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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was organised for the maintenance of her cause. Kirkaldy of
Grange held Edinburgh Castle in her name. Dumbarton
Castle, until taken by the extraordinary daring of Crawford of
Jordanhill, protected her interests in the West. The Hamiltons,
Buccleuch, Fernihirst, the reivers of the Border, Huntly, and

154 "S*/ Gile£ Lectures.

the men of Aberdeenshire and the North-east, espoused her
cause. The country was for a tune steeped in bloodshed. Money
was freely poured into Scotland — now from France, and now
from Spain — and used according to the policy of the moment.
As the plot thickened, darker measures were projected. The
Spanish Armada was to be anticipated. Plans were laid for
the reception of a Spanish force, which the Duke of Alva was
to land in Aberdeenshire. Had it not been for Knox and the
men from Angus to the Lothians, from St Andrews to Glasgow
and Galloway, who would have died for their religion, Maitland
might possibly have secured the country. Alva was, as usual,
dilatory. He perhaps recognised the difficulties which the
firmness of the Reformers presented to the success of his
project, but delay he did until the second great crime
occurred in the Massacre of St Bartholomew, which blasted
for ever the hopes of Mary and of Romanism in the kingdom.

Knox was indeed ' inflexible,' as Lethington wrote to the
Queen. Although shattered in body through a stroke of
apoplexy — having 'tacken gude nicht of this world,' and
' creiping upon his club ' as he went to the kirk-session in
St Giles' — yet the unquenchable fire flamed into its old strength
as it was stirred by the treachery and danger he beheld on
every side. For years the minister of this same church
of St Giles — then the only church in Edinburgh — he had
preached in it twice every Sunday, and thrice during week-
days. It was here that in the ears of lords and courtiers the
impassioned preacher rang out the brave words that shaped the
policy of the time. It was of his pulpit in this church he
said : ' I am in the place where I must speak the truth, and the
truth I will speak, impugn it who so list.' We cannot look
round on these walls without seeing them repeopled with the
men whose names still live — the young Lord James, the subtle
Lethington, the wretched Darnley, the rough Bothwell, or the
fierce Huntly drawing back with a scowl and ' tugging his
bonnet over his eyes ' as he winced under the fervid denuncia-

The Reformation. 155

tions. It was here that the dark crowd of three thousand men
gathered to listen to the funeral sermon over the dead Regent
of happy memory. And now Knox, struggling with weakness,
strove as of old to warn friends and foes. Edinburgh was
then as a beleaguered city, and he was in the midst of danger.
The roar of cannon disturbed the midnight as well as the day.
The retainers of the Hamiltons, who bore him no good-will,
might at any time stab him as they jostled along the causeway.
A gun-shot came crashing into his room as he sat in his
house down there in the Canongate. Kirkaldy of Grange did
his best to protect him. His friends offered to form a body-
guard for his defence ; and chiefly to save them the risk of
injury, he yielded to their petitions and went for a time to St
Andrews — the city to him of so many memories. After he left
Edinburgh (May 157 1), it was for a time given up to the con-
flict between the castle and the supporters of the king. The
Church was closed. Cannon were mounted on St Giles'
steeple, and nothing was heard but the ' ringing of artillery.'

We cannot forbear giving here the well-known and graphic
picture which James Melville, then a young student, draws of
Knox's appearance when in St Andrews : ' I heard him teache '
there the prophecies of Daniel, that simmer, and the wintar
following. I haid my pen, and my litle buike, and tuk away
sic things as I could comprehend. In the opening up of his
text, he was moderat the space of half an houre ; but when he
enterit to application, he made me so to greiu, and tremble, that
I could not hald a pen to wryt. ... I saw him, euerie day of
his doctrine, go hulie and fear, with a furring of marticks about
his neck, a staff" in the an hand, and gud godlie Richart Ballan-
den, his servand, balding up the uther oxter, from the Abbey to
the parish kirk, and be the said Richart, and another servant,
lifted up to the pulpit, whar he behovit to lean, at his first entrie;
bot, er he haid done with his sermone, he was sae active and
vigorous, that he was lyk to ding the pulpit in blads and flie
out of it. . . , Mr Knox wald sum tyme com in and

156 Sf Gt/es' Lectures.

repose him in our college yeard, and call ws schollars unto
him, and bless ws, and exhort ws to knaw God and his wark in
our contrey, and stand be the guid cause, to use our tyme weill,
and lern the guid instiTJctiones, and follow the guid exemple of
our maisters.'

