Dr. Chet Haney on John Knox

John KnoxChet Haney 

John Knox          Dr. Chet Haney

CHET HANEY REPORTING ON THE SCOTTISH REFORMATION OF JOHN KNOX

   My wife Terri and I were taken with the highlands of Scotland. In fact, we wanted to buy a house, but I was too big to get through the door. While taking a city bus tour, we pasted by the house of John Knox, the man who led the Scottish Reformation in 1560-1561. That evening they were having a public presentation, and I came back at 9:00 P.M. I missed the presentation, but the man at the desk allowed me to take a 2.5 self-guided tour. I took pictures and read everything I could.

     John Knox was mentored by John Wishart and Mr. Knox witnessed Mr. Wishart burned at the stake. During that time the Roman Catholic Church considered themselves as being over men’s souls. Knox was Wishart’s sword barrier, but after Wishart was sentenced to death, he told young Knox that one sacrifice was enough. The Cardinal had Wishert’s pockets stuffed with gun powder and shot before he was burned at the stake.

     Please read over some of the life story of John Knox

   John Knox (c. 1514 – 24 November 1572) was a Scottish minister, theologian, and writer who was a leader of the country's Reformation. He was the founder of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland.

   Knox was born in Giffordgate, a street in Haddington, East Lothian. He is believed to have been educated at the University of St Andrews and worked as a notary-priest. Influenced by early church reformers such as George Wishart, he joined the movement to reform the Scottish church. He was caught up in the ecclesiastical and political events that involved the murder of Cardinal David Beaton in 1546 and the intervention of the regent Mary of Guise. He was taken prisoner by French forces the following year and exiled to England on his release in 1549.

   While in exile, Knox was licensed to work in the Church of England, where he rose in the ranks to serve King Edward VI of England as a royal chaplain. He exerted a reforming influence on the text of the Book of Common Prayer. In England, he met and married his first wife, Margery Bowes. When Mary the First ascended the throne of England and re-established Roman Catholicism, Knox was forced to resign his position and leave the country. Knox moved to Geneva and then to Frankfurt. In Geneva, he met John Calvin, from whom he gained experience and knowledge of Reformed theology and Presbyterian polity. He created a new order of service, which was eventually adopted by the reformed church in Scotland. He left Geneva to head the English refugee church in Frankfurt but he was forced to leave over differences concerning the liturgy, thus ending his association with the Church of England.

   On his return to Scotland, Knox led the Protestant Reformation in Scotland, in partnership with the Scottish Protestant nobility. The movement may be seen as a revolution, since it led to the ousting of Mary of Guise, who governed the country in the name of her young daughter Mary, Queen of Scots. Knox helped write the new confession of faith and the ecclesiastical order for the newly created reformed church, the Kirk. He wrote his five-volume The History of the Reformation in Scotland between 1559 and 1566. He continued to serve as the religious leader of the Protestants throughout Mary's reign. In several interviews with the Queen, Knox admonished her for supporting Catholic practices. After she was imprisoned for her alleged role in the murder of her husband Lord Darnley, and King James VI was enthroned in her stead, Knox openly called for her execution. He continued to preach until his final days.

Early life, 1505–1546

   John Knox was born sometime between 1505 and 1515 in or near Haddington, the county town of East Lothian. His father, William Knox, was a merchant. All that is known of his mother is that her maiden name was Sinclair and that she died when John Knox was a child. Their eldest son, William, carried on his father's business, which helped in Knox's international communications.

   Knox was probably educated at the grammar school in Haddington. At this time, the priesthood was the only path for those whose inclinations were academic rather than mercantile or agricultural. He proceeded to further studies at the University of St Andrews or possibly at the University of Glasgow. He studied under John Major, one of the greatest scholars of the time. Knox was ordained a Catholic priest in Edinburgh on Easter Eve of 1536 by William Chisholm, Bishop of Dunblane.

   Knox first appears in public records as a priest and a notary in 1540. He was still serving in these capacities as late as 1543 when he described himself as a "minister of the sacred altar in the diocese of St. Andrews, notary by apostolic authority" in a notarial deed dated 27 March. Rather than taking up parochial duties in a parish, he became tutor to two sons of Hugh Douglas of Longniddry. He also taught the son of John Cockburn of Ormiston. Both of these lairds had embraced the new religious ideas of the Reformation.

Embracing the Protestant Reformation, 1546–1547

Wishart Preached against Mariolatry with Knox at his back.

