John Christison, William Harlow, and John Willock. The Earl of Glencairn and
Sir Hugh Campbell, Sheriff of Ayr, waited on the queen to remonstrate against this
arbitrary proceeding. She haughtily replied that "in spite of them all their preachers
should be banished from Scotland." "What then," they asked, "became of her oft-repeated
promises to protect their preachers?" Mary, not in the least disconcerted, replied that "it
became not subjects to burden their princes with promises further than they pleased to
keep them." "If so," replied Glencairn, "we on our side are free of our allegiance." The
queen's tone now fell, and she promised to think seriously over the further prosecution of
the affair. At that moment, news arrived that France and Spain had concluded a peace,
and formed a league for the suppression of the Reformation by force of arms. Scotland
would not be overlooked in the orthodox crusade, and the regent already saw in the
contemplated measures the occupation of that country by French soldiers. She issued
peremptory orders for putting the four Protestant ministers upon their trial. It was a
strange and startling juncture. The blindness of the hierarchy in rejecting the very
moderate reform which the Protestants asked, the obstinacy of the queen in putting the
preachers upon their trial, and the league of the foreign potentates, which threatened to
make Scotland a mere dependency of France, all met at this moment, and constituted a
crisis of a trimly momentous character, but which above most things helped on that very
consummation towards which Scotland had been struggling for upwards of thirty years.
There wanted yet one thing to complete this strange conjuncture of events. That one thing
was added, and the combination, so formidable and menacing till that moment, was
changed into one of good promise and happy augury to Protestantism. While the queen
and the bishops were concerting their measures in Edinburgh, and a few days were to see
the four preachers consigned to the same fate which had overtaken Mill; while the Kings
of Spain and France were combining their armies, and meditating a great blow on the
Continent, a certain ship had left the harbor of Dieppe, and was voyaging northward with
a fair wind, bound for the Scottish shore, and on board that ship there was a Scotsman, in
himself a greater power than an army of 10,000 men. This ship carried John Knox, who,
without human pre-arrangement, was arriving in the very midst of his country's crisis.
Knox landed at Leith on the 2nd of May, 1559. The provincial council was still sitting in
the Monastery of the Gray Friars when, on the morning of the 3rd of May, a messenger
entering in haste announced that John Knox had arrived from France, and had slept last
night in Edinburgh. The news fell like a thunder-bolt upon the members of council. They
sat for some time speechless, looking into one another's faces, and at last they broke up in
confusion. Before Knox had uttered a single word, or even shown himself in public, his
very name had scattered them. A messenger immediately set off with the unwelcome
news to the queen, who was at that time in Glasgow; and in a few days a royal
proclamation declared Knox a rebel and an outlaw. If the proclamation accomplished
nothing else, it made the fact of the Reformer's presence known to all Scotland. Thenation had now found what it needed, a man able to lead it in the great war on which it
was entering. His devotion and zeal, now fully matured in the school of suffering; his
sincerity and uprightness; his magnanimity and courage; his skill in theological debate,
and his political insight, in which he excelled all living Scotsmen; the confidence and
hope with which he was able to inspire his fellow-countrymen; and the terror in which
the hierarchy stood of his very name, all marked him out as the chosen instrument for his
country's deliverance. He knew well how critical the hour was, and how arduous his task
would be. Religion and liberty were within his country's grasp, and still it might miss
them. The chances of failure and of success seemed evenly poised; half the nobles were
on the side of Rome; all the Highlands, we may say, were Popish; there were the
indifference, the gross ignorance, the old murky superstition of the rural parts; these were
the forces bearing down the scale, and making the balance incline to defeat. On the other
side, a full half of the barons were on the side of the Reformation; but it was only a few
of them who could be thoroughly depended upon; the rest were lukewarm or wavering,
and not without an eye to the spoils that would be gathered from the breakup of a
hierarchy owning half the wealth of the kingdom. The most disinterested, and also the
most steadfast, supporters of the Reformation lay among the merchants and traders of the
great towns - the men who loved the gospel for its own sake, and who would stand by it
at all hazards. So evenly poised was the balance; a little thing might make it incline to the
one side or to the other; and what tremendous issues hung upon the turning of it!
Not an hour did Knox lose in beginning his work. The four preachers, as we have already
said, had been summoned to answer before the queen at Stirling. "The hierarchy," said
the lords of the Congregation, "hope to draw our pastors into their net, and sacrifice them
as they did Walter Mill. We will go with them, and defend them." "And I too," said
Knox, not daunted by the outlawry which had been passed upon him, "shall accompany
my brethren, and take part in what may await them before the queen." But when the
queen learned that Knox was on his way to present himself before her, she deserted the
Diet against the preachers, and forbade them to appear; but with the characteristic perfidy
of a Guise, when the day fixed in the citation came, she ordered the summons to be
called, and the preachers to be outlawed for not appearing.
Then the news reached Perth that the men who had been forbidden to appear before the
queen, were outlawed for not appearing, indignation was added to the surprise of the
nobles and the townspeople. It chanced that on the same day Knox preached against the
mass and image-worship. The sermon was ended, and the congregation had very quietly
dispersed, when a priest began to say mass. A boy standing near called out, "Idolatry! "
The priest repaid him with a blow: the youth retaliated by throwing a stone, which,
missing the priest, hit one of the images on the altar, and shivered it in pieces. It was the
sacking of Antwerp Cathedral over again, but on a smaller scale. The loiterers in the
church caught the excitement; they fell upon the images, and the crash of one stone idol
after another reechoed through the edifice; the crucifixes, altars, and church ornaments
shared the same fate. The noise brought a stream of idlers from the street into the
building, eager to take part in the demolition. Mortified at finding the work finished
before their arrival, they bent their steps to the monasteries. The tempest took the
direction of the Gray Friars on the south of the town, another rolled away towards the
Black Friars in the opposite quarter, and soon both monasteries were in ruins, their
inmates being allowed to depart with as much of their treasure as they were able to carry.
Not yet had the storm expended itself; it burst next over the abbey of the Charter House.
This was a sumptuous edifice, with pleasant gardens shaded by trees. But neither its
splendor, nor the fact that it had been founded by the first James, could procure its
exemption from the fury of the iconoclasts. It perished utterly. This tempest burst out at
the dinner hour, when the lords, the burghers, and the Reformers were in their houses,
and only idlers were abroad. Knox and the magistrates, as soon as they were informed of
what was going on, hastened to the scene of destruction, but their utmost efforts could not
stop it. They could only stand and look on while stone cloister, painted oriel, wooden
saint, and fruit-tree, now clothed in the rich blossoms of early summer, fell beneath the
sturdy blows of the "rascal multitude." The monasteries contained stores of all good
things, which were divided amongst the poor; "no honest man,' says Knox, "was enriched
thereby the value of a groat."
It is to be remarked that in Perth, as in the other towns of Scotland, it was upon the
monasteries that the iconoclastic vengeance fell; the cathedrals and churches were spared.
The monasteries were in particularly evil repute among the population as nests of
idleness, gluttony, and sin. Dark tales of foul and criminal deeds transacted within their
walls were continually in circulation, and the hoarded resentment of long years now burst
out, and swept them away. The spark that kindled the conflagration was not Knox's
sermon, for few if any of those rioters had heard it: Knox's hearers were in their own
houses when the affair began. The more immediate provocative was the wanton perfidy
of the queen, which more disgraced her than this violence did the mob; and the remoter
cause was the rejection of that moderate measure of Reformation which the lords of the
Congregation had asked for, protesting at the same time that they would not be
responsible for the irregularities and violence that might follow the rejection of their suit.
Knox deplored the occurrence, as well he should. Idols should be removed from the
community, but that by lawful civil authorities, and not the violence of the mob. Not that
Knox mourned over idol slam, and nest of lazy monk and moping nun rooted out, but he
foresaw that the violence of the mob would be made the crime of the Reformers. And so
it happened; it gave the queen the very pretext she had waited for. The citizens of Perth,
with the lords of the Congregation at their head, had, in her eye, risen in rebellion against
her government. Collecting an army from the neighboring counties, she set out to chastise
the rebels, and lay waste the city of Perth with fire and sword.
When the queen regent arrived before Perth at the head of 8,000 men, she found the
Reformers so well prepared to receive her that, instead of offering them battle as she had
intended, she agreeably surprised them with overtures of peace. Although fully resolved
to repel by arms an assault which they deemed none the less illegal and murderous that it
was led by the queen, the lords of the Congregation joyfully accepted the olive-branch
now held out to them. "Cursed be he," said they, "that seeks effusion of blood, war, or
dissension. Give us liberty of conscience, and the free profession of the `Evangel,' and
none in all the realm will be more loyal subjects than we." Negotiations were opened
between the regent and the Reformers, which terminated amicably, and the strife ceased
for the moment. The lords of the Congregation disbanded their army of about 5,000, and
the queen took peaceable possession of the city of Perth, where her followers began to
make preparations for mass, and the altars having been overturned, their place was
supplied by tables from the taverns, which, remarks Knox, "were holy enough for that
The Reformers now met, and took a survey of their position, in order to determine on the
course to be adopted. They had lost thirty years waiting the tardy approach of the reforms
which the queen had promised them. Meanwhile the genius, the learning, the zeal which
would have powerfully aided in emancipating the country from the sin and oppression
under which it groaned, were perishing at the stake. Duped by the queen, they had stood
quietly by and witnessed these irreparable sacrifices. The reform promised them was as
far off as ever. Abbot, bishop, and cowled monk were lifting up the head higher than
before. A French army had been brought into the country, and the independence and
liberties of Scotland were menaced. This was all the Reformers had reaped by giving ear
to the delusive words of Mary of Guise. While other countries had established their
Reformation, Scotland lingered on the threshold, and now it found itself in danger of
losing not only its Reformation, but its very nationality. The lords of the Congregation,
therefore, resolved to set up the Reformed worship at once in all those places to which
their authority extended, and where a majority of the inhabitants were favorable to the
A commencement was to be made in the ecclesiastical metropolis of Scotland. The Earl
of Argyle and Lord James Stuart, Prior of St. Andrews, arranged with Knox to meet in
that city on an early day in June, and inaugurate there the Protestant worship. The
archbishop, apprised of Knox's coming, hastened in from Falkland with 100 spears, and
sent a message to him on Saturday night, that if he dared to appear in the pulpit of the
cathedral tomorrow, he would cause his soldiers to shoot him dead. The lords, having
consulted, agreed that Knox should forego the idea of preaching. The resolution seemed a
prudent one. The dispositions of the townspeople were unknown; the lords had but few
retainers with them; the queen, with her French army, was not more than fifteen miles
off; and to preach might be to give the signal for bloodshed. Knox, who felt that to
abandon a great design when the moment for putting it in execution had arrived, and
retire before an angry threat, was to incur the loss of prestige, and invite greater attacks in
future, refused for one moment to entertain the idea of not preaching. He said that when
lying out in the Bay of St. Andrews in former years, chained to the deck of a French
galley, his eye had lighted on the roof of the cathedral, which the sun's rays at that
moment illuminated, and he said in the hearing of some still alive, that he felt assured that
he should yet preach there before closing his career; and now when God, contrary to the
expectations of all men, had brought him back to this city, he besought them not to hinder
what was not only his cherished wish, but the deep-rooted conviction of his heart. He
desired neither the hand nor weapon of man to defend him; He whose glory he sought
would be his shield. "I only crave audience," said he, "which, if it be denied here unto me
at this time, I must seek where I may have it."
The intrepidity of Knox saved the Reformation from the brand of timidity which the
counsel of the lords, had it been followed, would have brought upon it. It was a display of
courage at the right time, and was rewarded with a career of success. On the morrow
Knox preached to perhaps the most influential audience that the Scotland of that day
could furnish; nobles, priests, and townspeople crowding to hear him. Every part of the
vast edifice was filled, and not a finger was lifted, nor a word uttered, to stop him. He
preached on the cleansing of the Temple of old, picturing the crowd of buyers and sellers
who were busy trafficking in that holy place, when One entered, whose awful glance,
rather than the scourge of cords which he carried, smote with terror the unholy crew, and
drove them forth a panic-stricken crowd. The preacher then called up before his hearers a
yet greater crowd of traffickers, occupied in a yet unholier merchandise, therewith
defiling, with immeasurably greater pollutions and abominations, the New Testament
temple. As he described the corruptions which had been introduced into the church under
the Papacy – the great crowd of simonists, pardon-mongers, sellers of relics and charms,
exorcists, and traffickers in the bodies and souls of men, with the sin and shame and ruin
that followed – his eye began to burn, his words grew graphic and trenchant, the tones of
his righteous yet terrible reproof rung out louder and fiercer, and rolled over the heads of
the thousands gathered around him, till not a heart but quaffed under the solemn
denunciations. It seemed as if past ages were coming up for trial; as if mitered abbots and
bishops were leaving their marble tombs to stand at the judgment-seat; as if the voices of
Hamilton, and Wishart, and Mill – nay, as if the voice of a yet Greater were making itself
audible by the lips of the preacher. The audience saw as they had never done before the
superstitions which had been practiced as religion, and felt the duty to comply with the
call which the Reformer urged on all, according to the station and opportunity of each, to
assist in removing these abominations out of the church of God before the fire of the
Divine wrath should descend and consume what man refused to put away. When he had
ended, and sat down, it may be said that Scotland was reformed.
