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Thursday, 19 November 2015

John Knox

John Knox was born c 1513 in or near Haddington, the county town of East Lothian in Scotland. His father, William Knox, was a merchant and his mother died when John was a child.


In the sixteenth century, the priesthood was the only path for those whose inclinations were academic rather than mercantile or agricultural. Knox studied for the priesthood under John Major, one of the greatest scholars of the time, most likely at the University of St Andrews.

Knox first appears in public records as a priest and a notary in 1540.

Knox did not record when or how he was converted to the Protestant faith, but by 1546 he'd  joined the movement to reform the Scottish church.

In June 1547, 21 French galleys besieged St Andrews Castle and forced the surrender of the garrison a month later on July 31. Knox was among the Protestant nobles who was captured. He spent a year and a half as a galley slave on a French ship, before being released.

After being freed Knox took refuge in England where the Protestant Edward VI was on the throne and he was licensed to work in the Church of England. Towards the end of 1550, he was appointed a preacher of St Nicholas' Church in Newcastle upon Tyne. The following year he was appointed one of the six royal chaplains serving the King.

Following the death of England's Protestant king, Edward VI on July 6, 1553, his successor, Mary Tudor, re-established Roman Catholicism and restored the Mass in all the churches. With the country no longer safe for Protestant preachers, Knox left for the Continent the following January.

Knox moved to the Protestant city of Geneva where he met John Calvin, from whom he gained experience and knowledge of Reformed theology and Presbyterian policy. He left Geneva to head the English refugee church in Frankfurt but he was forced to leave over differences concerning the liturgy, thus ending his association with the Church of England and returned to the Swiss city.

Knox led a busy life in Geneva. He preached three sermons a week, each lasting well over two hours.

Queen Mary I of England died in November 1558, and was succeeded by Elizabeth Tudor. Knox decided with the new more protestant-leaning queen on the throne to return to Scotland.

John Knox was appointed minister of St Giles in Edinburgh on July 7, 1559. Convinced he was personally directed by God, Knox's powerful preaching and writing was a significant influence on the austere, moral Protestant movement in Scotland.



In 1560, the Scottish Parliament. influenced by the incendiary fiery sermons of John Knox, overthrew the pope's authority and forbade the saying of Mass, thus giving birth to the Presbyterian Church of Scotland.

John Knox clashed with Mary Queen of Scots as he toured around the country preaching. She feared the prayers of John Knox "more than an army of 10,000 men" and described him as "the most dangerous man in the realm." The Scottish queen tried to stop him, but she was unable to prevent the revival which God was working in the land. "God did so multiply our number that it appeared as men rained from the clouds," John Knox later recalled. As a result, Mary Queen of Scots was forced to abdicate in 1567.

John Knox statue on the former John Knox Memorial Institute, Haddington. By Kim Traynor -Wikipedia Commons

The distinctive checked patterns worn by various Highland clans evolved in the 16th century. Different clans adopted varying colored designs mainly due to the varying availability of different dyes in separate locations. However John Knox frowned upon God fearing folk wearing such bright colored attire and the clergy were banned from wearing them.

By the summer of 1572, Knox was exceedingly feeble and his voice faint, but he continued to preach at St Giles. After inducting his successor as minister of St Giles' on November 9th, Knox returned to his home for the last time. He spent his last fortnight there surrounded by friends and asked for the Bible to be read aloud. John Knox passed away on November 24, 1572 after his young wife had read from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians.

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