Andrew Lang.

John Knox and the Reformation online

. (page 17 of 20)
Online LibraryAndrew LangJohn Knox and the Reformation → online text (page 17 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

leaders of the Douglas feud, and of the brethren.

The nobles might easily have taken, tried, and hanged Riccio, but they
yielded to Darnley and to their own excited passions, when once they had
torn him from the Queen. The personal pleasure of dirking the wretch
could not be resisted, and the danger of causing the Queen's miscarriage
and death may have entered into the plans of Darnley. Knox does not tell
the story himself; his "History" ends in June 1564. But "in plain terms"
he "lets the world understand what we mean," namely, that Riccio "was
justly punished," and that "the act" (of the murderers) was "most just
and most worthy of _all_ praise." {251a} This Knox wrote just after the
event, while the murderers were still in exile in England, where Ruthven
died - seeing a vision of angels! Knox makes no drawback to the entirely
and absolutely laudable character of the deed. He goes out of his way to
tell us "in plain terms what we mean," in a digression from his account
of affairs sixteen years earlier. Thus one fails to understand the
remark, that "of the manner in which the deed was done we may be certain
that Knox would disapprove as vehemently as any of his contemporaries."
{251b} The words may be ironical, for vehement disapproval was not
conspicuous among Protestant contemporaries. Knox himself, after Mary
scattered the party of the murderers and recovered power, prayed that
heaven would "put it into the heart of a multitude" to treat Mary like

Mary made her escape from Holyrood to Dunbar, to safety, in the night of
March 11. March 12 found Knox on his knees; the game was up, the blood
had been shed in vain. The Queen had not died, but was well, and
surrounded by friends; and the country was rather for her than against
her. The Reformer composed a prayer, repenting that "in quiet I am
negligent, in trouble impatient, tending to desperation," which shows
insight. He speaks of his pride and ambition, also of his covetousness
and malice. That he was really covetous we cannot believe, nor does he
show malice except against idolaters. He "does not doubt himself to be
elected to eternal salvation," of which he has "assured signs." He has
"knowledge above the common sort of my brethren" (pride has crept in
again!), and has been compelled to "forespeak," or prophesy. He implores
mercy for his "desolate bedfellow," for her children, and for his sons by
his first wife. "Now, Lord, put end to my misery!" (Edinburgh, March 12,
1566). Knox fled from Edinburgh, "with a great mourning of the godly of
religion," says a Diarist, on the same day as the chief murderers took
flight, March 17; his place of refuge was Kyle in Ayrshire (March 21,
1566). {252a}

In Randolph's letter, recording the flight of these nobles, he mentions
eight of their accomplices, and another list is pinned to the letter,
giving names of men "all at the death of Davy and privy thereunto." This
applies to about a dozen men, being a marginal note opposite their names.
A line lower is added, "John Knox, John Craig, preachers." {252b} There
is no other evidence that Knox, who fled, or Craig, who stood to his
pulpit, were made privy to the plot. When idolaters thought it best not
to let the Pope into a scheme for slaying Elizabeth, it is hardly
probable that Protestants would apprise their leading preachers. On the
other hand, Calvin was consulted by the would-be assassins of the Duc de
Guise, in 1559-60, and he prevented the deed, as he assures the Duchesse
de Ferrare, the mother-in-law of the Duc, after that noble was murdered
in good earnest. {252c} Calvin, we have shown, knew beforehand of the
conspiracy of Amboise, which aimed at the death of "Antonius," obviously
Guise. He disapproved of but did not reveal the plot. Knox, whether
privy to the murder or not, did not, when he ran away, take the best
means of disarming suspicion. Neither his name nor that of Craig occurs
in two lists containing those of between seventy and eighty persons
"delated," and it is to be presumed that he fled because he did not feel
sure of protection against Mary's frequently expressed dislike.