Knox, though he did not possess the all-grasping, all-subduing intellect of Calvin, nor the
many-toned eloquence of Luther, which could so easily rise from the humorous and
playful to the pathetic and the sublime, yet, in concentrated fiery energy, and in the
capacity to kindle his hearers into indignation, and rouse them to action, excelled both
these Reformers. This one sermon in the parish church of St. Andrews, followed as it was
by a sermon in the same place on the three consecutive days, cast the die, and determined
that the Reformation of Scotland should go forward. The magistrates and townspeople
assembled, and came to a unanimous resolution to set up the Reformed worship in the
city. The church was stripped of its images and pictures, and the monasteries were pulled
down. The example of St. Andrews was quickly followed by many other places of the
kingdom. The Protestant worship was set up at Craft, at Cupar, at Lindores, at
Linlithgow, at Scone, at Edinburgh and Glasgow. And thus did church and state, albeit at
the local level, work together to uphold the Ten Commandments as they should.
This was followed by the purgation of the churches, and the demolition of the
monasteries. The fabrics pulled down were mostly those in the service of the monks, for
it was the cowled portion of the Romish clergy whom the people held in special
detestation, knowing that they often did the dishonorable work of spies at the same time
that they scoured the country in quest of alms. A loud wail was raised by the priests over
the destruction of so much beautiful architecture, and the echoes of that lamentation have
come down to our day. Only where it was not done decently and orderly by the lawful
authorities should we condemn though.
The peace between the queen regent and the Reformers, agreed upon at Perth, was but
short-lived. The queen, hearing of the demolition of images and monasteries at St.
Andrews, marched with her French soldiers to Cupar-Moor, and put herself in order of
battle. But when the lords of the Congregation advanced to meet her, she fled at their
approach, and going round by Stirling, took refuge in Edinburgh. On being followed by
the forces of the "Congregation," she quitted the capital, and marched to Dunbar. After a
few weeks, learning that the soldiers of the Reformers had mostly returned to their
homes, she set out with her foreign army for Leith, and took possession of it. The lords of
the Congregation now found themselves between two fires: the queen threatened them on
the one side, and the guns of the castle menaced them on the other, and their new levies
having left them, they were forced to conclude a treaty by which they agreed to evacuate
Edinburgh. The stipulation secured for the citizens the right of worshipping after the
Protestant form, and Willock was left with them as their minister. Knox, who had
preached in St. Giles's Cathedral, and in the abbey church, had been chosen as pastor by
the inhabitants, but he was too obnoxious to Mary of Guise, to be left in her power, and at
the earnest request of the lords of the Congregation he accompanied them when they left
the capital. On retiring from Edinburgh the Reformer set out on a preaching-tour, which
embraced all the towns of note, and almost all the shires on the south of the Grampian
From the time of his famous sermon in St. Andrews, Knox had been the soul of the
movement. The year that followed was one of incessant and Herculean labor. His days
were spent in preaching, his nights in writing letters, he roused the country, and he kept it
awake. His voice like a great trumpet rang through the land, firing the lukewarm into
zeal, and inspiriting the timid into courage. When the friends of the Reformation
quarreled, he reconciled and united them. When they sank into despondency he rallied
their spirits. He himself never desponded.
Cherishing a firm faith that his country's Reformation would be consummated, he neither
sank under labor, nor fell back before danger, nor paused in the efforts he found it
necessary every moment to put forth. He knew how precious the hours were, and that if
the golden opportunity were lost it would never return. He appealed to the patriotism of
the nobles and citizens. He told them what an ignominious vassalage the Pope and the
Continental Powers had prepared for them and their sons, namely, that of hewers of wood
and drawers of water to France. He especially explained to them the nature of the gospel,
the pardon, the purity, the peace it brings to individuals, the stable renown it confers on
kingdoms; he forecast to them the immense issues that hung upon the struggle. On the
one side stood true religion, like an angel of light, beckoning Scotland onwards; on the
other stood the dark form of Popery, pulling the country back into slavery. The crown
was before it, the gulf behind it. Knox purposed that Scotland should win and wear the
The Reformer was declared an outlaw, and a price set upon his head; but the only notice
we find him deigning to take of this atrocity of the regent and her advisers, was in a letter
to his brother-in-law, in which with no nervous trepidation whatever, but goodhumoredly,
he remarks that he "had need of a good horse." Not one time less did Knox
preach, although he knew that some fanatic, impelled by malignant hate, or the greed of
gain, might any hour deprive him of life. The rapidity of his movements, the fire he
kindled wherever he came, the light that burst out all over the land – north, south, east,
and west – confounded the hierarchy; unused to preach, unskilled in debate, and too
corrupt to think of reforming themselves, they could only meet the attack of Knox with
loud wailings or impotent threats.
A second line of action was forced upon Knox, and one that not only turned the day in
favor of the Reformation of Scotland, but ultimately proved a protection to the liberties
and religion of England. It was here that the knowledge he had acquired abroad came to
his help, and enabled him to originate a measure that saved two kingdoms. Just the year
before – that is, in 1558 – Spain and France, as we have previously mentioned, had united
their arms to effect the complete and eternal extirpation of Protestantism. The plan of the
great campaign – a profounder secret then than now – had been penetrated by Calvin and
Knox, who were not only the greatest Reformers, but the greatest statesmen of the age,
and had a deeper insight into the politics of Europe than any other men then living.
The plan of that campaign was to occupy Scotland with French troops, reduce it to entire
dependency on the French crown, and from Scotland march a French army into England.
While France was assailing England on the north, Spain would invade it on the south, put
down the government of Elizabeth, raise Mary Stuart to her throne, and restore the
Romish religion in both kingdoms. Knox opened a correspondence with the great
statesmen of Elizabeth, in which he explained to them the designs of the Papal Powers,
their purpose to occupy Scotland with foreign troops, and having trampled out its religion
and liberties, to strike at England through the side of Scotland. He showed them that the
plan was being actually carried out; that Mary of Guise was daily bringing French
soldiers into Scotland; that the raw levies of the Reformers would ultimately be worsted
by the disciplined troops of France, and that no more patriotic and enlightened policy
could England pursue than to send help to drive the French soldiers out of the northern,
country; for assuredly, if Scotland was put down, England could not stand, encompassed
as she then would be by hostile armies. Happily these counsels were successful. The
statesmen of Elizabeth, convinced that this was no Scottish quarrel, but that the liberty of
England hung upon it also, and that in no more effectual way could they rear a rampart
around their own Reformation than by supporting that of Scotland, sent military aid to the
lords of the Congregation, and the result was that the French evacuated Scotland, and the
Scots became once more masters of their own country. Almost immediately thereafter,
Mary of Guise, the regent of the kingdom, was removed by death, and the government
passed into the hands of the Reformers. The way was now fully open for the
establishment of the Reformation. It is hardly possible to over-estimate the importance of
the service which Knox rendered. It not only led to the establishment of Protestantism in
Scotland, and the perpetuation of it in England; but, in view of the critical condition in
which Europe then was, it may indeed with justice be said that it saved the Reformation
of Christendom.
The fifteen months which Knox had spent in Scotland had brought the movement to its
culminating point. The nation wag ready to throw off the Popish yoke; and when the
Estates of the Realm met on the 8th of August, 1560, they simply gave expression to the
nation's choice when they authoritatively decreed the suppression of the Romish
hierarchy and the adoption of the Protestant faith. A short summary of Christian doctrine
had been drawn up by Knox and his colleagues; and being read, article by article, in the
Parliament, it was on the 17th of August adopted by the Estates. It is commonly known
as the First Scots Confession. Only three temporal lords voted in the negative, saying
"that they would believe as their fathers believed." The bishops, who had seats as
temporal lords, were silent.
On the 24th of August, Parliament abolished the Pope's jurisdiction; forbade, under
certain penalties, the celebration of mass; and rescinded the laws in favor of the Romish
Church, and against the Protestant faith.
Thus speedily was the glorious work consummated at last. There are supreme moments in
the life of nations, when their destiny is determined for ages. Such was the moment that
had now come to Scotland. On the 17th of August, 1560, the Scotland of the Middle
Ages passed away, and a New Scotland had birth – a Scotland destined to be a sanctuary
of true religion, a temple of true liberty, and a fountain of justice, letters, and art. Intently
had the issue been watched by the churches abroad, and when they learned that Scotland
had placed itself on the side of Protestant truth, these elder daughters of the Reformation
welcomed, with songs of joy, that country which had come, the last of the nations, to
share with them their glorious inheritance of truth and liberty.
Knox had now the sublime satisfaction of thinking that his country was emancipated
from the superstition and thralldom of Popery, and illumined in no small degree with the
light of the "Evangel." But not yet had he rest. No sooner had he ended one battle than
he had to begin another; and the second battle was in some respects more arduous than
the first. He had called the Reformation into being, and now he had to fight to preserve it.
But before following him in this great struggle, let us consider those organizations of an
ecclesiastical and educational kind which he was called to initiate, and which alone could
enable the Reformation to spread itself over the whole land, and transmit itself to afterages.
Knox's idea of a church was, in brief, a divinely originated, a divinely enfranchised, and a
divinely governed society. Its members were all those who made profession of the
gospel; its law was the Bible, and its King was Christ. The conclusion from these
principles Knox did not hesitate to avow and carry out, that the church was to be
governed solely by her own law, administered by her own officers, whose decisions and
acts in all things falling within the spiritual and ecclesiastical sphere were to be final.
This freedom he held to be altogether essential to the soundness of the church's creed, the
purity of her members, and that vigor and healthfulness of operation without which she
could not subserve those high ends which she had been ordained to fulfill to society. This
independence he was careful to confine to the spiritual sphere; in all other matters the
ministers and members of the church were to be subject to the civil law of their country.
He thus distinguished it from the independence of the Romish Church, which claimed for
its clergy exemption from the civil tribunals, and exalted its jurisdiction above the power
of the crown. The beginning of this theory was with Wyckliffe; Calvin developed it; but
in a little city like Geneva, where the same persons nearly composed both the Church and
the State, it was neither very easy nor very necessary to draw the line between the two
jurisdictions. The power of admitting or excluding members from the Communion-table
was all that Calvin had demanded; and he had a hard battle to fight before he could obtain
it; but having won it, it gave a century of glory to the church of Geneva. Knox in
Scotland had more room for the development of all that is implied in the idea of a church
with her own law, her own government, and her own monarch. An independent
government in things spiritual, but rigidly restricted to things spiritual, was the root-idea
of Knox's church organization. Knox hinged this independence on another point than that
on which Calvin rested it. Calvin said, "Take from us the purity of the Communion-table,
and you take from us the Evangel." Knox said, "Take from us the freedom of Assemblies,
and you take from us the Evangel." It was, however, the same battle on another fold: the
contest in both cases had for its object the freedom of the church to administer her own
laws, without which she could exist for no useful end.
A few sentences will enable us to sketch the church organization which Knox set up.
Parliament had declared Protestantism to be the faith of the nation: Knox would make it
so in fact. The orders of ecclesiastical men instituted by him were four – 1st, Ministers,
who preached to a congregation; 2nd, Doctors, who expounded scripture to the youth in
the seminaries and universities; 3rd, Elders, who were associated with the minister in
ruling, though not in teaching, the congregation; and, 4th, Deacons, who managed the
finance, and had the care of the poor. In every parish was placed a minister; but as the
paucity of ministers left many places without pastoral instruction meanwhile, pious
persons were employed to read the scriptures and the common prayers; and if such gave
proof of competency, they were permitted to supplement their reading of the scriptures
with a few plain exhortations. Five Superintendents completed the ecclesiastical staff,
and their duty was to travel through their several districts, with the view of planting
churches, and inspecting the conduct of ministers, readers, and exhorters.
The government of the church, Knox regarded as hardly second to her instruction,
believing that the latter could not preserve its purity unless the other was maintained in its
rigor. First came the Kirk Session, composed of the minister and elders, who managed
the affairs of the congregation; next came the Presbytery, formed by the delegation of a
minister and elder from every congregation within the shire; above it was the synod,
constituted by a minister and elder from each congregation within the province, and
having, like the court below it, power to decide on all causes arising within its bounds.
