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Significant Scots
John Knox


John Knox KNOX, JOHN, the most eminent promoter of the Reformation in Scotland, was born at Haddington in the year 1505. His father, though himself a man of no note, was descended from the ancient home of Ranfurly in the shire of Renfrew. Of the mother of the great reformer nothing farther is known than that her name was Sinclair, - a name which he frequently used in after-life, when to have subscribed his own would have exposed him to danger: thus many of his letters in times of trouble are signed, "John Sinclair." Though a man of no rank in society, his father would yet seem to have been possessed of a competency beyond that of the ordinary class of the peasantry of the times, if such an inference be permitted from the circumstance of his having given his son an education which was then attainable only by a very few. This is a point, however, on which there has been also much dispute; some representing his parents as in a "mean condition," others as persons of extensive poverty. Whatever may have been the condition of his parents—a matter of little moment – there is no doubt regarding the only circumstance of any importance connected with the question, namely, that he received a liberal education.

His course of learning began at the grammar-school of Haddington, where he acquired the elements of the Latin language. He was afterwards, about the year 1524, sent to the university of St Andrews. From the circumstance of the name "John Knox" appearing on the list of matriculated students, for the year 1520, in the Glasgow college, it has been presumed that he studied there also, and this, as appears by the dates, four years previous to his going to St Andrews, but the supposition that this John Knox was the reformer, is much weakened by the fact, that many of the Knoxes of Ranfurly, the house from which his father was descended, were educated at the university of Glasgow. Amongst the last of these of any note were Andrew Knox, bishop of the Isles, and, after him, his son and successor, Sir Thomas Knox. In the absence, therefore, of all other evidence, this circumstance in the life of the reformer must be held as extremely doubtful, especially as no allusion is made to it, either himself, his contemporaries, or any of the earlier writers who have spoken of him. Knox, when he went to St Andrews, was in the nineteenth year of his age, and was yet undistinguished by any indications of that peculiar character and temper, or that talent, which afterwards made him so conspicuous. His literary pursuits had hitherto been limited to the acquisition of the Latin language, Greek and Hebrew being almost unknown in Scotland, although at an after period of life Knox acquired them both. His removal to St Andrews, however, opened up new sources of learning and of knowledge. John Mair, a celebrated doctor of the Sorbonne, who had studied at the colleges of England and Paris, was then principal of St Salvator’s college, St Andrews. He was a man of no great strength of mind, nor of very high attainments; but he had while in Paris imbibed, and he now boldly inculcated, civil and religious principles directly at variance with the opinions and practices of the times. He denied the supremacy of the pope, and held that he was amenable to a general council, which might not only rebuke and restrain him, but even depose him from his dignity. He held that papal excommunications were of no force, unless pronounced on just and valid grounds, and that tithes were not of divine origin. He, besides, fearlessly censured the avarice and ambition of the clergy. And with regard to civil matters, his opinions were no less daring, and not less boldly inculcated. He taught his pupils to consider kings as having no other right to their elevation, but what proceeded from their people, to whom they were amenable for their conduct, and by whom they might be judicially proceeded against. Such were some of the doctrines taught by Mair; and that they had taken a strong hold of Knox, who was one of his pupils, his after life sufficiently shows. For we find him, with the courage which belonged to his character, practising himself, and showing others how to practise that which his preceptor only taught.

In the studies of the times, Knox now made rapid progress. He was created master of arts, and ordained a priest before he had attained the age (twenty-five) appointed by the canon law for receiving ordination, It will not, perhaps, be lost time to pause for a moment at this period of his life, since it presents us with the interesting sight of a great mind slumbering in its strength, and unconscious at once of the darkness with which it was surrounded, and of there being a brighter and a better world beyond the narrow precincts which it had been taught to consider as the utmost limits of its range. Here we find the great reformer, passively, and without remark or objection, becoming a minister of that church which he was afterwards to overturn and erase from his native soil; becoming a minister of that religion which he was afterwards to drive from the land, with a violence which shook both the kingdom and the throne. A little longer, however, and we find this mighty mind emerging gradually but majestically into the light of day. The discovery had been made that there lay a wider and a fairer region beyond the bounds of the prison-house, and Knox hastened himself to seek and to point out the way to others.

