Reformed Churchmen

We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at:

Saturday, August 9, 2014

August 1560 A.D. Remembering the Scots Parliament, Reformation & 1560 Confession of Faith

August 1560 A.D.  Remembering the Scots Parliament, Reformation & Confession of Faith  
They adopted the Scots Confession of 1560, three years before the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England. The first printing press in Scotland was set up in Edinburgh in 1507.  However the Scriptures and Reformed theological literature had to be printed abroad and smuggled into the country prior to the official parliamentary endorsement of the Reformed Faith in August 1560.
We are fortunate to have a FB friend, the Rev. Dr. Wayne Pearce from Scotland who continuingly offers good posts and comments.  We have hosted his book on our header for book of the month,  July 2014:  "John Spottiswoode: Jacobean Archbishop and Statesman" at:  But, we digress and return to the subject of the Scottish Reformation, that is, an article by Mr. Pearce.

An excellent article by the Rev. Dr. Wayne Pearce at: Accessed 27 Feb 2014.

Dr. Pearce also hosts a scholarly FB page as a venue of fresh and good air at .
Why Scotland Needed Reformation
My subject is ‘Why Scotland needed Reformation’.  Maybe a more apposite title would be ‘Why Scotland needs Reformation’ for it is probably safe to say that at no time since the Reformation of 1560 has there been such need for reformation and renewal throughout the church and nation. Ungodliness and unrighteousness abound; idolatry and immorality are endemic; apostasy and heresy have taken such a toll on the churches that only a remnant remains to raise a banner to the biblical faith that was rediscovered, re-articulated and re-stated in the Scottish Reformation. While we must not despise the day of small things we must never rejoice and rest satisfied in them!
Let us be in no doubt that we live in dark and degenerate days and therefore we must be praying for and working towards reformation. This is no time to throw in the towel; to flee from the field of battle; to take to our little denominational bunkers and hide ourselves away in splendid isolation. Rather we must learn from and emulate the reformers who faced a similar situation to our own and look to the One who is still on the throne and beseech Him to visit our land once again in sovereign grace and glory. It must be our prayer that in wrath He would remember mercy. The cry of the psalmist must surely be ours: Restore us, O LORD God of hosts! let your face shine, that we may be saved! (Ps.80:19).
With this in mind, I address you tonight not as one who has a mere antiquarian interest in the past. Rather I stand before you as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and therefore as one who has a deep admiration and respect for the great cloud of witnesses whom God raised up and sent forth to preach and teach the faith in the 16th century. These men moreover had it encapsulated and systematised in Catechetical, Confessional and Creedal formulations for the instruction and blessing not only of their own generation but for subsequent generations, including ours. Let us understand that Reformed Christians are Confessional, Catholic and Commissional Christians. That is not to say that there were no great and godly saints in the church prior to the Reformation but rather it is to say that the visible church had significantly departed from biblical patterns of piety and practice which needed to be restored. 
Let us be thankful today that we can enter into the labours of those who have gone before us. The Reformation was not merely another historical event that might engage our interest but was quite simply the greatest revival of biblical Christianity in Scotland’s history. It ensured freedom from bondage; light from darkness; life from death to the church and nation. And let us also understand that Revival and Reformation went hand in glove. Or to change the metaphor slightly they were like Siamese twins that cannot be separated! While revival, like salvation, is monergistic, that is, it is solely the work of God – it is of Sovereign Grace; reformation by contrast is synergistic in that therein God and His people work together to make His church faithful and fruitful. If we truly want to witness reformation in our own day then it is essential that Reformed Christians and churches worship, work and witness on a scriptural and hence a confessional and connectional basis.
In the Scottish Reformation, church, state and the general populace combined under Christ’s banner to constitute a Reformed church and nation to the glory of God. And this is what we must be praying and working for today. When I talk of the state here I’m not referring to the crown for the Reformation in Scotland was achieved in opposition to the crown. Instead influential men (territorial magnates and noblemen) covenanted before God to maintain, uphold and defend the true faith and the ministers whom God sent forth into His harvest field of Scotland.
