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The Scottish Reformation
Chapter III.—The Knox Period, a. d. 1555—1560.
Section 3. First Petition of the Protestants to the Regent and their Protestation before Parliament 1558


The Reformation was now to pass into a new phase. It had developed itself into an evangelical creed, and worship, and discipline, but it was still without political rights and protection. The State had as yet conceded to it only a single franchise, that of freedom to use the Word of God in the vernacular tongue; and the statute book contained many Acts of the most hostile kind which were designed to repress and extinguish it Its struggle for political recognition was now to begin.

This struggle had become a necessity. It was now abundantly certain that no religious redress or relief was to be expected from the rulers of the Church. Though more than thirty years had passed away since the Reformation began to be preached in Scotland, not a single bishop or mitred abbot had gone over to its side; nor in any of the councils which met during that long period, had a single authoritative voice ever been lifted up to plead for a larger measure of Church reform than might have been asked for and obtained before the great Reformation movement began. It was hopeless then to expect that the clergy would be induced to concede anything of importance to the demands of the Reformers. It was plain that the State must be appealed to, to decide between the two ecclesiastical parties. The authority of the Queen-Regent and the parliament must now be invoked to moderate and to end the strife.

Henceforth then the Queen-Regent, Mary of Guise, became a main figure in the action. It was not of course to be expected that the sister of the Duke of Guise and the Cardinal of Lorraine, would ever be gained over to the doctrines of the Reformation herself. The way in which she had treated Knox's fervent appeal to her conscience gave little hope of her personal conversion. The bishops, we may be sure, had no misgivings upon that score ; but on the question of the policy which she was likely to pursue towards her Protestant subjects, now that they had grown up into a powerful party, having at their head a large number of the principal men of the kingdom, there was room both for apprehension to the bishops and for hope to the Reformers. For some time after her appointment to the regency, her public conduct had been somewhat ambiguous upon this important point, and her aim had seemed to be to give some degree of encouragement to the hopes of both parties. The truth was that she had political objects of her own to gain; and it was necessary for their attainment, that for a time she should have the support both of the clergy and the Protestants. As a Frenchwoman, she preferred the interest and honour of France to those of her adopted country; as a Guise, she was zealous for the aggrandisement of her powerful brothers, who were now the chief managers of French affairs; and both of these objects were now intimately involved in the gaining of the crown matrimonial of Scotland for Francis, the husband of the young Scottish queen. Such an acquisition would make Francis and the Guises the rulers of Scotland as well as France; and to have the rule of Scotland was the indispensable condition of their success in reaching the ultimate object of their ambition—the rule of England itself. But the crown matrimonial could only be conferred by the vote of the Estates of the kingdom; and success in a meeting of the Estates was hopeless, if either the Catholic party or the Protestant party opposed the Regent's design. It was indispensable, till this design was realized, that she should retain the confidence of both, or at least not entirely disappoint the expectations of either; and being a princess of uncommon talent, and of consummate duplicity, she succeeded perfectly in playing this difficult part, and in attaining the object of her desires.

Hence it was that for a time she appeared to hold the balance pretty even between the two religious parties. If in 1556 she discouraged, on the one hand, the persecution which the bishops had commenced against Knox; she disappointed, on the other, the hope of any fruit of his letter to herself. If in 1558 she did not interfere to prevent the cruel execution of Mill, she affected to the Protestant lords to lament the cruelty of the archbishop, and to excuse herself as innocent in that cause; and when they, "nothing suspecting her falsehood, required some order to be taken against such enormities, she promised, as often before." At one time, she summoned the preachers, to please the angry clergy; and anon, she cast the summons again, to calm and conciliate the angry Protestants. On St. Giles's day, she joined in the procession of the Saint, at the risk of provoking the party who were fervent against that abomination; and when the tumult was over, she made no great efforts to bring its authors to a reckoning for their offence. A policy of this kind left room for hope both to the mitred lords of the church, and to the coroneted lords of the congregation. The former still hoped to retain her as the Defender of the Faith; and to make this hope sure, they thought it a good investment of the Church's wealth, to tender to her "a large purse' worth, it is said, £40,000; while the latter did not yet despair of being able to move her by their petitions and complaints to become the Protector of the Congregation.

