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And from the first, and in its very plan, it involved serious errors. But Knox himself, in this and every stage of his career, claimed to be judged by no lower tribunal than that Authority whose dread and strait command he at the first accepted. And if there are some things in that career which his country has simply to forgive, we shall not reckon among these the original resolve of that day in St Andrews—a resolve which has made Knox more to Scotland 'than any million of unblameable Scotchmen who need no forgiveness.

But there are few who will doubt the sincerity, or the strength, of the impulse which launched Knox upon his public career. There are many however who, recognising that he was a great public man, doubt persistently whether he was anything more. These are part of the furniture of the orator, the statesman, and the prophet.

Was there a private life at all, as distinguished from the inner side of that which was public? And was that private life genuine and tender and strong? Have we another window into this man's breast—opening in this case, not upwards and Godwards, but towards the men—or women—around him? We have: and it is fortunate that the evidence on this subject is found, not at a late date in Knox's life, as is the Meditation of , but close to the threshold of his career.

When quoting from any part of Knox's 'Works' David Laing's edition in six volumes , I propose to modernise the spelling, but in other respects to retain Knox's English. It will be found surprisingly modern. That I, with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Saviour, Jesus Christ, who with his precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the Devil.

The Regent Morton's famous epitaph spoken by Knox's grave, is an imperfect echo of what the Reformer ten days before, in bidding farewell to the Kirk Session of Edinburgh, had said of his own past career:—'In respect that he bore God's message, to whom he must make account for the same, he albeit he was weak and an unworthy creature, and a fearful man feared not the faces of men.

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By us hath He disclosed idolatry, by us are the Wicked of the world rebuked, and by us hath our God comforted the consciences of many And shall we for poverty leave the flock of Jesus Christ before that it utterly refuse us? The price of Jesus Christ, his death and passion, is committed to our charge, the eyes of men are bent upon us, and we must answer before that Judge He preserved us in the darkness of our mothers' bosom, He provided our food in their breasts, and instructed us to use the same, when we knew Him not, He hath nourished us in the time of blindness and of impiety; and will He now despise us, when we call upon Him, and preach the glorious Gospel of His dear Son our Lord Jesus?

Shall not His Evangel be accused as the cause of all calamity which is like to follow? What comfort canst thou have to see the one-half of the people rise up against the other; yea, to jeopard the one to murder and destroy the other? But above all, what joy shall it be to thy heart to behold with thine eyes thy native country betrayed into the hands of strangers, which to no man's judgment can be avoided, because they who ought to defend it and the liberties thereof are so blind, dull, and obstinate that they will not see their own destruction?

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The former is distinctly 'Reformed' and Puritan, and lays down that all ceremonies, other than the two instituted sacraments and preaching, 'as vessels, garments, wax-lights, altars,' are unprofitable, and 'serve to subvert the true religion'; while Balnaves repeats the more fundamental principle of Knox's sermon that all religion which is 'not commanded,' or which is 'invented' with the best motives, is wrong.

And both treatises shew that Knox must have had also before him from the first the thorny question of the relation of the Church and the private Christian to the civil magistrate—for both solve it, like Knox himself but unlike Luther in his original Confession of Augsburg , by giving the Magistrate sweeping and intolerant powers of reforming alike the religion and the Church.

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One reason why the prisoner is unnamed is no doubt that here, as in a hundred other places more explicitly, Knox would impress us with the feeling that no other or higher obedience in such matters is required of minister or prophet or apostle, than is required of the humblest man or the youngest child in God's people. He adds, 'There certainly is in the English language no other parallel to it in the clearness, vigour, and picturesqueness with which it renders the history of a stirring period. Before the age with which we are dealing there was, throughout Europe, a certain barrier between the religious life on the one hand and the domestic and private life—the ordinary vie intime —on the other.

Among the men and women of the new era that barrier was broken down. The religious was no longer a recognised class: religion was no longer a luxury for the few, or to be partaken of in sacred places and at fixed days and hours.

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The common man, if a Christian man at all, was to be so now in his common and daily life, living it out from day to day on the deepest principles and from the highest motives. And the Christian woman, having a similar and an equal vocation, undertook the like responsibilities. But her responsibilities were in that age of transition very perplexing, and more than ever invited friendly counsel and pastoral care.

Now what was John Knox's private life? He was twice married, and we know from his correspondence that even before his first marriage there were women of high position and character to whom he sustained what may be called personal and pastoral relations. Have we any documents from that time by which to illustrate, and perhaps to test, the principles of his inward and personal life, before we go on to find these written large in the scroll of his country's history?

Every curve of the stream had its natural beauty intertwined with some association of history or the poets, from the first morning on Neidpath Fell, to the fourth evening when. Norham is, indeed, best known as the scene of the whole of the first canto of 'Marmion. But when Knox, delivered from the galleys, preached in Berwick in , the Captain of the Hold of Norham, only six miles off, was Richard Bowes.

