Knox, John by Faye Huntington

I want to take you back to the sixteenth century, into rugged Scotland, and into the rugged times of that period of its history. I want to introduce to you a man of whom it was said, "No grander figure can be found in the history of the Reformation in this island, than that of Knox."

John Knox was a boy when the Reformation movement began in Germany; indeed it was ten years after that when he was ordained a priest. It was twelve years later that he avowed himself a Protestant, and thus incurred the wrath of the Cardinal. He was of course obliged to withdraw from St. Andrew's, where he held the position of teacher, and seek a place of refuge. This he found with a friend named Hugh Douglass. And the old ruins of the chapel at that place are still called "Knox's Kirk." One of his beloved friends was tried and condemned to the stake for heresy. The Cardinal whose anger he had roused was killed about that time, and Knox was suspected of having a hand in it; and, having been tried, was condemned to the galleys. For about a year he suffered as a prisoner and from illness. After he was set free he went to a town on the borders of England, were he succeeded in turning the hearts of many to the views of the Reformers. Always as he had opportunity he defended the cause of the Reformation.

He was raised to a post of honor by King Edward, receiving the appointment of King's Chaplain. He was offered a bishopric, but declined that honor. At Edward's death he was again in danger. Because the new sovereign was not in sympathy with the views which he was advocating, and not thinking it wise to throw away his life, he went to the Continent; he was for a time pastor of a church in Geneva, he became a friend of Calvin and spent two or three peaceful years.

When he returned to England the Scottish clergy burned him in effigy, and he was not well received even in England. Elizabeth was now upon the throne, but this did not seem to make matters much better for Knox.

Now I cannot tell you in the little space given me about the stormy times that followed his return to Scotland. He believed that the time had come when the Reformation in Scotland must be established, and he fought bravely with tongue and pen for its success. The young and beautiful queen of Scotland tried her powers of pleasing upon the heroic man who had dared to speak plainly of the sins even of the court. "But the faces of angry men could not move him, neither could the beauty of the young queen charm him, nor her tears melt him." He continued to preach according to his convictions, and kept it up with no lessening of power until a short time before his death. But about 1570 his strength declined; but though growing weaker physically, he seemed to lose none of his intellectual and spiritual vigor. He spoke in public for the last time November 9, 1572, and died on the twenty-fourth of the same month, holding up his hand to testify of his adherence to the faith for which he had lived and preached and toiled, and in which he was now dying. I think the more you study the character of this man, the more you will admire it. If he seemed rough, remember he lived in rough times. If he was intolerant, it was an age of intolerance, and his intolerance was exercised only where he felt that the truth was assailed.

Carlyle says: "Nothing hypocritical, foolish or untrue can find harbor in this man; a pure and manly, silent tenderness of affection is in him; touches of genial humor are not wanting under his severe austerity. A most clear-cut, hardy, distinct and effective man; fearing God without any other fear. There is in Knox throughout the spirit of an old Hebrew prophet-spirit almost altogether unique among modern men."