The Legacy of John Knox

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johnknox Why is this blog titled “ParkingSpace23”? Because in the burial plot of the great Reformer, John Knox, now lies under a parking space numbered 23 behind St. Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh. Knox’s grave is marked by a small, oil-stained plaque in the pavement. Nevertheless, although his burial place is less than honorable, his faithfulness to the Word of God has not been forgotten. We wish to continue his legacy of the bold proclamation of the Truth. In this blog, I want to highlight 7 marks of John Knox’s life which we ought to imitate as we seek to honor Christ.

 

1. Knox Sought after the Glory of God

  • “Because he knew himself to be a man of inherent weakness, and because he was an honest, humble man, he could say without pretext, ‘I sought neither preeminence, glory, nor riches; my honor was that Christ Jesus should reign.’” (Bond, 26)
  • Knox understood the supremacy of the Glory of God and thus the supremacy of Christ over His Church. Knox wrote, “O Lord, Thou that art the Eternal Son of the Eternal Father, who has not only so loved Thy Kirk, that for the redemption and purgation of the same, Thou has humbled Thyself to the death of the cross, and thereupon has shed Thy most innocent blood, to prepare to Thyself most excellent benefit in memory, has appointed in the Kirk, teachers, pastors, and apostles, to instruct, comfort, and admonish the same. Look upon us, O Lord, Thou that only art King, Teacher, and High Priest to Thy own flock.”

 

2. Knox Disciplined His Own Life

  • Knox was a man of Prayer: “Prayer as ‘an earnest and familiar talking with God,’ is not natural to us. It is by sanctified trouble and by the recognition of our own helplessness that we learn to pray. `Out of weakness made strong’ is the biblical principle. ‘Call upon me in the day of trouble,’ because a promise of special significance to Knox.” (Murray, 13.) Knox wrote, “I know how hard is the battle between the spirit and the flesh, under the heavy cross of affliction, where no worldly defence but present death does appear. I know the grudging and murmuring complaints of the flesh…calling all his promises in doubt, and being ready every hour utterly to fall from God. Against which rests only faith, provoking us to call earnestly and pray for assistance of God’s Spirit; wherein, if we continue our most desperate calamities shall be turned to gladness, and to the prosperous end. To thee alone, O Lord be praise, for with experience I write this and speak.”
  • Knox stated, “Where constant prayer is, there the petition is granted. Let no man think himself unworthy to call and pray to God, because he has grievously offended his Majesty in times past; but let him bring to God a sorrowful and repenting heart, saying, with David ‘Heal my soul, O Lord, for I have offended againsps23t thee. Before I was afflicted, I transgressed, but now let me observe they commandments’ (Ps. 41:4)…Yet more boldly will I say: He who, then necessity constrains, desires not support and help of God, does provoke his wrath no less than such as make false gods or openly deny God.” (Bond, 41)

 

3. Knox Understood the Preeminance of Preaching

  • “One of the few surviving sermons was preached from Isaiah 26:13-21 on August 19, 1565 from his favorite pulpit in St. Giles church. On this particular Sunday the congregation included a very notable dignitary. Lord Darnley, who had become King of Scotland upon his marriage to Mary Queen of Scots…The king immediately took offense at Knox’s sermon because of the numerous references to tyrannical rulers and the consequences promised to those who broke God’s law with impunity. The king also became annoyed at the length of the sermon when Knox preached an hour longer than normal…The Privy Council summoned Knox to appear that same afternoon to explain the nature of his offensive sermon. They forbade him to preach in St. Giles when the king and queen were in residence. The king also demanded Knox be banned from preaching for a period of fifteen to twenty days. Knox defended himself and his exposition of the text claiming he simply quoted the Word of God. If the sermon offended the king he took offense at God and his revealed word. Knox was merely the messenger.” (Kyle and Johnson, 172)

 

4. Knox ‘Shot-Straight’ in Life

  • Knox was a man who ‘hit-it-in the face’, Knox once stated, “Railing and sedition they are never able to prove in me, till that first they compel Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, St. Paul, and others to recant; of whom I have learned plainly and boldly to call wickedness by its own name, a fig a fig, and a spade a spade.” (Stalker, 85)
  • On another occasion Knox stated, “What I have been in my country, albeit this unthankful age will now know, yet the ages to come will be compless to bear witness to the truth. And thus I cease, requiring of all men who have anything to object against me that they will do it as plainly as that I make myself and all my doings manifest to the world; for to me it seems a thing most unreasonable that, in this my decrepit age, I should be compelled to fight against shadows and howlats that dare not abide the light.” (Stalker, 85)

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5. Knox Did Not Fear the Face of Men