In earlier days, with a strong backing, he had not feared "the pleasing
face of a gentlewoman," as he said, but now he did fear it. Kyle suited
him well, because the Earl of Cassilis, who had been an idolater, was
converted by a faithful bride, in August. Dr. M'Crie {253a} says that
Mary "wrote to a nobleman in the west country with whom Knox resided, to
banish him from his house." The evidence for this is a letter of
Parkhurst to Bullinger, in December 1567. Parkhurst tells Bullinger,
among other novelties, that Riccio was a necromancer, who happened to be
dirked; by whom he does not say. He adds that Mary commanded "a certain
pious earl" not to keep Knox in his house. {253b}

In Kyle Knox worked at his "History." On September 4 he signed a letter
sent from the General Assembly at St. Andrews to Beza, approving of a
Swiss confession of faith, except so far as the keeping of Christmas,
Easter, and other Christian festivals is concerned. Knox himself wrote
to Beza, about this time, an account of the condition of Scotland. It
would be invaluable, as the career of Mary was rushing to the falls, but
it is lost. {253c}

On December 24, Mary pardoned all the murderers of Riccio; and Knox
appears to have been present, though it is not certain, at the Christmas
General Assembly in Edinburgh. He received permission to visit his sons
in England, and he wrote two letters: one to the Protestant nobles on
Mary's attempt to revive the consistorial jurisdiction of the Primate;
the other to the brethren. To England he carried a remonstrance from the
Kirk against the treatment of Puritans who had conscientious objections
to the apparel - "Romish rags" - of the Church Anglican. Men ought to
oppose themselves boldly to Authority; that is, to Queen Elizabeth, if
urged further than their consciences can bear. {254a}

Being in England, Knox, of course, did not witness the events associated
with the Catholic baptism of the baby prince (James VI.); the murder of
Darnley, in February 1567; the abduction of Mary by Bothwell, and her
disgraceful marriage to her husband's murderer, in May 1567. If Knox
excommunicated the Queen, it was probably about this date. Long
afterwards, on April 25, 1584, Mary was discussing the various churches
with Waad, an envoy of Cecil. Waad said that the Pope stirred up peoples
not to obey their sovereigns. "Yet," said the Queen, "a Pope shall
excommunicate _you_, but _I_ was excommunicated by a pore minister,
Knokes. In fayth I feare nothinge else but that they will use my sonne
as they have done the mother." {254b}


The Royal quarry, so long in the toils of Fate, was dragged down at last,
and the doom forespoken by the prophet was fulfilled. A multitude had
their opportunity with this fair Athaliah; and Mary had ridden from
Carberry Hill, a draggled prisoner, into her own town, among the yells of
"burn the harlot." But one out of all her friends was faithful to her.
Mary Seton, to her immortal honour, rode close by the side of her fallen
mistress and friend.

For six years insulted and thwarted; her smiles and her tears alike
wasted on greedy, faithless courtiers and iron fanatics; perplexed and
driven desperate by the wiles of Cecil and Elizabeth; in bodily pain and
constant sorrow - the sorrow wrought by the miscreant whom she had
married; without one honest friend; Mary had wildly turned to the man
who, it is to be supposed, she thought could protect her, and her passion
had dragged her into unplumbed deeps of crime and shame.

The fall of Mary, the triumph of Protestantism, appear to have, in some
degree, rather diminished the prominence of Knox. He would never make
Mary weep again. He had lost the protagonist against whom, for a while,
he had stood almost alone, and soon we find him complaining of neglect.
He appeared at the General Assembly of June 25, 1567 - a scanty gathering.
George Buchanan, a layman, was Moderator: the Assembly was adjourned to
July 21, and the brethren met in arms; wherefore Argyll, who had signed
the band for Darnley's murder, declined to come. {256a} The few nobles,
the barons, and others present, vowed to punish the murder of Darnley and
to defend the child prince; and it was decided that henceforth all
Scottish princes should swear to "set forward the true religion of Jesus
Christ, as at present professed and established in this realm" - as they
are bound to do - "by Deuteronomy and the second chapter of the Book of
Kings," which, in fact, do not speak of establishing Calvinism.

Among those who sign are Morton, who had guilty foreknowledge of the
murder; while his kinsman, Archibald Douglas, was present at the doing;
Sir James Balfour, who was equally involved; Lethington, who signed the
murder covenant; and Douglas of Whittingham, and Ker of Faldonside, two
of Riccio's assassins. Most of the nobles stood aloof.