Let us turn then to the question set before us as to why Scotland needed Reformation in the 16th century. And in so doing let us acknowledge our need of Reformation today. Let us be in no doubt that the antidote and remedy to the church’s woes back in the 16th century are the same today. 
Formation – Deformation - Reformation
First and foremost Scotland needed Reformation because the church in Scotland was in a dreadful state of deformation. The church was originally formed, founded and grounded upon the word of God: built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord (Eph.2:20-21). This was the period of her FORMATION. We have in the 66 books that comprise the biblical canon, God’s complete and perfect revelation. It not only makes us wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ but it is given to equip us for every good work. This is the foundation upon which the church is built. This is the standard by which the church is delineated, determined and defined! The word of God is the measure of a standing, falling or fallen church. Christians are not called to be innovators, pioneers or revolutionaries; instead we are called to be followers - a truth which the reformers truly grasped but one which their detractors had lamentably neglected and rejected.
The church of the Lord Jesus Christ is called to faithfulness. She is to hear and heed the word of God. Moreover she is not to add to or take away from it. Our faithfulness thus is measured in terms of our adherence and allegiance to the Lord Christ and His word. Holy Scripture is the perfect rule in all matters pertaining to faith and practice for the church collectively and for every Christian who comprises her number. It is the word in scripture, illuminated by the Spirit that reveals the Word Incarnate; our beloved Immanuel; our only Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Christians must therefore forever forsake the endless cacophony of voices calling them to be PC (politically correct – this is the way of the mainstream churches mired in theological liberalism today)! Or CC (culturally correct – which is the clarion call of neo-evangelicalism which enthusiastically embraces the ways of the world) or TC (traditionally correct – which was and is the default position of Roman Catholicism – tradition being taken for the decrees and teaching of the papacy or magisterium). Rather we must be BC – Biblically correct. Sola Scriptura was the cry of the reformers and must remain ours today. Ignorance of God’s doctrine is the cause of gullibility and vulnerability within the visible church and is the mother of error, folly and superstition. This was and ever is the cause of deformation in the church.
Sola scriptura is not to be equated with solo scriptura as it was for the Anabaptists at the time of the Reformation and is for many evangelicals today. By contrast the Reformed doctrine of sola scriptura articulates the view that Holy Scripture is the only infallible rule in matters of faith and morals but it similarly recognises that the church rather than the individual is the pillar and buttress of truth. The church must therefore uphold, defend and set forth biblical/doctrinal truth in creedal, catechetical and confessional formularies as bulwarks of orthodoxy and orthopraxy. 
Many admonitions and warnings are given in the Sacred Scriptures concerning false teachers and wolves in sheep’s clothing who creep into the churches unaware and who lead the saints astray if not confronted and confounded by the word of truth. The Apostle Paul goes as far as to anathematise or curse those who preach a false gospel – that is an unbiblical one. Let such be accursed says the inspired, infallible and inerrant word. Let us not question then the seriousness of any departure from the biblical gospel and the faith once and for all time delivered to the saints. This departure from the teaching of special revelation which is the word of God was not only the precipitant cause of error but was the fundamental reason for the deformation of the visible church in Scotland, and elsewhere, prior to the Reformation, as it is again today. 
At the Council of Trent which met periodically between 1545 and 1563 in response to the Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church anathematised any and all who preached and believed that justification was by grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. Of course, it needs to be said that for the Roman Catholic Church, justification was/is an all-embracing term that incorporates sanctification. The reformers by contrast separated justification from sanctification for theological precision and definition, although they clearly taught that they always accompany one another in those who are being saved. Justification refers to the judicial or legal standing of a sinner before God. As the Shorter Catechism states: ‘Justification is an act of God's free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.’
