John Knox


John Knox was born in Gifford in East Lothian, Scotland and studied at St. Andrews under John Mair, who was a renowned scholar. Knox excelled as a student and after immersing himself in philosophy he began studying the writings of Augustine and Jerome. Knox graduated from St. Andrews and was ordained in 1536 and began to work as a tutor. In 1543 Knox came to a knowledge of the true Gospel under the preaching of Thomas Williams, a Black Friar who had come to a knowledge of the truth of salvation through reading the Scripture. Knox soon became a follower of the preacher George Wishart and served as a member of his bodyguard, carrying a large broadsword and traveling with Wishart throughout Scotland. After Wishart’s arrest and martyrdom a group of Wishart’s supporters, among them some noblemen, took control of the castle of St. Andrews and were besieged by French ships. Knox joined those under siege and was voted in as the chaplain, which at first he declined. After hearing Dean John Annand preaching that the Roman church was still the true church of God, Knox stood up and, interrupting the sermon, declared that Rome was not the bride of Christ but a harlot. The congregation demanded that Knox support his declaration. Therefore on the next Lord’s Day Knox preached his first sermon, which was on the harlotries of Rome and its illegitimacy as a church. St. Andrews surrendered in July of 1547 to the French and most of the Protestants, including Knox, were taken to France and condemned to be galley slaves. While on the ship mass was held and as an image of the Virgin Mary was being passing around to be kissed and worshiped, Knox grabbed the image and threw it overboard crying: “Now let our lady save herself. She is light enough, let her learn to swim!” After 18 months of suffering in the horrendous conditions of the galleys, through the intervention of King Edward VI of England, Knox and the other Protestants were released and sent to England. For a year Knox preached in Berwick, Newcastle and London and in 1551 was appointed as one of Edward VI’s chaplains. He helped with the 1552 revision of the Book of Common Prayer. Edward VI, who greatly enjoyed Knox’s preaching, offered him the Bishopric of Rochester and the Vicarship of All Hallows Church. He declined both positions, believing that there were only to be preachers, elders and deacons in the church and that there should not be a hierarchy in the church. Knox also spoke out against kneeling to receive the elements during the Lord’s Supper. In 1553 Edward VI died.  Soon Mary I came to the throne and began her persecution of Protestants and Knox fled to France. Knox visited Heinrich Bullinger in Zürich and then went to Geneva to meet with John Calvin. Through the request of Calvin Knox became the minister of a church of English and Scottish refugees in Frankfurt. In Frankfurt Knox was at the center of a heated debate over the order of worship in the church service. Some of the members of the church wanted to use the 1552 Book of Common Prayer, others Calvin’s Genevan Order of Service, while still others desired to use the service book that tried to blend the two which was by one of their members, William Whittingham, who would later marry Calvin’s sister. Knox was not pleased with any of the service books so he wrote his own which he called the Book of Common Order. Knox’s service book was rejected by the majority of the congregation and Knox was dismissed as the minister. Those in favor of the Book of Common Prayer refused to even worship in the same building as Knox and convinced the city council to bar him from preaching. After leaving Frankfurt Knox returned to England briefly to marry the young Marjory Bowes, to whom he had been engaged for over two years. Knox spent nine months preaching throughout Scotland and meeting with members of the nobility, until he was tried for heresy and fled the country. In 1556 Knox, along with his wife and mother-in-law, traveled to Geneva where he co-pastored the English congregation there with his good friend William Whittingham. With input from Calvin and Beza, Knox aided Whittingham in preparing the Geneva Bible, which was an English Bible with Reformed study notes. Calvin wrote of Knox’s wife that she was “a wife whose like is not to be found everywhere.” While in Geneva Knox and Marjory had two sons, Nathanael and Eleazar, who after their father’s death became ministers in the Anglican Church. Knox’s stay in Geneva was rejuvenating and helped prepare him for his future ministry in Scotland. Knox called Geneva, “the most perfect school of Christ that ever was on earth since the days of the Apostles.” While in Geneva Knox wrote several pamphlets on the Christian’s duty to disobey, resist and even remove ungodly rulers. In A Godly Letter Knox argued that a nation could incur corporate guilt for tolerating evil; if the people permitted Catholicism to remain their nation would be judged by God.  In The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, Knox argued that Christians should rebel against women rulers since they were contrary to God’s created order, which placed men as the rulers of family, church and state. This pamphlet was aimed at Mary I of England, Mary Queen of Scots and Mary of Guise, the Regent of Scotland. He wrote: “To promote a woman to bear rule, superiority, dominion, or empire above any realm, nation, or city is repugnant to nature, contemptuous to God, a thing most contrarious to his revealed will and approved ordinance, and finally it is the subversion of good order, of all equity and justice.” This pamphlet caused Elizabeth I of England to have a great distaste for Knox. In his pamphlet A Vindication That The Mass Is Idolatry Knox taught that idolatry is not only worshipping what is not God, but also is trusting in anything beside God. To honor anything in religion contrary to God’s Word is to lean on something other than God, and thus the mass is idolatry. Knox also taught that God’s law in the Old and New Testaments most be upheld by the state. Knox wrote that if people obey the unjust commandments of evil rulers, they would receive a far more terrible punishment from God than any ruler could inflict upon them for treason. He said that not to revolt against an idolatrous ruler was “plain rebellion against God.” Knox believed that when faithful Christians are in the minority that they are only required to separate themselves from idolatry, but that when they have a majority that they must not just separate from false worship but that they must also abolish it and resist a government that supports idolatry. In his Appellations to the Nobility and Commonality of Scotland, Knox extended to commoners the right and indeed the duty to rebel against tyrannical and ungodly governments. All these pamphlets were widely circulated in Scotland helping to encourage the actions of Protestant noblemen who were working to resist Mary of Guise, the regent of Scotland, and her Catholic government. The Protestant lords signed a covenant pledging to defend “The Congregation of the Lord”. In 1559 Mary of Guise determined to stamp out the growing Protestantism in the country and, strengthened by reinforcements of French troops, called all the Protestant ministers to appear before her on May 1st of that year. The Protestant noblemen, the Earl of Glencairn, the Lord of Erskine, the Lord of Lorn and James Stuart, Earl of Moray, responded by recalling Knox from Geneva and mustering an army at Dundee. On May 4th, 1559 Knox joined the army and marched to Perth where he preached a fiery sermon against idolatry. Soon after the sermon was ended a town priest tried to serve mass. When the priest attacked a boy who spoke out against him a mob formed. The mob removed the church altar, smashed images and going out went from church to church purging them of Roman idols and altars and then on to the monasteries to cleanse them of idols. Knox was blamed for inciting the mob though he was not directly involved. Mary of Guise raised an army, mostly made up of her French mercenaries, and marched to Perth threatening to lay waste the town for their destruction of the images. Through deceit and show of force Mary was able to avoid a battle and took control of Perth. In June of 1559 Knox traveled to St. Andrews to meet with the Earl of Argyll and the Prior of St. Andrews and to preach in the cathedral pulpit. On hearing that Knox planned to preach in the pulpit of the seat of the diocese the archbishop warned Knox that he would send soldiers to shoot him out of the pulpit. Fearing for his life some of Knox’s friends tried to prevent him from preaching, “As for the fear of danger that may come to me, let no man be solicitous; for my life is in the custody of Him whose glory I seek. I desire the hand nor weapon of no man to defend me. I only crave audience; which, if it be denied here unto me at this time, I must seek where I may have it.” Knox preached for four days in a row, after which time on June 14th, the people of St. Andrews set up the Reformed worship in the city and in an orderly way removed all the images and altars in the city. Following the example of St. Andrews the towns of Crail, Cupar, Lindores, Stirling, Linlithgow, Edinburgh and Glasgow also officially adopted Reformed worship and cleansed their cities of monasteries, images and altars. Knox then traveled to Edinburgh, where he preached at St. Giles’s and the Abbey Church. On July 7th, 1559 the people of Edinburgh gathered at Tolbooth and voted in Knox as the minister of the city. In August Knox served Reformed communion at St. Giles’s and daily preached to large crowds from the Book of Haggai, on the rebuilding of the temple. In the same month St. Giles’s held a thanksgiving service and appointed five superintendents. Knox also traveled throughout southern and eastern Scotland preaching the Gospel. On August 1st, 1560, after the death of Mary of Guise and the expulsion of the French soldiers the Scottish Parliament convened in Edinburgh. The Protestants petitioned Parliament requesting them to abolish popery and to establish the Reformed Church as the state church. Parliament in turn asked the Reformed ministers to draw up a confession of faith for them to consider. Knox, with the input of other ministers, drew up a confession in four days. On August 17th, 1560, the confession was adopted by the Parliament and would serve as the confession of faith of the Church of Scotland until 1688 when it was replaced by the Westminster Confession of Faith of 1647. In 1560 Knox had published a treatise on Predestination as he worked to draw up the First Book of Discipline. He also worked to organize a plan for a school in every parish, a college in every town and a university in every city. Knox’s wife died in 1560, which caused him great grief, but he continued to tirelessly labor to advance the Reformation; he wrote: “In twenty-four hours I have not four free to natural rest and ease of this wicked carcass [body]...I have need of a good and an assured horse, for great watch is laid for my apprehension, and large money promised to any that shall kill me.” In May 1561 Knox helped secure an order from Parliament to abolish all the images of worship in the kingdom. In August of 1561 Mary Queen of Scots came to Scotland from France to take her throne, which began over six years of conflict between the Catholic, immoral and manipulative queen and the defenders of the Reformed Church of Scotland. On the first Lord’s Day that she was in Scotland Mary held a mass in her palace. The next Sunday Knox preached a fiery sermon against the mass saying, “a single mass was more fearful to him than if ten thousand armed men were landed in any part of the country, for the purpose of crushing their religion.” Knox was accused of stirring up rebellion to which he replied: “If to teach the truth of God in sincerity, if to rebuke idolatry, and to exhort the people to worship God according to his word, be to raise rebel lion, I certainly am liable to the charge; for it has pleased God of his mercy, to make me an instrument of showing to my countrymen the falseness of popery, the deceit, the pride, and the tyranny of the Roman antichrist.” Several times Mary called Knox before her to answer for his preaching against popery and her immorality. In these interviews Knox was always gracious but unmoving in speaking the truth while she was always emotional and unreasonable. Knox acted on the belief that as a citizen of Scotland and a minister of the Word that he had the right and duty to speak against the sin of the queen, while she believed that any questioning of her actions was a form of treason. In 1564 Knox married the seventeen year old Margaret Stewart, the daughter of Lord Ochiltree, a faithful supporter of Knox. Knox and his second wife had three daughters, Martha, Margaret and Elizabeth. Both Martha and Elizabeth married Reformed Scottish ministers, Elizabeth’s husband John Welch was particularly outspoken in support of the Gospel and the liberties of the Scottish Church. In 1566 Knox received permission from the General Assembly to visit his sons at Cambridge and take a much needed rest, during his absence Mary was removed from the throne and went to England. Knox returned to Scotland and on July 29th, 1567 preached a sermon on the coronation of James VI in Stirling as well as a sermon before Parliament. Knox continued preaching and defending the Reformed Church even as his health began to fail. In 1572 after hearing of the St. Bartholomew’s Eve Massacre in France, Knox preached a forceful sermon against it, which was the last he preached in the St. Giles’s pulpit. After giving over the St. Giles’s pulpit to James Lawson, Knox took up the less demanding preaching post at Tolbooth church. John Knox died on November 24th, 1572 in Edinburgh.                

