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The Period Of Controversy 1614-1645

"They were splintered and torn, but no power could bend or melt them.
They dwelt, as pious men are apt to dwell, in suffering and sorrow on
the all-disposing power of Providence. Their burden grew lighter as
they considered that God had so determined that they should bear

The years from 1603, the date of James the Sixth's ascent to the united
thrones of England and Scotland, until 1645 the year of the Westminster
Assembly, cover one of the most exciting and interesting periods in
Scottish history. Especially is this period of interest to the student
of Scottish Church history, because of the influences both direct and
indirect which the struggles of that time had upon the development of
the character and practice of the Presbyterian Church.

The Book of Common Order had received the authority of the General
Assembly sitting in Edinburgh in 1564, and for nearly fifty years from
that date it was the unchallenged directory for worship and usage in
the Scottish Church. Its use, though not universal, was general, and
it was uniformly referred to, as well in civil as in ecclesiastical
courts, as comprising for the Church the law respecting public worship.

The first mention of any desire to modify or amend this book occurs in
1601, in the records of the General Assembly, when a motion was made
respecting an improved version of the Bible, a revision of the Psalter
and an amendment of "sundry prayers in the Psalm-Book which should be
altered in respect they are not convenient for the time." The
Assembly, however, declined to amend the prayers already in the Book,
or to delete any of them, but ordained that:

"If any brother would have any prayers added, which are meet for the
time.... the same first to be tried and allowed by the Assembly."

The motion thus proposed, and the action of the General Assembly
regarding it, is of interest in that it seems plainly to indicate that
whatever desire there was for change, this desire was not the result of
a movement in favor of a fuller liturgical service, nor on the other
hand, of one which had for its object the entire removal of the form of
worship at that time in use. To this form, commonly employed, no
objection was offered, but owing to changing times and circumstances,
it was regarded as desirable that the matter contained in the suggested
forms of prayer should be so modified as to make them more applicable
to the conditions of the age.

James the Sixth of Scotland ascended the throne of the united kingdoms
in 1603, and many of his Presbyterian subjects cherished the hope that
his influence would be exerted to conform the practice and worship of
the Church of England to that of other Reformed Churches. In this hope
they were destined to severe disappointment, as it very soon became
evident that the aim of the royal theologian was to reduce to the forms
and methods of Episcopacy, those of all the Churches within his realm.
In considering the subject of Presbyterian worship it will not be
necessary to enter fully into the history of the civil struggle between
the Church of Scotland and the Stuart Kings except in those phases of
it which affected the worship of the Church; as these, however, are so
closely interwoven with questions of government it will be impossible
always to avoid reference to the latter or to keep the two absolutely

In 1606 it was decided by the Scottish Parliament that the King was
"absolute, Prince, Judge and Governor over all persons, estates, and
causes, both spiritual and temporal, within the realm." Four years
later the General Assembly, composed of commissioners named by the
King, met at Glasgow and issued a decree to the effect that the right
of calling General Assemblies of the Church belonged to the Crown.
This, among other acts of this Assembly, was ratified by the Parliament
of 1612, and James, having thus secured the position in the Church
which he coveted, proceeded in his endeavors to mould it, as well in
its worship as in its government and doctrine, to his own views.

The Church of Scotland was not allowed to remain long in ignorance of
the King's purpose. Early in 1614 a royal order was sent to the
northern kingdom requiring all ministers to celebrate Holy Communion on
Easter Day, the 24th of April, and this was followed in 1616 by a
proposal from the King to the General Assembly that "a liturgy and form
of divine service should be prepared" for the use of the Scottish
Church. The Assembly (formed as indicated above) with ready
acquiescence heartily thanked His Majesty for his royal care of the
Church and ordained:

"That a uniform order of Liturgy or divine service be set down to be
read in all Kirks on the ordinary days of prayer and every Sabbath day
before the sermon, to the end the common people may be acquainted
therewith, and by custom may learn to serve God rightly. And to this
intent the Assembly has appointed ... to revise the Book of Common
Prayer contained in the Psalm Book, and to set down a common form of
ordinary service to be used in all times hereafter."

