John Knox and the Reformation eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 293 pages of information about John Knox and the Reformation.
on a treatise written in prison by Balnaves; and he even wrote a theological work, unless this work was his commentary on Balnaves.  These things can only have been possible when the galleys were not on active service.  In a very manly spirit, he never dilated on his sufferings, and merely alludes to “the torment I sustained in the galleys.”  He kept up his heart, always prophesying deliverance; and once (June, 1548?), when in view of St. Andrews, declared that he should preach again in the kirk where his career began.  Unluckily, the person to whom he spoke, at a moment when he himself was dangerously ill, denied that he had ever been in the galleys at all! {30b} He was Sir James Balfour, a notorious scoundrel, quite untrustworthy; according to Knox, he had spoken of the prophecy, in Scotland, long before its fulfilment.

Knox’s health was more or less undermined, while his spiritual temper was not mollified by nineteen months of the galleys, mitigated as they obviously were.

It is, doubtless, to his “torment” in the galleys that Knox refers when he writes:  “I know how hard the battle is between the spirit and the flesh, under the heavy cross of affliction, where no worldly defence, but present death, does appear. . . .  Rests only Faith, provoking us to call earnestly, and pray for assistance of God’s spirit, wherein if we continue, our most desperate calamities shall turn to gladness, and to a prosperous end. . . .  With experience I write this.”

In February or March, 1549, Knox was released; by April he was in England, and, while Edward vi. lived, was in comparative safety.


Knox at once appeared in England in a character revolting to the later Presbyterian conscience, which he helped to educate.  The State permitted no cleric to preach without a Royal license, and Knox was now a State licensed preacher at Berwick, one of many “State officials with a specified mission.”  He was an agent of the English administration, then engaged in forcing a detested religion on the majority of the English people.  But he candidly took his own line, indifferent to the compromises of the rulers in that chaos of shifting opinions.  For example, the Prayer Book of Edward vi. at that time took for granted kneeling as the appropriate attitude for communicants.  Knox, at Berwick, on the other hand, bade his congregation sit, as he conceived that to have been the usage at the first institution of the rite.  Possibly the Apostles, in fact, supped in a recumbent attitude, as Cranmer justly remarked later (John xiii. 25), but Knox supposed them to have sat.  In a letter to his Berwick flock, he reminds them of his practice on this point; but he would not dissent from kneeling if “magistrates make known, as that they” (would?) “have done if ministers were willing to do their duties, that kneeling is not retained in the Lord’s Supper for maintenance of any superstition,” much less as “adoration of the Lord’s Supper.”  This, “for a time,” would content him:  and this he obtained. {33a} Here Knox appears to make the civil authority—­“the magistrates”—­governors of the Church, while at the same time he does not in practice obey them unless they accept his conditions.

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John Knox and the Reformation from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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