He soon betook himself to the study of the writings of the fathers of the Christian church; and, in the works of Jerome and Augustine, found the doctrines and tenets which effected that revolution in his religious sentiments, after-wards productive of such important results. He was now in the thirtieth year of his age, but he did not either publicly avow the change which had taken place in his religious creed, or attempt to impress it upon others, for several years afterwards. In the mean time the work of reformation had been making irregular but rapid progress. Patrick Hamilton had already preached the new faith in Scotland, and had fallen a martyr to its doctrines, and many others of not less zeal, but of less note, had shared a similar fate. Copies of the Scriptures were now surreptitiously introduced into the kingdom, and eagerly read by those into whose hands they fell. Poets employed their fascinating powers in bringing the church of Rome and its ministers into contempt. The effect of all this was a violent agitation of the public mind. The reformed doctrines were every where spoken of and discussed. They became the topics of common conversation, and were the themes of disquisition amongst the learned. It was at this critical period, about the year 1542, in the midst of this feverish excitement of public opinion, that Knox first stepped into the arena as a combatant in the cause of the new faith. He was still a teacher of philosophy in the college of St Andrews, but he availed himself of the opportunities which this appointment afforded, of disseminating his doctrines amongst his pupils, whom he taught to look with abhorrence and contempt on the corruptions and errors of the Romish church. Though such opinions were now spreading widely, and were made matter of ordinary discussion, their abettors were not yet, by any means, safe from the vengeance of the Romish ecclesiastics, who were yet struggling hard to suppress the heresies which were every where springing up in the land, and threatening the speedy ruin of their church. Knox’s case was too marked and too conspicuous an instance of defection, to escape for any length of time some proof of that wrath which it was so well calculated to excite. He was degraded from the priesthood, had sentence passed against him as a heretic, and only escaped assassination by flying from St Andrews, that fate having been marked out for him by cardinal Beaton. On leaving St Andrews, Knox found protection in the family of Douglas of Langniddrie, where he acted in the capacity of tutor. Here, Douglas himself being a zealous advocate for the new faith, Knox continued to preach the doctrines which had driven him from St Andrews; and in these doctrines he not only instructed the family with which he lived, but also the people in the neighbourhood, whom he invited to attend his prelections. From the consequences which must infallibly have attended this perseverance in disseminating principles so inimical to the church, Knox was only saved by the death of cardinal Beaton, who was assassinated in the castle of St Andrews, on the 29th of May, 1546. Though, by the death of Beaton, Knox probably escaped the utmost severities which prelacy could inflict; he yet did not escape all visitation from its wrath.

John Hamilton, the successor of Beaton, sought his destruction with as much eagerness as his predecessor had done, compelling him to flee from place to place, and to seek his safety in concealment. Apprehensive of falling at last into the hands of his enemies, he, after having led a vagrant and miserable life for many months, at length sought an asylum in the castle of St Andrews, which had been in the possession of the cardinal’s assassins since the period of his death, and which they had held out against repeated attempts of the earl of Arran, then regent of Scotland, to take it. Knox entered the castle of St Andrews at the time of Easter, 1547. This step he had been prevailed upon to take by two warmest friends, the lairds of Langniddrie and Ormiston, at a time when he had himself determined to retire to Germany.

The circumstance of Knox’s having taken shelter, on this occasion, with the assassins of Beaton, has given rise to reflections on his character, involving charges of the most serious nature. Some of them are wholly unfounded, often unreasonable. He has been accused of being one of the conspirators who projected the death of Beaton; which is totally unsupported by any evidence, and must, therefore, in common justice, be utterly rejected. He has been said to have made himself accessory to the crime of the cardinal’s murder by taking shelter amongst those by whom it was perpetrated; a most unreasonable and unwarrantable conclusion. His own life was in imminent danger, and he naturally sought shelter where it was most likely to be found, without reference to place or circumstances, and we cannot see by what reasoning he could be reduced to the dilemma of either sacrificing his own life or submitting to be accused as an accessory to murder; the one consequence threatening him by his remaining at large, the other by his flying to a place of refuge. He has been accused of vindicating the deed in his writings. This length he certainly has gone; but, considering all the circumstances connected with it, such vindication on the part of Knox is not much to be wondered at, nor is it calculated to excite much reasonable prejudice against him. Beaton eagerly sought his life; he was his personal enemy, and a relentless and cruel enemy to all who were of the same faith. If therefore, we are called upon to disapprove of Knox’s justification of the death of Beaton, we should at the same time be permitted to remark, that it was an event which he had but little reason to regret.

