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The Scottish Reformation
Chapter I.—The Hamilton Period, a. d. 1515—1543.
Section 10. Death of James V., and the First Reforming Parliament. 1542—1543

The king's withering rebuke had the effect of putting a stop, for a few months, to the violent proceedings of Beaton and the other bishops. But the clergy only delayed the execution of their designs; they did not abandon them; and they still had influence enough with the parliament which met in March, 1541, to procure the passing of several acts against heresy, which were greatly more oppressive and severe than any which preceded them. By these new laws, all discussion on matters of religion was prohibited; all persons were discharged from arguing against the authority of the pope, upon pain of death and confiscation of goods; and all persons who were so much as suspected of heresy, were declared incapable of holding any office in the state. With these new statutes of the realm' to back him, and expecting to be soon armed besides with all the plenary powers of Legatus a latere, Beaton did not yet despair of the safety of the church.

But neither did Henry yet despair of defeating the cardinal by gaining over the king. Towards the end of 1541, Sir Ralph Sadler was again at Holyrood, upon the same mission as before. The instructions upon which he acted are still extant, and reveal the nature of the appeals which were now addressed to the reluctant monarch. Formerly, Henry had endeavoured to rouse his nephew's jealousy of Beaton's power, and to excite his cupidity by the prospect of enriching himself with the church's superfluous wealth; but on the present occasion, he addressed himself to feelings and sentiments still stronger than these—to the sensibilities and self-respect of the man, rather than of the prince. Sadler was instructed to urge upon him, "Not to think himself"—on subjects of religion—"as perchance sundry of his clergy would have him to do, as a brute or as a stock; or to mistrust that his wits, which he had received from God, were not able to perceive Christ's word, which his grace hath left to us common, to be understood by all christian men, as well as by such as be learned in the Latin tongue and heathen authors. The king did not doubt but his good nephew, endowed with such reason and wit, may as well understand the effect of the true doctrine, and know the truth of things, as the most of the clergy, who are commonly led by the affection they have to their maintenance out of their prince's hand, and to the continuance of their authority in pomp and pride. Let his nephew, for his better knowledge of the Bishop of Rome and his clergy, no less mark and give credence to their works and deeds, than to their fair painted words; and observing these, his highness had no doubt but he should find much ease and perfection of knowledge of the very truth of the same; for that should induce him to lean unto the pure Word of God, and to pass light upon dreams of men, abused by superstition to blind princes and other persons of much simplicity."

There was much skill evinced in representations such as these, addressed to a young prince of superior talents and culture; and they were not without some effect In one point at least, Sadler had better success now than he had had before. James gave his consent to the long-desired* interview, and came under a promise to meet his uncle at York, in the autumn of 154 2. Now then at last there was a gleam of hope that Beaton's influence over the king would be destroyed, and that Henry would be able to induce his nephew to imitate his example as an ecclesiastical reformer.

But it was only a gleam. Sadler was no sooner gone than the clergy once more recovered all their former influence in the king's councils. They had a powerful ally, it is to be remembered, in the young queen—the accomplished Mary of Lorraine, sister of the Duke of Guise; a princess as able to sway the mind of her royal husband, by her talents and address, as she was deeply devoted to the service of the church of Rome. The absent Henry was too weak a rival to cope with such a queen as Mary of Guise, and such a prime minister as David Beaton. James relapsed once more, and finally, into his old policy of making common cause at any hazard with his clergy— a policy which had been the bane of his whole administration; and which was now to entail upon him disaster, humiliation, and ruin.

The series of events which followed in 1542—the king's breach of promise to meet Henry at York, after the latter had proceeded thither with his whole court; Henry's high resentment at this affront, and declaration of war; the invasion of Scotland, and the refusal of the nobles at Fala to revenge this invasion by a raid into England; James's deep disgust at this refusal, and his still deeper chagrin at the disgraceful rout of Solway-Moss, which shortly after ensued; his profound and settled melancholy under these disasters, which was increased rather than diminished by the tidings of the birth of a princess as the heir of the throne ; and finally his death soon after, at Falkland, on the 16th of December; all these tragical events are well known to every reader of Scottish history, and need not be dwelt upon here. But they furnished a sadly true commentary upon the words which Sadler had been instructed to whisper into his ear the last time he was at Holyrood, "that the Bishop of Rome and his faction of cardinal and adherents cared not whether both uncle and nephew should consume each other, so that the holy father and his apostles might have their purpose. They loved him not, but only loved the commodity and profit which they might take of him; they fed him with false confidences for their own purpose, to his great loss, disquiet and damage, and for a reward procured his destruction."