 Patrick Hamilton


Patrick Hamilton was born about 1503. He was early educated with the purpose of future high preferment. Patrick was as princely in mind as in birth being a gentleman of high rank, the great-grandson of James IIand a nephew of the Earl of Arran and the Duke of Albany and thus was related as well to King James V of Scotland. Patrick Hamilton pursued his studies with great assiduity. To complete his education Patrick Hamilton traveled to Germany where he studied at the University of Wittenburg and at the University of Marburg, at the latter he was the first to introduce public disputations on faith and works. Francis Lambert was of great benefit to Hamilton both in these disputations as well as in his edifying conversations. “…I have hardly ever met a man who expresses himself with so much spirituality and truth on the Word of God.” –Francis Lambert to Philip of Hesse about Patrick Hamilton Here Patrick Hamilton became acquainted with Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon, among other godly men, who instructed him in the knowledge of the true faith. He was diligent to attain the knowledge of it and zealous in his profession of the Gospel.  He determined to return to Scotland, in the face of all the dangers of doing so, and to communicate to his native land the light he had received. Accordingly, Hamilton went, being not much past the age of 23. He taught the Word of God wherever he went and exposed the errors and corruptions of the Roman Catholic Church. Hamilton taught the Gospel to his kinfolk in their mansion, to neighboring gentry, and to groups of laborers in the fields as they rested at noon, among others around him.  He was well received and followed by many, his reputation as a scholar and his courteous demeanor contributing to his usefulness in ministry. A maiden of noble birth who heard Hamilton preach in St. Michael’s Church, Linlithgow had her heart touched and changed by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel message given by him. Her virtues won the heart of the young Patrick Hamilton and he married her a few weeks before his martyrdom. St. Andrews at this time was the grand rendezvous of the Romish clergy, including Archbishop James Beaton, and could, without impropriety, be called the metropolis of the kingdom of darkness. Patrick Hamilton’s teaching and ministry soon came before these men and their hatred of him quickly rose to the height of persecuting rage. They prepared an ambush for Hamilton by prevailing on him to attend a conference with them at St. Andrews and by entreating the young King James V to take a pilgrimage to St. Duthach that he might be out of the way of any appeals to him for Hamilton’s life, which there was reason to believe would be granted. Patrick was arrested at night in the end of February, 1527, being dragged from his bed, and placed as prisoner in the castle. The next day he was brought before Archbishop Beaton and his convention, charged with maintaining and propagating heresy, and condemned, and taken that same day to the secular power where he was likewise condemned. On the afternoon of the same day Patrick Hamilton was hurried to the stake in front of the old Collage (the Romish clergy being afraid of an appeal to King James V). He died in his 24th year on the last day of February, 1527 crying out, “How long, O Lord, shall darkness overwhelm this realm? How long wilt thou suffer this tyranny of men? Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Overruled by the Sovereign Disposer of events his death served the cause of reformation rather than retarded it as it excited very considerable interest and caused people to search out the truth more than before.


“It is not 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 pilgrimage?  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 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.”

–Patrick Hamilton in a sermon at St. Michael’s Church, Linlithgow (the “Versailles of Scotland”), the seat of the Court, to its priests and members of the royal family

“We have found the same Patrick Hamilton, many ways inflamed with heresy, …not being admitted, but of his own head, without license or privilege, hath presumed to preach wicked heresy….that he hath affirmed, published, and taught divers opinions of Luther, and wicked heretics, after that he was summoned to appear before us and our council: that man hath no free will-that man is in sin so long as he liveth-that children, incontinent after their baptism, are sinners- all Christians that be worthy to be called Christians, do know that they are in grace- no man is justified by works, but by faith only- good works make not a man good, but a good man doth make good works- that faith, hope, and charity, are so knit that he that hath the one hath the rest…with divers other heresies and detestable opinions [auricular confession not necessary to salvation; there is no purgatory; penance cannot purchase remission of sins, etc.]; and hath persisted so obstinate in the same, that by no counsel or persuasion he may be drawn there from.” –part of the sentence delivered against Patrick Hamilton and signed by the Archbishops of St. Andrews and Glasgow, the Bishops of Dunkeld, Brechin, and Dunblane, fourteen underlings in the church, and by every one of note in the university including the Earl of Casillis who was then about 13 years old.