Last of all came the General Assembly, which was constituted of a certain number of
delegates from every Presbytery. This scheme gave to every communicant member of the
church, directly or indirectly, a voice in her government; it was a truly popular rule, but
acting only through constitutional channels, and determining all cases by the laws of
In the lowest court the laity greatly outnumbered the ministers; in all the others the two
were equal. This gradation of church power, which had its basis in the Kirk Sessions
distributed all over the land, found its unity in the General Assembly; and the
concentrated wisdom and experience of the whole church were thus available for the
decision of the weightiest causes. But its ultimate basis was found in Holy Writ, in which
we find the same basic constitution in Old and New Testament church alike.
The Reformer no more overlooked the general tuition of the people than he did their
indoctrination in the faith. He sketched a scheme of education more complete and
thorough than any age or country had ever yet been privileged to enjoy. He proposed that
a school should be planted in every parish, that a college should be erected in every
notable town, and a university established in the three chief cities of Scotland. He
demanded that the nobility and gentry should send their sons to these schools at their own
expense, and that provision should be made for the free education of the entire youth of
the humbler classes, so that not a child in all Scotland but should be thoroughly
instructed, and the path of all departments of knowledge and the highest offices of the
state opened to every one who had inclination or talent for the pursuit. Such was the
scheme proposed by Knox in the First Book of Discipline. In order to carry it out, the
Reformer proposed that the funds set free by the fall of the Romish Church, after due
provision for the dismissed incumbents, should be divided into three parts, and that onethird
should go to the support of the Protestant Church, another to the endowment of the
schools and colleges, and the remaining portion to the support of the deserving poor.
Could these funds have been devoted to worthier objects? Was there any class in the
country who had a prior or a stronger claim upon them? How then came it that a third
only of the revenues of the fallen establishment was given to these objects, and that the
munificent scheme of Knox was never carried out, and to this day remains unrealized?
The answer of history to this question is that the nobles rapaciously seized upon these
lands and heritages, and refused to disgorge their plunder. The disappointment must have
been unspeakably bitter to the great patriot who devised the plan: but while disgusted at
the greed which had tendered it frustrate, he places his scheme sorrowfully on record, as
if to challenge future ages to produce anything more perfect.
Had the grand and patriotic device of Knox been fully carried out, Scotland would have
rivaled, if not eclipsed, the other kingdoms of Europe, in the number of its educational
institutions, and in the learning of its sons. As it was, an instantaneous impulse was given
to all its energies, intellectual and industrial. Learning and art began to flourish, where for
four centuries previously nothing had prospered save hierarchic pride and feudal tyranny.
And if Scotland attained no mean rank among the nations despite the partial and crippled
adoption of the Reformer's plan, how much more brilliant would have been its place, and
how much longer the roll of illustrious names which it would have been to letters and
science, to the senate, the army, and the state, had the large-hearted plan of Knox been in
operation during the following centuries?
The Reformer was yet smarting from the avariciousness of those who preferred the filling
of their purses and the aggrandizing of their families to the welfare and grandeur of their
country, when another powerful adversary stood up in his path. This new opponent
sought to strip him of all the fruits of his labor, by plucking up by the very roots the
ecclesiastical and educational institutions he had just planted in Scotland.
On the 19th of August, 1561, Mary Stuart arrived at Holyrood from France. There are
few names in Scottish history that so powerfully fascinate to this day as that of Mary
Stuart. She could have been no common woman to have taken so firm a hold upon the
imaginations of her countrymen, and retained it so long. Great qualities she must have
possessed, and did no doubt possess. Her genius was quick and penetrating; she was an
adept in all field exercises, more particularly those of riding and hunting; she was no less
skilled in the accomplishments of her age. She was mistress of several languages, and
was wont, when she lived in France, to share with her husband, Francis II, the cares of
state, and to mingle in the deliberations of the Cabinet. In person she was tall and
graceful: the tradition of her beauty, and of the fascination of her manners, has come
down to our days. But these great faculties, perverted by a sinister influence, led her first
of all into hurtful follies, next into mean deceptions and debasing pleasures, then into
dark intrigues, and at last into bloody crimes. The sufferings of Mary Stuart have passed
into a proverb. Born to a throne, yet dying as a felon: excelling all the women of her time
in the grace of her person and the accomplishments of her mind, and yet surpassing them
in calamity and woe as far as she did in beauty and talent! Unhappy in her life – every
attempt to retrieve her fallen fortunes but sank her the deeper in guilt; and equally
unhappy in death, for whenever the world is on the point of forgetting a life from the
odiousness of which there is no escape but in oblivion, there comes forward, with a
certainty almost fated – the Nemesis, one might say, of Mary Stuart – an apologist to
rehearse the sad story over again, and to fix the memory of her crimes more indelibly
than ever in the minds of men.
It is at the tragic death-bed of her father, James V, in the palace of Falkland, that we first
hear the name of Mary Stuart. A funeral shadow rests above her natal hour. She was born
on the 8th of December, 1542, in the ancient palace of Linlithgow. The infant had seen
the light but a few days when, her father dying, she succeeded to the crown. While only a
girl of six years of age, Mary Stuart was sent to France, accompanied by four young
ladies of family, all of her own age, and all bearing the same name with their royal
mistress, and known in history as the "Queen's Maries."
Habituated to the gallantry and splendor of the French court, her love of gaiety was
fostered into a passion; and her vanity and self-will were strengthened by the homage
constantly paid to her personal charms. Under the teaching of her uncles, the Duke of
Guise and the Cardinal of Lorraine, she contracted a blind attachment to the religion of
Rome, and an equally blind detestation of the faith of her future subjects. So had passed
the youth of Mary Stuart. It is hardly possible to conceive a course of training that could
have more unfitted her to occupy the throne of a Protestant nation, and that nation the
Fortune seemed to take a delight in tantalizing her. A mishap in the tournament field
suddenly raised her to the throne of France. She had hardly time to contemplate the
boundless prospect of happiness which appeared to be opening to her on the throne of a
powerful, polished, and luxurious nation, when she was called to descend from it by the
death of her husband. It was now that the invitation reached her to return to her native
country and assume its government. No longer Queen of France, Mary Stuart turned her
face towards the northern land which had given her birth. She set sail from Calais on the
15th of August, 1561. The anguish that wrung her heart in that hour it is easy to conceive,
and impossible not to sympathize with. She was leaving a land where the manners of the
people were congenial to her tastes, where the religion was dear to her heart, and where
the years as they glided past brought her only new pleasures and brighter splendors. Mary
took her stand on the deck of the vessel that was bearing her slowly away, and fixed her
eyes on the receding shores of France. The sun sank in the ocean; the shades of evening
descended; but the queen made her couch be placed on the vessel's deck.
The morning dawned: Mary was still there, gazing in the direction of the shore, which
was still in sight. But now a breeze springing up, she was quickly borne away into the
North Sea. "Farewell," said she, as the land sank finally beneath the wave, "farewell,
happy France! I shall nevermore see thee."
The queen arrived at Leith on the 19th of August. The citizens, who had not reckoned on
the voyage being completed in four days, were not prepared to receive her, and they had
to extemporize a cavalcade of ponies to convey their queen to the palace of Holyrood.
This simplicity could be no agreeable surprise to the young sovereign. Nature seemed as
much out of unison with the event as man. It had dressed itself in somber shadows when
Mary was about to step upon the ancient Scottish shore. A dull vapor floated over-head.
The shores, islands, and bold rocky prominences that give such grandeur to the Frith of
Forth were wholly hidden; a gray mist covered Arthur Seat, and shed a cold cheerless
light upon the city which lay stretched out at its feet. Edinburgh was then by no means
imposing, and needed all the help which a bright sun could give it; and the region around
it. Nevertheless, despite this conjunction of untoward circumstances, which made Mary's
arrival so unlike the first entrance of a sovereign into the capital of her dominions, the
demonstrations of the people were loyal and hearty, and the youthful queen looked really
pleased, as surrounded by her Scottish nobles and her French attendants, and dressed in
widow's weeds, she passed in under those gray towers, which were destined to wear from
this day the halo of a tragic interest in all coming time.
The nobles had welcomed with a chivalrous enthusiasm the daughter of their ancient
kings; and the people, touched by her beauty and her widowhood, had begun to regard
her with mingled feelings of compassion and admiration. All was going well, and would
doubtless have continued so to do, but for a dark purpose which Mary Stuart carried in
her breast. She had become the pivot around which revolved that plot to which those
monstrous times had given birth, for the extermination of the Protestant faith in all the
countries of the Reformation. If that conspiracy should succeed, it would open the
Scottish queen's way to a fairer realm and a mightier throne than the kingdom she had
just arrived to take possession of. The first step in the projected drama was the forcible
suppression of the Protestant faith in Scotland, and the restoration in it of the Church of
Rome. This was the dark purpose which Mary had carried across the seas, and brought
with her to Holyrood.
But meanwhile, as tutored by her uncles the Guises, who accompanied her, she
dissembled and temporized. Smiles and caresses were her first weapons; the nobles were
to be gained over by court blandishments and favors; the ministers were to be assailed by
hypocritical promises; and the people were to be lured by those fawning arts of which
there lived no greater adept than Mary Stuart. The "holy water of the court" soon began to
tell upon the Protestant leaders. Even the lords of the Congregation were not proof
against the fascination which the young queen seemed to exert upon every one who
entered her presence. If her thinly-veiled Romish proclivities had at first alarmed or
offended them, they had been no long time in the queen's presence till their anger cooled,
their fears were laid aside, and their Protestant zeal in some measure evaporated. Every
man, one man excepted, who entered this charmed circle was straightway transformed.
Knox in his History has quaintly described the change that passed upon the nobility under
this almost magical influence. "Every man as he came up to court," says he, "accused
them that were before him; but, after they had remained a certain space, they came out as
quiet as the former. On perceiving this, Campbell of Kinyeancleugh, a man of some
humor and zealous in the cause, said to Lord Ochiltree, whom he met on his way to court,
"My lord, now ye are come last of all, and I perceive that the fire edge is not yet off you,
but I fear that after the holy water of the court be sprinkled upon you, ye shall become as
temperate as the rest. I think there be some enchantment by which men are bewitched."
On the first Sunday after her arrival, Mary adventured on an act, by the advice of her
uncles, which was designed to feel the pulse of her Protestant subjects; at all events, it
unmistakably notified to them what her future course was to be: mass was said in her
chapel of Holyrood. Since the establishment of the Reformation, mass had not been
publicly celebrated in Scotland, and in fact was rightly prohibited by Act of Parliament.
When the citizens learned that preparations were making for its celebration in the Chapel
Royal, they were thrown into excitement and alarm, and but for the interposition of Knox
would have forcibly prevented it. Lord James Stuart, Prior of St. Andrews, and the
brother of Mary, stood sentinel at the door of the chapel, all the time the service was
going on; the man who carried in the candle trembled all over; and the priest who
performed the rite was, at its conclusion, conducted to his chamber by two Protestant
lords. The queen's relatives and attendants threatened that they would instantly return to
France, for they could not live in a land where mass could not be said, without which
they could not have the pardon of their sins. "Would," says Knox, "that they, together
with the mass, had taken good night of this realm for ever."
On the following Sunday, Knox, although he had restrained the more zealous of the
Protestants who sought by force to suppress the celebration, sounded a note of warning
from the pulpit of St. Giles's. He preached on the sin of idolatry, "showing what tenable
plagues God had taken upon realms and nations for the same;" and added, "One mass is
more fearful to me than if 10,000 armed enemies were landed in any part of the realm, of
purpose to suppress the whole religion."This was indeed the case then, as it forever shall
be. The well-being of a state is dependent upon the blessing of God. And God will not
bless that state profusely which tolerates idolatry. A little leaven will leaven the whole
lump. And once given over to false worship, God will in judgment give over such a
people to yet greater sins. Oh, but that Scotland would ever heed the words of Knox on
this matter!
It is probable that the substance of the Reformer's sermon was reported to the queen, for
in a few days after its delivery she sent a message to Knox, commanding his attendance
at the palace. This interview has gathered round it great historic grandeur, mainly from
the sentiments avowed by Knox before his sovereign, which made it one of the turningpoints
in the history of the man and of the country, and partly also from the charge which
the flatterers of despotic princes have founded upon it, that Knox was on that occasion
lacking in courtesy to Mary as a woman, and in loyalty to her as his sovereign; as if it
were a crime to defend, in words of truth and soberness, true religion. The queen opened
the conference, at which only her brother Lord James Stuart, and two ladies in waiting
were present, with a reference to the Reformer's book on the "Regiment of Women," and
the "necromancy" by which he accomplished his ends; but departing from the grave
charge of magic, she came to what was uppermost in her mind, and what was the head
and front of Knox's offending.
