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The Scottish Reformation
Chapter II.—The Wishart Period, a. d. 1543—1554.
Section 3. Renewal of Persecution—Appeal to the Nation by Alexander Alesius. 1543—1544


The Regent was now to turn persecutor of his former friends, and reversing St Paul's happier case, destroyer of the faith which once he professed. He was not naturally cruel; he would have even been pleased to avoid rekindling the flames of persecution; but he had sold himself to the cardinal to obtain his support; he must now do the Church's work, not his own; and Beaton was not the man to spare him the humiliation and mortification of having to brand with ignominy, and doom to death, the disciples of a faith which only a few weeks before had been his own.

In a Parliament held at Edinburgh, in December, 1543, the already enormous power of the cardinal, both civil and ecclesiastical, was still further increased by his receiving the Great Seal as Chancellor; an office which placed him at the head of the law and judicature of the kingdom. And further, on the 15th of the same month, the record of Parliament bears that "My lord governor caused to be shown and proclaimed in Parliament to all Estates being there gathered ; how there is great murmur that heretics more and more rise and spread within this realm, sowing damnable opinions contrary to the faith and laws of Holy Kirk, and to the acts and constitutions of the realm; exhorting, therefore, all prelates and ordinaries, severally within their own diocese and jurisdiction, to make inquisition after all such manner of persons, and proceed against them according to the laws of Holy Kirk. And my lord governor shall be ready at all times to do therein what accords him of his office." The Regent is now plainly a mere puppet in the hands of the cardinal, his mere tool and mouthpiece. When before did ever such exhortations to prelates to push their cruel inquisitions, and such ostentatious professions of readiness to support them in their oppressive work, come from the lips of a Scottish ruler, presiding in the midst of the great council of the nation % Truly the prelates needed no such spurs to excite them to diligence in such work. But Beaton might think some such harangue from Arran necessary to make men believe that the man, who had aimed only a few months before to break the arm of persecution, was now in earnest to strengthen it with new vigour, and to provide for it new victims.

Thus, in a few short months, all was changed; not only the whole political, but also the whole ecclesiastical policy of the kingdom. The year 1543, which had opened with the brightest hopes for truth and liberty, closed under the darkest shades of disappointment and despondency. All good men had hoped to see the end of religious oppression, and to witness the good beginning which had been made by the Regent*s first Parliament in the work of Reformation, followed up by a course of progressive improvement; but another persecution was now imminent, and the hope of ecclesiastical reform was indefinitely postponed. Many enlightened patriots, who saw clearly that a close union with England was indispensable to the peace and prosperity of the kingdom, had hailed the matrimonial treaty with Henry as the beginning of a new epoch in the history of the two nations, and as the happy solution of a problem which had awaited solution for centuries; but the fickleness and the perfidy of one man had dashed to the ground the hope of two kingdoms; the flame of war had again burst forth upon the borders, and an invasion of the country from England by land and sea was threatened in the ensuing spring. The state of the nation's affairs at the opening of 1544, was pitiable indeed. The clergy chuckled at their marvellous success, and the cardinal had reached the pinnacle of power; but the country lay bleeding at their feet, under the wounds which they had inflicted ; and the friends of the Gospel throughout the land saw themselves menaced by a new reign of terror.

The festivities of Yule were no sooner over, than the Regent and the cardinal, who had spent a merry Christmas in Stirling Castle with the .Queen-Dowager, set off, on the 20th of January, on a mission of persecution to Perth and Dundee. They were accompanied by the Earl of Argyle as Lord Justiciary, and Sir John Campbell of Lundy, his deputy; by Lord Bothwick, and several other nobles, and by the Bishops of Dunblane and Orkney. They had made preparations more befitting a campaign than the grave administration of ecclesiastical law; for they took with them a large park of artillery, great and small, dragged by eighty cart-horses, and conducted by twelve pioneers. The heretics of the two towns must have mustered strong indeed, when their judges prepared to meet them with such a display of unspiritual artillery. It must have been expected that it might be necessary to lay siege to the walls of Perth and Dundee, and force an entrance by cannon shot What a striking proof of the powerful hold which the Reformation had got upon the public mind in these two important communities !

When the Regent and cardinal arrived at Perth, they found no use for their cannon and pioneers, for the peaceable burghers made no opposition to their entrance; but they soon made ample work for the gallows-tree and the halter. The story of the Martyrs of Perth is one of the most cruel and tragical in the records of Scottish martyrology, and has been told with touching minuteness in the histories of the time; but we prefer to give it in a briefer form, as it occurs in a letter of Alexander Alesius to Melancthon, written only a few months after the event This letter is preserved in the City Library of Hamburgh, and now, for the first time, sees the light It is dated the 23d of April, 1544, from Leipzig, where Alesius was now settled as a Professor of Theology.

