In the history of Protestantism the name of Scotland ranks as a giant. When it was first touched by the Reformation in the 16th century, Scotland was a barbaric backwater, remote from civilization. True, it boasted some men of learning and eminence and its prior history was one to be proud of. But it was because of the advent of Protestantism and the liberating truths of the gospel that Scotland took its rightful place among the nations of Europe.
Patrick Hamilton, a young man of royal blood, went to Europe to study, found (or rather was found by) Christ the Saviour and returned to his native land to spread the good news of saving grace-and that without having to pay the Pope and his minions. Despite his royal family connections, Hamilton was put to death by the Roman church, thus becoming Scotland's first Protestant martyr. He was not the last. Another was George Wishart, a preacher of saving grace whose ministry had a profound effect on his fellow-countrymen. As Wishart saw that he was going to be killed for his faith, he bravely set out on the way that he knew would lead to death. Beside him was a young man who had been a Roman Catholic priest but who had come to faith in Christ as his Saviour and Lord. He was determined to go with his mentor, even if it meant death but Wishart refused, saying, "One is sufficient for a sacrifice." Thus John Knox was spared for future service for Christ in his homeland.
In many ways, Knox was the father of the Scottish nation. A man of indomitable courage, theological acumen and deep faith, he lived in such close communion with God that Mary Queen of Scots, the Pope's great hope to hold on to Scotland and regain England, famously said that she feared the prayers of John Knox more than 10,000 soldiers. Through his preaching and leadership Knox saw Scotland become the home of Presbyterianism, a country whose people entered into a solemn covenant with God to remain true to the gospel of His Son. Scotland gave the rest of the world an example of what the gospel could accomplish in even the most barren of soils. It furnished a model not only in church government but in public education. By the time he died, Knox had seen the gospel triumph to such an extent that Scotland was a Protestant nation, a haven for the preaching of the gospel. That is not to say that the fight was over. No, there were many battles and many more martyrs but Scotland ever after had a distaste for Popery and a deep attachment to Christ's Crown and Covenant.
Imagine the horror, then, of the headline that judging by church attendances, Scotland is now more Roman Catholic than Protestant. More people there still claim to be Protestant than Roman Catholic but the profession means nothing. Most of them are not Christians and never darken the doors of a church. Roman Catholic attendance has been boosted by an influx of Polish immigrants and this gives the Church of Rome its lead in church attendance. Having said this, it is a dark day when the land of Knox is being again overwhelmed by the dark religion from which he, by the grace of God, delivered it. More Romanism means less gospel light and less gospel freedom. Ecumenical Presbyterians in Scotland are not alarmed. After all, they are now fundamentally at one with Rome in belief and practice, not because Rome has changed to come into line with Scripture, for it hasn't, but because they have sunk into apostasy. As David lamented, "How are the mighty fallen! The shield of the mighty is vilely cast away!" Spiritually, Scotland is returning to the dark ages and the rest of the world's once-Protestant nations are right there with her.