"You have taught the people," remarked the queen, "to receive another religion than that
which their princes allow; but God commands subjects to obey their prince;" ergo, "you
have taught the people to disobey both God and their prince." Mary doubtless thought
this syllogism unanswerable, till Knox, with a little plain sense, brushed it away
"Madam," replied the Reformer, "as right religion received neither its origin nor its
authority from princes, but from the eternal God alone, so are not subjects bound to frame
their religion according to the tastes of their princes. For oft it is that princes, of all
others, are the most ignorant of God's true religion. If all the seed of Abraham had been
of the religion of Pharaoh, whose subjects they long were, I pray you, madam, what
religion would there have been in the world? And if all in the days of the Apostles had
been of the religion of the Roman emperors, I pray you, madam, what religion would
there have been now upon the earth?... And so, madam, you may perceive that subjects
are not bound to the religion of their princes, although they are commanded to give them
"Yea," replied the queen, "but none of these men raised the sword against their princes."
"Yet, madam," rejoined Knox, "they resisted, for they who obey not the commandment
given them, do in some sort resist."
"But," argued the queen, "they resisted not with the sword."
"God, madam," answered the Reformer, "had not given them the power and the means."
"Think ye," said the queen, "that subjects having the power may resist their princes?"
"If princes exceed their bounds, madam, and do that which they ought not, they may
doubtless be resisted even by power. For neither is greater honor nor greater obedience to
be given to kings and princes, than God has commanded to be given to father and mother.
But, madam, the father may be struck with a frenzy, in which he would slay his own
children. Now, madam, if the children arise, join together, apprehend him, take the sword
from him, bind his hands, and keep him in prison till the frenzy be over, think ye, madam,
that the children do any wrong? Even so is it, madam, with princes who would murder
the children of God who are subject unto them. Their blind zeal is nothing but a mad
frenzy; and, therefore, to take the sword from them, to bind their hands, and to cast them
into prison till they be brought to a sober mind, is no disobedience against princes, but a
just obedience, because it agreeth with the will of God."
At last Lord James Stuart, feeling the silence insupportable, or fearing that his sister had
been seized with sudden illness, began to entreat her and to ask, "What has offended you,
madam?" But she made him no answer. The tempest of her pride and self-will at length
spent itself. Her composure returned, and she resumed the argument.
"Well then," said she, "I deafly perceive that my subjects shall obey you, and not me; and
shall do what they list, and not what I command; and so must I be subject to them, and
not they to me."
"God forbid," promptly rejoined the Reformer, "that ever I take upon me to command any
to obey me, or to set subjects at liberty to do whatever pleases them." Is then Knox to
concede the "right Divine?" Yes; but he lodges it where alone it is safe; not in any throne
on earth. "My travail," adds he, "is that both subjects and princes may obey God. And
think not, madam, that wrong is done you when you are required to be subject unto God;
for he it is who subjects peoples unto princes, and causes obedience to be given unto
them. He craves of kings that they be as it were foster-fathers to his church, and
commands queens to be nurses to his people."
"Yes," replied the queen; "but ye are not the Kirk that I will nourish. I will defend the
Kirk of Rome, for it is, I think, the true Kirk of God."
"Your will, madam," said Knox, "is no reason; neither doth it make that Roman harlot to
be the true and immaculate spouse of Jesus Christ. I offer myself, madam, to prove that
the church of the Jews which crucified Christ Jesus was not so far degenerate from the
ordinances and statutes given it of God, as the Church of Rome is declined, and more
than 500 years hath declined, from the purity of that religion which the Apostles taught
and planted."
"My conscience," said Mary, "is not so." "Conscience, madam," said Knox, "requires
knowledge, and I fear that right knowledge ye have none."
"But," said she, "I have both heard and read." "Have you," inquired Knox, "heard any
teach but such as the Pope and cardinals have allowed You may be assured that such will
speak nothing to offend their own estate."
"You interpret the scripture in one way, and they interpret it in another," said Mary:
"whom shall I believe, and who shall be judge?"
"You shall believe God, who plainly speaketh in his Word," was the Reformer's answer,
"and farther than the Word teaches you, ye shall believe neither the one nor the other.
The Word of God is plain in itself, and if in any one place there be obscurity, the Holy
Ghost, who never is contrary to himself, explains the same more clearly in other places,
so that there can remain no doubt but unto such as are obstinately ignorant." He
illustrated his reply by a brief exposition of the passage on which the Romanists found
their doctrine of the mass; when the queen said that, though she was unable to answer
him, if those were present whom she had heard, they would give him an answer.
"Madam," replied the Reformer, "would to God that the learnedest Papist in Europe, and
he that you would best believe, were present with your Grace, to sustain the argument,
and that you would patiently hear the matter debated to an end; for then I doubt not,
madam, you would know the vanity of the Papistical religion, and how little foundation it
has in the Word of God."
"Well," said she, "you may perchance get that sooner than you believe."
"Assuredly," said Knox, "if I ever get it in my life I get it sooner than I believe; for the
ignorant Papist cannot patiently reason, and the learned and crafty Papist will not come in
your presence, madam, to have the grounds of his belief searched out, for they know that
they cannot sustain the argument unless fire and sword and their own laws be judges.
When you shall let me see the contrary, I shall grant myself to have been deceived in that
The dinner-hour was announced, and the argument ended. "I pray God, madam," said
Knox in parting, "that ye may be as blessed within the commonwealth of Scotland, as
ever was Deborah in the commonwealth of Israel."
Luther before Charles V at Worms, Calvin before the Libertines in the Cathedral of St.
Pierre, and Knox before Queen Mary in the Palace of Holyrood, are three dramatic points
in the Reformation. The victory in each of these three cases was won by one man, and
was due solely to the grace of God. Luther, Calvin, Knox at these unspeakably critical
moments stood alone among men; their friends could not or dared not show themselves;
they were upheld only by the truth and God's presence with them. A concession, a
compromise, in either case would have ruined all; and Worms, St. Pierre, and Holyrood
would have figured in history as the scenes of irretrievable disaster, over which nations
would have had cause to weep. They are instead names of glorious victory; Marathon,
Morat, and Bannockburn shine not with so pure a splendor, nor will they stir the hearts of
men so long.
In the room of a sacerdotal hierarchy there had been planted in Scotland a body of
teaching pastors. The change had been accomplished with the sanction of Parliament, but
no provision was made for the temporal support of the new ecclesiastical establishment.
This was a point on which Knox was not unnaturally anxious, but on which he was
doomed to experience a bitter disappointment. The Romish Church in Scotland had
possessed a boundless affluence of houses, valuables, and lands. Her abbacies dotted the
country, mountain and meadow, forest and cornfield, were hers; and all this wealth had
been set free by the suppression of the priesthood, and ought to have been transferred, so
far as it was needed, to the Protestant Church. But the nobles rushed in and appropriated
nearly the whole of this vast spoil. Knox lifted up his voice to denounce a transaction
which was alike damaging to the highest interests of the country, and the characters of
those concerned in it: but he failed to ward off the covetous hands that were clutching this
rich booty; and the only arrangement he succeeded in effecting was, that the revenues of
the Popish Church should be divided into three parts, and that two of these should be
given to the former incumbents, to revert at their death to the nobility, and that the third
part should be divided between the court and the Protestant ministers. The latter had till
now been entirely dependent upon the benevolence of their hearers, or the hospitality of
the noblemen in whose houses some of them continued to reside. When Knox beheld the
revenues which would have sufficed to plant Scotland with churches, colleges, and
schools, and suitably provide for the poor, thus swallowed up, he could not refrain from
expressing his mortification and disgust. "Well," exclaimed he, "if the end of this order
be happy, my judgment fails me. I see two parts freely given to the devil, and the third
must be divided between God and the devil. Who would have thought that when Joseph
ruled in Egypt his brethren would have traveled for victuals, and would have returned
with empty sacks to their families?" It was concern for his brethren's interest that drew
from the Reformer this stern denunciation, for his own stipend, appointed by the
magistrates of Edinburgh, was an adequate one. The same cause occasioned to Knox his
second great disappointment. He had received from the Privy Council a commission,
along with Winram, Spottiswood, Douglas, and Row, to draft a plan of ecclesiastical
government. Comprehensive in outline, incalculable would have been the moral and
literary benefits this plan would have conferred upon Scotland had it been fully carried
out. But the nobles liked neither the moral rules it prescribed, nor the pecuniary burdens
it imposed, and Knox failed to procure for it the ratification of the Privy Council. Many
of the members of Council, however, subscribed it, and being approved by the first
General Assembly, which met on the 20th of December, 1560, it has, under the name of
the "First Book of Discipline," always held the rank of a standard in the Protestant
Church of Scotland.
A third and still more grievous disappointment awaited the Reformer. The Parliament of
1560, which had abolished the Papal jurisdiction, and accepted Protestantism as the
national religion, had been held when the queen was absent from the kingdom, and the
royal assent had never been given to its enactments, not only did Mary, under various
pretexts, refuse to ratify its deeds while she resided in France, but even after her return to
Scotland she still withheld her ratification, and repeatedly declared the Parliament of
1560 to be illegal. If so, the Protestant establishment it had set up was also illegal, and no
man could doubt that it was the queen's intention, so soon as she was able, to overthrow it
and restore the Romish hierarchy. This was a state of matters which Knox deemed
intolerable; but the Protestant lords, demoralized by the spoils of the fallen establishment
and the blandishments of the court, took it very easily. The Parliament the first since
Mary's arrival – was about to meet; and Knox fondly hoped that now the royal ratification
would be given to the Protestant settlement of the country. He pressed the matter upon
the nobles as one of vital importance. He pointed out to them that till such assent was
given they had no law on their side; that they held their religion at the mere pleasure of
their sovereign, that they might any day be commanded to go to mass, and that it was
indispensable that these uncertainties and fears should be set at rest. The nobles, however,
found the matter displeasing to the queen, and agreed not to press it. Knox learned their
resolve with consternation.
He could not have believed, unless he had seen it, that the men who had summoned him
from Geneva, and carried their cause to the battle-field, and who had entered into a
solemn bond, pledging themselves to God and to one another, to sacrifice goods and life
in the cause if need were, could have so woefully declined in zeal and courage, and could
so prefer the good-will of their sovereign and their own selfish interests to the defense of
God's interests and the welfare of their country. This exhibition of faithlessness and
servility well-nigh broke his heart, and would have made him abandon the cause in
despair but for his faith in God. The Parliament had not yet ended, and in the pulpit of St.
Giles's, Knox poured out the sorrows that almost overwhelmed him in a strain of lofty
and indignant, yet mournful eloquence. He reminded the nobles who, with some thousand
of the citizens, were gathered before him, of the slavery of body, and the yet viler slavery
of soul, in which they had been sunk; and now, when the merciful hand of God had
delivered them, where was their gratitude? And then addressing himself in particular to
the nobility, he continued, "In your most extreme dangers I have been with you; St.
Johnston, Cupar-Moor, the Craigs of Edinburgh" (names that recalled past perils and
terrors) "are yet fresh in my heart; yea, that dark and dolorous night wherein all ye, my
lords, with shame and fear left this town, is yet in my mind, and God forbid that ever I
forget it. What was, I say, my exhortation to you, and what has fallen in vain of all that
ever God promised unto you by my mouth, ye yourselves are yet alive to testify. There is
not one of you, against whom was death and destruction threatened, perished; and how
many of your enemies has God plagued before your eyes! Shall this be the thankfulness
that ye shall render unto your God? To betray his cause when you have it in your hands to
establish it as you please? Their religion had the authority of God, and was independent
of human laws, but it was also accepted within this realm in public Parliament, and that
Parliament he would maintain was as free and lawful as any that had ever assembled in
the kingdom of Scotland." He alluded, in fine, to the reports of the queen's marriage, and
bidding his audience mark his words, he warned the nobility what the consequences
would be should they ever consent to their sovereign marrying a Papist.
Knox himself tells us in his History that this plainness of speech gave offense to both
Papists and Protestants. He had not expected, nor indeed intended, that his sermon should
please the latter any more than the former. Men who were sinking their patriotism in
cupidity, and their loyalty in sycophancy, would not be flattered by being told to their
face that they were ruining their country. Another result followed, which had doubtless
also been foreseen by the preacher. There were those in his audience who hurried off to
the palace as soon as the sermon was ended, and reported his words to the queen, saying
that he had preached against her marriage. Hardly had he finished his dinner when a
messenger arrived from Holyrood, ordering his attendance at the palace. His attached
friend, Lord Ochiltree, and some others, accompanied him, but only Erskine of Dun was
permitted to go with him into the royal cabinet. The moment he entered, Mary burst into
a passion, exclaiming that never had prince been vexed by subject as she had been by
him; "I vow to God," said she, "I shall once be revenged." "And with these words, hardly
could her page bring napkins enough to hold her tears." Knox was beginning to state the
paramount claims that governed him in the pulpit, when the queen demanded, "But what
have you to do with my marriage?" He was going on to vindicate his allusion to that topic
in the pulpit on the ground of its bearing on the welfare of the country, when she again
broke in, "What have you to do with my marriage? or what are you in this
Posterity has answered that question, in terms that would have been less pleasing to Mary
than was Knox's own reply. "A subject born within the same, madam," he at once said
with a fine blending of courtesy and dignity: "a subject born within the same, madam,
and albeit I be neither earl, lord, nor baron in it, yet has God made me (how abject that ever I be in your eyes) a profitable member within the same; yes, madam, to me it
appertains no less to forewarn of such things as may hurt it, if foresee them, than it doth
to any of the nobility, for both my vocation and my conscience require plainness of me;
and, therefore, madam, to yourself I say, that which I spake in public place – whensoever
the nobility of this realm shall consent that ye be obedient to an unfaithful husband, they
do as much as in them lieth to renounce Christ, to banish his truth from them, to betray
the freedom of this realm, and perchance shall in the end do small comfort to yourself."
