Daily Archives: September 19, 2007

The Reformation and Restoration in Scotland

For those with an interest in Church History, Scotland provides many links. Scotland was influenced by the work of both Martin Luther and John Calvin, who were already advancing the Reformation principles in the early part of the 1500s. Sixteenth century Scottish leaders, who began their work a few years later, included George Wishart and John Knox.

Those of us with a background in the Restoration Movement in America find ourselves in agreement with many of the principles of the Reformation, but not with all of them. Thomas and Alexander Campbell came to America from Northern Ireland. In that area the people “were predominantly Anglo-Scottish in blood and Protestant in religion” (West). Thomas Campbell came to America in 1807. In 1808, when Alexander set out for America he was shipwrecked on the rugged shores of Scotland. Alexander entered Glasgow University where his father has studied earlier. He studied Greek, Logic, and Experimental Philosophy. He came in contact with several independent movements and was especially influenced by James and Robert Haldane. John Glas and Robert Sandeman influenced the young Campbell also. Their churches were congregational in government with a plurality of elders and deacons. They rejected human creeds, advocated weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper. See West, The Search for the Ancient Order, I:36-52.

In America, Barton W. Stone and the Campbells rejected the Calvinistic doctrines of inherited depravity, the direct operation of the Holy Spirit, etc. They determined that the New Testament was the standard of authority for Christians, and that baptism for forgiveness of sins is immersion. Infants did not need to be baptized because they are not sinners.

Writings of some of the Restoration leaders are available online at the Restoration Movement Page.

King James VI (James Stuart) of Scotland was King of Scots, King of England, and King of Ireland. He “authorized” the translation of the Bible that we still know as the King James Bible (1611). King James was born in Edinburgh Castle. The finished product was largely the work of William Tyndale whose New Testament was printed in 1525. His work on the Old Testament was completed by Miles Coverdale and the entire English Bible was first printed in 1535. Tyndale was strangled and burned at the stake in 1536. A nice time line on the Reformation can be studied at the Friends of Tyndale page.

Prior to the work of Tyndale in Scotland, Martin Luther was pushing the Reformation in Germany. Zwingli was at work in eastern Switzerland., and John Calvin was working with Theodore Beze in Geneva, Switzerland.

This beautiful and sunny morning I visited the John Knox house in Edinburgh. It is a house dating to the time of Knox and has been sparsely furnished in period furniture. It serves as a museum of the work of Knox. There are several printed volumes (including the Geneva Bible) of the time on display. The Knox house is located on the Royal Mile.

John Knox House, Edinburgh, Scotland.

This modern scribe, sitting at a table in the Knox house, is thinking about correcting some of the Calvinistic ideas advanced by Knox.

Modern Scribe in the John Knox House in Edinburgh.

I believe these men failed in some regards, but I am grateful for the work they did to bring us this far. To paraphrase the words of Bernard of Clairvaux, “If we can see further it is because we are standing on the shoulders of giants.”

“Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained. Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.” – The Apostle Paul, Philippians 3:15-17.