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§ 87. The Reformation in Scotland.


I. Confessions.

[Wm. Dunlop]: A Collection of Confessions of Faith, Catechisms, Directories, Books of Discipline, etc., of publick Authority in the Church of Scotland. Edinburgh, 1719–22, 2 vols.

Horatius Bonar: Catechisms of the Scottish Reformation. With Preface and Notes. London, 1866.

Alexander Taylor Innes (Solicitor before the Supreme Court of Scotland): The Law of Creeds in Scotland. A Treatise on the Legal Relation of Churches in Scotland, established and not established, to their Doctrinal Standards. Edinburgh, 1867 (pp. 495).

II. History of the Reformation and Church in Scotland.

Wodrow Society's Publications: 24 vols. 8vo. Lond. 1842 sqq. Comprising Knox's Works, Calderwood's History of the Kirk of Scotland, Autobiography of Robert Blair (1593–1636), Scott's Apologetical Narration (1560–1633), Twedie's Select Biographies, The Wodrow Correspondence, and other works. (The Wodrow Society was founded in 1841, in honor of Robert Wodrow, an indefatigable Scotch Presbyterian historian, b. 1679, d. 1734, for the publication of the early standard writings of the Reformed Church of Scotland.)

Spottiswoode Society's Publications. 16 vols. 8vo. Edinburgh, 1844 sqq. Comprising Keith's History (to 1568), the Spottiswoode's History and Miscellany, etc.

John Knox (1505–1572): Historie of the Reformation of Religioun in Scotland (till 1567). Edinburgh, 1584; London, 1664; better ed. by McGavin, Glasgow, 1831. Best ed. in complete Works, edited by David Laing, Edinburgh, 1846–64. 6 vols. (The first two vols. contain the History of the Reformation, including the Scotch Conf. of Faith and the Book of Discipline.)

George Buchanan (1506–1682): Rerum Scoticarum Historia. Edinburgh, 1582; Aberdeen, 1762; in English, 1690.

John Spottiswoode: History of the Church and State of Scotland (from 203 to the death of James VI.). London, 1668; 4th ed. 1677: ed. by the Spottiswoode Society, Edinburgh, 1847–51, in 3 vols. (John Spotswood, or Spottiswoode, was b. 1565; Archbishop of Glasgow, 1603, and then of St. Andrew's, 1615, and Chancellor of Scotland, 1635; the first in the succession of the modified Scotch episcopacy introduced by James; was obliged to retire to England, and died in London, 1639.)

David Calderwood (a learned and zealous defender of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, d. 1650): The History of the Kirk of Scotland. (London, 1678.) New ed. by Thomas Thomson. Edinburgh, 1842–49, 8 vols. (Wodrow Soc.)

Sir James Balfour (King-at-arms to Charles I. and II.): Historical Works published from the Original MSS. Edinburgh, 1824, 4 vols. (Contains the Annals and Memorials of Church and State in Scotland, from 1057 to 1652.)

Robt. Keith (Primus Bishop of the Scotch Episcopal Church, Bishop of Fife, d. 1757): History of the Affairs of Church and State in Scotland, from the Beginning of the Reformation to the Retreat of Queen Mary into England, 1568. Edinburgh, 1734, fol. (reprinted by the Spottiswoode Soc. in 2 vols. 8vo). By the same: An Historical Catalogue of the Scottish Bishops down to the year 1688. New ed. by M. Russell. Edinburgh, 1824.

Gilbert Stuart (d. 1786): History of the Reformation of Religion in Scotland (1517–1561). London, 1780 and 1796. By the same: History of Scotland from the Establishment of the Reformation till the Death of Queen Mary. London, 1783, 1784, 2 vols. (In vindication of Queen Mary.)

George Cook: History of the Reformation in Scotland. Edinburgh, 2d ed. 1819, 2 vols. By the same: History of the Church of Scotland, from the Reformation to the Revolution. Edinburgh, 1815, 2d ed. 1819, 3 vols.

Thomas M'Crie (d. 1835): Life of John Knox. Edinburgh, 1811, 2 vols. 5th ed. 1831, and often; Philadelphia, 1845; Works of M'Crie, 1858. By the same: Life of Andrew Melville. London, 1819; 1847, 2 vols.

Thomas M'Crie, Jun.: Sketches of Scottish Church History. 2d ed. 1843.

Prince Alex. Labanoff: Lettres, Instructions, et Mémoirs de Marie Stuart. London, 1844, 7 vols.

Thomas Stephen: History of the Church of Scotland from the Reformation to the Present Time. London, 1843–45, 4 vols.

