20 Nov 2019

Reformation Tours: Glasgow Cathedral

There is a lot to see in and around Glasgow Cathedral with regards to Scotland’s Reformation and the Covenanters, and it’s one of the places we visit on our tours regularly.

On the 21st November 1638, a few months after the signing of the National Covenant, the first free General Assembly of the Church of Scotland for 36 years was held here. Alexander Henderson, one of the main architects of the National Covenant, was moderator.

The Rev Thomas McCrie writes in his Story of the Scottish Church:-

“This famous Assembly met at Glasgow on the day appointed. A more noble, grave, and competent body of men never perhaps convened to deliberate on the affairs of the Church.

It consisted of 140 ministers, freely chosen by their different presbyteries, with 98 ruling elders, of whom 17 were noble men of the highest rank, 9 were knights, 25 were landed proprietors, and 47 were burgesses of great respectability, capable of representing their respective communities in parliament. Some of the noblemen and gentlemen, hearing that an attempt would be made by the Marquis of Hamilton, the king’s commissioner, to overawe the Assembly by a large retinue of followers, came accompanied by their usual retainers in arms. The Assembly was conducted throughout with the utmost gravity and decorum.”

The Glasgow Assembly began a complete reformation of the church. It declared the Articles of Perth, the Book of Canons, the Book of Common Prayer, and Episcopalianism itself unlawful. The Covenanters were in control, and Presbyterianism was established.

Despite various underhand attempts by Charles I and the Marquis of Hamilton to stop it, the assembly continued to sit until the 20th December when it dissolved itself.