While in St Andrews, events were hurrying on which gave
Knox the greatest anxiety. The dangers from without were only
a little worse than those from within the Church. The Regent
Morton, who was the embodiment of the grasping spirit of the
Scottish nobility, had managed, partly by threats and partly
by reasoning, to jDcrsuade the Church to restore the bishops.
Some of the reasons for such a step were at the time obvious.
The loss of the spiritual estate in parliament would have
destroyed the balance of power and implied a serious revolu-
tion in the Constitution. Although it should be only in name,
the seats vacated by the bishops and abbots must be filled up.
There were other causes less honourable. The restoration of
the old ecclesiastics, or rather the institution of ' Tulchan '
bishops and abbots, was a device whereby the barons might
more securely drain the Church of its property. This event,
however, properly falls to be discussed by my successor.
Knox made no formal protest to the Assembly against their
appointment, although in his public preaching and in private
conversation he ' discharged his conscience that the Kirk of Scot-
land should not be subject to that order.' He tried, however,
to secure the arrangement from some of the evils he suspected
would arise, for he counselled the Assembly to take order that
the bishops should account to the Church and not to the
nobles for the revenue of their dioceses, and earnestly warned
them against the sin of themselves entering into simoniacal
compacts. Had his counsels been acted upon, many a future
scandal and trouble would have been saved.

Knox felt that his time on earth was short. A truce between
the contending factions, accompanied by an earnest request by
the people of Edinburgh for his return, brought him back once

The Reformation. 157

more to his old charge. He was too feeble to make his voice
heard in the Cathedral Church, and a smaller place was
appointed for his services. His sermon at the induction of his
colleague Lawson was the last he ever preached.

Scarcely had he returned to Edinburgh before the country
was startled with horror by the intelligence of the Massacre of
St Bartholomew. ' At first, it was the news of the assassination
of Coligny which arrived ; but post followed post, bringing fresh
accounts of the most shocking and barbarous cruelties. It is
believed that seventy thousand persons were murdered in one
week. For several days the streets of Paris literally ran with
blood.' When the tidings of this horrible butchery (for which
a solemn procession to be made to the church of St Louis, the
patron saint of France, a Te Deiim to be sung, and a year of
jubilee to be observed, were ordered by the Pope) reached
Scotland, the effect was profound and universal. John Knox
and the Reformers, many of whose personal friends were
among the victims, were appalled. All parties in the state
were horrified. Those who had hitherto supported the Queen,
felt now that her cause was doomed. The wavering Eliza-
beth of England was startled from her trickeries. Kirkaldy
and Lethington still held out in the castle, but they knew that
their days were numbered. Lethington indeed was dying.
For months he had been a living miracle, for never did
keen intellect consort so strangely with an exhausted frame.
The two men, dying within so short a distance of each other,
who had once been friends, were now separated by greater
differences than political feuds. ' Never,' wrote the English
Randolph, after visiting Maitland in the castle, ' have I found
in so weak a body, a mind less mindful to God, or more un-
natural to his country.' Unable to bear the noise of the guns,
he, with his little lapdog, was carried down to one of the
cellars ; and eleven days after the castle was taken, he died, it
was supposed by poison administered by his own hand.

The Massacre of St Bartholomew, which was intended to

158 Sf Giles^ Lectures.

crush Protestantism in France, saved Protestantism to Scotland
and England. As the murder of Darnley five years before occa-
sioned a reaction of horror which frustrated the plans of Mary
and her foreign advisers, and by placing Moray in power, led to
the recognition of the Reformation as the religion of the State,
so now the crime of the Medici destroyed for ever the influence
of Mary and Romanism in Scotland. In less than a year
Edinburgh Castle fell, and the brave Kirkaldy, reconciled to his
old friends, died on the scaffold under circumstances of weird

But long before the taking of the castle John Knox entered
into his rest. For months before the end came, almost every
letter he wrote bore touching proof of his weariness of life and
his desire to depart. ' John Knox with my dead hand and
glad heart preising God.' 'Wearie of this world and thirsting
to depart.' ' Call for me, deir brethern, that God in his mercy
will pleis put an end to my long and painful battell. For now
being unable to fight as God sometimes gave me strenth I thrist
an end, befoir I be moir troublesum to the faithful ; and yet
Lord let my desyre be moderat be the Holy Spirit.' These
and such-like are the expressions which occur frequently in his
writings at this time.

