John Knox
by A. Taylor Innes
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Mrs Bowes was not the only 'mirror and glass' in whom Knox allows us to see his inner self 'painted,' though the woman-hearted warrior is limned in the letters to her more nearly at full length. Two ladies in Edinburgh, one the wife of the Lord Clerk Register, and the other of the City Clerk, were his friends and correspondents, at a later date, but while he was still in exile. And in a letter 'to his sisters' in that town, he unbosoms himself as usual as to the principles of his inner life, but adds—

Alas! as the wounded man, be he never so expert in physic or surgery, cannot suddenly mitigate his own pain and dolour, no more can I the fear and grief of my heart, although I am not altogether ignorant what is to be done.'[54]

The same sentiment is expanded in one of a number of letters sent to a group of 'merchants' wives in London,' which probably included the 'three honest poor women'[55] of whom we have already heard. Of this group the most remarkable was Mrs Anna Locke, of the family which afterwards yielded the famous John Locke. She, like Mrs Bowes, followed Knox to Geneva amid the stream of exiles from London; and his letters to her give the impression that she was not only wealthy and energetic, but possessed of higher character and more accomplishments than the well-born Elizabeth Bowes. The letters to the latter were written chiefly in 1553. The following, to Mrs Locke, is sent from Scotland after Knox's return there, and is dated on last day of 1559:—

'God make yourself participant of the same comfort which you write unto me. And in very deed, dear sister, I have no less need of comfort (notwithstanding that I am not altogether ignorant) than hath the living man to be fed, although in store he hath great substance. I have read the cares and temptations of Moses, and sometimes I supposed myself to be well practised in such dangerous battles. But, alas! I now perceive that all my practice before was but mere speculation; for one day of troubles since my last arrival in Scotland, hath more pierced my heart than all the torments of the galleys did the space of nineteen months; for that torment, for the most part, did touch the body, but this pierces the soul and inward affections. Then I was assuredly persuaded that I should not die till I had preached Jesus Christ, even where I now am. And yet having now my hearty desire, I am nothing satisfied, neither yet rejoice. My God, remove my unthankfulness!'[56]

Men of this expansive and confiding temperament are attractive, and will occasionally get into trouble, even in later life. We find Mrs Bowes ere long complaining that she 'had not been equally made privy to Knox's coming into the country with others,' and needing to be assured that 'none is this day within the realm of England, with whom I would more gladly speak (only she whom God hath offered unto me, and commanded me to love as my own flesh, excepted) than with you.'[57] Mrs Locke, later on, points out that she has not had a letter for a whole year. And this elicits not only the assurance that it is not the absence of one year or two 'that can quench in my heart that familiar acquaintance in Christ Jesus, which half a year did engender, and almost two years did nourish and confirm,' but also the following striking general statement, which, like many things from Knox, impresses us by a certain straightforward and noble egotism:

'Of nature I am churlish, and in conditions[58] different from many: yet one thing I ashame not to affirm, that familiarity once thoroughly contracted was never yet broken on my default. The cause may be that I have rather need of all, than that any have need of me.'[59]

It may be true that Knox never broke a friendship with either sex. But his friendships with men were masculine and very reserved in tone; and we may be quite sure that the memorable concluding sentence of the above paragraph would never have been written except to a woman. Most people will be delighted to see already fallen under the 'regimen of women' the very man who was to set the trumpet to his lips against it. But those who study Knox's life are indebted to his familiar correspondence, and especially to the earlier part of it, for far more than the gratification of this not unkindly malice. For these letters, I think, prove to all—what the finer ear might have gathered with certainty from many things even in his public writings—that the main source of that outward and active career was an inner life.

We must part for ever with the idea of Knox as a human cannon-ball, endowed simply with force of will, and tearing and shattering as it goes. The views which at a definite period gave this tremendous impulse to a nature previously passive, are not obscure, and are perfectly traceable. They are views upon which Knox continually insists as common to himself with all Christian men, and which were common to him with the mass of Christian men—and women—who were the strength of that time and the hope of the age to follow. They were views which, when received with full conviction by any individual, led outwardly to suffering on the one hand, or, on the other, to shattering the whole compacted system of opposing intolerance. But they were views which, when thus translated into convictions, not only pressed outward with explosive force, but also, and necessarily, spread inwards in reflux and expansion to refresh and animate the man. They might have done so—in the case of some men of that time they did—without overflowing into the private life and into sympathetic converse and confidence with others. But Knox was so constituted as to need this also and to supply it. And the fragments of his correspondence which are all that remain to us, and which probably were all that an extraordinarily busy public work permitted, are conclusive on some things and instructive on others. They are conclusive as to the existence, under that breastplate of hammered iron with which Knox confronted all outward opposition, of a private and personal life—a life inward, secret, and deep, and a life also rich, tender, and eminently sympathetic. They are conclusive also, I think, of this inner life being the source and spring of the life without, instead of being merely derived from it. And they will thus be found instructive as to the influence of that hidden life, in its strength and its limitations alike, on the external career which we have now to trace.

[32] 'Works,' iii. 395.

[33] 'Works,' iii. 376.

[34] 'Works,' iii. 378.

[35] 'Works,' iii. 358.

[36] 'Works,' vi. 104.

[37] 'Works,' ii. 138.

[38] 'Calvini Epistolae,' Ep. 306.

[39] 'Works,' vi. p. lvii.

[40] 'Works,' iii. 337.

[41] 'Works,' iii. 352.

[42] 'Works,' iii. 379. Compare, or contrast, this scene of the three poor women with another recorded by a still greater master of English. The tinker had gone on business one day to Bedford:

'In one of the streets of that town, I came where there were three or four poor women sitting at a door in the sun, and talking about the things of God.... But they were far above, out of my reach; for their talk was about a new birth, the work of God on their hearts, also how they were convinced of their miserable state.... And methought they spake as if joy did make them speak; they spake with such pleasantness of Scripture language, and with such appearance of grace in all they said, that they were to me as if they had found a new world, as if they were people that dwelt alone, and were not to be reckoned among their neighbours.'—Bunyan's Grace Abounding.

[43] 'Works,' iii. 350.

[44] 'Works,' iii. 360.

[45] 'Works,' iii. 366.

[46] 'Works,' iii. 368.

[47] 'Works,' iii. 357. Browning makes his good old Pope feel, in the later Renaissance, as if Christian heroism had been

'so possible When in the way stood Nero's cross and stake, So hard now'—

and, looking back almost regretfully to Nero's time, to ask—

'How could saints and martyrs fail see truth Streak the night's blackness?'

'The Ring and the Book. The Pope,' line 1827.

[48] 'Works,' vi. 514.

[49] 'The examples of God's children always complaining of their own wretchedness serve for the penitent that they slide not into desperation.'—'Works,' vi. 85.

[50] 'Works,' iii. 386.

[51] 'Works,' vi. 513.

[52] It is of the letter from which the above is taken that Knox in publishing it long after says apologetically, 'If it serve not for this estate of Scotland, yet it will serve a troubled conscience, so long as the Kirk of God remaineth in either realm.'—'Works,' vi. 617.

[53] 'Works,' iii. 362.

[54] 'Works,' iv. 252.

[55] 'Honest' in that age meant something nearly equivalent to 'honourable,' and that they were 'poor women' may refer to troubles which they brought to him, other than want of money.

[56] 'Works,' vi. 104.

[57] 'Works,' iii. 370.

[58] 'Conditions' refers to inward nature, not outward circumstances. It may be explained by a letter written nine years later, also to a friend in England, in which Knox apologises for not having written him for years, during which the Reformer had been 'tossed with many storms,' yet might have sent a letter, 'if that this my churlish nature, for the most part oppressed with melancholy, had not staid tongue and pen from doing of their duty.'—'Works,' vi. 566. Knox in 1553 was suffering severely from gravel and dyspepsia; one of these was already an 'old malady'; and both seem to have clung to him during the rest of his life.

[59] 'Works,' vi. 11.



