Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Knox, John (1505-1572)
KNOX, JOHN (1505–1572), Scottish reformer and historian, was born in 1505 at Giffordgate, Haddington, in a house opposite the east end of the abbey, on the other side of the Tyne from the burgh. It was standing in 1785, but has since been pulled down. The conjecture that his birthplace was in the neighbouring parish of Morham, founded on his statement that his ‘father, gudschir, and grandschir’ fought under the Earls of Bothwell, who had lands in that parish, but not in Haddington, is ingenious, but not proved so as to displace the argument of Laing in favour of Giffordgate. The reformer's father, William Knox, is supposed to have been a cadet of the family of Knox of Ranfurly in Renfrewshire. But the name is too common to support this descent, which is opposed by the fact that the reformer calls himself ‘of base condition,’ and is described as ‘of lineage small’ by John Davidson in the panegyrical poem published the year after his death, while his personal character indicates a burghal rather than a gentle ancestry. His mother was a Sinclair, and a note to one of his manuscript letters, signed John Sinclair, mentions ‘this was his mother's surname, whilk he wearit in time of trubell.’ A brother, William, mentioned in two of his letters and in his will, was a trader with England, and settled in Preston.
Knox was educated at the school of Haddington. In 1522 his name appears in the register of the university of Glasgow among the students incorporated on St. Crispin's day, 25 Oct. He was attracted to Glasgow by the fame of John Major [q. v.], himself born at Gleghornie, not far from Haddington, and probably educated at the burgh school. On 9 June 1523 Major was transferred to the university of St. Andrews; so Knox, unless he followed Major to that university, of which there is no proof, can have been his pupil only one session, yet this may have sufficed to disgust Knox, like Buchanan and other of Major's hearers, with the scholastic logic, of which he retained little except the argumentative spirit.
The name of Knox does not appear in the list of graduates of either university. The tradition that he was led by the study of Augustine and the fathers to abandon scholastic theology is so far confirmed by the citation in his writings of Augustine as ‘that learned Augustine,’ Chrysostom as ‘the ancient godlie writer,’ and Athanasius as ‘that notable servant of Jesus Christ.’ With Latin, still the language of education, he was of course familiar, though he rarely used it. He is the first, almost the only, great prose writer in the vernacular, though his Scotch has been criticised for its intermixture with English and French words and idioms. Of Hebrew he confessed his ignorance, but also ‘his fervent thirst to have sum entrance thairin’ (letter to Bishop of Durham), which he to some extent gratified when he went to the continent. He also studied law, and the next clearly ascertained fact in his life is that he acted as a notary in Haddington and the neighbourhood. In his writings he more than once cites the Pandects. He appears as procurator for James Ker in Samuelston, a village about three miles from Haddington, at the market-cross of that burgh, on 13 Dec. 1540; as umpire, along with James Ker, in a dispute on 21 Nov. 1542 as witness to a deed concerning Rannelton, Berwickshire, in a Haddington protocol book, 28 March 1543; and as the notary who wrote a notarial instrument on 27 March 1543, still extant among the Earl of Haddington's papers at Tynninghame. In the earliest of these documents he is designed ‘Schir John Knox,’ and in the notarial instrument he designs himself ‘Johannis Knox sacri altaris minister sancte Andreæ diocesis authoritate apostolica notarius.’ These designations prove that he had been admitted to minor orders (Knox, Works, i. 555). He used as his motto as notary ‘Non falsum testimonium perhibeo,’ and as witness ‘Per Christum fidelis cui gloria Amen.’ He may have served at the chapel of St. Nicholas at Samuelston, but he held no cure, and in the preface to his sermon published in 1566 he dates his study of the scriptures as commencing within twenty years. A Romanist contemporary, Archibald Hamilton, alleged within five years of his death that, ‘although very illiterate, he contrived to be made a presbyter, and employed himself in teaching in private houses to young people the rudiments of the vulgar tongue’ (De Confessione Calvinianæ Sectæ apud Scotos, fol. 64, Paris, 1577–8). Between 1523 and 1544 the record of his life is blank. From 1544 we follow his life in the pages of his ‘History,’ which is largely an autobiography. It is truthful and substantially accurate, except as to dates, but vehement and prejudiced, and requiring to be checked by contemporary writings.
Rejecting the career of a priest, which his adoption of the principles of the reformers made impossible, and abandoning that of a notary, which can scarcely have been more congenial, he adopted, perhaps earlier, but certainly in 1544, the vocation of a tutor. His pupils were Francis and John, sons of Hugh Douglas of Longniddry, near Tranent in East Lothian, and Alexander Cockburn, eldest son of the Laird of Ormiston, boys about twelve years of age. Their studies were grammar, the Latin classics (Humanæ Literæ), the catechism, and the gospel of St. John. It was while thus engaged that George Wishart [q. v.], a champion of Lutheran doctrines, came to Lothian to escape the persecution of Cardinal Beaton. He had friends among the gentry of that shire, and the fathers of Knox's pupils, Douglas and Cockburn and Crichton of Brunston, gave him an asylum in their houses. Knox was constantly with him in Lothian, and accompanied him before 1546 to Haddington, where Wishart preached on two days in succession, 15 and 16 Jan. of that year. After the second sermon, whose invective shows the model on which Knox formed his own style, Wishart bade Knox go back to Longniddry. The same evening, 16 Jan., Wishart was seized at Ormiston by Bothwell, and was burnt at St. Andrews for heresy on 1 March. On 29 May Cardinal Beaton was murdered in revenge for Wishart's death [see Leslie, Norman]. The participators in the deed shut themselves up in the castle of St. Andrews, and, having opened communication by sea with England, held it in spite of a siege. Knox had intended about this time to visit the German universities to avoid persecution. He approved, though he had no hand in, the cardinal's murder, which he calls ‘the godly act of James Melvine,’ in a marginal note to his ‘History,’ and at Easter, 10 April 1547, he was persuaded by the fathers of his pupils to go with them to the castle of St. Andrews. In the chapel of the castle he continued to teach them the gospel of St. John, beginning where he left off at Longniddry, and after the siege was raised he catechised them publicly in the parish kirk. The leaders of the party in the castle, and especially John Rough [q. v.], a preacher, Henry Balnaves, a lawyer, and Sir David Lyndsay [q. v.], the poet, seeing his ability, urged him to assume the office of preacher. He refused, as he had not received a call. This was speedily supplied. Rough, after a sermon on the election of ministers, charged Knox, ‘in the name of God and Christ, and of those that presently call you by my mouth, not to refuse this holy vocation.’ The congregation publicly expressed their approval. The call was irregular, but it asserted for the first time in Scotland the claim of the congregation to choose their spiritual guide. Knox accepted it, and on the next Sunday, appointed for his sermon, preached from a text in the seventh chapter of Daniel upon the corruption of the papacy, as seen in the lives of the popes and the bishops. He ended with a challenge to his old master, John Major, or any of his hearers, to dispute his conclusions. The challenge was accepted, and a conference held in ‘the yards of St. Leonard's.’ Certain theses drawn from Knox's sermon were proposed for debate, such as that ‘the pope is ane antichrist,’ that ‘the sacraments of the New Testament ought to be ministered as they were instituted by Christ, and nothing added to or taken from them,’ that ‘the mass is abominable idolatry,’ and that ‘there is no purgatory, and there are no bishops unless they preach themselves.’ Winram, the sub-prior, first disputed with Knox, but left the conclusion of the argument to Arbuckle, a grey friar, whom Knox, according to his own narrative—the only account preserved—easily overcame by a combination of texts, logic, and ridicule. Knox refers, for his share in the debate, to ‘a treatise he wrote in the galleys,’ containing the pith of his doctrine and the confession of his faith. This has not been preserved, unless the reference be to the letter he wrote to his brethren in Scotland in 1548, when he sent them Balnaves's ‘Confession and Treatise on Justification.’ The friars attempted to stifle a voice they could not answer by occupying the pulpit at St. Andrews Sunday about, but Knox evaded this device by preaching on the weekdays and protesting that if the friars preached in his absence the people ought to suspend their judgment till they heard him again. The effect of his preaching was that many in the town as well as the castle accepted the reformed doctrine, and communicated at the Lord's Table after the reformed rite. On 31 June 1547 the French galleys, under Strozzi, prior of Capua, appeared in the Forth and besieged the castle on 18 July. The regent soon after joined in the siege on the land side. On 31 July the castle capitulated. By the terms of the capitulation the prisoners, of whom Knox was one, were to be sent to France in the galleys, and either liberated there or sent to any other country they chose except Scotland. They were taken to Fécamp, a port of Normandy, and thence up the Seine to Rouen, but, in breach of the terms of their surrender, were dispersed in several prisons. Knox remained with the galleys, which sailed to Nantes and lay in the Loire all the winter. In the summer of 1548 the galleys returned to the Scotch coast. The prisoners' treatment, though strict, was not very rigid.
Balnaves composed his ‘Treatise on Justification by Faith’ in the castle of Rouen, and managed to send it to Knox in the galley Notre Dame. Knox digested it into chapters and forwarded it, with an epistle, to the congregation of the castle of St. Andrews in 1548. It reached the hands of his friends at Ormiston, but was first published in 1584 by the French printer Vautrollier, who explains, in a dedication to Lady Sandilands, the mother of Knox's pupil Cockburn, that it had been unsuccessfully sought for by Knox after his return to Scotland, and accidentally recovered by Richard Bannatyne [q. v.], Knox's amanuensis, in the hands of some children at play. As the earliest of his known writings, it is remarkable for the clearness with which it propounds the Lutheran doctrine that ‘faith is only justifiable before God, without all aid and merit of our works.’ In February 1549 his own release was effected, probably by the intercession of Edward VI, and he came to England.
On 7 April 1549 Knox received 5l., ‘by way of reward, from the king's privy council,’ and was sent by the council to preach at Berwick, where he remained two years, attracting a large congregation. While there he prepared and probably issued a tract, of which the first edition extant was published in 1554: ‘A Declaration what true Prayer is, how we should pray, and for what we should pray.’ On 4 April 1550 he was summoned, at the instance of Tunstall, the Romanist bishop of Durham, to answer for having upheld in his preaching ‘that the mass was idolatry.’ His defence, afterwards printed along with a letter to Mary of Guise, the queen regent, in 1556, was a syllogistic argument: ‘All service invented by the brain of man in the religion of God, without his own express command, is idolatry. The mass is invented by the brain of man without the command of God; therefore it is idolatry.’ He explained that the mass was abomination, and concluded by distinguishing the Lord's Supper of the protestants at the communion-table from the sacrifice of the mass, which the priest offered at the altar. Neither Tunstall nor any one else answered him. Probably most of the council were lukewarm or favourable. Nothing came of this, his first prosecution.