There are few more touching records than the account of his
last hours, preserved by his faithful servant Richard Bannatyne.
The simple pathos of the narrative reveals the personal and
tender affection which Knox inspired in those who knew him —
an affection of which we have many incidental notices, disprov-
ing the popular belief that he was distinguished by a harsh and
repulsive nature. On the Tuesday after he preached his last
sermon at the induction of Lawson, ' he was stricken,' writes
Bannatyne, ' with a grit hoist,' which so enfeebled him, that he
had to leave off his ordinary reading of the Bible ; * for ilk
day he red a certane chepteris, both of the Auld Testament
and of the New, with certane psalmes, quhilk psalmes he
passed through euerie moneth once.' . . . 'The Friday, which

77/1? Reformation. 159

was the 14 day, he rose above his accustomed dyet; and yit
when he did ryse, he could scairse sit in a stuile : and then
being demandit what he wald doe up ? said, he wald goe to the
Kirke and preich, for he thocht it had been Sonday ; and said
that he had been all nicht meditating upoun the resurrectione
of Christ, which he sould haue preichit after the death of
Christ, whilk he had finishit in his last sermonde the Sonday
befoir; for oft and monie tymes he wishit — and desyred of
God that he mycht end his dayis in the teiching and medita-
tioune of that doctrine, quhilk he did.' ... ' On Sonday, the
16 day, he kept his bed and would not eat,' having mistaken it
' for the first Sonday of the Fast,' on account of the Massacre of
St Bartholomew.

' Upoun Fryday, the xxi day, he commandit Richard to gar
make his kist (coffin) whairin he was borne to his burial. Sonday,
tlie 23 day (which was the first Sonday of the Fast), at efter-
noune, all being at the kirke except thame that waited upoun
him. . . . He said the Lordis Prayer, and the Beleife, with
some paraphraise, upon euerie petitione and article of thaim ;
and in saying " Our Father which art in heaven," he says,
" Who can pronounce so holie wordis ? " . . . He wald oftin
burst furth, " Live in Christ ! " and " Lord grant us the rycht
and perfyte hatred of syn, alsweill be the document of thy
mercies as of thy judgmentis." "Lord grant trew pastoris
to thy Kirke, that puritie of doctrine may be reteaned."
... A litill efter no-ne, he caused his wyfe reid the 15
Chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthianis off the resur-
rectione. A litill efter he sayes, " Now, for the last, I commend
my saule, spreit, and bodie (pointing upoun his thrie fingeris)
unto thy handis, O Lord ! " Thaireftir, about fyve houris, he
sayis to his wyfe, "'Goe reid whair I cast my first ancre ! " And
so shee read the 1 7 of Johnes Evangle ; quhilk being endit, was
red some of Calvinis Sermondis upon the Ephesianis. We,
thinking that he was a sleip, demandit gif he heard ? Answerit,
" I heir, and understandis far better, I praise God." . . . Half

[6o S^ ales' Lectures.

ane hoiire eftir ten, or thairby, we went to our ordinar prayeris
(whilk was the longer or we went to thame, becaus we thocht
he had bene sleipand) ; quhilk being endit, , . . Robert Camp-
bell sittis downe befoir him on a stule ; and suddanlie thair-
efter he sayis, " Now it is cum ! " for he had gevin ane long siche
and sobe. Then Richard sitting doun before him, said, " Now,
sir, the tyme that ye have long callit to God for, to wit, ane end
of your battell, is cum ! And seeing all naturall power now
failes, remember upon these comfortable promises, which often
tymes ye have schawin to us of our Salviore Jesus Christ ! and
that ye may understand and know that ye heir us, make us
some signe." And so he lifted up his one hand, and incon-
tinent thairefter randerit the spreit, and sleipit away Avithout
ony paine, the day afoir said, about ellevin houris at evin.'