Mary's reply to these words was a burst of tears.
Erskine of Dun stepped forward to soothe her, but with no great success. Knox stood
silent till the queen had composed herself, and then said he was constrained, though
unwillingly, to sustain her tears, rather than hurt his conscience and betray the
commonwealth by his silence. This defense but the more incensed the queen; she ordered
him to leave her presence and await in the ante-chamber the signification of her pleasure.
There he was surrounded by numbers of his acquaintances and associates, but he stood
"as one whom men had never seen." Lord Ochiltree alone of all that dastardly crowd
found courage to recognize him. Turning from the male, but not manly, courtiers, Knox
addressed himself to the queen's ladies. "O fair ladies," said he, in a vein of raillery which
the queen's frown had not been able to extinguish, "how pleasing were this life of yours,
if it should ever abide, and then, in the end, we might pass to heaven with all this gay
gear! but fie upon that knave Death that will come whether we will or no." Erskine now
came to hint to say that the queen permitted him to go home for the day. Mary was bent
on a prosecution of the Reformer, but her councilors refused to concur, and so, as Knox
says, "this storm blew over in appearance, but not in heart."
Sternly, uncompromisingly, Knox pursues his course! Not an uncourteous, undignified,
treasonable word does he utter; yet what iron inflexibility! He sacrifices friends, he incurs
the mortal hatred of his sovereign, he restrains the yearnings of his own heart; the
sacrifice is painful – painful to himself and to all about him, but it is the saving of his
country. What hardness! exclaim many. We grant it; Knox is hard as the rock, stubborn
as the nether millstone; but when men seek to erect a beacon that may save the mariner
from the reef on which the tumultuous billows are about to pitch his vessel headlong, it is
the rock, not the sand-heap, that they select as a foundation.
At last, as the queen thought, the Reformer had put himself in her power. Had it been as
Mary believed, no long time would have elapsed till his head had fallen on the scaffold,
and with it, in all human reckoning, would have fallen the Protestant Church of his native
land. During the queen's absence at Stirling, the same summer, mass was celebrated at
Holyrood by her domestics with greater pomp than usual, and numbers of the citizens
resorted to it. Some zealous Protestants of Edinburgh forced their way into the chapel,
principally to see who of their fellow-citizens were present, and finding the priest attired
for celebration, they asked him why he durst do these things in the queen's absence. The
chaplain and the French domestics, taking fright, raised a cry which made Comptroller
Pitarrow hasten to their aid, who found no tumult, however, save what he brought with
him. Information having been sent to the queen, she caused two of the Protestants to be
indicted for "forethought felony, hamesucken, and invasion of the palace." Fearing that it
might go hard with the accused, the ministers urged Knox, agreeably to a commission he
had received from the church, to address a circular to the leading Protestants of the
country, requesting their presence on the day of trial. A copy of this letter having been
sent to the queen, she submitted it to the Privy Council; and the Council, to her great
delight, pronounced it treasonable.
In December, 1563, an extraordinary meeting of Council was called, and Knox was put
upon his trial. Mary took her seat at the head of the table with an affectation of great
dignity, which she utterly spoiled by giving way to a fit of loud laughter, so great was her
joy at seeing Knox standing uncovered at the foot of the table. "That man," said she,
"made me weep, and shed never a tear himself; I will now see if I can make him weep."
Secretary Maitland of Lethinton conducted the prosecution, and seemed almost as eager
as Mary herself to obtain a conviction against the Reformer. Maitland was a formidable
opponent, being one of the most accomplished dialecticians of the age. He had been a
zealous Protestant, but caring little at heart for any religion, he had now cooled, and was
trying to form a middle party, between the court and the church. Nothing has a greater
tendency to weaken the insight than the want of definite views and strong convictions,
and so the secretary was laboring with all his might to realize his narrow and
impracticable scheme, to the success of which, as he deemed, one thing only was
wanting, namely, that Knox should be got rid of. The offense for which the Reformer was
now made answerable was, "convening the lieges" by his circular; but the sting of his
letter lay in the sentence which affirmed that the threatened prosecution "was doubtless to
make preparation upon a few, that a door may be opened to execute cruelty upon a
greater number." Knox had offended mortally, for he had penetrated the designs of the
court, and proclaimed, them to the nation. The proceedings were commenced by the
reading of the circular for which Knox had been indicted. "Heard you ever, my lords,"
said Mary, looking round the Council, "a more spiteful and treasonable letter?" This was
followed up by Maitland, who, turning to Knox, said, "Do you not repent that such a
letter has passed your pen?" The Reformer avoided the trap, and made answer, "My lord
secretary, before I repent I must be shown my offense." "Offense!" exclaimed Maitland,
in a tone of surprise; "if there were no more but the convocation of the queen's lieges, the
offense cannot be denied." The Reformer took his stand on the plain common sense of
the matter, that to convene the citizens for devotion, or for deliberation, was one thing:,
and to convene them with arms was another; and Maitland labored to confound the two,
and attach a treasonable purpose to the convocation in question. "What is this?"
interposed the queen, who was getting impatient; "methinks you trifle with him. Who
gave him authority to make convocation of my lieges? Is not that treason?" "No, madam,"
replied Lord Ruthyen, whose Protestant spirit was roused – "no, madam, for he makes
convocation of the people to hear prayers and sermon almost daily, and whatever your
Grace or others will think thereof, we think it no treason."
After a long and sharp debate between the Reformer and the secretary, the "cruelty upon
a greater multitude," for which the summons served on the two Protestants would, it was
affirmed, prepare the way, came next under discussion. The queen insisted that she was
the party against whom this allegation was directed; Knox contended that its application
was general, and that it was warranted by the notorious persecutions of the Papacy to
exterminate Protestants. He was enlarging on this topic, when the chancellor interrupted
him. "You forget yourself," said he; "you are not now in the pulpit." "I am in the place,"
replied the Reformer, "where I am demanded of conscience to speak the truth, and
therefore the truth I speak, impugn it whose list." At last Knox was withdrawn, and the
queen having retired, in order that the judgment of the Council might be given, the lords
unanimously voted that John Knox had been guilty of no violation of the laws. Secretary
Maitland stormed, and the courtiers stood aghast. The queen was brought back, and took
her place at the head of the table, and the votes were called over again in her presence.
"What!" said the members, "shall the Laird of Lethington make us condemn an innocent
man?" The Council pronounced a second unanimous acquittal. They then rose and
departed. The issue had been waited for with intense anxiety by the Protestant citizens of
Edinburgh, and during the sitting of Council a dense crowd filled the court of the palace,
and occupied the stairs up to the very door of the council-chamber. That night no
instruments of music were brought before the queen; the darkened and silent halls of
Holyrood proclaimed the grief and anger of Mary Stuart. But if the palace mourned, the
city rejoiced.
We have missed the true character of this scene if we have failed to see, not Mary Stuart
and Knox, but Rome and the Reformation struggling together in this chamber. The
execution of the Reformer would have been immediately followed by the suppression of
the ecclesiastical and educational institutions which he had set up, and Scotland plunged
again into Popery. Nay, the disastrous consequences of the Reformer's imprisonment or
death would have extended far beyond his native land. Had Scotland been a Popish
country at the time of the Armada, in all human probability the throne of Elizabeth would
have been overturned. Nay, with Scotland Popish, it may be doubted whether the throne
of Elizabeth would have stood till then. If Mary Stuart had succeeded in restoring the
Papacy in Scotland, the country would, as an almost inevitable consequence, have fallen
under the power of France, and would have become the door by which the Popish Powers
would have entered England to suppress its Reformation, and place the Queen of the
Scots upon its throne. Had Knox that night descended the stairs of the royal cabinet of
Holyrood with a sentence of condemnation upon him, his countrymen would have had
more cause to mourn than himself, and England too would, in no long time, have learned
the extent of the calamity which had befallen the great cause with which she had
identified herself, when she saw the fall of the northern kingdom followed by the
destruction of her own Protestant religion.
The dangerous crisis was now past, and a tide of prosperous events began to set in, in
favor of the Scottish Reformation. The rising of the Earl of Huntly, in the north who,
knowing the court to be secretly favorable, had unfurled the standard for Rome – was
suppressed. The alienation which had parted Knox and Lord James Stuart, now Earl of
Murray, for two years was healed; the Protestant spirit in the provinces was strengthened
by the preaching tours undertaken by the Reformer; the jealousies between the court and
the church, though not removed, were abated; the abdication of the queen, which grew
out of the deplorable occurrences that followed her marriage with Darnley, and to which
our attention must briefly be given, seeing they were amongst the most powerful of the
causes which turned the balance between Protestantism and Romanism, not in Scotland
only, but over Europe; and, as a consequence of her abdication, the appointment, as
regent of the kingdom, of the Earl of Murray, the intimate friend of Knox, and the great
outstanding patriot and Reformer among the Scottish nobles -- all tended in one direction,
to the establishment, namely, of the Scottish Reformation. Accordingly, in 1567, the
infant James being king, and Murray regent, the Parliament which met on the 15th of
December ratified all the Acts that had been passed in 1560, abolishing the Papal
jurisdiction, and accepting the Protestant faith as the religion of the nation. Valid legal
securities were thus for the first time reared around the Protestant Church of Scotland. It
was further enacted, "That no prince should afterwards be admitted to the exercise of
authority in the kingdom, without taking an oath to maintain the Protestant religion; and
that none but Protestants should be admitted to any office, with the exception of those
that were hereditary, or held for life. The ecclesiastical jurisdiction, exercised by the
Assemblies of the church, was formally ratified, and commissioners appointed to define
more exactly the causes which came within the sphere of their judgment."
The Scottish Reformation had now reached its culmination in that century, and from this
point Knox could look back over the battles he had waged, and the toils he had borne,
and contemplate with thankfulness their issue in the overthrow of the Papal tyranny, and
the establishment of a scriptural faith in Scotland. He had, too, received legal guarantees
from the state that the abolished jurisdiction would not be restored, and that the Protestant
church would have liberty and protection given it in the exercise of its worship and the
administration of its discipline. The two years that followed, 1568 and 1569, were
perhaps the happiest in the Reformer's life, and the most prosperous in the history of his
country during that century. Under the energetic and patriotic administration of the
"Good Regent" Scotland enjoyed quiet. The Reformed church was enlarging her borders;
all was going well; and that yearning for rest which often visits the breasts of those who
have been long tossed by tempests, began to be felt by Knox. He remembered the quiet
years at Geneva, the loving flock to whom he had there ministered the Word of Life, and
he expressed a wish to return thither and spend the evening of his life, and lay his wearied
body, it might be, by the side of greater dust in the Plain-palais.
But it was not to be so. Other storms were to roll over him and over his beloved church
before he should descend into his grave. The assassination of the Regent Murray, in
January, 1570, was the forerunner of these evils. The tidings of his death occasioned to
Knox the most poignant anguish, but great as was his own loss, he regarded it as nothing
in comparison with the calamity which had befallen the country in the murder of this
great patriot and able administrator. Under the Earl of Lennox, who succeeded Murray as
regent, the former confusions returned, and they continued under Mar, by whom Lennox
was succeeded. The nobles were divided into two factions, one in favor of Mary, while
the other supported the cause of the young king. In the midst of these contentions the life
of the Reformer came to be in so great danger that it was thought advisable that he should
remove from Edinburgh, and take up his residence for some time at St. Andrews. Here he
often preached, and though so feeble that he had to be lifted up into the pulpit, before the
sermon had ended his earnestness and vehemence were such that, in the words of an eyewitness,
"He was like to ding the pulpit in blads and flie out of it."
Weary of the world, and longing to depart, he had nevertheless to wage battle to the very
close of his life. His last years were occupied in opposing the introduction into the
Presbyterian church of an order of bishop known only to Scotland, and termed Tulchan.
Several rich benefices had become vacant by the death of the incumbents, and other
causes; and the nobles, coveting these rich living, entered into simoniacal bargains with
the least worthy of the ministers, to the effect that they should fill the post, but that the
patron should receive the richest portion of the income: hence the term Tulchan Bishops.
Knox strongly objected to the institution of the new order of ecclesiastics – first, because
he held it a robbery of the church's patrimony; and secondly, because it was an invasion
on the Presbyterian equality which had been settled in the Scottish Kirk. His opposition
delayed the completion of this disgraceful arrangement, which was not carried through
till the year in which he died.