A tract of two or three pages, containing ‘in a Sum, according to the Holy Scriptures, what opinions we Christians haif of the Lordis Supper, callit The Sacrament of the Bodie and Blude of our Saviour Jesus Christ,’ printed without date, was probably issued in the same year for general circulation. About the end of 1550 he removed to Newcastle, where he served as preacher in the church of St. Nicholas, and in autumn 1551 he was appointed one of six royal chaplains, with a salary of 40l., of which the first payment was made by the privy council on 27 Oct. 1552. While at Newcastle he denounced from the pulpit the execution of Somerset. As king's chaplain he took part in the revision of the second prayer-book of Edward VI, issued 1 Nov. 1552, and is credited with the ‘black rubric,’ which explained that the act of kneeling meant no adoration of the bread and wine, ‘for that idolatry is to be abhorred by all faithful Christians.’ A letter from John Utenhove to Bullinger, dated London, 12 Oct. 1552, doubtless refers to Knox as ‘a pious preacher, chaplain to the Duke of Northumberland,’ who, in a sermon before the king, ‘inveighed with great freedom against kneeling at the Lord's Supper.’ He went to London in connection with the preparation of the church articles, which were submitted on 20 Oct., before their issue, to the royal chaplains, but soon returned to Newcastle. On 27 Oct. Northumberland wrote to Cecil, recommending the king to appoint Knox to the Rochester bishopric. On 23 Nov. the duke again reminded the king's secretaries that ‘some order be taken for Knox, otherwise you shall not avoid the Scots from out of Newcastle;’ but on 7 Dec., after he had seen Knox at Chelsea by Cecil's request, and found him not so pliable as he thought the offer of a bishopric should have made him, Northumberland altered his tone. He had found Knox ‘neither grateful nor pleasable,’ and wishes to have ‘no more to do with him than to wish him well.’ On Christmas day 1552 Knox was again at Newcastle, where he preached and declared that ‘whosoever in his heart was enemy to Christ's gospel then preached in England was enemy also to God, a secret traitor to the crown and commonwealth of England.’ A letter Northumberland received from Knox in January 1553, when the latter had been threatened with an accusation by Lord Wharton and Brandling, mayor of Newcastle, encouraged that nobleman again to befriend him, but in a way which shows he no longer regarded him as a man of much consequence. He calls him repeatedly ‘poor Knox,’ says ‘his letter shows what perplexity the poor soul remaineth in,’ and, dropping all mention of the bishopric, asks only that something ‘might be done for his comfort.’ In March new charges, to which Knox refers in his letters to Mrs. Bowes, were made to Lord Westmoreland, but these, too, broke down, for on the 23rd he says: ‘This assault of Satan has been to his confusion and to the glory of God.’
Knox himself states that he declined the bishopric because he was unwilling to accept even the modified formularies of the English church as leaning to Roman doctrine, though he was favourable to an office similar to the bishop's. A warrant of 2 Feb. 1553 to the archbishop to appoint him to the living of All Hallows, in Bread Street, London, was perhaps a compliance with Northumberland's last request, but in April he declined this preferment, and was summoned before the privy council. After a long debate between him and the council, in which he set forth his objections to the English ministry, he was dismissed with the gentle admonition ‘that they were sorry he was of a contrary mind to the common order,’ to which he replied ‘that he was more sorry that a common order should be contrary to Christ's institution.’ In the same month he preached his second and last sermon before Edward VI on the text ‘He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me,’ in which he affirmed that the most godly princes had most ungodly officers. Citing the example of the good king Hezekiah, he applied it to the English court. No wonder the bold preacher had enemies at court. But the English reformers could not afford to dispense with his services; and on 2 June 1553 he was sent as a preacher to Buckinghamshire, an office which gave him more liberty, and which his conscience distinguished from a settled charge. On the 6th of the following month Edward VI died, and as Mary Tudor for a time tolerated the protestants, he continued his preaching tour in Buckingham and Kent till October. England was fast becoming unsafe for a man of Knox's opinions, and a tract entitled ‘A Confession and Declaration of Prayer upon the Death of that most virtuous and famous King, Edward VI,’ issued in July 1554, though it contained a prayer ‘to illuminate the heart of our Sovereign Lady Queen Marie with pregnant gifts of Thy Holy Ghoste,’ had to conceal its place of printing under the ironical imprint, ‘At Rome, before the Castel of St. Angel, at the signe of Sanct Peter.’
Knox returned to Newcastle in December, but before the publication of his tract he had fled to Dieppe, where he remained from 20 Jan. 1554 to the end of February. While resident at Berwick in 1549 he had made the acquaintance of the family of Bowes of Streatlam Castle in Durham, and gained the friendship of Elizabeth, wife of Richard Bowes, captain of Norham [see Bowes, Elizabeth]. This lady accepted him as her spiritual adviser, and promised him the hand of her fifth daughter, Marjory. Their marriage, or betrothal, opposed by her father, was probably not celebrated till July 1553, after which he refers to Marjory as his wife. To her mother he had long used the signature ‘your Son.’ Mrs. Bowes was about his own age. The correspondence that passed between her and her son-in-law was always affectionate: she was confiding and importunate, he consolatory and invigorating, though as time went on he found his position as her spiritual guide somewhat tiring—‘faschious’ is his expressive Scotch word. Mrs. Bowes was afflicted with the religious melancholy which the Calvinistic doctrine of assurance sometimes produced. Knox himself in one letter to her admits that he was also on one occasion oppressed by a doubt whether he was one of the elect. This was for him the rarest experience. A complete conviction that his sins were forgiven, and that he and those who believed with him were the chosen people, accompanied him through life. As Mrs. Bowes subsequently left her husband and joined Knox and her daughter at Geneva, the connection gave rise to unwarranted scandal (cf. Knox, Answer to a Letter of a Jesuit named Tyrie, 1572, advertisement). Just as he was leaving Dieppe in the end of February 1554, he sent home two tracts: ‘An Exposition of the Sixth Psalm,’ in a letter addressed to Mrs. Bowes signed, ‘at the very point of my journey, your Son, with sorrowful heart, J. K.,’ part of which had been written in London. A longer letter was entitled ‘A Godly Letter sent to the Faithful in London, Newcastle, and Berwick;’ of this there are two editions, one with the colophon ‘from Wittemberg, by Nicholas Dorcaster, anno 1554, the 8th of May,’ and the other with the fictitious imprint, ‘In Rome, before the Castel of St. Angel, at the signe of Sanct Peter, in the month of July in the year of our Lord 1554,’ and the device of Hugh Singleton. A manuscript copy has the postscript, ‘The peace of God rest with you all, from ane sore-troubled heart upon my departure from Diep 1553, whither God knoweth.’ It is a vehement denunciation of the mass. In the spring (1554) he journeyed through France and Switzerland, and at Geneva met Calvin for the first time. Calvin gave him an introduction to Bullinger, the reformer of Zurich. Knox sent, on 10 and 30 May, epistles to his afflicted brethren in England after returning to Dieppe to learn the position of affairs in England and Scotland. ‘Since the 28th of January,’ he wrote in the earlier letter, ‘I have travelled through all the congregations of Helvetia, and reasonit with all the pastours and many other learned men upon sic matters as now I cannot submit to writing.’ The matters were indeed dangerous, and involved the questions ‘whether a female can rule a kingdom by divine right, and transfer the right to her husband;’ ‘whether obedience is to be rendered to a magistrate who enforces idolatry;’ and ‘to which party must godly persons attach themselves in the case of a religious nobility resisting an idolatrous sovereign.’ Bullinger reported to Calvin the cautiously vague replies that he made to Knox. In the same year Knox published ‘A Faithful Admonition to the Professors of God's Faith in England, 1554,’ which was printed on 20 July at ‘Kalykow,’ perhaps a pseudonym for Geneva or Dieppe. He there directs the whole force of his attack against the Spanish marriage of Mary Tudor.
In the summer of 1554 Knox returned to Geneva, and remained there till November, when he accepted the call which the English congregation at Frankfort-on-Maine had sent him on 24 Sept. to be one of their pastors. He accepted it unwillingly, he says in his ‘History,’ ‘at the commandment of that notable servant of God, John Calvin.’ The difficulties which he had foreseen soon arose. The English congregation at Frankfort had been formed in the end of July 1554 by a few refugees from the Marian persecution. The magistrates, with the friendly co-operation of a French protestant congregation already established, allowed the English the use of the French church. The English subscribed the French confession of faith, and were allowed the English order of service, with some modifications, the omission of the responses, the litany, and parts of the sacramental liturgy which were deemed superstitious. Soon after Knox's arrival, the English exiles in Strasburg offered to join their fellow-countrymen in Frankfort, but first inquired what parts of the English service book were sanctioned at Frankfort. Knox and other members of his congregation answered (3 Dec.) that whatever in that book could be shown to stand with God's word was admissible. It was agreed to submit the English service book, of which Knox and Whittingham and others made a summary in Latin, to Calvin. Calvin, while counselling moderation, recommended a new order for a new church. Knox, Whittingham, and three others were directed by the congregation to draw up ‘some order meant for their state and time,’ and accordingly compiled the liturgy, afterwards published in 1556, and known as ‘The Order of Geneva.’ But the work proved unsatisfactory to many, and Knox, Whittingham, and two others were invited to make a second attempt. Some modification was agreed upon; Knox counselled concessions, and it was determined that the new ‘order’ should be observed till the end of April 1555. If any further dispute arose, it was to be referred to Calvin, Martyr, and Bullinger, and two other divines. A reconciliation followed, and ‘the holy communion was upon this happy agreement ministered.’ But the cessation of hostilities was temporary. On 13 March Dr. Richard Cox [q. v.] came with others from England. The small band of protestant exiles were thereupon divided into Coxians and Knoxians. At church the newcomers insisted on making responses after the minister, although Knox and the seniors of the church had previously admonished them to desist.
Knox one Sunday charged the Coxians from the pulpit with breaking the agreement. The matter was fully debated on the Tuesday following. Knox urged, in a spirit of bravado, that the Coxians should be admitted to vote as members of the congregation. He bade them condemn him if they dared. He was taken at his word, and the majority declared against him. He was now prohibited from preaching, and another conference of three days failed to reconcile the conflicting parties. On the third day Knox passionately denounced the proposal to use in the morning service prescribed words of prayer and praise not to be found in scripture. He was thereupon accused before the magistrates by a friend of Cox of treason in describing the emperor, in his ‘Admonition to the People of England,’ ‘as no less enemy to Christ than Nero,’ and in attacking Mary. The magistrates finally, through Williams and Whittingham, two of his friends, sent him an order to leave Frankfort. The night before he left he preached at his lodgings to some fifty persons on the Resurrection and the joys prepared for the elect. Escorted by his friends for a few miles, he proceeded at once to Geneva, where he was well received by Calvin, who condemned the proceedings of the majority. Ridley wrote to Grindal shortly before his own martyrdom, lamenting ‘that our brother Knox could not bear with our Book of Common Prayer,’ and while admitting that ‘a man (as he is) of wit and learning may find plausible grounds of dissent, doubted that he could soundly disprove it by God's word.’ But to Knox any colour of Roman ritual necessarily meant Roman doctrine, and was therefore anti-Christian.
