Knox, John

, the chief instrument and promoter of the reformation in Scotland, was descended of an ancient and honourable family, and born 1505, at Gifford, in the county of East Lothian, Scotland. His parents gave him a liberal education, which in that age was far from being common. He was first placed at the grammar-school of Haddington, and after acquiring the principles of the Latin tongue, was sent to the university of St. Andrew’s under professor John Major, the same who was Buchanan’s tutor, a very acute schoolman, and deep in theology. Knox, however, examining the works of Jerom and Austin, began to dis-relish this subtilizing method, altered his taste, and applied himself to plain and solid divinity. At his entrance upon this new course of study, he attended the preaching of Thomas Guillaume, or Williams, a friar of eminence, whose sermons were of extraordinary service to him; and he acquired still more knowledge of the truth from the martyr, George Wishart, so much celebrated in, the history of this time, who came from England in 1554, with commissioners from king Henry VIII. Knox, being of an inquisitive nature, learned from him the principles of the reformation; with which he was so well pleased, that he renounced the Romish religion, and having now relinquished all thoughts of officiating in that church, which had invested him with clerical orders, he entered as tutor into the family of Hugh Douglas of Long Niddrie, a gentleman in East Lothian, who had embraced the reformed doctrines. Another gentleman, in the neighbourhood, also put his son under his tuition, and these two youths were instructed by him in the principles of religion, as well as of the learned languages, and he taught the former in such a way as to allow the rest of the family, | and the people of the neighbourhood, to reap advantage from it. He catechised them publicly in a chapel at Long Niddrie, in which be also read to them at stated times, a chapter of the Bible, accompanied with explanatory remarks. The memory of this has been preserved by tradition; and the chapel, the ruins of which are still apparent, is popularly called “John Knox’s kirk.” It was not, however, to be expected, that he would long be suffered to continue in this employment, under a government entirely at the devotion of cardinal Beaton (see Beaton); and although he was, in the midst of his tyranny, cut off by a conspiracy in 1546, Hamilton, successor to the vacant bishopric, sought Knox’s life with as much eagerness as his predecessor. Hence Knox resolved to retire to Germany, where the reformation was gaining ground; knowing that, in England, though the pope’s authority was suppressed, yet the greater part of his doctrine remained in full vigour. He was, however, diverted from his purpose, and prevailed on to return to St. Andrew’s, January 1547; where he soon after accepted a preacher’s place, though sorely against his will.

He now set openly, and with a boldness peculiar to his character, to preach the doctrines of the reformation, although he had received no ordination, unless such as the small band of reformers could give; a circumstance which, although objected to by some ecclesiastical historians, was not accounted any impediment to 1m afterwards receiving promotion at the hands of the English prelates. His first sermon was upon Dan. vii. 23 28; from which text he proved, to the satisfaction of his auditors, that the pope was Antichrist, and that the doctrine of the Romish church was contrary to the doctrine of Christ and his apostles; and he likewise gave the notes both of the true church, and of the antichristian church. Hence he was convened by his superiors; he was also engaged in disputes; but things went prosperously on, and Knox continued diligent in the discharge of his ministerial function tillJuly 1547, when the castle of St. Andrew’s, in which he was, was surrendered to the French; and then he was carried with the garrison into France. He remained a prisoner on. board the galleys, till the latter end of 1549, when being set at liberty, he passed into England; and, going to London, was there licensed, either by Cranmer, or Somerset the protector, and appointed preacher, first at Berwick, | and next at Newcastle. During this employ, he received a summons, in 1551, to appear before Cuthbert Tonstall, bishop of Durham, for preaching against the mass. In 1552, he was appointed chaplain to Edward VI.; it being thought fit, as Strype relates, that the king should retain six chaplains in ordinary, who should not only wait on him, but be itineraries, and preach the gospel over all the nation. The sanje year he came into some trouble, on account of a bold sermon preached upon Christmas-day, at Newcastle, against the obstinacy of the papists. In 1552-3, he returned to London, and was appointed to preach before the king and council at Westminster; who recommended Cranmer archbishop of Canterbury to give him the living of Allhallows in London, which was accordingly offered him but he refused it, not caring to conform to the English liturgy, as it then stood. Some say, that king Edward would have promoted him to a bishopric; but that he even fell into a passion when it was offered him, and rejected it as favouring too much of Antichristianism.