Knox had preached only for a few months in St Andrews in 1547, when the castle capitulated to the foreign fleet, and he and his companions were flung into the French galleys. There for nineteen months he toiled at the oar under the lash, and through the cold of two winters, and the heat of the intervening summer, had leisure to count the cost of the choice so recently made. It is a tribute to his constancy that men chiefly remember this dark time by its spots of colour—as when, at Nantes, he flung Our Lady's image into the Loire—'She is light enough: let her learn to swim!' And when off St Andrews they pointed out to him the steeple of the kirk, the emaciated prisoner replied, 'Yes, I know it well: and I am fully persuaded, how weak that ever I now appear, that I shall not depart this life till that my tongue shall glorify His godly name in the same place.' But this first apprenticeship to sorrow went deep into the man. It was when he was 'in Rouen, lying in irons, and sore troubled by corporal infirmity, in a galley named Notre Dame,' that he sent a letter to his St Andrews friends. And in it he asks them to 'Consider'—his countrymen have scarcely as yet considered it sufficiently—'Consider, brethren, it is no speculative theologue which desireth to give you courage, but even your brother in affliction, which partly hath experience what Satan's wrath may do against the chosen of God.'[60] His spirit indeed was in no wise broken: on his escape from France he became again a garrison preacher, and gained over King Edward's rude soldiers in Berwick an ascendancy, even greater than he had held in St Andrews over the young lairds of Fife. But, though not broken, it was chastened. It was during the following years, and especially in 1553, that he wrote the deeply sympathetic letters from which we have already quoted. And in 1554, when he left England to escape Mary Tudor, he introduces into a short but admirable treatise on Prayer some autobiographical references, which seem to date back to the extreme suffering of his captivity, 'when not only the ungodly, but even my faithful brethren, yea, and my own self, that is, all natural understanding, judged my cause (case) to be irremediable.'

'The frail flesh, oppressed with fear and pain, desireth deliverance, ever abhorring and drawing back from obedience giving. O Christian brethren, I write by experience ... I know the grudging and murmuring complaints of the flesh; I know the anger, wrath, and indignation which it conceiveth against God, calling all his promises in doubt, and being ready every hour utterly to fall from God. Against which rests [remains] only faith.'

Knox's faith sprang readily to whatever active duty was set before it. On his escape from France he spent, as we have seen, five years in England, and at the close of that period we have his own assurance that he had become almost an Englishman.

'Sometime I have thought that impossible it had been, so to have removed my affection from the realm of Scotland, that any realm or nation could have been equally dear to me. But God I take to record in my conscience that the troubles present (and appearing to be) in the realm of England are doubly more dolorous unto my heart than ever were the troubles of Scotland.'[61]

He had laboured incessantly in many parts of England, first as licensed preacher and then as King's chaplain, and this of course brought him in contact with church politics as well as the Evangel. It was owing to Knox's remonstrances that, when King Edward's Council put kneeling at the Sacrament into the Prayer-Book, they accompanied it with the Rubric, which is still retained, and which testifies 'that thereby no adoration is intended or ought to be done.' So far his position was reasonable, and even conciliatory. But as early as 1550, when requested, perhaps by the Council of the North, to 'give his confession' in Newcastle as to the Mass, he repeated the Puritan view of his first St Andrews sermon, but now in his favourite form of a syllogism, and with its major clause dangerously enlarged.

'All worshipping, honouring, or service invented by the brain of man in the religion of God, without his own express commandment, is Idolatry.[62] The Mass is invented by the brain of man without any commandment of God, therefore it is idolatry.'

To Knox's five years in England now succeeded five years which may be said to have been spent on the Continent. He first drifted to Frankfort, and was put in charge of the English congregation there. Very soon the two parties, which have ever since divided the Church of England, made their appearance in this representative fragment of it. Knox, of course, took the Puritan side as to the form of worship; but a large part of his congregation insisted on the full service of King Edward's book. The matter was brought to a close in rather an unfortunate way by two of Knox's opponents lodging an accusation against him before the Magistrates, of treason against the Emperor, the English Queen, and her Spanish husband. Frankfort was an imperial city, and Knox was thus no longer safe there. He went to Geneva, which was then, under Calvin's influence, an illustrious centre of the reformed faith; and was at once called to be co-pastor there (along with Goodman) of the English-speaking congregation. Knox's later biographer points out the historic importance of this 'the first Puritan congregation.' It was the source of Elizabethan Non-conformity, and 'it is in the writings of Knox and Goodman that those doctrines were first unflinchingly expounded which eventually became the tradition of Puritanism.'[63] The Church Order, too, which they adopted became afterwards that of worship in Scotland; their Psalms were the model for the English and Scotch versions; and, above all, the Genevan Bible, prepared by the members of Knox's congregation at the very time he was their minister, continued for three-quarters of a century thereafter to be 'the household book of the English-speaking nations.' It is called the happiest and most peaceful time of Knox's life. But it was a time of incessant preparation for still greater things, and in this short biography we must confine ourselves to what bears either on the man himself or on his supreme work for his native country.

For during all Knox's life on the Continent he seems to have kept in view the problem of how the Evangel could be set free in Scotland. He never had any doubt as to the duty of the individual to confess it in the teeth of the Magistrate and of the law. But how could men combine together to do so, against authority otherwise lawful? On this and similar points he proposed questions on his first arrival in Switzerland to the leading theologians. Bullinger, with the approval of Calvin, gave an answer which may have suggested to Knox the idea that a people (the Armenians are specially instanced) may revolt against 'their legitimate magistrate' who persecutes the truth, provided they have an inferior magistrate to lead them.[64] And next year, 1555, Knox made a memorable visit to Scotland. There James the Fifth's widow, Mary of Lorraine, was now Regent, and so chief 'Magistrate.' She was during all those years not disposed to be intolerant, and the prospect was everywhere encouraging. From Edinburgh Knox writes to Mrs Bowes (still in Northumberland), thanking her for being

'the instrument to draw me from the den of my own ease (you alone did draw me from the rest of quiet study) to contemplate and behold the fervent thirst of our brethren, night and day sobbing and groaning for the bread of life. If I had not seen it with my eyes in my own country, I could not have believed it. Depart I cannot, unto such time as God quench their thirst a little.' And accordingly later on he adds, 'The trumpet blew the old sound three days together, till private houses of indifferent largeness could not contain the voice of it. God for Christ his Son's sake grant me to be mindful that the sobs of my heart have not been in vain, nor neglected in the presence of his Majesty. O sweet were the death that should follow such forty days in Edinburgh as here I have had three!'[65]

It was in the midst of this glowing enthusiasm that Knox attended an Edinburgh supper party in the house of Erskine, the Laird of Dun, where the question was formally discussed whether those who believed the Evangel could countenance by their presence the celebration of the Mass? Knox maintained the negative, and as young Maitland of Lethington and other acute doubters were there, all views were well represented. But in the end the Reformer's zeal prevailed, and another step was taken to making Protestantism a public if not a permitted thing in Scotland. From Edinburgh he took journeys to Forfarshire, to West Lothian, to Ayrshire, and to Renfrewshire; and after half a year spent in incessant preaching, followed occasionally by administering the Sacraments, he was at last cited to appear before the bishops in the Blackfriars Church, Edinburgh. He went, but attended by so many friends that nothing was attempted against him for the time. And now, at the suggestion of Glencairn and Marischal, two of the lords who were favourable to the new doctrine, Knox sat down to write a letter to the Queen Dowager, as Regent of Scotland. It had hitherto been Mary of Lorraine's policy to play off the Protestant party, which had leanings to England, against the Catholic side, which was faithful to France. Knox accordingly blesses 'God, who by the dew of his heavenly grace, hath so quenched the fire of displeasure in your Grace's heart,' and with unprecedented courtesy apologises 'that a man of base estate and condition dare enterprise to admonish a Princess so honourable, endued with wisdom and graces singular.' Those whom Knox represented were a small minority of Scotchmen; but that did not prevent him demanding of the Regent far more than mere neutrality or 'indifferency' between the contending parties. He demands of her the reform of both religion and the church. He admits that 'your Grace's power is not so free as a public Reformation perchance would require'; you 'cannot hastily abolish superstition, ... which to a public Reformation is requisite and necessary. But if the zeal of God's glory be fervent in your Grace's heart, you will not by wicked laws maintain idolatry, neither will you suffer the fury of Bishops to murder and devour.' The Queen Regent was not disposed to go very far with the bishops, but still less was she fervent for God's glory and public Reformation. Accordingly, on the first Court day she handed Knox's letter, perhaps unread, to the Bishop of Glasgow, with the words, 'Please you, my Lord, to read a Pasquil.' The unwise jest came to Knox's ears, and some years after he published his letter with resentful additions and interpolations. In these he assumed—much too soon—that there was no longer hope of the Regent becoming personally convinced of the Evangel. But he at the same time modified his 'Petition' on behalf of his party to this, 'that our doctrine may be tried by the plain word of God, and that liberty be granted to us to utter and declare our minds at large in every article and point which are now in controversy'; and on his own behalf and 'in the name of the Lord Jesus, that with indifferency I may be heard to preach, to reason, and to dispute in that cause.'