After entering the castle of St Andrews, Knox resumed his duties as a teacher, and proceeded to instruct his pupils as before. He also resumed his lectures on the Scriptures, and regularly catechised his hearers in the parish church of the city. Hitherto Knox’s appearances as a disciple and teacher of the reformed doctrines had been rather of a private character, or at least only before select audiences, such as his own class of pupils, or a few neighbours congregated together as at Langniddrie. He was now, however, about to come forward in a more public, or at least more formal capacity. At the time that he sought refuge in the castle of St Andrews, there were three persons of note there, all zealous reformers, who had also fled to it as a sanctuary. These were Sir David Lindsay of the Mount, Henry Balnaves of Hallhill, and John Rough, a celebrated reformed preacher, and who was at this moment publicly preaching in St Andrews. These persons were so much struck with Knox’s talents and his manner of instructing his pupils, that they earnestly exhorted him to come publicly forward as a preacher of the reformed doctrines. This, however, Knox declined, not from any unwillingness to expose himself to the dangers which then attended the discharge of such a duty, nor from any reluctance to devote himself to the great cause which he had espoused, and of which he was afterwards so singular a promoter; but from a feeling of diffidence in his own powers, and a deep sense of the awful importance of the charge to which he was invited; he besides entertained some scruples as to the regularity of the call which was now made upon him, and with a conscientiousness and feeling of delicacy which became his religious professions, expressed a fear that his coming forward as a preacher, on the summons of only two or three individuals, might be deemed an intrusion into the sacred office of the ministry.

Bent on their object,, however, the three persons above named, without Knox’s knowledge, consulted with the members of the church in which Rough preached, and the result was the fixing of a certain day when Knox should, in the name and in the face of the whole congregation, be called upon by the mouth of their preacher to accept the office of the ministry. On the day appointed, and while Knox was yet wholly unaware of what was to take place, Rough, after preaching a sermon on the election of ministers, in which he maintained the right of a congregation, however small its numbers, to elect its own pastor; and he farther maintained, that it was sinful to refuse to obey such a call when made: then suddenly turning to Knox—"Brother," he said, "you shall not be offended although I speak unto you that which I have in charge, even from all those that art here present, which is this,—In the name of God and of his Son Jesus Christ, and in the name of all that presently call you by my mouth, I charge you that you refuse not this holy vocation, but, as you tender the glory of God, the increase of Christ’s kingdom, the edification of your brethren, and the comfort of me, whom you understand well enough to be oppressed by the multitude of labours, that you take the public office and charge of preaching, even as you look to avoid God’s heavy displeasure, and desire that he shall multiply his graces unto you." Turning now to the congregation, " Was not this your charge unto me?" he said, "and do ye not approve this vocation?" "It was, and we a approve it," was the reply. Deeply impressed with the circumstance, Knox made an attempt to address the audience, but his feelings overcame him; he burst into tears, and rushed out of the church. Though not without the hesitation and the doubts and fears of an ingenuous and religious mind, Knox accepted the charge thus solemnly and strikingly imposed upon him, and on an appointed day, appeared in the pulpit. On this occasion, a highly interesting one, as being the first public appearance of the great reformer as a preacher of the gospel, he gave out the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth verses of the seventh chapter of Daniel, a choice which shows the great changes which he already anticipated in the religious establishments of the land, and the confidence with which he looked forward to the result of the contest now begun with the church of Rome. The sermon which he preached on this occasion subjected him to

the high displeasure of the church dignitaries; he and Rough were summoned before a convention of learned men to answer for the heretical doctrines which they entertained and promulgated. In the controversy which took place in this assembly between Knox and the person appointed to dispute with him, a grey friar of the name of Arbukill, on the various points at issue, the former so utterly discomfited his opponent, and so strongly established his own positions, that the Romish clergy, resigning all hopes of maintaining their ground, either by Scriptural appeals, or by force of reasoning, carefully avoided for the future all such exhibitions of public disputation. The castle of St Andrews, in which Knox still found refuge, was soon after this, June, 1547, besieged by a French fleet, which had been despatched from France to assist the governor in its reduction; and after a stout resistance of several weeks’ duration, the garrison was compelled to capitulate, and all within it were made prisoners of war. Knox and all the others who were taken with him were carried on board the French ships, which soon afterwards proceeded with them to France. On their arrival there the greater part of them were distributed throughout different prisons; but Knox, with two or three others, were detained on board the galleys in the Loire during the whole of the succeeding winter. His confinement on ship-board altogether extended to nineteen months. At the end of that long period his liberation took place; but how it was effected is not certainly known.