Presently Throckmorton arrived, sent by Elizabeth with the pretence, at
least, of desiring to save Mary's life, which, but for his exertions, he
thought would have been taken. He "feared Knox's austerity as much as
any man's" (July 14). {256b}

On July 17 Knox arrived from the west, where he had been trying to unite
the Protestants. {256c} Throckmorton found Craig and Knox "very
austere," well provided with arguments from the Bible, history, the laws
of Scotland, and the Coronation Oath. {257a} Knox in his sermons
"threatened the great plague of God to this whole nation and country if
the Queen be spared from her condign punishment." {257b}

Murderers were in the habit of being lightly let off, in Scotland, and,
as to Mary, she could easily have been burned for husband-murder, but not
so easily convicted thereof with any show of justice. The only direct
evidence of her complicity lay in the Casket Letters, and several of her
lordly accusers were (if she were guilty) her accomplices. Her prayer to
be heard in self-defence at the ensuing Parliament of December was
refused, for excellent reasons; and her opponents had the same good
reasons for not bringing her to trial. Knox was perfectly justified if
he desired her to be tried, but several lay members of the General
Assembly could not have faced that ordeal, and Randolph later accused
Lethington, in a letter to him, of advising her assassination. {257c}

On July 29 Knox preached at the Coronation of James VI. at Stirling,
protesting against the rite of anointing. True, it was Jewish, but it
had passed through the impure hands of Rome, as, by the way, had Baptism.
Knox also preached at the opening of Parliament, on December 15. We know
little of him at this time. He had sent his sons to Cambridge, into
danger of acquiring Anglican opinions, which they did; but now he seems
to have taken a less truculent view of Anglicanism than in 1559-60. He
had been drawing a prophetic historical parallel between Chatelherault
(more or less of the Queen's party) and Judas Iscariot, and was not loved
by the Hamiltons. The Duke was returning from France, "to restore Satan
to his kingdom," with the assistance of the Guises. Knox mentions an
attempt to assassinate Moray, now Regent, which is obscure. "I live as a
man already dead from all civil things." Thus he wrote to Wood, Moray's
agent, then in England on the affair of the Casket Letters (September 10,

He had already (February 14) declined to gratify Wood by publishing his
"History." He would not permit it to appear during his life, as "it will
rather hurt me than profit them" (his readers). He was, very naturally,
grieved that the conduct of men was not conformable to "the truth of God,
now of some years manifest." He was not concerned to revenge his own
injuries "by word or writ," and he foresaw schism in England over
questions of dress and rites. {258a}

He was neglected. "Have not thine oldest and stoutest acquaintance"
(Moray, or Kirkcaldy of Grange?) "buried thee in present oblivion, and
art thou not in that estate, by age, {258b} that nature itself calleth
thee from the pleasure of things temporal?" (August 19, 1569).

"_In trouble impatient, tending to desperation_," Knox had said of
himself. He was still unhappy. "Foolish Scotland" had "disobeyed God by
sparing the Queen's life," and now the proposed Norfolk marriage of Mary
and her intended restoration were needlessly dreaded. A month later,
Lethington, thrown back on Mary by his own peril for his share in
Darnley's murder, writes to the Queen that some ministers are
reconcilable, "but Nox I think be inflexible." {259a}

A year before Knox wrote his melancholy letter, just cited, he had some
curious dealings with the English Puritans. In 1566 many of them had
been ejected from their livings, and, like the Scottish Catholics, they
"assembled in woods and private houses to worship God." {259b} The
edifying controversies between these precisians and Grindal, the Bishop
of London, are recorded by Strype. The bishop was no zealot for
surplices and the other momentous trifles which agitate the human
conscience, but Elizabeth insisted on them; and "Her Majesty's Government
must be carried on." The precisians had deserted the English Liturgy for
the Genevan Book of Common Order; both sides were appealing to Beza, in
Geneva, and were wrangling about the interpretation of that Pontiff's
words. {259c}

Calvin had died in 1564, but the Genevan Church and Beza were still
umpires, whose decision was eagerly sought, quibbled over, and disputed.
The French Puritans, in fact, extremely detested the Anglican Book of
Common Prayer. Thus, in 1562, De la Vigne, a preacher at St. Lo,
consulted Calvin about the excesses of certain Flemish brethren, who
adhered to "a certain bobulary (bobulaire) of prayers, compiled, or
brewed, in the days of Edward VI." The Calvinists of St. Lo decided that
these Flemings must not approach their holy table, and called our
communion service "a disguised Mass." The Synod (Calvinistic) of
Poictiers decided that our Liturgy contains "impieties," and that Satan
was the real author of the work! There are saints' days, "with epistles,
lessons, or gospels, as under the papacy." They have heard that the
Prayer Book has been condemned by Geneva. {260a}