The work thus authorized of revising the Book of Common Order was at
once undertaken by those appointed thereto, but although a draft was
made and much labor was expended upon it during a term of several
years, the book in its revised form was never introduced into the
Scottish Church. By the time it had received its final revision at the
hands of the King and his Scotch advisors in London, such events had
transpired, and such a spirit of opposition had been aroused in
Scotland by other measures, that it was deemed wise to withhold it, and
the death of James occurring in 1625, while it was still unpublished,
the book in its revised form was retained by Spottiswoode, Bishop of
St. Andrew's, and appears to have been forgotten for years, even by its
most active promoters. From correspondence in the time of Charles
First, however, it appears that James had not relinquished his aim of
imposing the new book upon the Scottish Church, and it is probable that
his death alone prevented the attempt being made to carry out his
cherished purpose.

Much of the voluminous correspondence, which at this time passed
between James and the leaders of the Scottish Church, is still extant
and it serves to indicate some of the anticipated changes in the forms
of worship.

In the regular worship appointed for the Lord's Day there was to be
introduced a liturgy which was to be used before the sermon; the Ten
Commandments were to be read, and after each of them the people were to
be instructed to respond, or, as the rubric directed:

"After every Commandment they ask mercy of God for their transgression
of the same in this manner,--Lord have mercy upon us and incline our
hearts to keep this law."

There was also an evident purpose to leave less to the discretion of
the minister, and to restrict him more closely to the use of provided
forms in prayer, as well as to regulate more particularly the reading
of the Scriptures. A table of Scripture lessons was to be prepared
showing the passages proper to be read on each day; prayers were also
provided for worship upon saints' days and festivals, in the use of
which there was to be no option, and the privilege of extempore prayer
in any part of public worship was to be taken from the minister, in
large measure if not entirely. That this intention was cherished seems
evident from a discussion in which Spottiswoode engaged with one Hog,
minister at Dysart. Hog had defended an action complained of, by
saying that his prayer on the occasion referred to had been in
conformity with Knox's Book of Common Order; in reply Spottiswoode
declared that "In a short time that Book of Discipline would be
discharged and ministers tied to set forms."

The Book was regarded by all as a compromise between the Book of Common
Order and the English Prayer Book, and appears to have excited no
enthusiasm, even among its promoters; it was too subversive of Scottish
custom to please those who were loyal to the old usage, and it was not
sufficiently liturgical to suit James and his like-minded counsellors.

It has been stated that the transpiring of certain events had delayed
the publication of this Liturgy; these events were connected with the
historic "Articles of Perth." These "Articles" were orders, first of
the General Assembly of 1618, sitting at Perth and acting under royal
instruction, and afterwards of the Parliament which confirmed them in
1621, enjoining

Kneeling at the Communion;

Private Communion in cases of sickness;

Private Baptism "upon a great and reasonable cause;"

Episcopal Confirmation;

The observance of the festivals of Christmas, Good Friday, Easter Day,
Ascension Day and Whitsunday.

The Five Articles were passed in Assembly in spite of vigorous
opposition on the part of a minority that, nevertheless, represented
the most intense feeling of a very large section of the Scottish
people. The first of these Five Articles, that were subversive of so
much for which the reformers had struggled and had at last secured,
reestablished a practice that could only be regarded by the Church as
Romish in its tendency, and wholly unscriptural. It excited the most
violent opposition, and secured for itself, even after its approval by
Parliament, determined resistance on the part of the people.