On obtaining his liberty, Knox immediately proceeded to England, where the Reformation was making considerable progress, under the auspices of archbishop Cranmer, and other powerful persons in that kingdom. Knox’s reputation as a preacher and zealous reformer was already well known to Cranmer and his colleagues, who were not long in finding him suitable employment. He was despatched by the privy council to Berwick to preach the reformed doctrines, and was allowed a salary for his maintenance. Here he remained for two years, daily strengthening the great cause in which he was embarked, and weakening that of its opponents. During this period too, great numbers were converted by his powerful reasoning and impressive eloquence; nor were the good effects of his ministry confined to the effecting a beneficial change in the religious sentiments of his hearers; their morals and manners were also greatly improved by the force of his example, and the striking truths exhibited in his precepts. While in Berwick, Knox was involved in another controversy or public disputation similar to that in which he had been engaged in St Andrews. The scene on this occasion was Newcastle, whither he had been summoned by the bishop of Durham to appear before an assembly of the learned men of his cathedral, to discuss the doctrines which he taught. These Knox defended with his usual ability, and with his usual success. He retired triumphant from the debate, leaving his opponents silenced and confounded by the ingenuity and strength of his arguments, and the fervour and energy of his eloquence.

His reputation was now daily spreading wider and wider, and so highly did the privy council appreciate the value of his services, that they conferred on him in December, 1551, a singular mark of their approbation, by appointing him one of the king’s chaplains. While residing in Berwick Knox formed an acquaintance with a young lady of the name of Marjory Bowes. This lady afterwards became his wife, but without the consent of her father, who could never be induced to approve of the connexion. He, however, had a warm friend in the young lady’s mother, who not only gave her sanction to the marriage of her daughter, but used every effort, though without effect, to reconcile her husband to the union. Family pride, together with some differences of opinion in religious matters, are supposed to have been the cause of Mr Bowes’s objection to accept the reformer as a son-in-law. As a natural result, the malevolence of Knox’s enemies, those who adhered to popery, kept pace with the success which attended his efforts against the Romish church. They narrowly watched his every word and action, and at length laying hold of some expression of a political nature which they conceived might be employed to his prejudice, they denounced him to the privy council, in consequence of this charge, which was supported by the duke of Northumberland, who entertained a personal dislike to Knox, he was summoned up to London. The result, however, was in the highest degree favourable to him. He not only convinced the council of the uprightness of his intentions and the malice of his accusers, but succeeded in gaining a yet greater degree of favour with that body than he had before enjoyed. He was appointed to preach to the court, and gave such satisfaction in the discharge of this duty, that the privy council determined to invite him to preach in London and the southern counties during the following year. They offered him the living of All Hallows in the city. He, however, declined the appointment, as also that of a bishopric, which was soon afterwards tendered him at the special request of the king, by whom he was much esteemed. These splendid offers of promotion he refused for conscience’ sake, - there being several things connected with the English ecclesiastical establishment repugnant to the faith which he had adopted; such as the reading of homilies, the chanting of matins and even-song, the prevalence of pluralities, &c.

In the mean time, the king, Edward VI, who had evinced so much readiness to patronize our reformer, died, and was succeeded by one of the most sanguinary and relentless enemies which the reformed religion had, during any period, to contend with. This was Mary. The accession of this princess to the throne totally altered Knox’s situation and his views. Her bigotry and persecution soon made England unsafe for him to live in.