Henry Forrest

The second martyr in Scotland was Henry Forrest, a Benedictine monk in the monastery of Linlithgow. He came to the knowledge of the truth through the teaching and example of Patrick Hamilton. Forrest bore witness to the truth that Hamilton “was a martyr, and no heretic.” This, along with the fact that Forrest had a New Testament (probably William Tyndale’s which was intelligible to the Scots of the Lowlands) in his possession, was reported to Archbishop Beaton of St. Andrews. Beaton responded, “He is as bad as Master Patrick, we must burn him.” Henry Forrest was burned at the stake in 1532 on the highest ground in the neighborhood of St. Andrews with the design that the light of his burning would flash across the Tay and warn the men of Angus and Forfarshire to shun his heresy.

“The next two martyrs were David Straiton and Norman Gourley. David Straiton, a Forfarshire gentleman, whose ancestors had dwelt on their lands of Lauriston 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…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 a miracle,’ and began that course of life which soon drew upon him the eyes of the hierarchy. Norman Gourley…had been a student at St. Andrews, and was in priest’s orders. The trial of the two [in 1534] took place in Holyrood House, in the presence of King James V, 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 [between Edinburgh and Leith], and there burned….To the martyrs themselves the fire had no terror, because to them death had no sting.”

–James Wylie in The History of Protestantism

In 1538 five men were martyred together on the Castle-hill of Edinburgh after being condemned in a trial before the cruel and bloodthirsty Archbishop David Beaton. One of these martyrs was Dean Thomas Forrest, a canon regular in the Augustinian monastery of St. Colme Inch in the Frith of Forth. Forrest had come across a neglected and unused volume of Augustine in the monastery; through his perusal of the book he was brought to the knowledge and acceptance of the truth of the Gospel. Forrest was transferred to the rural parish of Dollar, lest he teach his fellow monks the truth, where he lovingly and diligently labored for some years preaching and catechizing until the eyes of the Archbishop Beaton were drawn to him and Forrest was summoned to stand trial before Beaton.

Jerome Russell, a Black Frier, and Alexander Kennedy, a gentleman of Ayrshire, were tried and condemned before the Archbishop of Glasgow for believing the truths of the Gospel and the Reformation, and were burned the following day. Jerome Russell, the older and more courageous of the two, took the hand of the youthful Alexander Kennedy when they were at the stake, and bade him to not fear, “Death,” he said, “cannot destroy us, seeing our Lord and Master has already destroyed it.”  The first disciples in Scotland were men of rank and learning, but their martyrdoms carried the cause of Christ down among the humbler classes as they were observed and discussed, and in consequence the Bible was sought after.

In 1543 Cardinal Beaton went on a tour throughout his diocese, ostentatiously displaying the symbols of his rank, and cruelly hanging, burning, and sometimes drowning those he condemned as heretics in the towns where he chose to set up his tribunal.

“The main forces in Scotland, as in every other country, which weakened the Church of Rome, and eventually overthrew it, were the reading of the Scriptures and the deaths of the martyrs.” –James Wylie

George Wishart

George Wishart was a very humble, modest, benevolent, tenderhearted, and pious man who gave much to the poor including frequently parts of his own apparel. One of his own students writes of Wishart: “He was a man of a tall stature, black-haired, long-bearded, of a graceful personage, eloquent, courteous, ready to teach, and desirous to learn.” As a preacher Wishart had great command over the feelings of his audience and many were brought to Christ under his ministry. Wishart was the brother of the Laird of Pitarrow in the county of Mearns. He was educated at the university of Cambridge where he soon came to be respected for his diligence and progress in useful learning. Returning to Scotland from a great desire to teach the truth in his own country, Wishart taught a school in Montrose for awhile with the great approval of the people. He taught the Greek New Testament to his scholars which brought on the disapproval of the Bishop. After leaving Montrose Wishart acquired greater fame when he gave public lectures on the Epistle to the Romans at Dundee, which was the first of the Scottish burghs to embrace the Reformation. The Roman Catholic clergy were angered and troubled by Wishart’s successful ministry at Dundee and set about plotting his ruin. John Knox was a follower of Wishart and formed a strong attachment to him, waiting constantly on his person.  Wishart was given the gift of foresight in a large degree by our Lord.  Being charged to stop preaching in Dundee in the name of the Queen and of the Governor he replied, “…When I am gone God will send you messengers who will not be afraid either for burning or banishment. I have, at the hazard of my life, remained among you preaching the word of salvation….If it be long well with you, I am not led by the Spirit of Truth; and if unexpected trouble come upon you remember this is the cause, and turn to God by repentance, for He is merciful.” About a month later Wishart learned that the plague had struck Dundee four days after he left, that it was still raging and that great numbers died every day.  Much affected Wishart returned to Dundee and preached to the people, well and infected alike.  He was desired to remain there, which he did, preaching and ministering to the physical needs of the people, not sparing himself from exposure to the plague, even where most malignant, until the plague abated. Another time Wishart received a letter from a friend saying he was ill and desired to see Wishart. Accordingly he set out, but had not gone more than a quarter of a mile when he stopped suddenly and said to those who travelled with him, “I am forbidden by God to go this journey. Will some of you be pleased to ride to yonder place (pointing with his finger to a little hill), and see what you find, for I apprehend there is a plot against my life”; and he turned back to the town of Montrose. Those with him rode forward and found a group of about sixty horsemen waiting to intercept him. It came to light that the letter was a forgery and part of a plot against him by Cardinal David Beaton. Upon learning of the horsemen in hiding Wishart said “I know that I shall end my life by the hands of that wicked man (meaning the Cardinal), but it will not be after this manner.”  In the beginning of the year 1546 George Wishart was taken into custody by the Earl of Bothwell who surrounded the home in which he was so that none could escape and gave falsepromises of safety that no harm would come to Wishart. He was taken to St. Andrews, where the civil judge refused to try him because he was charged with no other crime than preaching the Gospel. Cardinal Beaton angrily said that “he, with his clergy, had power sufficient to bring Mr. Wishart to condign punishment,” and so, without delay, Wishart was summoned to answer for his beliefs and teachings before the officials of the Roman Catholic Church. He was accused of many things including saying that the pope had no more power than any other man, there is no purgatory, we should not pray to the saints, etc., which he answered with great solidity of judgment. They condemned him to be burned as a heretic. Wishart spent all that night in prayer and in the morning the captain of the castle in which he was imprisoned invited him to breakfast with him which Wishart accepted saying, “I will do that very willingly, and so much the rather, because I perceive you to be a good Christian, and a man fearing God.” At the breakfast table Mr. Wishart spoke for about half an hour on the institution of the Lord’s Supper and of our Saviour’s death and passion, and exhorted those present to mutual love and holiness of life, and then led in the observance of the Lord’s Supper with both the bread and cup to all who were disposed to communicate. Shortly afterwards George Wishart was bound and taken to the stake near the Cardinal’s palace. He declared to those present (among other things) “…For the true Gospel, which was given me by the Grace of God, I suffer this day with a glad heart.” He obtained the martyr’s crown on March 1st, 1546.