"To the most famous and honoured man, Dominus Philip Melancthon, his dearest preceptor. Alexander Alesius, S.D.

" . . . . Three days ago, there were here several countrymen of mine, who declare that the cardinal rules all things at his pleasure in Scotland, and governs the governor himself. In the town of St Johnston, he hung up four respectable citizens, for no other cause than because they had requested a monk, in the middle of his sermon, not to depart in his doctrine from the sacred text, and not to mix up notions of his own with the words of Christ Along with these a most respectable matron, carrying a sucking child in her arms, was haled before the tribunal and condemned to death by drowning. They report that the constancy of the woman was such, that when her husband was led to the scaffold, and mounted the ladder, she followed and mounted along with him, and entreated to be allowed to hang from the same beam. She encouraged him to be of good cheer, for in a few hours, said she, I shall be with Christ along with you. They declare also, that the governor was inclined to liberate them, but that the cardinal suborned the nobles to threaten that they would leave him if the condemned were not put to death. When-the cardinal arrived with his army at Dundee, from which the monks had been expelled, all the citizens took to flight; and when he saw the town quite deserted, he laughed, and remarked, that he had expected to find it full of Lutherans. The King of England has induced the Emperor to issue an order for detaining our Scottish ships in the Belgian ports; and that Scotsmen, wherever they can be found, should be thrown into prison. The King himself invaded Scotland with 40,000 foot, and 300 ships, about the middle of Quadragesima; what success he has had, we have been unable as yet to learn, on account of the sea being everywhere covered with English ships. If you have heard any later news in Wittemberg by way of Denmark, take care to communicate it either to me, or to his Magnificence, our Rector. Farewell, viii. Calend. Maias, 1554.

"Yours, "Alexander Alesius."

These cruel executions at Perth took place on St Paul's day, the 25th of January, and immediately after, the Regent and his party proceeded with the artillery to Dundee. The flight of the burghers, and the merriment of Beaton at finding himself in such a ridiculous position—loaded with heavy ordnance to fight the Lutherans, and no Lutherans to fight with, after all—are curious circumstances which the letter just given alone has recorded. The destroyers of the monasteries of Dundee, however, did not escape altogether, for in February, several of the citizens were summoned to appear before Sir John Campbell, of Lundy, the justice deputy, "for breaking the gates and doors of the Black Friars, and carrying away chalices, vestments, and the eucharist." But what punishment was inflicted upon these tumultuary reformers we have not been told. They had a powerful plea to urge, when they could show that the Regent had confessed that the sack had been made with his own knowledge and consent; and probably this plea would be allowed to prevail before a secular judge. It was not so easy to appease the vengeance of a primate and a cardinal; and this found John Rogers, "a godly, learned Black Friar, who had fruitfully preached Christ Jesus, to the comfort of many in Angus and Mearns." He was one of many whom Beaton imprisoned at that time, and his prison was the lowest dungeon of the sea-tower of the castle of St. Andrews—a dismal cavern hollowed out of the solid rock, which still remains as a memorial of those fearful times. Here, by order of the cardinal, he was secretly murdered, without even the form of a trial, and his body cast over the castle wall into the sea. When the waves gave up their dead upon the beach, the false rumour was spread by Beaton's attendants, that "the said John, seeking to flee, had broken his own neck." " Thus ceased not Satan," the historian adds, " by all means, to maintain his kingdom of darkness, and to suppress the light of Christ's gospel." And such "a sworn enemy to Christ Jesus, and to all in whom any spark of knowledge appeared," was he, who at this very time was invested with all the powers and honours which the see of Rome could bestow. For it was on the 30th of January, 1544, that the bull of Pope Paul III. was signed and sealed with the ring of the Fisherman, which constituted David Beaton legatus a latere, and made him virtually a pope in the Scottish kingdom.

