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William Chambers.

The Scottish church from the earliest times to 1881 to which is prefixed an historical sketch of St. Giles' Cathedral online

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to the care of a neighbour the infant she carried in her arms.
Dundee was next visited, but the suspected citizens had taken
the alarm and fled, leaving only their books to be burned.

It was about this time that a new evangelist arrived in the
country, singularly fitted to impress on the hearts of men the
lessons of the holy book to which they had now free access in
their native tongue. This was George Wishart, a younger
brother of the laird of Pittarrow in the Mearns. He appears
to have been born about 15 12, and to have received his
university training in Aberdeen, or abroad. He acquired
a knowledge of Greek — at that time a very rare accomplish-
ment in Scotland — from a Frenchman brought by Erskine of
Dun to Montrose. While acting as schoolmaster there, Wishart
had read the Greek New Testament with some of his
pupils, and in consequence had been cited by the Bishop of
Brechin to answer to a charge of suspected heresy. Like
many others at that time, he thought it best not to appear,
and escaped to England. He was thereupon excommunicated
and outlawed. He is found at Bristol in 1539, involved in
fresh troubles. After that he visited several of the Conti-
nental Reformed Churches, especially those of German Switzer-



Pre-Reformation Scotland. 119



land, and brought home and translated into English the First
Helvetic Confession. He is supposed to have returned to
England before the close of 1541, and shortly after his return,
to have entered into residence in Benet College, Cambridge.
To one of his pupils there we are indebted for our fullest account
of his appearance and habits; and in one of its stained-glass
windows, place has been found for a worthy memorial of him.
He ' was a man of tall stature . . . black haired, long bearded,
comely of personage, well spoken after his country of Scotland,
courteous, lowly, lovely, glad to teach, desirous to learn, and
was well travelled. . . . His charity was unbounded; he studied
all means of doing good to all, hurt to none.' He was not only
of rare graces, but 'learned in all honest human science.'

Such was the evangelist who — in 1543 according to some, in
1544 according to others — returned to his native land, and for
two years testified of the Gospel of the grace of God throughout
Angus and Meams, Ayrshire and the Lothians, but whose
favourite fields of labour were to be the towns of Montrose and
Dundee. A portrait of him has been preserved and engraved,
and the expression of the face harmonises well with what
his pupil has said of him. It is supposed that for a short time
after his return he lived quietly at Pittarrow, and being an
accomplished artist, occupied himself in adorning the ancestral
mansion with several significant paintings, which, after being
long covered over by the wainscot, were again brought to light
in the present century, but unfortunately were destroyed before
their value was perceived. The most remarkable of them
was a painting of the city of Rome, and a grand procession
going to St Peter's. Below the picture were written the
following enigmatical lines on the Pope :

Laus tua non tua fraus, virtus non gloria rerum
Scandere te fecit hoc decus eximium ;
Pauperibus dat sua gratis nee munera curat
Curia Papalis, quod more percipimus.
Hsec cannina potius legenda, cancros imitandg,



120 iSy Giles^ Lechires,



It was about the same time that he formed that kirk or
congregation which at a later period we shall find he came to
salute, and began his labours as a preacher by expounding the
Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, and the Apostles'
Creed. This was in the town of Montrose, the scene of his
early scholastic labours. At that time it was frequented by
some of the nobles and many of the landed gentry around who
were favourable to the Reformation and the English alliance ;
and their hearts could not fail to be cheered and their courage
raised by the exhortations of the evangelist. Dundee, however,
was the chief and favourite scene of his ministrations, and it
was from the great success which attended these that it gained
the name of the Scottish Geneva. It was even more decidedly
attached to the new opinions and to the English alliance than
Montrose; and a Reformation, as it was called, including the
sacking of the monasteries in the town and neighbourhood,
took place shortly before or soon after his arrival. He
preached for a time in Dundee with great acceptance, expound-
ing systematically the Epistle to the Romans, the full signifi-
cance of which the recently published commentary of Calvin had
deeply impressed on the minds of his co-religionists in various
lands. At length he was charged by one of the magistrates in
the queen's name and the governor's to desist from preaching,
depart from the town, and trouble it no more. This was inti-
mated to him when he was in the pulpit surrounded by a great
congregation. Thereupon he called God to witness that he
intended not their trouble but their comfort, and felt sure that
to reject the word of God and drive away his messenger was not
the way to save themselves from trouble.' He then left the
town, and ' with all possible expedition passed to the west
land.' There he pursued his labours in the same kindly spirit,
refusing to allow his followers to dispute possession of the
churches by force, and choosing rather to preach in the
open air wherever he found a convenient place and audience
fit, than go where he was not welcome.