Walter Mill

Walter Mill was born about 1476. He was educated in the popish religion and was made a priest of Lunan in the shire of Angus until he was condemned in 1538 by the Archbishop of St. Andrews for having ceased to say the mass, which indeed Walter Mill had not done for a long time. Walter Mill escaped to Germany where he was taught more fully the truths of the true religion and he married a wife. Returning to Scotland in 1556 he went about teaching and exhorting the people, seeking to do it in a quiet and retired way. His work of ministry coming at length to the ears of the Catholic church leaders Walter Mill was apprehended and imprisoned in the castle of St. Andrews. He was an old, feeble and lame man at this time and it was feared that none would be able to hear him at his trial. However he spoke in such a loud voice that the church rang and his quickness and courage surprised his enemies. He was accused of saying the mass was idolatry, that priests could marry, speaking against pilgrimages, and other tenets of the Catholic church. Walter Mill, refusing to recant, said “I know I must die once; and therefore, as Christ said to Judas, ‘What thou doest, do quickly.’ You shall know that I will not recant the truth; for I am corn and not chaff; I will neither be blown away by the wind nor burst with the flail, but will abide both.”  He was therefore pronounced a heretic, and ordered to be delivered to a temporal judge and burnt at the stake.  No temporal judge would condemn Walter Mill and the people were so moved by his constancy and angered by the wrong done him that they refused to supply ropes and other materials for his execution. At last Somerville, a servant of the Archbishop, undertook to act the part of the temporal judge and they used the ropes from the Archbishop’s pavilion to bind Walter Mill. And so he died on April 28th, 1558, in the 82nd year of his life cheerfully yielding his soul to his God with his devotion to Christ increasing up to the very end, amidst loud murmurs and lamentations from the assembled people admiring his patience, courage, and constancy, and complaining of the cruelty of his persecutors.  The people were so affected by the fortitude and faithfulness of Walter Mill that they heaped a great pile of stones on the place where he died to preserve the memory of it. The priests ordered it taken down pronouncing a curse on any who would build it again. But the people cared so little for the priests’ curse that what was thrown down in the day was raised again at night until at last the priests secretly at night had the stones removed to other places. The death of this martyr brought about the downfall of popery in Scotland, so inflaming the people that they resolved to openly profess the truth and to resist the papal tyranny with arms before they would be thus abused any longer; which they at last did.

“…I am now eighty-two years old, and cannot live long by course of nature; but an hundred shall rise out of my ashes, who shall scatter you, ye hypocrites and persecutors of God’s people….I trust in God, I shall be the last who shall suffer death, in this fashion, for this cause, in the land…. Dear friends, the cause why I suffer this day, is not for any crime laid to my charge, though I acknowledge myself a miserable sinner before God, but only for the defense of the truth of Jesus Christ, set forth in the Old and New Testaments. I praise God that He hath called me, among the rest of His servants, to seal up His truth with my life; as I have received it of Him, so I willingly offer it up for His glory….” –part of Walter Mill’s last words at the time of his martyr’s death  


James Stuart, Earl of Moray


James Stuart, Earl of Moray, born around 1531, was the natural son of King James V and a half brother of Mary Queen of Scots. As a young boy he was placed under the care of that godly man, George Buchanan, who instilled into him such principles in his early, formative years, as, by the blessing of God, made him an honor and gift to the Scottish people.  He was a principle agent in promoting the work of Reformation from popery in Scotland. He heard John Knox preach in 1555, and early professed his love and zeal for the truth of the Gospel and pure religion. In 1556 James, along with the Earl of Argyle, wrote to John Knox who was then at Geneva, asking Knox to return to Scotland and further the work of Reformation there, which Knox did in 1559. Around 1556 James joined the Lords of the Congregation, noblemen who favored the work of Reformation, and with them purged various churches of images and relics of popery and demolished some monasteries in cleansing superstition and idolatry form Scotland.  By the time James was 19 he was part of the Queen Regent, Mary of Guise’s Privy Council helping to run Scotland’s civil affairs, which he continued to do after her death and throughout much of Mary Queen of Scots’ reign as her chief advisor after her return to Scotland. In this role he used his power and influence to maintain and extend Protestantism without alienating the Catholic Queen Mary. John Knox was irritated by his patience and tact, and thought he was a traitor to the cause. In general, though, James maintained the respect of both the Protestants and Catholics.  He was appointed Regent in 1567, after Mary’s abdication of the throne, during the young King James VI’s minority. James, Earl of Moray, was, in his public and private life, a man worthy of imitation. “Above all his virtues, which were not a few, he shined in piety towards God, ordering himself and his family in such a sort, as did more resemble a church than a court; for therein, besides the exercise of devotion, which he never omitted, there was no wickedness to be seen, nay, not an unseemly or wanton word to be heard. A man truly good, and worthy to be ranked amongst the best governors that this kingdom hath enjoyed, and therefore to this day honored with the title of The good Regent.” (Spottiswoode in his History) During James’ administration as Regent many excellent laws in favor of religious and civil liberty were made which rendered him more the object of hatred by the Hamilton clan and the popish church. Several attempts were made on his life but he escaped them all until he was shot and wounded by James Hamilton. James Stuart, Earl of Moray died in his own lodgings on January 23rd, 1570, having settled his affairs and without speaking a reproachful word of anyone.

“His death was lamented by all good men, who loved him as the public father of his country; even his enemies confessed his merit when dead, they admired his valor in war, his ready disposition for peace, his activity in business, in which he was commonly very successful; the Divine favour seemed to shine on all his actions; he was very merciful to offenders, and equitable in all his decisions. When the field did not call for his presence, he was busied in the administration of justice, by which means the poor were not oppressed, and the terms of law-suits were shortened. His house was like a holy temple; after meals he caused a chapter of the Bible to be read, and asked the opinions of such learned men as were present upon it, not out of vain curiosity, but from a desire to learn, and reduce to practice what it contained.” –Buchanan in his History

George Buchanan

George Buchanan was born in February, 1506 in Killearn, Stirlingshire, Scotland to a family, as he himself characterized it, more notable for its antiquity than opulence. His father died in the flower of his life, and Buchanan’s grandfather, through his extravagance, reduced their family to extreme poverty. However, Buchanan’s frugal mother raised five sons and three daughters to adulthood. Buchanan was a fellow student with John Knox. Showing promise as a student Buchanan’s uncle sent him to University of Paris where he applied himself to his studies, especially to poetry, for which he had some natural genius. Later he attended the University of St. Andrews for a time. Buchanan was an educator teaching at the College de Sainte-Barbe in Paris (as a professor of Latin grammar), the College de Guyenne in Bordeaux, France, and at a school in Portugal. When Buchanan was about 30, he tutored King James V’s natural son James Stuart in whose life his good teaching bore excellent fruit, and in 1562 he served as a classical tutor to Mary Queen of Scots. In 1570 Buchanan was appointed one of young King James VI’s tutors. He served as principal of St. Leonard’s Collage in St. Andrews. Buchanan was a man of letters writing four tragedies, a number of poems, including some about the Franciscans which earned him their hatred and a time of imprisonment,  a treatise entitled De Jure Regni apud Scotos of which it was said “the principles of popular politics, and the maxims of a free government, are delivered with a preciseness and enforced with an energy which no former age had equaled, and no succeeding has surpassed” (Sir James Mackintosh),  a Latin treatise entitled  “A Detection of the Doings of Mary Queen of Scots”, and putting the principal part of David’s Psalms into Latin verse.  Buchanan became a member of the Church of Scotland in 1560 after his return to Scotland from abroad after spending the majority of the previous five years “in the study of the Holy Scriptures, that so he might be able to make a more exact judgment of the controversies in religion, which employed the thoughts, and took up the time, of most of the men of these days.” (John Howie) Buchanan occupied the influential positions of a member of the most important committees and later a Moderator of the General Assemblies from 1563 to 1567, the office of Lord Privy Seal, and he held a seat in Parliament, in whose proceedings he took an active interest.

