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paid traitors, did not resent these "rebukes of a friend," so much as
both the nobles and the people now began to detest their French allies,
and were jealous of the Queen Mother's promotion of Frenchmen.

There were not, to be sure, many Scots whom she, or any one, could trust.
Some were honestly Protestant: some held pensions from England: others
would sacrifice national interests to their personal revenges and clan
feuds. The Rev. the Lord James Stewart, Mary's bastard brother, Prior of
St. Andrews and of Pittenweem, was still very young. He had no interest
in his clerical profession beyond drawing his revenues as prior of two
abbeys; and his nearness to the Crown caused him to be suspected of
ambition: moreover, he tended towards the new ideas in religion. He had
met Knox in London, apparently in 1552. Morton was a mere wavering
youth; Argyll was very old: Chatelherault was a rival of the Regent, a
competitor for the Crown and quite incompetent. The Regent, in short,
could scarcely have discovered a Scottish adviser worthy of employment,
and when she did trust one, he was the brilliant "chamaeleon," young
Maitland of Lethington, who would rather betray his master cleverly than
run a straight course, and did betray the Regent. Thus Mary, a
Frenchwoman and a Catholic, governing Scotland for her Catholic daughter,
the Dauphiness, with the aid of a few French troops who had just saved
the independence of the country, naturally employed French advisers. This
made her unpopular; her attempts to bring justice into Scottish courts
were odious, and she would not increase the odium by persecuting the
Protestants. The Duke's bastard brother, again, the Archbishop, sharing
his family ambition, was in no mood for burning heretics. The Queen
Mother herself carried conciliation so far as to pardon and reinstate
such trebly dyed traitors as the notorious Crichton of Brunston, and she
employed Kirkcaldy of Grange, who intrigued against her while in her
employment. An Edinburgh tailor, Harlaw, who seems to have been a deacon
in English orders, was allowed to return to Scotland in 1554. He became
a very notable preacher. {62a}

Going from Mrs. Bowes's house to Edinburgh, Knox found that "the
fervency" of the godly "did ravish him." At the house of one Syme "the
trumpet blew the auld sound three days thegither," he informed Mrs.
Bowes, and Knox himself was the trumpeter. He found another lady, "who,
by reason that she had a troubled conscience, delighted much in the
company of the said John." There were pleasant sisters in Edinburgh, who
later consulted Knox on the delicate subject of dress. He was more
tolerant in answering them than when he denounced "the stinking pride of
women" at Mary Stuart's Court; admitting that "in clothes, silks,
velvets, gold, and other such, there is no uncleanness," yet "I cannot
praise the common superfluity which women now use in their apparel." He
was quite opposed, however, to what he pleasingly calls "correcting
natural beauty" (as by dyeing the hair), and held that "farthingales
cannot be justified."

On the whole, he left the sisters fairly free to dress as they pleased.
His curious phrase, {62b} in a letter to a pair of sisters, "the prophets
of God are often impeded to pray for such as carnally they love
unfeignedly," is difficult to understand. We leave it to the learned to
explain this singular limitation of the prophet, which Knox says that he
had not as yet experienced. He must have heard about it from other

Knox found at this time a patron remarkable, says Dr. M'Crie, "for great
respectability of character," Erskine of Dun. Born in 1508, about 1530
he slew a priest named Thomas Froster, in a curiously selected place, the
belfry tower of Montrose. Nobody seems to have thought anything of it,
nor should we know the fact, if the record of the blood-price paid by Mr.
Erskine to the priest's father did not testify to the fervent act. Six
years later, according to Knox, "God had marvellously illuminated"
Erskine, and the mildness of his nature is frequently applauded. He was,
for Scotland, a man of learning, and our first amateur of Greek. Why did
he kill a priest in a bell tower!

In the winter or autumn of 1555, Erskine gave a supper, where Knox was to
argue against crypto-protestantism. When once the Truth, whether
Anglican or Presbyterian, was firmly established, Catholics were
compelled, under very heavy fines, to attend services and sermons which
they believed to be at least erroneous, if not blasphemous. I am not
aware that, in 1555, the Catholic Church, in Scotland, thus vigorously
forced people of Protestant opinions to present themselves at Mass,
punishing nonconformity with ruin. I have not found any complaints to
this effect, at that time. But no doubt an appearance of conformity
might save much trouble, even in the lenient conditions produced by the
character of the Regent and by the political situation. Knox, then,
discovered that "divers who had a zeal to godliness made small scruple to
go to the Mass, or to communicate with the abused sacraments in the
Papistical manner." He himself, therefore, "began to show the impiety of
the Mass, and how dangerous a thing it was to communicate in any sort
with idolatry."