Previous to this, in 1617, James had by his childish flaunting of the
service of the Church of England in the face of the Scottish subjects,
on the occasion of his visit to Edinburgh, estranged the sympathies of
many who had previously been not unkindly disposed toward his projects,
and aroused among the people in general, a deeper and more widespread
opposition to his scheme of reform than had hitherto made itself
manifest. Some months before his visit he had given orders for the
re-fitting of the Royal Chapel at Holyrood, and for the introduction of
an organ, the preparation of stalls for choristers, and the setting up
within the Chapel of statues of the Apostles and Evangelists. The
organ and choristers the Scotch could abide, but the proposal of
"images" aroused such an outburst of opposition on the part of the
people that James, being advised of it, made a happy excuse of the
statues not being yet ready, and withdrew his order for the forwarding
of them to Scotland. The services in Holyrood Chapel, however, during
the visit of His Majesty to Edinburgh, were all after the Episcopal
form, "with singing of choristers, surplices, and playing on organs,"
and when a clergyman of the Church of England officiated at the
celebration of the Lord's Supper, the majority of those present
received it kneeling. All this, as may be imagined, had its effect
upon James's Scottish subjects, but that effect was the opposite of
what he had hoped for. Instead of inspiring a love for an elaborate
liturgy, or developing a sympathy between the two kingdoms in matters
of worship, the result was to antagonize the spirit of the Scots, as
well against the proposed changes as against the King, who, with
childish pleasure in what he deemed proper, sought to enforce his will
upon the conscience of the people from whom he had sprung, and among
whom he had been educated. The loyalty of the Scots to the Stuarts is
proverbial, but though ready to die for their king, to acknowledge him
as lord of the conscience they could not be persuaded. A spirit of
opposition stronger than that which had before existed was developed
against any liturgy in Church worship, and the seeds were sown which
were afterwards to bear fruit in the harvest of the Revolution of 1688.
This opposition, it may be argued, was not the outcome of a calm
consideration of the questions involved, but was an indirect result of
the national anger at the attempt of the King to coerce the consciences
of his subjects. In any event, so strong was the opposition to any
change in the religious worship of the land, that James ceased his
active endeavors to carry out his will, and in a message to his
Scottish subjects in 1624 assured them of his desire "by gentle and
fair means rather to reclaim them from their unsettled and
evil-grounded opinions, nor by severity and rigor of justice to inflict
that punishment which their misbehavior and contempt merits."

We now come to a period marked by a still more vigorous assault upon
the liberties of the Church of Scotland, and by a correspondingly
vigorous opposition thereto on the part of the Scottish people.
William Laud, who afterwards became Archbishop of Canterbury, began to
exert his influence upon the religious life of both England and
Scotland during the closing years of James's reign, but it was in the
reign of Charles the First, who succeeded his father in 1625, that he
came before the world in his sudden and so unfortunate greatness.
History has left but little doubt in the mind of the careful student
that Laud's deliberate purpose and persistent influence, both in
England and in Scotland, were towards a revival of Romanism within the
Church of which he was a prelate, or at least towards the creation of a
high Anglicanism which would differ but little from the Romish system.
Adroitly, and frequently concealing his real purpose, he labored to
this end, and it is not too much to say that the vigorous and, at last,
successful opposition to his plans in Scotland, saved the English
Church from radical changes which it is clear he was prepared to
introduce in the southern Kingdom when his desires for Scotland had
been effected. England owes to Scotland the preservation of her
Protestantism on two occasions: first, in the days of Knox, when the
work of the sturdy Reformer prevented what must have taken place had a
Catholic Scotland been prepared to join with Spain in the overthrow of
Protestant England, and again when Scottish opposition effectively
nipped in the bud Laud's plans for a Romish movement in both Kingdoms.

The history of the movement under Laud it is only possible briefly to
summarize. In 1629 Charles revived the subject, to which his father
had devoted so much attention, of an improved service in the Church of
Scotland, and wrote to the Scottish Bishops ordering them to press
forward the matter of an improved liturgy with all earnestness. As a
result, the draft of the Book of Common Prayer prepared in the reign of
James was again brought to light and forwarded to Charles, and this
would probably have been accepted and authorized for use but for Laud's
influence. It however was too bald and simple to suit the ritualistic
Archbishop, who persuaded the King that it would be entirely preferable
to introduce into Scotland the English Prayer Book without change.
Correspondence upon the matter was continued until 1633, when Charles,
accompanied by Laud, visited Scotland for the purpose of being crowned,
and also "to finish the important business of the Liturgy."