“He [George Buchanan] was a stoic philosopher who looked not far before him; too easy in his old age....But, not withstanding, he was a man of notable endowments, great learning, and an excellent Latin poet; he was much honored in foreign countries, pleasant in conversation, into which he happily introduced short moral maxims which his invention readily supplied him with upon any emergency.” –Sir James Melville

Robert Rollock

Robert Rollock was born about 1555, descended from the ancient Livingston family. He was a man of modesty, genius and sweet temper. He married, but had no children. Mr. Rollock attended the University of St. Andrews for four years. At the end of his course of study, because he had done so well therein, he was chosen professor of philosophy, which office he filled well for four years. About 1583 Mr. Rollock was invited to a professorship at the newly formed university at Edinburgh, which he accepted at the earnest desire of Mr. James Lawson, John Knox’s successor.  Later he became Principal of the University. In both positions he wrought much good for Christ’s kingdom and the church in educating and personally discipling men for the ministry and in holy living. “He was as diligent in his own studies, as he was careful to promote those of others.” –John Howie Robert Rollock preached every Lord’s Day with much fervency and demonstration of the Spirit, many coming to Christ under his ministry. He wrote several commentaries on various passages and books of the Bible. Theodore Beza, after reading Mr. Rollock’s exposition of the epistles to the Romans and Ephesians, wrote of them that “he had an incomparable treasure, which, for its judiciousness, brevity, and elegance of style, had few equals.” Robert Rollock died on February 8, 1598 in his 43rd year after being ill for some time.

John Craig

John Craig was born in 1512. His father was soon afterwards killed in the battle of Flodden. He was well educated, completing it at the university of St. Andrews. Craig entered a Dominican monastery, but on suspicion of heresy he was imprisoned for awhile. After being released Craig traveled in 1537 to England where he remained a short time, then unto France, and from there to Rome. In Rome Craig came into such favor with the celebrated Cardinal Pole that he was appointed to instruct the novices of the Dominican cloister at Bologna. Craig had access to the library of the Inquisition which was attached to the monastery. In the library Craig discovered and read John Calvin’s Institutes. He quickly embraced and openly avowed the Protestant doctrines he learned in the Institutes. On account of his Protestant beliefs Craig was sent to Rome, tried and condemned to be burned on August 20th, 1559. The day before Craig’s intended execution Pope Paul IV died and the people broke open all the prisons and set the prisoners free. Craig immediately left the city and went to Milan, traveling at night and staying in out of way places during the day to avoid being apprehended. His money soon ran out and Craig was in the extremity of want. God graciously caused a dog to bring him a purse with some gold in it, by which Craig was supported until he was out of danger. Later Craig went to Vienna and preached before the Archduke of Austria (who later wore the imperial crown under the title of Maximilian II) with whom he became a great favorite. When the pope demanded the emperor to send Craig back to Rome, the emperor refused and gave him a safe conduct out of Germany.  Back in Scotland after an absence of 24 years, Craig settled in Edinburgh as John Knox’s colleague and continued there many years. In 1567 Craig was commanded to publish the marriage bans for the Earl of Bothwell and Mary Queen of Scots. He refused to do so because it was unlawful and scandalous, and he told his congregation so. Then Craig told the Earl of Bothwell and the Council to their faces his reasons for opposing the marriage with great boldness. “John Craig … [was] not only a firm friend to the Reformation, but a bold opposer of every encroachment made upon the crown and dignity of the Lord Jesus Christ.” In 1584 John Craig, and some others, refused to subscribe and obey an Act of Parliament in which the king’s power over all estates, both spiritual and temporal, was set forth and they were called on to submit to the bishops, which all ministers, masters of colleges, etc. were required to do. Being called before the council to answer for their refusal, John Craig said that they would find fault with anything repugnant to God’s Word. For this stand Craig was discharged from preaching in Edinburgh any more, and the Archbishop of St. Andrews appointed in his place. When the latter entered the church to preach almost the entire congregation got up and left, and it was not long until Craig was restored to his pulpit. Craig’s ministry in Scotland was conducted for the most part during the reign of Mary Queen of Scots and the beginning of that of her son. He compiled the National Covenant and a catechism, commonly called Craig’s Catechism, which was printed by order of the Assembly in 1591. John Craig faithfully served as a minister of God until 1595 when he resigned his office because of the infirmities of age and being worn out with his labors. He died soon afterwards.

Andrew Melville

Andrew Melville was born on August 1st, 1545 to Richard and Giles Melville in Angus, Scotland, the youngest of their nine sons. Melville’s father died in the battle of Pinkie when Andrew was two years old. His mother died within the next year, leaving Melville an orphan. Melville’s family were adherents to Protestantism before his birth. His oldest brother, Richard, studied for two years under Philip Melanchthon in Wittenberg. When Richard returned to Scotland he was zealous to share the knowledge he had acquired with those around him. Richard cultivated an intimate acquaintance with George Wishart. Melville’s brother Richard took him in after the death of their mother, and, together with his wife, loved and cared for Melville in a most excellent way, giving him the best education the country afforded. Andrew was eleven years old when John Knox came to their area and preached. Besides learning Latin, Melville studied French and Greek from a learned Frenchman, Pierre de Marsilliers, and then finished his classical studies at the University of St. Andrews. When Melville left St. Andrews he was said to be “the best philosopher, poet, and Grecian of any young master in the land.” Melville studied at the University of Paris for a time, after which he spent a season studying and teaching in Poitiers, France and then in Geneva. In Geneva he was a colleague and a student of the reformer Theodore Beza. When Melville returned to Scotland in 1574 after an absence of nearly 10 years, Theodore Beza in a letter to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland wrote: “The greatest token of affection the kirk of Geneva could show to Scotland was that they suffered themselves to be spoiled of Mr. Andrew Melville.” Back in his native country Melville set out to improve and reform Scotland’s schools introducing educational methods he had learned from European scholars. A motivating factor in this work was the knowledge Melville had gained while in Poitiers of the artful and active work of the Jesuits in gaining entrance into the universities in France to take control of the education of the young and seduce and draw them into the Catholic church. He desired to put the universities of Scotland on such a footing that it would be unnecessary for Scottish youth to seek education abroad. Because of Melville’s educational improvements new students came from abroad to study in Scotland and many returned to teach in Reformed institutions overseas. Melville was the principal of the university of Glasgow from 1574-1580, and the principal of St. Mary’s College at St. Andrews University in Edinburgh from 1580 – 1606 where he taught the divinity class. He was the minister of Edinburgh as well at this time, and faithfully witnessed against the encroachments that were being made upon the rights of the church of Christ. Melville succeeded John Knox as a leader of the Scottish church, and, building on the foundation Knox had laid, did much to give the Scottish church its Presbyterian character by replacing bishops and diocesan episcopacy governance with local presbyteries, and striving hard to preserve the independence of the church from state control. Melville took a leading role (which cost him much personal labor and expense) in compiling the Second Book of Discipline (1578). This book contained the Scottish Church’s authorized form of government and was drawn up with great deliberation and care by men who had studied the subject with much attention. It was methodically arranged and its propositions are expressed with precision, conciseness and perspicuity.  Melville acted with a high degree of fortitude and boldness in all he did, he possessed great presence of mind, and was unmoved by the arts of flattery sometimes used with him. “Where the honor of his Lord and Master was concerned, the fear of man made no part of his character.” –John Howie In 1606 Melville, along with some other ministers, was called to England under pretence of settling differences between the king and the church in Scotland, but really to keep them out of the way of the advance of episcopacy there. Melville, on account of his bold and determined defense of the purity of the church and presbyterism against prelacy and because of a Latin poem he had written against the vanity and superstition of the worship of the king and queen, was confined in private homes for about two years and then in the Tower of London for four years. Melville was released only on the condition that he go to the University of Sedan, France and accept there the chair of biblical theology. Constancy and faithfulness in the service of Christ characterized Melville’s entire life. He died in 1622 in Sedan, France.