On his return to Geneva, he and his friend Christopher Goodman [q. v.] were chosen ministers of the English congregation, but his heart still turned homewards. The register of the church of Nostre Dame la Neuve, to the south-east of the cathedral, where the congregation was allowed to worship, records in 1555 that Goodman and Anthony Gilby [q. v.] were appointed to fill Knox's place as minister in his absence. In August 1555 he went to Dieppe, crossed to the east coast of Scotland, and in November joined Mrs. Bowes and her daughter at Berwick. The comparative toleration which the regent was at that time allowing to the protestants enabled him to spend about nine months in his native country. The progress of the Reformation since he left Scotland had been rapid. He found houses open to him in every town, and, when the churches were closed, the seats of the country gentlemen became preaching centres. The converts to the new doctrines belonged to every class. Knox went through the country preaching, discussing, and writing. At Edinburgh he lodged with a burgess, James Sym, to whose house Erskine of Dun, in Angus, and many countrymen and their wives came to hear him. Among other topics he discussed at a supper given by the Laird of Dun the question, then much agitated, whether it was lawful to go to mass. Lethington was of the company, and ‘nothing was omitted,’ says Knox, ‘that might make for the temporiser;’ but every point was so fully answered that Lethington at last confessed, ‘I see that our shifts will save nothing before God, seeing they stand us in so small stead before man.’ From Edinburgh he went to Dun, where he stayed a month, preaching daily to the principal men of the county. From Dun he returned to Calder in West Lothian, the residence of Sir James Sandilands, one of whose sons was preceptor of Torphichen and head of the Knights Hospitallers in Scotland. He met there, besides many gentlemen, three young nobles, who became leaders in the Reformation: Lord Erskine, afterwards sixth earl of Mar, Lord Lorne, afterwards fifth earl of Argyll, and Lord James Stewart, prior of St. Andrews, afterwards the regent Murray. During the winter of 1555–6 he taught in Edinburgh, and after Christmas went to Kyle in Ayrshire, where the doctrine of the lollards still lingered, and preached in the houses of county gentlemen, chiefly small barons, who supported Knox in large numbers, while the burgesses were even more enthusiastic. For a time a common cause united burgh and country. Before Easter, 5 April 1556, Knox was summoned by the Earl of Glencairn to Finlayston, near Port Glasgow, and preached and administered the sacrament. He then returned to Calder, where disciples from Edinburgh and the country came to hear him, and to sit for the first time at the Lord's Table—a scene painted by Wilkie. A union, perhaps a formal bond of smaller numbers but of similar character to later covenants, ‘to maintain the true preaching of the gospel to the uttermost of their power,’ was hallowed by participation in the most sacred office of religion. Alarmed at the success of his preaching, the bishops summoned Knox to appear at the Blackfriars kirk in Edinburgh on 15 May 1556. He came, attended by John Erskine [q. v.] of Dun and a number of other gentlemen, like a feudal lord with his retainers, and the bishops suddenly dropped proceedings. Knox, instead of appearing as a criminal, preached in the Bishop of Dunkeld's lodging to a larger audience than before. He continued to preach forenoon and afternoon for ten days, and after William Keith, earl Marshal, and Henry Drummond had heard him, they desired him to write to the regent to try to move her to hear the word of God. He sent his famous letter, printed in 1556 (enlarged edition, Geneva, 1558), entitled ‘The Letter to the Queen Dowager,’ which Glencairn presented, but Mary of Guise passed it on to Beaton, bishop of Glasgow, saying, ‘Please you, my lord, to read a pasquil.’ This term, derived from the scurrilous lampoons Italian satirists circulated under the eyes of the pope and cardinals, irritated Knox. Before issuing the letter from the press he added words declaring, in the prophetic strain he affected, ‘God will shortly send his messengers, with whom she would not be able to jest.’
About this time a call reached him from the English church at Geneva, which he accepted. His farewell services in Scotland were held for several days at Castle Campbell, near Dollar, with the old Earl of Argyll and others of his clan and neighbourhood. In July he crossed to Dieppe, whither he had sent his wife and mother-in-law, and they went straight to Geneva. The bishops, after he was gone, again summoned him to Edinburgh, and in his absence condemned him, and burnt his effigy at the cross. But before the end of harvest 1556 he had reached Geneva. On 16 Dec. in the three following years, 1556, 1557, and 1558, Knox and Goodman were chosen ministers by the congregation. Closer contact brought him into terms of warm friendship with Calvin, who directed not only the spiritual, but the temporal affairs of the Swiss republic. As Knox learnt from Wishart how to preach, he now learnt from Calvin how to govern.
In May 1557 James Sym and James Barrow, Edinburgh burgesses, came to Geneva with a letter from Glencairn and other nobles, which entreated him to return to Scotland, now that the persecution was diminishing. Knox, after consulting Calvin and others, replied that he would come as soon as he might ‘put in order the dear flock committed to his charge.’ Whittingham was chosen to fill his place, and on 23 Oct. he arrived at Dieppe. He found there letters of a contrary purport, dissuading him from coming to Scotland, and at once sent on 27 Oct. a sharp letter rebuking his Scottish friends for their vacillation. When this letter was received, along with another afterwards published to the whole nobility, and special missives to the lairds of Dun and Pittarrow, a consultation was held; and the nobles, including old Argyll and his son Lorne, Glencairn, Morton, and Erskine of Dun, and other gentry, signed a bond at Edinburgh on 3 Dec. 1557 by which they promised, ‘before the Majesty of God and his congregation, with all diligence to … establish the most blessed word of God and his congregation.’ They also sent urgent letters to Calvin and Knox urging his return, which were delivered in November. Knox, on 1 and 17 Dec., sent letters to the brethren in Scotland and to the nobility, with exhortations to maintain their principles, not to suddenly disobey authority in things lawful, but ‘to defend their brethren from persecution and tyranny, be it against princes or emperors.’ He finally resolved not to run the risk of returning; otherwise he might possibly have shared the fate of Walter Milne [q. v.], who was burnt for heresy by Archbishop Hamilton.
While still at Dieppe he wrote on 7 Dec. a preface to an ‘Apology for the Protestants in Prison in Paris,’ which he translated, with additions of his own, for the benefit of his Scottish brethren. He at the same time officiated in the protestant congregation not only at Dieppe but also at Rochelle, where he declared that within two or three years he hoped to preach in St. Giles in Edinburgh.
Early in 1558 he returned to Geneva. In that busy year he published six tracts, which covered the whole ground of the conflict raging in Scotland. The titles of four were respectively ‘The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women,’ ‘A Letter to the Queen Dowager Regent of Scotland, augmented and explained by the Author,’ ‘The Appellation from the Sentence pronounced by the Bishops and Clergy, addressed to the Nobility and Estates of Scotland,’ and ‘A Letter addressed to the Commonalty of Scotland.’ The ‘Appellation’ was appended to Gilby's ‘Admonition’ (Geneva, 1558), and, like the ‘Letter,’ restated his doctrinal views, and was addressed to the commons in the tone of a democratic leader. It included a summary of the ‘Second Blast … against Women,’ the only form in which the ‘First Blast’ was continued. In a fifth publication of the same year he bade the inhabitants of Newcastle and Berwick stand by his doctrine; and in a sixth he briefly exhorted England to embrace the gospel speedily. The last two were written at fever-heat, and in his most fiery style. To the exhortation which he addressed to England he appended a list of the names of nearly three hundred Marian martyrs, ‘in thee and by thee, O England, most cruelly murdered by Fire and Imprisonment for the testimony of Christ Jesus and his eternal Verity, whose Blood from under the Altar crieth aloud to be avenged.’
The attitude of Knox, avowed in the ‘First Blast,’ towards the political government of women was dictated by the hostility to the Reformation already displayed by Mary Tudor, Catherine de' Medici, and Mary of Guise. Knox laboured to prove that ‘to promote a woman to bear rule, superiority, dominion, or empire above any realm is repugnant to nature, contrary to God, and, finally, it is the subversion of good order, of all equity and justice.’ His work was published without his name, but the authorship was well known, and it was intimated that he would himself announce it when he blew his third ‘Blast,’ which never appeared. The ‘Blast’ did not produce the effect intended. Foxe the martyrologist expostulated with Knox, who replied on 18 May 1558, admitting his vehemence, but adding, ‘To me it is enough to say that black is not white, and man's tyranny and foolishness is not God's perfect ordinance.’ Calvin, more inclined to compromise, assured Cecil two years later that ‘for a whole year he was ignorant of its publication,’ that he had never read it, and that he dissuaded Knox from publishing it. On 17 Nov. 1558, within the year of its publication, Mary Tudor died and Elizabeth reigned. It was then seen how imprudent had been the argument of Knox. The new queen, the most powerful ally of the reformers among crowned heads, treated the work as a personal insult, and would not allow Knox to pass through England. Her attitude through life towards the Scottish reformation was affected by the untimely publication. It required all the tact of Cecil to prevent an open breach. It was in vain that Knox attempted to explain. ‘My First Blast,’ he writes, ‘hath blown from me all my friends in England.’ John Aylmer [q. v.], afterwards the bishop of London, one of the English exiles, wrote an answer to it, in which he speaks favourably of Knox's ‘honesty and godliness,’ and even says that he will not disdain to hear better reasons. Knox has been sometimes represented as having withdrawn his opinion out of deference to Elizabeth, but he himself wrote later to the queen: ‘I cannot deny the writing of a Book against the usurped Authority and unjust Regiment of Women; neither yet am I minded to retract or call back any principal point or proposition of the same till truth and verity do further appear.’ Still he felt he had gone too far, and in the summary of the ‘Second Blast’ his propositions are altered from special application to women to a general argument that a king can only lawfully reign over a people professing Christ by election, not by birth nor propinquity—a doctrine as little palatable, though not so irritating, to Elizabeth.