In August, 1572, he returned to Edinburgh, and soon thereafter received the news of the
St. Bartholomew Massacre. We need not say how deeply he was affected by a crime that
drowned France in Protestant blood, including that of many of his own personal friends.
Kindling into prophet-like fire, he foretold from the pulpit of St. Giles's a future of
revolutions as awaiting the royal house and throne of France; and his words, verily, have
not fallen to the ground.
His last appearance in public was on the 9th of November, 1572, when he preached in the
Tolbooth church on occasion of the installation of Mr. Lawson as his colleague and
successor. At the close of the service, as if he felt that no more should flock see their
pastor, or pastor address his flock, he protested, in the presence of Him to whom he
expected soon to give an account, that he had walked among them with a good
conscience, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ in all sincerity, and he exhorted and
charged them to adhere steadfastly to the faith which they had professed. The services at
an end, he descended the pulpit-stairs, with exhausted yet cheerful look, and walked
slowly down the High Street leaning on the arm of his servant, Richard Bannatyne; his
congregation lining the way, reverently anxious to have their last look of their beloved
pastor. He entered his house never again to pass over its threshold.
While the events we have so rapidly narrated were in progress, Mary Stuart, the other
great figure of the time, was pursuing her career, and it is necessary that we should follow
– not in their detail, for that is not necessary for our object, but in their outline and issue –
a series of events of which she was the center, and which were acting with marked and
lasting effect on both Romanism and Protestantism. We have repeatedly referred to the
league of the three Papal Powers France, Spain, and Rome – to quench the light which
was enlightening the nations, and bring back the night on the face of all the earth. We
have also said that of this plot Mary Stuart had become the center, seeing the part
assigned her was essential to its success. It is surely a most instructive fact, that the series
of frightful crimes into which this prince plunged was one of the main instruments that
Providence employed to bring this plot to nought. From the day that Mary Stuart put her
hand to this bond of blood, the tide in her fortunes turned, and all things went against her.
First came her sudden and ill-starred affection for Lord Darnley, the son of the Earl of
Lennox; then followed her marriage with him, accomplished through treachery, and
followed by civil war. The passion which Mary felt for Darnley, a weak, vain, and
frivolous youth, and addicted to low company, soon gave place to disgust. Treated with
neglect by her husband, Mary was thrown upon others, and then came her worse than
unseemly intimacy with the low-born and low-bred Italian, David Rizzio. This awakened
a fierce and revengeful jealousy in the breast of Darnley, which led to the midnight
assassination in the palace. A band of barons, with naked swords, suddenly appeared in
the supper-chamber of the queen, and seizing her favorite, and loosening his grasp on the
dress of his mistress, which he had clutched in despair, they dragged him out, and
dispatched him in the ante-chamber, his screams ringing in the ears of the queen, who
was held back by force from rescuing him. Then came the settled purpose of revenge in
the heart of Mary Stuart against her husband, for his share in the murder of Rizzio. This
purpose, concealed for a time under an affectation of tender love, the more effectually to
lure the vain and confiding Lord Darnley into the snare she had set for him, was steadily
and coolly pursued, till at last it was consummated in the horrible tragedy of the "Kirk-of-
Field." The lurid blaze which lighted the sky of Edinburgh that night, and the shock that
roused its sleeping citizens from their beds, bring upon the stage new actors, and pave the
way for outrages that startle the imagination and stupefy the moral sense. Darnley has
disappeared, and now an infamous and bloody man starts up by the side of Mary Stuart.
There comes next, her strange passion for Bothwell, a man without a single spark of
chivalry or honor in him – coarse-minded, domineering, with an evil renown hanging
about him for deeds of violence and blood, and whose gross features and badly-molded
limbs did not furnish Mary with the poor apology of manly beauty for the almost insane
passion for him to which she abandoned herself. Then, before the blood of her husband
was dry, and the ruins of the Kirk-of-Field had ceased to smoke, came her marriage with
Bothwell, whom the nation held to be the chief perpetrator of the cruel murder of her
former husband. To take in marriage that hand which had spilt her husband's blood was
to confess in act what even she dared not confess in words. From this moment her fatuous
career becomes more reckless, and she rushes onward with awful speed towards the goal.
Aghast at such a career, and humiliated by being ruled over by such a sovereign, her
subjects broke out in insurrection. The queen flew to arms; she was defeated on the field
of Carberry Hill and brought as a captive to Edinburgh; thence sent to Lochleven Castle,
where she endured a lonely imprisonment of some months. Escaping thence, she fled on
horseback all night long, and at morning presented herself at the castle-gates of the
Hamiltons. Here she rallied round her the supporters whom her defeat had scattered, and
for the last time tried the fortune of arms against her subjects on the field of Langside,
near Glasgow. The battle went against her, and she fled a second time, riding night and
day across country towards the Border, where, fording the Solway, she bade adieu to
Scottish soil, nevermore to return. She had left her country behind, not her evil genius,
nor her ill-fortune; these, as a terrible Nemesis, accompany her into England. There,
continuing to be the principal card in the game the Popish Powers were playing, she was
drawn to conspire against the life and throne of Elizabeth. It was now that doom overtook
her. On a dull winter morning, on the 8th of February, she who had dazzled all eyes by
her beauty, all imaginations by her liveliness and gaiety, and who had won so many
hearts by her fascinating address -- the daughter of a king, the wife of a king, and the
mother of a king, and who herself had sat on two thrones – laid her head, now
discrowned, gray with sorrows, and stained with crimes, upon the block. At the very time
that the Armada was being built in the dockyards of Spain, and an immense host was
being collected in the Netherlands, with the view of making vacant Elizabeth's throne,
and elevating Mary Stuart to it, the head of the latter princess fell on the scaffold.
It is noteworthy that Queen Mary survived all who had been actors along with her in the
scenes of crime and blood in which she had so freely mingled. Before she herself
mounted the scaffold, she had seen all who had sided with her in Scotland against Knox
and the Reformation, die on the gallows or in the field. Before her last hour came, the
glory of the House of Hamilton had been tarnished, and the member of that house who
fired the shot that deprived Scotland of her "Good Regent" had to seek asylum in France.
Kirkaldy of Grange, who espoused Mary's quarrel at the last hour, and held the Castle of
Edinburgh in her behalf, was hanged at the Market Cross; and Maitland of Lethington,
who had lent the aid of his powerful talents to the queen to bring Knox to the block, died,
it is supposed, by his own hand, after living to witness the utter wreck of all Mary's
interests in Scotland. Bothwell, who had stained his life and conscience with so many
horrid deeds to serve her, rotted for years in a foreign dungeon, and at last expired there.
The same fatality attended all in other lands who took part with her or embarked in her
schemes. Her co-conspirators in England came to violent ends. The Earls of
Westmoreland and Northumberland were executed. The Duke of Norfolk, the premier
peer, was beheaded in the Tower. All concerned in the Babington plot were swept off by
the ax. In France it was the same. Her uncles had died violent and bloody deaths; Charles
IX expired, blood flowing from every opening in his body; Catherine de Medici, after all
her crimes, trod the same road; and last of all Mary herself went to her great audit. As she
stands this dark morning beside the block in Fotheringay Castle, it could hardly fail to put
a double sting into death to reflect that she had seen the ruin of all her friends, and the
utter overthrow of all her projects, while the Reformation against which she had so sorely
combated was every year striking its roots deeper in her native land.
From this blood-stained block, with the headless corpse of a queen beside it, we turn to
another death-scene, tragic too – not with horrors, as the other, but with triumph. We
stand in a humble chamber at the foot of the High Street of Edinburgh. Here, on this bed,
is laid that head over which so many storms had burst, to find at last the rest which,
wearied with toil and anxiety, it had so earnestly sought. Noblemen, ministers, burgesses
pour in to see how Knox will die. As he had lived so he dies, full of courage. From his
dying bed he exhorted, warned, admonished all who approached him as he had done from
the pulpit. His brethren in the ministry he adjured to "abide by the eternal truth of the
gospel." Noblemen and statesmen he counseled to uphold the "evangel" and not forsake
the church of their native land, if they would have God not to strip them of their riches
and honors. He made Calvin's sermons on the Ephesians be read to him, as if his spirit
sought to commune once more on earth with that mightier spirit.
But the scriptures were the manna on which he mostly lived: "Turn," said he to his wife,
"to that passage where I first cast anchor, the seventeenth of the gospel of John." In the
midst of these solemn scenes, a gleam of his wonted geniality breaks in. Two intimate
friends come to see him, and he makes a cask of French wine which was in his cellar be
pierced for their entertainment, and hospitably urges them to partake, saying that "he will
not tarry till it be all drunk." He was overheard breathing out short utterances in prayer:
"Give peace to this afflicted commonwealth; raise up faithful pastors." On the day before
his death, being Sunday, after lying some time quiet, he suddenly broke out, "I have
fought against spiritual wickedness in heavenly things," referring to the troubled state of
the church, "and have prevailed; I have been in heaven and taken possession, I have
tasted of the heavenly joys." At eleven o'clock in the evening of the 24th of November,
he heaved a deep sigh, and ejaculated, "Now it is come." His friends desired of him a sign
that he died in peace, whereupon, says the chronicler of his last hours, "As if he had
received new strength in death, he lifted one of his hands towards heaven, and sighing
twice, departed with the calmness of one fallen into sleep."
The two master-qualities of Knox were faith and courage. The fundamental quality was
his faith, courage was the noble fruit that sprang from it. The words of Regent Morton,
spoken over his dust, have become proverbial, "There lies one who never feared the face
of man." John Knox did not fear man because he trusted God. His faith taught him, first
of all, a fearless submission of his understanding to the Word of God. To this profound
submission to the Bible we can trace all the noble and rare qualities which he displayed in
his life. To this was owing the simplicity, the clearness and the vigor of all his views, his
uniform consistency, and that remarkable foresight which to his countrymen appeared to
approach almost to prophecy. Looking along the lines of the Divine government, as
revealed in the scriptures, he could foretell what would inevitably be the issue of a certain
course of conduct or a certain train of events. It might come sooner or it might come
later, but he no more doubted that it would come than he doubted the uniformity and
equity of God's rule over men.
To this too, namely, his submission to the Bible, was owing at once the solidity and the
breadth of his reform. Instead of trammeling himself by forms he threw himself fearlessly
and broadly upon great principles. He spread his Reformation over the whole of society,
going down till he had reached its deepest springs, and traveling outwards till he had
regenerated his country in all departments of its action, and in all the spheres of its wellbeing.
He was all advocate of constitutional government, and a friend, as we have seen,
of the highest and widest intellectual culture. It is no proof of narrowness, surely, but of
insight and breadth, that he discerned the true foundation on which to build in order that
his Reformation might endure and extend itself, he placed it upon the Bible. His wide and
patriotic views on public liberty and education, which he held and inculcated, we
gratefully acknowledge; but the great service which he rendered to Scotland was the
religious one – he gave it liberty by giving it the "evangel.”
The same year (1572) which saw Knox descend into the grave beheld the rise of a system
in Scotland, which was styled episcopacy, and yet was not episcopacy, for it possessed no
authority and exercised no oversight. We have already indicated the motives which led to
this invasion upon the Presbyterian equality which had till now prevailed in the Scottish
church, and the significant name borne by the men who filled the offices created under
this arrangement. They were styled Tulchan bishops, being only the image or likeness of
a bishop, set up as a convenient vehicle through which the fruits of the benefices might
flow, not into the treasury of the church, their rightful destination, but into the pockets of
patrons and landlords.
We have seen that Knox resisted this scheme, as stained with the double guilt of simony
and robbery. He held it, moreover, to be a violation of one of the fundamental laws of the
Presbyterian polity, so far as the new bishops might possess any real superiority of power
or rank. This they hardly did as yet, for the real power of the church lay in her courts, and
the Tulchan bishops were subject to the jurisdiction of the Synods and Assemblies
equally with their brethren; but the change was deemed ominous by all the more faithful
ministers, as the commencement of a policy which seemed certain in the end to lay
prostrate the Presbyterianism of the Church of Scotland, and with it the reformed religion
and the liberties of the country.
Meanwhile, numerous other evils grew out of this arrangement. The men who consented
to be obtruded into these equivocal posts were mostly unqualified, some by their youth,
others by their old age; some by inferior talents, others by their blemished character.
They were despised by the people as the tools of the court and the aristocracy. Hardly an
Assembly met but it had to listen to complaints against them for neglect of duty, or
irregularity of life, or tyrannical administration. The ministers, who felt that these abuses
were debasing the purity and weakening the influence of the church, sought means to
correct them. But the government took the side of the Tulchan dignitaries. The regent,
Morton, declared the speeches against the new bishops to be seditious, threatened to
deprive the church of the liberty of her Assemblies, and advanced a claim to the same
supremacy over ecclesiastical affairs which had been declared an inherent prerogative in
the crown of England. Into this complicated and confused state had matters now come
in Scotland.