Finding his danger becoming daily more and more imminent, he at length came to the resolution, though not without much reluctance, of retiring to the continent; and making choice of France, proceeded to Dieppe in that kingdom in the year 1554. Here he remained till the latter end of the following year, occasionally visiting Geneva, then the residence of the celebrated Calvin, with whom he formed a close intimacy. At the latter end of the autumn of 1555, Knox returned to Scotland, induced by the temporary favour which the queen dowager, Mary of Lorraine, had extended to the protestants in her dominion.. As this favour, however, did not proceed from any feeling of regard for those who had adopted the new faith, but was employed as a means of checking the clergy who had been averse to the dowager’s obtaining the regency of the kingdom, it was of short duration, and lasted only so long as that princess thought it necessary to her interests. In the mean time, Knox was zealously and industriously employed in disseminating the doctrines of the reformed religion. He went from place to place preaching the gospel, and gradually increasing the number of his disciples, amongst whom he was soon able to reckon some of the first persons in the kingdom. While thus employed, he received an invitation from an English congregation at Geneva to become their pastor. With this invitation he thought it his duty to comply, and accordingly proceeded thither in the month of July, 1556. He was on this occasion accompanied by his wife and mother-in-law, the husband of the latter being now dead. On learning that he had left Scotland, the clergy there proceeded to evince those feelings regarding him which they had not dared to avow, or at least to act upon, while he was present. Knowing that he could not appear, they summoned him before them, passed sentence against him in absence, adjudging his body to the flames, and his soul to damnation. The first part of the sentence they made a show of carrying into effect, by causing his effigy to be burned at the cross of Edinburgh. On reaching Geneva, he immediately took charge of his congregation, and spent the two following years in promoting their spiritual interests. This was perhaps the happiest period of Knox’s life. He lived upon the most affectionate footing with the members of his church, by all of whom he was greatly beloved. He enjoyed the society and friendship of Calvin, and the other ministers of the city; and to complete his felicity, he lived in the bosom of his own family, a happiness of which he had hitherto had but a small share. No degree of enjoyment, however, or of earthly felicity, could wean him from the desire of promoting the Reformation in his native country; to this he continued to look forward with unabated eagerness, and only waited for more favourable times to gratify this ruling passion of his life.

When he had been about two years in Geneva, the long-cherished wishes of our reformer to exercise his ministry in his native land, seemed about to be realized. Two persons, citizens of Edinburgh, the one named James Syme, the other James Barron, arrived in Geneva with a letter signed by the earl of Glencairn, the lords Lorn and Erskine, and lord James Stewart, an illegitimate son of James V., and afterwards earl of Murray, inviting him to return to Scotland. Knox immediately obeyed the call, and had proceeded as far as Dieppe on his way to Scotland, when he received letters from the latter country containing most discouraging accounts of the state of the kingdom and of the protestant interest there. Grieved and disappointed beyond expression, he again returned to Geneva, where he remained for another year. During this period he assisted in making a new translation of the Bible into English, and also published his "Letter to the Queen Regent," his "Appellation and Exhortation," and "The first Blast of the Trumpet against the monstrous Regiment of Women." Matters having at length taken a more favourable turn in Scotland, the protestant lords sent a second invitation to Knox to join them, accompanied by the gratifying intelligence that the queen-regent had promised them her countenance and protection. He placed little reliance on these promises, but he readily obeyed the call of his friends to return to his native country.

He sailed from Dieppe on the 22nd of April, and arrived safely in Leith on the 2nd of May, 1559. The distrust which Knox entertained of the good faith of the queen-regent was not without sufficient cause. By the time he arrived, that artful but able princess, conceiving that she had no longer any occasion for assistance from the protestants, not only gave them to understand that they had nothing more to hope from her, but openly avowed her determination to suppress the Reformation by every means in her power, and to employ force for that purpose if it should be found necessary.

In this spirit she authorized archbishop Hamilton to summon the reformed preachers before him in St Andrews to answer for their conduct, giving him at the same time, a similar assurance of protection and support with that which she had a short while before given to the protestants. A threat, however, having been conveyed to her that the preachers would not go unattended to the impending trial, she deemed it prudent to prorogue it until she should be in a better state of preparation, and accordingly wrote to the primate to delay any further proceedings in the matter for the time. On the faith of receiving assistance from France, which had united with Spain for the extirpation of heresy, she soon after resumed the process against the protestant preachers, and summoned them to stand trial at Stirling. Thither Knox, though he had been proclaimed an outlaw and a rebel, by virtue of the sentence formerly pronounced against him, determined to repair to assist his brethren in their defence, and to share the dangers to which they might be exposed.