The First Petition of the Reformers to the Regent was presented in October, 1558. "After the deliberation of many days, it was concluded, with one consent, that by one public and common supplication, we should attempt the favours, support, and assistance of the Queen, then Regent, to a godly, Reformation." To this step they were stimulated by the exhortations of John Willock, who had returned to Scotland at that time; and who, with that mixture of fervour and moderation which distinguished him, while anxious to see "some public Reformation" attempted, had counselled them to enterprise nothing without the knowledge of the constituted authority. The petition which they drew up, probably with Willock's assistance, is a document of great dignity and moderation in matter, as well as of remarkable beauty and purity of style; and its authors were careful to give it every advantage in the manner of its presentation; for, "After we had drawn our oraison and petitions," says their historian, "we appointed from amongst us a man whose age deserved reverence, whose honesty and worship might have craved audience of any magistrate upon earth, and whose faithful service to the authority at all times had been such, that on him could fall no suspicion of unlawful disobedience. This orator was that ancient and honourable father, Sir James Sandilands, of Calder, knight, to whom we gave commission and power in all our names then present, before the Queen-Regent thus to speak :—

"Albeit we have of long time contained ourselves in that modesty, most noble Princess, that neither the exile of body, tinsall1 of goods, nor perishing of this mortal life, was able to convene us to ask at your Grace reformation and redress of those wrangs and of that sore grief patiently borne of us in bodies and minds of so long time, yet are we now of very conscience and by the fear of our God, compelled to crave at your Grace's feet remedy against the most unjust tyranny used against your Grace's most obedient subjects, by those that be called the Estate Ecclesiastical. Your Grace can not be ignorant what controversy hath been and yet is, concerning the true religion and right worshipping of God, and how the clergy (as they will be termed) usurp to themselves such empire above the consciences of men, that whatsoever they command must be obeyed, and whatsoever they forbid must be avoided, without farther respect had to God's pleasure, commandment, or will, revealed to us in his most holy word; or else there abideth nothing for us but faggot, fire, and sweard; by the which many of our brethren most cruelly and most unjustly have been stricken of late years within this realm. Which now we find to trouble and wound our consciences; for we acknowledge it to have been our bound duties before God, either to have defended our brethren from those cruel murtherars, (seeing we are a part of that power which God hath established in this realm,) or else to have given open testification of our faith with them; which now we offer ourselves to do; lest that by our continual silence we shall seem to justify their cruel tyranny, which doth not only displease us, but your Grace's wisdom most prudently doth foresee that for the quieting of this intestine dissension, a further reformation as well in the religious as in the temporal government were most necessary; and to the performance thereof, most gravely and most godly (as we are informed) ye have exhorted as well the clergy as the nobility to employ their study, diligence, and care. We, therefore, of conscience, dare no longer dissemble in so weighty a matter, which concerneth the glory of God and our salvation. Neither now dare we withdraw our presence nor conceal our petitions, lest that the adversaries hereafter shall object to us that place was granted to reformation, and yet no man suited for the same, and so shall our silence be prejudicial unto us in time to come. And therefore we, knowing no other order placed in this realm but your Grace, in your grave council, set to amend as well the disorder ecclesiastical as the defaults in the temporal government, most humbly prostrate ourselves before your feet, asking your justice and your gracious help against them that falsely traduce and accuse us, as that we were heretics and schismatics, under that colour seeking our destruction; for that we seek the amendment of their corrupted lives, and Christ's religion to be restored to the original purity. Farther, we crave of your Grace with open and patient ears to hear these our subsequent requests, and to the joy and satisfaction of our troubled consciences mercifully to grant the same, unless by God's plain word any be able to prove that justly they ought to be denied."

Then follow five requests or petitions, (1) That as they were already allowed by law to read the Scriptures in their common tongue, it should also be made lawful to them "to convene publicly or privately to our common prayers in our vulgar tongue." (2) That it should be lawful, if in their meetings any hard place of Scripture should be read, that any qualified persons in knowledge, being present, should interpret and open up the said hard places, to God's glory and the profit of the auditory. (3) That the Holy Sacrament of Baptism should be used in the vulgar tongue, and the godfathers and Church then assembled should be instructed in their duties. (4) That the Holy Sacrament of the Lord's Supper should likewise be ministered in the vulgar tongue, and in both kinds, according to the plain institution of Christ Jesus. And lastly, that the wicked life of the prelates and state ecclesiastical should be so reformed, that the people by them may not have occasion, as of many days they have had, to contemn their ministry, and the preaching whereof they professed to be messengers. This last petition they enforced in the following remarkable terms:—"And if they suspect that we, rather envying their honours or coveting their riches and possessions, than zealously desiring their amendment and salvation, do travel and labour for this reformation; we are content not only that the rules and precepts of the New Testament, but also the writings of the ancient fathers and the godly approved laws of Justinian the emperor, decide the controversy betwixt us and them. And if it shall be found that either malevolently or ignorantly we ask more than these three forenamed have required and continually do require of able and true ministers in Christ's Church, we refuse not correction, as your Grace with right judgment shall think meet But and if all the forenamed shall damn that which we damn, and approve that which we require, then we most earnestly beseech your Grace, that notwithstanding the long consuetude which they have had to live as they list, they be compelled either to desist from ecclesiastical administration, or to discharge their duties as becometh true ministers; so that the grave and godly face of the primitive Church reduced, ignorance may be expelled, and true doctrine and good manners may once again appear in the Church of this realm. These things we, as most obedient subjects, require of your Grace, in the name of the eternal God and of his Son, Christ Jesus, in presence of whose throne judicial, ye and all other that here on earth bear authority shall give accompts of your temporal regiment. The Spirit of the Lord Jesus move your Grace's heart to justice and equity. Amen."