The tidings of these persecutions made a deep impression, as we have just seen, upon Alesius. A year before, when the news from Scotland were so different, all his German friends expected that nothing would be able to keep him a day longer in Germany, but that he would instantly return to Scotland, from which he had been so long banished, to bear a hand in carrying forward the work of her reformation. But, happily, he had not adopted that course. Probably, the recency of his appointment at Leipzig had induced him to postpone his return. He was thus spared the experience of new trials. But, though still far from the land of his birth, he continued to feel the deepest interest in the strange vicissitudes of joy and grief through which it was passing; and the tidings of what had just happened at Perth and Dundee, determined him to try once more what service he might be able to render, by his pen, to the struggling cause of truth and liberty. In the year 1544, he addressed himself to "the chief nobles, prelates, barons, and whole people of Scotland," in a "Cohortatio ad Con-cordiam Pietatis" &c. or, "Exhortation to Peace and Concord, in the bonds of Christian piety and truth." The piece is instinct throughout with the spirit of true Christian patriotism, as well as with genuine evangelical earnestness and fervour. Lamenting the distraction of the kingdom by opposing political factions—the French faction and the English—he implores his countrymen to lay aside these divisions, and demonstrates, by many examples from classical history, the dangers of national disunion, and the duty of patriotic concord, in defence of the safety and honour of their common country. His expostulations against the oppression and cruelty of the bishops, and his allusions to the martyrs who had suffered in the cause of truth, are full of interest; and his digression, in particular, upon the character and martyrdom of Patrick Hamilton, is a noble burst of eloquence and pathos. When he exhorts to national union, he means union in the truth, union in the one great work of purifying religion, and reforming the corruptions of the Church of God. What urgent need there was of such a work, he demonstrates at much length, and with great freedom and faithfulness. Unless the Church of Christ be reformed, it must perish from the earth, and those are its worst enemies, not its real friends, who oppose such indispensable reform. "Everywhere," says he, " we see the church driven forward upon change. Ask even those who are most solicitous for its welfare, and they will tell you that the church can no longer be safe or without troubles, unless it be strengthened by the removal of abuses. If this, then, is a matter of absolute necessity, unless we would see the whole church fall into ruins ; if all men confess that this should be done; if facts themselves call with a loud voice that some care should be taken to relieve the labouring church, to purify her depraved doctrine, and to reform her whole corrupt administration, why, I demand, are those evil spoken of, and vilified, who discover and point out the church's vices and evils % Never could the proper remedies have been applied till the disease was known, and yet the men who point it out, with all its virulence and danger, and wish to alleviate or entirely remove it, are hated and persecuted as much as if they had themselves been the cause of it all." With equal force and spirit he repels the cry of innovation, which was raised against the doctrines of the Reformers. What was calumniated as an innovation, ought rather to be regarded as a restoration of most ancient truth. "It is just," says he, "such a change as would take place in the manners of an age, if the gravity, modesty, and frugality of ancient times, took the place of levity, immodesty, luxury, and other vices. Such a change might be called an introduction of what was new, but, in truth, it would be only the bringing back again of what was old. And, in like manner, let us have innovation everywhere, provided only we can get the true for the false, the serious for the trifling, and solid realities for empty dreams."

The conclusion of the piece is in a strain of entreaty and appeal, which was well fitted to impress and solemnize the highest and proudest in the land.

"In whatever estimation I may stand among you, I am at least your fellow-countryman, and as such, I earnestly entreat all and every man; I throw myself at your knees, in the name of God himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the salvation of our common country, and of every man among you, I implore, that you will open your eyes, and candidly consider both the past and the present. It is well known to you how many in former days have been banished from their country on the slightest suspicion : some, who spoke out more freely and boldly, have even been put to death. King James, of illustrious memory, acknowledged before his death, that he had been guilty of violence and injustice to many; he commanded those who were exiles for the Gospel to be recalled; and he did his utmost to avert from himself the wrath of God in this behalf. Take care, I beseech you, lest by your fault and heedlessness, the most just wrath of God, which King James so earnestly strove to avert, by his repentance and conversion to God, however late, should flow back again upon you on account of your neglect of his truth, or even enmity and opposition to the Gospel. Call to mind, I pray you, the successions to the Scottish crown which took place in times somewhat farther back, and you will find in these no equivocal signs of the divine vengeance. And do we suppose that God will not punish impiety and wickedness in our own times? Nay, he will do it all the more, and all the more severely, by how much more mercifully and gently he is calling us to repentance, and inviting us to return to the right way. He is commanding us to return to him; he is sending messengers to call us; let not the words of these men be laughed at; let not the men themselves be repelled; do not suffer yourselves to be deceived by the false discourses of those, who exclaim that this new doctrine is a doctrine of turbulence and disorder."

"It is no new doctrine—it is most ancient, or rather it is eternal; for it preaches that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into the world to save sinners, and that remission of sins is obtained by the faith of Him. Of Him even Moses wrote, as He tells us himself; of Him wrote all the prophets. Who should call a doctrine like this new—the old doctrine which runs on through all ages, and is the same in all % Rather let those dogmas be called new, as new they are, by which this doctrine is contaminated and obscured, having been brought in by the audacity, or ambition, or superstition, of those to whom had been entrusted the care .of the vineyard of the Lord. For what else have these men done than the men in the Gospel parable, to whom the vineyard was let out  How many men, sent to them by the Lord of the vineyard, have they slain, as the Prophets were slain by the Pharisees of old. Such violence and wrong is in fact done to the Son of God himself; for the community of the church is the body of Christ Let us not fight against God, in the teeth of our own conscience. Not Nineveh alone was laid waste and overthrown, as had been foretold, though a most mighty city and most powerful kingdom, as a punishment for its sins; but often since then, both in other ages and in our own, have similar examples been given. Let us endeavour at least to postpone a similar overthrow, if we cannot entirely avert it Confessing our sins, and hating our past life, let us throw ourselves at the feet of Christ; let us hold fast by the hem of his garment; let us regard no other with our eyes than this one and only Saviour and Redeemer, our God and Lord. Thus will God, whose compassion and clemency are infinite, avert from us the punishments which we deserve in this life, and bring us through death to the life everlasting; to whom the only true, eternal, omnipotent and merciful God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, be praise, honour and glory, for ever and ever. Amen."

