Emergence of evangelical theology in Scotland to 1550
Dotterweich, Martin Holt
Religious dissent in Scotland in the years before 1550 is best categorised as evangelical: the two characteristics which mark dissenting activity are the doct[r]ine of justification by faith alone, and the reading of the Bible in the vernacular. Dissent can be found in the southwest from lay preacher Quintin Folkhyrde in 1410 to a small but identifiable group of Lollards in Ayrshire who were tried in 1494 for group Bible reading, eschewing rituals, and challenging the authority of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. These 'Lollards of Kyle' were associated with the notary public Murdoch Nisbet, whose transcription of a Lollard New Testament into Scots was augmented in 1538 by the further transcription of textual aids from Miles Coverdale's edition. The Lollard group seems to have adopted the solafideism in this material, apart from their continued aversion to swearing. In the east, Luther's ideas were debated at St Andrews University in the 1520s, where Patrick Hamilton adhered to them and was burned in 1528; however, the same message of solafideist theology, Scripture reading, and perseverance in persecution was reiterated by his fellow-students John Gau and John Johnsone, in printed works which they sent home from exile. One of the primary concerns of ecclesiastical and state authorities was the availability of the New Testament in English, or other works reflecting Lutheran theology; they legislated against both owning and discussing such works. Sporadic heresy trials in the 1530s and 1540s reveal heretical belief and practice which is connected to the doctrine of justification by faith alone. In the late 1530s, a group of known evangelicals were at the court of James V: Captain John Borthwick tried to convince the king to follow the lead of Henry VIII and lay claim to church lands; Sir David Lindsay of the Mount probably wrote a play exhorting the king to enact reforms; Henry Balnaves was active after James's death in trying to forge a marriage treaty with England, which might have resulted in Henrician reforms. The governor Arran initially supported the court evangelicals, even backing a parliamentary Act allowing the reading, but not discussion, of the Bible in the vernacular. However, he reversed his policy and Balnaves, along with others, was imprisoned in Rouen, where he wrote a lengthy treatise about justification by faith alone, its effects on Christian society, and its help in times of persecution. George Wishart returned to his homeland in 1543, and began a preaching tour which took him from Angus to Kyle to East Lothian. Probably not having been guilty of the Radical beliefs laid to his charge in Bristol, Wishart held a developed Reformed theology, in addition to traditional evangelical concerns calling for a purified church guided by the Scripture principle, and drawing a sharp distinction between true and false churches. After Wishart was executed, John Knox proclaimed the Mass to be idolatrous before being imprisoned. The first Scot who appears to have moved from his basic evangelical beliefs to a functional Protestantism is Adam Wallace, a thorough sacramentarian who had baptised his own child. Upon his return in 1555, Knox took it upon him to convince the evangelicals that attendance at Mass was idolatrous, and he began administering Protestant communions. The central tenets of evangelical faith, however, continued to shape the incipient Protestant kirk.