The travesty, as well as the tragedy, is that in anathematising those who contradicted her dogma the Roman Catholic Church was in effect un-churching herself by proclaiming a different gospel to the apostle’s. Her deformation moreover was readily apparent to those who examined her via the matrix of God’s word in the Reformation. Godly men measuring the church by the perfect standard of God’s infallible and unchanging word found that the church had departed from the truth in many areas of doctrine and was therefore now deformed and seriously in need of being Re-formed on a biblical template.
The Scottish reformer, John Knox, in a public disputation with a representative of the Roman Catholic Church at St Andrews in 1546 publicly declared: ‘we must define the church by the right notes given to us in God’s Scriptures of the true church. We must discern the immaculate spouse of Jesus Christ, from the mother of confusion, spiritual Babylon, lest that imprudently we embrace a harlot instead of a chaste spouse; yea, to speak it in plain words, lest that we submit ourselves to Satan, thinking that we submit ourselves to Jesus Christ. For as for your Roman Kirk, as it is now corrupted, and the authority thereof, wherein stands the hope of your victory, I no more doubt but that it is the synagogue of Satan, and the head thereof, called the Pope, to be that man of sin, of whom the apostle speaks, than I doubt that Jesus Christ suffered for the procurement of the visible Kirk [at] Jerusalem...’
Now while there were apostates and heretics in the early centuries of the New Testament era who periodically if not persistently threatened the integrity and pristine purity of the churches, the actual period of formation came to an end with the death of the last of the apostles. And that was followed by a period of expansion and consolidation as the church sought to fulfil the Great Commission by going and making disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Triune God and teaching them all things commanded by Christ. The church was catholic, confessional and commissional. The church militant was and is never perfect as the Bible makes clear but she ought to be identifiable by sound doctrine, discipline and the rightful distribution of the sacraments instituted by Christ.
It is difficult to determine with precision when the period of deformation began to have a major impact on the church universal but the reformers clearly believed that it coincided with the usurped power, position and prestige of the papacy. And hence John Knox prefaces his History of the Reformation in Scotland with the following words: ‘The first book of the Reformation of Religion within the realm of Scotland; containing the manner and by what persons the light of Christ’s Evangel, hath been manifested unto this realm after that horrible and universal DEFECTION from the truth which has come by the means of that Roman Antichrist.’ Anti-Christ meaning against the will and work of Christ!
Permit me then to reiterate for the sake of clarity that the principle cause that precipitated and promoted deformation in the visible church was her departure, or to use Knox’s choice word ‘defection’, from the doctrine or teaching of Holy Scripture. The church had failed to hear and heed the word of God which is disobedience and rebellion. She had added to the plain teaching of the word of God the traditions of the church and the enactments and decrees of successive popes and councils. And thus by the 16th century the church had become despoiled and deformed to such an extent by the traditions, teachings and practices of men that she was barely recognisable to the church founded by the Lord Christ and His apostles. Although there was unquestionably a church among her as John Calvin rightly pointed out, she had nevertheless defected from the truth as it is in Christ Jesus and therefore urgently required reformation.
Reformation in Doctrine and Practice
Reformation was thus needful because the church was deformed and despoiled in both doctrine and practice. And therefore it will pay dividends to consider certain key areas where Reformation was particularly needful.
Firstly as already implied the Roman Catholic Church erred in its doctrine of Holy Scripture. If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? (Ps.11:3). While recognising the inspiration and authority of Scripture the Church of Rome rejected the sufficiency of the word of God. Rather she forever added to the truth and in so doing she obscured and all but obliterated the teaching of the Bible – particularly the gospel. Rome appeared to place greater emphasis and prominence on the innovations and imaginations of fallible men, than she did the word of truth believing that her enactments were every bit as inspired as the infallible word of God. The Reformers rectified this grave deficiency. They fully recognised the divine origin, supreme authority and sufficiency of the Bible. This was and ever is the foundation on which the church must be built and stand.