But now, in July 1556, letters came to Knox in Edinburgh from his congregation in Geneva, 'commanding him in God's name, as he was their chosen pastor, to repair unto them for their comfort.' He at once complied, sending before him from Norham to Dieppe his wife and her mother. Scotland was not yet ripe. The lay professors of the Evangel indeed were not seriously molested after his departure. But on the other hand Knox himself was at once cited to appear in Edinburgh, condemned in absence as a contumacious heretic, and burned at the Cross in the High Street—in effigy. Neither this, nor his daily work in Geneva, had the effect of withdrawing him for a day from his solicitude for his native country. On leaving it he wrote an admirable 'Letter of Wholesome Counsel'[66] urging the continual study of the word of God in families and in congregations.

'Within your own houses, I say, in some cases, ye are bishops and kings; your wife, children, servants, and family are your bishopric and charge; of you it shall be required how carefully and diligently ye have always instructed them in God's true knowledge, how that ye have studied in them to plant virtue and repress vice. And therefore, I say, ye must make them partakers in reading, exhorting, and in making common prayers, which, I would, in every house were used once a day at least.'

And for each congregation he urged an order of procedure much nearer that of apostolic times than that which the Reformed Church, at his own instance, afterwards instituted in Scotland.

'I think it necessary that for the conference [comparing] of Scriptures, assemblies of brethren be had. The order therein to be observed is expressed by St Paul,' ... after 'confession' and 'invocation,' 'let some place of Scripture be plainly and distinctly read, so much as shall be thought sufficient for one day or time, which ended, if any brother have exhortation, question, or doubt, let him not fear to speak or move the same, so that he do it with moderation, either to edify or to be edified. And hereof I doubt not but great profit shall shortly ensue; for, first, by hearing reading and conferring the Scriptures in the Assembly, the whole body of the Scriptures of God shall become familiar, the judgments and spirits of men shall be tried, their patience and modesty shall be known, and finally their gifts and utterance shall appear.'

If any difficulty of interpretation occurs, it should be 'put in writing before ye dismiss the congregation,' with the view of consulting some wise adviser. Many, he hopes, would be glad to help them.

'Of myself I will speak as I think; I will more gladly spend fifteen hours in communicating my judgment with you, in explaining as God pleases to open to me any place of Scripture, than half an hour in any matter beside.'

Before six months had passed, however, Knox, who was again abroad, had become troubled by the too great freedom of opinion and the dangers of consequent freedom of life even in the Protestant community, and his letter 'To the Brethren'[67] in Scotland from Dieppe, against Anabaptists and Sectarians, foreshadows the more rigid form which was to be one day impressed upon Church doctrine and life in his native land.

During the ensuing year, 1557, everything was peaceful and hopeful. The Protestants kept their worship private, but it spread from town to town, and from the land of one friendly baron to his neighbours' territory. Knox had been formally condemned, but those he left behind were not molested, and in March four of the Lords wrote him to Geneva asking him to return to Scotland. They accompanied this with assurances that though 'the Magistrates in this country' were in the same state as before, the Churchmen there were daily in less estimation. After consulting Calvin, Knox said farewell to his congregation, and had got as far homewards as Dieppe, where he was much disappointed to receive 'contrary letters.' His reply, indignantly acquiescing, indicates the plan which by this time he had formed in order to solve the combined difficulties in theory and practice which beset Scotland. He reminded his correspondents—Glencairn, Lorne, Erskine, and James Stewart—in very memorable words, that they were themselves magistrates, or at least representatives of the people, and had duties accordingly.

'Your subjects, yea, your brethren, are oppressed, their bodies and souls holden in bondage; and God speaketh to your consciences (unless ye be dead with the blind world) that you ought to hazard your own lives (be it against kings and emperors) for their deliverance. For only for that cause are ye called Princes of the people, and ye receive of your brethren honour, tribute and homage at God's commandment; not by reason of your birth and progeny (as the most part of men falsely do suppose), but by reason of your office and duty, which is to vindicate and deliver your subjects and brethren from all violence and oppression, to the utmost of your power.'[68]

The effect of this and other encouragements was to bring matters to a point in Scotland. The Protestant party, which had now been joined by Argyll and Morton, entered into the kind of engagement which was then called a 'Band,' and afterwards became widely known in Scotland as a 'Covenant.' This document, dated 3rd December 1557, bound the signatories to 'apply our whole power, substance, and our very lives, to maintain, set forward, and establish the most blessed Word of God and his congregation ... unto which holy word and congregation we do join us, and also do forsake and renounce the congregation of Satan.' This important step, which seems to have been represented by rumour in Dieppe as something like rebellion in Scotland, apparently startled Knox. A fortnight after it took place he writes the 'Lords of the Congregation,' as they were henceforth called, a letter of caution, urging them to

'seek the favour of the Authority, that by it, if possible be, the cause in which ye labour may be promoted, or at the least not persecuted, which thing after all humble request if ye can not attain, then, with open and solemn protestation of your obedience to be given to the Authority in all things not plainly repugning to God, ye lawfully may attempt the extremity, which is to provide, whether the Authority will consent or no, that Christ's Evangel may be duly preached, and his holy Sacraments rightly ministered unto you, and to your brethren the subjects of that realm.'

The Lords of the Congregation were disposed to be at least as cautious as Knox, and during the following year, 1558, there was a remarkable approximation to a possible settlement in Scotland on the basis of toleration. The 'Band' of the congregation does not at all suggest that the Barons who joined in it, and thereby bound themselves to defend their religion against the pressure and tyranny of outsiders, would think it right themselves to exercise a counter pressure and tyranny upon their own vassals within their own lands. And Knox's intimation that the Authority—i.e., the Regent and Parliament—though refusing to promote the Evangel, ought to be asked at least not to persecute it, was most timely. He held, indeed, at this time, that such a concession, if granted, ought to bar not only insurrection, but even a partial and divided establishment of religion. The state of matters was reflected in two resolutions which the Congregation came to immediately after the Band. By the first, common prayers were to be read on Sundays in the churches—which must mean in the churches where the innovators had influence—by the curates, 'if qualified,' and, if not, by those of the parishioners who were. But the second provided that preaching be, in the meantime, 'had and used privately in quiet houses,' great conventions being avoided 'till God move the Prince to grant public preaching.' And another influence now entered into the history. Knox had initiated an aristocratic revolution. But the Burghs of Scotland had been there, as in every other country of Europe, fortresses of freedom and the advance-guard of constitutional civilisation. And it was now resolved, that the brethren in every town 'should assemble together. And this our weak beginning did God so bless, that within few months the hearts of many were so strengthened, that we sought to have the face of a church among us.'... And the town of Dundee in particular 'began to erect the face of a public church reformed.'[69] Henceforward the great towns became more and more prepared to be the centres of the future struggle. Meantime, however, early in 1558, the 'First Petition of the Protestants of Scotland' was presented to the Regent. It protested against the existing tyranny, and craved, in general and cautious terms, a 'public Reformation,' laying stress on church services in the vulgar tongue, and offering to submit differences to be publicly decided, not only by the New Testament, but by the writings of the Fathers and the laws of Justinian. The offer seems to have been at once accepted. But, according to the account of Knox, who, of course, was still abroad, the proposed public discussion came to nothing, because both parties fell back upon other conditions of arbitration; the Protestants now demanding that the Scriptures alone should decide all controversy, the Catholics insisting on Councils and Canon Law. The next step was a proposal by the Bishops of 'Articles of Reconciliation,' according to which the Old Church was to remain publicly established, while the Protestants might privately pray and baptise in the vulgar tongue. This the innovating party declined, and pressed for 'reformation.' And now the Regent, whom Knox afterwards came to regard as 'crafty and dissimulate,' and who, no doubt, even now desired to please and 'make her profit of both parties,' announced to the Congregation her decision. 'She gave to us permission to use ourselves godly, according to our desires, provided that we should not make public assemblies in Edinburgh or Leith'—i.e., in the capital. The Queen went so far as to promise positive 'assistance to our preachers,' the assistance no doubt being rather private and personal, and the whole arrangement being an interim one, 'until some uniform order might be established by a Parliament.' It was a great step in advance; indeed, Knox says, 'we departed fully contented with her answer;'[70] and it is impossible not to speculate on what the result might have been had the order finally established by Parliament been that both parties should permanently 'use themselves godly according to their desires,' with a publicly acknowledged right of proselytism or persuasion.

