French Influence on the First Scots “Confession” and “Book of Discipline” -- By: W. Stanford Reid

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 35:1 (Fall 1972)
Article: French Influence on the First Scots “Confession” and “Book of Discipline”
Author: W. Stanford Reid

French Influence on the First Scots “Confession” and “Book of Discipline”

W. Stanford Reid

[Much of the material for this article was obtained during researches in Scotland and France over the past few years financed in part by grants from the Canada Council, the Government of the Republic of France and the Institute for Advanced Christian Studies. The author is very grateful for the support of these bodies in his work. A French translation of this article is to appear in Revue Reformée.]

The interrelationship of the various sixteenth-century Reformed Confessions and forms of church government has been a matter of interest to many historians since the time of the Reformation. Were they drawn up independently or did their framers borrow from others, and if so how much? Nowhere do these questions arise more insistently than in connection with the first Scots’ Confession and Book of Discipline, because of the peculiar circumstances under which both documents were prepared.

The year 1560 was a crucial year in the history of the church in Scotland. During it the Protestants won their first major victory, by having parliament abolish Romanism in favor of a Reformed church. This action was to a certain extent made possible because the advocates of reform prepared and submitted to parliament a Reformed confession of faith which was adopted by that body on August 25th. It had been composed in the space of four days on the order of the parliament, which required the reformers to state what they believed, before it would establish a Reformed church.1

During the preceding April and May another document had also been drawn up, this time on the instructions of the “Lords of the Congregation,” the leaders of the Protestant forces, who desired a plan for the general reformation of the church and for

the re-ordering of its organization. This document was not submitted to the parliament of August 1560, probably because of its provisions for the re-distribution of the wealth of the old church. It was presented for the first time to the nobles in January 1561, who, after much discussion, rejected it. The following year it was again brought forward, but once more was turned down. Although the church acted from this time on as though it were the established form of ecclesiastical government and discipline, such was not the case, as it never officially came into effect.2

The authors of both these documents were the same men: John Winram, subprior of St. Andrews, John Spottiswoode, John Willock, John Douglas, rector of St. Andrews, John R...

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