Before this excellent work of Alesius was printed off, it passed through the hands of Melancthon and Luther, by both of whom it was highly approved. How it was received in Scotland, we are not informed; for, like the other epistles of this long-forgotten patriot and reformer, it is never referred to in our common histories. Like the others too, it has made a narrow escape of perishing entirely from human memory, for it now only survives in a very few copies.

This was the last occasion on which Alesius took any direct part in the history of the Reformation of his native Church. But in 1554, when he published a Latin Commentary upon the Psalms, the interest which he felt in the country of his birth was still deep and active, for that work contains many references, full of the strongest feeling, to the Scottish martyrs who had perished and were still perishing in the long-protracted conflict He survived to learn the successes of Knox in 1555 and 1559, and to hear the joyful tidings of the final triumph of the cause in 1560. But he did not return to Scotland at that era. He continued to serve the Evangelical Church of Germany, in the theological faculty of the University of Leipzig, till his death in 1565. He was several times rector of the University, and was indefatigable in promoting and defending the interests of true religion both by his writings and public disputations. Melancthon continued to the end of his life in 1560 to honour him with his confidence and friendship, and frequently chose him as his colleague and coadjutor, in the theological conferences which he held both with the theologians of Rome and the teachers of new doctrines in the Evangelical Church. So eminent was his name on the Continent, that when Beza wrote his "Icones," or portraits of the great theologians of the sixteenth century, he introduced the name of Alexander Alesius, as that of a man " who was dear to all the learned—who would have been a distinguished ornament of Scotland if that country had recovered at an earlier period the light of the gospel—and who, when rejected by both Scotland and England, was most eagerly embraced by the evangelical church of Saxony, and continued to be warmly cherished and esteemed by her to the day of his death."

But Alesius was not the only living link of connexion between the Lutheran Churches of the Continent and the Scottish Reformation. His friend, John McAlpin, shared his long continental exile, and rose to almost equal eminence as a theologian and academic teacher. After his flight from England, in 1540, he staid for a short time at Bremen, where he gave evangelical instruction to San Roman, the first Protestant martyr of Spain. Early in 1542 he was created Doctor of Theology at Wittemberg, and was soon after invited by Christiern III., King of Denmark, to settle in the University of Copenhagen, in the room of John Bugenhagen Pomeranus, who had returned to Wittemberg. In this influential post, in which he continued till his death, he rendered eminent services to the Danish Church. He was one of the translators of the Scriptures into the Danish tongue, a work which was completed in 1550, and in the preparation of which he was associated with Peter Palladius, and the other members of the theological faculty. The historians of Denmark commemorate his distinguished learning and usefulness; and a good many of his writings, published and m manuscript, still survive. He had assumed at Wittemberg the name of Maccabaeus, at the suggestion of Melancthon, and by this surname, which was probably nothing more than a Latinized form of his family cognomen, which was sometimes pronounced Mc Alpy, he continued to be known for the rest of his life. When he died, in 1557, the King of Denmark followed him to his grave, and Melancthon wrote his epitaph.

John Faith was another of these learned Scottish exiles. He was incorporated with the University of Wittemberg in 1540, along with McAlpin, and afterwards went by the name of John Fidelis. Having mastered the German language, he was appointed Pastor of the Evangelical Church of Liegnitz, in Silesia; and was subsequently promoted to a theological chair in the University of Francfort-on-the-Oder. For these appointments he was probably indebted to the good offices of Melancthon, who seems to have taken a peculiarly warm interest in the fortunes of all these Scottish exiles. There is a letter of Melancthon,.still extant, addressed to John Fidelis at Francfort, in 1556, in which he introduces to him a Scotchman, named Linus or Lyne, as a man of learning and true piety, and in which, after reminding him that it is the will of God that we should show hospitality to such guests, he remarks, "For my part, I think we Germans owe a special debt of gratitude to the Scottish nation; because in former times we received from them both Christianity and letters, when the Churches of Germany had been overrun and ruined by the Heneti and the Huns."


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