But from both sides there still came some things hostile to the advent in Scotland of that toleration which the modern conscience has approved. In April 1558 Walter Myln, a priest eighty-two years of age, was seized by order of the Archbishop of St Andrews, condemned for heresy, and burned there amid the general but ineffectual resentment of the people. The sentence was quite legal under the laws which still enforced membership of the Catholic Church upon all Scotchmen. But the last man who had been so condemned was Knox; and he no longer delayed to publish in Geneva an Appellation or appeal against his sentence, directed to the nobles, the estates and the commonalty of Scotland. His demand for a return to the primitive Gospel under the Divine authority is powerful and eloquent. His reasons, on the other hand, for 'appeal from the sentence and judgment of the visible Church to the knowledge of the temporal magistrate' are difficult to reconcile with the position which Knox afterwards took up when that Church was on his own side; and they are indeed chiefly drawn from the Old Testament. It is not until we observe from his re-statement of the case farther on, that his was an appeal 'against a sentence of death,' that the argument once more straightens itself out so as to suit the lips even of Paul. But Knox declines now to remain on the defensive. He accuses his accusers of heresy and idolatry, and calls upon the nobles of Scotland to decide against them according to God's Word. Here, again, the appeal, so long as it is made to the conscience of all men and of nobles alike, is very cogent. Nor is it less so as addressed specially to the most representative and intelligent Scotchmen of the time, for such the Lords of the Congregation undoubtedly were. It becomes doubtful only when it insists on the right of these temporal 'Princes of the people' to reform the Church—apparently even without the consent of its majority; and it becomes worse than doubtful when he urges their duty as magistrates to repress false religion and to punish idolatry with death. Along with this, however, was published a shorter letter 'To his Beloved Brethren the Commonalty of Scotland.' To these subjects born within the same, their brother John Knox wishes in it 'the spirit of righteous judgment;' and that in a tone of independence which must have sounded to Scottish peasants and burghers like a call to a new life. For in this treatise, unlike the last, each private Scottish man is urged to judge of what claimed to be the original truth, even against an admittedly ancient system. And 'If that system was an error in the beginning, so it is in the end, and the longer that it be followed, and the more that do receive it, it is the more pestilent, and more to be avoided.'

'Neither would I that ye should esteem the Reformation and care of religion less to appertain to you, because ye are no kings, rulers, judges, nobles, nor in authority. Beloved brethren, ye are God's creatures, created and formed to His own image and similitude, for whose redemption was shed the most precious blood of the only beloved Son of God.... For albeit God hath put and ordained distinction and difference between the king and subjects, between the rulers and the common people, in the regimen and administration of civil policies, yet in the hope of the life to come He hath made all equal.... And this is the equality which is between the king and subjects, the most rich or noble, and between the poorest and men of lowest estate; to wit, that as the one is obliged to believe in heart, and with mouth to confess, the Lord Jesus to be the only Saviour of the world, so also is the other.'

And by this time Knox has reasoned out for himself the right of the people to maintain the true Church, and to band in defence of it—though that right he even now recognises only when they cannot do better.

'And if in this point your superiors be negligent, or yet pretend to maintain tyrants in their tyranny, most justly ye may provide true teachers for yourselves, be it in your cities, towns, or villages: them ye may maintain and defend against all that shall persecute them, and by that means shall labour to defraud you of that most comfortable food of your souls, Christ's evangel truly preached. Ye may, moreover, withhold the fruits and profits which your false Bishops and clergy most unjustly receive of you, unto such time as they be compelled faithfully to do their charge and duties.'

These appeals by Knox can only have made their way in Scotland gradually and privately. But as the year 1558 went on, the prospect of union became more hopeful. The Queen Regent acted as if 'the duty of the Magistrate' were to prevent majorities and minorities from laying hands on each other. And, then at least, this was not an easy work. The Bishops tyrannised in details in localities where the barons were still on their side; but Myln was the last Protestant martyr in Scotland. On the other hand, the adherents of the congregation became so bold, especially in the towns, that (as Knox tells us) 'the images were stolen away in all parts of the country, and in Edinburgh was that great idol called St Gile first drowned in the North Loch, and after burned.'[71] This was too much, and the Regent allowed the Bishops to summon the iconoclast preachers for the 19th of July. But a party of Western lairds heard of it on their way from the army of the Border, and insisted on interviewing the Queen. Knox's vivid account of what followed must be quoted. It includes a delicious phonograph of the Scots speech of Mary of Lorraine, who, to the desire to please all men which was common to her with her more famous daughter, seems to have added real good nature and kindliness of heart. James Chalmers of Gadgirth, a rough Ayrshireman, burst out against the Bishops—

'"Madam, we vow to God we shall make one day of it. They oppress us and our tenants for feeding of their idle bellies; they trouble our preachers, and would murder them and us: shall we suffer this any longer? No, madam, it shall not be." And therewith every man put on his steel bonnet. There was heard nothing of the Queen's part but "My joys, my hearts, what ails you? Me means no evil to you nor to your preachers. The Bishops shall do you no wrong. Ye are all my loving subjects. Me knew nothing of this proclamation. The day of your preachers shall be discharged, and me will hear the controversy that is betwixt the Bishops and you. They shall do you no wrong. My Lords," said she to the Bishops, "I forbid you either to trouble them or their preachers." And unto the gentlemen, who were wondrously commoved, she turned again and said, "O, my hearts, should ye not love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind? and should ye not love your neighbours as yourselves?" With these and the like fair words she kept the Bishops from buffets at that time.'[72]

Her daughter Mary, the celebrated Queen of Scots, had been married in April to Francis, the Dauphin of France, and the Regent, rejoicing in this long hoped-for alliance, had one thing more at heart. The Scots Parliament was to meet in November, and she hoped that it would confer the crown 'Matrimonial' of Scotland upon her son-in-law, thus consolidating the two kingdoms. In view of this meeting the Lords of the Congregation prepared a petition, the leading prayer of which would have practically freed Scotland from the intolerance of existing legislation in the matter of religion—

'We most humbly desire that all such Acts of Parliament, as in the time of darkness gave power to the churchmen to execute their tyranny against us, by reason that we to them were delated as heretics, may be suspended and abrogated.'[73]

Here again was a proposal which, if taken by itself, would have satisfied the modern view of liberty of conscience. But the petitioners went on to say that they did not object to a temporal judge of heresy, provided he judged according to the Word of God; and they looked forward to a decision of 'all controversies in religion,' not however by Parliament, but by a General Council. This proposal was first handed to the Queen Regent, who 'spared not amiable looks and good words in abundance, but always she kept our Bill close in her pocket.' Both parties in Parliament being thus pleased, the Crown Matrimonial was consented to, and before the Session closed, the Protestant Lords read an important protest, repeating the positions which they had already taken up.

1. 'We protest, that seeing we cannot obtain a just reformation, according to God's word, that it be lawful to us to use ourselves in matters of religion and conscience, as we must answer unto God.

2. 'That we shall incur no danger in life or lands, or other political pains, for not observing such Acts as heretofore have passed in favour of our adversaries.'