Now to many of his hearers this essential article of his faith - that the
Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist and form of celebration were
"idolatry" - may have been quite a new idea. It was already, however, a
commonplace with Anglican Protestants. Nothing of the sort was to be
found in the _first_ Prayer Book of Edward VI.; broken lights of various
ways of regarding the Sacrament probably played, at this moment, over the
ideas of Knox's Scottish disciples. Indeed, their consciences appear to
have been at rest, for it was _after_ Knox's declaration about the
"idolatrous" character of the Mass that "the matter began to be agitated
from man to man, the conscience of some being afraid."

To us it may seem that the sudden denunciation of a Christian ceremony,
even what may be deemed a perverted Christian ceremony, as sheer
"idolatry," equivalent to the worship of serpents, bulls, or of a foreign
Baal in ancient Israel - was a step calculated to confuse the real issues
and to provoke a religious war of massacre. Knox, we know, regarded
extermination of idolaters as a counsel of perfection, though in the
Christian scriptures not one word could be found to justify his position.
He relied on texts about massacring Amalekites and about Elijah's
slaughter of the prophets of Baal. The Mass was idolatry, was Baal
worship; and Baal worshippers, if recalcitrant, must die.

These extreme unchristian ideas, then, were new in Scotland, even to
"divers who had a zeal to godliness." For their discussion, at Erskine
of Dun's party, were present, among others, Willock, a Scots preacher
returned from England, and young Maitland of Lethington. We are not told
what part Willock took in the conversation. The arguments turned on
biblical analogies, never really coincident with the actual modern
circumstances. The analogy produced in discussion by those who did not
go to all extremes with Knox did not, however, lack appropriateness.
Christianity, in fact, as they seem to have argued, did arise out of
Judaism; retaining the same God and the same scriptures, but, in virtue
of the sacrifice of its Founder, abstaining from the sacrifices and
ceremonial of the law. In the same way Protestantism arose out of
mediaeval Catholicism, retaining the same God and the same scriptures,
but rejecting the mediaeval ceremonial and the mediaeval theory of the
sacrifice of the Mass. It did not follow that the Mass was sheer
"idolatry," at which no friend of the new ideas could be present.

As a proof that such presence or participation was not unlawful, was not
idolatry, in the existing state of affairs, was adduced the conduct of
St. Paul and the advice given to him by St. James and the Church in
Jerusalem (Acts xxi. 18-36). Paul was informed that many thousands of
Jews "believed," yet remained zealous for the law, the old order. They
had learned that Paul advised the Jews in Greece and elsewhere not to
"walk after the customs." Paul should prove that "he also kept the law."
For this purpose he, with four Christian Jews under a vow, was to purify
himself, and he went into the Temple, "until that an offering should be
offered for every one of them."

"Offerings," of course, is the term in our version for sacrifices,
whether of animals or of "unleavened wafers anointed with oil." The
argument from analogy was, I infer, that the Mass, with its wafer, was
precisely such an "offering," such a survival in Catholic ritual, as in
Jewish ritual St. Paul consented to, by the advice of the Church of
Jerusalem; consequently Protestants in a Catholic country, under the
existing circumstances, might attend the Mass. The Mass was not
"idolatry." The analogy halts, like all analogies, but so, of course,
and to fatal results, does Knox's analogy between the foreign worships of
Israel and the Mass. "She thinks not _that_ idolatry, but good
religion," said Lethington to Knox once, speaking of Queen Mary's Mass.
"So thought they that offered their children unto Moloch," retorted the
reformer. Manifestly the Mass is, of the two, much more on a level with
the "offering" of St. Paul than with human sacrifices to Moloch! {66}

In his reply Knox, as he states his own argument, altogether overlooked
the _offering_ of St. Paul, which, as far as we understand, was the
essence of his opponents' contention. He said that "to pay _vows_ was
never idolatry," but "the Mass from the original was and remained odious
idolatry, therefore the facts were most unlike. Secondly, I greatly
doubt whether either James's commandment or Paul's obedience proceeded
from the Holy Ghost," about which Knox was, apparently, better informed
than these Apostles and the Church of Jerusalem. Next, Paul was
presently in danger from a mob, which had been falsely told that he took
Greeks into the Temple. Hence it was manifest "that God approved not
that means of reconciliation." Obviously the danger of an Apostle from a
misinformed mob is no sort of evidence to divine approval or disapproval
of his behaviour. {67} We shall later find that when Knox was urging on
some English nonconformists the beauty of conformity (1568), he employed
the very precedent of St. Paul's conduct at Jerusalem, which he rejected
when it was urged at Erskine's supper party!