“Sire, I must tell you, that there are two kings and two kingdoms in Scotland: there is King James, the head of the Commonwealth, and there is Christ Jesus, the Head of the Church, whose subject King James VI is, and of whosekingdom he is not the head, nor a lord, but a member; and they whom Christ hath called, and commanded to watch over His Church, and govern His spiritual kingdom, have sufficient authority and power from Him to do so, which no Christian king or prince should control or discharge, but assist and support, otherwise they are not faithful subjects to Christ. And, Sire, when you were in your swaddling clothes Christ reigned freely in this land in spite of His enemies; His officers and ministers were convened for ruling His Church, which was ever for your welfare.” - Andrew Melville to King James VI in 1596

Scotland was greatly prepared for the Reformation by the education of its people, particularly of the middle class. The state of education in Scotland had always been in advance of what might be expected from its rather backward civilization. This was largely due to the work and enduring influence of the old Celtic Church which had maintained its hold on Scotland for more than seven centuries and believed that educating the people was a religious duty and that it was as important to teach children to read as it was to dispense the sacraments. The Celtic Church’s very complete educational system was taken over into the Roman Catholic church when it supplanted the Celtic Church in 1069. Many Scottish students went to other countries in Europe to further their education which brought them in touch with the intellectual and religious movements abroad.  Many Scottish students were at Oxford University from 1364-1379 (81 students in 1365 alone) when the influence of Wycliffe was the most powerful and Oxford was rampant with Lollardy. It was through these students that Lollard beliefs came to Scotland and it seems to have made great progress there with references to them in contemporary writers and Acts of the Scottish Parliament. Scottish merchants purchased copies of Tyndale’s New Testament in the Low Countries and sent them into Scotland. Lutheran tracts and books were smuggled in by way of Leith, Dundee and Montrose. The authorities tried to put an end to this, but do not seem to have been very successful. An Act of Parliament in 1535 stated that only the clergy were allowed to purchase heretical books (Luther’s, etc.), all other persons possessing them were to give them up within forty days. This Act clearly shows that Reformed writings had spread among the Scottish people to an extent that was seen to be dangerous. The Roman Catholic church at the beginning of the Reformation was fairly wealthy, so far as acreage was concerned, it was secularized to an extent unknown elsewhere, and many of its benefices served to provide for the younger sons of the landed Scottish nobility (of whom many struggled with poverty), with the result that the morals and manners of many of the clergy did not bring honor to their sacred calling. Patrick Hamilton was the first martyr for the Reformation principles in 1528. A succession of men died the martyr’s death in the following years: Henry Forrest in 1533, David Stratton and Norman Gourley in 1534, Duncan Simpson, Forrester, Keillor, Beverage, Forret, Russell, and Kennedy in 1539. George Buchanan was imprisoned, but escaped; as did Alexander Alane (who had sought to convince Patrick Hamilton of his errors, but in so doing was converted himself to Christ). The Scots Parliament and Privy Council sought to assist the church to extirpate the new faith by a series of enactments which declared that the Virgin Mary was to be worshipped and prayers made to her, prayers were to be made to the saints, no one was to argue against or impugn the papal authority, images of the saints canonized by the church were to be in no way dishonored or treated irreverently, no one suspected of heresy, even if he recanted, was eligible to hold any office or to be admitted to the King’s Council, etc. However, in spite of all this legislation, the Lord Governor, the Earl of Arran, in 1543 had to confess that the “heretics” were increasing rapidly and spreading opinions contrary to the Roman church. Political changes also helped give an impetus to the Reformation. The momentous decision to be made was: would Scotland continue with its old French alliance or would it detach itself from France and ally with England? King James V died on December 14th, 1542, leaving the infant Mary at six days old to become Queen. The Earl of Arran was appointed Governor or Regent for the infant Queen in 1543. He chose two ardent reformers, John Rough and Thomas Williams, for his chaplain and preacher respectively. For a time the situation in Scotland was more favorable to the Reformation with some of the previous legislation being changed in its favor, and an Act of Parliament in March of 1543 permitting the possession and reading of a good and true translation of the Old and New Testaments. But a change politically came later that year when Cardinal Beaton was reconciled to the Governor, the treaty with England consenting to a marriage between Edward and Mary was annulled, the ancient league with France was renewed, and Queen Mary was sent to France to be educated by the Guises. Persecution was revived and almost all that had been gained as national policy was lost. The Reformation, however, was growing in the spiritual awakening of the people. George Wishart, the forerunner of Knox, returned to Scotland about 1543, after being abroad. He labored preaching in Scotland until his death at the stake in 1546. Cardinal Beaton was assassinated a few months later, and his castle of St Andrews became a stronghold for those who killed him and others whose lives were threatened by the government. John Knox was persuaded to enter the castle and almost forced to preach. His first sermon placed him at once in the front rank of the Scottish reformers. Knox was away from Scotland from 1547 until 1558, except for one visit. It was on December 3rd, 1557 that the Scottish Protestants organized themselves as a group who later came to be called the Lords of the Congregation. They promised one another “Before the Majesty of God and His congregation, that we (by His grace) shall with all diligence continually apply our whole power, substance, and our very lives, to maintain, set forward and establish the most blessed word of God and His Congregation; and shall labor at our possibilities to have faithful Ministers purely and truly to minister Christ’s Evangel and Sacraments to His people.” This covenant made by the Lords of the Congregation brought immediate consequences; they sent letters to John Knox asking him to return to Scotland, and they directed that Common Prayers (probably the Second Prayer Book of England) be read weekly with lessons from the Old and New Testaments conforming to the Book of Common Prayers, and that preaching of the Word be done in private homes until such a time as the government allowed them to do so publicly. Next elders were chosen by election of the people to whom all promised obedience. Laymen filled the lack of publically recognized ministers, at the head of which was Erskine of Dun. The first regularly constituted Reformed church in Scotland was in the town of Dundee. The Lords of the Congregation petitioned the Queen Mother, who was made Regent in 1554, to allow public worship according to the Reformed fashion, which she agreed to except in Leith and Edinburgh, and to change the way suspected heretics were dealt with, which she refused to allow to come before the Parliment of Scotland. So they petitioned the Parliament directly in which they declared “that since they had not been able to secure a reformation, they had resolved to follow their own consciences in matters of religion; that they would defend themselves and all of their way of thinking if attacked; that if tumults arose in consequence, the blame was with those who refused a just reformation; and that in forwarding this petition they had nothing in view but the reformation of abuses in religion.” –The Works of John Knox Knox returned to Scotland in the early summer of 1559. The Queen Regent and the Lords of the Congregation were facing off, determined on a trial of strength. She threw down the gauntlet by summoning the preachers to appear before her and inhibiting their ministry. The Lords went with their preachers to answer these summons, and addressed a letter to her in which they wrote, among other things, of their hope that she would be used of God to put down idolatry, superstition and abomination in Scotland and to set up and maintain God’s Word and true worship and defend His congregation, that they were grieved that she had not done so, that they must disobey her commands if they were contrary to God’s, that they did humbly submit to her in all that was due her in peace, war, body, and goods and lands, and that their prayer was that “the