During his stay in Scotland Charles followed the example of his father
in parading before the people upon every possible occasion the ritual
of the Church of England, conduct on his part which served only to stir
up further and more deeply-seated opposition. Soon after his return to
England he dispatched instructions to the Scottish Bishops requiring
them to decide upon a form of liturgy and to proceed with its
preparation. His message was in these terms:

"Considering that there is nothing more defective in that Church than
the want of a Book of Common Prayer and uniform service to be kept in
all the Churches thereof ... we are hereby pleased to authorize you ...
to condescend upon a form of Church service to be used therein."

Such a form was accordingly prepared, forwarded to London for the
King's approval, and, after revision by Laud, who was commanded by His
Majesty to give to the Bishops of Scotland his best assistance in this
work, it was duly published in 1637, and ordered to be read in all
Churches of Scotland on the 23rd of July of that year. The book
appeared, stamped with the royal approval, elaborately illuminated and
illustrated, and bearing this title, "The Book of Common Prayer and
Administration of the Sacraments, and other parts of Divine Service,
for the use of the Church of Scotland." A royal order accompanied it,
in which civil authorities were enjoined to

"Command and charge all our subjects, both ecclesiastical and civil, to
conform themselves to the public form of worship, which is the only
form of worship which we (having taken counsel of our clergy) think fit
to be used in God's public worship in this our kingdom."

The introduction of this Service Book, as it was called, into public
worship in St. Giles, Edinburgh, on the day appointed, was the signal
for an outburst of popular indignation that was as fire to the heather
in the land. On that occasion the Archbishop of St. Andrew's was
present with the Bishop of Edinburgh, but when the Dean rose to read
the new service, even the presence of such dignitaries was not
sufficient to restrain the pent-up feelings of the congregation. Such
a clamor arose as made it impossible for the Dean to proceed, books and
other missiles were freely thrown, and a stool, hurled by the
traditional Jenny Geddes, narrowly missed the Dean's head, whereupon
that dignitary fled precipitately, followed by the more forcible than
elegant ejaculation of the wrathful woman, "Out thou false thief; dost
thou say mass at my lug?" The riot in Edinburgh was the signal for
similar manifestations of popular feeling throughout the land, the
national spirit was aroused, and the stately fabric which Charles and
Laud, supported by a prelatic party in Scotland, had been laboriously
rearing for years, was overthrown in a day.

This feeling of opposition on the part of the people to the
introduction of a liturgy into the Church of Scotland, found due and
official expression in the following year. The General Assembly
meeting at Glasgow repudiated Laud's Liturgy and appealed repeatedly to
the Book of Common Order as containing the Law of the Church respecting
worship. In his eloquent closing address the Moderator, Alexander
Henderson, said: "and now we are quit of the Service Book, which was a
book of service and slavery indeed, the Book of Canons which tied us in
spiritual bondage, the Book of Ordination which was a yoke put upon the
necks of faithful ministers, and the High Commission which was a guard
to keep us all under that slavery." The people also in formal manner
expressed their mind on the matter and in the Solemn League and
Covenant, signed in Gray friars Churchyard, asserted their purpose to
defend, even unto death, the true religion, and to "labor by all means
lawful to recover the purity and liberty of the Gospel as it was
established and professed before the late innovations." Charles at
first determined upon extreme measures, and preparations were made to
force "the stubborn Kirk of Scotland to bow," but wiser measures
prevailed, and the desires of the Church of Scotland were for the time

The Book of Common Order, thus reaffirmed as the law of the Church
respecting worship, continued in use during the years following the
Glasgow Assembly of 1638, years which for Scotland were comparatively
peaceful, by reason of the troubles fast thickening around the English

This interesting chapter of Scottish history which we have thus briefly
reviewed, is of value to us in the present discussion only in so far
as, from the facts presented, we are able to understand the spirit that
characterized the Church of Scotland at this period, and the principles
that guided them in their attitude toward the subject of public
worship. What this spirit and those principles were it is not
difficult to discover. The facts themselves are plain; not only did
the Church in its regularly constituted courts oppose the introduction
of new forms and the elaboration of the Church service, but the people
resisted by every means in their power, and at last went the length of
resisting by force of arms, the attempt to impose upon them the new
Service Book.