In this manner died John Knox on the 25th November
1572. Within a few yards of this place where we are now met,
he lies buried in that grave over which it is reported that the
Regent Morton pronounced the well-known and well-deserved
eulogium : ' There lies one who never feared the face of mortal

' It seems to me hard measure,' says Thomas Carlyle, ' that
this Scottish man, now after three hundred years, should have
to plead like a culprit before the world : intrinsically for having
been, in such way as it was then possible to be, the bravest of
all Scotchmen ! . . . He is the one Scotchman to whom of
all others his country and the world owe a debt. He has to
plead that Scotland would forgive him for having been worth to
it any million " unblamable " Scotchmen who need no forgive-

' What I have been to my countrie,' wrote Knox himself,
'albeit this unthankful aige will not knowe, yet the aiges to
come will beir witness to the treuth.' It will be our shame, and
the shame of Scotland, if that confidence is not justified.




SCOTLAND, 1572 TO 1660 a.d.

By the Rev. John Cunningham, D.D., Minister of Crieff.

nPHE sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were times of
-*■ fierce religious conflict. In the period immediately
preceding 1572, the struggle was between old Romanism and
nascent Protestantism. In the period following 1572, and
stretching on to the very close of the next century, the struggle
was between Presbyterianism and Prelacy. The first of these
conflicts was short, sharp, and decisive. The second was
protracted and indecisive, and, like a slow fever, simply kept
the country in a state of continual unrest.

In 1572, when my lecture begins, Scotland was in as chaotic
a state, socially, politically, and ecclesiastically, as it well could
be. The king was a boy of six years old. The deposed
Queen-Mother was a captive in England. The government
was in the hands of a Regency ; but the first Regent, the Earl
of Moray, had been shot on the streets of Linlithgow in 1570 ;
the second, the Earl of Lennox, was killed, in what we would


i62 Sf Giles^ Lectures.

now call a coup d'etat, at Stirling in 1 5 7 1 ; the third, the Earl
of Mar, died in 1572 ; and before the close of the same year,
the fourth and last, the Earl of Morton, occupied the danger-
ous pre-eminence, and ruled for a time with a rod of iron ; but
in the end he was more unfortunate than all his predecessors,
for he died a traitor's death. In 1572 there had been four
regents in little more than two years, recalling the time when
Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian successively wore the
Roman purple in a similarly short period.

The Reformation may be said to have been now legally com-
pleted, for the Regent Moray had given as much legal validity
as he could to the new Church : the Confession of Knox was
the Confession of the Nation ; and to say a mass was death.
But a relapse was possible — even probable. Men are not able
all at once to tear out of their hearts religious ideas deeply
rooted there — above all, women are not able to do so ; and we
may be quite sure the women of the Reformation Period had
still a strong hankering after their priests, their masses, their
confessionals, their indulgences, and their religious processions.
The great wave which had surged over the country had swept
them out of the ancient Church ; but there were thousands who
had been carried out in the crowd almost against their will ;
and another wave, if the tide began to recede, might wash them
back again. Everybody recognised the possibility of this.
The Guisian relatives of Queen Mary plotted for it ; and the
diplomatists of Queen Elizabeth plotted against it.

Though the practice of the old religion had been declared
to be illegal, the framework of the old Church remained almost
entire. Most of the abbeys had been wrecked, most of the
cathedrals sadly defaced, and all the parish churches purged
of their images ; but otherwise the face of things remained
much as before. The bishops were still drawing two-thirds of
their revenues ; the parsons were still living in their manses,
and in large districts of the country, more especially in the
northern and south-western counties, keeping possession of the

Episcopacy, Presbytery, and Puritanism in Scotland. 163

churches and barring them against the Protestant preachers.
The Church of which the foundations had been laid by Queen
Margaret, and which had been defended to the last extremity
by Cardinal Beaton, was now like a useless shell lying on the
beach, almost entire, and outwardly as beautiful as ever, but
with all its inner life gone.