  • The earl of Morton, the regent, is variously quoted as saying at his grave, “There lies one who in his life never feared the face of man.”
  • August 19th 1561, Mary Queen of Scots landed at Edinburgh. She was welcomed with all enthusiasm. But Knox commented on her arrival in the heavy rain and thick fog, “The very face of Heaven, the time of her arrival, did manifestly speak what comfort was brought unto this country with her, to wit, sorrow, dolour, darkness, and all impiety.” (Ridley 390). On August 24th 1561, Mary takes private Mass at Holyrood house. Knox at St. Gile’s denounced the Queen.
  • August 31st 1561, Knox again preaches and denounces Mary’s mass at Holyrood house. “He declared that he feared one mass more than if 10,000 armed enemies had landed in the realm to suppress the whole religion; for though God could disperse multitudes of enemies, He would abandon those who joined hands with idolatry.” (Ridley, 391)
  • Throgmorton wrote to Elizabeth, “I understand that the Queen of Scotland is thoroughly persuaded that the most dangerous man in all her realm of Scotland, both to her intent there, and the dissolving of the league between your maj: and that realm, is Knokes.” (Brown, 162)
  • September 4th 1561, Knox meets with Mary, who summoned him to Holyroodhouse. Knox, “God forbid that ever I take upon me to command any to obey me, or yet to set subjects at liberty to do what pleaseth them. But my travail is that both princes and subjects obey God.” (Ridley, 393; Cf. Brown, 165-6)

 

6. Knox Understood His Own Weakness

  • Knox’s insecurity in himself gave him the most profound confidence in the power of God to accomplish great things using ordinary men. Hence, small men throughout the realm were raised up by the grace of God and the power of the gospel to exercise their God-given gifts in the advancement of His kingdom. And what was true in the church became increasingly true in politics and culture, to the extent that it has been said, ‘under God, John Knox was an architect of a Scotland enfranchised, intelligent, self-governing.’” (Bond, 99)

 

7. Knox Sought to Comfort the Afflicted and Afflict the Comfortable

  • “Knox never wielded predestination as a club; he tenderly uncoiled it as a lifeline for the foundering lost. Perhaps the persistent human inclination to diminish election may be counteracted by more faithful preaching of ‘doctrine borrowed from the Kirk of Knox,’ who borrowed it from the apostle Paul, who borrowed it from the finger of God Himself.” (Bond)
  • Knox cared for the Church stating, “I have been in meditation of the troubled Kirk of God, the spouse of Jesus Christ…I have called to God for her, and I have committed her to her Head, Jesus Christ…Lord grant true pastors to They Kirk, that purity of doctrine may be retained; and restore again peace to this common-wealth, with godly rulers and magistrates…Come, Lord Jesus, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.” (Cowan, 369)knox2
  • The same tenderness that governed Knox’s teaching and application of the doctrine of predestination can be seen in his ministry to a number of weak and needy groups within the Scottish kirk. Although he published First Blast, “We must at the same time, recognize that Knox although willing and able to help those women who sought his assistance, was violently opposed to women who attempted to dominate and rule men, and particularly those who persecute Protestants.” (Reid, 141)
  • “in his encouragement of Mrs. Bowes, Knox found three ‘grounds’ or ‘foundations’ why we should patiently place our trust in God for deliverance. First, David knew that in the economy of God, sin has consequences. David was guilty of grievous sin and knew God’s justice demanded punishment. At the same time, David confidently believed God to be both just and merciful. The same God who judges and punishes David will also forgive and extend mercy. Those who repent of their sins and cry out to God are always assured God will hear them and heal their souls. The second ground of our confidence resides in the infinite goodness of God. Knox assured Mrs. Bowes ‘only the goodness of god remains, in all storms, the sure foundation to the afflicted, against which the Devil is never able to prevail.’ Finally, Knox argued David’s assurance was ‘the glory and praise of God’s name to be shown and uttered in this life.’” (Kyle and Johnson, 69)

 

Bibliography

  • Brown, Peter Hume. John Knox: A Biography, Volume 2. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1895.
  • Bond, Douglas. The Mighty Weakness of John Knox. Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2011.
  • Cowan, Henry. John Knox: The Hero of the Scottish Reformation. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1905.
  • Harland, Marion. John Knox. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1900.
  • Kyle, Richard G. Johnson, Dale W. John Knox: An Introduction to His Life and Works. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2009
  • Murray, Iain. A Scottish Christian Heritage. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2006.
  • Reid, W. Stanford. Trumpeter of God: A Biography of John Knox. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1974.
  • Ridley, Jasper. John Knox. New York: Oxford University Press, 1968.
  • Stalker, James. John Knox: His Ideas and Ideals. New York: A.C. Armstrong & Son, 1905.
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