Knox left Geneva on 7 Jan. 1559, after receiving the freedom of the city. Reaching Dieppe in March, he sailed for Leith on 22 April, and arrived at Edinburgh on 2 May. Next day he wrote to Mrs. Lock, one of his English friends: ‘I am come, I praise my God even in the heart of the battle. … Assist me, sister, with your prayers, that now I shrink not when the battle approacheth.’ Remaining only two nights, he went straight to Dundee, where the reformers of Angus and Mearns were assembled. With them he advanced to Perth. John Erskine of Dun brought in May the news that Mary of Guise was, contrary to her promise, proceeding with the trial of the ministers who championed the Reformation. Knox was included in the number, and was one of those who were outlawed for not appearing. On the day of Erskine's arrival in Perth, Knox preached against the mass as idolatry. A priest began to celebrate by opening the tabernacle on the high altar. A riot followed, stones were thrown, and the altar was soon demolished. The people, proceeding to seek ‘some spoil’ (in Knox's phrase), sacked the monasteries of the Grey and Black Friars and the Charterhouse. In two days only the walls remained of the religious foundations in the city. Knox calls these the acts of ‘the rascal multitude,’ but his voice gave the signal. He stayed in Perth to instruct the people who were ‘young and rude in Christ,’ while the men of Angus returned home; but hearing that Mary of Guise was determined to avenge the monasteries, they came back, fortified the town, and on 22 May addressed a letter to her, declaring that they had taken up arms solely because pursued for conscience sake, and threatening to appeal to the king of France, Mary their queen, and her husband. Knox probably was the author of this letter, and of another addressed to the nobility, claiming their aid. In reply to messengers sent by Mary of Guise to ask the meaning of the movement in Perth, it was stated by the leaders of the reforming party that if the regent ‘would suffer the religion then begun to proceed, they, the town, and all they had were at her command.’ But Knox went to the messengers' lodgings on 25 May, and boldly directed them to tell Mary in his name that she was fighting not against man, but God. This speech was reported, according to Knox, ‘so far as they could.’ Her reply was to send the Lyon herald, ordering Knox and his friends to leave Perth under pain of treason. Meanwhile the Earl of Glencairn reached Perth, with the news that the congregations of Kyle and Cunningham were advancing to the reformers' relief. But after negotiations, Mary's envoys (Argyll and Lord James Stewart) on 28 May 1559 persuaded the reformers to evacuate Perth on condition of an amnesty, and that no French garrison should be left in the town. Argyll and Lord James promised that if the condition was not kept they would join the congregations. Next day Knox preached, thanking God there had been no bloodshed, but exhorting all to be ready, for the promise would not be kept. On the 30th, Argyll and Lord James before leaving entered into a bond with Glencairn to support the congregations if anything was attempted against them, and shortly after they left Perth they rejoined the reformers at St. Andrews, and issued a summons to the men of Angus to meet them on 4 June for reformation in Fife. Dun, Wishart of Pittarrow, and the provost of Dundee kept the appointment, and brought Knox with them. On Friday, 2 June, he preached at Crail, on Saturday at Anstruther, and announced his intention of preaching on Sunday at St. Andrews. Archbishop Hamilton sent a message that if Knox preached in his town he would be saluted with culverins. The queen with her French troops lay at Falkland. The reformers hesitated how to act, but on Sunday Knox mounted the pulpit, and the archbishop fled to Falkland. Taking as his text the ejection of the buyers and sellers from the Temple, he applied it to the corruption of the papacy, and as a result the town, headed by the magistrates, proved their zeal by removing all ‘the monuments of idolatry with expedition.’ Knox continued his preaching for three days, and the doctors were as dumb, he says, as the idols burnt in their presence.
The French troops of the queen regent, under the Duke of Chatelherault and D'Osell, were meantime advancing towards St. Andrews. The lords, the gentlemen of Fife and Angus, and the burghers of Dundee and St. Andrews collected at Cupar Muir to resist their approach. A force came to the reformers' aid from the other side of the Forth. It ‘rained men’ is Knox's forcible expression. But neither side wished to risk an engagement, and a truce or assurance to last for eight days was made. Both sides at once complained of infringements of the agreement. Perth was retaken by the reformers before Sunday, 25 June, and the abbey of Scone demolished. Knox represents himself as sent to try to save it, but before he came the ‘idols and dormitory were pulled down,’ and all he could do was to preserve the bishops' girnal. Stirling was next taken. On 28 June 1559 ‘The Congregation,’ as the main body of reformers was called, came to Edinburgh, accompanied by Knox and Goodman. Knox preached the same day at St. Giles, and on the morrow in the church of the abbey. On 7 July the inhabitants met in the Tolbooth, and chose him for their minister. He seems shortly afterwards to have revisited St. Andrews, but was again in Edinburgh by the 20th. The queen regent, at Dunbar, declined to make terms, and marched on Edinburgh. Leith opened its gates to her, and Lord Erskine, who commanded the castle of Edinburgh, was friendly, or at least neutral. Placed between two fires, the congregation was forced to a truce on 24 July, in accordance with which Knox and the congregation left Edinburgh on the 26th, and marched by Linlithgow to Stirling, where they subscribed a bond, binding themselves not to negotiate with the regent except by common consent. The regent temporised with the lords of the congregation, and issued proclamations to the people in expectation of the arrival of French troops from Francis and Mary, now, by the death of Henry II, king and queen of France.
Immediately after Cupar Muir, Knox had pointed out to Kirkcaldy of Grange the necessity of seeking English aid. Kirkcaldy had consequently entered into communication through Sir Henry Percy with Cecil, who received the overtures in a cautious but friendly manner. Knox, who had already written to Cecil from Dieppe, without receiving a reply, again addressed Cecil on 20 July, enclosing his letter to Queen Elizabeth. He addressed the latter as ‘The virtuous and Godlie Queen Elizabeth,’ and made a double-edged apology for the ‘Blast,’ which he said neither touched her person nor was prejudicial to liberty, if the time when it was written was considered. To Cecil he said that the time was come for the union of the protestant party in England and Scotland, and that he had a communication he wished to make if some one were appointed—the sooner the better—to meet him. Percy in reply, by Cecil's orders, invited him to Alnwick, and Cecil requested a personal interview at Stamford. This arrangement was never carried out. Cecil, writing to Knox from Oxford on 28 July, the day he expected to have met him at Stamford, declared he was ready to meet him if duly accredited, but forbore till then to ‘descend to the bottom of things.’
About the beginning of August, Knox and another minister, Robert Hamilton, went by sea from Pittenweem to Holy Island, and in Percy's absence Knox visited Sir James Croft at Berwick. He had received on 1 Aug. 1559 instructions from the congregation at Stirling urging the necessity of a league with England to suppress the Roman antichrist, and to maintain the liberties of England and Scotland against foreign violation. Knox now suggested to Croft that money should be granted to support a garrison in Stirling and forces sent by sea to Dundee and Perth, and to seize the fort at Broughty Ferry; he added that pensions would be acceptable to some of the nobility. On 6 Aug. Knox wrote to Croft of his safe return to Stirling; and urged the English council to be ‘more forward in the common action.’ The lords of congregation wrote to the same purport, and a convention meeting at Glasgow on 10 Aug. appealed to Cecil for a plainer answer. Writing from St. Andrews on the 15th, Knox frankly informed Cecil ‘that unless without delay money be furnished to pay their soldiers, … they will be compelled every man to seek the next way for his own safety,’ and added in a postscript: ‘Haste answer of the former articles, for we have great need of comfort at the present.’ At last, on 24 Aug., Sir Ralph Sadler, who was on his way to Scotland, was directed to secretly furnish a little money to Knox's friends. The convention again met on 10 Sept. at Stirling, where Arran joined the congregation, and through him Chatelherault, who as Duke of Hamilton claimed to be next heir to the crown. On 21 Sept. Knox wrote to Croft from St. Andrews, again pressing that money should be given to the particular men of whom he had furnished a list. The regent had vainly attempted to detach individuals from the reforming party. Knox and others refused to receive her letters because of the pledge they had given not to treat with her separately. In his second letter to her he asserted that he had never shown any hate against her, but only gave her good counsel, yet threatened God's plague upon her and her posterity if she persisted in her malice against Christ Jesus, his religion, and ministers. This letter Lockhart, the regent's messenger, declined to deliver to his mistress.
Encouraged by the adhesion of so many of the chief nobles and the hope of English support, and alarmed by the fortification of Leith and the arrival of more French troops, the convention in Edinburgh, on 21 Oct. 1559, proceeded to the bold step of deposing the regent. The sentence, owing to Knox's counsel, was worded as one of suspension.
The reformers now laid siege to Leith, but there was dissension among their leaders, and a sally made on Edinburgh by the besieged French garrison forced the reformers to withdraw to Stirling on 5 Nov. 1559. Next day Knox preached on the 80th Psalm, and ascribed their discomfiture to their own sins and dissensions, applying his discourse to the Duke of Hamilton and his friends who were present, and whom he specially distrusted. He ended with a strong assurance that God would give his children the victory in the end. The council met on the afternoon of this sermon, and Lethington, formerly the regent's secretary, who had joined the congregation before it left Edinburgh, was sent to London to implore the help of Elizabeth.
Knox was still writing urgent letters to Croft, Cecil, and others, pressing not merely for money, but for troops and experienced commanders. In one letter he adroitly alluded to Mary's claim to the English crown, an argument for supporting the congregation which touched Elizabeth, he knew, more nearly than the principles of the Scottish Reformation. At length these tactics succeeded. Elizabeth sent a fleet to the Forth under Admiral Winter before the end of January, and a treaty between her and the lords of the congregation was concluded at Berwick on 27 Feb. 1559–60.
Knox had remained in St. Andrews since November 1559, and the French troops in their raids on Fife had come within eight miles of the town and placed him in imminent danger. The arrival of the English ships filled him with exultation. The French troops withdrew from the neighbourhood. Towards the end of March the English land forces joined the reformers, and Leith was again besieged. Knox returned to Edinburgh in April 1560, and was active both in preaching and in counsel. On 1 April Mary of Guise took refuge in the castle of Edinburgh. On 7 May an assault on Leith failed, and Mary, watching from the castle wall the corpses of her enemies lying in the sun along the wall, exclaimed, ‘Yonder is the fairest tapestry I ever saw.’ Knox denounced her cruel speech in the pulpit, and affirmed ‘that God would revenge the cruelty done to his image,’ a prophecy which he believed was fulfilled by her death from dropsy on 16 June 1560. Two days before preliminaries had been adjusted at Berwick for a treaty between France and England, which was concluded at Edinburgh on 6 July, and which provided for the withdrawal of English and French troops.
The Scottish parliament met on 1 Aug. The commissioners of the burghs, with some of the nobility and barons, had previously been appointed to see to the ‘equal distribution of ministers,’ a phrase and idea of Knox's. Knox himself was appointed to Edinburgh, and in all the proceedings which quickly followed for the ecclesiastical settlement he took the foremost part. During the sittings of parliament in August 1560 he preached from Haggai, with special application to the times, and to the duty of providing for the temporal wants of the church. A commission was at once given to Knox and others to draw up in several heads the sum of the reformed doctrine. In four days the confession of faith, which Knox had already at his fingers' ends, was completed. It was adopted on 17 Aug. without alteration of a sentence.