It is asserted that the chief, if not the only cause of this resistance
was, first, an element of patriotism which in Scotland opposed
uniformly any measure which seemed to subordinate the national customs
to those of England, and secondly, the righteous and conscientious
objection of Presbyterians to having imposed upon them by any external
authority, a form of worship and Church government which their own
ecclesiastical authorities had not approved, and which they themselves
had not voluntarily accepted. The objection, in a word, is said to
have been not to a liturgy as such, but to a foreign liturgy and to
one imposed.

It cannot be denied that these were important elements in the
opposition of the Scottish people to the projects of Charles. Many of
them, for one or other of these reasons, opposed the King's command,
who had no conscientious scruples with regard either to the form or
substance of Laud's liturgy. Too much is claimed, however, when the
assertion is made that there was no real objection among the people to
the introduction of an elaborated service such as that which was
proposed. The liberty of free prayer so dear to the Scottish reformers
was, if not entirely denied, largely encroached upon; a responsive
service, to which, in common with the great leaders of Geneva, Knox and
Melville had been so uniformly opposed, was introduced; and
particularly in the service for the administration of the Sacrament of
the Lord's Supper, forms of words were employed which seemed to teach
doctrines rejected by the reformers. Here then was abundant ground for
opposition to Laud's liturgy when judged on its merits, and this ground
the stern theologians of that day were not likely to overlook.

Nor is it to be forgotten that in the many supplications which from
time to time were presented to the King both from Church and State
against the introduction of the Service Book, the anti-English plea
never found a place, but uniformly, reference was made in strong terms
to the unscriptural form of worship suggested for adoption by the
Scottish people, together with a protest against the arrogant
imposition upon them of a form of service not desired. Persistently in
these supplications the subscribers expressed their desire that there
should be no change in the form of worship to which they had been
accustomed, and prayed for a continuance of the liberty hitherto
enjoyed. In a complaint laid before the Privy Council the Service Book
and Canons are described as "containing the seeds of divers
superstitions, idolatry and false doctrine," and as being "subversive
of the discipline established in the Church." The Earl of Rothes in an
address spoke thus: "Who pressed that form of service contrary to the
laws of God and this kingdom? Who dared in their conventicles contrive
a form of God's public worship contrary to that established by the
general consent of this Church and State?" And that the form of
worship ever held a prominent place in the discussions of the time,
appears from a letter supposed to have been written by Alexander
Henderson, in which he defends the Presbyterian Church against a charge
of disorder and neglect of seemly procedure in worship; he says, "The
form of prayers, administration of the Sacraments, etc., which are set
down before their Psalm Book, and to which the ministers are to conform
themselves, is a sufficient witness; for although they be not tied to
set forms and words, yet are they not left at random, but for
testifying their consent and keeping unity they have their Directory
and prescribed Order."

While it is true, therefore, that the high-handed conduct of the King
in forcing upon an unwilling people a form of service already
distasteful because of its foreign associations, was doubtless an
important element in arousing the vigorous opposition with which it was
met, nevertheless, there is abundant evidence to show that apart from
any such consideration, the spirit of the Church of Scotland was
entirely hostile to the introduction of further forms, to the
elaboration of their simple service, and to the imposition upon their
ministers of prescribed prayers from which in public worship they would
not be allowed to depart.

Next: The Westminster Assembly And The Directory Of Worship

Previous: A Diet Of Public Worship In The Time Of Knox

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