We have dwelt on this example of Knox's logic, because it is crucial. The
reform of the Church of Christ could not be achieved without cruel
persecution on both parts, while Knox was informing Scotland that all
members of the old Faith were as much idolaters as Israelites who
sacrificed their children to a foreign God, while to extirpate idolaters
was the duty of a Christian prince. Lethington, as he soon showed, was
as clear-sighted in regard to Knox's logical methods as any man of to-
day, but he "concluded, saying, I see perfectly that our shifts will
serve nothing before God, seeing that they stand us in so small stead
before man." But either Lethington conformed and went to Mass, or Mary
of Guise expected nothing of the sort from him, for he remained high in
her favour, till he betrayed her in 1559.

Knox's opinion being accepted - it obviously was a novelty to many of his
hearers - the Reformers must either convert or persecute the Catholics
even to extermination. Circumstances of mere worldly policy forbade the
execution of this counsel of perfection, but persistent "idolaters,"
legally, lay after 1560 under sentence of death. There was to come a
moment, we shall see, when even Knox shrank from the consequences of a
theory ("a murderous syllogism," writes one of his recent biographers,
Mr. Taylor Innes), which divided his countrymen into the godly, on one
hand, and idolaters doomed to death by divine law, on the other. But he
put his hesitation behind him as a suggestion of Satan.

Knox now associated with Lord Erskine, then Governor of Edinburgh Castle,
the central strength of Scotland; with Lord Lorne, soon to be Earl of
Argyll (a "Christian," but not a remarkably consistent walker), with
"Lord James," the natural brother of Queen Mary (whose conscience, as we
saw, permitted him to draw the benefices of the Abbacy of St. Andrews, of
Pittenweem, and of an abbey in France, without doing any duties), and
with many redoubtable lairds of the Lothians, Ayrshire, and Forfarshire.
He also preached for ten days in the town house, at Edinburgh, of the
Bishop of Dunkeld. On May 15, 1556, he was summoned to appear in the
church of the Black Friars. As he was backed by Erskine of Dun, and
other gentlemen, according to the Scottish custom when legal proceedings
were afoot, no steps were taken against him, the clergy probably dreading
Knox's defenders, as Bothwell later, in similar circumstances, dreaded
the assemblage under the Earl of Moray; as Lennox shrank from facing the
supporters of Bothwell, and Moray from encountering the spears of
Lethington's allies. It was usual to overawe the administrators of
justice by these gatherings of supporters, perhaps a survival of the old
"compurgators." This, in fact, was "part of the obligation of our
Scottish kyndness," and the divided ecclesiastical and civil powers
shrank from a conflict.

Glencairn and the Earl Marischal, in the circumstances, advised Knox to
write a letter to Mary of Guise, "something that might move her to hear
the Word of God," that is, to hear Knox preach. This letter, as it then
stood, was printed in a little black-letter volume, probably of 1556.
Knox addresses the Regent and Queen Mother as "her humble subject." The
document has an interest almost pathetic, and throws light on the whole
character of the great Reformer. It appears that Knox had been reported
to the Regent by some of the clergy, or by rumour, as a heretic and
seducer of the people. But Knox had learned that the "dew of the
heavenly grace" had quenched her displeasure, and he hoped that the
Regent would be as clement to others in his case as to him. Therefore he
returns to his attitude in the letter to his Berwick congregation (1552).
He calls for no Jehu, he advises no armed opposition to the sovereign,
but says of "God's chosen children" (the Protestants), that "their
victory standeth not in resisting but in suffering," "in quietness,
silence, and hope," as the Prophet Isaiah recommends. The Isaiahs
(however numerous modern criticism may reckon them) were late prophets,
not of the school of Elijah, whom Knox followed in 1554 and 1558-59, not
in 1552 or 1555, or on one occasion in 1558-59. "The Elect of God" do
not "shed blood and murder," Knox remarks, though he approves of the
Elect, of the brethren at all events, when they _do_ murder and shed