   Knox did not record when or how he was converted to the Protestant faith, but perhaps the key formative influences on Knox were Patrick Hamilton and George Wishart. Wishart was a reformer who had fled Scotland in 1538 to escape punishment for heresy. He first moved to England, where in Bristol he preached against the veneration of the Virgin Mary. He was forced to make a public recantation and was burned in effigy at the Church of St Nicholas as a sign of his abjuration. He then took refuge in Germany and Switzerland. While on the Continent, he translated the First Helvetic Confession into English. He returned to Scotland in 1544, but the timing of his return was unfortunate. In December 1543, James Hamilton, Duke of Châtellerault, the appointed regent for the infant Mary, Queen of Scots, had decided with the Queen Mother, Mary of Guise, and Cardinal David Beaton to persecute the Protestant sect that had taken root in Scotland. Wishart travelled throughout Scotland preaching in favor of the reformation and when he arrived in East Lothian, Knox became one of his closest associates. Knox acted as his bodyguard, bearing a two-handed sword in order to defend him. In December 1545, Wishart was seized on Beaton's orders by the Earl of Bothwell and taken to the Castle of St Andrews. Knox was present on the night of Wishart's arrest and was prepared to follow him into captivity, but Wishart persuaded him against this course saying, "Nay, return to your bairns [children] and God bless you. One is sufficient for a sacrifice." Wishart was subsequently prosecuted by Beaton's Public Accuser of Heretics, Archdeacon John Lauder. On 1 March 1546, he was burnt at the stake in the presence of Beaton.

   Knox had avoided being arrested by Lord Bothwell through Wishart's advice to return to tutoring. He took shelter with Douglas in Longniddry. Several months later he was still in charge of the pupils, the sons of Douglas and Cockburn, who wearied of moving from place to place while being pursued. He toyed with the idea of fleeing to Germany and taking his pupils with him. While Knox remained a fugitive, Beaton was murdered on 29 May 1546, within his residence, the Castle of St Andrews, by a gang of five persons in revenge for Wishart's execution. The assassins seized the castle and eventually their families and friends took refuge with them, about a hundred and fifty men in all. Among their friends was Henry Balnaves, a former secretary of state in the government, who negotiated with England for the financial support of the rebels. Douglas and Cockburn suggested to Knox to take their sons to the relative safety of the castle to continue their instruction in reformed doctrine, and Knox arrived at the castle on 10 April 1547.

   Knox's powers as a preacher came to the attention of the chaplain of the garrison, John Rough. While Rough was preaching in the parish church on the Protestant principle of the popular election of a pastor, he proposed Knox to the congregation for that office. Knox did not relish the idea. According to his own account, he burst into tears and fled to his room. Within a week, however, he was giving his first sermon to a congregation that included his old teacher, John Major. He expounded on the seventh chapter of the Book of Daniel, comparing the Pope with the Antichrist. His sermon was marked by his consideration of the Bible as his sole authority and the doctrine of justification by faith alone, two elements that would remain in his thoughts throughout the rest of his life. A few days later, a debate was staged that allowed him to lay down additional theses including the rejection of the Mass, Purgatory, and prayers for the dead.

Confinement in the French galleys, 1547–1549

   John Knox's chaplaincy of the castle garrison was not to last long. While Hamilton was willing to negotiate with England to stop their support of the rebels and bring the castle back under his control, Mary of Guise decided that it could be taken only by force and requested the king of France, Henry II to intervene. On 29 June 1547, 21 French galleys approached St Andrews under the command of Leone Strozzi, prior of Capua. The French besieged the castle and forced the surrender of the garrison on 31 July. The Protestant nobles and others, including Knox, were taken prisoner and forced to row in the French galleys. The galley slaves were chained to benches and rowed throughout the day without a change of posture while an officer watched over them with a whip in hand. They sailed to France and navigated up the Seine to Rouen. The nobles, some of whom would have an impact later in Knox's life such as William Kirkcaldy and Henry Balnaves, were sent to various castle-prisons in France. Knox and the other galley slaves continued to Nantes and stayed on the Loire throughout the winter. They were threatened with torture if they did not give proper signs of reverence when mass was performed on the ship. Knox recounted an incident in which one of the prisoners—possibly himself, as Knox tended to narrate personal anecdotes in the third person—was required to show devotion to a picture of the Virgin Mary. The prisoner was told to give it a kiss of veneration. He refused and when the picture was pushed up to his face, the prisoner seized the picture and threw it into the sea, saying, "Let our Lady now save herself: she is light enough: let her learn to swim." After that, according to Knox, the Scottish prisoners were no longer forced to perform such devotions.

   In summer 1548, the galleys returned to Scotland to scout for English ships. Knox's health was now at its lowest point due to the severity of his confinement. He was ill with a fever and others on the ship were afraid for his life. Even in this state, Knox recalled, his mind remained sharp and he comforted his fellow prisoners with hopes of release. While the ships were lying offshore between St Andrews and Dundee, the spires of the parish church where he preached appeared in view. James Balfour, a fellow prisoner, asked Knox whether he recognized the landmark. He replied that he knew it well; recognizing the steeple of the place where he first preached and he declared that he would not die until he had preached there again.

John Knox and the Scottish Reformation:

Chet's Hearing His Voice Testimony

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