John Knox

Knox and His Brethren

For Reformation Day, the following rare article is now available as a PDF:

Prof. W.G. Blaikie, “Scotch Preachers in Reformation Days: Knox and Brethren,” Sunday at Home 36 No. 1828 (May 11th 1889): 294-299.

Knox and His Brethren

It is singular to think that John Knox, of I whom when he was buried the Regent of the Kingdom said, “ Here lies one who never feared the face of clay,” was overwhelmed with distress and anxiety at the bare thought of being a preacher. And this was not in boyish days, as in the case of many a shy youth, to whom mounting the pulpit-stairs for the first time is something like mounting the steps of the gallows. For Knox was turned forty before he ever opened his mouth to a public congregation. His feeling was more like that of Saul when he hid himself among the stuff; or, to come nearer to the particular case, that of Gregory Nazianzen, when, on being ordained, in order to avoid the responsibilities of his office, fled to the wilderness; or that of Ephrem Syrus, when he feigned madness; or that of Ambrose, when, to shock the people, and make them think him unfit for the bishopric, he caused shady characters to be brought to his house as if in his company. The suspicion of heresy under which Knox had fallen, and the known desire of Cardinal Beaton for his life, had brought him to the humble vocation of domestic pedagogue—a kind of “Dominie Sampson” in the house of a Protestant gentleman, Hugh Douglas, of Longniddry. To the duties of this humble calling, however, Knox applied himself with all the energy and thoroughness of his nature. And in particular he sought to make the Bible lesson and the catechism interesting and impressive. And it was when, for safety, he took refuge in the castle of St. Andrews, and, being there, taught his boys in a public place, and when laymen, like Sir David Lindsay the poet, and Henry Halnaves the lawyer, saw how admirably he did this work, that they became convinced that the making of a good preacher was in him, and solemnly called him to become their pastor. Knox, to use a common phrase, was dreadfully “cut up;” the very thought took the life out of him for days; he could neither laugh nor talk, but went about in desolation and misery. It was neither want of physical nor of moral courage that oppressed him; but a sense of his unfitness to undertake so solemn an office, and to deliver God’s message to his countrymen at so vital a crisis of their history.

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