The Protestant
Reformation in England and Scotland compared.

England became a melting
pot for new ideas and the Protestant faith driven along by the likes of
John Wyckcliffe 

(1329-1384) who was in the vanguard of the assault on the Church of Rome.
He came to notice as a teacher of philosophy at Oxford and wielded
considerable influence, writing and debating zealously  in defence of
an English, protestant church and against  the Papacy. He soon raised the temperature of debates by attacking the excesses of the church
of Rome, and promoting the right of the government to seize the assets of  corrupt clergy. Closely associated with Wyckcliffe was the Czech Jan Hus (1374-1415) who also opposed the pope and the practice of indulgences. Their followers became known
as the Lollards. As
their views took hold, especially among the tradesmen and peasants, social
disorder became the excuse for suppression and many moved on into Wales
and south western Scotland. 

Critical to the Reformation in both countries was Wyckcliffe`s translation of the Bible from Latin into English
in 1380. This for
the first time allowed the common man to read and make his own judgments
on the Word of God. However, as a manuscript version, copies and extracts
were expensive, slow in circulation and the sources more easily identified
by the clerics. A vital catalyst in later years was the printing press brought
to England by Caxton. This enabled many more copies of the Bible, and
other tracts to be published. Moreover, the simplicity of the language
also helped to standardise English from the many regional dialects that
existed. Thus there was already a movement against the Church
of Rome, it`s beliefs and practices, long before the historical and
largely political break
effected by Henry VIII.

It is generally known that
Henry VIII created the Church of England more as a political act, to
facilitate his divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. It was a
momentous decision in its own right since it meant a clear break with
Spain, Rome and the Papal authority and a risk of war.  In 1529 Parliament met at the
behest of Henry to make the necessary changes, and appointed the King as
its Supreme Head. At the same time payments to Rome were terminated and
further payments prohibited. Subsequently there followed the dissolution
of the monasteries which raised immense sums of money for the lavish
spending king and the navy that he was building.

However the changes to
religion itself were not consistent and on widely differing principles. In
England the papal supremacy was transferred to the King  and the
church hierarchy subjected to his authority, but they were allowed to
remain in office. There were some changes to the services but essentially
it remained `popish` in content and conduct. It was not until the short reign of Edward VI when Cranmer`s influence is most seen. This was reflected in the Injunctions to the Church of England, which clearly abolished the rites and ceremonies, creeds and idolatry of the Church of Rome. This was then savaged by Edward`s successor, `Bloody Mary` who returned to all the excesses of popery, before finally settled by Elizabeth I.

In essence the Reformation
in England was by means of the Scriptures. It did not have the gladiators
like Luther,  Zwingli , Calvin or Knox, but had the widely circulated
and read Holy Word as its foundation. Many gave witness for their faith
and suffered over the two centuries that it took to effect reform; but the change
on the hearts and minds of the people was very deep and lasting. Notably
there was a change in the physical administration without an immediate
attempt to replace the doctrine, thus leaving scope for ongoing debate ,
and dissent.

 In the Scottish Reformation
the policy of the Reformers, the Confession of Faith, was
approved by the Lords of the Articles and
the whole Parliament. Only then were the primary acts forbidding the
Mass, papal authority and repeal of  statutes favouring Romish
practices,  enacted. The Church of Rome was not technically abolished
–  only its mechanisms in Scotland. The practical effect was that all semblance and trace of the Church of Rome was removed
from public places as not having divine authority, or was burdensome or unprofitable to the people. The worship and management of

the approved church in Scotland
( not the Church of Scotland)
was reduced to the primitive simplicity of the Scriptures, and moreover, it was done within months, not the
centuries that it took England to sort itself out. By adopting the
Confession of Faith the basic difference between the churches was
crystallised in one question  – Is the Pope the sole Vicar  and
vice Regent of God on earth ? This remains the singular point of
difference between the Roman and all other Christian churches.