eternal God would instruct, strengthen, and lead her by His Spirit in the way that was acceptable to Him.” There followed a number of trials of strength, in which the Regent generally had the better as she was supplied with disciplined French troops. The success of the Reformation in Scotland was closely tied up with its progress and acceptance in England and vice versa. The reformers in both countries needed to support the other and work together. Knox had seen this from the beginning, and it was understood by William Cecil and other leaders in England. The years from 1559 to 1567 were very critical in the history of the Reformation. They saw the birth throes of the British nation coming into being. Would Romanisn or Protestantism triumph? The outcome would greatly impact Europe and all of Protestantism. William Cecil, England’s Secretary of State, summed it up thus: “The Emperor is aiming at the sovereignty of Europe, which he cannot obtain without the suppression of the Reformed religion, and, unless he crushes England, he cannot crush the Reformation.” Cecil had a sore battle with his royal mistress, Queen Elizabeth, but in the end he won and aid in the form of money and troops were sent to Scotland to assist the Lords of the Congregation. An English fleet entered the Firth of Forth, and defeated a French force in Leith Fort, etc.; and the end of it was that the French lost their hold on Scotland and never fully recovered it. The Queen Regent died during these hostilities, and now was the time for the reformers to act with wisdom and unity. They had not been idle since Knox had returned to Scotland, but had strengthened the ties uniting them, covenanting to spare neither “labor, goods, substances, bodies, and lives in maintaining the liberties of the whole Congregation and every member thereof, against whatsoever power that shall intend trouble for the cause of religion.” “Sermons are daily, and great audience; though divers of the nobles present are not resolved in religion, yet do they repair to the preachings, which giveth a good hope to many that God will bow their hearts.” –Randolph to Cecil on August 15th, 1560 At the request of the Parliament John Knox and five others prepared The Confession of Faith professed and believed by the Protestants within the Realm of Scotland; it was ratified and approved by the Parliament as “wholesome and sound doctrine, grounded upon the infallible truth of God’s Word”.  “Many offered to shed their blood in defense of the same. The old Lord of Lynsay, as grave and goodly a man as ever I saw, said, ‘I have lived many years, I am the eldest in this Company of my sort; now that it hath pleased God to let me see this day where so many nobles and others have allowed so worthy a work, I will say with Simon, Nunc dimittis.’ ” –Randolph to William CecilThis confession remained the symbol of the Scottish church during its first stormy decades of existence and was more sympathetic and human than many creeds. “Long have we thirsted, dear Brethren, to have notified to the World the Sum of that Doctrine which we profess, and for which we have suffered Infamy and Danger; But such has been the Rage of Satan against us, and against Christ Jesus his eternal Verity lately now again borne amongst us, that to this day no Time has been granted unto us to clear our Consciences as most gladly we would have done.” – The first sentence of the Preface to The Confession of the Faith and Doctrine, Believed and Professed by the Protestants of Scotland It was displaced by the Westminster Confession of 1647, only with the understanding that the later document was “in nothing contrary” to the former, and the former continued authoritative long after 1647.  On August 24th, 1560 the Parliament decreed that “the Bishops of Rome have no jurisdiction nor authority in this Realm in times coming.” They annulled all Acts of previous Parliaments contrary to the Confession of Faith, and forbade the saying, hearing, or being present at mass. The First Book of Discipline, or the Policy and Discipline of the Church was written by Knox and the five men who helped him with the Confession. It was a remarkable document outlining how they thought the Scriptures directed churches to be governed. It put forth a Presbyterian form of government with kirk-sessions, synods and general assemblies, and recognized as officebearers in the church ministers, teachers, elders, deacons, superintendents and readers. It is clearly inspired by Calvin’s ideas in his Institution and follows closely the Ecclesiastical Ordinances of the French Church. The First Book of Discipline was approved by the General Assembly of the church and signed by a large number of the nobles and burgesses. However, it never received the legal sanction given to the Confession because of its chapter on the use of the patrimony or money of the church for the maintenance of religion, the support of education and the help of the poor; the barons in the Parliament had too often used the money of the church for their own purposes, and did not want to sign a document which condemned their conduct.  The General Assembly of the Reformed Church of Scotland met for the first time in Edinburgh on Dec. 20th, 1560; from then on it usually met twice a year, sometimes oftener. A third document was written, variously called The Book of Common Order, The Order of Geneva, and Knox’s Liturgy, which was a directory for the public worship and services of the church. It was usually bound with a metrical version of the Psalms and is often spoken of as the Psalm Book. Calvin’s Catechism, then the Heidelburg Catechism were translated and used to instruct the youth in the faith. These were both superseded by Craig’s Catechism which later gave way to Larger and Shorter Catechisms. The Scottish reformers paid great attention to education, and the people craved education. The three universities took on new life and a fourth was founded. Scotch students educated on the Continent who were reformed in their beliefs were employed to superintend the newly organized educational system. Day schools were given preference over boarding schools and a system of inspection was set up in each circle of parishes by its most pious and learned men. Barely a year had elapsed between the return of Knox to Scotland and the establishment of the Reformed religion by the Estates. John Calvin wrote from Geneva on November 8th, 1559, “As we wonder at success incredible in so short a time, so also we give great thanks to God, whose special blessing here shines forth.” The victory, however, was not secured. Mary Queen of Scots and her husband Francis II refused to ratify the Acts of the Estates of 1560. It was not until 1567 when Mary was deposed that these Acts were legally placed on the Statute Book of Scotland. The young, widowed, fascinating, crafty and unscrupulous Mary Queen of Scots returned to Scotland from France in August of 1561. She was brought up and trained by a deadly enemy of the Reformation, the Cardinal of Lorraine, to overthrow the Reformation and win back Scotland and England to the deadliest type of Romanism. She made it clearly to be understood that this was her intention. Queen Mary had many secret designs and plans to carry out this intention and to reduce Scotland to a mere appendage of France. She followed, however, a policy of religious tolerance in Scotland during her few years as sovereign there. “In very deed her whole proceedings do declare that the Cardinal’s lessons are so deeply printed in her heart, that the substance and the quality are like to perish together. I would be glad to be deceived, but I fear I shall not. In communication with her, I espied such craft as I have not found in such age.”-John Knox in a letter to William Cecil October 7th, 1561 Knox read her character aright and said of Queen Mary after his first interview with her, “If there be not in her a proud mind, a crafty wit, and an obdurate heart against God and His truth, my judgment faileth me.” John Knox had five interviews with Mary which saw the clash of autocratic kingship and the heretofore unknown power of the people. “‘What have you to do,’ said she, ‘with my marriage? Or what are you within this Commonwealth?’ ‘A subject born within the same,’ said he [Knox], ‘Madam. And albeit I neither be Earl, Lord, nor Baron within it, yet has God made me (how abject that ever I be in your eyes) a profitable member within the same.’” –The Works of John Knox The conflict between autocratic power and the civil and religious rights of the people runs through all the interviews between John Knox and Mary Queen of Scots, and, indeed, was the question of questions between them. When Mary was deposed in 1567 and her infant son James VI became king, James Stuart, Earl of Moray was made Regent and signed the Acts of 1560 in James’ stead.  The Confession of Faith professed and believed by the Protestants within the Realm of Scotland thus became part of the law of Scotland, and the Reformed Church was legally recognized in Scotland.