But what was to be done with the Church's rentals and teinds
as the bishops, abbots, and parsons died out ? The Reformed
clergy had claimed these as their inheritance, but the lords and
lairds had destined at least a considerable portion of them for
themselves. It must be told that there were many among the
Lords of the Congregation who hungered and thirsted more
after the corn-fields of the monks than after righteousness. But
however this may be, as the law stood, it was only bishops who
could draw the episcopal revenues — only abbots who could lift
the rents of the abbey lands. To the lay mind, it seemed
that to destroy these orders, was to disturb the balance of the
Constitution, by removing the Third Estate, and to annihilate
the tenure by which a great deal of the property of the kingdom
was held. This feeling lay at the bottom of the arrangement so
well known in Scotch ecclesiastical history as the Concordat
of Leith. According to this Concordat, concluded between the
Church and the State on the ist of February 1572, Archbishops
and Bishops, Abbots and Priors, were to be continued as parts
of the Spiritual Estate, but with restricted powers, and subject
to the jurisdiction of the General Assembly. This compromise
being made, the vacant bishoprics were soon filled ; but it was
everywhere whispered that the patrons had bargained with the
presentees that a portion of the episcopal revenues was to be
handed over to them. This led to their being stigmatised as
Tulchan Bishops — they were no better than stuffed calves set
up to make the cow give her milk.

Such was the state of the country and the Church when
Andrew Melville returned home after a residence of many
years at the universities of Paris, Poitiers, and Geneva. He

164 Sf Giles' Lectures.

had already a great reputation as a learned man ; he had been
the intimate friend of Theodore Beza, the successor of Calvin,
not only at Geneva, but in the Reformed Churches everywhere;
and Glasgow was fortunate in securing him as the Principal
of her University. Here he taught not only Divinity and
Oriental languages, but Greek, Logic, Rhetoric, Arithmetic,
Geometry, Aristotle's Ethics, Politics and Physics, and Plato's
Dialogues — a whole Senatus Academicus in himself. Students
came in such numbers that his class-room was crowded.

Melville came to Scotland with strong Genevese pro-
clivities, and it was not long till he threw down the gage
to the Episcopal party in the Church. The battle began in
the Assembly of 1575, and here he obtained his first victory
from his accurate knowledge of his Greek Testament. The
Assembly declared that the name ' bishop ' properly belonged
to all who had charge of a flock ; and all scholars are now
agreed that, according to Apostolic usage, the Assembly was
right. But Melville was not content with this. In 1578 he
pushed his advantage further, and in 1580 he obtained his
crowning victory. The Assembly then unanimously declared
the office of a diocesan bishop to be * unlawful, and with-
out warrant in the Word of God,' and called upon those who
held the office forthwith to demit it. It was a wonderful
triumph to be obtained so quickly by one man against the
influence of the Regent, the simoniacal nobility, and the bishops
whom they had set up.

Looking back upon it now, after three centuries, is it a
triumph of which we should be glad, or which we must regret ?
It is tolerably certain that if the dignities and offices of the
old Church had remained, the greater part of the wealth of
the old Church must have remained with them. By their
abolition it was lost. It is also certain that the country would
have been saved the convulsions and throes through which it
had to pass in the next hundred years. Moreover, thus early,
before Presbyterianism was distinctly stamped upon the Scottish

Episcopacy, Presbytery, and Purita?iism in Scotland. 1 65

Church, that religious uniformity between England and Scot-
land would have been secured which many thoughtful men in
all the centuries have earnestly wished to see, and which many
thoughtful men even still would sacrifice much to realise. To
those who regard all forms of Church polity as indifferent — and
these in Scotland are now a large class — it may seem that
Scotland has paid too high a price for the discovery that
diocesan bishops were unknown in the Apostolic Church.
We have lost our episcopal revenues and our abbey lands ; the
clergy have lost their places in Parliament and on the bench ;
the country has come through agonies of which the traces
still remain ; and England and Scotland, long united politically,
are still divided ecclesiastically. All this has come of Melville's

Such is one aspect of the question. But there is another
aspect which we must also look at. The Presbyterian Church
was the home of freedom and independent thought all through
the seventeenth century — on two different occasions it was
their last asylum when they had been driven out everywhere
else. From it there issued the forces which established the
Commonwealth and afterwards led to the Revolution ; and it is
questionable if there had been Commonwealth or Revolution
without it. Without it the Stuarts might have been still upon
the throne, doing as the Stuarts always liked to do. One
Church might have been established over all the island, undis-
turbed by the muttering of dissent, but dead, stagnant, with no
breath of God blowing over it ; and Great Britain been as king-
ridden and priest-ridden as Spain, Unless, perchance, the
revolutionary fiends, held back for more than a century, and
breaking out with all the more fury because of it, swept away
both Monarchy and Church — as happened in France — reading
to all Churches and nations a salutary lesson for all time. I am
inclined, then, to think that after all we did not pay too high a

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 18 of 37)