Three short acts abolished the authority of the bishop of Rome, idolatry, and the mass. Death was enacted as the penalty for a third offence in celebrating the mass. Letters were directed to Francis and Mary requiring them to ratify these acts according to the terms agreed to in the treaty of peace, but there can have been little expectation that such ratification would be obtained. Knox boldly declares in his ‘History’ that the want of ratification mattered nothing. ‘The sword and sceptre is rather a glorious vain ceremony than a substantial point of necessity required to a lawful parliament.’ The thin veil of a monarchy, whose representative was absent, was easily rent, and the democratic Reformation stood revealed.
Parliament rose on 25 Aug., and after its dissolution a consultation was held, which led to a commission to Knox and other ministers to draw up in a volume ‘the policy and discipline of the kirk as well as they had done the doctrine.’ The result was the compilation of the ‘First Book of Discipline,’ as it was called to distinguish it from the second, of which Andrew Melville was chief author. The first embodied the opinions which Knox had thought out for himself or embraced at Geneva. A more rigid discipline, rather than the absence of set forms of worship, was his standard of a true church. Although little of the correspondence between Calvin and Knox is preserved, Knox evidently kept the Swiss leader informed of the fortunes of the Reformation in Scotland, and received from him counsels of moderation, which Knox did not always approve. At a critical moment in the conflict with the regent Knox consulted Calvin whether the children of idolaters and excommunicated persons should be baptised until their parents testified their repentance. Calvin answered in the affirmative, but Knox inclined to the negative. In regard to ceremonies, Calvin wrote subsequently: ‘I think that your strictness, although it may displease many, will be regulated by discretion. … Certain things not positively opposed must be tolerated.’ Knox's ‘Book of Discipline’ showed little toleration; it treated (1) of office-bearers, organising the kirk on the Calvinistic model of presbyterian synods and general assemblies; (2) of worship; (3) of discipline, or the penal law of the kirk, and (4) of the patrimony of the kirk. Although many of the laity disliked the third point, which placed, despite the institution of lay elders, too much power in the hands of the ministers, it was chiefly on the last that Knox and the ministers differed from the nobles and gentry. The proposal made in the book was that the whole revenues of the old church should be devoted to the maintenance of education in the parish and burgh schools, the expenses of the ministers, and the relief of the aged and infirm poor, for able-bodied poor were to be compelled to work. The nobles had already whetted their appetites with the benefices transferred to lay impropriators, and the lairds had ceased to pay tithes. After perusing the book many days, the opposition was found so formidable that its adoption was delayed. Lethington called it a ‘devout imagination.’ Lord Erskine, the future regent Mar, led the opposition. No wonder, remarked Knox, ‘if the poor, the schools, and the ministers had their own, his kitchen would lack two parts and more of that he unjustly possesses.’ On 20 Dec. 1560 the first general assembly, of which Knox was of course a member, met, and after passing acts, chiefly relating to procedure, adjourned till 15 Jan. 1561. A certain number of the nobility, and among them the leaders of the reformed party, however, signed their approval of the ‘Book of Discipline’ on 27 Jan. 1561, but the dissent of others and their own lukewarmness caused it to remain a dead letter.
Knox soon afterwards compiled the form and order of the election of superintendents and the order of election of elders and deacons, published 9 March 1561. The Book of Common Order, which took the place of the English Book of Common Prayer until the time of Charles I and Laud, with the Psalms in metre and a translation of Calvin's catechism, were issued on 26 Dec. 1564, and were chiefly prepared by him.
Meanwhile, the only one of his works on which a claim can be made for him to be called a theologian, his ‘Treatise on Predestination,’ written in 1559, was first published at Geneva in 1560. Its title ran, ‘An Answer to a great number of Blasphemous Cavillations written by an Anabaptist and Adversarie to God's Eternal Predestination, and confuted by John Knox, minister of God's Word in Scotland.’ With an intense belief in the omnipotence of God and the corruption of man, he accepts the necessitarian hypothesis, and substituting the will of God for law, applied the doctrine of necessity to the spiritual as modern science does to the physical world.
About this time Knox lost his wife, the faithful companion of his exile. Calvin, consoling him, calls her ‘Your friend and wife, whose like is not found everywhere,’ and refers to her in a letter to Goodman as ‘the most delightful of wives.’ Knox felt her death, but his few extant letters to her, and a letter to Foxe the martyrologist, in which he says, ‘I used the help of my left hand, that is of my wife, in scribbling these few lines to you,’ do not present him in the character of a fond husband. His opinion of the inferiority of the sex was too firmly rooted to admit exception, even in his own household.
Queen Mary's husband, Francis II, died 5 Dec. 1560, and in the convention of estates, 15 Jan. 1561, the confession was read, and a debate on the mass was held by Knox on the one side, and Lesley, bishop of Ross, on the other. The noblemen present readily accepted Knox's views. By the convention's order, Lord James Stewart was sent to Queen Mary in France, and found her at St. Dizier on 15 April. Before his departure Knox had warned him that if he consented to her having mass publicly or privately within Scotland he betrayed the cause of God. While opposed to public Lord James was willing to concede private celebration, asking who could stop her. Against this Knox protested, and in a letter to Calvin, on 24 Oct. 1561, Knox sends the greeting of James Stewart, the queen's brother, ‘who, alone of those who frequent the court, opposes himself to impiety; yet he is fascinated amongst the rest.’ There can be no doubt that Lord James gave his sister assurance that her own religious observances would not be interfered with.
While Lord James was absent a riot occurred in Edinburgh between the common people, who wished to play Robin Hood, and the magistrates, who put it down and sentenced the ringleaders. Knox was asked to intercede for the latter, but declined, for, as he pointed out, he feared the mob as little as the sovereign or the nobles.
On 19 Aug. 1561 Mary Stuart returned to Scotland, and the conflict that Knox had foreseen between her Roman catholic convictions and the protestant convictions of so many of her subjects at once commenced. On Sunday, 24 Aug., mass was celebrated in the chapel of Holyrood, Lord James keeping the door to prevent a riot. Next Sunday Knox preached, declaring ‘one mass was more fearful to him than 10,000 armed enemies.’ Four years later Knox reproached himself for want of fervency, that ‘I did not what in me lay to have suppressed that idol in the beginning.’ He was summoned to the queen's presence, and the first of the interviews which he has so vividly described—we have only his own account of them—took place at Holyrood. Mary accused him of raising her subjects against her mother and herself, and of writing against ‘the Regiment of Women.’ He answered he had only rebuked idolatry and taught people to worship God according to his word, and that the book had been written against the wicked Jezebel of England. While he maintained his opinion, he promised not to hurt her authority if she did not defile her hands with the blood of the saints. A conversation followed, in which he asserted the right of subjects to rise against a sovereign who opposed God's word. The queen declared the Roman kirk was hers, and that Knox wished her subjects to obey him instead of their sovereign. On leaving he prayed God she might yet be another Deborah, but when asked his thought of her by his friends, he answered, ‘If there be not in her a proud mind, a crafty wit, and indurate heart against God and his word, my judgment faileth me,’ and he wrote to Cecil, ‘In communication with her I espied such craft as I have not found in such age.’
In the autumn of 1561, after Mary's return from a tour through the country, mass was again celebrated at Holyrood on All Hallows' day (1 Nov.). A conference was at once held in James Macgill's house between the leaders of the congregation to consider the situation. Lord James, Morton, the Earl Marshal, Lethington, Bellenden the justice clerk, and Macgill himself were there, with Knox and other ministers. Macgill expressed the opinion that ‘her subjects might not lawfully take her mass from her.’ But the ministers were of a contrary mind, and proposed that letters should be sent to Geneva for the opinion of that church. Knox offered to write, but Lethington shrewdly remarked that there lay much in the information sent, and proposed to act himself as secretary. The lords prevailed, and no letter was written. In December the general assembly met, but Lethington objected to its sitting without the queen's sanction, to which Knox replied: ‘Take from us the freedom of assemblies and you take from us the evangel.’ The knotty point of the ‘Book of Discipline’ was again brought forward. To objections raised by Lethington, Knox rejoined ‘that the book had been read publicly and all knew its contents.’ He failed again to carry its adoption, but resolutions were passed that idolatry should be suppressed, the churches planted with true ministers, and ‘some certain provision made for them according to equity and conscience.’ The discussion ended with the concession that the churchmen (i.e. the lay or ecclesiastical impropriators) should have two-thirds of these benefices, and the remaining third should be in the hands of a committee for such uses as should be afterwards settled. The third was afterwards reduced to a fourth, with the proviso that if a fourth was not found enough for the support of the ministers and the queen, a third or more might be taken. A return which was ordered of all ecclesiastical revenues was apparently never made. Knox inveighed against this compromise. ‘I see twa partis,’ he said, ‘freely given to the devil, and the third may be divided betwixt God and the devil. It will not be long before the devil shall have three parts of the third, and judge you then what God's portion shall be.’
The ministers' stipends were at last fixed at a hundred merks for the ordinary, and three hundred for the chief charges. The superintendents got double. Knox himself had two hundred and a free house. On 8 Feb. 1562 Lord James, who had been created Earl of Murray, was married at St. Giles to the daughter of the Earl Marshal. Knox officiated, and in the nuptial address warned Murray that if he became less favourable to the reformers it would be said his wife had changed his nature. He was much offended at the vanity of the dresses and banquets, and the divergence between his views and those of the future regent now began to show itself. Early in 1562 Knox made vain endeavours to reconcile James Hepburn, fourth earl of Bothwell [q. v.], and James Hamilton, third earl of Arran [q. v.]