The artifice of the queen-regent, however, deprived him of the opportunity of carrying this generous resolution into effect. The preachers in their progress to Stirling, were attended by large bodies of people, who had determined to abide by them during the impending trial. Unwilling, however, to give the queen-regent any offence by approaching her in such numbers, they halted at Perth, and sent Erskine of Dun before them to Stirling to assure her that they meditated no violence nor entertained any but the most peaceable intentions. Not reconciled, however, by this representation to the approach of so great a multitude, she had recourse to dissimulation to prevent their coming nearer. She informed Erskine, that she would stop the trial, if he would prevail upon his brethren to desist from their journey. Unsuspicious of this deception she intended to practise, Erskine was persuaded to write to the assembled protestants, requesting them to proceed no further, and intimating that he was authorized by the queen to promise them that no trial of their preachers should take place. Rejoiced by these very welcome and very unexpected overtures, they instantly complied with the regent’s request, and the greater part of them returned to their homes. When the appointed day of trial came, however, the summons of the preachers were called in court by the express orders of the queen. They were outlawed for non-appearance, and all persons prohibited under pain of rebellion from harbouring or assisting them. When this infamous proceeding took place, Knox was with the rest of his brethren at Perth, where he had preached a sermon against idolatry and the celebration of mass, on the very day on which intelligence reached that place of what had occurred at Stirling.

On the conclusion of the sermon, a priest who was present had the impudence to uncover an altar-piece on which were some images, and prepared to celebrate mass, regardless of the excited state of the public feeling, which had just been roused by the eloquence of Knox, and armed, as it were, for violence by the duplicity of the regent. Under these circumstances little was required to bring on a crisis, and that little was not long wanting. A boy having uttered some disrespectful expressions, was instantly struck by the hot-headed priest. The boy retaliated by throwing a stone, which, missing his assailant, for whom it was intended, struck the altar and broke one of the images. This fired the train. In an instant all the interior decorations of the church were torn down and destroyed, altar and images were overturned and trampled under foot; a mob collected outside, but finding the work of destruction already completed here, they proceeded to the monasteries, which they in a short time laid in ruins This was the first ebullition of popular feeling connected with the Reformation and Knox has been accused of having been the cause of it. If he was, he certainly was so unconsciously and innocently, for he reprobated the violence which had taken place, and in speaking of it, says it was perpetrated by "the rascal multitude," - language sufficiently indicative of the light in which he viewed it. The protestant lords, finding now that they had not only nothing more to hope for from the queen, but that she was their declared enemy, determined to make a vigorous effort to establish the reformed religion without either her assistance or consent. They proceeded to ascertain the numbers of their friends, established a correspondence with them, and united the whole by procuring their subscriptions to a religious covenant, copies of which they despatched for that purpose to different districts throughout the country. These thus united were distinguished by the name of The Congregation, and the noblemen who were included by that of the Lords of the Congregation. The latter, still desirous of accomplishing their purpose rather by the force of reasoning than by the sword, engaged Knox to meet them on a certain day at St Andrews, where they proposed he should deliver a series of sermons. On his way to St Andrews he preached at Anstruther and Crail, and arrived at the first named place on the 9th of June.

Here occurred a striking instance of that personal intrepidity for which the great reformer was so remarkable. The archbishop, informed of his design to preach is his cathedral, assembled an armed force, and sent word to Knox, that if he appeared in the pulpit, he would order the soldiers to fire upon him. Alarmed for his safety, Knox’s friends endeavoured to dissuade him from preaching, but in vain. "He could take God to witness," he said, "that he never preached in contempt of any man, nor with the design of hurting an earthly creature; but to delay to preach next day, unless forcibly hindered, he could not in conscience agree. As for the fear of danger that may come to me," he continued, "let no man be solicitous, for my life is in the custody of him whose glory I seek. I desire the hand nor weapon of no man to defend me." Knox accordingly appeared in the pulpit at the appointed time, and preached to a numerous assembly, without experiencing any interruption; but although the threatened attempt upon his life was not made, he retains a full claim to all the courage which a contempt and defiance of that threat implies.