He continued, however, his place of itinerary preacher till 1553-4, when queen Mary came to the throne, when leaving England, he crossed over to Dieppe in France, and went thence to Geneva. He had not been long there, when he was called by the congregation of English refugees, then established at Francfort, to be preacher to them; which vocation he obeyed, though unwillingly, at the command of John Calvin; and he continued his services among them till some internal disputes about ceremonies broke up their society. Some of the English, particularly Dr. Cox, afterwards bishop of Ely, wished for a liturgy according to king Edward’s form, but Knox and others preferred the Geneva service; at length the party of Cox, to get rid of the Scotch reformer, taking advantage of certain unguarded expressions in one of his former publications, threatened to accuse him of treason unless he quitted the place, which he did, and went again to Geneva. After a few months stay at Geneva, he resolved to visit his native country, and went to Scotland. Upon his arrival there, he found the professors of the reformed religion much increased in number, and formed into a society under the inspection of some teachers; and he associated with them, and preached to them. He conversed familiarly with several noble personages, and confirmed them in the truth of the protestant | doctrine. In the winter of 1555, he taught for the most‘ part in Edinburgh. About Christmas he went to the west of Scotland, at the desire of some protestant gentlemen; but returned to the east soon after. The popish clergy, being greatly alarmed at the success of Knox in promoting the protestant cause, summoned him to appear before them at Edinburgh, May 15, 1556; but, several noblemen and gentlemen of distinction supporting him, the prosecution was dropped. This very month he was advised to write to the queen-regent an earnest letter, to persuade her, if possible, to bear the protestant doctrine; which, when the queen had read, she gave to James Beaton, archbishop of Glasgow, with this sarcasm: “Please you, my lord, to read a pasquil.

While our reformer was thus occupied in Scotland, he received letters from the English congregation at Geneva, earnestly intreating him to come thither; accordingly, July 1556, he left Scotland, went first to Dieppe in France, and thence to Geneva. He had no sooner turned’ his back than the bishops summoned him to appear before them; and, upon his non-appearance, passed a sentence of death upon him for heresy, and burnt him in effigy at the Cross at Edinburgh. Against this sentence, he drew up, and afterwards printed at Geneva, in 1558, “An Appellation from the cruel and unjust Sentence pronounced against him by the false bishops and clergy of Scotland,” &c. He had a call to Scotland in 1557; and having consulted Calvin and other persons as to the prudence and necessity of the step, he set out, and had proceeded as far as Dieppe, when he was advised that some of his best friends seemed, through timidity, to be abandoning their principles, and that therefore it would not be safe for him to proceed. He immediately wrote letters to those who had invited him, complaining of their irresolution, and even denouncing the severe judgments of God on all those who should betray the cause of truth and of their country, by weakness or apostacy. These letters made such an impression on those to whom they were immediately addressed, that they all came to a written resolution, “that they would followforth their purpose, and commit themselves, and whatever God had given them, into his hands, rather than suffer idolatry to reign, and the subjects to be defrauded of th^ only food of their souls.” To secure each other’s fidelity to the protestant cause, a common bond, or | covenant, was entered into by them, dated at Edinburgh, December 3, 1557; and from this period they were distinguished by the name of “The Congregation.” In the mean time Mr. Knox returned to Geneva, where, in 1558, he published his treatise, entitled “The First Blast of the Trumpet against the monstrous Regiment of Women.” His chief motives to write this, were the cruel and bloody government of queen Mary of England, and the endeavours of Mary of Lorrain, queen-regent of Scotland, to break through the laws, and introduce tyrannical government. He designed to have written a subsequent piece, which was to have been called “The Second Blast:” but queen Mary dying, and he having a great opinion of queen Elizabeth, and great expectations to the protestant cause from her, went no farther.

In April 1559, he determined to return to his native country, and would have visited England in his way, but queen Elizabeth’s ministers would not suffer him, because he had rendered himself obnoxious to their royal mistress by inveighing against the government of women. He accordingly arrived in Scotland in May. At this time a public prosecution was carried on against the protestants, and their trial was just ready to commence at Stirling: Knox instantly hurried to share with his brethren in the threatened danger, or to assist them in their common cause.

Dr. Robertson, in describing this business, says, “While their minds were in that ferment which the queen’s perfidiousness and their own danger occasioned, Knox mounted the pulpit, and, by a vehement harangue against idolatry, inflamed the multitude with the utmost rage. The indiscretion of a priest, who, immediately after Knox’s discourse, was seen preparing to celebrate mass, and began to decorate the altar for that purpose, precipitated them into immediate action. With tumultuous, but irresistible violence, they fell upon the churches in that city, overturned the altars, defaced the pictures, broke in pieces the images, and proceeding next to the monasteries, laid those sumptuous fabrics almost level with the ground. This riotous insurrection was not the effect of any concert, or previous deliberation. Censured by the reformed preachers, and publicly condemned by the persons of most power and credit with the party, it must be regarded merely as an accidental eruption of popular rage.” From this time Mr. Knox continued to promote the reformation by every means | in his power, sparingno pains, nor fearing any danger. Mr. Knox, by his correspondence with secretary Cecil, was chiefly instrumental in establishing those negotiations between “The Congregation” and the English, which terminated in the march of an English army into Scotland to assist the protestants, and to protect them against the persecutions of the queen-regent. This army, being joined by almost all the great men of Scotland, proceeded with such vigour and success, that they obliged the French forces, who had been the principal supports of the tyranny of the regent, to quit the kingdom, and restored the parliament to its former independency. Of that body, a great majority had embraced the protestant opinions, and encouraged by the zeal and number of their friends, they improved every opportunity in overthrowing the whole fabric of popery. They sanctioned the confession of faith presented to them by Knox, and the other reformed teachers: they abolished the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts, and transferred the causes to the cognizance of the civil courts; and they prohibited the exercise of religious worship, according to the rites of the Romish church. In August 1561, the queen arrived from France, and immediately set up a private mass in her own chapel; which afterwards, by her protection and countenance, was much frequented. This excited the zeal of Knox, who expressed great warmth against allowing it: and, an act of the privy-council being proclaimed at Edinburgh the 25th of that month, forbidding any disturbance to be given to this practice, under pain of death, Knox openly, in his sermon the Sunday following, declared, that “one mass was more frightful to him than ten thousand armed enemies, landed in any part of the realm.' 1 This freedom gave great offence to the court, and the queen herself had a long conference with him upon that and other subjects. In 1563, he preached a sermon, in which he expressed his abhorrence of the queen’s marrying a papist; and her majesty, sending for him, expressed much passion, and thought to have punished him; but was prevailed on to desist at that time. The ensuing year, lord Darnley, being married to the queen, was advised by the protestants about the court, to hear Mr. Knox preach, as thinking it would contribute much to procure the good-will of the people he accordingly did so but was so much offended at his sermon, that he complained to the council, who silenced Knox for | some time. His text was Isaiah xxiv. 13 and 17,O Lord, our God, other lords than Thou have reigned over us.“From these words he took occasion to speak of the government of wicked princes, who, for the sins of the people, are sent as tyrants and scourges to plague them; and, among other things, he said, that” God sets over them, for their offences and ingratitude, boys and women."