The man who had so largely contributed by his unwearied labors to rear the Scottish
ecclesiastical establishment, and who had watched over it with such unslumbering
vigilance, was now in his grave. Of those who remained, many were excellent men, and
ardently attached to the principles of the Presbyterian church; but there was no one who
possessed Knox's sagacity to devise, or his intrepidity to apply, the measures which the
crisis demanded. They felt that the Tulchan episcopacy which had lifted up its head in the
midst of them must be vigorously resisted if Presbyterianism was to live, but a champion
was wanting to lead in the battle.
At last one not unworthy to succeed Knox came forward to fill the place where that great
leader had stood. This man was Andrew Melville, who in 1574 returned from Geneva to
Scotland. He was of the Melvilles of Baldovy, in the Mearns, and having been left an
orphan at the age of four years, was received into the family of his elder brother, who,
discovering his genius and taste for learning, resolved to give him the best education the
country afforded. He acquired Latin in the grammar-school of Montrose, and Greek from
Pierre de Marsilliers, a native of France, who taught in those parts; and when the young
Melville entered the University of St. Andrews he read the original text of Aristotle,
while his professors, unacquainted with the tongue of their oracle, commented upon his
works from a Latin translation. From St. Andrews, Melville went to prosecute his studies
at that ancient seat of learning, the University of Paris. The Sorbonne was then rising into
higher renown and attracting greater crowds of students than ever, Francis I, at the advice
of the great scholar Budaeus, having just added to it three new chairs for Latin, Greek,
and Hebrew.
These unlocked the gates of the ancient world, and admitted the student to the philosophy
of the Greek sages and the diviner knowledge of the Hebrew prophets. The Jesuits were
at that time intriguing to obtain admission into the University of Paris, and to insinuate
themselves into the education of youth, and the insight Melville obtained abroad into the
character and designs of these zealots was useful to him in after-life, stimulating him as it
did to put the colleges of his native land on such a footing that the youth of Scotland
might have no need to seek instruction in foreign countries. From Paris, Melville repaired
to Poictiers, where, during a residence of three years, he discharged the duties of regent in
the College of St. Marceon, till he was compelled to quit it by the troubles of the civil
war. Leaving Poictiers, he journeyed on foot to Geneva, his Hebrew Bible slung at his
belt, and in a few days after his arrival he was elected to fill the chair of Humanity, then
vacant, in the famous academy which Calvin had founded ten years before, and which, as
regards the fame of its masters and the number of its scholars, now rivaled the ancient
universities of Europe. His appointment brought him into daily intercourse with the
scholars, ministers, and senators of Geneva, and if the Scotsman delighted in their
urbanity and learning, they no less admired his candor, vivacity, and manifold
acquirements. The Massacre of St. Bartholomew took place during Melville's residence
in Geneva, and that terrible event, by crowding Geneva with refugees, vastly enlarged his
acquaintance with the Protestants of the continent. There were at one time as many as 120
French ministers in that hospitable city, and among other learned strangers was Joseph
Scaliger, the greatest scholar of his age, with whom Melville renewed an acquaintance
which had been begun two years before. The horrors of this massacre, of which he had
had so near a view, deepened the detestation he felt for tyranny, and helped to nerve him
in the efforts he made in subsequent years for the liberties of his native land.
Surrounded with congenial friends and occupied in important labors, that land he had all
but forgotten, till it was recalled to his heart by a visit from two of his countrymen, who,
struck with his great capabilities, urged him to return to Scotland. Having obtained with
difficulty permission from the Senate and Church of Geneva to return, he set out on his
way homeward, with a letter from Beza, in which that illustrious man said that "the
Church of Geneva could not have a stronger token of affection to her sister of Scotland
than by despoiling herself of his services that the Church of Scotland might therewith be
enriched." Passing through Paris on the very day that Charles IX died in the Louvre, he
arrived in Edinburgh in July, 1574, after an absence of ten years from his native country.
"He brought with him," says James Melville, "an inexhaustible treasury of learning, a
vast knowledge both of things human and divine, and, what was better still, an upright
and fervent zeal for true religion, and a firm resolution to devote all his gifts, with
unwearied painfulness, to the service of his Kirk and country without recompense or
On his arrival in Scotland he found the battle against the Tulchan episcopate, so
incongruously joined on to the Presbyterian church, halting for one to lead. Impressed
with the simple order which Calvin had established in Geneva, and ascribing in large
degree to that cause the glory to which that church had attained, and the purity with
which religion flourished in it, and believing with Jerome that, agreeably to the
interchangeable use of the words "bishop" and "presbyter" in the New Testament, all
ministers of the gospel were at first equal, Melville resolved not to rest till he had lopped
off the unseemly addition which avaricious nobles and a tyrannical government had made
to the church of his native land, and restored it to the simplicity of its first order. He
began the battle in the General Assembly of 1575; he continued it in following
Assemblies, and with such success that the General Assembly of 1580 came to a
unanimous resolution, declaring "the office of a bishop, as then used and commonly
understood, to be destitute of warrant from the Word of God, and a human invention,
tending to the great injury of the church, and ordained the bishops to demit their
pretended office simpliciter, and to receive admission as ordinary pastors de novo, under
pain of excommunication."Not a holder of a Tulchan miter but bowed to the decision of
the Assembly.
While, on the one hand, this new episcopacy was being cast down, the church was
laboring, on the other, to build up and perfect her scheme of Presbyterian polity. A
committee was appointed to prosecute this important matter, and in the course of a series
of sittings it brought its work to completion, and its plan was sanctioned by the General
Assembly which met in the Magdalene Chapel of Edinburgh, in 1578, under the
presidency of Andrew Melville. "From this time," says Dr. McCrie, "the Book of Policy,
as it was then styled, or Second Book of Discipline, although not ratified by the Privy
Council or Parliament, was regarded by the church as exhibiting her authorized form of
government, and the subsequent Assemblies took steps for carrying its arrangements into
effect, by erecting presbyteries throughout the kingdom, and committing to them the
oversight of all ecclesiastical affairs within their bounds, to the exclusion of bishops,
superintendents, and visitors."
It may be well to pause and contemplate the Scottish ecclesiastical polity as now
perfected. Never before had the limits of the civil and the ecclesiastical powers been
drawn with so bold a hand as in this Second Book of Discipline. In none of the
confessions of the Reformation had the church been so clearly set forth as a distinct and,
in spiritual matters, independent society as it was in this one. The Second Book of
Discipline declared that "Christ had appointed a government in his church, distinct from
civil government, which is to be executed in his name by such office-bearers as he has
authorized, and not by civil magistrates or under their direction." This marks a notable
advance in the Protestant theory of church power, which differs from the Popish theory,
inasmuch as it is co-ordinate with, not superior to, the civil power, its claims to
supremacy being strictly limited to things spiritual, and subject to the state in things
temporal. The First Book of Discipline was incomplete as regards its arrangements. It
was compiled to meet an emergency, and many of its provisions were necessarily
temporary. But the Second Book of Discipline contained a scheme of church polity,
developed from the root idea of the supernatural origin of the church, and which alike in
its general scope and its particular details was framed with the view of providing at once
for the maintenance of the order, and the conservation of the liberty of the church. The
Parliament did not ratify the Second Book of Discipline till 1592; but that was a
secondary matter with its compilers, for in their view the granting of such ratification
could not add to, and the withholding of it could not take from, the inherent authority of
the scheme of government, which had its binding power from the scriptures or had no
binding power whatever. Of what avail, then, was the ratification of Parliament. Simply
this, that the state thereby pledged itself not to interfere with or overthrow this discipline;
and, further, it might be held as the symbol of the nation's acceptance of and submission
to this discipline as a scriptural one, which, however, the church neither wished nor
sought to enforce by civil penalties.
In 1578, James VI, now twelve years of age, took the reins of government into his own
hand. His preceptor, the illustrious Buchanan, had labored to inspire him with a taste for
learning – the capacity he could not give him – and to qualify him for his future duties as
a sovereign by instructing him in the principles of civil and religious liberty. But
unhappily the young king, at an early period of his reign, fell under the influence of two
worthless and profligate courtiers, who strove but too successfully to make him forget all
that Buchanan had taught him. These were Esme Stuart, a cousin of his father, who now
arrived from France, and was afterwards created Earl of Lennox; and Captain James
Stuart, a son of Lord Ochiltree, a man of profligate manners, whose unprincipled
ambition was rewarded with the title and estates of the unfortunate Earl of Arran. The
sum of what these men taught James was that there was neither power nor glory in a
throne unless the monarch were absolute, and that as the jurisdiction of the Protestant
church of his native country was the great obstacle in the way of his governing according
to his own arbitrary will, it behooved him above all things to sweep away the jurisdiction
of Presbyterianism. An independent Kirk and an absolute throne could not co-exist in the
same realm. These maxims accorded but too well with the traditions of his house and his
own prepossessions not to be eagerly imbibed by the king. He proved an apt scholar, and
the evil transformation wrought upon him by the counselors to whom he had surrendered
himself was completed by his initiation into scenes of youthful debauchery.
The Popish politicians on the continent foresaw, of course, that James VI would mount
the throne of England; and there is reason to think that the mission of the polished and
insinuating but unprincipled Esme Stuart had reference to that expectation. The Duke of
Guise sent him to restore the broken link between Scotland and France; to fill James's
mind with exalted notions of his own prerogative; to inspire him with a detestation of
Presbyterian Protestantism, the greatest foe of absolute power; and to lead him back to
Accordingly Esme Stuart did not come alone. He was in due time followed by Jesuits and
seminary priests, and the secret influence of these men soon made itself manifest in the
open defection of some who had hitherto professed the Protestant faith. In short, this was
an off-shoot of that great plot which was in 1587 to be smitten on the scaffold in
Fotheringay Castle, and to receive a yet heavier blow from the tempest that strewed the
bottom of the North Sea with the hulks of the "Invincible Armada," and lined the western
shores of Ireland with the corpses of Spanish warriors.
The Presbyterian ministers took the alarm. This flocking of foul birds to the court, and
this crowding of "men in masks" in the kingdom, fore-boded no good to that Protestant
establishment which was the main bulwark of the country's liberties: The alarm was
deepened by intercepted letters from Rome granting a dispensation to Roman Catholics to
profess the Protestant faith for a time, provided they cherished in their hearts a loyalty to
Rome, and let slip no opportunity their disguise might offer them of advancing her
interests. Crisis was evidently approaching, and if the Scottish people were to hold
possession of that important domain of liberty which they had conquered they must fight
for it. Constitutional government had not indeed been set up as yet in full form in
Scotland; but Buchanan, Knox, and now Melville were the advocates of its principles;
thus the germs of that form of government had been planted in the country, and its
working initiated by the erection of the Presbyterian church courts; limits had been put
upon the arbitrary will of the monarch by the exclusion of the royal power from the most
important of all departments of human liberty and rights; and the great body of the people
were inflamed with the resolution of maintaining these great acquisitions, now menaced
by both the secret and the open emissaries of the Guises and Rome. But there were none
to rally the people to the defense of the public liberties but the ministers. The Parliament
in Scotland was the tool of the court; the courts of justice had their decisions dictated by
letters from the king; there was no organ through which the public sentiment could find
expression, or shape itself into action, but the Kirk. It alone possessed anything like
liberty, or had courage to oppose the arbitrary measures of the government. The Kirk
therefore must come to the front, and give expression to the national voice, if that voice
was to be heard at all; and the Kirk must put its machinery in action to defend at once its
own independence and the independence of the nation, both of which were threatened by
the same blow. Accordingly, on this occasion, as so often afterwards, the leaders of the
opposition were ecclesiastical men, and the measures they adopted were on their outer
sides ecclesiastical also. The circumstances of the country made this a necessity. But
whatever the forms and names employed in the conflict, the question at issue was, shall
the king govern by his own arbitrary irresponsible will, or shall the power of the throne
be constitutionally limited, based upon scriptural principles?
This led to the swearing of the National Covenant. It is only ignorance of the great
conflict of the sixteenth century that would represent this as a mere Scottish peculiarity.