“A good deal has been written about the rudeness with which Knox assailed Mary in public and in private, and his conversations with her are continually referred to but seldom quoted in full. It is forgotten that it was Mary who wished to try her gifts of fascination on the preacher, just as Catherine de’ Medici tried to charm Theodore Beza before Poissy; that Knox never sought an interview; that he never approached the Court unless he was summoned by the sovereign to her presence; that he was deferential as a subject should be; and it was only when he was compelled by Mary herself to speak on themes for which he was ready to lay down his life that he displayed a sternness which monarchs seldom experience in those whom they give audience.” -T.M. Lindsey in History of the Reformation

The National Covenant

In 1580 the National Covenant of Scotland was drawn up by King James VI’s chaplain John Craig at the king’s request. The immediate reason for this was the well founded dread of the reintroduction of popery into Scotland. It was well known that the Frenchman, the Duke of Lennox had been sent over to Scotland to prevail on the young king to embrace Roman Catholicism. To that end the pope also sent James VI flattering letters. Jesuits and seminary priests came over to Scotland in disguise to promote the papal interests in the same. The National Covenant was an abjuration in solemn and explicit terms of the various articles of the popish doctrine, and an engagement to adhere to and defend the doctrine and discipline of the Reformed Church of Scotland. Those who signed this Covenant also pledged in the same “to defend his majesty’s person and authority 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 the realm or without.” The king and his household signed the Covenant on January 28th, 1581, and afterwards it was cheerfully subscribed by all ranks of person throughout Scotland; the ministers zealously promoting and urging their respective parishes to sign the Covenant. This marked one of the most important eras in the Scottish Church. On March 1st, 1638 this National Covenant was renewed at Greyfriers Church in the midst of the great crisis of Archbishop Laud of Canterbury requiring a new popish liturgy to be used in the churches of Scotland. A bond was added to the Covenant applicable to the current crisis in which the signers bound themselves “to adhere to and defend the true religion, and forbearing the practice of all innovations already introduced into the worship of God; and to labour by all means lawful to recover the purity and liberty of the gospel as it was professed and established before the aforesaid innovations.” The covenant was signed first by the noblemen present, who then raised their hands and swore to the observance of its duties. After the nobles, the gentry, ministers and thousands of every rank subscribed and swore. Some signed with their own blood. The immense sheet of parchment was quickly filled, and many for lack of room could only sign their initials. “Behold, the nobility, the barons, the burgesses, the ministers, the commons of all sorts of Scotland-all in tears for their breach of covenant, and for their backsliding and defection from the Lord; and, at the same time, returning with great joy unto their God, by swearing cheerfully and willingly to be the Lord’s.” –A contemporary writer  “The Lord from heaven did testify his acceptance of that covenant by the wonderful workings of his Spirit in the hearts both of pastors and people, to their great comfort and strengthening in every duty, above any measure that hath been heard of in this land.”-Presbyterian writers of that time

Preface …For God we take to record in our consciences, that from our hearts we abhor all sects of heresy, and all teachers of erroneous doctrine; and that, with all humility, we embrace the purity of Christ’s evangel, which is the only food of our souls; and therefore so precious unto us, that we are determined to suffer the extremity of worldly danger, rather than that we will suffer ourselves to be defrauded of the same….

Chapter 5 The Continuance, Increase, and Preservation of the Kirk We most constantly believe that God preserved, instructed, multiplied, honoured, decored, and from death called to life his kirk in all ages, from Adam, till the coming of Christ Jesus in the flesh….

Chapter 8 Election …But because the only Godhead could not suffer death, neither yet could the only manhead overcome the same, he joined both together in one person, that the imbecility [weakness] of the one should suffer, and be subject to death (which we had deserved), and the infinite and invincible power of the other (to wit, of the Godhead) should triumph and purchase to us life, liberty, and perpetual victory….

Chapter 14 What Works are Reputed Good before God …So that good works we affirm to be these only that are done in faith, at God’s commandment, who in his law has expressed what be the things that please him. And evil works we affirm not only those that expressedly are done against God’s commandment, but those also that in matters of religion and worshipping of God, have no other assurance, but the invention and opinion of man….In vain do they worship me, teaching the doctrines and precepts of men.

Chapter 16 Of the Kirk …We most constantly believe that from the beginning there has been, now is, and to the end of the world shall be, a kirk: that is to say, a company and multitude of men chosen of God, who rightly worship and embrace him, by true faith in Christ Jesus, who is the only Head of the same kirk, which also is the body and spouse of Christ Jesus….For as without Christ Jesus there is neither life nor salvation, so shall there none be participant thereof, but such as the Father has given unto his Son Christ Jesus, and those [that] in time come unto him, avow his doctrine, and believe into him (we comprehend the children with the faithful parents)….

Chapter 18 Of the Notes by Which the True Kirk is Discerned from the False and Who Shall be Judge of Doctrine …The notes, signs, and assured tokens whereby the immaculate spouse of Christ Jesus is known from that horrible harlot, the kirk malignant….we believe, confess, and avow to be: first, the true preaching of the word of God, into the which God has revealed himself to us…; secondly, the right administration of the sacraments of Christ Jesus, which must be annexed unto the word and promise of God, to seal and confirm the same in our hearts; last ecclesiastical discipline uprightly ministered, as God’s word prescribes, whereby vice is repressed, and virtue nourished….And such kirks we, the inhabitants of the realm of Scotland, professorsof Christ Jesus, confess ourselves to have in our cities, towns, and places reformed….

Chapter 19 The Authority of the Scriptures As we believe and confess the scriptures of God sufficient to instruct and make the man of God perfect, so do we affirm and avow the authority of the same to be of God, and neither to depend on men or angels. We affirm, therefore, that such as allege the scripture to have no authority, but that which is received from the kirk, to be blasphemous against God, and injurious to the true kirk, which always hears and obeys the voice of her own Spouse and Pastor, but takes not upon her to be mistress over the same.

Chapter 20 Of General Councils, of Their Power, Authority, and Causes of Their Convention …So far then as the council proves the determination and commandment that it gives by the plain word of God, so far do we reverence and embrace the same….But the cause of councils (we mean of such as merit the name of councils) was partly for the confutation of heresies, and for giving public confession of their faith to the posterity following: which both they did by the authority of God’s written word….The other was for good policy and order to be constituted and observed in the kirk….Not that we think any policy, and one order in ceremonies can be appointed for all ages, times, and places: for as ceremonies (such as men have devised) are but temporal, so may and ought they to be changed, when they rather foster superstition than that they edify the kirk using the same….

Chapter 21 Of the Sacraments …We acknowledge and confess that we now, in the time of the evangel, have two sacraments only, instituted by the Lord Jesus, and commanded to be used of all those that will be reputed members of his body: to wit, baptism and the supper, or table of the Lord Jesus…, Not only to make a visible difference betwixt his people, and those that were without his league; but also to exercise the faith of his children and, by participation of the same sacraments, to seal in their hearts that assurance of his promise, and of that most blessed conjunction, union, and society, which the elect have with their head, Christ Jesus….

Chapter 22 Of the Right Administration of the Sacraments ...Moreover, that the sacraments be rightly used, it is required that the end and cause why the sacraments were instituted be understood and observed, as well of the minister, as the receivers….

Chapter 24 Of the Civil Magistrate …Moreover, to kings, princes, rulers, and magistrates, we affirm that chiefly and most principally the conservation and purgation of the religion appertains; so that not only they are appointed for civil policy, but also for the maintenance of the true religion, and for suppressing of idolatry and superstition whatsoever: as in David, Jehoshaphat….

Arise, O Lord, and let thy enemies be confounded: Let them flee from thy presence that hate thy godly name: Give thy servants strength to speak thy word in boldness; and let all nations cleave to thy true knowledge. So be it.