 In England there were
hopes that the Protestant Reformation would be advanced further

Edward VI succeeded to the crown and Archbishop Cranmer was able to
influence issues. Edward was strongly inclined to comply with the precepts
of the Scriptures and to allow freedom of worship which, had he lived,
would have completed a greater reformation in England that would have been
closer to the form of other reformed churches. Among his endeavours was to
bring leading teachers and theologians to the English universities
including Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer,  Lever ( Knox`s colleague in
Frankfort), Grindal who became successively Bishop of London, Archbishop of
York and Archbishop of Canterbury; and the martyr John Bradford who was
burnt at the stake in July 1555. He further had support from Martin Bucer
from Strasbourg, Peter Martyr from Italy who were professors at Oxford and
Cambridge, and John A. Lasco a nobleman from Poland  who
superintended a congregation of about 3000 German, Italian and French
Protestants in London. However, the young kings early death, aged but
sixteen years in 1563, and the succession of  his catholic
sister “Bloody Mary” brought reform to a halt  There followed a
period of persecution and terror in which some 300 non conformists /
Protestants were executed for alleged heresy, including Cranmer, Latimer,
Bradford and Ridley.

While in
England John Knox was, among other things,
consulted on the  Book of Common Prayer and made suggestions to the
governing council at the time for removing certain practices. He was
naturally pleased that some of his suggestions were taken up although the
infrastructure of the Church of England gave cause for concern. While on
the continent and with Calvin in Geneva, Knox developed an increasing
distaste for the English liturgy and hardened his pre-existing views on
ecclesiastical government. As far as the Scottish Reformation is
concerned, it should be remembered that Knox saw in Geneva a church whose
form came near to his own  ideals, but he did not slavishly follow or
imitate it when he returned to Scotland. Knox was firmly of the opinion
that the clergy ought not to be involved and diverted from their official
duties, by holding civil appointments. He thought that the bishops (for
whom he saw no provision  in the Scriptures) should divest themselves 
of secular titles and `dignities`. The bishoprics he considered should
be divided so that a a godly and learned man could be appointed in every
town and city; and that schools should be established throughout the

When Elizabeth I came to
the throne in 1558 she was obliged to apply some toleration because of the
threats of civil war and hostility from France and Spain. She consolidated
the establishment of the Church of England with herself as Supreme
Governor and An Act of Uniformity in 1559 restored the Articles and
the Prayer Book of Edward VI. But the Act was severely restrictive and
retained episcopacy and some alleged `popish` practices – much to the
dissatisfaction of Calvinists and the Puritan religious refugees returning from
exile on the continent.

Although some of the
grossest idolatry and superstition was removed, the
consolidation of the Church by Elizabeth I left it rigid in form and
practice. There was an extreme paucity of useful preachers and the bishops
still had a role, while the returning exiles were desirous of further
improvement. The simplicity of the Scriptures was not adopted with
elements such as crossing at baptism, kneeling in the Eucharist,
theatrical dress and repetition of prayers by rote remaining in use. Among
other things of censure were the great number of ignorant priests who had
been accustomed to  simply saying mass and singing the litany, the
reading of homilies, the mumbling of prayers, the chanting of matins, and
even-song instead of preaching. The celebration  of the sacraments
was made without any instruction to the people, while there was the
scandal of pluralities with many priests and bishops holding several
official appointments from which they were frequently absentees.

Thus the incomplete
reformation in England ( by Calvinist standards) was exposed to further demands for
change by those who became to be known as Puritans.

In common with Scotland,
religious practices became a source of irritation, then confrontation
under the Stuart kings intent on their own `Divine Right` way of rule, and the church of
their choice. This friction, and eventually persecution,
continued right through the seventeenth century until the Glorious
Revolution of 1688, and the establishment of a democratic and
constitutional monarchy under
William III and Mary.

The First Admonition to Parliament 1572.