Pre-Reformation Scdtland.



Soon after he left Dundee, the plague extended its ravages
to that place, Wishart, on hearing this, returned to the afflicted
town, and its inhabitants received him with joy. He announced
without delay that he would preach to them ; but it was impos-
sible he could do so in a church. Numbers were sick of the
plague ; others in attendance on them were regarded as infected,
and must not be brought into contact with those who were
free from infection. The sick were lodged in booths and the
'lazar-houses' near St Roque's Chapel, outside the East or Cow-
gate Port of the town. Wishart chose as his pulpit the top of
this port, which, in memory of the martyr-preacher, has been
carefully preserved, though, like Temple Bar — so long tolerated
in London — it is now in the heart of the town, and an obstruc-
tion to its traffic. The sick and suspected were assembled
outside the port, and the healthy inside. The preacher took
for the text of his first sermon the words of Psalm cvii. 20 :
' He sent His word and healed them ; ' and starting on the
key-note that it was neither herb nor plaster, but God's
word which healeth all, as Knox tells us, he so raised up
the hearts of all who heard him, that they regarded not
death, but judged those more happy that should depart than
those that should remain behind ; considering that they knew
not that they should have such a comforter with them at all
times.' John Wedderburn, as well as others who had fled from
the town in the persecution of 1539, had before this time
returned, and no doubt they were co-operating with Wishart in
his work. Then in all probability came out in rudimentary
form the 'Psalms of Dundee,' and that beautiful funeral
hymn which passed from the Bohemians to the Germans,
and from the Germans to the Scotch, and which in the Scottish
version contains certain additional stanzas, having unmistak-
able reference to the circumstances in which it originated in a
plague-stricken town, which had just before been occupied by
the soldiers of the Cardinal and the Regent, and might well
dread a similar visitation :



122 S^ Giles" Lectures,



Though pest or sword wald us prevene,
Before our hour to slay us dene,
They cannot pkick one little hair
Furth from our head, or do us dare.

Wishart concerned himself not only about the souls, but also
about the bodies of his hearers in that sad time, fearlessly
exposing himself to the risk of infection, that he might minister
to the diseased and the dying, and taking care that the public
funds for the relief of the destitute should be properly admin-
istered. He forgot himself only too much, and the terrible
risks to which, as an excommunicated and outlawed man, he
was exposed in so near proximity to the Cardinal.

One day as the people were departing from the sermon,
Knox tells us that a priest, bribed by the Cardinal, stood waiting
at the foot of the steps by which the preacher was descending
from the top of the port, with his gown loose, and his dagger
drawn in his hand under his gown. Wishart, most sharp of eye
and swift of judgment, at once noticed him, and as he came
near, seized the hand in which he held the dagger and took it
from him. Immediately the rumour spread that a priest had
attempted to assassinate their favourite preacher, the sick out-
side burst open the gate, crying : ' Deliver the traitor to us, or else
we will take him by force.' But the preacher put his arms
around his would-be assassin, exclaiming : ' Whosoever troubles
him shall trouble me, for he has hurt me in nothing, but has let
us understand what we may fear in time to come ; ' ' and so he
saved the life of him that sought his.'

Like Dr Lorimer, I cannot persuade myself that the man who
spoke and acted thus is the same as ' a Scottish man called
Wishart,' who is mentioned in a letter of the Earl of Hertford,
in the spring of the year 1544, as privy to a conspiracy to
assassinate Cardinal Beaton, and as employed to carry letters
between the conspirators and the English court. There were
other Wisharts in Scotland, and even in Dundee, at that time,
also friends of the English alliance. It is unjust, therefore, tg