On a Sunday towards the end of the same year (1562) Knox preached another violent sermon against the queen and her court, in which he denounced dancing and other vanities. He was sent for by Mary. Murray, Morton, Lethington, and some of the guard were present. According to Knox's account, he said that he did not utterly condemn dancing provided those who practised it did not neglect their principal vocation, and did not dance for the pleasure they took in the displeasure of God's people. Mary dismissed him, saying stronger words had been reported, and Knox grumbled at being called away from his book. He left her with ‘a reasonably merry countenance.’ Some of the bystanders wondering that he was not afraid, he remarked, ‘Why should the pleasing face of a gentlewoman frighten one who had looked on the faces of many angry men without fear?’ The assembly presented a supplication to the queen, in which the hand of Knox is visible, demanding reformation of the mass, punishment of vice, provision for the poor, the restoration of the glebes to the ministers, obedience to the superintendents, and, lastly, support of the ministers out of the thirds. Knox was appointed to visit Kyle and Galloway, and met the barons and gentlemen of these districts at Ayr on 4 Sept., when they subscribed a declaration promising to assist the whole body of protestants. He then passed by Nithsdale to Galloway, where he induced the Master of Maxwell to write to Bothwell to be on his good behaviour, and wrote to Chatelherault warning him against his bastard brother, the new archbishop of St. Andrews. While in Ayrshire Knox was challenged to a disputation by Quintin Kennedy [q. v.], abbot of Crosraguel, on the doctrine of the mass. It was held at Maybole in Ayrshire in September, and the substance of it was printed by Lekprevik at Edinburgh next year. Both sides claimed the victory, but it was a drawn battle. With another Roman apologist, Ninian Winzet [q. v.], schoolmaster of Linlithgow, who sent Knox a paper with questions in February 1562, the reformer had an epistolary but incomplete correspondence. In the beginning of 1563 he acted as one of the commissioners appointed by the assembly of 1562 for the trial of Paul Methven, minister of Jedburgh, for immorality, and takes credit for the condemnation of Methven as a contrast to the license the Roman church conceded to its ecclesiastics.
In the middle of April the queen sent for him to Lochleven, and in an audience of two hours before supper urged him to stay the persecution of the Romanists for saying mass, especially in the western shires. Knox, in return, exhorted her to administer the laws, and reminded her that the sword of justice belonged to God and not to any temporal sovereign. Next morning, before daybreak, she again summoned him to meet her when hawking near Kinross. Without going back on their former conference she started fresh topics—the offer of a ring to her by Ruthven, the appointment of Gordon, bishop of Athens, afterwards of Galloway, as a superintendent, and the quarrel between the Earl of Argyll and his wife, her bastard sister, in which she asked Knox to mediate. She concluded by promising to put the law in force as he had requested. Knox reports this conversation, to ‘let the world see,’ he says, ‘how deeply Mary Queen of Scotland could dissemble.’ While at Glasgow on 2 May, on his way to Dumfries, where he was sent to assist in the election of a superintendent, Knox wrote a severe letter to Argyll, whom he had already once before reconciled with his wife, although he was unable to heal the breach permanently. During the parliament which met in the Tolbooth on 20 May 1563, the barons, especially Murray, showed signs of yielding to Mary, against the wish of Knox and the ministers. Knox accordingly quarrelled with Murray, reminding him of his rise, and, in his habitual vein of prophecy, warning him that if he bore with impunity pestilent papists he would lose God's favour. In the result they ceased to speak to each other for eighteen months. Parliament confirmed Murray in his earldom, and passed an act of amnesty; but while pretending to take up the subject of discipline and the assignment of manses and glebes, the acts passed were so modified as to be of no value. Before the session closed Knox preached a political sermon, recalling to the nobility how he had been with them in the hour of danger, and exhorted them to let the queen understand that they ‘would agree with her in God,’ but were not bound ‘to agree with her in the Devil.’ He concluded by saying that he heard of many suitors for the queen's hand, but if they consented that an infidel, and ‘all Papists are infidels,’ should be head of their sovereign, they would so far as in their power banish Christ from the realm, and bring God's vengeance upon the country, themselves, and their sovereign. Incensed by such language the queen again summoned Knox to her presence. When he came she burst out in invectives, mingled with tears, and vowed revenge. ‘The chamber-boy could scarcely get napkins,’ says Knox, with grim mirth, ‘to dry her eyes.’ ‘What have you to do,’ she broke in, ‘with my marriage? What are you in this commonwealth ?’ To which he made the memorable answer, ‘A subject born within the same, and though neither earl, lord, nor baron, God has made me a profitable member,’ after which he repeated his denunciation of a papist marriage. Mary once more resorted to the feminine argument of tears, but Knox told her ‘he never delighted in the weeping of any of God's creatures, and could scarcely abide the tears of his own boys when he flogged them. But as he had only spoken truth he must sustain, though unwillingly, the royal tears rather than hurt his conscience or injure the commonwealth by silence.’ Mary, still more offended, ordered him out of her cabinet, and to remain in the antechamber. He obeyed, but occupied his time in warning her maids of honour that all their ‘gay gear’ would avail them nothing at the coming of the ‘knave Death.’ After the queen had ordered him to go to his own house she wished to have him prosecuted, but was advised to let him alone, and the ‘storm quieted in appearance but never in the heart.’
In the summer of 1563 she travelled through the west, and everywhere had the mass celebrated. On hearing this Knox began to use a daily prayer at table, ‘Deliver us, O Lord, from Idolatry.’ Soon after he wrote to the brethren in all quarters to come to Edinburgh for the defence of a zealous protestant, John Cranstoun, who was being prosecuted for violently denouncing the altar at Holyrood. His letter was divulged by a minister at Ayr to Henry Sinclair, president of the College of Justice, and communicated to the queen. The council decided it imported treason, and Knox was summoned to answer for it in the middle of December 1563. When he came his fearless and constant courage divided the hostile camp. The Master of Maxwell reproved Knox for convoking the lieges, and their friendship ceased, but Spens of Condie, the queen's advocate, stood by him, saying, ‘You will be accused, but God will assist you.’
Murray and Lethington made vain efforts to induce Knox to confess his offence, and in a few days he was summoned before the council. He came with so great a following that the stairs and passage leading to the chamber were full. When the queen had taken her seat, and saw Knox bareheaded at the other end of the table, she burst out laughing, and said: ‘Yon man garred me greet and grat never tears himself. I will see gif I can gar him greet.’ When Lethington asked if he had written the offending letter, he acknowledged the writing, and at the court's request read it aloud. After it was read the queen, looking round, said: ‘Heard ye ever a more treasonable letter ?’ Knox denied that he had committed any offence, and the nobles voted in his favour. When on 25 Dec. the assembly met, Knox remained silent until pressed to speak, when he asked the assembly whether he had done more in his letter than obey their commands. After he had been removed from the bar the vote was taken, and the whole kirk found that a charge had been given him to summon the brethren as often as danger appeared, and the act of writing was not his only but that of all.
In the beginning of 1564 the dancing and banqueting of the court went on, notwithstanding the threatenings of Knox and the preachers, who pointed to the great rain and frost in January and the meteors in February as warnings from heaven. Knox now surprised both friends and foes by marrying for a second time Margaret Stewart, daughter of Lord Ochiltree, ‘a very near kinswoman of the duke's, a lord's daughter, a young lass not above sixteen years of age’ (Randolph to Cecil, January 1564). The queen ‘stormed wonderfully,’ for the bride was ‘of the blood and name.’ ‘If Mary keeps promise,’ Randolph proceeded, ‘he shall not long abide in Scotland. If I be not much deceived, there will be much ado before he leaves it.’ Knox himself does not mention the marriage, nor are any letters between him and his second wife preserved, but the union proved happy. He cannot be charged with marrying for money or rank. His father-in-law was one of his debtors in his will. The daughter of a smaller baron who embraced the reformed doctrine was not, in the opinion of its followers, disparaged by a union with a leader like Knox.
The assembly met on 25 June 1564, and Knox opened it with exhortation and prayer. It was attended only by the ministers and commissioners of provinces. The court party and the officers of state were absent. A conference between committees of the two parties was arranged, Knox being one of the representatives of the popular party, but nothing was to be decided on without the consent of the whole assembly. The principal subject of discussion was Knox's refusal of all compromise respecting the mass and his willingness to pray for the queen only on condition of her abandoning it. Lethington maintained passive obedience, Knox open resistance to the civil authority, however high, if opposed to God's ordinances. Knox resisted Lethington's proposal that a vote should be taken on the question ‘Whether it was proper to take the queen's mass from her’ unless the matter was submitted to the whole assembly. A few votes on subsidiary points were, however, taken, and Macgill, the clerk register, finding the votes going against the court, revived a suggestion that Knox should write to Calvin. The assembly broke up without coming to any conclusion.
Although Knox, like the rest of the protestant party, was opposed to the marriage with Darnley, and seems to have favoured the Earl of Leicester as a suitor for Mary's hand, he did not openly oppose the Darnley marriage. It was uncertain whether the young king might not turn protestant. On 19 Aug. 1565 Darnley went in state to St. Giles to hear Knox preach. The text was from Isaiah xxvi., beginning with the 13th verse, ‘O Lord our God, other lords beside thee have ruled us, but we will remember thee only and thy name;’ and quoted the passage, ‘I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them. Children are their oppressors and women rule over them.’ He also referred to the punishment of Ahab because he did not correct the idolatry of Jezebel. Darnley left the church in displeasure. In the afternoon Knox was brought before the privy council and prohibited from preaching so long as the king and queen were in Edinburgh. The town council passed a resolution that they would ‘in no manner of way consent or grant that his mouth should be closed.’ Knox published this sermon, the only one of his we have in full. From the preface we learn that his practice was to preach without writing, and that he considered his vocation was to teach ‘by tongue and lively voice in these most corrupt days rather than to compose books for the ages to come.’ The printed sermon concludes: ‘The terrible roaring of guns and the noise of armour doe so pierce my heart that my soul thirsteth to depart. The last of August 1565, at four at afternoon, written indignantly, but truly as memory would serve of these things, that in public preaching I spake upon Sunday, the 19 of August.’ Mary and Darnley left Edinburgh on 25 Aug. The castle was still held for the queen, though the insurgent lords, led by Murray, occupied the town before the 31st. It does not clearly appear where Knox was during the troubled months of the Roundabout Raid. But if the statement in his ‘History’ is accurate, that the superintendents of Lothian met on 1 Oct. at Edinburgh, ‘all the ministers under his charge,’ he was probably present and joined in the supplication then sent to the king and queen for payment of ministers' stipends, to which a seemingly favourable but dilatory answer was returned, that ‘they would cause order to be taken to their contentment.’