On hearing of these demands for reform thus publicly and solemnly made, the estate ecclesiastical began to storm. First they devised "all manner of lies" to deface the equity of the cause of the Reformers. Then they bragged that they would have a public disputation on the questions raised by the petition; but on this challenge being accepted by their opponents on the condition that the plain Scriptures of God should decide all controversy, they refused the condition; for no judge would they admit but themselves, their councils, and the canon law. Next they professed their readiness to make some concessions; they would grant to the Protestants the liberty to pray and baptize in the vulgar tongue, provided it were done privately and not in open assembly, and provided also the Reformers would admit the mass to remain in its former reverence and estimation, grant purgatory after this life, confess prayer to saints and for the dead, and suffer the clergy to enjoy their accustomed rents, possessions, and honours. But the "grossness" of these articles was such that with one voice the Reformers refused them, and again sought audience of the Regent, to crave justice at her hand, t and a reasonable answer to their former petitions. She

received them very graciously, and while holding out to them the hope that some uniform order would ere long be established by parliament in the matters to which their petition referred, she gave them permission in the meantime "to use themselves godly according to their desires," provided they did not hold public assemblies for worship in Edinburgh or Leith; and she gave them also a promise of protection to their favourite preachers. "Nothing suspecting her doubleness and falsehood," they departed from the presence-chamber contented with her answer, and in deference to her wishes dissuaded John Douglas, who purposed to preach publicly in Leith, from carrying out his design.

But with equal address she managed, at the same time, to reassure and retain the confidence of the bishops. She revealed to them in secret her real disposition and designs, and promised that so soon as time and opportunity should serve, "she should so put order in their matters that afterwards they should not be troubled;" and that time, she hoped, was not now very far distant. A Parliament was to meet immediately, at which she expected to obtain the crown matrimonial for the French king; and a treaty of peace and alliance "was jiow on foot between France, Spain, England, and Scotland, which, by uniting all these kingdoms in the common bonds of Catholicism, promised to be the ruin of Lutheranism and the salvation of the Church.

When the Parliament met, she was still able, by her consummate skill in the arts of dissimulation, to make the protestant lords the tools of her ambition, while effectually counterworking their most cherished desires and designs. They had resolved to follow up their Petition to the Regent with another Petition to the Estates, in which they humbly required "that all such Acts of Parliament as in the time of darkness gave power to the Churchmen to execute their tyranny against them, by reason that to them they were delated as heretics, might be suspended and abrogated till a general council, lawfully assembled, should have decided all controversies in religion." But before presenting the petition to the Estates, they submitted it to the Regent, "because they were determined to enterprise nothing without her knowledge; most humbly requiring her favourable assistance in their just action." She spared not amiable looks, and good words in abundance, but "always she kept the bill close in her pocket;" and when, growing uneasy at this, they required of her Grace that their Petition should be proposed to the whole assembly, she answered, That she did not think such a course would be expedient, "for then would the whole ecclesiastical state be contrary to her proceedings in the affair of the crown matrimonial. But," she added, "how soon order can be taken with that matter, which might now be hindered by the Churchmen, ye shall know my good mind; and in the meantime, whatsoever I may grant unto you shall gladly be granted."