John Row the Scottish Presbyterian minister and historian whose father was one of the compilers of the Scottish Confession of Faith of 1560 and the First Book of Discipline in 1561 wrote: ‘...For this I wish all men to know, that the Reformation of Religion came in otherwise to Scotland than in other parts; because the Queen, who then had the authority, being a malicious enemy to God’s truth, thought that she should suppress the Protestants in this Kingdom, by bringing in of Frenchmen to help the Papists, who were upon her side; yet the Lord disappointed her. And she dying, the work of Reformation prospered; and the ministers that were, took not for their pattern from any Kirk in the world, no, not from Geneva itself; but laying God’s word before them, made Reformation according thereunto, both in doctrine and then in discipline, when and as they might get it overtaken.’
Given the centrality and prominence of the word, we must note how in the Providence of God, the invention of the printing press proved crucial to promoting and furthering the cause of Reformation in Scotland as it did elsewhere. The printed word helped produce and promote growth in literacy that made it possible for increasing numbers of Scots to examine and measure the church in light of the plain teaching of God’s word. It similarly stimulated growth in grace and knowledge. For the first time in history it was both practically and financially possible to produce large quantities of Bibles and Reformed literature in the common language of the people and have them distributed throughout the length and breadth of Europe.
The first printing press in Scotland was set up in Edinburgh in 1507. However the Scriptures and Reformed theological literature had to be printed abroad and smuggled into the country prior to the official parliamentary endorsement of the Reformed Faith in August 1560. There was a notable exception to this rule when for a brief period in 1543, under the guidance and authority of the earl of Arran, the Scottish Parliament passed an Act granting liberty to all to read the Scriptures in their own native language. Such was the hunger for God’s word that this legislation led to the importation of a huge quantity of English Bibles. Commenting on this wonderful providence Knox wrote, ‘This was no small victory of Christ Jesus, fighting against the conjured enemies of his verity; no small comfort to such as before were held in such bondage that they durst not have read the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, nor the articles of faith, in the English tongue, but they should have been accused of heresy. Then might have been seen the Bible lying upon every gentleman’s table. The New Testament was borne about in many men’s hands.’ God’s word was becoming a lamp for men’s feet and a light for their path – and it demanded Reformation.
English language Bibles based on fresh translations of the original Biblical languages gave men and women confidence moreover that they possessed the word of truth. Until the 16th century the church in the West had been dependent on the Jerome or Latin Vulgate Bible which had been the authorised and definitive text since the 4th century. Modern translations however showed up a couple of significant deficiencies in this version and revealed how they had precipitated deformation in the church. The reformers thus were compelled to put aright what was amiss. For example it could now be shown from God’s word that the dogmas associated with the Virgin Mary were in part predicated on Jerome’s mistranslation of the original Greek scriptures. The Vulgate unhelpfully and ambiguously translated the words of the angel Gabriel at Luke 1:28 by describing Mary as gratia plena, that is, one who is full of grace. On the basis of this translation the medieval church had wrongly taught that Mary was a reservoir of grace that could replenish thirsty souls on demand. Here was one of the false foundations for Mariolatry which was and is such a central feature of Roman Catholic devotion. God’s word does not say that Mary is full of grace but on the contrary that she was a recipient of grace or one who was highly favoured by God. Similarly the Latin Vulgate translated the opening words of the Lord Jesus’ ministry as recorded at Matthew 4:17 as ‘do penance’ for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. The Roman Catholic sacrament and teaching on works of penance was given credence and defended on the basis of this error. The word of God however says, repent rather than do penance. Coming to fully grasp truths such as these thus made Reformation necessary.      
