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The Scottish Reformation
Chapter III.—The Knox Period, a. d. 1555—1560.
Section 1. Visit of Knox to Scotland. 1555—1556

With the year 1555 commences the Knox period of the Scottish Reformation—its last and crowning stage. The Wishart period had closed in extreme apparent weakness and discouragement. After thirty years of conflict and suffering the reformers of Scotland were still without union as a party, and without organization as a power in the Church and the State. Their preachers were all in exile, and their leaders among the nobles reduced to silence and inaction. But with the reappearance of Knox upon the scene all this was speedily changed. His presence and power gave a new impulse to the cause, which immediately launched it upon a period of revival, of union, of organization, and of ultimate triumph.

Eight years had passed away since the surrender of the castle of St. Andrews, and to Knox they had been singularly full of incident and change. For twenty months he was kept a captive on board the French galleys, "lying in irons, miserably entreated, and sore troubled by corporal infirmity." Released at length in the spring of 1549, he gave the next five years of his life to the promotion of the Reformation in England, preaching for some time in Berwick, then in Newcastle, and afterwards, when he was made one of King Edward's six chaplains, in London, and various parts of the counties of Buckingham and Kent He was consulted by Cranmer and the other reforming bishops in the preparation of King Edward's Second Liturgy, and of the Articles of Religion, and might even have been promoted to the see of Rochester, if he had not been less solicitous of high place for himself than of a thorough reformation of the discipline of the Church. But he complained that no minister in England had authority to execute needful discipline, "to separate the lepers from the whole," which he accounted "a chief point of his office;" and he repeatedly declined to fill any other post in the Church than that of a preacher. Soon after the death of Edward, he left England and repaired to Geneva; and there he remained, he tells us, "at his private study" till he was called by the congregation of English refugees at Frankfort to be their preacher, "which vocation he obeyed (albeit unwillingly) at the commandment of that notable servant of God, John Calvin. At Frankfort he remained till that some of the learned," he continues, " more given to unprofitable ceremonies than to sincerity of religion, began to quarrel with him; and because they despaired to prevail before the magistrate there for the establishing of their corruptions, they accused him of treason committed against the emperor and against their sovereign, Queen Mary, because in his 'Admonition to England' he had called the one little inferior to Nero, and the other more cruel than Jezebel. The magistrates perceiving their malice, and fearing that he should fall into the hands of his accusers by one mean or by other, gave advertisement secretly to him to depart their city, for they could not save him if he were required by the Emperor, or by the Queen of England in the Emperor's name ; and so the said John returned to Geneva, and from thence to Dieppe, and thereafter to Scotland."

The time when Knox arrived in Edinburgh—about the end of September, 1555—was peculiarly favourable to the success of his visit The clergy had sunk into a state of false security, and were dreaming that heresy had been well-nigh extirpated from the land. The regency had recently passed into the hands of the Queen Dowager, Mary of Guise, whose political schemes made it necessary for her to pursue a temporizing policy with the Protestant lords, and to disguise for a time the hatred which she cherished, in common with all her family, to the doctrines and aims of the reformers. Just at that time, too, a number of the leading Protestants, including John Erskine of Dun, and William Maitland of Lethington, had gathered into Edinburgh to confer with and enjoy the ministrations of John Willock, who had been sent by the Duchess of East Friesland to the Scottish court on a commercial mission. But Willock's "principal purpose was to assay what God would work by him in his native country;" and the private meetings for prayer and exposition of the word which he had already held in Edinburgh, suggested a similar plan of usefulness to Knox.

The first citizen of Edinburgh who received Knox into his house, and afforded facilities for such secret assemblies, was James Syme. James Barron, another burgess, and his pious wife, Elizabeth Anderson; Janet Adamson, the wife of James McGill, of Rankeillor, clerk register; David Forres, Master of the Mint, and Maister Robert Lockhart, are all mentioned, in addition to Erskine and Maitland, as attendants at these edifying assemblies. It was necessary, in order to escape observation, that the meetings should be small; and this, with the ardent desire of many to receive spiritual instruction, kept the reformer closely engaged for weeks, both by day and by night After he had been several weeks in Edinburgh, he wrote to his mother-in-law, Mrs. Bowes, in Berwick, to say that " the fervent thirst of his brethren, night and day sobbing and groaning for the bread of life, was such, that if he had not seen it with his own eyes he could not have believed it I praised God when I was with you, perceiving that in the midst of Sodom God had more Lots than one, and more faithful daughters than twa. But the fervency here doth far exceed all others that I have seen; and therefore ye shall patiently bear although I spend here yet some days, for depart I cannot, unto such time as God quench their thirst a little. Yea, mother, their fervency doth so ravish me, that I cannot but accuse and condemn my slothful coldness. God grant them their hearts' desire. In great haste, the 4th of November, 1555."

