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.

These are unfortunately examples of Knox’s Christianity. {71b} It is very easy for modern historians and biographers to speak with genial applause of the prophet’s manly bluffness.  But if we put ourselves in the position of opponents whom he was trying to convert, of the two Marys for example, we cannot but perceive that his method was hopelessly mistaken.  In attempting to evangelise an Euahlayi black fellow, we should not begin by threats of damnation, and by railing accusations against his god, Baiame.


Knox was about this time summoned to be one of the preachers to the English at Geneva.  He sent in advance Mrs. Bowes and his wife, visited Argyll and Glenorchy (now Breadalbane), wrote (July 7) an epistle bidding the brethren be diligent in reading and discussing the Bible, and went abroad.  His effigy was presently burned by the clergy, as he had not appeared in answer to a second summons, and he was outlawed in absence.

It is not apparent that Knox took any part in the English translation of the Bible, then being executed at Geneva.  Greek and Hebrew were not his forte, though he had now some knowledge of both tongues, but he preached to the men who did the work.  The perfections of Genevan Church discipline delighted him.  “Manners and religion so sincerely reformed I have not yet seen in any other place.”  The genius of Calvin had made Geneva a kind of Protestant city state [Greek text]; a Calvinistic Utopia—­everywhere the vigilant eyes of the preachers and magistrates were upon every detail of daily life.  Monthly and weekly the magistrates and ministers met to point out each other’s little failings.  Knox felt as if he were indeed in the City of God, and later he introduced into Scotland, and vehemently abjured England to adopt, the Genevan “discipline.”  England would none of it, and would not, even in the days of the Solemn League and Covenant, suffer the excommunication by preachers to pass without lay control.

It is unfortunate that the ecclesiastical polity and discipline of a small city state, like a Greek [Greek word polis], feasible in such a community as Geneva at a moment of spiritual excitement, was brought by Knox and his brethren into a nation like Scotland.  The results were a hundred and twenty-nine years of unrest, civil war, and persecution.

Though happy in the affection of his wife and Mrs. Bowes, Knox, at this time, needed more of feminine society.  On November 19, 1556, he wrote to his friend, Mrs. Locke, wife of a Cheapside merchant:  “You write that your desire is earnest to see me.  Dear sister, if I should express the thirst and languor which I have had for your presence, I should appear to pass measure. . . .  Your presence is so dear to me that if the charge of this little flock . . . did not impede me, my presence should anticipate my letter.”  Thus Knox was ready to brave the fires of Smithfield, or, perhaps, forgot them for the moment in his affection for Mrs. Locke.  He writes to no other woman in this fervid strain.  On May 8, 1557, Mrs. Locke with her son and daughter (who died after her journey), joined Knox at Geneva. {73}

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