Similarly the reformers rightly pointed out that the Latin Vulgate contained books which were not part of the inspired canon of scripture and which were included against Jerome's better judgement. In other words the Vulgate contained the following non-canonical or apocryphal books but failed to differentiate them thus: 1 and 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Additions to Esther, The Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Jesus son of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Baruch, Song of the Three Children, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, The Prayer of Manasseh and 1 and 2 Maccabees. These non-canonical texts were used by the Papacy to support and defend a number of unbiblical dogmas including: the doctrine of the Mass; the notion that the world was formed from pre-existing matter; the view that the giving of alms and similar works are meritorious and make atonement for sin (that is why Trent accepted these books as scripture rather than admit that Luther was correct). They furthermore were cited as authorities for the invocation and intercession of the saints; the worship of angels; purgatory and the redemption of souls after death. The reformers made crystal clear that these books were not part of the inspired scriptures as they were not given by prophetic revelation, were not written in Hebrew, were rejected by the Jews to whom the Old Testament scriptures were originally entrusted and were never quoted by Christ in the New Testament. Consequently orthodoxy and orthopraxy were not to be decided on the basis of their teaching.
Contrary to the vociferous claims made by the Papacy to be the true custodian, interpreter and teacher of the word of God, she had shown by her doctrine and practice that she had deviated from the teaching of the Bible. She moreover attacked, intimidated, persecuted and murdered those who actually preached and taught the unadulterated word in Scotland through her episcopal representatives. Her bishops and priests moreover often sorely lacked biblical knowledge. This grave deficiency was personified in the attitude of George Crichton, Bishop of Dunkeld, who after ensuring that the godly Thomas Forret, the vicar of Dollar, was condemned to be burned in Edinburgh in 1539 for daring to preach the gospel of God’s grace, arrogantly and blindly declared; ‘I thank God, that I never knew what the Old and New Testament were! Therefore, Dean Thomas, I will know nothing but my portuise [breviary] and my pontifical.’ The word of God however brought to light multiple defects and deformities in the church’s doctrine, worship, work and witness. Scotland needed Reformation in light of the word of God. And the church and nation in Scotland were thus duly informed, reformed, conformed and transformed on that basis.
Among the many glaring deformities that required reformation was the actual doctrine of church. The papacy's claim that there was no possibility of salvation out of communion with the pope was denounced as erroneous. Her despotic and hierarchical form of church government was similarly shown to be bereft of biblical warrant. Its pyramidal structure with the Pope as supreme and absolute ruler at the top, then his Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, Priests and a raft of subdivisions in between along with Abbots, Priors, monks, friars, nuns and so on – all lacked a biblical basis. The aged Walter Milne who was the last of the reformers to be martyred for the true faith in pre-Reformation Scotland declared from the stake: ‘Dear friends, the cause why I suffer this day, is not for any crime laid to my charge, although I acknowledge myself a miserable sinner before God, but only for the defence of Jesus Christ, set forth in the Old and New Testaments: for which as many faithful Martyrs have offered their lives most gladly, being assured after their death to enjoy endless felicity; so this day I praise God, that he hath called me of his mercy amongst the rest of his servants, to seal up his truth with my life, which I received of him, so willingly I offer it to his glory. Therefore as you would escape eternal death, be no more seduced with the lyes of the Priests, Monks, Friers, Priors, Abbots, Bishops, and the rest of the sect of antichrist; but depend only upon Jesus Christ and his mercy, that you may be delivered from condemnation.’
The reformers convincingly argued that the Pope was not the successor to the Apostle Peter as he claimed nor were his bishops the rightful heirs to the other apostles. Rather the apostolic succession was shown to be doctrinal rather than organisational. The reformers thus reformed the church on the pattern of the New Testament Scriptures. They abolished the Roman Catholic Church’s false distinction between religious and lay participation in favour of the universal priesthood of all believers while rightly recognising and giving sanction to the continuing biblical offices of minister, doctor, ruling elder and deacon within the church. The Lord Jesus has not only given His church a constitution but He has also given her a government!