Meanwhile Knox is more than willing to run the risks of the preacher of
the truth, "partly because I would, with St. Paul, wish myself accursed
from Christ, as touching earthly pleasures" (whatever that may mean),
"for the salvation of my brethren and illumination of your Grace." He
confesses that the Regent is probably not "so free as a public
reformation perhaps would require," for that required the downcasting of
altars and images, and prohibition to celebrate or attend Catholic rites.
Thus Knox would, apparently, be satisfied for the moment with toleration
and immunity for his fellow-religionists. Nothing of the sort really
contented him, of course, but at present he asked for no more.

Yet, a few days later, he writes, the Regent handed his letter to the
Archbishop of Glasgow, saying, "Please you, my Lord, to read a pasquil,"
an offence which Knox never forgave and bitterly avenged in his

It is possible that the Regent merely glanced at his letter. She would
find herself alluded to in a biblical parallel with "the Egyptian
midwives," with Nebuchadnezzar, and Rahab the harlot. Her acquaintance
with these amiable idolaters may have been slight, but the comparison was
odious, and far from tactful. Knox also reviled the creed in which she
had been bred as "a poisoned cup," and threatened her, if she did not act
on his counsel, with "torment and pain everlasting." Those who drink of
the cup of her Church "drink therewith damnation and death." As for her
clergy, "proud prelates do Kings maintain to murder the souls for which
the blood of Christ Jesus was shed."

These statements were dogmatic, and the reverse of conciliatory. One
should not, in attempting to convert any person, begin by reviling his
religion. Knox adopted the same method with Mary Stuart: the method is
impossible. It is not to be marvelled at if the Regent did style the
letter a "pasquil."

Knox took his revenge in his "History" by repeating a foolish report that
Mary of Guise had designed to poison her late husband, James V. "Many
whisper that of old his part was in the pot, and that the suspicion
thereof caused him to be inhibited the Queen's company, while the
Cardinal got his secret business sped of that gracious lady either by day
or night." {71a} He styled her, as we saw, "a wanton widow"; he hinted
that she was the mistress of Cardinal Beaton; he made similar
insinuations about her relations with d'Oysel (who was "a secretis
mulierum"); he said, as we have seen, that she only waited her chance to
cut the throats of all suspected Protestants; he threw doubt on the
legitimacy of her daughter, Mary Stuart; and he constantly accuses her of
treachery, as will appear, when the charge is either doubtful, or, as far
as I can ascertain, absolutely false.

These are unfortunately examples of Knox's Christianity. {71b} It is
very easy for modern historians and biographers to speak with genial
applause of the prophet's manly bluffness. But if we put ourselves in
the position of opponents whom he was trying to convert, of the two Marys
for example, we cannot but perceive that his method was hopelessly
mistaken. In attempting to evangelise an Euahlayi black fellow, we
should not begin by threats of damnation, and by railing accusations
against his god, Baiame.

REVOLUTION, 1556-1558

Knox was about this time summoned to be one of the preachers to the
English at Geneva. He sent in advance Mrs. Bowes and his wife, visited
Argyll and Glenorchy (now Breadalbane), wrote (July 7) an epistle bidding
the brethren be diligent in reading and discussing the Bible, and went
abroad. His effigy was presently burned by the clergy, as he had not
appeared in answer to a second summons, and he was outlawed in absence.

It is not apparent that Knox took any part in the English translation of
the Bible, then being executed at Geneva. Greek and Hebrew were not his
forte, though he had now some knowledge of both tongues, but he preached
to the men who did the work. The perfections of Genevan Church
discipline delighted him. "Manners and religion so sincerely reformed I
have not yet seen in any other place." The genius of Calvin had made
Geneva a kind of Protestant city state [Greek text]; a Calvinistic
Utopia - everywhere the vigilant eyes of the preachers and magistrates
were upon every detail of daily life. Monthly and weekly the magistrates
and ministers met to point out each other's little failings. Knox felt
as if he were indeed in the City of God, and later he introduced into
Scotland, and vehemently abjured England to adopt, the Genevan
"discipline." England would none of it, and would not, even in the days
of the Solemn League and Covenant, suffer the excommunication by
preachers to pass without lay control.