It was evidently a time of spiritual awakening like that which had occurred under the ministry of Wishart in Ayrshire and Dundee; and instead of being able to return to Berwick in a few days, Knox found it impossible to leave the country for many months. The news of his arrival and of the power of his ministry having spread among the reformers in all parts of the country, his presence was everywhere ardently desired, and he deemed it his duty "to pass through all quarters, strengthening the disciples." We have the advantage of the following sketch of his labours during this spring-time of religious life, from his own pen.

"John Knox, at the request of the Laird of Dun, followed him to his place of Dun, where he remained a month, daily exercised in doctrine, whereunto resorted the principal men of that country. After his returning, his residence was most in Calder, where repaired unto him the Lord Erskine, the Lord Lorn, and Lord James Stuart, Prior of St. Andrews, where they heard, and so approved his doctrine, that they wished it to have been public. That same winter he taught commonly in Edinburgh ; and after the Yule, by the conduct of the Laird of Barr, and Robert Campbell of Kinyeancleugh, he came to Kyle, and taught in the Barr, in the house of the Carnell, in the Kinyeancleugh, in the town of Ayr, and in the houses of Ochiltree and Gadgirth, and in some of them ministered the Lord's table. Before the Pasch, the Earl of Glencairn sent for him to his place of Finlaston, where, after doctrine, he likewise ministered the Lord's table; whereof, besides himself, were partakers his lady, two of his sons, and certain of his friends. And so returned he to Calder, where divers from Edinburgh, and from the country about, convened as well for the doctrine as for the right use of the Lord's table, which before they had never practised. From thence he departed the second time to the Laird of Dun, and teaching then in greater liberty, the gentlemen required that he should minister likewise unto them the table of the Lord Jesus; whereof were partakers the most part of the gentlemen of the Mearns, who professed that they refused all society with idolatry, and bound themselves to the uttermost of their power to maintain the true preaching of the Evangel of Jesus Christ, as God should offer to them preachers and opportunity."

It is surprising that Knox was allowed to continue these labours for so many months without interruption from the bishops. At last, however, while he was yet in Angus, he was summoned to appear before them on the 15th of May, in the Church of the Blackfriars, at Edinburgh. Encouraged by the support of so many powerful friends, he resolved to obey the summons, and set out for Edinburgh with the Laird of Dun and other gentlemen, to face his enemies. But it turned out that the bishops were little disposed to face a heretic of so undaunted a spirit They had not expected that he would be so bold as to obey the summons, and they shrank from the consequences of such an encounter. On the Saturday preceding the day appointed, "they cast their ain summons, and the said John, the same day of the summons, taught in Edinburgh in a greater audience than ever before he had done in that town. The place was the Bishop of Dunkeld's great lodging, where he continued in doctrine ten days, both before and after noon." These were ten days of remarkable power and success in the exercise of his ministry. Writing to Mrs. Bowes, after he had been three days thus employed, he exclaimed, in a fervour of pious enthusiasm, " O! sweet were the death that should follow sic forty days in Edinburgh as here I have had three. Rejoice, mother, the time of our deliverance approacheth; for as Satan rageth, so does the grace of the Holy Spirit abound, and daily giveth new testimonies of the everlasting love of our merciful Father. I can write na mair to you at the present. The grace of the Lord Jesus rest with you. In haste."