On this occasion he preached for three successive days; and such was the effect of his eloquence and the influence of his doctrine, that both the inhabitants and the civil authorities agreed to set up the reformed worship in the town. The monasteries were demolished and the church stripped of all images and pictures. The example of St Andrews was soon after followed in many other parts of the kingdom. At the latter end of the month, Knox arrived with the forces of the Congregation in Edinburgh, and on the same day on which he entered the city, he preached in St Giles’s, next day in the Abbey church, and on the 7th of July, the inhabitants met in the tolbooth, and appointed him their minister, there being then only one place of worship Edinburgh, viz. St Giles’ church. In this charge, however, he was not long permitted to remain. The forces of the regent soon after obtained possession of the city; and, although against his own inclination, his friends prevailed upon him to retire from the town. On leaving Edinburgh, he undertook a tour of preaching through the kingdom; and in less than two months had gone over the greater part of it, disseminating with the most powerful effect the doctrines of the reformed religion. He next retired to St Andrews, where he officiated as minister for several months; and on the conclusion of the civil war, which the determination of the Congregation to establish the reformed religion and the regent’s efforts to suppress it, had created, he returned to Edinburgh. In 1560, after an arduous struggle and many vicissitudes, the faith for which Knox had fought such a "good fight," seemed to be securely established in the land. The queen-regent was dead, and by the assistance of England, an assistance which Knox had been the chief instrument in procuring, the arms of the forces of the Congregation were completely triumphant.

The accession, however, of Mary, who was known to be strongly attached to popery, to the actual government, again excited the fears of the protestants, and of no one more than Knox, who insisted that the invitation sent to France to that princess to ascend the throne of her ancestors should be accompanied by the stipulation, that she should desist from the celebration of mass; and when the rest of the council urged that she ought to be allowed that liberty within her own chapel, he predicted that " her liberty would be their thralldom."

A few days after the queen’s arrival at Holyrood she sent for Knox, am! taxed him with holding political opinions at once dangerous to her authority and the peace of her realm, and with teaching a religion different from that allowed by its princes. Knox entered at great length into these subjects, defending himself and his doctrines with his usual ability and boldness. His language, at no time very courtly, is said to have been so harsh in some instances on this occasion as to drive the young queen to tears; but whether this, if true, ought to be considered as a proof of the severity of his expressions, or of the queen’s irritability of temper, is questionable, since it is probable that she may have wept without sufficient cause. The arrival of the dinner hour broke off this interesting interview, and Knox retired from the presence with some expressions of good wishes for the queen’s happiness. Frequent conferences of a similar nature with this took place afterwards between the reformer and Mary, but with little increase of regard on either side. On one of these occasions, when he had spoken with even more than his usual boldness, and just as he was about to retire, he overheard some of the queen’s popish attendants say, "He is not afraid." – "Why should the pleasing face of a gentlewoman frighten me?" replied the stout reformer, turning round upon them; "I have looked in the faces of many angry men, and yet have not been afraid beyond measure." Knox’s ministerial duties were in the mean time exceedingly laborious. His charge, as already mentioned, was St Giles’s church, where he had discharged these duties since the year 1560. He preached twice every Sabbath, and thrice on other day of the week, besides meeting regularly with his kirk-session once every week for discipline, and with others for exercises on the Scriptures. Besides all this, he regularly attended all the meetings of the general assembly and the provincial synod; and at almost every meeting of the former, a mission to visit and preach in some distant part of the country was imposed upon him. With the view of relieving him of part of these overwhelming labours, the town council, in April, 1562, solicited John Craig, minister of Canongate, to undertake the half of his charge. From the difficulty, however, of obtaining an additional stipend, Knox remained without assistance till June in the following year. It has been already said that many interviews took place from time to time between the queen and Knox; these were still occasionally occurring; but their only effect was to increase her dread and dislike of the reformer; and although some instances occurred in which there was something like an approach to a better understanding, yet on the part of the queen it was never sincere; and there is little doubt that she longed for an opportunity of getting rid of so troublesome a subject, whom neither her threats nor blandishments could divert for an instant from what he conceived to be the strict path of his duty. Such an opportunity as she desired, or at least such a one as she certainly rejoiced in, seemed now unexpectedly to present itself. Two persons, protestants, were indicted to stand trial for having with several others, intruded into the palace during a temporary absence of the queen, for the purpose of interrupting the celebration of certain Roman catholic rites which was about to take place in the chapel of Holyrood. The protestants of Edinburgh, dreading that the queen would proceed to extremities against these men, requested Knox to write circular letters to the principal gentlemen of their persuasion, detailing the circumstances of the case, and inviting their presence on the day of trial.