The premature death of the king could not fail to prove an event of the highest consequence to the nation, in the existing condition of religious and political parties. A new scene of national life immediately opened; a new struggle of parties instantly began. Who should be regent during the long minority of the crown? should it be Beaton, who exhibited the king's testament appointing him to the regency, along with a council of three of the nobles, including the young Earl of Arran, heir presumptive to the crown 1 or should it be the Earl of Arran himself, in virtue of his claim of hereditary right, and conformably to the laws and ancient usages of the kingdom.

The conflict was sharp and short Beaton's testament was pronounced a forgery by an assembly of the nobles hastily convened in Edinburgh in the interest of Arran; and Arran was declared and proclaimed sole regent of the kingdom, as early as the 22d of December, 1542. The officers of the deceased king immediately delivered up to him the king's palaces, treasure, jewels, and plate. His regency was already an accomplished fact, and for once the cardinal, with all his promptitude and energy, was compelled to give way before a more fortunate rival, and to bide his time for remedy and redress. The success of Arran was owing to his popularity with a strong party of the nobles and gentry, and this popularity was due to his being a professed reformer. It was known that the cardinal had inscribed his name first upon the scroll of proscription, which the bishops had a second time proffered to the king shortly before his death; and to the numerous party who were zealous for reform, this high distinction conferred by his rival seemed a title to the regency of almost equal consideration with his ancestral rank as premier peer of the realm. His success was hailed by the whole of this party as a glorious triumph. The hope of a happy era dawned brightly upon the nation, now that a professed reformer was placed at the head of affairs. Congratulations, thanksgivings, and sanguine expectations ran through thousands of hearts in all parts of the kingdom.

The Regent's first acts gave promise of an early fulfilment of these sanguine hopes. Many of those whom he called to his councils and kept about his person—men like Sir William Kirkaldy of Grange, Sir James Learmonth of Balcomy, Henry Balnaves of Halhill, Thomas Bellenden of Auchinoul, and Sir David Lindsay of the Mount—were men of earnest religious feeling and enlightened patriotism, and all in the highest degree solicitous to turn the present crisis to account for the interests both of the church and the state. Opening his ears to the wise counsel of such advisers, the Regent chose for his court-chaplains Thomas Guilliam and John Rough, both evangelical preachers, and whose frequent sermons in the Church of Holyrood were "in doctrine so wholesome, and against superstition so vehement," that the Grey Friars, and other lovers of the old darkness, "rowped as they had been ravens," crying out "heresy, heresy; Guilliam and Rough will carry the governor to the devil." He summoned the Estates of the realm to meet on an early day, and prepared measures to submit to them in the interest of religious liberty and reform; and having learned that the disappointed cardinal had commenced intrigues with France to obtain assistance for the suppression of his government, he suddenly apprehended his powerful rival, and committed him to custody in the Castle of Dalkeith, and afterwards in Blackness—a bold stroke, which inspired his enemies with a wholesome opinion of his resolution and energy. What a revolution! The cardinal-primate in prison, the gospel in the pulpit of Holyrood, reformers all round the council-table, and a parliament summoned which is expected to begin the great work of the Reformation of the Church!

The Three Estates assembled at Edinburgh on the 12th of March, 1543. They met as usual in the Tolbooth—an ancient building which stood clo^e to the west side of the church of St Giles. Sir George Douglas, brother of the Earl of Angus, who had hastened down from London to be present, spoke of the meeting "as the most substantial parliament that ever was seen in Scotland in any man's remembrance, and best furnished with all the Three Estates." The only man of eminent rank who was absent was the Earl of Argyle, who was "sore sick." It was felt that a national crisis had come, and men of all ranks and parties hurried to the field of legislative contest High questions of state came up first for decision—the confirmation of Arran's regency, the appointment of tutors for the infant queen, the appointment of an embassy to Henry VIII. to negotiate touching a projected marriage between Prince Edward and the infant Queen Mary, the recall and re-habilitation in his estates and honours of the long-banished Earl of Angus. On these measures we cannot dwell We must confine ourselves to the ecclesiastical deliberations of this important parliament Foremost among the champions of religious liberty stood Lord Maxwell. His frequent intercourse, as warden of the West Marches, with the ministers and commissioners of Henry VIII., and his recent sojourn in London as one of the prisoners of Solway-Moss, had predisposed him in favour of the "Heresies of England;" and his name is honourably recorded in the rolls of parliament as the nobleman who submitted to "the Lords of the Articles,,, the draft of an act to make it lawful to all the lieges to possess and to read the Word of God in their mother tongue. The proposal excited long and animated discussions, and of these Knox has given us so graphic and lively an account, that no words can better depict them to the reader.