They were all founded upon the social covenants of the people of God, such as during the
Reformation of Joshua, Hezekiah, and Nehemiah. We have already met with repeated
instances, in the course of our church history, in which this scriptural expedient for
cementing union and strengthening confidence amongst the friends of Protestantism was
had recourse to. The Lutheran princes repeatedly subscribed not unsimilar bonds. The
Waldenses assembled beneath the rocks of Bobbio, and with uplifted hands swore to
rekindle their "ancient lamp" or die in the attempt. The citizens of Geneva, twice over,
met in their great Church of St. Peter, and swore to the Eternal to resist the duke, and
maintain their evangelical confession. The capitals of other cantons also hallowed their
struggle for the gospel by an oath. The Hungarian Protestants followed this example. In
1561 the nobles, citizens, and troops in Erlau bound themselves by oath not to forsake the
truth, and circulated their Covenant in the neighboring parishes, where also it was
subscribed. The Covenant from which the Protestants of Scotland sought to draw
strength and confidence has attracted more notice than any of the above instances, from
this circumstance, that the Covenanters were not a party but a nation, and the Covenant of
Scotland, like its Reformation, was national. The Covenanters swore in brief to resist
Popery, and to maintain Protestantism and constitutional monarchy. They first of all
explicitly abjured the Romish tenets, they promised to adhere to and defend the doctrine
and the government of the reformed Church of Scotland, and finally they engaged under
the same oath to defend the person and authority of the king, "with our goods, bodies, and
lives, in the defense of Christ's Evangel, liberties of our country, ministration of justice,
and punishment of iniquity, against all enemies within this realm and without." It was
subscribed (1581) by the king and his household and by all ranks in the country. The
arrangement with Rome made the subscription of the courtiers almost a matter of course;
even Esme Stuart, now Earl of Lennox, seeing how the tide was flowing, professed to be
a convert to the Protestant faith.
The national enthusiasm in behalf of the Reformed Church was greatly strengthened by
this solemn transaction, but the intrigues against it at court went on all the same. The
battle was begun by the appointment of a Tulchan bishop for Glasgow. The person
preferred to this questionable dignity was Robert Montgomery, minister of Stirling, who,
said the people, "had the title, but my Lord of Lennox (Esme Stuart) had the milk."
The General Assembly of 1582 were proceeding to suspend the new-made bishop from
the exercise of his office, when a messenger-at-arms entered, and charged the moderator
and members, "under pain of rebellion and putting them to the horn," to stop procedure.
The Assembly, so far from complying, pronounced the heavier sentence of
excommunication on Montgomery; and the sentence was publicly intimated in Edinburgh
and Glasgow, in spite of Esme Stuart, who, furious with rage, threatened to poignard the
preacher. It shows how strongly the popular feeling was in favor of the Assembly, and
against the court, that when Montgomery came soon after to pay a visit to his patron
Lennox, the inhabitants of Edinburgh rose in a body, demanding that the town should not
be polluted with his presence, and literally chased him out of it. Nor was he, with all his
speed, about to escape a few "buffets in the neck" as he hastily made his exit at the
wicket-gate of the Potter Row.
The matter did not end with the ignominious expulsion of Montgomery from the capital.
The next General Assembly adopted a spirited remonstrance to the king, setting forth that
the authority of the Church had been invaded, her sentences annulled, and her ministers
obstructed in the discharge of their duty, and begging redress of these grievances.
Andrew Melville with others was appointed to present the paper to the king in council;
having obtained audience, the commissioners read the remonstrance. The reading
finished, Arran looked round with a wrathful countenance, and demanded, "Who dares
subscribe these treasonable articles?" "We dare," replied Melville, and, advancing to the
table, he took the pen and subscribed. The other commissioners came forward, one after
another, and appended their signatures. Even the insolent Arran was abashed; and
Melville and his brethren were peaceably dismissed. Protection from noble or from other
quarter the ministers had none; their courage was their only shield.
There followed some checkered years; the nobles roused by the courageous bearing of
the ministers, made all attempt to free themselves and the country from the ignominious
tyranny of the unworthy favorites, who were trampling upon their liberties. But their
attempt, known as the "Raid of Ruthven," was ill-advised, and very unlike the calm and
constitutional opposition of the ministers. The nobles took possession of the king's
person, and compelled the Frenchmen to leave the country. The year's peace which this
violence procured for the Church was dearly purchased, for the tide of oppression
immediately returned with all the greater force. Andrew Melville had to retire into
England, and that intrepid champion off the scene, the Parliament (1584) overturned the
independence of the church. It enacted that no ecclesiastical Assembly should meet
without the king's leave; that no one should decline the judgment of the king and Privy
Council on any matter whatever, under peril of treason, and that all ministers should
acknowledge the bishops as their ecclesiastical superiors. These decrees were termed the
Black Acts.
Their effect was to lay at the feet of the king that whole machinery of ecclesiastical courts
which, as matters then stood, was the only organ of public sentiment, and the only
bulwark of the nation's liberties. The General Assembly could not meet unless the king
willed, and thus he held in his hands the whole power of the church. This was in violation
of repeated Acts of Parliament, which had vested the church with the power of convoking
and dissolving her Assemblies, without which her liberties were an illusion.
The reformed Church of Scotland was lying in what seemed ruin, when it was lifted up
by an event that at first threatened destruction to it and to the whole Protestantism of
Britain. It was at this time that the storm-cloud of the Armada gathered, burst, and passed
away, but not without rousing the spirit of liberty in Scotland. The Scots resolved to set
their house in order, lest a second Armada should approach their shores, intercepted
letters having made them aware that Huntly and the Popish lords of the north were urging
Philip II of Spain to make another attempt, and promising to second his efforts with
soldiers who would not only place Scotland at his feet, but would aid him to subjugate
England. Even James VI paused in the road he was traveling towards that oldest and
staunchest friend of despotic princes, the Church of Rome, seeing his kingdom about to
depart from him. His ardor had been cooled, too, by the many difficulties he had
encountered in his attempts to impose upon his subjects a hierarchy to which they were
repugnant; and either through that fickleness and inconstancy which were a part of his
nature, or through that incurable craft which characterized him as it had done all of his
race, he became for the time a zealous Presbyterian. Nay, he "praised God that he was
born in such a place as to be king in such a Kirk, the purest Kirk in the world. I,
forsooth," he concluded, "as long as I brook my life and crown shall maintain the same
against all deadly”. Andrew Melville had returned from London after a year's absence,
and his first care was to resuscitate the Protestant liberties which lay buried under the late
Parliamentary enactments. Nor were his labors in vain. In 1592, Parliament restored the
Presbyterian church as it had formerly existed, ratifying its government by Kirk-sessions,
Presbyteries, Provincial Synods, and National Assemblies.
This Act has ever been held to be the grand charter of Presbyterianism in Scotland. It was
hailed with joy, not as adding a particle of inherent authority to the system it recognized –
the basis of that authority the Church had already laid down in her Books of Discipline –
but because it gave the Church a legal pledge that the jurisdiction of the Romish Church
would not be restored, and by consequence, that of the Reformed Church not overthrown.
This Act gave the Church of Scotland a legal ground on which to fight her future battles.
But James VI was incapable of being long of one mind, or persevering steadily in one
course. In 1596 the Popish lords, who had left the country on the suppression of their
rebellion, returned to Scotland.
Notwithstanding that they had risen in arms against the king, and had continued their
plots while they lived abroad, James was willing to receive and reinstate these
conspirators. His Council were of the same mind with himself. Not so the country and the
church, which saw new conspiracies and wars in prospect, should these inveterate plotters
be taken back.
Without loss of time, a deputation of ministers, appointed at a convention held at Cupar,
proceeded to Falkland to remonstrate with the king on the proposed recall of those who
had shown themselves the enemies of his throne and the disturbers of his realm. The
ministers were admitted into the palace. It had been agreed that James Melville, the
nephew of Andrew, for whom the king entertained great respect, being a man of
courteous address, should be their spokesman. He had only uttered a few words when the
king violently interrupted him, denouncing him and his associates as seditious stirrers up
of the people. The nephew would soon have succumbed to the tempest of the royal anger
if the uncle had not stepped forward. James VI and Andrew Melville stood once more
face to face. For a few seconds there was a conflict between the kingly authority of the
sovereign and the moral majesty of the patriot. But soon the king yielded himself to
Melville. Taking James by the sleeve, and calling him "God's sillie vassal," he proceeded,
says McCrie, "to address him in the following strain, perhaps the most singular, in point
of freedom, that ever saluted royal ears, or that ever proceeded from the mouth of loyal
subject, who would have sprit his blood in defense of the person and honor of his prince:
"Sir," said Melville, "we will always humbly reverence your Majesty in public, but since
we have this occasion to be with your Majesty in private, and since you are brought into
extreme danger both of your life and crown, and along with you the country and the
church of God are like to go to wreck, for not telling you the truth and bring you faithful
counsel, we must discharge our duty or else be traitors, both to Christ and you. Therefore,
sir, as divers times before I have told you, so now again I must tell you, there are two
kings and two kingdoms in Scotland: there is Christ Jesus the King of the church, whose
subject King James the Sixth is, and of whose kingdom he is not a king, nor a lord, nor a
head, but a member... We will yield to you your place, and give you all due obedience;
but again I say, you are not the head of the church; you cannot give us that eternal life
which even in this world we seek for, and you cannot deprive us of it. Permit us then
freely to meet in the name of Christ, and to attend to the interests of that church of which
you are the chief member. Sir, when you were in your swaddling-clothes, Christ Jesus
reigned freely in this land, in spite of all his enemies; his officers and ministers convened
for the ruling and the welfare of his church, which was ever for your welfare, defense,
and preservation, when these same enemies were seeking your destruction and cutting
off. And now, when there is more than extreme necessity for the continuance of that duty,
will you hinder and dishearten Christ's servants, and your most faithful subjects,
quarreling them for their convening, when you should rather commend and countenance
them as the godly kings and emperors did?" The storm, which had risen with so great and
sudden a violence at the mild words of the nephew, went down before the energy and
honesty of the uncle, and the deputation was dismissed with assurances that no favor
should be shown the Popish lords, and no march stolen upon the liberties of the church.
But hardly were the ministers gone when steps were taken for restoring the insurgent
nobles, and undermining the ecclesiastical jurisdiction. The policy adopted for
accomplishing this was singularly subtle, and reveals the hand of the Jesuits, of whom
there were then numbers in the country.
First of all, the king preferred the apparently innocent request that a certain number of
ministers should be appointed as assessors, with whom he might advise in "all affairs
concerning the weal of the church." Fourteen ministers were appointed: "the very
needle," says James Melville, "which drew in the episcopal thread." The second step was
to declare by Act of Parliament that Prelacy was the third Estate of the Realm, and that
those ministers whom the king chose to raise to that dignity should be entitled to sit or
vote in Parliament. The third step was to enact that the church should be represented in
Parliament, and that the fourteen assessors already chosen should form that
representation. The matter having reached this hopeful stage, the king adventured on the
fourth and last step, which was to nominate David Lindsay, Peter Blackburn, and George
Gladstanes to the vacant bishoprics of Ross, Aberdeen, and Caithness. The new-made
bishops took their seats in the next Parliament. The art and finesse of the king and his
counselors had triumphed; but his victory was not yet complete, for the General
Assembly still continued to manage, although with diminished authority and freedom, the
affairs of the church.
The war we have been contemplating was waged within a small area, but its issue was
world-wide. The ecclesiastical names and forms that appear on its surface may make this
struggle repulsive in the eyes of some. Waged in the Palace of Falkland, and on the floor
of the General Assembly, these contests are apt to be set down as having no higher origin
than clerical ambition, and no wider object than ecclesiastical supremacy. But this, in the
present instance at least, would be a most superficial and erroneous judgment. We see in
these conflicts infant Liberty struggling with the old hydra of Despotism. The
independence and freedom of Scotland were here as really in question as on the fields
waged by Wallace and Bruce, and the men who fought in the contests which have been
passing before us braved death as really as those do who meet mailed antagonists on the
Nay, more, Scotland and its Kirk had at this time become the keystone in the arch of
European gospel truth and liberty; and the unceasing efforts of the Pope, the King of
Spain, and the Guises were directed to the displacing of that keystone, that the arch which
it upheld might be destroyed. They were sending their agents into the country, and they
were fomenting rebellions. They were also flattering the weak conceit of wisdom and of
arbitrary power in James. They not only wanted to rid Scotland of its Reformation, but
even more they coveted a door by which to enter England, and suppress its Reformation,
which they regarded as the main element necessary to complete the success of their
schemes for the total extermination of Protestantism. With servile Parliaments and a
spiritless nobility, the public liberties as well as the Protestantism of Scotland would have
perished but for the vigilance, and intrepidity of the Presbyterian ministers, and, above
all, the incorruptible, the dauntless and unflinching courage and patriotism of Andrew
Because of the righteous zeal of men like Knox and Melville, idolatry was made
punishable by death in the realm of Scotland, that God's favor might not depart from the
land. Thus, by the 104th act, Parliament 7, of James VI, not only were Romish masses
prohibited, but pilgrimages, saints' days, carols, and other Papistical rites, under this
penalty, if they continued in these practices after pecuniary pains were inflicted. Likewise
by James VI's Parliament 6, chapter 71, ratified by the Scotch act of King William 1700,
all persons, going abroad for education, were obliged within twenty days after their return
to make the confession of their faith as then established, or to fly the kingdom within
forty days thereafter, or be pursued as adversaries to the religion. The Reformation in
Scotland by such efforts was arguably carried further than in any other nation of the
world. And only when Scotland ceased to have leaders and to be led by such honorable
men as these, did the glory of God depart from this covenanted nation.

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