They added a protest that if any tumult should arise 'for the diversity of religion,' and if any abuses should be 'violently reformed,' it should not be imputed to them, who desired a reformation in matters of religion by the Authority. From that Authority, however, they, in closing—somewhat inconsistently but most rightfully—demanded once more the 'indifferency' which becometh God's Lieutenant.

Parliament declined to record the Protest, but the Queen Regent said in her confidential way to the Lords, 'Me will remember what is protested; and me shall put good order after this to all things.' Knox was delighted, and in writing to Calvin commended her 'for excellent knowledge in God's word, and good will towards the advancement of his glory.' There is no reason to suppose that Mary of Lorraine had attained to much more than a kindly appreciation of all parties around her, and to that general sense of justice which is strong in rulers and other men so long as they have no personal interest to the contrary. Yet under this feminine 'regimen' Scotland was now within measurable distance of being, alone among the commonwealths of Europe, the home of liberty of worship and freedom of conscience. But that great time was not come; and the small northern land was now caught up again into the whirl of European politics. On the 17th November 1558 Mary of England, the unhappy wife of Philip, died; and her Protestant sister Elizabeth, the daughter of Anne Boleyn, succeeded. It became at once the chief point in the policy of Catholic Europe that France and Scotland should be fast bound together in religion and turned, along with Spain, as one force for the restoration or re-conquest of England. For if the English queen was an illegitimate heretic, then Mary Stuart, already Queen of Scotland and Dauphiness of France, was now Queen of England too; and without delay the French king quartered the arms of England with those of Mary's own country and that of her adoption. The magnificent bribe of a third crown for that fair 'daughter of debate' was too much for her mother in Scotland, who in any case would have found a continued toleration there irreconcileable with the traditions of their House of Guise. The Regent now, in her mild way, joined the cruel Catholic crusade of the French Court, and from the beginning of 1559 the conciliatory policy which had distinguished the previous year in Scotland was at an end.

But its results were not ended. They had spread through all ranks, and had gone down to the foundations of society. On New Year's Day of 1559 there was found affixed to the door of every religious house in Scotland the following document—the most extraordinary imitation of a legal writ that Scotland has seen. It is probably not written by Knox, but by some other strong pen. It bears to be a notice or 'summons' of ejectment for the ensuing Whitsunday, and is called


The Blind, Crooked, Bedrels [bedfast], Widows, Orphans, and all other Poor, so visited by the hand of God as they may not work,


The Flocks of all Friars within this realm, we wish restitution of wrongs bypast, and reformation in time coming, for salutation.

* * * * *

Ye yourselves are not ignorant, and though ye would be it is now, thanks to God, known to the whole world, by His infallible word, that the benignity or alms of all Christian people pertains to us allanerly [exclusively]; which ye, being hale of body, stark, sturdy, and able to work, what [partly] under pretence of poverty (and nevertheless possessing most easily all abundance) what [partly] through cloaked and hooded simplicity, though your proudness is known, and what [partly] by feigned holiness, which now is declared superstition and idolatry, have these many years, express against God's word and the practice of His Holy Apostles, to our great torment alas! most falsely stolen from us. And as ye have, by your false doctrine and wresting of God's word (learned of your father Satan), induced the whole people high and low, into sure hope and belief, that to clothe, feed, and nourish you is the only acceptable alms allowed before God, and to give one penny or one piece of bread once in the week, is enough for us; Even so ye have persuaded them to build to you great hospitals, and maintain you therein by their purse, which only pertains now to us by all law, as builded and doted [given] to the poor—of whose number ye are not, nor can be repute, neither by the law of God, nor yet by no other law proceeding of nature, reason, or civil policy.... We have thought good, therefore, before we enter with you in conflict, to warn you, in the name of the great God, by this public writing, affixed on your gates, where ye now dwell, that ye remove forth of our said hospitals betwixt this and the feast of Whitsunday next, so that we the only lawful proprietors thereof may enter thereto, and afterward enjoy these commodities of the Kirk, which ye have hereunto wrongously holden from us: Certifying you, if ye fail, we will at the said term, in whole number (with the help of God and the assistance of His saints in earth, of whose readie support we doubt not), enter and take possession of our said patrimony, and eject you utterly forth of the same.

Let him therefore that before has stolen, steal no more; but rather let him work with his hands that he may be helpful to the poor.


As it turned out, this summons was in some cases literally fulfilled, and a revolutionary ejectment carried out by Whitsunday 1559. But now from another side came another warning to put the house of the Church in order. The Catholic barons presented a petition for its reform, and the Regent called a Provincial Council on 1st March. It dealt, however, almost exclusively with the lives and duties of the clergy, and leaving untouched the central grievance—the legal authority of the Church and of the Pope over all subjects—had no effect whatever on the public. Immediately after, all 'unauthorised' preaching was forbidden. The Protestants, astonished, waited on the Regent and reminded her of her promises. She replied, in words which were often recalled during the reigns of her Stewart descendants, that 'it became not subjects to burden their Princes with promises, farther than it pleaseth them to keep the same,' and the preachers were ordered to appear before her at Stirling. But now Knox, who had kept up constant communication from Geneva with his friends, suddenly appears on the scene. On 2d May he writes from Edinburgh to Mrs Locke:

'I am come, I praise my God, even in the brunt of the battle: for my fellow-preachers have a day appointed to answer before the Queen Regent, the 10th of this instant, where I intend, if God impede not, also to be present: by life, by death, or else by both, to glorify His godly name, who thus mercifully hath heard my long cries.'[75]

The day after this letter was written, Knox was 'blown loud to the horn,' i.e., declared an excommunicated outlaw: but he had meantime left for Dundee, where he was received with acclamation, and from thence departed to Perth, now the centre of Protestantism. There, day by day, he preached to excited multitudes in the Parish Church; and it was after a sermon there, 'vehement against idolatry,' that a foolish priest, attempting to perform mass in the same building, was set upon by the mob of Perth, who had an old feud with the clergy. From the church the multitude streamed away to the magnificent Religious Houses which had adorned the town, and sacked and burned them so thoroughly that only the walls were left standing. It wanted yet four days to that Whitsunday, for ejection on which the 'rascal multitude' had last New Year's Day warned the Friars! The Queen Regent resented this outrageous violence, but was forced to come to an interim agreement with the Lords of the Congregation. On her entry into Perth they moved into Fife, and Knox having preached in Crail and Anstruther, resolved to do so also in the Parish Church of St Andrews on Sunday. But the St Andrews populace had not yet declared themselves; the Regent's hostile army was only twelve miles off; and the Archbishop—who had occupied the town with a hundred spears and a dozen of culverins—now threatened his life if he attempted it. It was a moment for a bold man. At the hour fixed Knox made his appearance. No one ventured to attack him. He preached with his usual impetuous eloquence on 'casting the buyers and sellers out of the temple,' and at its close the magistrates and council permitted the majority of the people to destroy most of the monasteries, and strip the churches and cathedral of their apparatus of 'idolatry.' Knox was always more comfortable where he could say that such proceedings were countenanced by the local authority, or by the majority of a civic community. In Edinburgh, to which the Congregation next moved, the majority had hitherto been hostile to them; and now, on the Queen Regent's departure, the pulpits were for the first time opened to what was the legitimate glory of the new movement—free and unfettered preaching. Knox, church-statesman though he was, threw himself into this work with a delight that lifted him above calculation of consequences.

'The long thirst of my wretched heart is satisfied, in abundance that is above my expectation; for now, forty days and more hath God used my tongue in my native country to the manifestation of His glory. Whatever now shall follow, as touching my own carcase, His Holy Name be praised.'[76]

The castle, however, still remained faithful to the Regent, and on her forces approaching Edinburgh, both parties agreed to a truce till January, which, as respects the town and its religion, provided that—

'The town of Edinburgh shall, without compulsion, use and choose what religion and manner thereof they please, to the said day; so that every man may have freedom to use his own conscience to the day foresaid.'[77]

The truce was to be for six months, to January 1560, and it was employed by both parties in preparing for a renewed struggle, and, on the side of the Congregation, in negotiations with Elizabeth and her ministers. Politically, this last step was of the highest importance. For the first time for centuries, it healed the breach with 'our auld enemies of England,' as the Scots statutes had so often described them, and founded an alliance between the two kingdoms, which has since that date been only changed in order to become a union. And in this negotiation the agent and secretary was Knox.[78] He corresponded with the Queen's great minister Cecil (Elizabeth herself would not hear Knox's name). And it says not a little for the self-command and honesty of the English statesman, that he trusted so fully a man whose first letter, written several years before—a letter, too, asking a favour—commenced by Knox's 'discharging his conscience' in this way:—

'In time past, being overcome with common iniquity, you have followed the world in the way of perdition: for ... to the shedding of the blood of God's dear children have you, by silence, consented and subscribed. Of necessity it is, that carnal wisdom and worldly policy, (to both which, you are bruited to be much inclined) give place to God's simple and naked truth.'