"Question was raised in the Parliament, of the abolishing of certain tyrannical acts made before, at devotion of the prelates, for maintaining of their kingdom of darkness—to wit, That under pain of heresy no man should read any part of the Scriptures in the English, tongue, neither yet any tractate or exposition of any place of Scripture. Such articles began to come in question, we say, and men began to inquire if it was not as lawful to men that understood no Latin, to use the word of their salvation in the tongue they understood, as it was for Latin men to have it in Latin, and Grecians or Hebrews to have it in their tongues ? It was answered that the kirk first had forbidden all tongues but these three. But men demanded when that inhibition was given, and what council had ordained it; considering that in the days of Chrysostom he complains that the people used not the Psalms and other holy books in their own tongues. And if ye will say they were Greeks and understood the Greek tongue, we answer that Christ Jesus commanded his word to be preached to all nations; and if it ought to be preached to all nations, it must be preached in the tongue they understand. Now, if it be lawful to preach it, and to hear it preached in all tongues, why shall it not be lawful to read it, and to hear it read in all tongues ? to the end that the people may try the spirits according to the commandment of the Apostle. Beaten with these and other reasons, they denied not but it may be read in the vulgar tongue, provided that the translation were true. It was demanded what could be reprehended in it? And when much searching was made, nothing could be found but that love, say they, was put in the place of charity. When the question was asked what difference was betwixt the one and the other, and if they understood the nature of the Greek term ' agape/ they were dumb. Reasoned for the party of the seculars the Lord Ruthven, a stout and discreet man in the cause of God, and maister Henry Balnaves, an old professor. For the party of the clergy, the Dean of Restalrig, and certain old bosses with him. The conclusion was, that the commissioners of Burghs, and a part of the nobility, required of the Parliament that it might be enacted, That it should be lawful to every man to use the benefit of the translation which then they had of the Bible and New Testament, together with the benefit of other treatises containing wholesome doctrine, until such time as the prelates and kirk-men should give and set forth unto them a translation more correct The clergy long repugned hereto; but in the end, convicted by reasons and by multitude of votes opposed to them, they also condescended; and so, by Act of Parliament, it was made free to every man and woman to read the Scriptures in their own tongue, or in the English tongue, and so were all Acts made to the contrary abolished."

"This," continues Knox, "was no small victory of Christ Jesus, fighting against the conjured enemies of his verity, and no small comfort to such as before were holden in such bondage that they durst not have read the Lord's prayer, the ten commandments, nor the articles of flieir faith in the English tongue, but they should have been accused of heresy. Then might have been seen the bible lying almost upon every gentleman's table. The New Testament was borne about in niany men's hands. We grant that some, alas! profaned that blessed word, for some that perchance had never read ten sentences in it, had it maist common in "their hand; they would chop their familiars on the cheek with it, and say, 'This has lain hid under my bed-feet these ten years.' Others would glory, 'O, how oft have I been in danger for this book. How secretly have I stolen from my wife at midnight to read upon it!' And this was done of many to make court thereby, for all men esteemed the governor to have been the most fervent Protestant that was in Europe. Albeit, we say, that many abused that liberty granted of God miraculously; yet thereby did the knowledge of God wondrously increase, and God gave his Holy Spirit to simple men in great abundance. Then were set forth works in our awin tongue, besides those that came from England, that did disclose the pride, the craft, the tyranny, and abuses of that Roman Antichrist."

On the 19th day of March, 1543, appeared the following proclamation of the Regent of the kingdom.


Clerk of Register. It is our will and we charge you, that ye gar proclaim this day at the mercat cross of Edinburgh, the Acts made in our Sovereign lady's Parliament, that should be proclaimed and given forth to her lieges; and in special, the Act made for having of the New Testament in vulgar tongue, with certain additions, and thereafter give forth the copies thereof authentic, as effeiris, to all them that will desire the samyn, and insert this our command and charge in the books of Parliament for your warrant. Subscrivit with our own hand at Edinburgh, the 19th day of March, the year of God 1543 years.


Thus happily closed the Hamilton period of the Reformation. The blood of the first noble martyr, and of so many other good men, had not been shed in vain; nor in vain had the truth by so many different agencies been introduced and disseminated throughout the realm. The success obtained in this Parliament seemed to men almost miraculous. The truth of God was at length in the ascendant in the councils of the nation, and legislation began to flow in Reformation channels.

The cheering prospect which was thus opened was indeed soon overcast The cardinal still lived to oppose the good cause, and the Regent was soon to prove himself no match against Beaton's powers of obstruction and intrigue. A few months sufficed to change the whole aspect of public affairs, and to cover the ecclesiastical firmament again with storm-clouds. Still, much of what was now gained to the cause of religious liberty, was never again lost. However low the outward fortunes of the Reformation afterwards fell, the strong hold which its principles now obtained upon the national mind, could never again be seriously relaxed; nor could it ever be deprived of two capital advantages now gained for it;—the virtual recognition, by Act of Parliament, of the fundamental principle of the Reformation, that the Word of God is the supreme standard of religious truth; and the concession by statute of the fundamental Protestant right, that every man, woman, and child in the kingdom, should be free to possess, and to make use of the vernacular Bible.

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