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The Scottish Reformation
Chapter I.—The Hamilton Period, a. d. 1515—1543.
Section 7. Scottish Reformers in England. 1534—1540


Many of the victims of these persecutions, as we have seen, took refuge in England. Let us follow them thither, and we shall find that many of them repaid the hospitality which they received in their exile, by rendering important services to the early reformation of the English Church. It is not generally known how very early, and in how many instances, and in what important posts the Scottish reformers had an opportunity of aiding the efforts of their English brethren in diffusing a knowledge of the Gospel among all ranks and classes of the people of England.

The first of these numerous refugees was Alexander Seyton, whose exile, as we before saw, commenced as early as 1530 or 1531. He lived ten years in England, during which he became a popular occasional preacher in several of the churches of London, and was taken into the family of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, brother-in-law of Henry VIII., in the capacity of domestic chaplain. In 1541, his eminence and influence as a Protestant teacher drew upon him the persecution of Bishop Gardiner, who succeeded in inducing him to make a public recantation of some points of his doctrine at St. Paul's Cross; and he died in the house of his noble patron the following year.

He was succeeded in his influential post by another Scottish refugee, John Willock; who had been a Dominican friar in the monastery of Ayr, and was driven into exile in 1534. He, too, was a favourite preacher in the churches of London, where he went by the name of the Scottish friar, and was held in high esteem by the reforming bishops and royal chaplains of Edward VI. At one time we find him preaching to the rude soldiers of the Duke of Suffolk in the north of England; at another time enjoying the learned society of the doctors of Oxford. He preached by turns in the court, the mansion, the city, and the camp. He was no doubt one of the religious instructors of the accomplished and unfortunate Lady Jane Grey, the daughter of the Duke. He remained in England till the accession of Mary, when persecution obliged him to seek refuge on the Continent; where he found a new patron in the Duchess of Friesland, to whom he recommended himself by his skill in physic.

In the same year, 1534, were driven across the border two other remarkable men, John McAlpin, and John McDowal, both friars, like Seyton and Willock, of the Dominican order. McAlpin was of a respectable highland family, and after being educated at Cologne, where he took the degree of Bachelor of Divinity, he entered the monastery of the Black Friars in Perth. In 1532, he rose to be prior of his house, and soon after fell under suspicion of heresy. Having escaped into England, he conciliated by his talents and learning the favour of Nicholas Shaxton, the first Protestant Bishop of Salisbury, who made him a prebendary of his cathedral, and rector of the parish of Bishopstowe in Wiltshire. Here he laboured for some years, and was probably the first preacher of the Reformation in that part of England. Having married an English lady, the sister of the wife of Coverdale, his position became one of great peril in 1540, under the severe statute of the six articles, one of which was directed against married priests; and he fled into Germany, where we shall meet with him again in a subsequent part of our narrative.

John McDowal had been sub-prior of the Dominicans of Glasgow in 1530, and was incorporated in the same year with the university of that city—a fact which, in a friar, may be taken as a proof of his intellectual activity and love of learning. Sharing the exile of McAlpin, he shared also with him the friendship of the Bishop of Salisbury, who made him his chaplain, and sent him down to Salisbury in 1537, to preach in the pulpit of the cathedral against the supremacy of the Pope, and in favour of the changes recently introduced by the king. McDowal, in fact, was the first preacher of the Reformation in that city; and he was roughly handled by all parties there for the zeal he displayed in executing his invidious commission. Neither the king's name nor the bishop's authority could protect him from the wrath of the cathedral clergy and the city magistrates. He was apprehended and thrown into prison; and several letters are still extant which he wrote from the city-goal to Shaxton and Lord Cromwell, in which he informed them of the hard usage which had befallen him at the hands of a people who were still too blindly loyal to the Pope to remember their duty either to their king or bishop. He remained in England till 1540, when he sought refuge in Germany.

During the severe persecutions of 1539 and 1540, the men of mark who fled from Scotland into England were numerous; including Gavyn Logie, principal regent of St. Leonard's College, St Andrews, and John Fife, a canon of the priory; Andrew Charters of Dundee, a Charterhouse friar, and John Lyne, a Franciscan; Thomas Cocklaw, John Richardson, Robert Richardson, and Robert Logie, all canons of the Abbey of Cambuskenneth; and George Wishart of Montrose, Florence Wilson of Elgin, and George Buchanan, tutor to the king's sons—all distinguished for their love of classical literature and learning. Buchanan and Wilson, or Volusenus, made no long stay in England, but preferred to seek a refuge among the elegant scholars of France. Of Wishart we shall have to speak in a subsequent chapter, and of the fortunes of most of the rest we know little or nothing. But of Robert Richardson there are still remaining three letters in the Cromwell Correspondence, from which it appears that in 1535 and 1536 he was employed by Lord Cromwell, who was then Vicar-General of Henry VIII. as well as Secretary of State, as a Protestant preacher; that he preached occasionally at St Paul's Cross; and that he was sent down to Lincolnshire and other disturbed parts of England to preach against the Pope's supremacy to the common people, who were in danger of being stirred up into sedition by the agents of Aske's rebellion.