We should furthermore note that some historians of the Scottish Reformation have claimed that the reformers favoured an Episcopal system of church government rather than a Presbyterian one on the basis that the Reformation church employed superintendents. The office of superintendent as outlined in the First Book of Discipline however cannot be equated with a Reformed episcopate but was a temporary expedient to oversee the planting and establishment of Reformed parish churches throughout the land. Superintendents were not bishops in the traditional sense at all but rather were answerable and accountable to the ministers and elders meeting in the church courts. The First Book of Discipline thus states ‘The superintendent being elected, and appointed to his charge, must be subjected to the censure and correction of the ministers and elders, not only of his chief town, but also of the whole province over which he is appointed overseer.’ There can be no doubt that the Reformed Church in Scotland was essentially Presbyterian in polity.  
If the instrumental cause of deformation in the church had been departure and defection from God’s word; the elemental cause was the Papacy itself. As far back as 1440, Lorenzo Valla in his On the Donation of Constantine was able to conclusively demonstrate that the document on which the pope’s temporal authority had rested, instead of dating from the days of the first Christian Emperor Constantine as alleged was in fact an eighth century forgery. But worse was the Pope’s claim to be the supreme and universal head of the church. This not only lacked biblical sanction but in the view of the reformers verged on blasphemy. For it appeared to rob Christ of His unique and exclusive place and glory in and over His church. The reformers made clear that there is but one sovereign Head and King of the church who is Christ the Lord. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. He must reign until the last of His enemies be made His footstool. The Pope likewise robbed the Father and the Holy Spirit of glory by taking to himself such titles as ‘vicar of Christ’ – which title belongs to the Spirit alone and ‘holy father’ in spite of the Lord Christ’s express command: And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven (Mt.23:9). Such deformities had to be exposed and reformed.
Preaching his first sermon at St Andrews in 1546 on Daniel 7 in the wake of George Wishart’s execution at the stake at the hands of the pope’s chief representative in Scotland Cardinal David Beaton, John Knox pointed out that the Pope was not the head of the church but instead was ‘the man of sin, Antichrist and Whore of Babylon prophesied in the Bible. ...He showed that this man of sin or Antichrist, was not to be restrained to the person of any one man only, no more than by the fourth beast was to be understood the person of any one Emperor. But by such names the Spirit of God would forewarn his chosen of a body and a multitude, having a wicked head, which should not only be sinful himself but that also should be occasion of sin to all that should be subject unto him (as Christ Jesus is cause of justice to all the members of his body); and is called the Antichrist, that is to say, one contrary to Christ, because that he is contrary to him in life, doctrine, laws and subjects.’
Knox went on to expose numerous errors that he attributed to the papacy. He later wrote: ‘And then he began to decipher  the lives of divers Popes, and the lives of all the shavelings for the most part; their doctrines and laws he plainly proved to be repugn[ant] directly to the doctrine and laws of God the Father, and of Christ Jesus His Son. This he proved by conferring [comparing] the doctrine of justification, expressed in the Scriptures, which teach that man is ‘justified by faith only’; ‘that the blood of Jesus Christ purges us from all our sins’; and the doctrine of the Papists, which attributeth justification to the works of the law, yea, to the works of man’s invention, as pilgrimages, pardons, and other such baggage. That the papistical laws repugned to the laws of the Evangel, he proved by the laws made of observation of days, abstaining from meats, and from marriage, which Christ Jesus made free; and the forbidding whereof, Saint Paul called the ‘doctrine of devils’. In handling the notes of that Beast given in the text, he willed men to consider these notes ‘There shall one arise unlike to the other, having a mouth speaking great things and blasphemous,’ could be applied to any other but to the Pope and his kingdom. For ‘if these (said he) be not great words and blasphemous: ‘the successor of Peter’, ‘the Vicar of Christ’, ‘the Head of the Kirk’, ‘most holy’, ‘most blessed’, ‘that cannot err’, that ‘may make right wrong and wrong of right’, that ‘of nothing, may make somewhat’ and that ‘hath all verity in the shrine of his breast, yea, ‘that has power over all and none power of him’ nay, ‘not to say that he does wrong, although he draw ten thousand million of souls with himself to hell’; if these and many others, able to be shown in his own Canon Law, be not great and blasphemous words, and such as never mortal man spake before, let the world judge.’