Emboldened by these successes, the Reformer was led to hope that he might even be able to speak a word with effect to the conscience of the Queen Regent. The idea of addressing a letter to her, "to move her to hear the Word of God," was suggested to him by the Earl Marischall and Henry Drummond, who had been "allured" to come and hear him by the Earl of Glencairn, and who enforced the suggestion by assuring him, from what they knew of the queen's disposition, that the moment was favourable. He complied with their request, and penned a letter to the Regent, which, for its courtesy of phrase and faithfulness of counsel, was equally suitable to her dignity as a queen and to his character as a minister of God. "I doubt not," said he, "but the rumours which came to your Grace's ears of me, have been such, that if all reports were true, I were unworthy to live on the earth; and wonder it is that the voices of the multitude should not so have inflamed your Grace's heart with just hatred of such a one as I am accused to be, that all access to pity should have been shut up. I am traduced as an heretic, accused as a false teacher and seducer of the people, besides other opprobries, which, affirmed by men of worldly honour and reputation, may easily kindle the wrath of magistrates when innocency is not known. But blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the dew of his heavenly grace, hath so quenched the fire of displeasure in your Grace's heart (which of late days I have understood), that Satan is frustrate of his enterprise and purpose. Which to my heart is no small comfort; not so much (God is witness) for any benefit that I can receive in this miserable life by protection of any earthly creature (for the cup which it behoveth me to drink is appointed by the wisdom of Him whose counsels are not changeable), as that I am for that benefit, which I am assured your Grace shall receive, if that ye continue in like moderation and clemency towards others that most unjustly are and shall be accused. That is, if by godly wisdom ye shall study to bridle the rage and fury of them who, for maintenance of their worldly pomp, regard nothing the cruel murdering of simple innocents; then shall He who proclaimeth mercy to appertain to the merciful, and promiseth that a cup of cold water given for his name's sake shall not lack reward, first cause your happy government to be praised in this present age, and in posterity to come; and last, recompense your godly pains and study with that joy and glory which the eye hath not seen, nor yet can enter into the heart of mortal creature." This specimen of the letter must suffice. It ought to have made a right impression, but it did not. A day or two after the Regent received it, she handed it to Beaton, archbishop of Glasgow, to read, with the contemptuous phrase, "Please you, my lord, to read a pasquil." This "mockage" was reported to the stern Reformer, and Mary of Lorraine paid the penalty of her obduracy by not being forgotten in the "First Blast" of his trumpet "against the Monstrous Regiment of Women."

This incident served to reveal how little dependence could be placed upon the disposition of the Regent, and to prepare both Knox and his friends for a temporary suspension of his labours in the country. Just at this time arrived letters from the English congregation in Geneva, "commanding him in God's name, as he that was their chosen pastor, to repair unto them for their comfort" He determined to obey the call, and prepared to take his departure for a season. Revisiting almost all the congregations which he had before addressed, he exhorted them to meet together from time to time for prayers, the reading of the Scriptures, and mutual conference, "unto such time as God should give unto them greater liberty." Among other visits, "he passed to the old Earl of Argyle, who was then in the Castle of Campbell, where he taught certain days. The Laird of Glenurchy, Sir Colin Campbell, being one of his auditors, willed the said earl to retain him still; but he, purposed upon his journey, would not at that time stay for no request, adding,' That if God so blessed these small beginnings that they continued in godliness, whensoever they pleased to command him, they should find him obedient1 And so in the month of July he left this realm, and passed to France, and so to Geneva." Immediately afterwards the bishops summoned him anew, and, upon non-appearance, burnt him in effigy at the Cross of Edinburgh—a dastardly deed, which Knox too much honoured in thinking it worthy even of an "appellation." His enemies were bold enough to confront his effigy, but they had shrunk like cravens from the encounter with himself.

This visit of Knox to Scotland was of immense service to the cause of the Reformation. The new converts whom he had gained to it were not only numerous, but many of them men of high rank and expectation, and of distinguished talents. Adherents like Lord James Stuart, the Prior of St Andrews, Lord Lorn, the heir of Argyle, Lord Erskine, Captain of the Castle of Edinburgh, the Earl Marischall, the Lord of Glenurchy, and the old Earl of Argyle, were accessions to the ranks of Reform of the highest value, and vouchers that the day of final triumph could not now be very far off. But to have secured even such conquests as these was not the largest part of the Reformer's success. He had not only added to the numbers and individual power of the Reformers; he had formed them into a body; he had given them union and organization and concentrated strength; he had taken particular pains to convince them of the sin of any longer taking even an apparent part in the corrupt worship of the dominant Church; and young Maitland of Lethington, after arguing this point with all his usual subtlety and skill, had been brought to own that it was impossible any longer to defend the practice. In thus cutting the last link that connected them with the Church of Rome, Knox had at the same time organized them to some extent into a distinct ecclesiastical body. They were now a "Congregation," or community of evangelical Christians, having a worship, a creed, and a discipline of their own; by which, as by common ties, they were now as much bound to one another, as they were dissevered from the Church of the Popes. In a word, the foundations were now laid of the coming Reformed Church of Scotland. In Hamilton's and Wishart's days, the Reformation was a reformed doctrine; but it was now becoming a new rite. For thirty years it had existed only as a new idea, and a new inner life in individual souls; but now, in its last stage, it begins to develop itself into the form of a new social worship, and a new ecclesiastical communion and organization.

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