In 1567, Knox preached a sermon at the coronation of James VI. of Scotland, and afterwards the First of Great Britain and also another at the opening of the parliament. He went vigorously on with the work of reformation but, in 1572, was greatly offended with a convention of ministers at Leith, where it was agreed that a certain kind of episcopacy should be introduced into the church. At this time his constitution was quite broken; and what seems to have given him the finishing stroke was the dreadful news of the massacre of the Protestants at Paris about this time. He had strength enough to preach against it, which he desired the French ambassador might be acquainted with; but he fell sick soon after, and died November 24, 1572, after having spent several days in the utmost devotion. He was interred at Edinburgh, several lords attending, and particularly the earl of Morton, that day chosen regent, who, as soon as he was laid in his grave, said, u There lies he who never feared the face of man, who hath been often threatened with dag and dagger, but yet hath ended his days in peace and honour. For he had God’s providence watching over him in a special manner, when his very life was sought."

Knox was twice married, and had children by both his wives; two sons by the first, who were educated at St. John’s college, in Cambridge, and chosen fellows of the same. He requested the general assembly which met at Edinburgh in 1566, for leave to visit these sons in England; but they were only at school then, being sent to the university after his death. As to his writings, they were neither numerous nor large: 1. “A faithful admonition to the Professors of the Gospel of Christ within the Kingdom of England,1554. 2. “A Letter to Queen Mary, Regent of Scotland,1556. 3. “The Appellation of John Knox,” &c. mentioned above, 1558. 4. “The First Blast,” &c. mentioned above, 1558. 5. “A brief Exhortation to England, for the speedy Embracing of Christ’s Gospel, heretofore by the Tyranny of Mary suppressed and banished,1559. After his death, came out, 6, His | History of the Reformation of Religion within the Realm of Scotland,” &c. at the end of the fourth edition of which, at Edinburgh, 1732, in folio, are subjoined all the forementioned works. He published also a few pieces in the controversial way, against the anabaptists, as well as papists; and also his sermon before lord Darnley.

The character of this eminent man has been variously represented, according to the sentiments of ecclesiastical writers. The friends of popery, and of the episcopal establishment in Scotland, and the more recent admirers and advocates of queen Mary, have spared no pains to give an unfavourable turn to all his actions, while the adherents to the church of Scotland have always continued to reverence his character and actions. Dr. Robertson, by no means a partial admirer of Knox, and certainly no bigot to the doctrines or discipline of his church, says that “he was the prime instrument of spreading and establishing the reformed religion in Scotland. Zeal, intrepidity, disinterestedness, were virtues which he possessed in an eminent degree. He was acquainted, too, with the learning cultivated among divines in that age, and excelled in that species of eloquence which is calculated to rouse and inflame. His maxims, however, were often too severe, and the impetuosity of his temper excessive. Rigid and uncomplying himself, he shewed no indulgence to the infirmities of others. Regardless of the distinctions of rank and character, he uttered his admonitions with acrimony and vehemence, more apt to irritate than to reclaim. This often betrayed him into indecent and undutiful expressions with respect to the queen’s person and conduct. Those very qualities, however, which now render his character less amiable, fitted him to be the instrument of Providence for advancing the reformation among a fierce people, and enabled him to face dangers, and to surmount opposition, from which a person of a more gentle spirit would have been apt to shrink back.” Knox has lately found more zealous biographers in Cook, and especially M‘Crie, whose life of him is an important addition to the ecclesiastical history of his country, and does honour to Mr. M’Crie’s talents, judgment, and extensive research. It is not perhaps necessary to add many authorities to this notice of that work. 1


M‘Crie’s Life. Cook’s History of the Reformation in Scotland. Robertson’s History. There are many important remarks on M’Crie’s Life, in a criticism of it in the British Critic for 1813.