It is unfortunate that the ecclesiastical polity and discipline of a
small city state, like a Greek [Greek word polis], feasible in such a
community as Geneva at a moment of spiritual excitement, was brought by
Knox and his brethren into a nation like Scotland. The results were a
hundred and twenty-nine years of unrest, civil war, and persecution.

Though happy in the affection of his wife and Mrs. Bowes, Knox, at this
time, needed more of feminine society. On November 19, 1556, he wrote to
his friend, Mrs. Locke, wife of a Cheapside merchant: "You write that
your desire is earnest to see me. Dear sister, if I should express the
thirst and languor which I have had for your presence, I should appear to
pass measure. . . . Your presence is so dear to me that if the charge of
this little flock . . . did not impede me, my presence should anticipate
my letter." Thus Knox was ready to brave the fires of Smithfield, or,
perhaps, forgot them for the moment in his affection for Mrs. Locke. He
writes to no other woman in this fervid strain. On May 8, 1557, Mrs.
Locke with her son and daughter (who died after her journey), joined Knox
at Geneva. {73}

He was soon to be involved in Scottish affairs. After his departure from
his country, omens and prodigies had ensued. A comet appeared in
November-December 1556. Next year some corn-stacks were destroyed by
lightning. Worse, a calf with two heads was born, and was exhibited as a
warning to Mary of Guise by Robert Ormistoun. The idolatress merely
sneered, and said "it was but a common thing." Such a woman was
incorrigible. Mary of Guise is always blamed for endangering Scotland in
the interests of her family, the Guises of the House of Lorraine. In
fact, so far as she tried to make Scotland a province of France, she was
serving the ambition of Henri II. It could not be foreseen, in 1555,
that Henri II. would be slain in 1559, leaving the two kingdoms in the
hands of Francis II. and Mary Stuart, who were so young, that they would
inevitably be ruled by the Queen's uncles of the House of Lorraine.
Shortly before Knox arrived in Scotland in 1555, the Duc de Guise had
advised the Regent to "use sweetness and moderation," as better than
"extremity and rigour"; advice which she acted on gladly.

Unluckily the war between France and Spain, in 1557, brought English
troops into collision with French forces in the Low Countries (Philip II.
being king of England); this led to complications between Scotland, as
ally of France, and the English on the Borders. Border raids began;
d'Oysel fortified Eyemouth, as a counterpoise to Berwick, war was
declared in November, and the discontented Scots, such as Chatelherault,
Huntly, Cassilis, and Argyll, mutinied and refused to cross Tweed. {74}
Thus arose a breach between the Regent and some of her nobles, who at
last, in 1559, rebelled against her on the ground of religion. While the
weak war languished on, in 1557-58, "the Evangel of Jesus Christ began
wondrously to flourish," says Knox. Other evangelists of his pattern,
Harlaw, Douglas, Willock, and a baker, Methuen (later a victim of the
intolerably cruel "discipline" of the Kirk Triumphant), preached at
Dundee, and Methuen started a reformed Kirk (though not without being
declared rebels at the horn). When these persons preached, their hearers
were apt to raise riots, wreck churches, and destroy works of sacred art.
No Government could for ever wink at such lawless actions, and it was
because the pulpiteers, Methuen, Willock, Douglas, and the rest, were
again "put at," after being often suffered to go free, that the final
crash came, and the Reformation began in the wrack and ruin of
monasteries and churches.

There was drawing on another thunder-cloud. The policy of Mary of Guise
certainly tended to make Scotland a mere province of France, a province
infested by French forces, slender, but ill-paid and predacious. Before
marrying the Dauphin, in April 1558, Mary Stuart, urged it is said by the
Guises, signed away the independence of her country, to which her
husband, by these deeds, was to succeed if she died without issue. Young
as she was, Mary was perfectly able to understand the infamy of the
transaction, and probably was not so careless as to sign the deeds

Even before this secret treaty was drafted, on March 10, 1557, Glencairn,
Lorne, Erskine, and the Prior of St. Andrews - best known to us in after
years as James Stewart, Earl of Moray - informed Knox that no "cruelty" by
way of persecution was being practised; that his presence was desired,
and that they were ready to jeopard their lives and goods for the cause.
The rest would be told to Knox by the bearer of the letter. Knox
received the letter in May 1557, with verbal reports by the bearers, but
was so far from hasty that he did not leave Geneva till the end of

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Online LibraryAndrew LangJohn Knox and the Reformation → online text (page 5 of 20)