The English sufferers from our Satanic Prayer Book appealed to Geneva,
and were answered by Beza (October 24, 1567). He observed, "Who are we
to give any judgment of these things, which, as it seems to us, can be
healed only by prayers and patience." Geneva has not heard both sides,
and does not pretend to judge. The English brethren complain that
ministers are appointed "without any lawful consent of the Presbytery,"
the English Church not being Presbyterian, and not intending to be. Beza
hopes that it will become Presbyterian. He most dreads that any should
"execute their ministry contrary to the will of her Majesty and the
Bishops," which is exactly what the seceders did. Beza then speaks out
about the question of costume, which ought not to be forced on the
ministers. But he does not think that the vestments justify schism. In
other points the brethren should, in the long run, "give way to manifest
violence," and "live as private men." "Other defilements" (kneeling,
&c.) Beza hopes that the Queen and Bishops will remove. Men must
"patiently bear with one another, and heartily obey the Queen's Majesty
and all their Bishops." {260b}

As far as this epistle goes, Beza and his colleagues certainly do not
advise the Puritan seceders to secede.

Bullinger and Gualterus in particular were outworn by the pertinacious
English Puritans who visited them. One Sampson had, when in exile, made
the life of Peter Martyr a burden to him by his "clamours," doubts, and
restless dissatisfaction. "England," wrote Bullinger to Beza (March 15,
1567), "has many characters of this sort, who cannot be at rest, who can
never be satisfied, and who have always something or other to complain
about." Bullinger and Gualterus "were unwilling to contend with these
men like fencing-masters," tired of their argufying; unable to "withdraw
our entire confidence from the Bishops." "If any others think of coming
hither, let them know that they will come to no purpose." {261a}

Knox may have been less unsympathetic, but his advice agreed with the
advice of the Genevans. Some of the seceders were imprisoned; Cecil and
the Queen's commissioners encouraged others "to go and preach the Gospel
in Scotland," sending with them, as it seems, letters commendatory to the
ruling men there. They went, but they were not long away. "They liked
not that northern climate, but in May returned again," and fell to their
old practices. One of them reported that, at Dunbar, "he saw men going
to the church, on Good Friday, barefooted and bare-kneed, and creeping to
the cross!" "If this be so," said Grindal, "the Church of Scotland will
not be pure enough for our men." {261b}

These English brethren, when in Scotland, consulted Knox on the dispute
which they made a ground of schism. One brother, who was uncertain in
his mind, visited Knox in Scotland at this time. The result appears in a
letter to Knox from a seceder, written just after Queen Mary escaped from
Lochleven in May 1568. The dubiously seceding brother "told the Bishop"
(Grindal) "that you are flat against and condemn all our doings . . .
whereupon the Church" (the seceders) "did excommunicate him"! He had
reviled "the Church," and they at once caught "the excommunicatory
fever." Meanwhile the earnestly seceding brother thought that he had won
Knox to _his_ side. But a letter from our Reformer proved his error, and
the letter, as the brother writes, "is not in all points liked." They
would not "go back again to the wafer-cake and kneelings" (the Knoxian
Black Rubric had been deleted from Elizabeth's prayer book), "and to
other knackles of Popery."

In fact they obeyed Knox's epistle to England of January 1559. "Mingle-
mangle ministry, Popish order, and Popish apparel," they will not bear.
Knox's arguments in favour of their conforming, for the time at all
events, are quoted and refuted: "And also concerning Paul his purifying
at Jerusalem." The analogy of Paul's conformity had been rejected by
Knox, at the supper party with Lethington in 1556. He had "doubted
whether either James's commandment or Paul's obedience proceeded from the
Holy Ghost." {262a} Yet now Knox had used the very same argument from
Paul's conformity which, in 1556, he had scouted! The Mass was not in
question in 1568; still, if Paul was wrong (and he did get into peril
from a mob!), how could Knox now bid the English brethren follow his
example? {262b} (See pp. 65-67 supra.)

To be sure Mary was probably at large, when Knox wrote, with 4000 spears
at her back. The Reformer may have rightly thought it an ill moment to
irritate Elizabeth, or he may have grown milder than he was in 1559, and
come into harmony with Bullinger. In February of the year of this
correspondence he had written, "God comfort that dispersed little flock,"
apparently the Puritans of his old Genevan congregation, now in England,
and in trouble, "amongst whom I would be content to end my days. . . . "

In January 1570, Knox, "with his one foot in the grave," as he says, did
not despair of seeing his desire upon his enemy. Moray was asking
Elizabeth to hand over to him Queen Mary, giving hostages for the safety
of her life. Moray sent his messenger to Cecil, on January 2, 1570, and
Knox added a brief note. "If ye strike not at the root," he said, "the
branches that appear to be broken will bud again. . . . More days than
one would not suffice to express what I think." {263b} What he thought
is obvious; "stone dead hath no fellow." But Mary's day of doom had not
yet come; Moray was not to receive her as a prisoner, for the Regent was
shot dead, in Linlithgow, on January 23, by Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh, to
the unconcealed delight of his sister, for whom his death was opportune.