One of these letters falling into the hands of the bishop of Ross, he immediately conveyed it to the queen, who again lost no time in laying it before her privy council, by which it was pronounced treasonable, and the writer was soon afterwards indicted to stand trial in Edinburgh for the crime of high treason. The queen presided in person at the trial, and with an ill-judged and ill-timed levity, burst into a fit of laughter, when on taking her seat in court she perceived Knox standing uncovered at the foot of the table. "That man," she said, pointing to the reformer, "had made her weep, and shed never a tear himself: she would now see if she could make him weep." The trial now proceeded and after the charge against him had been read, Knox entered upon his defence at great length, and with such self-possession, intrepidity, and ability, that although he had several enemies amongst his judges, he was, by a great majority acquitted of the crime of which he had been accused.

Alluding to the queen’s feelings on this occasion, he says in his History, "That night, (the evening after the trial) was nyther dancing nor fiddling in the court; for madame was disapoynted of hir purpose, quhilk was to have had John Knox in hir will, be vot of hir nobility." A second attempt on the part of the queen and her husband Darnley to suppress the stern and uncompromising truths, both political and religious, which the reformer continued to proclaim to the world was soon after made. He had given out a text which gave such offence to the stripling king, that on the afternoon of the same day he was taken from his bed and carried before the privy council, who suspended him from his office. As the suspension, however, was limited to the time of their majesties’ residence in the city, it was but of short duration, as they left Edinburgh before the following Sabbath, when Knox resumed his ministry, and delivered his sentiments with the same boldness as before. This occurrence was soon after followed by the murder of Rizzio, the queen’s secretary; an event which gave the queen, now at Dunbar, a pretence for raising an army, ostensibly to enable her to resent the indignity which had been shown to her person by the assassins of Rizzio, and to punish the perpetrator of that deed, but in reality, to overawe the protestants. On the approach of the queen and her forces to Edinburgh, Kno, long since aware of the dislike which she entertained towards him, deemed it prudent to leave the city. On this occasion he retired to Kyle, and soon afterwards went to England to visit his two sons, who were there living with some relations of their mother’s. Knox returned again to Edinburgh, after an absence of about five or six months. During that interval two events had taken place, which entirely ruined the queen’s authority in the kingdom and left him nothing to fear from her personal resentment; these were the murder of Darnley and her marriage with Bothwell. He therefore resumed his charge without interruption, and proceeded to take that active part in the national affairs, both political and religious, which the times required, and for which he was so eminently fitted; and, soon after, had the satisfaction of seeing the protestant religion securely established by the laws of the land, and that of the popish church utterly overthrown by the same authority.

In the month of October, 1570, he was struck with apoplexy, and although, it only interrupted his preaching for a few days, he never recovered from the debility which it produced.

The irritability of the times, and the vindictive spirit of the popish faction, still animating its expiring efforts, placed the life of the great reformer once more in danger, and once more compelled him to seek safety in flight. His enemies endeavoured first to destroy his reputation by the most absurd and unfounded calumnies; and failing utterly in these, they made an attempt upon his life. A shot was fired in at the window at which he usually sat; but happening to be seated at a different part of the table from that which he generally occupied, the bullet missed him, but struck the candlestick which was before him, and then lodged in the roof of the apartment.

Finding that it was no longer safe for him to remain a Edinburgh, he retired to St Andrews, where he continued till the end of August, 1572, when he again returned to Edinburgh. His valuable and active life was now drawing fast to a close. On the 11th of the November following he was seized with a cough, which greatly affected his breathing, and on the 24th of the same month expired, after an illness which called forth numerous instances of the magnanimity of his character, and of the purity and fervour of that religious zeal by which he had been always inspired. He died in the sixty-seventh year of his age, "not so much," says Dr M’Crie, "oppressed with years as worn out and exhausted by his extraordinary labours of body and anxieties of mind." His body was interred in the church-yard of St Giles, on Wednesday the 26th of November, and was attended to the grave by all the nobility who were in the city, and an immense concourse of people, When his body was laid in the grave, the regent, who was also at the funeral, exclaimed in words which have made a strong impression from their aptness and truth, "There lies he who never feared the face of man."


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