Wednesday, May 03, 2017


John Knox's name is now nearly synonymous with the Scottish Reformation. History remembers him as the “Thundering Scot”—so outspoken by the standards of his own age that even his own friends sometimes considered him an embarrassment. 
But the movement got started before he did. Patrick Hamilton (martyred in 1528) and George Wishart began the preaching of Lutheran doctrine in Scotland. Knox was a friend of Wishart’s. When Cardinal Beaton arrested and burned Wishart in 1546, some young noblemen retaliated by assassinating Beaton. These noblemen persuaded Knox to serve as their chaplain. When Scotland’s French allies captured his noble patrons, he was sent to the galleys (galleys were ships propelled by rowers, who often endured difficult and dangerous conditions). 
The galleys were a dreadful experience for Knox. He stoutly resisted re-conversion to Catholicism but fell ill and nearly died. In a dark hour when it seemed his life was over, his galley rowed within sound of St. Andrews Cathedral. There he gained hope for the future. “I shall yet live to preach there,” he resolved. It was then that his health began to mend. 
After he escaped the galleys, Knox journeyed to England and then to Geneva before returning to Scotland in 1555, where he did missionary work in secret. Other Protestants preaching in Scotland at that time included John Willock, John Row, John Douglas, William Harlaw, and Paul Methven. Three of these men, along with Knox and two others, later drafted the first Confession and first Book of Discipline of the Presbyterian church. Many nobles—including as William Keith, the Earl Marischal—heard Knox describe the new Scotland he envisioned in which the true kirk (church), with Christ at its head, would triumph. They supported him when the queen regent forced him to appear for trial at Blackfriars in Edinburgh in 1556. The regent had to drop the case against Knox, but Scotland was not hospitable to his brand of reform, and so he returned to Geneva. 
Not until this day, 2 May 1559 did Knox return to Scotland for good. As he writes in his own history of the Scottish Reformation, “the second of May 1559, arrived John Knox from France, who lodging two nights only in Edinburgh, hearing the day appointed to his brethren, repaired to Dundee, where he earnestly entreated them ‘that he might be permitted to assist his brethren, and to give confession of his faith with them,’ which granted unto him, he departed unto St. Johnstone with them, where he began to exhort, according to the grace of God granted unto him.”* 
He thundered so loudly for reform that riots broke out in Perth. The rioters smashed Roman Catholic images and looted the wealthy friaries of the city. These riots provoked the Queen Regent, Mary of Guise, to raise an army. Protestant and Catholic forces clashed for several years. 
After Mary Queen of Scots, daughter of Mary of Guise, assumed the throne, Knox confronted her, solemnly warning her, “I am sent to preach the evangel of Jesus Christ to such as please to hear it; and it has two parts, repentance and faith.”
Mary, who continued in the Catholicism of her parents, fought two battles with the Protestants. She routed them at Stirling in 1565, but suffered defeat at the Battle of Langside in 1568. Although John Knox drifted in and out of favor with the Scottish people and was in danger of losing his life several times, he remained prominent in the life of his nation. He was a key player in formulating the constitution of the Church of Scotland. Mary eventually was forced to abdicate in favor of her young son, James VII, because of scandals in her personal life. 
Knox died in peace, having done as much as anyone to bring into being the Scottish Presbyterian Church. -- Dan Graves

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