[I am greatly encouraged by such testimonies of saints like John Knox and others. I find the same God that answered prayers for the early saints will answers my prayers today if I obey him. I want to encourage all to read these testimonies with humility, asking God to order your steps in His word and bring forth divine appointments in your lives. Remember Hebrews 13:8 "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day and for ever." God bless you, Doyle]


John Knox and the Reformation


In the winter of 1834, the revivalist Charles Finney spoke about John Knox:


“John Knox was a man famous for his power in prayer, so that bloody Queen Mary used to say she feared his prayers more that all the armies of Europe and events showed that she had reason to.  He used to be in such an agony for the deliverance of his country that he could not sleep.”


“He had a place in his garden where he used to go to pray.  One night he and several friends were praying together, and as they prayed, Knox spoke and said that deliverance had come.  He could not tell what had happened, but he felt that something had taken place, for God had heard their prayers.  The next news they heard was, Mary was dead.”


16th Century Reformation began when Martin Luther nailed his 96 Theses to a church door in Wittenberg in 1517.  This protest led to the religious divisions throughout Europe pitting the Catholic countries against those that chose to reform to the Protestant faith.  John Knox had a great influence on Scotland’s Reformation.  He embodied the utter fearlessness of William Wallace (Braveheart).


He was born in East Lothian around 1513 in Scotland, the son of a respectable Scottish peasant.  After attending university, he was ordained as a Catholic priest and while reform was sweeping through Europe, he was tutoring children of the local gentry.  As a young man, he had known of the burning of the Scottish nobleman and humanist, Patrick Hamilton in 1528.   Hamilton had studied in Paris and learned of the teachings of Luther at Marburg, and had returned as a teacher to St. Andrews University.  His teachings of the new reformation views offended the archbishop, and he was tried as a heretic.  Hamilton admitted his teachings to be biblical; he was condemned to the stake.  In an account of his execution, the wintry wind of that February day, the difficulty of lighting the fire and the need to relight it several times prolonged the agony of Hamilton’s death over six hours.  Men later said, that the smoke of his burning infected all on whom it blew.


John Knox met George Wisheart, a preacher of the Reformation and became one of his converts.  Knox became Wisheart’s body guard, standing next to him with a two handed sword during his sermons because of an assassination attempt by a priest.   Wisheart preached the evangelical doctrine throughout Scotland, and according to his trial, included salvation by faith, the Scriptures as the only test of truth, the denial of purgatory and confession to a priest and the rejection of the Roman Catholic mass as blasphemous idolatry.  He was arrested, tried and burned on the eighteenth anniversary of Hamilton’s death.  Knox would have went with him, but Wisheart refused, saying “one is sufficient for one sacrifice”.


Scottish nobles murdered the cardinal who executed Wisheart and asked Knox to become their chaplain.   After his first sermon it was spoken of him, “Others snipped at the branches of popery, but he strikes at the roots, to destroy the whole”.   Knox ended up being a galley slave of French troops for 19 months, enduring cursing and flogging, learning to be an apostle of liberty to his people.  It was reported that while he was in chains, a picture of the Virgin Mary was brought on board while the galley was in port, to be kissed by the slaves.  When Knox refused, the picture was thrust in to his face.  Outraged, he threw “the accursed idol” into the river, saying “Let our lady learn to swim.”


When he was freed he went to England until King Edward died and his half-sister, (Catholic) Queen Mary took the throne and tried to burn all the Protestants.  He fled to Germany and Switzerland where he came under the influence of John Calvin.  It is said, Calvin had a high regard for the young Scot and one writer said John Knox could perhaps be considered Calvin’s most determined and successful follower.  While he was in exile he wrote one of his most well known sermons, denouncing the iniquity of women, particularly Queen Mary of England and Mary of Guise (who was ruling in Scotland and was the widow of James V), “First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous regiment of women”.


When Elizabeth who was Protestant, came to the throne of England the reformers were heartened.  Sensing that things were changing, Knox returned to Scotland in 1559 bringing with him, his expertise in the Reformed doctrine, emphasizing salvation by grace alone, through faith alone.  He stressed that Jesus Christ alone is King and head of the Church, not any human pope or monarch.   Eventually, Mary Queen of Scots returned to Scotland and Knox met with her a few times to try and convert her.  She found these meetings so difficult that she is reported to have said, “I fear the prayers of John Knox more than all the assembled armies of Europe.”  From his pulpit just up the street from the Queen’s Holyrood Palace, he thundered against the restoration of the church of Rome, which the Lords of the Congregation*, following his example, had termed the “Synagogue of Satan”.  When her husband Lord Darnley was murdered, neither Protestants or Catholics could approve.  She was forced to abdicate and the regent, James Stewart, re-enforced Protestant rule.  Parliament was called and the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland was finally ratified by law.


John Knox continued to preach in Edinburgh until his death in1572 and was survived by the Scottish Covenanters*, who drew up a compact in 1638, asserting their right, under God, to national sovereignty.  The Earl of Moray led the praise to a man who “in his life never feared the face of man, who hath been often threatened with danger, but yet ended his life in peace and honor”. 


Those who have studied and written about John Knox have said he was not a great theologian nor an eloquent writer.  He lacked tact and could adopt a bullying posture toward those with whom he disagreed.  He never flattered nor feared any flesh and was occasionally called a fanatic.   A  harsh, intolerant, vehement, indomitable, steadfast and unmovable warrior, who had been “always abounding in the work of the Lord,”  and “whose labor was not in vain”.


Many Scots came to the America in it’s early days, and they brought the faith of their ancestors with them.  John Knox’s influence certainly helped shape this nation. 

* The Lords of the Congregation were Scottish nobleman who banded together and initiated a covenant called the “Solemn League and Covenant” and those who signed it became known as the Scottish Covenanters in which they renounced the “congregation of Satan, with all the superstitious abomination and idolatry thereof” and affirmed the establishment of “the most blessed word of God and his congregation,” and the defense of “the whole congregation of Christ, and every member thereof”.  These Lords of the Congregation became the political backbone of the remaking of the nation of Scotland.
Sources: John Knox, The Thundering Scot by Edward M Panosian; Scotsman.com Heritage and Culture; Models for    Reformation:John Knox, by Jay Rogers of Forerunner; Born Fighting by Jim Webb.

Contributed by Kathryn Currier

posted June 4, 2009



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