On 25 Dec. 1565 the assembly met in Edinburgh, and Knox received a commission along with John Craig (1512?–1600) [q. v.] to ‘set down the Form of a Public Fast and cause Robert Lekprevik to print it.’ The tract was published early in 1566, under the title of ‘The Ordour and Doctrine of the General Faste appointed be the Generall Assemblie of the Kirkes of Scotland.’ ‘The Form of Excommunication,’ published in 1569, completed his labours on the standards of discipline, doctrine, and ritual of the reformed church of Scotland. As in the case of Knox's liturgical books, he emphasised the distinction between a public or general fast and the private fasting on set days of the Roman church. This fast was limited to a week, from the last Sunday of February 1566, of which only from Saturday at eight to Sunday at five was to be a time of abstinence, the rest being devoted to preaching and prayer. One of the main ends of the fast he declared to be a protest against the mass. It was subsequently postponed for a week, but commenced on Sunday, 3 March 1566. On Saturday, the 9th, Rizzio was murdered. On the following day Murray and his party returned to Edinburgh, and a proclamation was issued in the king's name that all papists should quit the town. Where Knox was at this time, and whether he was privy to the murder of Rizzio, is not clearly ascertained. The language of the ‘History,’ ‘The next day, which was the second Sunday of our Fast in Edinburgh,’ suggests that he was still in Edinburgh, but there is no sufficient proof that this passage was written by Knox. In a list of the conspirators sent in a letter, on 21 March, by Randolph to Cecil, the names of Knox and Craig occur, but as they are described as being ‘at the death of Rizzio,’ which they were not, ‘as well as privy thereunto,’ and their names are omitted in a second list, sent in a letter of 27 March by Randolph and Bedford to the English privy council, it is fair to infer that the foreknowledge of the murder is not brought home to Knox. His approval of it is scarcely open to doubt, and he appears to have remained in Edinburgh till Sunday, 17 March, when the queen returned along with her vacillating husband and a force, which compelled Murray and the rest of his party once more to take to flight. The same date is given by the ‘Diurnal of Occurrents,’ a contemporary diary, for Knox's departure from Edinburgh. The fifth book of the ‘History of the Reformation’ substantially agrees with the ‘Diurnal,’ for it states: ‘Now a little before the Queen's entrance into the town [i.e. the 18th] … Knox passed west to Kyle.’
In the assembly in December Knox obtained leave to visit England on condition that he returned before June 1567. Before leaving Scotland he wrote, along with the other ministers, to Beza, now head of the Genevese congregation, offering to send a copy of the Scottish confession, and pointing out that they did not dare to acknowledge the festivals of the life of Christ, because they were not prescribed by scripture. He also sent a letter in the name of the superintendents and ministers in Scotland to the bishops and pastors of God's church in England in favour of the clergy who refused to wear vestments. He probably had a share in the supplication of the general assembly of 25 Dec. 1566 to the nobility, exhorting the council to recall the commission granted by the queen to the Archbishop of St. Andrews. He received a safe-conduct from Elizabeth, and a letter was entrusted him to the English bishops, asking for toleration in favour of the clergy who objected to vestments. What parts of England he visited does not clearly appear, but it seems to have been chiefly the north, and probably the county of Durham, where his sons were residing with their mother's relations.
He was absent when Darnley met Rizzio's fate, but returned home after the flight of Bothwell from Carberry Hill and the imprisonment of Mary in Lochleven. Throgmorton, the English envoy, mentions that Knox came to Edinburgh on 17 July 1567, and that he had several meetings with him, when he found him ‘very austere.’ In his sermon on the 19th, which Throgmorton heard, he inveighed vehemently against the queen, and the envoy tried to persuade the privy council to advise him and other ministers not to meddle with affairs of state. The attempt was vain, for Knox continued his custom of preaching daily against the queen and Bothwell, in favour of the English and against the French alliance.
The assembly appointed him, John Douglas, John Row, and John Craig commissioners to request the lords who had hitherto remained neutral or belonged to the party of the Hamiltons to come to Edinburgh and join with the lords in the settlement of God's true worship, the maintenance of the ministers, and the support of the poor. But the commissioners did not succeed in their mission, and the articles which ratified the reformation of 1560 were the joint work of the assembly and the nobles of Murray's party alone. After Mary's forced abdication and the call of Murray to the regency, Knox went to Stirling for the coronation of James, and preached the sermon on 29 July 1567 from the text ‘I was crowned young,’ in the Book of Kings, relating to the coronation of Joash. He refused to take part in the ceremony of unction. On 22 Aug. Murray was solemnly invested with the regency, and a parliament was summoned for the middle of September. From this time Murray and Knox were again closely associated. Before parliament met the regent appointed a committee of nobles and burgesses to prepare the business. Knox and four other ministers were added to assist in ecclesiastical matters. The parliament at last made an arrangement as to the thirds of benefices favourable to the ministers, but the provision for education, on which Knox set great store, was still delayed.
While the presbyterian reformation was confirmed no notice was taken of the ‘Book of Discipline.’ In the assembly which met on 25 Dec. Knox was appointed to join the superintendent of Lothian in his visitation from Stirling to Berwick, and thereafter to visit Kyle, Carrick, and Cunningham. His name stands first, with that of Craig, on the list of the standing committee which was to concur with the committee of the privy council on all matters touching the church. He was probably not made a superintendent only because he disliked an office which might lead, as in fact it did, to the restoration of a modified prelacy. In February 1568 Knox wrote a letter to John Wood of Tullidavy, the secretary of Murray, in which, in answer to a request that he should publish his history, he states that he proposed leaving it to his friends after his death to decide whether it should be suppressed or come to light, and sturdily maintains that his ‘Blast against the Regiment of Women’ had never been answered, implying, no doubt, that its argument had been confirmed by the conduct of Mary Stewart. He concludes with a declaration that he would gladly end his days with the dispersed little flock of Geneva, as it had pleased God to prosper the work in Scotland, for which he had left it. But the situation at home was still full of anxiety during the four remaining years of his life, which he passed in increasing bodily suffering. While Murray and the Scottish commissioners were at York and Westminster seeking to press home the charge against Mary Stewart, Knox recalled in a letter to Wood (September 1568) a passage of a sermon in which he had expressed his fear that some of those professing the Evangel would follow the example of Judas when the expectation of gain failed, and he now applied his prophecy to the conduct of Hamilton, who was daily expected with French troops ‘to restore Satan to his kingdom.’ He impressed upon his correspondent the necessity of the English alliance. The rumour of Mary's marriage to Norfolk roused all Knox's old fury. ‘It shows,’ he told his friend, ‘that England is more foolish than foolish Scotland.’ Well might Lethington, who favoured the marriage project, write to Mary, ‘I have of late dealt with divers ministers here who will not be repugnant to a good accord, however I think Knox inflexible.’
On 2 Jan. 1570 Knox wrote briefly to Cecil, ‘If ye strike not at the root, the branches that appear to be broken will bind again.’ It is difficult not to detect a counsel to put Mary to death, which comes painfully from one who signs himself ‘yours to command in God, John Knox, with his one foot in the grave.’
On 23 Jan. Murray was shot at Linlithgow, and on 14 Feb. was buried in the south aisle of St. Giles. Knox preached the funeral sermon from the text ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.’ Despite the general affection inspired in the Scottish people by the regent, there were not wanting contrary voices which accused him of aiming at the crown by the death of his sister, and, if necessary, even of his nephew. A satirical pamphlet, chiefly aimed at Murray, by a brother of Lethington, described a pretended conference between Murray, Knox, and others, in which Knox was made to persuade Murray to seize the throne. Knox never gave any such advice, either from the pulpit or in private.
Neither Lennox, who succeeded to and held the regency till his assassination in September 1571, nor his successor, Mar, who was regent till his death in October 1572, was a friend of Knox, and his influence in politics decreased, though he continued to direct ecclesiastical affairs. In October 1570 his bodily infirmity culminated in a stroke of apoplexy, which, though of the milder kind called by physicians resolution, threatened, to the joy of his adversaries, to silence his tongue. But his indomitable spirit knew no decay, and within a short time he so far recovered as to resume preaching on Sundays. The course of events in Scotland more than his own illness preyed upon his mind. The party of the nobles headed by the Duke of Hamilton, and supported by Lethington and Knox's former friend and supporter, Kirkcaldy of Grange, now openly raised Queen Mary's standard. Edinburgh Castle, garrisoned by its governor, Kirkcaldy, for the queen, made war upon the town. One of Grange's soldiers having killed at Leith Henry Seton, a soldier in the opposite camp, Knox on the Sunday following, 24 Dec. 1570, in his sermon at St. Giles, boldly inveighed against this outrage. The same afternoon Kirkcaldy sent a ticket or short writing to Craig, which he required him to read from the pulpit, in which he declared that he was not a murderer, as Knox intimated, and called upon God to prove his vengeance on the man who was most desirous of innocent blood. He also sent a charge of slander against Knox to the kirk session. Craig refused to read the ticket, and the session to take any action. Recrimination followed recrimination. In the spring the assembly met in Edinburgh, and Kirkcaldy renewed his accusation against Knox, when Bannatyne, his secretary, appeared and protested. Knox himself wrote a long answer to the accusation. More acrimonious correspondence followed, until, Kirkcaldy having received the Hamiltons into the castle, Knox was reluctantly persuaded that it was prudent for him to quit Edinburgh and go to St. Andrews. He left on 5 May 1571, and remained at St. Andrews till 17 Aug. 1572. While there he resided in lodgings near the abbey, and, infirm though he was, his sickbed became the seat of presbyterian ecclesiastical government. He wrote to the brethren in Edinburgh, exhorting them to stand by the good cause and avoid jealousies. ‘Be faithful and loving to one another,’ he writes with unwonted calmness, ‘let bitterness and suspicions be far out of your hearts, and let every one watch for the preservation of another without grudging or murmuring.’
The general assembly met in Stirling in August, and he addressed it in similar terms. To Douglas of Drumlanrig he wrote denouncing the traffic held with ‘that Babylon the Castle of Edinburgh.’ To Wishart of Pittarrow he condemned in even stronger language ‘the murtherers assembled in the Castell of Edinburgh,’ and denounced the self-seeking of the nobles. He added, ‘out of my bed and from my book I come not but once in the week.’
Of one of his weekly sermons, which, in spite of infirmities, he still delivered with his old vigour, James Melville [q. v.], then a young student of St. Andrews, has given the often quoted account: ‘I saw him every day of his doctrine [preaching] go hulie and fairly [slowly and carefully], with a furring of martricks about his neck, a staff in the ane hand, and guid godlie Ricard Bannatyne holding up the other oxtar [armpit], from the abbey to the paroch kirk, and by the said Richard and another servant lifted up to the pulpit, whar he behovit to lean at his first entry; bot or he had been done with his sermon, he was so active and vigorous that he was lyk to ding that pulpit in blads and flee out of it. … The threatenings of his sermons were very sore, and so particular that such as liked them not took occasion to reproach him as a rash ranter without warrant. … And Mr. Robert Hamilton asking his warrant of that particular threatening against the Castell of Edinburgh—that it should run like a sand-glass; it should spew out the captain with shame; he should not come out at the gate, but down over walls and sich lyk—Mr. Knox answered, God is my warrant, and ye sall see it.’ But Knox had gentler moments, and would ‘come and repose himself in our college ground [i.e. St. Leonard's], and call us scholars unto him, and bless us and exhort us to know God and his work in our creation, and stand by the guid cause.’ He even took part in amusements, and was present at the marriage of Mr. Colvin, when a play was acted representing the taking of the castle and the captain according to ‘Mr. Knox's doctrine.’