And his lady, born Elizabeth Aske, and co-heiress of Aske in Yorkshire already an elderly woman and mother of fifteen children , became Knox's chief friend, and after he left Berwick for Newcastle his correspondent, chiefly as to her religious troubles.


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Most of the letters of Knox to her which are preserved are in the year , and one of the earliest of these acknowledges a communication 'from you and my dearest spouse. Knox, now forty-eight years old, had recently declined an English bishopric, offered him through the Duke of Northumberland, but was still chaplain to the King. In September Knox acknowledges the 'boldness and constancy' of Mrs Bowes in pushing his cause with her husband, who was as yet 'unconvinced in religion,' but he urges her not to trouble herself too much in the matter.

He would himself press for the betrothal being changed into marriage, or at least acknowledged. Sir Robert turned out to be more hostile to the perilous alliance proposed for his niece than even her father; and Knox wrote that 'his disdainful, yea, despiteful words have so pierced my heart that my life is bitter unto me. Here his two sons, Nathaniel and Eleazar, afterwards students at Cambridge and ministers of the Church of England, were born. But in wife and mother-in-law accompanied or followed him from the Continent to Edinburgh.

During the anxious and critical winter which followed, Mrs Knox seems to have acted as her husband's amanuensis, but 'the rest of my wife hath been so unrestful since her arriving here, that scarcely could she tell upon the morrow what she wrote at night. We learn this from the 'History of the Reformation,' in which Knox records a meeting of that date between himself and the two foremost nobles of Scotland, Chatelherault and Moray, upon public affairs, 'he upon the one part comforting them, and they upon the other part comforting him, for he was in no small heaviness by reason of the late death of his dear bedfellow, Marjorie Bowes.

Young Mrs Knox seems, however, to have played her part well, especially as mother of three daughters; she tended their father carefully in his last illness; and no one will regret that two years after his death she made a more suitable marriage as to years with Andrew Ker of Faudonside, one of the fierce band whose daggers had clashed ten years before in the body of David Rizzio. Knox's liking for feminine society, and his suspicion that he had more qualifications for it than the world has believed, come out sometimes in a casual way. After one of his famous interviews with Queen Mary, he was ordered to wait her pleasure in the ante-room.

But fye upon that knave Death, that will come whether we will or not! And when he has laid on his arrest, the foul worms will be busy with this flesh, be it never so fair and so tender; and the silly soul, I fear, shall be so feeble, that it can neither carry with it gold, garnassing, targetting, pearl, nor precious stones. His wives contribute nothing; we may hope that they were as happy as the countries which have no history.

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The Mighty Weakness of John Knox: 3 (A Long Line of Godly Men Series)

And if that is too much to believe—or too little to hope—we shall find enough in the next few pages to satisfy us that they had near them in all their trials a strong and tender heart. But of their inward troubles, and of the sympathy these may have drawn forth, Knox is not the historian—he refuses to be the historian even of his own inner life.

He unfolds himself in writing only to the women who are in trouble, and at a distance. And the only concession to domesticity is in the fact that his chief correspondent is, if not a wife, a prospective mother-in-law. The letters to her are the most important of all, and the following extract is from one published among the letters of as 'The First to Mrs Bowes. In it he had said, writing from London to Norham:—. But now absent, and so absent that by corporal presence neither of us can receive comfort of other, I call to mind how that ofttimes when, with dolorous hearts, we have begun our talking, God hath sent great comfort unto both, which for my own part I commonly want.

And then the searching of the Scriptures for God's sweet promises, and for his mercies freely given unto miserable offenders— for his nature delighteth to shew mercy where most misery reigneth —the collection and applying of God's mercies, I say, were unto me as the breaking and handling with my own hands of the most sweet and delectable unguents, whereof I could not but receive some comfort by their natural sweet odours. The sympathy that flows through this beautiful passage comes out very strongly in another written in bodily illness.

His importunate correspondent had proposed to call for him in Newcastle that very day. Knox suggests to-morrow instead. And O, how glad would I be to feed the hungry and give medicine to the sick! Your messenger found me in bed, after a sore trouble and most dolorous night, and so dolour may complain to dolour when we two meet. Another letter, also to Mrs Bowes, is from London, and reveals a very remarkable scene.

He acknowledges receiving one letter from Marjory, and one from her mother, the latter, as usual, full of complaint. And even at that instant came your letters to my hands; whereof one part I read unto them, and one of them said, "O would to God I might speak with that person, for I perceive that there be more tempted than I. The persuasive ingenuity which would suggest to the Lady of Norham that she was a source not only of comfort but of strength to those troubled like herself, turns out much to our advantage.

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For Knox puts himself , first of all, in the place of those whom he would either advise or console. And in the earliest dated letter of his which we possess there is a vivid picture of what took place between two people who were much in earnest, three and a half centuries ago, about this life and the next.

Knox has written fully to Mrs Bowes, and adds—. I remember myself to have so done, and that is my common consuetude when anything pierceth or toucheth my heart.