Cecil had made no answer to this or to similar subsequent remarks, but he now wrote asking the Congregation,

'if support should be sent hence, what manner of amity might ensue betwixt these two realms, and how the same might be hoped to be perpetual, and not to be so slender as heretofore hath been, without other assurance of continuance than from time to time hath pleased France.'

And the answer, in Knox's handwriting, is signed by the Protestant lords, and assures England

'of our constancy (as men may promise) till our lives end; yea, farther, we will divulgate and set abroad a charge and commandment to our posterity, that the amity and league between you and us contracted and begun in Christ Jesus may by them be kept inviolated for ever.'

There was to be in the future a still more Solemn League and Covenant between the two nations, it too having for its object the deliverance (and, alas! also the uniformity) of religion in both kingdoms. But that public, and this private, league were alike disavowed by the Sovereign, and both became the badge of rebellion. The Queen Regent, indeed, had now fortified Leith, and was filling it with French soldiers. The Lords of the Congregation, founding on this as a breach of faith, resolved to suspend her from the regency, and did so by a proclamation, strangely signed: 'By us, the nobility and commons of the Protestants of the Church of Scotland.' The preachers approved, Knox, however, demanding that a door be still kept open for her restoration. War, of course, at once followed, and it turned out to be very much a fight between Edinburgh and Leith, then not unequally matched.[79] Soon the Protestants got the worst of it. On the last day of October the French, pouring up Leith Walk, drove them back into the Canongate, attacked Leith Wynd, and sent their horsemen in headlong flight through the Netherbow Port and up the High Street. Five days after, the forces of the Congregation having advanced to Restalrig, were enclosed by two advancing bodies of the enemy, and so jammed in near Holyrood, between the crags of the Calton on the one side and the crags of Arthur Seat on the other, as to be extricated only with most serious loss. Confusion and dismay seized upon all, and at midnight they marched out of Edinburgh, pursued by voices of reproach and execration from the overhanging roofs. Next night they gathered helplessly at Stirling. But on the following day Knox entered the pulpit there, and preached a memorable sermon. It recalled the despairing Congregation to a mood of resolute trust and hope. And yet his text was the Psalm which tells of the vine brought from Egypt to be planted in the land, but now wasted and broken down; and the preacher throughout refused even to suggest to the shrinking multitude any lower hope than the vouchsafed shining again of the Divine countenance. There remains only, he concluded,

'that we turn to the Eternal our God, who beats down to death, to the intent that he may raise up again, to leave the remembrance of his wondrous deliverance, to the praise of his own name ... yea, whatsoever shall become of us and of our mortal carcases, I doubt not but that this cause, in despite of Satan, shall prevail in the realm of Scotland.'

But his words were as life from the dead, and the sermon, which Buchanan also commemorates, was long after recalled by the preacher himself in St Giles, in another great crisis of the Evangel.

'From the beginning of God's mighty working within this realm, I have been with you in your most desperate tentations. Ask your own consciences, and let them answer you before God, if that I—not I, but God's Spirit by me—in your greatest extremity willed you not ever to depend upon your God, and in His name promised unto you victory and preservation from your enemies, so that ye would only depend upon his protection and prefer His glory to your own lives and worldly commodity. In your most extreme dangers I have been with you: St Johnstone, Cupar Muir, and the Crags of Edinburgh, are yet recent in my heart: yea, that dark and dolorous night wherein all ye, my Lords, with shame and fear left this town, is yet in my mind; and God forbid that ever I forget it!'

'The voice of one man,' it was afterwards said of Knox by the English ambassador in Edinburgh, 'is able in one hour to put more life in us than five hundred trumpets continually blustering in our ears.' This day in Stirling was the very lowest point of the fortunes of the Congregation, and from this hour they began to rise. There were reverses still; but Scotland was sick of the French, and the end was to come with the coming year. In April 1560, the English forces surrounded Leith; the Queen Regent withdrew from it into the Castle of Edinburgh; and the Lords of the Congregation, stronger than they were originally by the accession of the Duke of Hamilton and the Earls of Morton and Huntly,[80] made one more 'Band' or Covenant. In it for the last time they fall back on liberty of conscience; for all they bind themselves to is,

'with our bodies, goods, friends, and all that we may do, to set forward the Reformation of Religion, according to God's word; and procure, by all means possible, that the truth of God's word may have free passage within this realm, with due administration of the Sacraments, and all things depending upon the said word.'[81]

A copy of this Band, by which each subscriber also bound himself not to make separate overtures to the Regent, was brought to her in the Castle. Knox, who by this time was become very hostile to Mary of Lorraine, and reports much doubtful gossip as to her rejoicing over the victories and cruelties of her soldiers, says that when she read the Band, she spoke in quite another and milder sense.

'The malediction of God I give unto them that counselled me to persecute the preachers, and to refuse the petitions of the best part of the true subjects of this realm.'

But the time was past for her co-operating for the welfare of that realm. She had fallen into a dropsy, and, becoming daily worse, sent for the Earls Argyll, Glencairn, and Marischal, and the Lord James (her husband's son). They came to her separately, and to each she confessed that she had made a mistake, and should have acceded to the arrangement they had proposed. 'They gave unto her both the counsel and the comfort which they could in that extremity, and willed her to send for some godly learned man, of whom she might receive instruction.' They proposed Willock; but even that gentle preacher did not set forth 'the virtue and strength of the death of Jesus Christ,' without touching also upon 'the vanity and abomination of that idol, the mass.' The dying woman said nothing, good or bad, of the form in which Christianity had been first presented, long years ago, to her childish eyes. But 'she did openly confess "that there was no salvation but in and by the death of Jesus Christ."' And Knox, holding that in this 'Christ Jesus got no small victory' over her, grudges extremely that to her approval of 'the chief head of our religion, wherein we dissent from all Papists and Papistry,' she added no condemnation of opposing ways. But Mary of Lorraine had uttered the last even of her good-natured 'maledictions,' and on the 10th of June the Regent of Scotland ended her 'unhappy life'—a life, that is, which had pleased neither party, though in its later years a great revolution, carried through at the expense of comparatively little violence or bloodshed, had narrowly missed attaining an even ideal result.

And now those troubles were over. Nine months before, her daughter had become Queen of France, and a treaty was now concluded at Edinburgh, between the Queen of England on the one part and the 'King and Queen of France and Scotland' on the other, by which the French troops and officials withdrew from Scotland, and an indemnity was granted to the insurgent nobility for all that the Congregation had done. Elizabeth still looked on them as rebels; but Cecil, with more foresight, instructed her plenipotentiaries to provide 'that the government of Scotland be granted to the nation of the land'; and the treaty provided for a Council of Administration in the absence from Edinburgh of the Sovereigns, and—more important still—for an immediate meeting of the Estates, which was to be as valid as if presided over by them.[82] The most important Parliament which Scotland has ever seen sat on 1st August 1560, and was very largely attended by nobles, lairds, and burgh representatives. Naturally, a petition was at once laid before it for the abolition of the old Church system. Equally naturally, this was met by a request for a statement of the new Church doctrine—a confession of faith. It was prepared by Knox and three others, and in four days presented to the Parliament.

'I never heard,' says the English envoy to Cecil, 'matters of so great importance, neither sooner despatched nor with better will agreed unto.' Knox's narrative, which is borne out by the records of Parliament, says that

'This our Confession was publicly read, first in audience of the Lords of the Articles, and after, in audience of the whole Parliament, where were present, not only such as professed Christ Jesus, but also a great number of the adversaries of our religion, such as the fore-named bishops, and some others of the temporal estate, who were commanded, in God's name, to object, if they could, anything against that doctrine.'