In St. Andrews, though the college of St. Leonard's was on his side, and he was supported by many, he had fierce opponents—including Robert Hamilton, the minister of the town, John Rutherford, the provost of St. Salvator, and Homer Blair, a young student of that college, who attacked him in a public oration. One Archibald Hamilton retaliated on him for stating that all ‘Hamiltons were murderers’ by saying that ‘John Knox was a greater murderer than any, for his hand would be found to the bond for Darnley's death.’ Knox indignantly denied the calumny, and his faithful servant Bannatyne tried, but in vain, to extract an apology. Another slander was that he would take no part in the inauguration of Robert Douglas, the first tulchan bishop, although desired to do so by Morton, because he sought a bishopric himself; to which he was able to retort with effect that if he had wished this he could have had a greater bishopric from a greater man, referring to Cecil's offer of the see of Rochester.
When the general assembly met at Perth in August 1572, he sent it a farewell letter, in which he exhorted them ‘above all things to preserve the kirk from the bondage of the universities. Persuade them to rule themselves peaceably and order their schools in Christ, but subject never the pulpit to their judgment, neither yet except them from your jurisdiction.’ The accompanying articles have been erroneously interpreted as a proof that Knox accepted the modified episcopacy sanctioned by the convention of ministers at Leith through the influence of Morton. Their aim really was, assuming a modified episcopacy to be re-established, to curb its power and apply its revenues to the general benefit of the church. The assembly informed Knox that his articles seemed reasonable and would be adopted as far as possible. The same assembly granted the request of commissioners from Edinburgh to choose a new minister in the place of Craig, who had fallen out with his congregation, on account of suspected leanings to the party in the castle. The commissioners had already selected Knox, and after the assembly closed they went to St. Andrews to announce their choice. He was to have as colleague James Lawson, sub-principal of the college of Aberdeen. Knox consented to return, on condition that he should not be expected in any way to bridle his tongue or cease to speak against the treasonable doings of the castle of Edinburgh. On 17 Aug. 1572 he left St. Andrews and reached Leith on the 22nd, when, after a rest of a day or two, he came to Edinburgh. On the first Sunday after, and every Sunday till confined to his deathbed, he was carried to the pulpit, not, it would seem from a letter of Killigrew, the English envoy, at St. Giles's, but at some smaller place, where he preached with his old vehemence. Through Killigrew he sent a message of the respect that he felt for Cecil. In September 1572 the news of the massacre of St. Bartholomew reached Edinburgh, and added another to the causes of grief and disappointment of his last years. On the 21st he preached in the Tolbooth, which had been specially prepared for him, and on 9 Nov. he was able to preside at the admission of his colleague, Lawson, when he preached on the duties of a pastor and his flock. On leaving the pulpit he returned home, leaning on his staff and attended by the congregation. He never left his house again, being seized next day with a violent cough, and gradually losing strength till the night of 24 Nov., when he breathed his last. The house in which he lived and died has been identified on the evidence of tradition with the picturesque residence in Netherbow Port, whose projecting angle still forms one of the prominent features of the High Street of old Edinburgh. A recent controversy on the point led to no absolutely certain result. Two accounts—one by Bannatyne, his secretary, and the other probably by his colleague, Lawson—describe the closing fortnight of his life. The second account was published by Thomas Smeaton in his ‘Answer to the Violent Dialogue of Archibald Hamilton on the Calvinistic Sect in Scotland.’ Both accounts treat of those who visited him, his conversation with them, the passages of Scripture he desired to be read, his prayers for the church, his bitter message to Kirkcaldy, his excuse for his vehemence, and his last prayer, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ ‘Surely,’ concludes Smeaton, ‘whatever opprobrious persons may say, in him God hath set us an example both of living and dying well.’
On 26 Nov. Knox was buried in the kirkyard of St. Giles, now the paved courtyard of the Parliament House, where the initials ‘J. K.’ mark the spot. His coffin he had himself ordered. In this, as in the discharge of his servants' wages and in making his last will, his long illness had not deprived him of the power of punctually performing the last earthly duties. His funeral was attended by Morton, who had been appointed regent. His will, dated 13 May 1572, was confirmed on 13 Jan. 1573 in the commissary court of Edinburgh, where it is still preserved. The sums owing to the testator amounted to 830l. 19s. 6d. Scots. He owed nothing. His wife and three daughters were executors.
By his first wife Knox had two sons: Nathaniel, born at Geneva, May 1557, and Eleazar, baptised at Geneva 29 Nov. 1558. They were brought up by their mother's family, and sent to St. John's College, Cambridge, of which they became fellows (Cooper, Athenæ Cantabrigienses, i. 430, 568; Rogers, Genealog. Mem. of Knox, pp. 138–9). Nathaniel died in 1580. Eleazar was vicar of Clacton, Essex, from 1587 till his death in 1591. Neither son left issue. Knox's second wife, who survived him, was granted by the general assembly, at Morton's suggestion, the sum of five hundred merks. In 1574 she married Andrew Ker of Faldonside, Roxburghshire, who died 19 Dec. 1599. She herself died about 1612. By Knox she had three daughters: Martha (1565?–1592), wife of Alexander, son of Robert Fairlie, laird of Braid, and left issue; Margaret (b. 1567?), married Zachary Pont, archdeacon of Caithness, in 1608, by whom she had two sons; and Elizabeth (1570?–1625), married John Welsh, minister of Ayr [q. v.] Descendants of this daughter are still traceable. The line of descent from Knox's other daughters is believed to be extinct.
Morton's words at his tomb, ‘Here lies one who never feared the face of man,’ were not biassed by intimate friendship. They are confirmed by his life, and reveal the source of his power. Bannatyne calls him ‘the light of Scotland, the comfort of the kirk, the mirror and example to all true ministers in purity of life, soundness in doctrine, and boldness in reproving of wickedness.’ He died, worn out by a life of continuous conflict, and although he won only a part of that for which he fought, the cause into which he flung all his strength ultimately triumphed, and that largely through his influence. Rarely has any country produced a stronger will. In British annals Oliver Cromwell is his nearest parallel; but, while both are examples of the power of self-confident faith, Knox mastered his countrymen by the influence of speech, without the stain of self-aggrandisement. His egotism was not vanity. It was the spirit required for the reformation he desired, the essence of the character of a people which prizes independence and self-reliance above humility and reverence. The breach of continuity with the Roman church that Knox effected was a sign of the continuity of Scottish history. Robert Bruce also had defied the pope. Knox was a Scottish patriot, with two important modifications. His patriotism was limited to the body of believers, and extended beyond the bounds of his own country to all of like belief. He had a strong attachment to that part of the English nation which afterwards became puritan and republican, and to the reformed churches of the continent. He carried the Scottish people with him, and for a time, during the crisis of the Reformation, he was political leader of the Scottish nobles and the guide in Scottish affairs of the English statesmen. But the real aim of both these allies differed from his. Through their selfishness, as he thought, he died with the reformation of religion he wished only partially accomplished, and the reformation of education, which was an integral part of his endeavours, scarcely begun. The spectacle of a single democratic leader holding the chief influence, not as Calvin in a republican city, but in an aristocratic country still governed by a monarch, commanded the attention of the cotemporary world. He left a still deeper mark on his own countrymen, whose ecclesiastical polity has continued largely to reflect his spirit.
It is easy to detect his faults. They lay on the surface, yet sprang from the depths of his character. Bellesheim, the modern Romanist historian, dwells on the cruelty shown by his approval of Beaton's murder, and the enactment of a death-penalty for the third celebration of the mass, his inordinate love of power, his vehement language in prayers as well as in sermons, and his meagre store of theology. It is erroneous to charge him with inconsistency as to his views on episcopacy, or with profiting by Lord Ochiltree's wealth. He was narrow, fierce, with regard to some subjects coarse, and with regard to some persons unforgiving. At his best he resembled a prophet of the Old Testament, not an evangelist of the New. At his worst he was a political partisan and ecclesiastical bigot, who could see no merit in an opponent, and could overlook any faults in a follower. Yet he was unselfish in a time of self-seeking, straightforward in an age of deceit. A strain of humour saved him from pedantry, and his severity was occasionally exchanged for a tenderness, more valued because so rare. A shrewd discerner of the character of others, and a close observer of civil as well as religious politics, his foresight was mistaken for a prophetic gift. As an author his reputation rests on ‘The History of the Reformation,’ unequal and incomplete, but unsurpassed for its vigorous representation of the principal acts and actors of the historic drama in which he himself plays the leading part.
A portrait of Knox, painted by Vaensoun, was sent by James VI in 1580, along with one of himself, to Beza, and was engraved in Beza's ‘Icones,’ Geneva, 1580. The best reproduction is that by Jodocus Hondius [q. v.], in Verheiden's ‘Præstantium aliquot Theologorum,’ Hague, 1602. It was again engraved by Boissard in the ‘Bibliotheca Chalcographica,’ 4th edition, Frankfort, 1650. This portrait, undoubtedly genuine, presents a long straight nose, large eyes, sunk cheeks, firm brow, strong under-lip, and ‘a river of a beard.’ In 1836 another quite different head was given in Knight's ‘Gallery of Portraits,’ from a picture in the possession of Lord Somerville. This represents a face with an oblique nose, which gives an unpleasant expression to somewhat commonplace eyes, and a weak chin, covered by a short pointed beard. The white tippet covering the shoulders, which takes the place of the high ruff or collar in Beza's portrait, should have put any one on his guard against accepting it as a divine of the sixteenth century. The costume belongs to the seventeenth. Unfortunately, Carlyle in his old age insisted that it was the only likeness of Knox, and was backed up in his opinion by Boehm the sculptor, and by injudicious friends with no qualifications to offer an opinion on such a point. Mr. James Drummond, R.S.A., conclusively refuted Carlyle in a paper read to the Royal Scottish Antiquarian Society in 1878 entitled ‘The Portraits of John Knox and Buchanan.’
After Knox's death the general assembly granted Bannatyne 40l. (March 1572–3) to enable him to put in order Knox's manuscript ‘History of the Reformation of Religioun within the Realme of Scotland,’ which he had completed as far as 1564, but nothing was heard again of the work till 1584, when Vautrollier printed in London the first three books. Most of the copies were seized and destroyed by order of the Archbishop of Canterbury (February 1586–7). In 1664 an edition of the whole five books by David Buchanan was published (London, fol.); but Buchanan's interpolations destroy much of the value of his labours (cf. Nicolson, Scottish Hist. Library, 1776, p. 109). An improved edition, called the fourth, edited by Ruddiman, is dated 1732. The best edition is in the first two volumes of David Laing's Knox's ‘Works’ (vols. i–ii. 1846–8). His other works have been already described.