Pre-Reformation Scotland. 123



charge the Reformer with any participation in such a dastardly
plot, without a particle of positive evidence to support the
charge. As an outlawed man, he came down to Scotland
under protection, and seems never to have travelled in it save
under protection ; and so he was one of the last men likely
to be chosen for a secret mission. If anything more than
the able essay of the late Professor Weir, in the North British
Review for 1868, were needed to prove that 'the pure lustre
of the martyr's fame is still unsullied,' it seems to me to be
furnished by himself in his affecting address at the stake :
'I beseech the Father of heaven to forgive them that have
of any ignorance, or else of any evil mind, forged any lies upon
me. I forgive them with all my heart'

From this time forth, the Reformer had a clearer view of the
perils which beset him, and a mournful conviction of the issue
which awaited him if he would not flee or flinch. By his suc-
cess in Dundee, the rage of his adversaries was lashed into fury,
which appalled his friends and partisans in various districts ; but
none of these things moved him, that he might finish his course
with joy, and make full proof of his ministry. As soon as the
plague abated, heedless of the warnings of his northern friends
as to the risk he ran in leaving, he administered the com-
munion in both kinds at Dun, and took his last farewell of the
churches of Montrose and Dundee. At all hazards, he was
determined to fulfil his engagement to meet with his western
friends in Edinburgh, prosecute his work there under their pro-
tection, and engage in public disputation with certain of the
popish clergy, who about that time were to meet in synod in
the capital. Disappointed of their presence and protection, he
laboured for a brief season in Leith, Inveresk, and East Lothian
with varying success. At last, forsaken by many of those who
should have stood by him, he was seized at Ormiston under
cover of night, and promise of safe keeping by the Earl of
Bothwell, Sheriff-Principal of the county. The earl pledged
his honour not to give him up to his enemies, but was per-



124 "S"/ Giles^ Lectures.



suaded to deliver him to the governor, as the governor was
to hand him over to the Cardinal, though finally protesting
against his being tried or condemned in his own absence. A
full account of these transactions has been given by Knox,
who rendered his first service to the cause of the Reforma-
tion by attending on him, bearing a two-handed sword, and
was dismissed on the night of his betrayal with the signifi-
cant words : ' One is sufficient for a sacrifice.'

I cannot enlarge on these things, nor on the sad scenes
which took place at St Andrews on the 2Sth February and ist
March 1546, when the Cardinal, regardless of the remon-
strances of the Regent, and the murmurs of the people, tried
and condemned him; nor on his last touching interviews
with the Sub-Prior of the Monastery and the Captain of the
Castle. Throughout all these trying scenes he comported him-
self as nobly as Hamilton had done, and not less plentifully
did his blood prove the seed of the Church, so that, as he said,
not many should sufi'er after him. Within three months his
persecutor was surprised in his stronghold, and ' cut off by a fate
as tragical and ignominious as any that has ever been recorded
in the long catalogue of human crimes.' No doubt this cruel
martyrdom hastened the removal of the tyrant, who set himself
above all restraint of law, and breathed forth threatenings
against the saints of God ; though that removal had not been
plotted by Wishart, nor would have been approved by him.
The words attributed to him at the stake by Buchanan are
not generally regarded as authentic.

The remembrance of Wishart was fondly cherished, especi-
ally in that district where he chiefly laboured, and where he
wrought a work not less memorable than that M'Cheyne
and Burns were honoured to do in our own day. His influence
was but deepened by his cruel fate, and 'he lived again,' as
Dr Lorimer has said, ' in John Knox.' * This zealous dis-
ciple, who had counted it an honour to be allowed to carry a
sword before his master, stood forth immediately to wield the



Pre-Rcformation Scotland. 125

spiritual sword which had fallen from his master's grasp, and
to wield it with a vigour and trenchant execution superior even
to his.' God sent them comfort after him, as he said.

It belongs to my successor to tell of the triumph and
portray the character of him whom Mr Froude has pronounced
to be ' the grandest figure in the entire history of the British
Reformation.' All that I must attempt, in closing, is to give
the briefest account of his preliminary labours.