A Reformed church, which is a biblical church, the reformers convincingly showed, had no place for a Papal head nor His doctrines and laws. The papacy’s sacerdotal emphases was adjudged not only unbiblical but positively harmful and therefore had to be reformed. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1Tim.2:5). The reformers moreover repudiated five of the pre-Reformation church’s seven sacraments. These were penance, confirmation, extreme unction or the anointing of the dying, holy orders and matrimony and even the remaining two, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, had to be reformed in light of the Lord Christ’s institution. Her soteriology or doctrine of salvation was similarly exposed as erroneous. Salvation was not a combination of grace and law; faith and works but rather was all of grace. The dogma of purgatory was exposed as myth and hence the Pope’s so called treasury of merit, indulgencies, pardons, along with such works as pilgrimages, prayers to the dead, auricular confession and a host of similar meritorious works were declared superfluous because lacking biblical warrant. The reformers also purged and purified the church’s worship applying the regulative principle to her rites and rituals.
Reformation however was needful not only because there was deformation in doctrine and despotic rule in government but reformation was also needful due to deformity in discipline. The church for too long had turned a blind eye to the depraved, debased and debauched lifestyles of successive popes, cardinals, bishops and priests and religious in the church as well as in the lives of the laity. This was not simply the view of those who were avowed Protestants but was admitted by many Roman Catholics as well.
Sir David Lindsay in his Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis, which was first performed before King James V and his Queen, Mary of Guise at Linlithgow Palace in 1540, lambasted and lampooned the church for the conspicuous carnality and venality of her office holders. Such public and caustic attacks on the institutional church were not confined to the Scottish literati and the upper echelons of society however but were found in growing abundance elsewhere too. In 1543 the Scottish Privy Council ordered the seizure and destruction of ‘slanderous bills, writings, ballads and books that are daily made, written and printed to the defamation of all estates both spiritual and temporal.’ In 1549 the provincial council bitterly complained of the widespread circulation of ‘books of rhymes or popular songs containing calumnies and slanders defamatory of churchmen and church institutions.’ In 1552 the Scottish Parliament passed further legislation in an attempt to ban unapproved ‘books, ballads, songs, blasphemies, rhymes or tragedies in Latin or English’ – but all with little effect. While not all those who berated the widespread corruption, immorality and malpractice of the Church in Scotland were Reformed by conviction, such widespread disillusionment and displeasure added weight to the campaign for Reformation in the church and nation.
Even the Church hierarchy was compelled to confess that action was required and consequently initiated a programme of moderate internal reforms in her desperation to deflect and ward-off wide-spread complaints and criticisms in the years leading up to 1560. Fire and intimidation had proved ineffectual in stifling and suppressing calls for reform. And we would have to conclude that her initiative at internal amendment was similarly unimpressive and unsuccessful. A provincial church council met in 1549 and blamed the worldliness, ill-discipline and immoral behaviour of churchmen as the main cause of the growing defections to the Reformed Faith. In an attempt to alleviate the worst ecclesiastical abuses the Council issued a number of injunctions intended to end such practices as concubinage, non-residence, pluralism, unqualified office-holding, the trading activities of churchmen, and improper clerical dress and diet. It also declared its intention to instil a greater knowledge of and devotion to the teachings of the Bible among the clergy, and stipulated that bishops and others who exercised oversight in the church should preach a sermon at least four time a year as an example for inferiors to follow.
The church authorities similarly ordered that a theologian be appointed in each cathedral, as the Council of Trent had decreed, and a lecturer on Scripture be employed by each college in Scotland. The bishops were each urged to undertake regular visitation of parish churches and religious houses to ensure that these injunctions were being implemented. They also called for a halt to the worrying and on-going process of secularisation of church property and revenues. Nevertheless the ineffectiveness of this initiative coupled to the inability and unwillingness of the church to impose even these injunctions ensured that these measures had to be reiterated by another church council meeting in 1552.