W. M. Hetherington (Free Church): History of the Church of Scotland till 1843. 4th ed. Edinburgh, 1853 (also New York, 1845), 2 vols.

Gen. Von Rudloff: Geschichte der Reformation in Schottland. Berlin, 1847–49, 2 vols. 2d ed. 1854.

G. Weber: Gesch. der akatholischen Kirchen u. Secten in Grossbritannien. Leipzig, 1845 and 1853 (Vol. I. pp. 607–652; Vol. II. pp. 461–660).


John Cunningham (Presbyt.): Church History of Scotland to the Present Time. 1859. 2 vols.

John Lee: Lectures on the History of the Church of Scotland. Edinburgh, 1860, 2 vols.

George Grubb (Liberal Episcopalian): Ecclesiastical History of Scotland. London, 1861, 4 vols.

A. Teulet: Relation politiques de la France et de l’Espagne avec l’Ecosse, en 16me siècle. Paris, 1862, 5 vols.

Fr. Brandes: John Knox, der Reformator Schottlands. Elberfeld, 1862. (The 10th vol. of Fathers and Founders of the Reformed Church.)

Merle d’Aubigne (d. 1872): History of the Reformation in Europe, in the Time of Calvin. Vol. VI. (1876), chaps. i.–xv. (to 1546). Comp. also his Three Centuries of Struggle (1850).

Dean Stanley (Broad-Church Episcopalian): Lectures on the History of the Church of Scotland, delivered in Edinburgh in 1872 (with a sermon on the Eleventh Commandment, preached in Greyfriars' Church). London and New York, 1872.

Prof. R. Rainy (Free-Church Presbyterian): Three Lectures on the Church of Scotland (against Stanley's praise of Moderatism). Edinburgh, 1872.

Geo. P. Fisher: History of the Reformation, pp. 351 sqq. (New York, 1873).

Peter Lorimer, D.D. (Prof. in the English Presbyterian College, London): Patrick Hamilton (London, 1857); The Scottish Reformation (1860); John Knox and the Church of England (London, 1875).

Compare also the general and secular Histories of Scotland by Robertson (1759 and often, 2 vols.); Pinkerton (1814, 2 vols.); P. F. Tytler (1828–43, 9 vols., new ed. 1866, 10 vols.); John Hill Burton (from Agricola's Invasion to the Revolution of 1688. London, 1867–70, 7 vols.—From 1689 to 1748. 1870, 2 vols.); the chapters relating to Scotland in the Histories of England by Hume, Lingard (Rom. Cath.), Knight, Ranke, Froude.


The Reformation in Scotland was far more consistent and radical than in England, and resulted in the establishment of Calvinistic Presbyterianism under the sole headship of Christ. While in England politics controlled religion, in Scotland religion controlled politics. The leading figure was a plain presbyter, a man as bold, fearless, and uncompromising as Cranmer was timid, cautious, and conservative. In England the crown and the bishops favored the Reformation, in Scotland they opposed it; but Scotch royalty was a mere shadow compared with the English, and was, during that crisis, represented by a woman as blundering and unfortunate as Elizabeth was sagacious and successful. George Buchanan, the Erasmus of Scotland, the classical tutor of Mary and her son James, maintained, as the Scotch doctrine, that governments existed for the sake of the governed, which in England was regarded at that time as the sum of all heresy and rebellion.12951295   His book, De jure regni apud Scotos (1569), was burned at Oxford in 1683, together with the works of Milton. When James became king of England, he blessed God's gracious goodness for bringing him 'into the promised land, where religion is purely professed, where he could sit amongst grave, learned, and reverend men; not as before, elsewhere, a king without state, without honor, without order, where beardless boys would brave him to the face.'12961296   So he addressed the English prelates at the Hampton Court Conference. Fuller, Church History of Britain, Vol. V. pp. 267 sq.


The Scotch Reformation was carried on, agreeably to the character of the people of that age and country, with strong passion and violence, and in close connection with a political revolution; but it elevated Scotland at last to a very high degree of religious, moral, and intellectual eminence, which contrasts most favorably with its own mediæval condition, as well as with the present aspect of Southern Roman Catholic countries, once far superior to it in point of civilization and religion.12971297   Thomas Carlyle calls the Scotch Reformation 'a resurrection from death to life. It was not a smooth business; but it was welcome surely, and cheap at that price; had it been far rougher, on the whole, cheap at any price, as life is. The people began to live; they needed first of all to do that, at what cost and costs soever. Scotch literature and thought, Scotch industry; James Watt, David Hume, Walter Scott, Robert Burns: I find Knox and the Reformation acting in the heart's core of every one of these persons and phenomena; I find that without the Reformation they would not have been. Or what of Scotland? The Puritanism of Scotland became that of England, of New England. A tumult in the High Church of Edinburgh spread into a universal battle and struggle over all these realms; then came out, after fifty years' struggling, what we call the glorious Revolution, a Habeas-Corpus Act. Free Parliaments, and much else!'—Heroes, Lect. IV.