Strange to say, the leaders of the Congregation did not even yet suspect her treachery, and, "giving place to her pleasure," they consented to abstain from pressing their Petition upon the Parliament, rather than endanger the success of her favourite scheme. Happily, however, they did not altogether omit the duty which they owed to their great cause upon this occasion. Instead of the Petition for redress of grievances which they had drawn up, they laid on the table of the Estates a Protestation breathing the same spirit, and directed to the same ends, but differing in immediate effect from the other, inasmuch as it did not oblige the Parliament to enter into any discussion of its contents, or in any practical way to dispose of them. " We suppose it is a thing sufficiently known," said they in this remarkable document, "that we were of mind at this present Parliament to seek redress of such enormities as our consciences are burdened withal; but considering that the troubles of the time do not suffer such reformation as we, by God's plain Word, do require, we are enforced to delay that which most earnestly we desire; and yet, lest that our silence should give occasion to our adversaries to think that we repent our former enterprise, we cannot cease to protest for remedy against that most unjust tyranny which we heretofore most patiently have sustained. And first, we protest, that seeing we cannot obtain a just reformation according to God's Word, it be lawful to us to use ourselves in matters of religion and conscience as we must answer to God, unto such time as our adversaries be able to prove themselves the true ministers^of Christ's Church, and to purge themselves of such crimes as we have already laid to their charge, offering ourselves to prove the same whensoever the sacred authority please to give us audience. Secondly, we protest that neither we, nor any other that godly list to join with us in the true faith, which is grounded upon the invincible Word of God, shall incur any danger in life or lands, or other political pains, for not observing such Acts as heretofore have passed in favour of our adversaries, neither yet for violating of such rites as man without God's commandment or Word hath commanded. Thirdly, we protest, that if any tumult or uproar shall arise among the members of this realm for the diversity of religion, and if it shall happen that abuses be violently reformed, that the crime thereof be not imputed to us, who most humbly do now seek all things to be reformed by an order; but rather whatsoever inconvenient shall happen to follow for lack of order taken, that may be imputed to those that do refuse the same. And last, we protest that these our requests, proceeding from conscience, do tend to none other end but to the reformation of abuses in religion only; most humbly beseeching the sacred authority to take us, faithful and obedient subjects, in protection against our adversaries, and to shew to us such indifferency in our most just petitions, as it becometh God's lieutenants to do, to those that in His name do call for defence against cruel oppressors and bloodthirsty tyrants."

The Protestation was read aloud in Parliament, but was not allowed to be recorded. The Queen-Regent made a short speech, which, though spoken in indifferent English, showed what a perfect command she had of the ambiguous.terms of the language. "Me will remember," she exclaimed, "what is protested, and me will put good order after this to all things that now be in controversy." No words could have been found better fitted to her purpose of .seeming to promise much, while in reality she promised nothing; and the Reformers in Parliament, more honest than sagacious, and forgetful of the warnings of that Word which they loved, "not to put their trust in princes," "departed," the historian tells us, "in good esperance of her favours, and praising God in their hearts that she was so well inclined towards godliness."

The two Petitions and the Protestation now mentioned are of deep interest, and of great historical importance. They shew what was the minimum of reform which the protestant party would have been willing to accept, if the ecclesiastical estate had been willing to concede it They suggest the reflection, how vastly different, apparently, the issues of the Reformation in Scotland would have been, if the clergy had not been utterly blind to the "signs of the times," and had embraced this the last opportunity which they were ever to have of making terms with an enemy who was ever increasing in power, and rising in the height of his demands. The Reformation demanded in 1558 was the Reformation which Sir David Lindsay had sketched in the "Monarchic" in 1554, and would have preserved the episcopal fabric of the Church, even if it had necessitated a separation from Rome. But the Scottish bishops had not a single man among them who had received any tincture of the evangelical spirit, and their incurable corruption and obstinacy proved the ruin of their order in the Scottish Church. Their blind and scornful defiance of the demands of 1558 opened the way for the root-and-branch Reformation of 1560.

These documents of 1558 no less establish the important fact, that if the Reformation was soon afterwards effected in a violent and irregular manner by an explosion of popular fervour, the blame of this was not owing to the leaders of the Congregation, but to the rulers of the Church and the State. Most earnestly did the Reformers petition and protest for an orderly reformation, carried through by the regular constitutional action of the public authorities. Most distinctly did they forewarn the Regent and the Parliament of the consequences which would probably ensue from "lack of order taken" while there was yet time and opportunity.. Most solemnly did they repudiate beforehand all responsibility for any "tumult and uproar" which should afterwards arise. Where, then, is the historical justice of throwing the blame of that tumult upon the men who did their utmost to prevent and provide against it Ought it not rather to fall upon those blind and bigoted rulers who provoked resentment by their obstinate adherence to the most flagrant corruptions, and by their cruel persistence in persecutions, which it is rather to be marvelled at that innocent men should have tolerated so long, than that they should have risen up at last to put an end to them as altogether intolerable.


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