However this delicate point may be settled, the appeal for a Phinehas is certainly unchristian. The idolaters, the unreformed, might rejoice, with the Nuncio of 1583, that the Duc de Guise had a plan for murdering Elizabeth, though it was not to be communicated to the Vicar of God, who should have no such dealings against “that wicked woman.” To some Catholics, Elizabeth: to Knox, Mary was as Jezebel, and might laudably be assassinated. In idolaters nothing can surprise us; when persecuted they, in their unchristian fashion, may retort with the dagger or the bowl. But that Knox should have frequently maintained the doctrine of death to religious opponents is a strange and deplorable circumstance. In reforming the Church of Christ he omitted some elements of Christianity.
Suppose, for a moment, that in deference to the teaching of the Gospel, Knox had never called for a Jehu, but had ever denounced, by voice and pen, those murderous deeds of his own party which he celebrates as “godly facts,” he would have raised Protestantism to a moral pre-eminence. Dark pages of Scottish history might never have been written: the consciences of men might have been touched, and the cruelties of the religious conflict might have been abated. Many of them sprang from the fear of assassination.
But Knox in some of his writings identified his cause with the palace revolutions of an ancient Oriental people. Not that he was a man of blood; when in France he dissuaded Kirkcaldy of Grange and others from stabbing the gaolers in making their escape from prison. Where idolaters in official position were concerned, and with a pen in his hand, he had no such scruples. He was a child of the old pre-Christian scriptures; of the earlier, not of the later prophets.
The consequences of the “Admonition” came home to Knox when English refugees in Frankfort, impeded by him and others in the use of their Liturgy, accused him of high treason against Philip and Mary, and the Emperor, whom he had compared to Nero as an enemy of Christ.
The affair of “The Troubles at Frankfort” brought into view the great gulf for ever fixed between Puritanism and the Church of England. It was made plain that Knox and the Anglican community were of incompatible temperaments, ideas, and, we may almost say, instincts. To Anglicans like Cranmer, Knox, from the first, was as antipathetic as they were to him. “We can assure you,” wrote some English exiles for religion’s sake to Calvin, “that that outrageous pamphlet of Knox’s” (his “Admonition”) “added much oil to the flame of persecution in England. For before the publication of that book not one of our brethren had suffered death; but as soon as it came forth we doubt not but you are well aware of the number of excellent men who have perished in the flames; to say nothing of how many other godly men have been exposed to the risk of all their property, and even life itself, on the sole ground of either having had this book in their possession or having read it.”