`Alexander Ales, also
known as Alesius.

In the early sixteenth
century there were more and more  priests and friars disenchanted
with the Roman Church  and  its excesses;  many took up the
evangelical cause even though it could mean a charge of heresy and a fiery
death at the stake. These often unsung Christians were important to the
burgeoning Reformation because they provided clear evidence to the common
people and spoke with authority against their former masters and Romish
practices. Importantly, they contributed to the momentum for change, and
later helped fill the need for qualified preachers and ministers in the
Reformed church. Converts such as Ales, or Alesius, were the fore runners of Knox and
Melville and made important contributions in the early days of the

Ales, or Alesius as he is
sometimes known, was born in 1500 in Edinburgh and educated at St Andrews; he was later a canon of the Priory at St Andrews. He was a friend of Patrick
Hamilton whom he stood by throughout his martyrdom which of itself would have made him a marked man.  Shortly after
that terrible deed in 1528, he was very critical of the excesses of
the clergy in a sermon delivered to priests and bishops at a Synod. The
Prior, Patrick Henderson, who was by all accounts a thorough profligate,
felt personally rebuked by Ales`s sermon and had him thrown into the
dungeons. After a year  of imprisonment Ales` brother canons 
helped him to escape and he made his way by boat to the continent. He was
never to return to Scotland, but an educated man, he took part in the Diet
of Worms , was a professor at Frankfort, and became Professor of Divinity
and Rector of the University of Leipzig. He did , however, visit England
in 1537 and had a memorable debate (termed a disputation) with Stokesley,
the Bishop of London, and known as a “most earnest champion of Romish
decrees” about the Sacraments. In this he impressed Lord William
Cromwell, the Vicar General, with the successful arguement –

… that there be no
sacraments but those that have the manifest word God to confirm them.

This led to the removal of the
adoration during the sacrament in the Communion book. While in England
Ales also translated the  First Liturgy of Edward VI into 
Latin, and thus made a contribution to the English Reformation.

In Leipzig Ales was in
close contact with Martin Luther and Phillip Melanchthon. He watched with
interest the progress of events in Scotland and from a distance was able
to take a detached overview.  He saw the need for cohesion in the
movement to cleanse religion and to reform the corruptions of the past.
He also saw the need for a clear understanding of these needs, which
prompted him to send an address to the nobles, prelates and people of
Scotland. The thrust of his letter  was :

“Let us have innovation
everywhere if only we can get the true for the false, seriousness for
levity, and solid realities for empty dreams…. It is no new doctrine we
bring. but the most ancient, nay rather the eternal truth, for it
proclaims that Jesus Christ the Son of God came into the world to save
sinners and that we are saved  by faith in Him. Those which are
really new now are the doctrines which have obscured or contaminated it,
brought in by those entrusted with the care  of the vineyard of the
Lord, and who, like the keepers of the vineyard in the Gospel parable have
maltreated  and slain many of the Lord`s messengers.”

Ales was among the first
who contended for the translation of the Scriptures into  the
vernacular tongue. He died at Leipzig  on 17 March 1565.