The Scots Confession
Today I've been working on a lecture I'm due to give in Cambridge next Monday commemorating the 450th anniversary of the Scottish Reformation. Dairmid MacCulloch of Oxford University calls the Scottish Reformation the most successful of all the reformations of the period. It was driven primarily by the Word of God itself rather than by great personalities.
Though more often than not associated with the towering firgure of the anglified John Knox it would be true to say that things were far advanced before his final return on May 2nd 1559. He began to tour the country and found a thirst for the gospel among all sorts and conditions of people. He virtually exhausted himself as he travelled and preached leaving barely four hours a night for sleep. Already there had been a steady drip feed of exposure to written Scriptures since the time of Wycliffe that made men and women question the corruptions and abuses of the church heirarchy. The reading of Scripture in the vernacular had been permitted by Parliament. Even illiterates were able to grasp the gospel. One Robert Maule became 'very penitent of his former life and embraced the reformed religion.' He had learned it from his son 'a godly person given to reading of the Holy Scriptures' who 'nightly' instructed his father in 'the chief points of religion.'
By 1558 the Protestants were calling for 'a just reformation according to God's word' and wished for 'Christ's religion to be returned to its original purity,' so that 'the grave and godly face of the primitive church' might be restored, ignorance dispelled, and tue doctrine and good manners appear again 'in the churches of this realm.' In August 17th 1560 the Confession of Faith was ratified and approved by Parliament as 'wholesome and sound doctrine grounded upon the infallible truth of God's word.'
The godly humility and stubborn fidelity to the authority of Scripture can be seen in this extract from the preface:
'Protesting, that if any man will note in this our Confession any article or sentence repugning to God's holy word, that it would please him of his gentleness, and for Christian charity's sake, to admonish us of the same in writ; and We of our honour and fidelity do promise unto him satisfaction from the mouth of God (that is, from his holy Scriptures), or else reformation of that which he shall prove to be amiss. 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. For hereof we are most certainly persuaded, "That whosoever denies Christ Jesus, or is ashamed of him, in presence of men, shall be denied before the Father, and before his holy angels." And therefore by the assistance of the mighty Spirit of the same, our Lord Jesus, we firmly purpose to abide to the end in the Confession of this our Faith...'
We are standing on the shoulders of giants!
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