AUGUST IS THE month for the annual Edinburgh International Festival. Tourists from all parts of the world throng the narrow pavements of the Old Town. We made our way through the crowds on 24th August 2010 as as we headed for the historic Magdalen Chapel in the Cowgate, a street now more noted for its pubs and clubs than for its churches. It was in this Chapel, now owned by the Scottish Reformation Society, that some of the earliest General Assemblies of the Reformed Church of Scotland took place. The purpose of our visit was for a Thanksgiving Service, arranged by the Society, to commemorate the day 450 years ago that witnessed the abolition of Papal authority in Scotland.

The chairman, the Rev John J Murray, welcomed the people, some coming from as far away as Lancashire, who filled the Chapel to capacity. Mr Murray began by outlining the events in the Scots Parliament leading up to the passing of three Acts on 24 August 1560: 1) the annulling all past legislation contrary to the new Scots Confession; 2) the prohibiting the saying or hearing of the Mass and 3) the repudiating of Papal jurisdiction in Scotland. He then read the Act re ‘Abolition of Jurisdiction of Pope.’ He claimed it was part of the cunning of Romanism to arrange for the first official visit of a Pope to Scotland on this Reformation anniversary. It was particularly sad to hear that the Church of Rome and the Church of Scotland had arranged a joint commemoration on 3rdNovember. It was as if the Reformation had been a mistake.

Mr Murray welcomed as the preacher for the service the Rev Hugh Cartwright, a highly esteemed minister and Church historian. Basing his sermon on Romans 5:1-2, Mr Cartwright showed how the essence of the truth that brought about the glorious Reformation was contained in the text – it was Scripture alone, Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone and all to the glory of God alone. He went on to outline the rich blessings that come to us through justification by faith. We have a glorious Gospel and he warned about the way it was under threat by much of the false teaching in the Church today. He ended with the challenge of receiving this truth in personal life.

Although the event passed unnoticed by the world around, it was fitting that a number met to remember a great deliverance in the past and to pray for another intervention of God’s grace and power. The Scottish Reformation Society is following this event by a Day Conference on 9th October in Carrubbers Christian Centre, near to John Knox’s House in Edinburgh’s High Street. Details from 0141 620 3983.

by Rev John J Murray