That year the council additionally voiced its concern at the growing trend in lay absenteeism from church services. This they adduced was partly contingent on the poor quality and ignorance of many of those serving in the parishes. To remedy this disturbing discovery a catechism was approved for publication and dissemination. What an indictment of the institutional church in Scotland that a catechism had to be drawn up to provide parish priests, not lay people, with a modicum of knowledge and understanding of basic church doctrines in an attempt to hold back the tide of reform that was washing over the land.
Moreover it is hardly surprising that so few Scots attended divine worship when we come to consider that it was conducted in Latin - a language which relatively few people understood. The laity furthermore were segregated and excluded from truly participating in worship by the rood screen that divided churches into nave and choir. The nave was where the laity could observe the ceremonies from a distance through the haze of incense and candle smoke. The choir was the sacred place where the priests with their backs to the congregation seemed to mumble away in an inaudible and incomprehensible language that they themselves it would appear barely understood. In the view of the reformers this was a far cry from the beauty and simplicity of New Testament worship which included congregational singing of psalms, the reading and preaching of the word, prayer and the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
It was testimony to the ineffectiveness of this programme that the church council sat again for the third and final time in 1559 when it acknowledged and decried the steady advance of the Reformation in Scotland. It is clear that the Roman Catholic Church’s inadequate and ineffective venture at reform was too little too late for a sizeable number of Scots who had concluded that the visible church had degenerated from the pure principles, precepts and practices revealed by God in His word. She had been brought to the bar of Scripture and found culpable in adding to and distorting the true Faith. The church had sought to amend to a limited extent the sub-standard educational status of the clergy, improve upon their financial provision and repair cash-starved parish churches. However, she failed to address the underlying causes of her deformation which required reformation by recourse to the word.
The church hierarchy in Scotland inadvisedly restated their commitment to church tradition, to the adoration and invocation of dead men and women, to the use or misuse of images, belief in purgatory, transubstantiation or the real presence of Christ in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper and the sacrifice of the Mass. Indeed, in an attempt to defend and promote the Mass throughout Scotland, the church commissioned and had published Ane Godlie Exhortation on the Eucharist, a pamphlet that became popularly known as the Twapenny Faith. However her efforts were in vain.
The Roman Catholic Church in Scotland did not go out with a bang so to speak but went out with barely a whisper and whimper. With the notable exceptions of Ninian Winzet, an ex-schoolmaster from Linlithgow and Quenton Kennedy, the Abbot of Crossraguel who boldly and vociferously opposed the Reformation and engaged the reformers in public disputations, the overwhelming majority accepted the Reformation as a fait accompli. It is probably fair to presume that many Roman Catholics believed that the Queen would return to Scotland and overturn the Reformation and re-impose the old religion on the nation with French military assistance in due time. But their hopes were short-lived. The Reformation in Scotland was thus in comparative terms a peaceful transition and transformation of church and nation.
Although the famous Reformation Parliament which met in July and August 1560 had been expressly forbidden by the crown to debate or legislate on religious matters, in August it abrogated papal authority in Scotland, outlawed the Roman Catholic mass and nullified the overwhelming majority of the pre-Reformation church’s laws and dogmas. The Parliament moreover commissioned the reformers to draw up a Confession of Faith and a Book of Discipline to act as a bulwark to Reformed and Biblical orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Scotland was thus duly reformed by recourse to the word in Scripture and the Word Incarnate. 
The church in Scotland had needed Reformation because she was in a serious state of deformation. We find ourselves facing a similar situation today. One that is even worse! The answer however is the same. The church and nation needs reforming on a biblical template. To the law and to the testimony! if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land (2Chron.7:14).
J. Spottiswoode, History, 96-7.
DSCHT, 696.
DSCHT, 696.
See W.D. Maxwell, A History of Worship in the Church of Scotland, chapter 2.

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