Knox was bom at Giffordgate in Haddington in 1505, and
matriculated at the University of Glasgow in 1522. From that
date up to 1545, when he appears as sword-bearer to Wishart,
his life is to us almost a blank. Like Elijah the Tishbite, he
comes into view only to enter on his public work. Whatever
his early training may have been, he had by this time thoroughly
mastered the subjects in controversy between the two Churches,
and possibly, as Bayle supposes, the writings of the two greatest
doctors of the Western Church. * He received his first taste of
the truth ' from his fellow-townsman, Thomas Guillaume, one
of the Regent's chaplains, as he received his political principles
from his early instructor, John Major, also a native of East
Lothian, Ever since he had cast in his lot with Wishart,
he had been so harassed, that but for a refuge unexpectedly
opened up, he would have found it necessary to leave Scotland.
This refuge was the Castle of St Andrews, which the conspirators
had determined to hold, and in which numbers of those friendly
to the Reformation and the English alliance had already taken
shelter. Knox arrived about Pasche, 1547, in charge of the
sons of certain lairds in East Lothian. At that time there was
a truce between the citizens and the 'castilians,' as they were
called. The reforming citizens had access to the services in
the castle, and the chaplain of the garrison at times made his
way into the parish church and preached to the people. Knox
resumed there the system he had followed with good effect in
East Lothian, expounding in a colloquial manner the gospel of
St John, and making his pupils give account of their catechism



t26 S^ Gilei Lectures.



in public, that even people who could not read, by hearing it
often repeated, might gain familiarity with it.

His great abilities as a teacher, and his wonderful gift of per-
suasive speech, soon attracted notice. Private efforts failing to
move him, a formal call to the ministry was addressed to him
from the pulpit by the chaplain in name of the rest. Yielding
to this, he soon made full proof of his ministry not only before
the rude garrison of the castle, but before the doctors of the
University and the citizens in the parish church. By his
sermons, catechisings, and disputations, the new doctrines gained
a hold on the minds of learned and unlearned which they never
really lost. But times of trial were to come ere the cause
should finally triumph. They who had taken into their hands
' the sword of God ' were made to suffer by the sword, and had
to surrender the castle to the representative of the French king.
Those who had come to it for shelter, as well as those who had
conspired against the Cardinal, were dealt with as criminals of
the worst class. For nearly twenty months our Reformer had
to work in chains on board the galleys. Even then he main-
tained unshaken faith in God ; but he would have been more
than human if the iron had not entered into his soul, and traces
of the sternness thence arising had not long been visible in his
character. Early in 1549 he was released by English influence.
He was sent to Berwick, where he was as near to his country-
men as it was safe for him to go, and where many of them were
able to resort to him. He preached not only to the garrison
and citizens of Berwick, but also throughout the northern
counties, proving himself a true successor of those early
Scottish missionaries who had originally won over to the
Christian faith the Saxons of Northumbria.

His fame as a preacher and defender of the new doctrines
spread southwards, and he was appointed one of the royal
chaplains. In the autumn of 1552 he preached with great
power and faithfulness before the court of Edward VI., and with
his fellow-chaplains aided in the revision of the English Articles



^re-Reformation Scotland. 127

and Prayer-Book. He refused a bishopric and a London
rectory, and continued to labour devotedly as a preacher un-
attached. He had a presentiment that the time he would have
to do so would be brief, and he improved it diligently. When
' the bloody Mary ' succeeded to the throne, Knox, as a
foreigner, was especially warranted to leave the country and
reserve himself for happier times ; and he did so when it was
only not too late. The few years he spent abroad were to be
richly blessed to himself and his fellow-exiles. He at least had
not gone there to have his views of doctrine or church order
changed, but to have his spirit refreshed by counsel and com-
munion with brethren, and nerved for further achievements in
the service of their common Lord. He would have settled
down to quiet study in Geneva, but Calvin persuaded him to go
to Frankfort as pastor of the English congregation there ; and
on disputes arising in it, he secured an asylum for him and
his Puritan brethren beside himself Knox returned to his
native land to pay a short visit to his friends, and to bring his
mfe and her mother to Geneva. But he was obliged again and
again to prolong his visit. The cause of the Reformation had
made quiet progress in the immediately preceding years, with-
out the voice of the living preacher or any agency but the
private study of the Scriptures and the circulation of hymns
and poems. ' If he had not seen it with his own eyes, he
could not have believed it' Night and day they sobbed and
groaned for the bread of life, and now his preaching came to
them in demonstration of the Spirit and with power, and was
greatly blessed to many in Angus and Mearns, in Ayrshire
and the Lothians, and other parts. He administered the Lord's
supper to them, persuaded them to give up attending the
Popish worship, and bind themselves to uphold the truth, and
defend their brethren who did so.^ He urged the Queen
Regent to undertake the reformation of the Church, but with-

^ Knox's History, vol. i., page 251.