The ministers were present to defend it, but there was no opposition, and a second day was appointed, when the Confession was again read over, article by article, and then a vote was taken. Three, or at the most five, temporal peers voted against ratifying it; 'and yet for their disassenting they produced no better reason but, We will believe as our fathers believed.' Nor was this strange, for the Bishops present, Knox says, 'spake nothing,' Randolph explaining that the three who got to their feet, headed by the St Andrew's primate, said the doctrine was a matter new and strange to them, which they had not examined, and which they could not 'utterly condemn,' or, on the other hand, quite consent to. The vote on the side of the majority was largely a rejoicing outburst of individual conviction. The Earl Marischal indeed, took the obvious ground that

'seeing that my Lords Bishops, who for their learning can, and for that zeal they should bear to the verity, would (as I suppose) gainsay anything that directly repugns to the verity of God—seeing, I say, my Lords here present speak nothing in the contrary of the doctrine proposed, I cannot but hold it to be the very truth of God, and the contrary to be deceivable doctrine.'

The rest of the Lords, says Randolph, with common consent, and 'as glad a will as ever I heard men speak,' allowed the same.

'Divers, with protestation of their conscience and faith, desired rather presently to end their lives than ever to think contrary unto that allowed there. Many also offered to shed their blood in defence of the same. The old Lord of Lindsay, as grave and goodly a man as ever I saw, said: "I have lived many years; I am the oldest in this company of my sort; now that it hath pleased God to let me see this day, where so many nobles and others have allowed so worthy a work, I will say, with Simeon, Nunc dimittis."'

It was the birthday of a people. For not in that assembly alone, and within the dim walls of the old Parliament House of Edinburgh, was that faith confessed and those vows made. Everywhere the Scottish burgess and the Scottish peasant felt himself called to deal, individually and immediately, with Christianity and the divine; and everywhere the contact was ennobling. 'Common man' as he was, 'the vague, shoreless universe had become for him a firm city, and a dwelling-place which he knew. Such virtue was in belief: in these words well spoken, I believe.'[83] But being a common man in Scotland, his religion could not be isolated, or his faith for himself alone. Wherever he dwelt, 'in our towns and places reformed,' he was already a member of a self-governing republic, a republic within the Scottish State but not of it, and subject to an invisible King. 'The good old cause' was already born. It kindled itself, as that son of the Burgher mason in Annandale says again, 'like a beacon set on high; high as heaven, yet attainable from earth, whereby the meanest man becomes not a citizen only, but a member of Christ's visible Church; a veritable hero, if he prove a true man.'

* * * * *

Day by day at this critical epoch Knox preached in St Giles from the 'prophet Haggeus,' on what he called The Building of the House. In one sense the foundation was laid already. In another, Parliament might be called upon to supply one. What foundation was Parliament to lay, and what structure was promised for the days to come?

[60] 'Works,' iii. 10.

[61] 'Works,' iii. 133.

[62] 'Works,' iii. 34. The rashness of the general proposition here can only be appreciated when we remember Knox's view that it was the duty of the Magistrate not only to suppress idolatry, but to punish it with death.

[63] Hume Brown, i. 203.

[64] 'Works,' iii. 224.

[65] 'Works,' iv. 217, 218.

[66] 'Works,' iv. 129.

[67] 'Works,' iv. 261.

[68] 'Works,' i. 272.

[69] 'Works,' i. 300.

[70] 'Works,' i. 307.

[71] 'Works,' i. 256.

[72] 'Works,' i. 258.

[73] 'Works,' i. 310.

[74] 'Works,' i. 320.

[75] 'Works,' vi. 21.

[76] 'Works,' vi. 26.

[77] 'Works,' i. 378. Knox objected to this unlimited freedom of conscience being granted, even for a time; and actually succeeded in retaining the public worship on the ground that Edinburgh had chosen already, though under compulsion. The interest lies in the fact that, at every turn of the open struggle which now took place between the two parties, the true ultimate solution, that of toleration, came to the front. But it was proposed, or suggested, by each party only when that party was in the minority, and ignored as soon as it regained the power to do wrong. See the following additional pages in Knox's own History:—'Works,' i. 389, 390, 428 ('idolatry and murder'), 432, 442 ('chief duty'), and 444.

[78] Knox himself takes care in his History 'to let the posterity that shall follow understand, by what instruments God wrought the familiarity and friendship, that after we found in England.'—'Works,' ii. 43.

[79] 'It is not unknown to the most part of this realm, that there has been an old hatred and contention betwixt Edinburgh and Leith; Edinburgh seeking continually to possess that liberty which by donation of kings they have long enjoyed, and Leith, by the contrary, aspiring to a liberty and freedom in prejudice of Edinburgh.'—Declaration of the Lords of the Congregation in 1559. 'Works,' i. 426.

[80] Lesser barons sign too, from Cranstoun and Cessford on the Borders, to Leslie of Buchan and John Innes of that Ilk in the North.

[81] 'Works,' ii. 61. It is dated 26 April 1560.

[82] It does not say that all its acts were to be valid. On the contrary, 'certain Articles concerning religion' having been presented on the part of the nobles and people of Scotland, and not meddled with by the plenipotentiaries 'as being of such importance that they judged them proper to be remitted to the King and Queen,' it was provided that the Estates, on their meeting, should choose some persons of quality 'to repair to their Majesties and remonstrate to them the state of their affairs, particularly those last mentioned.'

[83] Thomas Carlyle.



The Confession presented to the Parliament of 1560 was one of a group which sprang as if from the soil, in almost every country in Europe. They had all a strong family likeness; but not because one imitated the other. They were honest attempts to represent the impression made on the mind of that age by the newly discovered Scriptures, and that impression—the first impression at least—was everywhere the same. And everywhere it was overwhelmingly strong. So far as Knox at least is concerned, he plainly held the extreme view, not only that no one could read the Scriptures without finding in them the new doctrine, but that—as he quite calmly observed on one memorable occasion in St Giles—'all Papists are infidels,' either refusing to consult the light, or denying it when seen. And, of course, nothing was more calculated to confirm this view than a scene like that which we have just described, and which had been recently rehearsed in innumerable cases in Scotland and elsewhere. But, in truth, the new light dazzled all eyes. Later on, men had to analyse it, and they found there were distinctions to be made as to its value:—for example, between truth natural and truth revealed, between the Old Testament and the New, between the truths even of the New Testament and its sacraments—distinctions which some among themselves admitted, and which others refused. The very last publication, too, of Knox in 1572 was an answer to a Scottish Jesuit; for by that time a counter-Reformation, which also was not without its convictions, had begun. But, in the meantime, the energy and the triumph were all on one side. And although only the first step had been taken, it must be remembered that the first step was, in Scotland, the great one. With the really Protestant party, and, of course, with the Puritans, the confession of truth was fundamental. Subsequent arrangements as to the State, and even as to the Church, were subordinate—they were, at the best, mere corollaries from the central doctrine affecting the individual. In every case truth comes first: and human authority a long way later on. In this transaction, for example, of the 17th August 1560, nothing is clearer than that the Parliament did not adopt the doctrine in any way on the authority of the new-born Church. All the forms of a free and deliberate voting of the doctrine as truth—as the creed of the estates, not of the Church, were gone through. Still less, on the other hand, did the Church really adopt it on the authority of the Parliament; (though it must be confessed that this expression of it—the written creed of 1560—had no formal sanction other than that of the State). But it was the confession 'professed by the Protestants,' and exhibited by them 'to the estates;' and it contained in itself abundant and adequate foundation for that independence of the Church which became so dear to Scotland in following ages, and of which Knox himself has always been recognised as, more than any other man, the historical embodiment.