But of all the Scottish exiles then resident in England, the most prominent and influential was Alexander Alesius. Having come over from Germany in 1535, upon encouragement given him by the English agents of Henry VIII. who visited Saxony in that year to negotiate with the evangelical princes of the empire, he was warmly welcomed by Cranmer, to whom he brought a letter of introduction from Melancthon, along with a copy of his celebrated work, the "Loci Communes." By Cranmer he was introduced to Cromwell, and by the good offices of both he was brought under the notice of the king, to whose favour Melancthon had also recommended him. Henry was pleased with the Wittemberg divine, made him "King's scholar," and instructed Cromwell, who had just then been appointed Chancellor of Cambridge in the room of Bishop Fisher, to send him down to that university as a reader in divinity. Along with this honourable appointment, he received a salary out of Cromwell's privy purse of twenty pounds per annum, which was then a liberal allowance. He went into residence at Queen's College towards the end of 1535, and commenced a series of lectures in the public schools of the university on the Hebrew Psalter. He was probably the first man who ever delivered lectures in Cambridge upon the original Scriptures. But he was not suffered to continue his labours long. The disciple of the Wittemberg Reformers was too far in advance of the doctors of Cambridge. It soon began to be understood that he was a Lutheran, and that it was by the recommendation of Melancthon himself that he had obtained the favour of the king and chancellor. Heresy was speedily detected in his teaching, and he was publicly challenged to defend himself against that charge. He accepted the challenge, and on the day fixed for the disputation, he awaited in the public schools the arrival of his opponent. But the opponent failed to appear. He preferred the safer course of plotting against him and fomenting a tumult, to the danger of meeting so skilful a dialectician in a scholastic conflict. Alesius was informed by his friends that his life was threatened, and appealed to the vice-chancellor to protect him in the exercise of his public duty. But the vice-chancellor, who was himself a Papist, declined to interfere or to give him any guarantee. He left Alesius exposed to the malice of his enemies. A foreigner, a Wittemberger, and the nominee of the new chancellor, who was unpopular in Cambridge (for the university was still lamenting the fall of Fisher the position of the king's reader in divinity was one of great peril; and in the present temper of the university, which was disgusted with the king's new ecclesiastical policy, he had but a poor prospect of official usefulness, even if he might have been sure of his personal safety. He was compelled to yield to the necessity of the time, and to return to London after less than a year's residence in the university.

As he still continued, however, in the service of Cromwell, his powerful patron had soon another opportunity of employing his remarkable learning and talents. In 1536 or 1537, there was a convocation or conference of the bishops assembled at Westminster to discuss some theological questions, which had been submitted to them by the king. Cromwell, as vicar-general, presided in the conference and managed the debates. On his way, one day, to the place of meeting, he chanced to fall in with Alesius in the street, and invited him to accompany him and take part in the discussion. The question in dispute happened to be the number of the sacraments ; and after a prologue by Cromwell, who sat at the head of the table, the debate began with an address from Cranmer, the archbishop, who recommended to the bishops a close adherence in the discussion to the Word of God, as the only authentative standard in religious controversies. But it was only a few of the bishops who were of Cranmer's mind : John Stokesley, Bishop of London, followed on the opposite side, and contended for the seven sacraments of Rome, on the joint authority of Scripture and tradition. Edward Fox, Bishop of Hereford, spoke next, and animadverted severely upon the reasonings of Stokesley, as a relapse to the old scholastic method of arguing such questions, which both the king and his vicar-general had counselled them to abstain from upon that occasion. It was at this point of the debate that Cromwell brought in the assistance of Alesius. He introduced him honourably to the assembly, as a man of piety and learning ; and Alesius proceeded, with equal modesty and ability, to deliver his opinion. The validity of a sacrament, he urged, depended upon the promise of God's grace being attached to it: the promise of God's grace could only be found in God's own word; the authority of the Scriptures was the only true and infallible standard of faith, and tried by that authority, the seven sacraments of Rome could not be sustained. Before Alesius had finished his argument, the hour of adjournment had arrived, and Cromwell requested him to stop, promising that he should be heard again on the following day. But Stokesley and the other popish bishops, smarting under the strokes of his logic, remonstrated so warmly with Cranmer against the irregularity of bringing in a stranger and foreigner to take part in their debates, that the archbishop was obliged to make a representation to Cromwell upon the subject; and the latter, not caring to increase the irritation of the popish party by pressing the point, contented himself with requesting Alesius to commit his whole argument to writing, and undertook to bring it in that form under the notice of the bishops. This argument the author afterwards published in Latin, with a dedication to John Frederick, Elector of Saxony; and the work was so much esteemed by the English Protestant divines, as a demonstration of the sole authority of the Word of God in matters of faith, that it was translated into English by one of them for popular use.

Alesius employed himself in London for several years in the practice of medicine, which he had probably studied at Wittemburg; but having married during these years, the statute of the six articles compelled him, in 1540, to consult his safety, and that of his family, by a hurried retreat to the Continent He left at the same time, and probably in company, with his countrymen, John McAlpin and John Fyfe, and all three experienced a warm and hospitable welcome from Alesius's old friends at Wittemberg.

Thus early in the history of the Reformation began a series of reciprocal good offices between the two British kingdoms, which continued for many subsequent years, and which ended in consolidating and securing the foundations of the Reformed Church in both parts of the Island.


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