The assassin, Bothwellhaugh, in May 1568, had been pardoned for his
partisanship of Mary, at Knox's intercession. "Thy image, O Lord, did so
clearly shine on that personage" (Moray) - he said in his public prayer at
the Regent's funeral {263c} - "that the devil, and the people to whom he
is Prince, could not abide it." We know too much of Moray to acquiesce,
without reserve, in this eulogium.

Knox was sorely disturbed, at this time, by the publication of a jeu
d'esprit, in which the author professed to have been hidden in a bed, in
the cabinet of a room, while the late Regent held a council of his
friends. {264a} The tone and manner of Lindsay, Wood, Knox and others
were admirably imitated; in their various ways, and with appropriate
arguments, some of them urged Moray to take the crown for his life. By
no people but the Scots, perhaps, could this jape have been taken
seriously, but, with a gravity that would have delighted Charles Lamb,
Knox denounced the skit from the pulpit as a fabrication by the Father of
Lies. The author, the human penman, he said (according to Calderwood),
was fated to die friendless in a strange land. The galling shaft came
out of the Lethington quiver; it may have been composed by several of the
family, but Thomas Maitland, who later died in Italy, was regarded as the
author, {264b} perhaps because he did die alone in a strange country.

At this time the Castle of Edinburgh was held in the Queen's interest by
Kirkcaldy of Grange, who seems to have been won over by the guile of
Lethington. That politician needed a shelter from the danger of the
Lennox feud, and the charge of having been guilty of Darnley's murder. To
take the place was beyond the power of the Protestant party, and it did
not fall under the guns of their English allies during the life of the

He had a tedious quarrel with Kirkcaldy in December 1570-January 1571. A
retainer of Kirkcaldy's had helped to kill a man whom his master only
wanted to be beaten. The retainer was put into the Tolbooth; Kirkcaldy
set him free, and Knox preached against Kirkcaldy. Hearing that Knox had
styled him a murderer, Kirkcaldy bade Craig read from the pulpit a note
in which he denied the charge. He prayed God to decide whether he or
Knox "has been most desirous of innocent blood." Craig would not read
the note: Kirkcaldy appealed in a letter to the kirk-session. He
explained the origin of the trouble: the slain man had beaten his
brother; he bade his agents beat the insulter, who drew his sword, and
got a stab. On this Knox preached against him, he was told, as a cut-

Next Sunday Knox reminded his hearers that he had not called Kirkcaldy a
murderer (though in the case of the Cardinal, he was), but had said that
the lawless proceedings shocked him more than if they had been done by
common cut-throats. Knox then wrote a letter to the kirk-session, saying
that Kirkcaldy's defence proved him "to be a murderer at heart," for St.
John says that "whoso loveth not his brother is a man-slayer"; and
Kirkcaldy did not love the man who was killed. All this was apart from
the question: had Knox called Kirkcaldy a common cut-throat? Kirkcaldy
then asked that Knox's explanation of what he said in the pulpit might be
given in writing, as his words had been misreported, and Knox, "creeping
upon his club," went personally to the kirk-session, and requested the
Superintendent to admonish Kirkcaldy of his offences. Next Sunday he
preached about his eternal Ahab, and Kirkcaldy was offended by the
historical parallel. When he next was in church Knox went at him again;
it was believed that Kirkcaldy would avenge himself, but the western
brethren wrote to remind him of their "great care" for Knox's person. So
the quarrel, which made sermons lively, died out. {266}

There was little goodwill to Knox in the Queen's party, and as the
conflict was plainly to be decided by the sword, Robert Melville, from
the Castle, advised that the prophet should leave the town, in May 1571.
The "Castilian" chiefs wished him no harm, they would even shelter him in
their hold, but they could not be responsible for his "safety from the
multitude and rascal," in the town, for the craftsmen preferred the party
of Kirkcaldy. Knox had a curious interview in the Castle with
Lethington, now stricken by a mortal malady. The two old foes met
courteously, and parted even in merriment; Lethington did not mock, and

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 17 19 20

Online LibraryAndrew LangJohn Knox and the Reformation → online text (page 17 of 20)