In the middle of the sixteenth century the Scotch were still a semi-barbarous though brave and energetic race. Their character and previous history are as wild and romantic as their lochs, mountains, and rapids, and show an exuberance of animal life, full of blazing passions and violent commotions, but without ideas and progress. The kings of the house of Stuart were in constant conflict with a restless and rebellious nobility and the true interests of the common people. The history of that ill-fated dynasty, from its fabulous patriarch Banquo, in the eleventh century, down to the execution of Queen Mary (1587), and the final expulsion of her descendants from England (1688), is a series of tragedies foreshadowed in Shakspere's 'Macbeth,' where crimes and retributions come whirling along like the rushing of a furious tempest. The powerful and fierce nobility were given to the chase and the practice of arms, to rapine and murder. Their dress was that of the camp or stable; they lived in narrow towers, built for defense, without regard to comfort or beauty. They regarded each other as rivals, the king as but the highest of their own order, and the people as mere serfs, who lived scattered under the shadow of castles and convents. The patriarchal or clan system which prevailed in the Highlands, and the feudal system which the Norman barons superinduced 672in the south, kept the nation divided into a number of jealous and conflicting sections, and made the land a scene of chronic strife and anarchy.

In this unsettled state of society morals and religion could not flourish. The Church kept alive the faith in the verities of the supernatural world, restrained passion and crime, distributed the consolations of religion from the cradle to the grave, and built such monuments as the Cathedral of Glasgow and the Abbey of Melrose; but it left the people in ignorance and superstition. It owned the full half of all the wealth of the nation from times when land was poor and cheap, and it had the controlling influence in the privy council, the parliament, and over the people. But this very wealth and political power became a source of corruption, which rose to a fearful height before the Reformation. The law of celibacy was practically annulled, and the clergy were shamefully dissolute and disgracefully ignorant. Some priests are said to have regarded Luther as the author of the New Testament. The bishops and abbots, by frequently assisting the king against the nobles, and rivaling with them in secular pomp and influence, excited their envy and hatred, which hastened their ruin.

Owing to its remoteness, poverty, and inhospitable climate, Scotland was more free than England from the interference of the pope and his Italian creatures. But this independence was rather a disadvantage, for without preventing the progress of the native corruptions, it kept off the civilizing influences of the Continent, and removed the check upon the despotism of the king. James III. usurped the right of filling the episcopal vacancies without the previous election of the chapters and the papal sanction, and consulted his temporal interest more than that of religion. Simony of the most shameful kind became the order of the day. James V. (1528–42) provided for his illegitimate children by making them abbots and priors of Holyrood House, Kelso, Melrose, Coldingham, and St. Andrew's. Most of the higher dignities of the Church were in the hands of the royal favorites and younger sons of the nobility, who were sometimes not ordained, nor even of age, but who drew, nevertheless, the income of the cathedrals and abbeys, and disgraced the holy office. 'By this fraudulent and sacrilegious dealing'—says an impartial old authority—'the rents and benefices of the Church became the patrimony of private families, and persons in 673no ecclesiastical orders, and even boys too, were, by the presentation of our kings and the provision of the popes, set over the episcopal sees themselves. The natural result of this was that by far too many of these prelates, being neither bred up in letters, nor having in them any virtuous dispositions, did not only live irregularly themselves, but through neglect of their charge did likewise introduce by degrees such a deluge of ignorance and vice among the clergy and all ranks of men that the state of the Church seemed to call loudly for a reformation of both.'

The first impulse to the Reformation in Scotland came from Lutheran writings and from copies of Tyndale's New Testament. The first preachers and martyrs of Protestantism were Patrick Hamilton, who had studied in Wittenberg and Marburg, and was burned (1528), George Wishart, who shared the same fate (1546), and the aged Walter Mill, who predicted from the flames (Aug. 28, 1558), 'A hundred better men shall rise out of the ashes of my bones, and I shall be the last to suffer death in Scotland for this cause.'

In the mean time God had prepared the right man for this crisis.

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