The great confession in this creed that 'as we believe in one God—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—so do we most constantly believe that from the beginning there has been, now is, and to the end of the world shall be, one Kirk,' is there so deduced from the everlasting purpose and revelations of God, and is so concentrated upon the duty and the privilege of the individual man, that the church in Scotland, even had it never become national, would have stood square and perhaps risen high upon this one foundation. But it was by no means intended to stand on that foundation alone, however adequate. And it was with a view to further steps—not all of them taken at this time—that clauses as to the civil magistrate were introduced in the penultimate chapter, assigning to him 'principally' the conservation and purgation of the religion—by which, it is carefully explained, is meant not only the 'maintenance' of the true religion, but the 'suppressing' of the false. One more remark may be made. Theoretically, the Church could improve its creed. In France it was read aloud on the first day of each yearly Assembly, that amendments or alterations upon it might be proposed; and in Scotland also the view was strongly held that the only standard unchangeable by the Church was Scripture. This theoretical view, however, was not to have much immediate practical result; especially as the Confession was now ratified by the Parliament. And this was done without change or qualification, though the preface prefixed to it by the Churchmen admits its fallibility and invites amendment—a view in which Knox had long since been encouraged by his earliest teacher.[84]

The congregation had confessed the doctrine to the Parliament, and the Parliament had accepted and approved it. Had the Parliament more to do?

Some things were absolutely necessary. It had to wipe out the previous legislation against the profession of the new faith. The Evangel had to be set free by statute. Once liberated from the ban of the law under which its previous victories had been won, it could finish its work independently, and without difficulty sweep the whole of Scotland. And Knox had no doubt as to the right of the Kirk to act independently, or as to its duty to do so—if it could not do more and better. Already, before the Parliament met, the members of it who were Protestants had gathered together in Edinburgh, and arranged for fixing this and that minister of the word in the various centres of population. And once the legal obstacles to proselytism were removed, the way would be open for a more glorious advance than they had yet seen. But such a work in the future, though comparatively easy, and though in Knox's view certain in its result, would be slow. Why not do it all at a stroke? Instead of merely revoking the intolerant laws, why not turn them against the other side?

A very strong petition had been already presented against the Romish Church, and exactly a week after the ratification of the Confession, three Acts were passed.[85] These three Acts, with that ratification, constituted the public 'state of religion' during the seven years of Mary's reign, and they were re-enacted on her abdication in 1567 as the foundation of the regime of Protestantism. Of the three, the first was only ambiguously intolerant, for though it ordained that the Pope 'have no jurisdiction nor authority within this realm,' that might be held to reject mainly the Papal encroachment upon civil power. The second was not intolerant at all, and as being well within the power and duty of the nation, it ought to have come first. By it all Acts bypast, and especially those of the five Jameses, not agreeing with God's Word and contrary to the Confession, and 'wherethrow divers innocents did suffer,' were abolished and extinguished for ever. But the third, passed the same day, proceeded on the preamble that 'notwithstanding the reformation already made, according to God's Word, yet there is some of the said Papist Kirk that stubbornly persevere in their wicked idolatry saying Mass and baptising.' And it ordained, against not only them but all dissenters and outsiders for all time, 'that no manner of person in any time coming administer any of the Sacraments foresaid, secretly or any other manner of way, but they that are admitted, or have power to that effect.' And lastly, with regard to the large minority (if, indeed, it was not a clear majority) of the nation who still clung to their ordinary worship, it provided that no one 'shall say Mass, nor yet hear Mass, nor be present thereat,' under the pains, for the first fault, of confiscation of goods and bodily punishment, for the second, of banishment, and for the third, of death.

This has always remained the fundamental positive ordinance among the statutes of the Reformation; though it may be fair to take along with it the first of these three Acts, and especially a positive clause in it which forbids bishops to exercise jurisdiction by Papal authority. No farther establishment of the Church was at the time attempted; and there was indeed no farther legislation till Mary's downfall in 1567. In that year the three Acts of 1560 were anew passed; and they were followed by the formal statement (more or less implied even in the legislation of 1560) that the ministers and people professing Christ according to the Evangel and the Reformed Sacraments and Confession are 'the only true and holy Kirk of Jesus Christ within this realm.' An Act followed by which each king at his coronation was to take an oath to maintain this religion, and also, explicitly, to root out all heretics and enemies 'to the true worship of God that shall be convict by the true Kirk of God.' It seems difficult for statutory religion to go farther: but the solid system and block of intolerance was completed by a group of statutes in 1572, the year of Knox's death. They ordain that Papists and others not joining in the Reformed worship shall after warning be excommunicated by the Church (of which a previous Act, somewhat inconsistently, had declared them not to be at all members); and that 'none shall be reputed as loyal and faithful subjects to our sovereign Lord or his authority, but be punishable as rebels and gain-standers of the same, who shall not give their confession, and make their profession of the said true religion.'

Scotland had taken the wrong legislative turning. The only defence of these statutes, and it is a very inadequate one, is that they could not be fully enforced and were not, and that perhaps they were not quite intended to be enforced. In point of fact Scotland in the Reformation time had little blood-shedding for mere religion on either side to shew, compared to the deluge which stained the scaffolds of continental Europe. That is no answer to the criticism that the only law now needed was one to 'abolish and extinguish' the persecuting laws which had been enacted of old. But even to such a critic, and on the ground of theory, there is something to be said. It is not true that the new theory was worse than the old. On the contrary, the old theory allowed no private judgment to the individual at all; he was bound by the authority of the Church, and it was no comfort to him to know that the state was bound by it too. On the Protestant theory neither the individual nor the state were in the first instance so bound; both were free to find and utter the truth, free for the first time for a thousand years! It was this feeling—that the state was free truthwards and Godwards—which accounted for half of the enthusiasm in the Scots Parliament a week before. And it was not at once perceived, there or elsewhere, that for the state to make use of this freedom by embracing a creed itself—even though it now embraced it as the true creed and no longer as the Church's creed—was perilous for the more fundamental freedom of the individual. He would be sure to feel aggrieved by his state adopting the creed which was not his. And the state might readily be led into holding that it had adopted it not for its officials only but for its subjects, and might shape its legislation accordingly.

Knox was more responsible for the result than any other man, and for him also there is something to be said. The view that the state must adopt a religion for all its subjects and compel them all to be members of its Church, was common ground in that age; both parties proclaimed it (except when they were in too hopeless a minority), and the few Anabaptists and others who anticipated the doctrine of modern times had not been able to get it into practical politics. Knox too, in his first contact with the Reformed faith (and the contact, as we know, was a plunge), had found the tenet of the magistrate's duty in an exaggerated form. And in that form he now reproduced it. The statement of his Confession of 1560 that 'To Kings, Princes, Rulers, and Magistrates we affirm that chiefly and most principally the conservation and purgation of the Religion appertains,' is not at all stronger than that in the First Confession of Helvetia which Wishart had brought with him before 1545. Switzerland, taught by bitter experience, exchanged it for a milder statement in its Second Confession of 1566.[86] But Calvin and Beza and Knox's friends in the French Protestant Church generally had held to the stronger view of the magistrate's duty, even amid all his persecutions of them; and Knox's passionate indignation against idolatry had led him, even in his early English career, to maintain the duty not only of the magistrate, but even of the subject in so far as he had power, to punish it with death. Indeed his only chance of escaping from the vicious circle of that murderous syllogism[87] was by going back to the right of the individual to stand against the magistrate, and if need be to combine against him, in defence of truth. On this side even that early Helvetic Confession had proclaimed (in Wishart's words but in Knox's spirit), that subjects should obey the magistrate only 'so long as his commandments, statutes, and empires, evidently repugn not with Him for whose sake we honour and worship the magistrate.' And Knox in later years had travelled so far on the road of modern constitutionalism as to maintain the right of subjects to combine against and overthrow the ruler whose intolerant statutes so repugned. How far he had exactly gone would have appeared had the chapter 'of the obedience or disobedience that subjects owe unto their magistrates' appeared in the Scottish Confession unrevised. Randolph says that the 'author of this work' was advised by Lethington and Winram to leave it out. Something, if not a whole chapter, has been left out; and the consequence is that the first Confession of the Scottish Church and people is very much overweighted on the side of absolute power. But had that chapter gone in, it would have been difficult not to have recognised even then, that there was an inconsistency between the alleged high function of the magistrate as to religion, and the disobedience which on that head his subjects may 'owe unto him'—an inconsistency even in theory. The inconsistency in practice Providence was to make its early care.

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