Scots' Confession bannerTHE SCOTS CONFESSION - Historical Note

Three documents from the period of the Reformation are included in the Book of Confessions, each originating in a different country: Scotland, Germany, and Switzerland. These three centers of the Reformation remain significant in Reformed and Presbyterian thought to this day.

The Scots Confession was written at a turning point in the history of the Scottish nation. When the Queen Regent Mary of Guise died in her sleep in 1560, the Protestant nobility of Scotland was able to secure English recognition of Scottish sovereignty in the Treaty of Edinburgh. To the Scots, this favorable conclusion to the civil war with Mary's French-supported forces represented a providential deliverance.

The Scottish Parliament, having declared Scotland a Protestant nation, asked the clergy to frame a confession of faith. Six ministers, including John Knox, completed their work in four days. In 1560, the document was ratified by Parliament as "doctrine grounded upon the infallible Word of God."

Beginning with a pledge of unconditional commitment to the triune God who creates, sustains, rules, and guides all things, the first eleven chapters of the Scots Confession narrate God's providential acts in the events of biblical history. The kirk (church) of the present and future is continuous with the kirk of God's people going back to Adam. While affirming that the Bible is the norm by which the kirk judges itself, the Scots Confession also sees the Scriptures as a sacred history in which the present day church, through the Holy Spirit, participates until the end of time. God's providential deliverance is a continuing, not merely a past, reality.

The Scots Confession sets forth three marks of the true and faithful church: "the true
preaching of the Word of God," "the right administration of the sacraments of Christ Jesus," and "ecclesiastical discipline . . . whereby vice is repressed and virtue nourished."

"Cleave, serve, worship, trust" are key words in this document. As a call to action in a turbulent time, the Scots Confession reflects a spirit of trust and a commitment to the God whose miraculous deliverance the Scots had experienced firsthand.


Historical IntroductionTable of ContentsTable of Contents

Quoted from The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Part I, Book of Confessions; Geneva Press, Louisville, KY. Copyright 1996 by the Office of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the publisher, except as noted.