John Knox (1505-1572)

John Knox was ordained a priest in the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland at the time when John Calvin began the Reformation of Geneva. The flames of the Reformation began to be kindled in Scotland in the heart and mind of Knox’s close friend George Wiseheart. Being on familiar terms with Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, Wiseheart was chosen by King Henry the Eighth for going to Scotland and interceding for the hand in marriage of Mary Stuart, the infant “Queen of Scots,” with Edward, the infant son of the King of England. Wiseheart was an unwilling tool of King Henry in this matter and his action set Catholic Scotland against him. When Wiseheart was burned at the stake by Cardinal Beaton, the fires that consumed his body fired the heart of John Knox. From that hour he was the enemy of the Roman Catholic Church. Two years later, Beaton was assassinated by “parties unknown.”

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Shortly after the death of Beaton, John Knox came to Edinburgh as a newly ordained priest, having been accused of “hatching the plot” against the cardinal even though he did not personally take a hand in executing it. Soon Knox had a growing group of followers. He accused the Catholic clergy of Scotland of being “gluttons, wantons and licentious revelers, but who yet regularly and meekly partook of the sacrament.” Knox traveled to Geneva three times to study under Calvin who had a high regard for the fiery Scotsman. Knox returned to Scotland, was married at age 38, and was widowed a few years afterward.

Then hell sent a close call for the Reformer in the persons of three Roman Catholic queens. The infant Mary Queen of Scots’ mother was Mary of Guise, a French woman who had been married to the deceased King James V of Scotland. As soon as Mary of Guise landed on Scottish soil, Knox fled fearing for his life. His book, The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, had Mary Tudor Queen of England, Mary of Guise, and Mary Queen of Scots, in mind. Before long, two of the Marys were dead and Knox returned to Scotland and sought a personal interview with the remaining queen, then 20-years-old, “with intent to bring her heart to Jesus.” Mary then tried her hand at converting Knox back to Roman Catholicism – or the “Mother Church” – with bribes of political power. Stormy interviews followed, punctuated by “covenantal lawsuits” served up by Knox and his followers.

In response to Knox’s imprecatory prayers, Mary Queen of Scots is reputed to have said: “I fear the prayers of John Knox more than all the assembled armies of Europe.” In response to the rising resistance of the Scottish Reformers, Mary fled Scotland and was later put to death by a court of English who had accused her of plotting to assassinate Elizabeth I. Knox was survived by the Scottish Covenanters, who drew up a compact in 1638 asserting their right, under God, to national sovereignty.

Progress of Nations, ed. Charles H. Sylvester (Hanson-Bellows Company, 1912) vol. III, pp.454-457.

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