128 iS/ Giles^ LedureL



out success. He urged the nobles to do their duty, and
promising to return when they deemed the time had come for
this, he at length departed to his charge at Geneva. Before
he left, he had been summoned to appear before the bishops,
but this summons was 'cast.' Soon after his departure, he
was summoned again, and in his absence was condemned and
burned in effigy.

Archbishop Hamilton, who had succeeded Beaton as primate,
continued to hold council after council, to make feeble and fit-
ful efforts for the revival of the Church — to provide a catechism
and other helps for the priests in their work, and to execute
with rigour the laws against heretics. But all availed not to
save the Church or stem the tide which had set in. Time
was when reasonable concession and speedy reform might have
done so. Patrick Hamilton and Alexander Alesius had come
pleading for the free circulation of the Word of God, and the
free preaching of the great truths it contained ; and the one had
been burned, the other forced into exile. George Wishart had
come to reiterate the plea, and to contend for the right doctrine
and administration of the sacraments; and he also was put to
death. Willock and the reforming nobles had come even in
1558 to plead for a minimum of reform, which if granted,
might have saved the old organisation, and brought the new
life into it, as in England. But this too was refused. The
gnarled old tree was rotten to the core, and could not take in
the fresh sap. And now came Knox, not to ' sned the
branches,' but to lay his axe at the root of the tree and cut it
down as a cumberer of the ground. ' It was not a smooth
business,' as Carlyle says, ' but it was welcome surely, and
cheap at that price ; had it been far rougher on the whole,
cheap at any price as fife is. The people began to live;' and
as another has it, from being one of the rudest, poorest, most
turbulent races in Europe, became one of the most educated,
prosperous, orderly, and upright.



ST GILES' LECTURES.



FIRST SERIES— THE SCOTTISH CHURCH.



LECTURE V.

THE REFORMATION, 1559 to 1572 a.d.i

By the Rev. Donald Macleod, D.D., Minister of the Park Church,
Glasgow ; and one of Her Majesty's Chaplains.

TT may be well to give at the outset a brief resume of the
■*■ chief events between 1559 and 1572. Mary of Guise, who
acted as Regent for her daughter, had put the preachers of the
Reformed doctrine 'to the horn' — a process equivalent to
proclaiming them rebels. This led to a civil war between the
Lords of the Congregation, who had espoused the new opinions,
and the Regent, assisted by a strong body of French veterans.
In June 1560, the Regent died, and during the following month
the Protestants, with the aid of an English army, obtained the
mastery. The Confession of Faith was immediately afterwards
accepted by the Scottish Parliament. Next year Queen Mary

^ The following authorities, among others, have been consulted : Laing's
edition of Knox's Works ; Booke of the Univcrsall Kirk ; Sir David Lindsay's
Works ; Peterkin ; Register of the Scotch Privy Council ; the Histories of
Wodrow, Calderwood, Keith, Tytler, Robertson, M'Crie, Froude, Cunning-
ham, and Burton ; Sprott's preface to Book of Common Order; Schierns'
Bothivell ; Life of Kit kaldy, &c.



130 Sf Giles^ Lectures.



arrived from France, and began gradually to increase her
influence in the hope of ultimately restoring Romanism. Her
marriage to Darnley was connected with this design, and might
have led to serious results, had not the assassination of Rizzio
in 1566, and the murder of Darnley in 1567, plunged the
country into new confusion. The surrender of the queen at
Carberry-hill, and her defeat at Langside the following year,
completed for a time the ruin of Mary's power in Scotland.
The Regent Moray, during his brief career, gave for the first time
the sanction of the Crown to the Reformation ; but his death
in 1570 involved the country again in civil war. Until 1573,
the Queen's party, under the leadership of Maitland of Lething-
ton and Kirkaldy of Grange, held Edinburgh Castle. In the
five years from the abdication of Mary at Lochleven, till
Edinburgh Castle fell in 1573, no fewer than four regents were
appointed ; and of these two were assassinated. The war was



Online LibraryWilliam ChambersThe Scottish church from the earliest times to 1881 to which is prefixed an historical sketch of St. Giles' Cathedral → online text (page 15 of 37)