In 1525, the Scottish Parliament passed the following act, and I’m going to read it to you in full.
“It is a statute and ordained that for as much as damnable opinions of heresy are spread in diverse countries by the heretic Luther and his disciples, and this realm and lieges have firmly persisted in the holy faith since the same was first received by them, and never as yet admitted any opinions contrary to the Christian faith, but ever have been clean of all such filth and vice. Therefore, that no manner of person, stranger, that happens to arrive with their ships within any part of this realm shall bring with them any books or works of the said Luther and his disciples.”
And then it goes on to say that if a person is caught with any of these books, their entire ship will be taken and they will be thrown into prison.
So there it is, this act by the Scottish Parliament in 1525 that says Scotland is Roman Catholic—it has been Roman Catholic, it is Roman Catholic, and it always will be Roman Catholic—and there will be no toleration of Luther and his ideas here.
Well, what the Scottish Parliament did not take into account was that Luther’s ideas wouldn’t come from a stranger. In fact, they would come to Scotland from one of their very own. And their very own in this case was none other than Patrick Hamilton.
Patrick Hamilton was born of nobility. He went on to study at Paris, and then at Leuven. In 1520, back at Paris, he was first exposed to Luther’s ideas. After a few years of study, he went back to Scotland, and he began teaching in the area of St. Andrews. And not only was he teaching, but he also put out a little book—comes down to us in history simply called, “Patrick’s Places.” And in that book, Patrick has a dialogue as it were between the law and the gospel. And what he’s really talking about is the distinction between the Roman Catholic church, and what he sees as the true gospel as presented in the New Testament. And in that book, Patrick says, “The law says, make amends for thy sin. The Father of heaven is wrath with thee. Where is thy righteousness, goodness, and satisfaction? You are bound and obliged unto me to the devil and to hell. The gospel says, Christ has made it for thee. Christ has pacified Him with His blood. Christ is thy righteousness, thy goodness and satisfaction. Christ has delivered thee from them all.”
Well, it was writings like this and his preaching that drew the ire of Archbishop James Beaton. And James Beaton charged Patrick Hamilton with heresy. In response to that, Patrick Hamilton fled. He fled to the University of Marburg. But while he was there he only became more steeped in Luther’s ideas, decided that he really belonged back home in Scotland, and so in 1527 he returns back to Scotland.
He begins preaching again, and again he’s charged with heresy. He’s swiftly arrested, and swiftly tried. In February of 1528, he was burned at the stake. This event marks the beginnings of the Reformation in Scotland. It was a Reformation that was forged upon the anvil of suffering and persecution. And it was a Reformation that was built upon the stake—the martyr’s stake.
Well, after Patrick Hamilton, there would be more martyrs, and we’ll come to pick up the story of the Scottish Reformation in our next episode. But it began with Patrick Hamilton and his embrace of Luther’s ideas, or should we say, his embrace of the gospel.